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Last Updated: August 3, 2018
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Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 30 July 2018 – Brent: US$75/b; WTI: US$70/b

  • Supply concerns continue to weigh on global crude oil prices, but there is immediate relief on the horizon as production within OPEC rose by 70,000 b/d in July according to a Reuters survey – a high for 2018.
  • The WTI discount to Brent tightened as news filters out that the Syncrude facility outage in Canada may not be solved as quickly as hoped, which will translate to reduced oil flows in the Cushing, OK hub.
  • American numbers appear particularly tight, with US inventories near three-year lows last week and crude stocks at Cushing dropping to 23.7 million barrels, the lowest level since November 2014.
  • While supply continues to be a concern for 2018, the long-term supply outlook by analysts at Rystad Energy reveal that global discovered resources increased by 30% in 1H18, led by discoveries in Guyana, while oil majors are on pace to approve US$37 billion in upstream projects for the year.
  • Nevertheless, there is still the risk of disruption, with Total workers in the North Sea going on a 12-hour strike on July 30, while Saudi Arabia halted oil shipments in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait in the Red Sea as two of its tankers were attacked by Houthi militants from Yemen.
  • Wider concerns continue to hover too, as the US vacillates over its trade position, moving from negotiations to thaw relations with China over trade to threatening to up its tariffs from 10% to 25% on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports currently under consideration by the administration.
  • US drillers, however, reversed three weeks of decline as three new oil rigs were started, offsetting a loss of one gas rig for a net gain of two.
  • Crude price outlook: Immediate supply concerns are ebbing as increased supply comes from OPEC+ countries, including Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iraq, but threat of disruptions and impending Iranian sanctions will keep prices in the US$72-75 range for Brent and the US$67-69 range for WTI.

Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • ExxonMobil has increased its estimate of recoverable resources from the Stabroek block offshore Guyana to more than 4 billion barrels of oil equivalent, up from 3.2 Bboe, while project costs are also expected to rise by a quarter given that the project might require up to 5 FPSOs.
  • The Kaombo offshore project, the largest in Angola, has started production, with Total’s Kaombo Norte FPSO unit brought onstream with a 115,000 b/d capacity, while the second FPSO Kaombo Sui is due next year.
  • BP has emerged as the winner of BHP Billiton’s onshore American assets, purchasing the latter’s interests in the Eagle Ford, Haynesville, Permian and Fayetteville oil and gas assets for US$10.8 billion.
  • Iran has become the second-largest supplier of oil to Indian state refiners in Q218, attracted by steep discounts as it stocks up before the sanctions kick in.
  • Total’s attempt to develop two oil blocks in South Sudan since 2013 has now been called off by the government, paving the way for other bidders to come in for the B1 and B2 blocks.
  • Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has pledged to increase the country’s crude output from the current 1.9 mmb/d to 2.5 mmb/d, as well as revamp its existing six refineries and build a new one in Dos Bocas.
  • Russia is preparing the most sweeping shakeup of its oil tax system since 1999, which will allow producers to export crude and oil products duty free while raising wellhead costs in an attempt to revitalise the Russian economy.

Downstream

  • Not content with aiming for a B30 biodiesel mandate by 2019, Indonesia is now planning to implement its B20 across all gasoil sectors – including mining, marine, rail and non-subsidised diesel – as well as trialling a unique B100 palm oil-based ‘green diesel’ which could hit the market by 2022.
  • With PDVSA increasingly seen as unreliable, the Isla refinery in Curacao is speaking to at least 15 companies to temporarily operate the 335,000 bd Caribbean refinery, hoping to have one in place by September.
  • Algeria’s Sonatrach is reportedly looking to start up a trading joint venture, speaking with oil majors as it looks to purchase its first overseas refinery.
  • ExxonMobil has officially started production at its new ethane cracker in Baytown, Texas, part of its comprehensive ‘Growing the Gulf’ initiative.

Natural Gas/LNG

  • The US Energy Department has implemented faster approval of small-scale LNG and natural gas exports with an upper limit of 51.75 bcf/y of natural gas, targeting markets in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
  • Venice Energy, set up by former BHP Billiton executives, has joined two other proposed LNG import projects in East Australia, looking to fill a growing supply gap through an FSRU project in Port Adelaide by 2020.
  • Egypt is proving to be a hotbed of discoveries in 2018, with SDX Energy reporting a new gas discovery at the onshore SD-3X well in South Disouq.

Corporate

  • Russian petchems giant Sibur is preparing for an IPO that could potentially value the company at US$2-3 billion across bourses in Moscow and London.
  • Rosneft and ExxonMobil are heading for a legal clash, as the Russian behemoth is claiming US$1.41 billion in ‘unjust enrichment’ in Sakhalin-1.

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