Amid the furore of the Saudi state’s involvement in the assassination of political dissident Jamal Khashoggi, the Kingdom has threatened and then walked back on the possibility of using its oil wealth as a weapon (again). While the global implications and repercussions of the scandal are still unfolding, this has not deterred the Kingdom’s crown jewel Saudi Arabia from forging ahead with an ambitious slate of projects and investments meant to diversify its business and prepare itself an eventual IPO.
We were supposed to be at the cusp of the IPO already. Planned for Q119, a number of factors have led it to be placed on the backburner. The first is Aramco’s planned acquisition of another Saudi powerhouse, petrochemicals producer SABIC. The second is the complications of the plan, which was to dual list in both Riyadh and an international bourse; the London Stock Exchange went as far as to amend its rules to allow the listing of national oil companies, and New York was reportedly also lobbying hard for the IPO. This leads to the third – with the Khashoggi affair still dominating headlines, it would be politically unsavoury to list anytime soon. The project team overseeing the IPO was disbanded in August, suggesting that the IPO was cancelled, but Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman – or MBS – has promised that it will eventually occur. But perhaps now only after people’s memories have faded.
Meanwhile, Aramco is forging ahead. After creating a network of major downstream investments linking its key markets – the expansion of Port Arthur in the US, the Maharashtra refinery in India, the RAPID refinery in Malaysia and key refining partnerships in China – the firm announced that it had signed 15 Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) valued at over US$34 billion this month. Covering 15 partner firms across 8 countries, the new projects span the entire gamut of the energy industry – spinning out from the recent Davos in the Desert international investment forum in Riyadh . In the Kingdom itself, it is partnering with Total on a major petrochemical expansion in Jubail, as well as potentially establishing a retail service station network. An MoU with Hyundai Heavy Industries on investments in the King Salman International Maritime Complex for Industries and Services at Ras Al Khair was also announced, as well as one with Sumitomo for the upgrade of the PetroRabigh refinery and one with China’s Norinco for general refining and chemicals investment.
A slew of MoUs with upstream service firms was also announced, with Baker Hughes GE, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Oilfield Supply Center and NOV (USA) – useful, given Aramco’s directive to expand upstream domestically and internationally, especially with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia making motions towards settling the management of oil fields in the neutral zone between the two countries. The other partnerships were more specialised, linked to engineering steel, drilling chemicals, thermoplastic pipes and gasification power.
The wide scale of the projects suggest that Aramco sees no reason to decelerate its diversification and global investment drive. Transforming the company into a strong diversified firm away from a crude focus is necessary, not least because it ensures continued outlets for its crude. But also because it will justify the sky-high valuation estimates for the IPO, if it ever happens. But even if it doesn’t, Aramco’s ambitions are undeterred. Their path is forward, and it is ambitious. Political scandals nonewithstanding.
Saudi Aramco’s 15 announced MoU
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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly
Renewable generation provided a new record of 742 million megawatthours (MWh) of electricity in 2018, nearly double the 382 million MWh produced in 2008. Renewables provided 17.6% of electricity generation in the United States in 2018.
Nearly 90% of the increase in U.S. renewable electricity between 2008 and 2018 came from wind and solar generation. Wind generation rose from 55 million MWh in 2008 to 275 million MWh in 2018 (6.5% of total electricity generation), exceeded only by conventional hydroelectric at 292 million MWh (6.9% of total generation).
U.S. solar generation has increased from 2 million MWh in 2008 to 96 million MWh in 2018. Solar generation accounted for 2.3% of electricity generation in 2018. Solar generation is generally categorized as small-scale (customer-sited or rooftop) solar installations or utility-scale installations. In 2018, 69% of solar generation, or 67 million MWh, was utility-scale solar.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly
Increases in U.S. wind and solar generation are driven largely by capacity additions. In 2008, the United States had 25 gigawatts (GW) of wind generating capacity. By the end of 2018, 94 GW of wind generating capacity was operating on the electric grid. Almost all of this capacity is onshore; one offshore wind plant, located on Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, has a capacity of 30 megawatts. Similarly, installed solar capacity grew from an estimated less than 1 GW in 2008 to 51 GW in 2018. In 2018, 1.8 GW of this solar capacity was solar thermal, 30 GW was utility-scale solar photovoltaics (PV), and the remaining 20 GW was small-scale solar PV.
Growth in renewable technologies in the United States, particularly in wind and solar, has been driven by federal and state policies and declining costs. Federal policies such as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 and the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credits for wind and solar have spurred project development.
In addition, state-level policies, such as renewable portfolio standards, which require a certain share of electricity to come from renewable sources, have increasing targets over time. As more wind and solar projects have come online, economies of scale have led to more efficient project development and financing mechanisms, which has led to continued cost declines.
Conventional hydroelectric capacity has remained relatively unchanged in the United States, increasing by 2% since 2008. Changes in hydroelectric generation year-over-year typically reflect changes in precipitation and drought conditions. Between 2008 and 2018, annual U.S. hydroelectric generation was as low as 249 million MWh and as high as 319 million MWh, with hydroelectric generation in 2018 totaling 292 million MWh. Generation from other renewable resources, including biomass and geothermal, increased from 70 million MWh to 79 million MWh in the United States between 2008 and 2018, and it collectively represented 1.9% of total generation in 2018.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 11 March 2019 – Brent: US$66/b; WTI: US$56/b
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GEO ExPro Vol. 16, No. 1 was published on 4th March 2019 bringing light to the latest science and technology activity in the global geoscience community within the oil, gas and energy sector.
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