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Only days after the Chinese government announced a substantial withdrawal of support for solar PV on May 31, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) responded with a report forecasting that global PV module prices would fall 34% this year, estimating that monocrystalline silicon modules would cost only $0.24 per watt by the end of the year.

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Your Weekly Update: 15 - 19 October 2018

Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 15 October 2018 – Brent: US$81/b; WTI: US$71/b

  • After settling lower on promises of increased supply, the crude oil markets were rocked this week as it became clearer and clearer that the Saudi Arabian state was involved in the disappearance and alleged assassination of prominent Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul
  • Internal condemnation has been loud, but US President Donald Trump has ruled out trade sanctions and cancelling of defense contracts with Saudi Arabia; the Kingdom issued veiled threats to use its vast oil reserves as a political weapon if punitive measures are taken against it – the first time it has made such a threat since the 1973 Arab oil war.
  • Grapevine chatter suggests that Saudi Arabia is preparing to admit its involvement of Khashoggi’s disappearance as the result of an ‘investigation gone wrong’, and has activated its diplomatic network to push back against criticism
  • This comes at a fragile time, with Saudi Arabia required to play a key role in balancing the market ahead of the new American sanctions on Iran and the upcoming OPEC meeting on December 3
  • Meanwhile, global oil demand and supply have risen to new records according to the International Energy Agency, with global supply rising to 100.3 mmb/d and demand very close to the 100 mmb/d level, implying a very narrow level of spare supply in the market
  • Fears of the removal of Iranian crude from the market continue to haunt prices, but Saudi Arabia did state that the Kingdom was ready to absorb the shock and supply additional to India to counter their loss of Iranian volumes
  • The level of crude prices is expected to persist at their current levels for a while, with BP now looking to sanction projects that would require crude oil prices at the US$60-65/b level, up from US$50-55/b last year
  • While China hasn't imposed sanctions on US crude imports yet, Chinese importers have largely halted all imports of American crude since August, moving to using West Africa and also tapping into cheap Canadian oil sands crude, which is currently selling for under US$50/b
  • With the American EIA reporting an unexpected decline in US crude inventories, crude prices also got a boost from that early this week
  • After weeks of caution, American drills boosted active rig numbers last week, adding 8 new oil rigs and 4 new gas rigs for a net gain of 11 sites, with all new rigs being onshore ones; this comes as signs are showing that mature wells in the Permian are showing high decline rates
  • Crude price outlook: The Saudi scandal over Jamal Khashoggi is concerning, but there is resistance to taking too harsh an action on the fear that it could lead to a deliberate supply shock. As the market settles, we think Brent and WTI will trend downwards to the US$79-80/b and US$69-70/b this week


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • BP, Eni and Libya’s National Oil Corporation have agreed to work towards resuming exploration activities on the EPSA production contract in Libya, covering the onshore Ghadames basin and the offshore Sirt basin, with Eni acquiring 42.5% interest in the contract
  • Chevron is fully exiting the Norwegian portion of the North Sea Basin, transferring its 20% stake in the PL859 licence in the Barents Sea to DNO ASA, part of the plan to completely exit the area in search of higher returns elsewhere
  • While others are exiting the North Sea, others are still keen; RockRose Energy has sanctioned FID on the Arran field, expecting to produce 100 mscf/d and 4,000 b/d of condensate at peak production
  • Murphy Oil and Petrobras’ American subsidiary have agreed to enter into a joint venture merging their Gulf of Mexico, with Murphy holding 80% and Petrobras the remaining 20% of a JV covering the St. Malo field and other assets
  • ConocoPhillips has achieved first oil at the Greater Mooses Tooth#1 site on the Alaskan North Slope, with peak output expected to be 25-30,000 b/d

Downstream

  • Hammered by the recent rise in crude prices, India is taking a commercial model for its strategic petroleum reserves, inviting global oil producers and traders to invest US$1.5 billion in storing some 6.5 million tons of crude at two sites
  • Saudi Aramco and Total have signed a new joint development agreement for engineering and design of the giant 1.5 mtpa petrochemicals plant in Jubail, located next to the SATORP refinery and now scheduled for start-up in 2024
  • Fresh off signing an MoU with Italy’s Eni on developing bio-refineries, Indonesia is mulling plans to convert two of its aging refineries – Plaju and Dumai – into biofuels plants producing 100% biodiesel from palm oil
  • The new 200 kb/d SOCAR Star refinery in Turkey – the first in the country in 30 years – will be starting up this month, boosting Turkish capacity by 30%
  • Total has opened up a new state-of-the-art 40,000 tpa lubricants blending plant in Russia’s Kaluga region, aimed at localising production to feed Russia’s growing hunger for top quality lubricants

Natural Gas/LNG

  • The first cargo at Inpex’s Ichthys LNG export project in Australia is ready for loading this week, finally bringing to a fruition a much-delayed project
  • Qatar Petroleum has signed a new mid-term supply agreement with China’s Oriental Energy, providing 600,000 tpa of LNG over a five year period
  • Egypt’s plan to import natural gas from Israel is accelerating, with partners now evaluating the condition of the East Mediterranean Gas pipeline, expecting the first gas to flow in March 2019 at 100 mscf/d
  • Shell is reportedly dropping plans to purchase a stake in Kazakhstan’s KazMunayGas National Co, after the results of a due diligence study into the role of the Kazakh state in the natural gas firm
  • ExxonMobil has signed a long-term, 20-year deal to supply Zhejiang Provincial Energy Group with LNG, as the Chinese power utility player expands on its role in energy after agreeing to a joint venture with Glencore this year
  • Novatek has made a massive 11 tcf gas discovery in the Ob Bay area of the North Obsk licence area, expected to feed into a future Arctic LNG project
October, 19 2018
In RAPID Succession

Less than two weeks ago, the VLCC Navarin arrived at Tanjung Pengerang, at the southern end of Peninsular Malaysia. It was carrying two million barrels of crude oil, split equally between Saudi Arab Medium and Iraqi Basra Light grades.

Its destination? 

The RAPID refinery in Johor. An equal joint partnership between Malaysia’s Petronas and Saudi Aramco whose 300 kb/d mega refinery is nearing completion. Once questioned for its economic viability, RAPID is now scheduled to start up in early 2019, entering a market that is still booming and in demand of the higher quality, Euro IV and Euro V level fuels RAPID will produce.

Beyond fuel products, RAPID will also have massive petrochemical capacity. Meant to come on online at a later date, RAPID will have a collective capacity of some 7.7 million tons per annum of differentiated and specialty chemicals, including 3 mtpa of propylene. To be completed in stages, Petronas nonetheless projects that it will add some 3.3 million tons of petrochemicals to the Asia market by the end of next year. That’s blockbuster numbers, and it will elevate Petronas’ stature in downstream, bringing more international appeal to a refining network previously focused mainly on Malaysia. For its partner Saudi Aramco, RAPID is part of a multi-pronged strategy of investing mega refineries in key parts of the world, to diversify its business and ensure demand for its crude flows as it edges towards an IPO.

RAPID won’t be alone. Vietnam’s second refinery – the 200 kb/d Nghi Son – has finally started up this year after multiple delays. And in the same timeframe as RAPID, the Zhejiang refinery by Rongsheng Petro Chemical and the Dalian refinery by Hengli Petrochemical in China are both due to start up. At 400 kb/d each, that could add 1.1 mmb/d of new refining capacity in Asia within 1H19. And there’s more coming. Hengli’s Pulau Muara Besar project in Brunei is also aiming for a 2019 start, potentially adding another 175 kb/d of capacity. And just like RAPID, each of these new or recent projects has substantial petrochemical capacity planned.

That’s okay for now, since demand remains strong. But the danger is that this could all unravel. With American sanctions on Iran due to kick in November, even existing refineries are fleeing from contributing to Tehran in favour of other crude grades. The new refineries will be entering a tight market that could become even tighter. RAPID can rely on Saudi Arabia and Nghi Son can depend on Kuwait, both the Chinese projects are having to scramble to find alternate supplies for their designed diet of heavy sour crude. This race to find supplies has already sent Brent prices to four-year highs, and most in the industry are already predicting that crude oil prices will rise to US$100/b by the year’s end. At prices like this, demand destruction begins and the current massive growth – fuelled by cheap oil prices – could come to an end. The market can rapidly change again, and by the end of this decade, Asia could be swirling with far more oil products that it can handle.

Upcoming and recent Asia refineries:

  • Nghi Son (Vietnam): 200 kb/d crude capacity, 700,000 tpa petrochemicals
  • RAPID (Malaysia): 300 kb/d crude capacity, 7.7 mtpa petrochemicals
  • Zhejiang (China): 400 kb/d crude capacity, 10 mtpa petrochemicals
  • Dalian (China): 400 kb/d crude capacity, 8 mtpa petrochemicals
  • Pulau Muara Besar (Brunei): 175 kb/d crude capacity, 3.5 mtpa petrochemicals
October, 10 2018
Your Weekly Update: 8 - 12 October 2018

Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 8 October 2018 – Brent: US$84/b; WTI: US$74/b

  • Oil prices are retreating from recent highs as a rush of pronouncements to mollify the market over concerns of a supply crunch were issued
  • President Donald Trump continues to berate OPEC over high oil prices and the US State Department took the unusual step of issuing a demand to OPEC, requesting that it raise collective output by 1.4 mmb/d
  • Saudi Arabia responded by saying that it is fulfilling promises made to America to replace lost Iranian crude supplies, boosting its current output to 10.7 mmb/d and the ability to add another 1.3 mmb/d if needed; Iraq is also benefitting as it chalked a second consecutive month of exports exceeding 4 mmb/d
  • Russian production also rose to a record 11.356 mmb/d in September, raising worries about shrinking spare capacity in oil markets as producers up output; Russian Premier Vladimir Putin fired back at Trump’s tantrums, stating ‘Donald should look in the mirror’ when complaining about high oil prices
  • There continue to be varying responses to the looming American sanctions against Iran; the UAE – which usually talks tough but still accepts Iranian oil – appears to be taking steps to reduce its purchases, with Dubai imports of Iranian condensate dropping by half in September and customs officials at Fujairah now asking for certification of origins for oil tankers docking there
  • Meanwhile, despite overtures to reduce Iranian imports by India to qualify for mooted American waivers, India is planning to purchase some 9 million barrels of Iranian oil in November, with liftings past the US deadline of November 4
  • On another battlefront, China is sticking to its guns and shunning purchase of American crude over the boiling trade war, boosting its imports of West African crude to their highest level in seven years
  • American oil prices are also drawing strength after falling last week on swelling stockpiles as Hurricane Michael heads inland towards Florida after shutting down some 19% of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Surprisingly, despite prices being attractive, American drillers remain cautious over introducing new rigs; the active US rig count actually lost two sites last week – both oil rigs – a second week of decline in the US oil rig count
  • Crude price outlook: Evidence that OPEC+ is responding with increased supply should pressure prices downwards this week, but a longer term risk remains of US$100/b crude oil, especially if Saudi Arabia and Russia run out of capacity to turn their taps on. We see Brent trading in the US$81-83/b and WTI in the US$70-73/b range.


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Equinor will take over Chevron’s 40% operating interest in the UK’s Rosebank project, one of the largest undeveloped fields on the UK Continental Shelf, with potential volumes of some 300 million barrels recoverable
  • Equinor has also confirmed a boost in its Norwegian assets, with the Cape Vulture discovery adding some 50-70 million barrels of recoverable oil, doubling the remaining oil reserves at the aging Norne field
  • Savannah Petroleum has made a fifth discovery in Zomo-1 well, locating in the R3 portion of the R3/R4 Adaem Rift Basin area in southeast Nigeria
  • Chevron will be proceeding with drilling a test well at the Mississippi Canyon Block 607, hoping to add to the deepwater Ballymore discovery that it made in the same area last year
  • Saudi Arabia’s crown prince hopes to be able to resolve an impasse with Kuwait over the Khafji and Wafra fields in the Neutral Zone ‘soon’, an area along the border that has been undefined for near a hundred years, which could unlock up to 500,000 b/d of crude production

Downstream

  • Pakistan will be building a new oil refinery at its deepwater Gwadar port, part of an ‘oil city’ project that Saudi Aramco is expected to invest in
  • Saudi International Petrochemical Co (Sipchem) has acquired fellow Saudi Arabian firm Sahara Petrochemical in a deal worth US$2.2 billion
  • Vietnam’s Petrolimex wants to halt the US$5 billion, 200 kb/d Nam Van Phong refining and petrochemical project with Japan’s JXTG Holdings to ‘focus its resources on executing other projects’
  • ExxonMobil is considering a multi-billion dollar investment at its 592 kb/d Singapore refinery – the largest in its system – to meet demand for low sulphur shipping fuels as the IMO’s strict new rules on marine fuels starts in 2020
  • India is reducing the pump prices of gasoline and diesel by 2.50 rupees (US$0.03 per litre) to ease the pain of rising crude prices and a weak rupee; this includes a reduction in excise duty of 1.50 rupee per litre

Natural Gas/LNG

  • After PetroChina and Korea Gas gave their blessing last week, Shell and its remaining partners have given the go-ahead for Kitimat LNG project in Canada, bucking trends by sanctioning construction without having signed any long-term LNG sales deals
  • G3 Exploration has been given approval to proceed with the development of the Chengzhuang Block in Shanxi, splitting the estimated recoverable gas volumes of 176 bcf with its partner CNPC
  • Qatar Petroleum will continue to supply the United Arab Emirates with piped natural gas, shunning bringing ‘politics into commercial business’ as the standoff between Qatar against Saudi Arabia and its allies continues

Corporate

  • Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is insisting that Saudi Aramco’s planned IPO will go ahead by 2021, after the sale was put on hold by Aramco’s plan to purchase a controlling stake in SABIC
  • BP and Norway’s Aker BP have signed a new cooperation agreement to explore development and deployment of advanced technologies in their businesses
  • Ensco and Rowan Companies have agreed to a US12 billion merger that will create a global powerhouse offshore drilling company covering 82 rigs
October, 11 2018