Easwaran Kanason

Co - founder of NrgEdge
Last Updated: January 27, 2019
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Business Trends

Chinese crude production peaked at some 4.3 mmb/d in 2015, capping off a long and steady rise that saw output rise from 3 mmb/d in 1996. But since then, output has fallen sharply. By 2017, the average output of Chinese fields was 3.8 mmb/d and by late 2018, production had fallen to 3.6 mmb/d. The issue is replenishment – the long and established Chinese oil fields in Bohai Bay are now way past their prime, and there have not been enough new fields joining the crowd to keep output at a steady level. Hopes that the American shale revolution could be repeated in inland China proved to be in vain, as geography stood in the way, and the world’s largest energy market is now more and more dependent on imports.

CNOOC plans to change that. After President Xi Jinping called for greater self-reliance and improving national security by boosting domestic reserves in August, the national upstream company CNOOC has now unveiled ambitious plans to boost capital spending with an eye to raise its production. Encompassing both domestic and international assets, CNOOC wants to boost its total capital budget by 14% to its highest level since 2014 to raise net production by 15%.

CNOOC’s focus will remain domestic, but international projects will assume greater importance as it aims to reduce its domestic share of total production from 65% to 63%. Within China, CNOOC will be looking at continuing shallow water exploration in the Bohai Bay and deepwater exploration in the Pearl River Mouth Basin, where it has recently signed strategic exploration deals in Areas A and Areas B. The integrated Huizhou 32-5/33-1 development has also started production, adding 19,200 b/d of output by 2020. It could move even further south, as China and The Philippines agreed to embark on joint exploration activities in disputed areas of the South China Sea. Opportunities exist where China and Vietnam have overlapping claims as well – but diplomatic relationships are more complicated there – and China is also continuing to use its muscle to claim purported oil-rich areas in the middle of the South China Sea around the Spratly Islands.

But while the domestic focus is aimed to meeting the Premier’s requests, it is internationally that the greater opportunities lie for CNOOC. Starting up this year will be the Egina oilfield in Nigeria, part of the OML130 block in which CNOOC has a 45% that includes the Akpo, Egina South and Preowei fields, with the Akpo producing 56,000 b/d last year. Promising assets in Uganda’s Lake Albert Basin, as well as Algeria, Gabon, Senegal and the Republic of Congo have also capped off a decade of growing investment into African upstream. Through its US$15.1 billion acquisition of Nexen in 2013, CNOOC has access to Canadian oil sands – which could make a comeback with the rise in crude prices – and it also has stakes in promising projects in Eagle Ford shale and deepwater Gulf of Mexico. But by far the best investment CNOOC has made is in Guyana, where it is a minority partner in ExxonMobil’s major discoveries in the Stabroek block – acquired when CNOOC decided to retreat from volatile Venezuela. With Guyanese production on track for 2020, CNOOC’s ambitious targets could be exceeded – and that’s good news for President Xi Jinping, who wants his state oil companies to grow from being domestic giants to international behemoths.

CNOOC Capital Expenditure Plans 2019-2020

  • Boost spending by 14% to US$11.8 billion
  • Raise net production by 15% to 545 million barrels of oil equivalent
  • Bring six new upstream projects on in 2019
  • Drill 173 new exploration wells
  • Map 28,500 square km of 3D seismic imagery

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