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Last Updated: October 5, 2018
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Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 1 October 2018 – Brent: US$85/b; WTI: US$75/b

  • Both international crude markers have hit key levels this week, with Brent at US$85/b and WTI at US$75/b – the highest level for crude prices since 2014, as traders fret about a fragile supply situation due to ongoing and impending supply losses from Iran and Venezuela
  • President Trump’s Twitter tantrums against OPEC has failed to budge the organisation from its stance that oil prices should be allowed to rise, feeding even more into an already bullish market
  • Possible industrial action in Nigeria could drive prices up even further, as unions representing two-thirds of upstream workers in Africa’s largest oil producer could go on strike
  • US$100/b oil by the year’s end could become a reality; Total is accepting that the market is heading towards this and expressed reservations over its impact, while BP think the new sanctions will have a larger impact than the previous ones, contributing to volatility over the remainder of 2018 and into 2019
  • Iranian customers across Asia – even loyal ones – continue to abandon ship to appease the US, hoping to qualify for waivers that would allow them to import some Iranian crude; Japan’s Cosmo Oil announced it will replace all its Iranian volumes with other Middle Eastern crudes, while India’s state refiners have not placed any orders from Iran for November loading
  • Meanwhile, Iran’s fleet of oil tankers are starting to disappear from global satellite tracking systems – with the most likely explanation that the vessels’ transponder systems have been switched off to prevent tracking, and hamper American ability to track its sales
  • It has been suggested that the US could temper the oil bull run by releasing stocks from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but Energy Secretary Rick Perry has ruled out that option for now
  • The EU is reportedly working on a plan with Russia and China to sidestep the US sanctions by using an alternative payment system, but the interconnected nature of global finance means the risk of punitive actions by the US remains, scaring off potential users of the proposed payment channel
  • Meanwhile, despite strong price signals, American drillers are still being cautious on introducing new rigs. The active US oil rig count lost three sites last week, offset by four gas gains to leave the total at 1,029. Most losses were in the Permian, where infrastructure bottlenecks continue to be an issue
  • Crude price outlook: The rise in crude prices will continue, although the market could take a breather for some profit-taking and steady itself. We see Brent trading in the US$84-86/b and WTI in the US$75-77/b range.


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Nigeria’s two main oil unions are preparing for a possible nationwide strike, aimed at pressuring Chevron to reverse its plan to sack thousands of workers
  • Chevron has received expressions of interest for its 40% of the Rosebank project in the UK Continental Shelf, with potential volumes of some 300 million barrels
  • Total has agreed to purchase the entirety of Chevron Denmark Inc from Chevron, earning it a 12% interest in the Danish Underground Consortium, as well as shares in License 8/06 and the Tyra West pipeline
  • BP will be proceeding with the development of the Vorlich field in the North Sea after receiving approval from the UK upstream operator, expected to start in 2022 and produce some 20,000 b/d of oil at peak
  • ExxonMobil has won exploration rights for the Titã pre-salt block in Brazil, adding more than 71,500 acres to its already large position in Brazilian upstream

Downstream

  • Saudi Aramco has signed a long-term supply deal with Zhejiang Rongsheng, providing crude for the private firm’s new 400 kb/d refinery in eastern China
  • ExxonMobil has started up a new ultra-low sulfur fuels units at its refinery in Beaumont, Texas, boosting its capacity for clean fuels by some 45,000 b/d
  • Total has sanctioned the expansion of its Texas Bay port Polymer joint venture, doubling polyethylene capacity to 1.1 million tons per year
  • Petrobras will be slashing the price of gasoline provided by its refineries after average pump prices in Brazil jumped to a record high last week
  • India is looking to overcome land acquisition issues for its mammoth planned refinery in Maharashtra by setting up a panel to provide suggestions to mollify the strong farmer lobby, as well as environmental and ecological impact
  • Indonesia’s plan to roll out strict adherence to its biodiesel mandate has hit snags, as a shortage of palm methyl ester and distribution difficulties means that only half of Pertamina’s fuel depots have received biodiesel components

Natural Gas/LNG

  • PetroChina and Korea Gas have given the go-ahead for Shell’s LNG Canada project, and final approval could come this week as Petronas, Mitsubishi and Shell are also due to sanction the long-dormant project
  • Total has made a ‘major’ gas discovery in the Glendronach well in the Shetlands, with potential recoverable volumes of some 1 trillion cubic feet
  • Total’s Shwe Yee Htun-2 discovery in Myanmar’s A6 Block has completed a successful appraisal, adding to the earlier Shwe Yee Htun-1 and Pyi Thit-1 finds that have a cumulative estimate of 2-3 tcf of natural gas
  • Delek Drilling, Noble Energy and Egyptian East Gas – partners developing and commercialising the Tamar and Leviathan fields in Israel – have purchased control of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas pipeline for US$518 million to connect up to 64 million cubic metres of gas through the Sinai
  • Pointe LNG in the US has started applying for permission for a planned 6 mtpa LNG project in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana using three 2 mtpa trains
  • Enable Midstream is proposing to build a US$550 million, 165-mile natural gas pipeline, connecting the Haynesville and nearby shale regions to new LNG export terminals in Texas and Louisiana

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Is The Saudi - Russia Oil Bromance Souring?

There are things brewing within OPEC. At a meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan last week – which was meant to set the stage for a formal meeting in April to review the current supply deal among the 24-country OPEC+ block – the conclusion of the meeting was that the April meeting would be deferred. The review will now take place at OPEC’s regular meeting in Vienna in June, which is mere days before the current supply deal is scheduled to end. That’s cutting it close, but more interesting for market observers is that it points to the Saudi Arabia-Russia bromance souring.

Prior to the meeting, Saudi Arabia had gone on record to state that the Kingdom believed that OPEC’s job in rebalancing the oil market was far from over and that output cuts were necessary to continue into the second half of 2019. Defying US President Donald Trump’s Twitter tantrums – especially with the Kingdom implicated in the assassination of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi – Saudi Arabia is firmly behind continuing restricted supply. In the past, Saudi Arabia would most likely to be able to bully its way into an OPEC consensus. But now, it has to deal with an equally powerful 20-ton gorilla in the same room: Russia.

The success of the OPEC+ club over the past two years has been down to this close relationship between the world’s two largest oil producers. This had allowed crude prices to recover from sub-US$50/b levels. But the latest meeting is also the latest sign that all may not be well in the friendship. First, a joint Saudi-Russia meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos was called off. Second, February data showed that while Saudi Arabia and its allies were doing far more than necessary to cut their crude production, Russia was shuffling its feet with less than 50% adherence, claiming that it needed more time to implement the cuts. And last week, despite Saudi Arabia lobbying for an extension to the cuts and general backing from members including Iraq, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak was in opposition. The official reason was that OPEC+ would need clarity on market situation before planning the next move, given the disruption brought about by ongoing and developing American sanctions on Iran and Venezuela. In the absence of necessity, the two crude powerhouses have drifted back to their default positions: Saudi Arabia’s aggression and Russia’s conservatism.

So while the world waits and watches for OPEC+’s next move, the market is analysing the potential impact of a strained Saudi-Russia relationship. But necessity might bring the two back together again, since they now face a common foe – rising US crude production. OPEC’s secretary general recently met with key executives in the US shale oil industry. This was billed as a ‘friendly conversation on current industry trends’ and interpreted as an attempt to cajole American shale producers in a mutually-beneficial stabilisation of the market. It is ridiculously unlikely for the US to ever join the OPEC+ club, but if the move could convince US shale firms to temper their expansion to prevent global oversupply, it might be worth it. Because OPEC has accompanied the olive branch with a threat – if OPEC does all the work to stabilise markets only to have American shale take advantage of the situation, it could very well reverse its stance and turn the OPEC tap on full to swamp the market once again. It’s a classic example of game theory, and one to watch as the power dynamics of global oil continue to change.

Key upcoming dates for OPEC: 

  • April 2019 – Review of January supply deal cancelled
  • May 2019 – USA to decide on waiver extension for Iranian crude imports
  • June 25, 2019 – OPEC meets in Vienna, supply deal review to be discussed
  • June 30, 2019 – OPEC+ January supply deal expires
March, 26 2019
Your Weekly Update: 18 - 22 March 2019

Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 18 March 2019 – Brent: US$67/b; WTI: US$58/b

  • Global crude oil prices slipped at the start of the week, as OPEC and its OPEC+ allies met in Azerbaijan to discuss the state of the club’s oil output cuts
  • Crude oil prices had risen prior as on speculation that the OPEC+ group would extend its supply deal, but this was dashed when OPEC+ instead decided to defer a decision until June, scrapping a planned OPEC extraordinary meeting in April because it was ‘too soon to make a decision on extending oil-supply cuts’
  • Observed friction between Russia and Saudi Arabia over the cuts could be behind the delay; Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih is said to be in favour of continue supply reduction through 2019 while his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak said that uncertainty over Venezuela and Iran would ‘make it difficult’ to decide until May or June
  • Other OPEC members have also not expressed any more willingness to extend the cuts, and Saudi Arabia seems to be unusually focused on a united front, rather than strong-arming the rest of the gang to its own aims
  • Some reprieve could be coming for OPEC, as the US Energy Information Administration trimmed its 2019 output forecast by 110,000 b/d to 12.3 mmb/d, seeing a scale-back in smaller shale plays and the US Gulf of Mexico
  • Echoing this, the US active rig count declined for a fourth consecutive week, following up a 9 and 11 rig drop with the net loss of a single oil rig
  • A better prognosis on demand leading into the northern summer and faith that OPEC+ will continue to work towards preventing a major crude surplus from returning should keep crude prices trending higher. We are looking at a range of US$66-68/b for Brent and US$58-60/b for WTI

Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Eni has announced a major oil discovery in Angola’s Block 15/06, with the Agogo prospect joining the Kalimba and Afoxé discoveries, adding some 450-650 million barrels of light oil in place to the block
  • ExxonMobil has delayed its US$1.9 billion, 75,000 b/d Aspen oil project as Canada’s Alberta province continues to grapple with the pipeline bottleneck that has caused a glut of production trapped in the inland province
  • Lukoil had hit a new milestone with the Vladimir Filanovsky field, which has now reached 10 million tons of crude oil supplied through the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) system, transporting oil to the Black Sea for transport
  • ExxonMobil is looking to reduce field costs in its Permian Basin assets to about US$15/b, a highly-competitive target usually only seen in the Middle East
  • Eni and Qatar Petroleum have agreed to a farm-out agreement that will allow QP to take a 25.5% interest in Mozambique’s Block A5-A, joining other partners Sasol (25.5%) and Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos (15%)
  • Successive industrial action strikes have begun in the UK, affecting the Shetland Gas Plant and Total Alwyn, Dunbar and Elgin platforms in the North Sea
  • ADNOC has begun planning for an output drive at its Umm Shaif field, which would increase output at the giant field to 360,000 b/d

Midstream & Downstream

  • Shell is planning to restart the Wilhelmshaven refinery in Germany through a deal with terminal firm HES, which will re-convert the existing tank farm into a 260 kb/d refinery that will focus on producing IMO-mandated low sulfur fuels
  • Petronas is offering first oil products cargos from its 300 kb/d RAPID refinery in April, ahead of planned full commercial production in October 2019
  • Lukoil is now planning to invest some US$60 million in its 320 kb/d ISAB refinery in Augusta, Italy to produce high-quality, low-sulfur fuels to meet IMO standards, instead of selling it as previously considered in 2017
  • The Ugandan government has approved the technical proposal for the country’s first refinery in Kabaale, which will run on crude from the Albertine rift basin
  • Kenya expects to have the Lamu crude export terminal operational by the end of 2019, syncing with the start of Tullow Oil’s Kenyan oilfields

Natural Gas/LNG

  • The UK Onshore Oil and Gas body has published updated figures for UK onshore shale potential based on three test sites in north England, estimating that productivity could be at 5.5 bcf per well leading to annual gas production reaching 1.4 tcf by the early 2030s
  • Eni’s winning streak in Egypt continues, announcing a new gas discovery in the Nour 1 New Field Wildcat, which join its existing assets under evaluation there
  • Conrad Petroleum’s development plan for the Mako gas field in Indonesia has been approved by Indonesian authorities, paving way for development to start on the field with its estimated 276 bcf of recoverable resources
  • Ventures Global LNG is planning to double the capacity of its LNG projects – including the Calcasieu Pass and Plaquemines LNG sites in Louisiana – from 30 mtpa to a new 60 mtpa, having already booked all output from Calcasieu
  • Darwin LNG is set to choose the source of its backfill gas by the end of 2019, with the Barossa field more likely to be taken than the Evans Shoal field
March, 22 2019
Technology may be a game changer for future oil supply

Risk and reward – improving recovery rates versus exploration

A giant oil supply gap looms. If, as we expect, oil demand peaks at 110 million b/d in 2036, the inexorable decline of fields in production or under development today creates a yawning gap of 50 million b/d by the end of that decade.

How to fill it? It’s the preoccupation of the E&P sector. Harry Paton, Senior Analyst, Global Oil Supply, identifies the contribution from each of the traditional four sources.

1. Reserve growth

An additional 12 million b/d, or 24%, will come from fields already in production or under development. These additional reserves are typically the lowest risk and among the lowest cost, readily tied-in to export infrastructure already in place. Around 90% of these future volumes break even below US$60 per barrel.

2. pre-drill tight oil inventory and conventional pre-FID projects

They will bring another 12 million b/d to the party. That’s up on last year by 1.5 million b/d, reflecting the industry’s success in beefing up the hopper. Nearly all the increase is from the Permian Basin. Tight oil plays in North America now account for over two-thirds of the pre-FID cost curve, though extraction costs increase over time. Conventional oil plays are a smaller part of the pre-FID wedge at 4 million b/d. Brazil deep water is amongst the lowest cost resource anywhere, with breakevens eclipsing the best tight oil plays. Certain mature areas like the North Sea have succeeded in getting lower down the cost curve although volumes are small. Guyana, an emerging low-cost producer, shows how new conventional basins can change the curve. 


3. Contingent resource


These existing discoveries could deliver 11 million b/d, or 22%, of future supply. This cohort forms the next generation of pre-FID developments, but each must overcome challenges to achieve commerciality.

4. Yet-to-find

Last, but not least, yet-to-find. We calculate new discoveries bring in 16 million b/d, the biggest share and almost one-third of future supply. The number is based on empirical analysis of past discovery rates, future assumptions for exploration spend and prospectivity.

Can yet-to-find deliver this much oil at reasonable cost? It looks more realistic today than in the recent past. Liquids reserves discovered that are potentially commercial was around 5 billion barrels in 2017 and again in 2018, close to the late 2030s ‘ask’. Moreover, exploration is creating value again, and we have argued consistently that more companies should be doing it.

But at the same time, it’s the high-risk option, and usually last in the merit order – exploration is the final top-up to meet demand. There’s a danger that new discoveries – higher cost ones at least – are squeezed out if demand’s not there or new, lower-cost supplies emerge. Tight oil’s rapid growth has disrupted the commercialisation of conventional discoveries this decade and is re-shaping future resource capture strategies.

To sustain portfolios, many companies have shifted away from exclusively relying on exploration to emphasising lower risk opportunities. These mostly revolve around commercialising existing reserves on the books, whether improving recovery rates from fields currently in production (reserves growth) or undeveloped discoveries (contingent resource).

Emerging technology may pose a greater threat to exploration in the future. Evolving technology has always played a central role in boosting expected reserves from known fields. What’s different in 2019 is that the industry is on the cusp of what might be a technological revolution. Advanced seismic imaging, data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, the cloud and supercomputing will shine a light into sub-surface’s dark corners.

Combining these and other new applications to enhance recovery beyond tried-and-tested means could unlock more reserves from existing discoveries – and more quickly than we assume. Equinor is now aspiring to 60% from its operated fields in Norway. Volume-wise, most upside may be in the giant, older, onshore accumulations with low recovery factors (think ExxonMobil and Chevron’s latest Permian upgrades). In contrast, 21st century deepwater projects tend to start with high recovery factors.

If global recovery rates could be increased by a percentage or two from the average of around 30%, reserves growth might contribute another 5 to 6 million b/d in the 2030s. It’s just a scenario, and perhaps makes sweeping assumptions. But it’s one that should keep conventional explorers disciplined and focused only on the best new prospects. 


Global oil supply through 2040 


March, 22 2019