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.
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:
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Now that Occidental Petroleum has beaten Chevron to the acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum – and the strategic assets it holds in the prolific Permian Basin – one would think that the deal is cut-and-dry. Not so. The fallout of the massive US$57 billion deal has begun, and it pits one legendary billionaire against another legendary billionaire.
The Occidental purchase of Anadarko had all the signs of a classic takeover battle, swooping in after Chevron and Anadarko’s boards had approved their own US$48 billion deal. It was made only possible by Oxy CEO Vicki Hollub making a quick private plane trip that resulted in a last-minute US$10 billion capital injection from Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway that was contingent on the Anadarko purchase working. It did. And with the US Federal Trade Commission approving the deal, Anadarko will become part of Occidental by the end of 2019.
But not everyone is happy about the situation. Some investors and shareholders of Occidental believe that it badly overpaid for Anadarko, and were rankled by the deal bypassing a shareholder vote on the matter. The chief critic of this is activist Carl Icahn, who owns a US$1.6 billion stake in Occidental, who slammed it as ‘misguided’ with the CEO and Board ‘betting the company to serve their own agendas’. Icahn has already filed a lawsuit demanding access to Occidental’s books and records, and has just take the fight to a new level.
Last week, Icahn filed regulatory paperwork to call for a special shareholder meeting where he hopes to oust four of Occidental directors and modify the company’s charter through stockholder consent from ever engineering a similar takeover. Icahn wants Spencer Abraham, Eugene Batchelder, Margaret Foran and Avedick Poladian out from the Board, holding them responsible for the ‘fiasco’. He has, of course, nominated his own preferred replacements, including one of his portfolio manager’s Nicholas Graziano, his general counsel Andrew Langham, former Jarden finance chief Alan LeFevre and former president of Shell John Hofmeister. While Icahn has publicly acknowledge that the Anadarko takeover will probably go ahead, his aim is for the new Board to oversee ‘future extraordinary transactions to ensure that they are not consummated without shareholder approval where approval.’
Will it work? Before the proxy fight can go ahead, Icahn must get at least 20% of shareholders to agree to a meeting. That’s a tall order, given that the current crop of directors and Boards were re-elected at the May annual meeting, although with lower support. But there is certainly some appetite, given that Occidental’s stock has dropped nearly 17% since the initial April hostile takeover, reflecting market mood that it had bitten off more than it could chew.
All of this is playing out against a backdrop of pessimism in the Permian. Although the shale revolution had brought American crude production to record highs and sent its crude exports to a new record of 3.3 mmb/d in June, there are now cracks showing. With limited infrastructure, low prices and over-exploitation, the Permian boom is slowing down. Once an investor’s darling, financing has now become far tougher for Permian players, as the high production fall off rate means that companies have to spend more and more money to just maintain production. It’s a situation that is particularly negative for the small, nimble players that powered the initial shale revolution who lack the deep pockets to optimise shale assets over a longer production period. All across the Permian, independent players have lost between 50-100% of their market value, making them ripe for acquisition by majors and supermajors. Deals like the Anadarko one make sense in this context, but with the financial risk increasing, these blockbuster deals may never lead to blockbuster returns. Carl Icahn may not be able win his battle for the Occidental board, but he is certainly making a serious – and very valid - point.
The Occidental-Anadarko deal:
According to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria has the world’s 9th largest natural gas reserves (192 TCF of gas reserves). As at 2018, Nigeria exported over 1tcf of gas as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to several countries. However domestically, we produce less than 4,000MW of power for over 180million people.
Think about this – imagine every Nigerian holding a 20W light bulb, that’s how much power we generate in Nigeria. In comparison, South Africa generates 42,000MW of power for a population of 57 million. We have the capacity to produce over 2 million Metric Tonnes of fertilizer (primarily urea) per year but we still import fertilizer. The Federal Government’s initiative to rejuvenate the agriculture sector is definitely the right thing to do for our economy, but fertilizer must be readily available to support the industry. Why do we import fertilizer when we have so much gas?
I could go on and on with these statistics, but you can see where I’m going with this so I won’t belabor the point. I will leave you with this mental image: imagine a man that lives with his family on the banks of a river that has fresh, clean water. Rather than collect and use this water directly from the river, he treks over 20km each day to buy bottled water from a company that collects the same water, bottles it and sells to him at a profit. This is the tragedy on Nigeria and it should make us all very sad.
Several indigenous companies like Nestoil were born and grown by the opportunities created by the local and international oil majors – NNPC and its subsidiaries – NGC, NAPIMS, Shell, Mobil, Agip, NDPHC. Nestoil’s main focus is the Engineering Procurement Construction and Commissioning of oil and gas pipelines and flowstations, essentially, infrastructure that supports upstream companies to produce and transport oil and natural gas, as well as and downstream companies to store and move their product. In our 28 years of doing business, we have built over 300km of pipelines of various sizes through the harshest terrain, ranging from dry land to seasonal swamp, to pure swamps, as well as some of the toughest and most volatile and hostile communities in Nigeria. I would be remiss if I do not use this opportunity to say a big thank you to those companies that gave us the opportunity to serve you. The over 2,000 direct staff and over 50,000 indirect staff we employ thank you. We are very grateful for the past opportunities given to us, and look forward to future opportunities that we can get.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 15 July 2019 – Brent: US$66/b; WTI: US$59/b
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