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Last Updated: November 23, 2018
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Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 19 November 2018 – Brent: US$67/b; WTI: US$57/b

  • After taking a severe beating all of last week – with Brent tumbling by over US$4/b alone on November 14 – global crude prices recovered somewhat this week, as language from OPEC signalled that production cuts might be back on the agenda
  • Crude has been sliding over the past two weeks as American sanctions on Iranian crude exports were muted by surprise waivers granted to 8 large importers, switching the narrative from constrained supply to a supply glut
  • South Korea seems to be taking full advantage of the waiver it received, scheduling meetings to resume Iranian oil imports after halting them for three months, aiming to take some 200,000 b/d of crude, mainly condensate
  • Alarmed by this change, Saudi Arabia is now backing a production cut of at least 1 mmb/d to stabilise the market – likely around the US$70/b sweet spot; with the biannual OPEC meeting around the corner, this would be the likely place to announce such a measure
  • A recent joint meeting between OPEC and NOPEC concluded that a majority of the members felt that the current market situation substantiates a production cut in 2019, which may rise to 1.5-2 mmb/d above the proposed 1mmb/d cut
  • Saudi Arabia already intends to export 500,000 b/d less barrels in December, taking the lead to stem the price rout, although Russia is advising against rash moves and a need to ‘monitor the situation’
  • Global trade tensions are also feeding into the demand outlook, as US Vice President Mike Pence issued sharp rebukes to China at the recent APEC meeting in Papua New Guinea, with the disagreements resulting in the failure to issue a joint communique for the first time
  • Meanwhile, the US gas markets have been on a see-saw ride, triggered by a ‘polar vortex’ that brought freezing Arctic temperatures to the US Midwest and northeast, moving against crude oil’s downward trajectory; US natural gas futures jumped 30% in a day, then plunged 25% the next day
  • In Asia, forecasts of a milder winter caused Asian spot LNG prices to weaken on the expectation that China’s short-term LNG demand will not be so strong this year
  • There was another gain in the US active rig count, with 2 new oil rigs added to the list, a slowdown from the large 14 rig gain from the week before; with American Thanksgiving being this weekend, drilling activity should slow down
  • Crude price outlook: OPEC+’s best efforts to prop up crude prices won’t see any fruit until early December, when – or if – a supply cut deal can be reached; until then the downward pressure on crude prices will continue. We see the range for Brent at US$63-65/b and WTI at US$53-55/b this week


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • After being halted for a year, Iraq has resumed oil exports from Kirkuk via the region’s pipeline to Ceyhan, Turkey, with some 50-100/000 b/d flowing through, with plans to also increase total capacity to some 1 mmb/d
  • ADNOC has announced a US$1.4 billion investment plan to upgrade and expand the Bu Hasa oil field from 550,000 b/d to 650,000 b/d by 2020
  • India has signed an agreement with ADNOC to lease half of the Padur strategic reserve facility, giving it capacity to store up to 18 million barrels of crude
  • Saudi Aramco has signed a deal to supply some 130,000 b/d of crude to China’s Hengli Petrochemical in 2019 for its new refinery in Dalian, Aramco’s second such agreement with a Chinese firm this year after Zhejiang Rongsheng
  • ConocoPhillips has entered into exclusive talks with Ineos to sell off its UK oil and gas assets, including the Clair Field, for some US$3 billion

Downstream

  • Chevron is reportedly in talks to acquire the Pasadena Refining System’s 110 kb/d refinery in Texas from Petrobras, as it aims to expand its refining system to capitalise on rising volumes of American shale crude
  • Despite being officially opened, the commercial start-up of SOCAR’s 200 kb/d STAR refinery in Turkey has been delayed to Q1 2019, with full capacity only set to be reached in mid-2019 due to minor faults revealed during testing
  • ADNOC has signed a new sales agreement with China’s Wanhua Chemical Group to supply up to 1 million tons of LPG per year for 10 years
  • Spain has joined a number of European countries, including the UK and Denmark, in proposing to ban the sale of gasoline or diesel cars by 2040

Natural Gas/LNG

  • Cheniere has produced first LNG at its Corpus Christi LNG project in Texas, with the first of a planned five trains of 22.5 mtpa total capacity coming online following the recent start-up of Train 5 at its Sabine Pass site in Louisiana
  • Cheniere is also looking to make its Final Investment Decision on Train 6 at Sabine Pass by next year, with the firm being bullish about demand in China
  • ADNOC and Saudi Aramco have signed a new gas pact aimed at collaborating in the natural gas and LNG sectors, a move possibly aimed at challenging the status of Qatar as the Middle East’s LNG champion
  • Energean Oil and Gas is now aiming to deliver first gas from its Karish and Tanin developments offshore Israel in the first quarter of 2021
  • ADNOC has agreed to extend its gas supply agreement with ADNOC LNG, its joint venture with BP, Total and Mitsui, to 2040 after it expires in March 2019
  • Total, along with ExxonMobil and Oil Search, has signed a new MoU with Papua New Guinea on gas agreement terms for the 5.4 mtpa Papua LNG project
  • Eni has been awarded a new concession in Abu Dhabi by ADNOC, taking on 25% of the offshore ultra-sour Ghasha Concession gas mega project
  • In a very busy week for ADNOC, the Abu Dhabi firm also signed a framework agreement with Uzbekneftgaz to collaborate on upstream and downstream operations and projects in Uzbekistan
  • Russia’s Novatek has reported a sizable new commercial gas discovery in the giant Nyakhartinsky block in the Yamal-Nenets region

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