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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In 2020, renewable energy sources (including wind, hydroelectric, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy) generated a record 834 billion kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity, or about 21% of all the electricity generated in the United States. Only natural gas (1,617 billion kWh) produced more electricity than renewables in the United States in 2020. Renewables surpassed both nuclear (790 billion kWh) and coal (774 billion kWh) for the first time on record. This outcome in 2020 was due mostly to significantly less coal use in U.S. electricity generation and steadily increased use of wind and solar.
In 2020, U.S. electricity generation from coal in all sectors declined 20% from 2019, while renewables, including small-scale solar, increased 9%. Wind, currently the most prevalent source of renewable electricity in the United States, grew 14% in 2020 from 2019. Utility-scale solar generation (from projects greater than 1 megawatt) increased 26%, and small-scale solar, such as grid-connected rooftop solar panels, increased 19%.
Coal-fired electricity generation in the United States peaked at 2,016 billion kWh in 2007 and much of that capacity has been replaced by or converted to natural gas-fired generation since then. Coal was the largest source of electricity in the United States until 2016, and 2020 was the first year that more electricity was generated by renewables and by nuclear power than by coal (according to our data series that dates back to 1949). Nuclear electric power declined 2% from 2019 to 2020 because several nuclear power plants retired and other nuclear plants experienced slightly more maintenance-related outages.
We expect coal-fired electricity generation to increase in the United States during 2021 as natural gas prices continue to rise and as coal becomes more economically competitive. Based on forecasts in our Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), we expect coal-fired electricity generation in all sectors in 2021 to increase 18% from 2020 levels before falling 2% in 2022. We expect U.S. renewable generation across all sectors to increase 7% in 2021 and 10% in 2022. As a result, we forecast coal will be the second-most prevalent electricity source in 2021, and renewables will be the second-most prevalent source in 2022. We expect nuclear electric power to decline 2% in 2021 and 3% in 2022 as operators retire several generators.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review and Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO)
Note: This graph shows electricity net generation in all sectors (electric power, industrial, commercial, and residential) and includes both utility-scale and small-scale (customer-sited, less than 1 megawatt) solar.
Kindly join this webinar on production data and nodal analysis on the 4yh of August 2021 via the link below
The tizzy that OPEC+ threw the world into in early July has been settled, with a confirmed pathway forward to restore production for the rest of 2021 and an extension of the deal further into 2022. The lone holdout from the early July meetings – the UAE – appears to have been satisfied with the concessions offered, paving the way for the crude oil producer group to begin increasing its crude oil production in monthly increments from August onwards. However, this deal comes at another difficult time; where the market had been fretting about a shortage of oil a month ago due to resurgent demand, a new blast of Covid-19 infections driven by the delta variant threatens to upend the equation once again. And so Brent crude futures settled below US$70/b for the first time since late May even as the argument at OPEC+ appeared to be settled.
How the argument settled? Well, on the surface, Riyadh and Moscow capitulated to Abu Dhabi’s demands that its baseline quota be adjusted in order to extend the deal. But since that demand would result in all other members asking for a similar adjustment, Saudi Arabia and Russia worked in a rise for all, and in the process, awarded themselves the largest increases.
The net result of this won’t be that apparent in the short- and mid-term. The original proposal at the early July meetings, backed by OPEC+’s technical committee was to raise crude production collectively by 400,000 b/d per month from August through December. The resulting 2 mmb/d increase in crude oil, it was predicted, would still lag behind expected gains in consumption, but would be sufficient to keep prices steady around the US$70/b range, especially when factoring in production increases from non-OPEC+ countries. The longer term view was that the supply deal needed to be extended from its initial expiration in April 2022, since global recovery was still ‘fragile’ and the bloc needed to exercise some control over supply to prevent ‘wild market fluctuations’. All members agreed to this, but the UAE had a caveat – that the extension must be accompanied by a review of its ‘unfair’ baseline quota.
The fix to this issue that was engineered by OPEC+’s twin giants Saudi Arabia and Russia was to raise quotas for all members from May 2022 through to the new expiration date for the supply deal in September 2022. So the UAE will see its baseline quota, the number by which its output compliance is calculated, rise by 330,000 b/d to 3.5 mmb/d. That’s a 10% increase, which will assuage Abu Dhabi’s itchiness to put the expensive crude output infrastructure it has invested billions in since 2016 to good use. But while the UAE’s hike was greater than some others, Saudi Arabia and Russia took the opportunity to award themselves (at least in terms of absolute numbers) by raising their own quotas by 500,000 b/d to 11.5 mmb/d each.
On the surface, that seems academic. Saudi Arabia has only pumped that much oil on a handful of occasions, while Russia’s true capacity is pegged at some 10.4 mmb/d. But the additional generous headroom offered by these larger numbers means that Riyadh and Moscow will have more leeway to react to market fluctuations in 2022, which at this point remains murky. Because while there is consensus that more crude oil will be needed in 2022, there is no consensus on what that number should be. The US EIA is predicting that OPEC+ should be pumping an additional 4 million barrels collectively from June 2021 levels in order to meet demand in the first half of 2022. However, OPEC itself is looking at a figure of some 3 mmb/d, forecasting a period of relative weakness that could possibly require a brief tightening of quotas if the new delta-driven Covid surge erupts into another series of crippling lockdowns. The IEA forecast is aligned with OPEC’s, with an even more cautious bent.
But at some point with the supply pathway from August to December set in stone, although OPEC+ has been careful to say that it may continue to make adjustments to this as the market develops, the issues of headline quota numbers fades away, while compliance rises to prominence. Because the success of the OPEC+ deal was not just based on its huge scale, but also the willingness of its 23 members to comply to their quotas. And that compliance, which has been the source of major frustrations in the past, has been surprisingly high throughout the pandemic. Even in May 2021, the average OPEC+ compliance was 85%. Only a handful of countries – Malaysia, Bahrain, Mexico and Equatorial Guinea – were estimated to have exceeded their quotas, and even then not by much. But compliance is easier to achieve in an environment where demand is weak. You can’t pump what you can’t sell after all. But as crude balances rapidly shift from glut to gluttony, the imperative to maintain compliance dissipates.
For now, OPEC+ has managed to placate the market with its ability to corral its members together to set some certainty for the immediate future of crude. Brent crude prices have now been restored above US$70/b, with WTI also climbing. The spat between Saudi Arabia and the UAE may have surprised and shocked market observers, but there is still unity in the club. However, that unity is set to be tested. By the end of 2021, the focus of the OPEC+ supply deal will have shifted from theoretical quotas to actual compliance. Abu Dhabi has managed to lift the tide for all OPEC+ members, offering them more room to manoeuvre in a recovering market, but discipline will not be uniform. And that’s when the fireworks will really begin.
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