The year 2018 has been quite a rollercoaster. It started off with optimism, veered into uncertainty and ends with the blues. Oil prices started on an upward swing at US$66/b for Brent, reached a peak of US$81/b, then fell to a low of US$49/b. The market swang from balanced supply/demand to a supply crunch to a glut – dealing with American sanctions on Iranian crude exports, surging American crude oil production, the implosion of Venezuela’s economy and signs that the global economy might be entering a slowdown. If this was a wild ride, what could 2019 hold?
Quarter 1 2019 – The crude oil market will start the year off in a slightly stronger position than it ended 2018, bouncing back from recent lows at US$54/b. The new OPEC+ supply deal – which aims to curb production by 1.2 mmb/d – goes into effect, and traders will be watching to see if the cuts have a material impact. Sometime in the first quarter, American crude oil production will hit 12 mmb/d, cementing its position as the world’s largest oil producer as Saudi Arabia and Russia cut back output as part of the OPEC+ supply deal. Upstream production curbs in Canada’s Alberta – hampered by pipeline capacity – will continue. A new Democrat-led House of Representatives takes office in the US, which could frustrate President Donald Trump’s agenda, with the threat of investigation and impeachment raising the risk of triggering volatility.
Quarter 2 2019 – OPEC+ meets in April to review the supply deal agreed in December 2018. Saudi Arabia has been promising ‘deeper cuts’, but there will be pushback from some members worried about ceding ground to American shale. Russia has already expressed some reticence, and Iran is unlikely to support another major cut. The power of OPEC – which has already lost Qatar as a member – will be questioned. A lot will depend on the question of American waivers of Iranian crude imports for eight major buyers, which expire in May. The waivers should continue – which should allow room for negotiation – but a shock could happen if they are allowed to expire.
Quarter 3 2019 – The first of a new wave of pipelines connecting the Permian Basin to the US Gulf Coast should begin commissioning and operation. With capacity of at least an additional 1.5 mmb/d of American shale oil making it to market, this could trigger another boom in Permian output and change the dynamics of the global oil market, just as American LNG has upended the global gas market. OPEC’s bi-annual Vienna meeting in June will address this. Will there be a place for light, sweet US crude in the world, particularly since there will continue to be a global oversupply of gasoline? Perhaps for petrochemical use, but refining demand will increasingly be geared toward medium and heavier grades to be cracked by upgraded refineries into gasoil ahead of the IMO’s new rules of fuel oil and sulfur levels rolling out in 2020
Quarter 4 2019 – Depending on market conditions, American crude production could be on the cusp of hitting 13 mmb/d – presenting yet another problem as OPEC meets in December. The inexorable rise of US oil is inevitable, and we could see OPEC switch tactics from accommodation to aggression. If the Iranian crude export waivers are extended in May, they will end in this quarter – throwing another finicky variable into a complicated year. The year might end the way it began, characterised by a frustrating stalemate between free market and controlled oil production.
Major predictions for 2019 oil prices (Brent)
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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
Headlines of the week
Unplanned crude oil production outages for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) averaged 2.5 million barrels per day (b/d) in the first half of 2019, the highest six-month average since the end of 2015. EIA estimates that in June, Iran alone accounted for more than 60% (1.7 million b/d) of all OPEC unplanned outages.
EIA differentiates among declines in production resulting from unplanned production outages, permanent losses of production capacity, and voluntary production cutbacks for OPEC members. Only the first of those categories is included in the historical unplanned production outage estimates that EIA publishes in its monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO).
Unplanned production outages include, but are not limited to, sanctions, armed conflicts, political disputes, labor actions, natural disasters, and unplanned maintenance. Unplanned outages can be short-lived or last for a number of years, but as long as the production capacity is not lost, EIA tracks these disruptions as outages rather than lost capacity.
Loss of production capacity includes natural capacity declines and declines resulting from irreparable damage that are unlikely to return within one year. This lost capacity cannot contribute to global supply without significant investment and lead time.
Voluntary cutbacks are associated with OPEC production agreements and only apply to OPEC members. Voluntary cutbacks count toward the country’s spare capacity but are not counted as unplanned production outages.
EIA defines spare crude oil production capacity—which only applies to OPEC members adhering to OPEC production agreements—as potential oil production that could be brought online within 30 days and sustained for at least 90 days, consistent with sound business practices. EIA does not include unplanned crude oil production outages in its assessment of spare production capacity.
As an example, EIA considers Iranian production declines that result from U.S. sanctions to be unplanned production outages, making Iran a significant contributor to the total OPEC unplanned crude oil production outages. During the fourth quarter of 2015, before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action became effective in January 2016, EIA estimated that an average 800,000 b/d of Iranian production was disrupted. In the first quarter of 2019, the first full quarter since U.S. sanctions on Iran were re-imposed in November 2018, Iranian disruptions averaged 1.2 million b/d.
Another long-term contributor to EIA’s estimate of OPEC unplanned crude oil production outages is the Partitioned Neutral Zone (PNZ) between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Production halted there in 2014 because of a political dispute between the two countries. EIA attributes half of the PNZ’s estimated 500,000 b/d production capacity to each country.
In the July 2019 STEO, EIA only considered about 100,000 b/d of Venezuela’s 130,000 b/d production decline from January to February as an unplanned crude oil production outage. After a series of ongoing nationwide power outages in Venezuela that began on March 7 and cut electricity to the country's oil-producing areas, EIA estimates that PdVSA, Venezuela’s national oil company, could not restart the disrupted production because of deteriorating infrastructure, and the previously disrupted 100,000 b/d became lost capacity.