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Last Updated: September 6, 2018
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Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 3 September 2018 – Brent: US$78/b; WTI: US$71/b

  • Worries over Tropical Storm Gordon landing over the Mississippi Gulf Coast combined with renewed unrest in Libya and perennial concerns over Venezuela and Iran pushed oil prices higher at the start of this week.
  • Failing to become a hurricane, Gordon brought lashings of rain but largely spared offshore and onshore upstream infrastructure, which could allow a quicker ramp up of facilities that had been shut down for precaution.
  • A tanker collision had partially shut down Venezuela’s main oil-shipping port Jose last week, affecting shipments and adding to the country’s struggles.
  • In Iran, oil exports for August fell to a 30-month low of 2.1 mmb/d as key Asian buyers avoided cargoes in the lead-up to new American sanctions; there is room for more declines but perhaps not too much, as PetroChina commented that its refining network would be adversely affected by more cuts.
  • Faced with the renewed sanctions, Iran is once again threatening to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, effectively halting a large portion of Middle Eastern crude exports if it is not allowed to use the Strait
  • Despite the dwindling of Iranian exports, improved Libyan production and better exports from Iraq’s southern fields lifted OPEC oil production up by 220,000 b/d to 32.79 mmb/d in August, the highest level this year.
  • American trade belligerence has now led CNPC – China’s largest natural gas supplier – to halt all purchases of spot LNG cargoes from the USA until the trade dispute is settled; LNG has not yet been corralled into tit-for-tat trade war but will inevitably be drawn in, if President Trump expands import duties to an additional US$200 billion of Chinese imports.
  • The US EIA confirms that American crude oil production rose to a new record of 10.674 mmb/d in June 2018, up 231,000 b/d or 2%, with the largest gains seen in Texas, where onshore output grew to 4.4 mmb/d.
  • With crude prices in ascendance again, the active rig count in the US gained for the first time in three weeks as drillers added 4 new rigs – 2 oil and 2 gas – bringing the total count to 1,048.
  • Crude price outlook: As Tropical Storm Gordon eases, crude prices should settle into their range. Unrest in Libya is a worry, but unless the situation escalates further, Brent should trade in US$76-78/b range and WTI easing back down to US$68/70/b.


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • South Sudan has restarted production at the key Toma South field, idled since 2013 due to conflict; part of the Unity fields, an initial 20,000 b/d is being produced at Toma South and with the El Mar, El Toor, Manga and Unity fields expected to resume later this month, output could reach some 80,000 b/d.
  • Another hit for Eni in Egypt, as the Italian firm reports a new onshore gas discovery in Faramid South, East Obayed concession with some 25 mmscf/d.
  • In Alaska, Eni has acquired 124 exploration leases in the Eastern North Slope, a prime area with high potential just southeast of the giant Prudhoe Bay field.
  • Lundin Petroleum has raised its estimates for the Rolvsnes field in Norway’s North Sea from 3-16 mmboe to 14-78 mmboe, with FID targeted at 2020/21.
  • ExxonMobil has commenced drilling off Australia’s southeast gas in search of natural gas, which could help ease the growing gas supply gap in the east.
  • In search of the next Permian Basin, oil firms are now looking at Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, with some US$260 million in land deals already exchanging hands in an area where pipeline infrastructure is not congested.

Downstream

  • Chevron’s subsidiary Caltex Australia is looking to sell some of its fuel retail convenience assets for some A$2 billion, covering some 12-25% of existing freehold sites as its 1H18 profits came in at the low end of projections.
  • Even as the private Dangote refinery moves ahead, Nigeria’s NNPC is conducting a feasibility study for two 200,000 b/d condensate refineries in the states of Delta and Imo as part of a wider plan to slash fuel imports.
  • The first fuel stations in the city of Tianjin have replaced gasoline with ethanol, as China fires its first salvo in unfolding an ambitious biofuels plan.
  • Plans to shut down the only oil refinery in Trinidad and Tobago has prompted threats of a general strike by the country’s oilfield workers trade union.
  • Gunvor has halted plans to upgrade its Rotterdam refinery for cleaner marine fuels, citing adverse market conditions affecting financial viability.

Natural Gas/LNG

  • Despite the threats of sanctions from the US, Nord Stream 2 AG claims the natural gas pipeline connecting Russia to Germany is progressing on schedule.
  • Indian Railways is attempting to shift some of its rail fuel demand away from (dirtier) gasoil to natural gas, with GAIL appointed as the sole supplier.
  • Freeport LNG in the USA has signed Japan’s Sumitomo as its first client for its Train 4, shipping 2.2 mtpa over 20 years beginning in 2023 when Train 4 of the complex in Texas is expected to start up.
  • Bangladesh is updating and improving its PSC terms ahead of a planned offshore licensing round next year, hoping that the new contracts will be able to attract international firms to reverse dwindling natural gas output that has already forced the country to turn heavily towards LNG imports.

Corporate

  • Nicke Widyawati has been confirmed as the new CEO of Pertamina by the Indonesia government and Dharmawan Samsu as Pertamina’s new Upstream Director, with the aim of growing crude/gas output, boosting refining capacity and shedding fuel imports in favour of biodiesel usage.
  • Amid disappointing results in the oil sector, Russian state firms are proving to be a bright spark, with Gazprom beat expectations by reporting a 539% jump in 2Q18 net profits to RUB259 billion (~US$3.8 billion).

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