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Last Updated: April 12, 2019
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Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 8 April 2019 – Brent: US$70/b; WTI: US$63/b

  • Crude oil futures continue to extend their gains in its best quarterly performance in a decade, touching US$70/b for Brent as an escalation of violence in Libya spooked the market
  • Fighting between the Libyan government and forces of strongman Khalifa Haftar lifted prices on supply-side risks, just a couple of weeks after Libya’s largest field restarted output
  • OPEC chimed in on the situation, with Saudi Arabia stating that oil markets were ‘moving in the right direction’ with no need to ‘deepen output curbs’, walking back on the Kingdom’s stance ahead of OPEC’s June meeting
  • Also within OPEC, power failures in Venezuela reportedly slashed the country’s crude output by half with the outages causing production to dip below 600,000 b/d at peak; meanwhile, the US has begun to sanction companies delivering Venezuelan crude including firms in Liberia and Greece
  • In the US, recent figures show that US crude oil exports hit a record 3.6 mmb/d while total crude and product exports reached 8.2 mmb/d, with markets expanding from just 10 five years ago to 24 countries including South Korea, the UK, the Netherlands and China
  • After six consecutive weeks of declines that brought the active US rig count almost below 1000, the Baker Hughes index showed a big jump of 19 rigs – 15 oil and 4 gas – to 1025 active sites
  • Crude oil prices should be trading with an upward slant – Brent at US$69-71/b and WTI at US$61-63/b – but a change of heart within OPEC on the crude deal extension could cap gains


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • US President Donald Trump has issued a new permit by executive order approving TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, aiming to circumvent a court ruling that blocked the project on environmental concerns
  • Lukoil and its Kazakh partner KazMunayGas have signed a contract to jointly explore and develop the Zhenis block of the Caspian Sea on a 50:50 basis
  • With Saudi Aramco releasing official reports on its finances and production ahead of its planned IPO, the report revealed that its giant Ghawar field was only producing at some 3.8 mmb/d, far lower than the presumed 5 mmb/d that had become conventional wisdom in the market

Midstream & Downstream

  • ExxonMobil has sanctioned a major expansion at its refinery in Singapore, aiming to convert fuel oil and other bottom-of-the-barrel products into lubricant base oils and other low-sulfur distillates as it grapples with new IMO regulations that will significantly reduce demand for fuel oil
  • Chevron’s takeover of the Pasadena Refining System plant from Petrobras has stalled from its planned April 2 date to an indeterminate Q219 timeline
  • Curacao has renewed efforts to find an operator for its 335 kb/d Isla refinery, after Motiva and a Chinese firm dropped out of the running, while its current operator PDVSA faces challenging conditions from American sanctions
  • Adnoc has signed a major long-term contract for its Group III base oils from the Ruwais refinery to Xiamen Sinolook Oil, a major Chinese base oil trader
  • Sinopec confirmed that its Jiujiang Petrochemical refinery in Jiangxi has begun to produce clean gasoline after a 300 mtpa alkylation unit was installed last year
  • The US EIA confirmed that US refineries racked up a fifth consecutive year of record refinery runs, averaging 17.3 mmb/d in 2018 with a peak of 18 mmb/d
  • Greece’s attempt to sell a majority stake in state oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum has failed with no binding bids received, despite interest from Glencore, Vitol and Algerian state firm Sonatrach

Natural Gas/LNG

  • Shell has inked a new type of LNG contract with Tokyo Gas, signing a 10-year deal for 500,000 tpa with the pricing formula linked to coal indexation instead of the traditional link to crude oil, aligning LNG with a rival power fuel
  • While LNG continues to roll forth on the US coast of the Gulf of Mexico, a Mexican project has also gained approval, with the 7.6 mtpa Energia Costa Azul by Sempra Energy winning US approval to receive US natural gas for processing into LNG that can be re-exported to other countries
  • Marathon Oil has signed a contract to process natural gas from Noble’s Alen field at the Punta Europa site in Equatorial Guinea, merging it with LNG and LPG output currently sourced from Marathon’s own Alba gas/condensate field
  • Japan’s utility major JERA has signed up with the LNG Canada project in Kitimat to purchase up to 1.2 mtpa of LNG beginning 2024 for 15 years
  • Oil Search and its partners Total, Kumul Petroleum and ExxonMobil have formally signed an agreement with Papua New Guinea to develop the offshore Elk-Antelope and P’nyang gas fields, with a planned capacity of 5.4 mtpa
  • Australia’s Woodside has signed a 10-year sales agreement with China’s ENN for supplying 1 million tpa of LNG from the Scarborough field beginning 2025

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