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Last Updated: May 30, 2019
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When I give my chairman’s Crystal Ball Presentation for the twentieth edition of the Asia Oil and Gas Conference (AOGC) in Kuala Lumpur in June, it will remain focused on the oil and gas business and some of the attendant major environmental issues with it. I will talk about what are the likely developments in the upstream sector, on the refining sector, on the oil trading business and what's happening in the LNG markets. I will argue that the growth is ready to slow down, and it may be the last major cycle left in front of us.

The oil and gas industry have been used to a five per cent annual growth. That has fallen to 1.6 per cent now and is projected to grow at only 0.7 per cent for the next 20 years. The gasoline and diesel markets will plateau by around 2030 while the demand for aviation fuel continues to go up, and demand for petrochemicals continues. Basically, the transportation sector outside of aviation will slow down very significantly.

This has some interesting implications because with the oil business not growing so fast, nobody is building refineries which results in the margins remaining high. The operators will be making money and so there is no driver to build more capacity to satisfy this demand and reduce margins. This will leave the onus on the governments to invest in new facilities, which is not a likely scenario.

However, when we start talking about gas it is a different story; the cycles are alive and well. There's no end to demand for gas, and there's no end to demand for petrochemicals.

In the LNG business up to 2021 there is a bit of surplus in the market. From 2020 to 2025 there will be a huge deficit. This shortfall has been recognized and we are seeing a lot of final investment decisions (FIDs) although by the time these facilities are commission, they will have missed the start of the gap with a lot of them coming online in the middle of the next decade

What is very different this time is that many operators are building LNG infrastructure without customers signed up for supply. It is the companies with deep pockets that are investing to build, and this will change the shape of the global LNG business very dramatically.

In the past, you produced oil first and you sell it later. LNG, you sell it first then produce it later. That model has now permanently changed with all these new FIDs that we expect to come. This dramatic shift in the market will lead to more liquidity and perhaps make gas into a commodity much like oil. I will also focus on another important sector, the maritime industry and the effects that IMO 2020 will have on the market. These new regulations that come on line in 2020 will dramatically change the whole global oil and gas industry. It will change the demand for marine fuel with many shipowners opting for better quality of low Sulphur fuels, which in turn may put price pressures on fuel for cars and trucks.

It will almost certainly drive diesel prices up and by driving diesel prices up, it will also drive gasoline prices up.

All of this is set against a backdrop of geopolitical uncertainty. United States president Donald Trump has made himself a key player in the market, something that previous presidents have always avoided. At no other time has a US president had been directly involved in the price issues. The other geopolitical issue is related to US sanctions on Iran, Venezuela and potential problems in Saudi Arabia after the murder of the journalist in Turkey.

All these things are brewing on the upside, but on the downside, we have stronger US oil production coming in that will hit a ceiling somewhere in the next three to four years. OPEC in the southeast are still trying to keep a band on price by regulating production and trying to keep some order for people to make some investment decisions. It is the geopolitical issues relating to the sanctions and to the involvement of the US president. But as always, the king of the oil market is still Saudi Arabia and much of its future is in their hands.

When it comes to the investment that the oil and gas sectors needs to meet future demand it is going to reach the levels it did in 2014 and 2015. Before that slump there were a lot of bad investments made. With oil process above $100 there was scant regard for the costs; they just spent money. Since then there has been a lot of work to reduce costs and so an oil price of between $60 to $70 will be enough for investors. The investment is less but the productivity is much, much higher.

There is another potential hiccup and that comes from China. There is a concerted effort to dampen the demand growth for oil, above and beyond that caused by the slowing economic growth. They have the largest electric car programme in the world and the demand for diesel has started to fall and they intend to keep it falling every year. From 2025 they aim to flatten and reduce the demand for gasoline.

All in all, it is an interesting time for the industry and one that I am looking forward to presenting in June.

Dr. Fereidun Fesharaki is the Chairman of FGE - FACTS Global Energy. FGE is a leading consulting group focusing on the oil and gas markets East of the Suez, Europe, and the United States, with offices in London, Singapore, Dubai, Hawaii, Beijing, Yokohama, and Perth. Dr. Fesharaki’s work is well-recognized worldwide for pioneering oil and gas market analysis and studies of the Asia Pacific/Middle East energy markets since the early 1980. Dr Fereidun Fesharaki will highlights the key points from his Chairman’s Crystal Ball Presentation that he will make at the twentieth edition of the Asia Oil and Gas Conference (AOGC) in Kuala Lumpur in June.

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