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Last Updated: February 14, 2020
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 10 February 2020 – Brent: US$53/b; WTI: US$49/b

  • The demand destruction caused by the Covid-19 pandemic – also known as the Wuhan coronavirus – has dragged crude prices to fresh lows, with OPEC+ struggling to present a united front to respond to the demand crisis
  • Earlier indications that OPEC+ was preparing to call for an emergency meeting mid-February to discuss the pandemic’s impact on the oil market were dashed, hinting at divisions within the oil club
  • Reportedly, OPEC’s technical committee was proposing to extend the club’s supply quota agreement through June 2020; Saudi Arabia – along with Iran and Bahrain – were the strongest supporters, but Russia remains reticent to commit
  • A group of key Russian oil producers are in support of extending the OPEC+ cuts, with Gazprom, Lukoil and Rosneft indicating that it ‘made sense’
  • In the face of the huge impact of Covid-19, the so-called Brent red spread sank into contango, indicating an intensely bear-ish market
  • Although the fatality rate of the new coronavirus is much lower than SARS, the spread has been far more severe and wider, with confirmed cases nearing 70,000 and deaths nearing 1,500
  • After being on lockdown for weeks, Chinese factories and businesses have gradually returned to work at a glacial pace, impacting gasoline, gasoil and - most significantly – jet fuel demand, causing Chinese refineries to slash output
  • News that China and the US would both implement tariff cuts on the pre-Phase 1 trade deal levies on February 14 failed to calm the market, supporting the floor for prices rather than raising the ceiling
  • Amid that chaos, the US active rig count dropped four rigs, falling down to 790 total and down 255 sites y-o-y; however, the relationship between this proxy and actual production has diminished over the past two years, as the US continues to produce more oil from less rigs
  • Hopes that the outbreak might have peaked has supported crude oil prices this year, although a major spike in confirmed cases from a wider diagnosis tool nipped that in the bud; expect crude oil prices to continue hovering around the US$50/b mark, at US$51-53/b for Brent and US$49-51/b for WTI


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Chevron and Petrobras will be selling their stakes in the heavy oil Papa-terra field in the Campos Basin, seeking new operatorship for the BC-20 concession asset that is currently split 62.5/37.5 between Petrobras and Chevron
  • Shell plans to boost its output in the Permian Basin to some 250,000 b/d by end-2020, up from a current production level of 100,000 b/d as it announced plans to invest up to US$3 billion per year in the prolific US shale area
  • Eni’s oil production in Libya has halved to 160,000 b/d, as the country continues to grapple with a blockade started by military strongman Khalifa Haftar
  • Disappointing results in Africa have forced Tullow Oil to reduce its headcount in Kenya by 40%, with operations in Kenya, Uganda and Ghana all yielding either poor results or in danger of significant delays
  • BP and Shell have brought the Alligin field in the UK West of Shetlands region online, with initial output at a better-than-expected 12,000 b/d
  • Guyana’s oil riches keep increasing; after ExxonMobil upped estimates at the Stabroek block last month, Eco Atlantic (together with Tullow Oil and Total) have upped reserves in the Orinduik block from 3.98 mmboe/d to 5.14 mmboe/d

Midstream/Downstream

  • Reports suggest that Chinese independent teapot refineries in Shandong have slashed their utilisation rates by 30-50%, scaling down in response to severely diminished fuel and petrochemicals demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Chinese state refiners are following suit with slashing output, with CNOOC, Sinopec and PetroChina all lowering their throughput rates by 10-15%
  • Shell has finalised the sale of its Martinez refinery in California, selling it to PBF Energy for some US$1.2 billion, including its supply/offtake agreements
  • Botswana is accelerating its US$4 billion coal-to-liquids refinery project, now expecting to complete the site by 2025, with the aim of tapping into the country’s major coal reserves that are some of the largest in Africa
  • The UK has extended its goal to end the sale of all gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles in the UK by 2035 to include hybrid vehicles, which would move transport fuel demand entirely to electric vehicles then

Natural Gas/LNG

  • Abu Dhabi and Dubai report that they have made a major natural gas find, with the Jebel Ali reservoir located between the two largest sheikhdoms in the UAE holding some 80 tcf of resources - the world’s largest gas find in 15 years
  • The government of Papua New Guinea has walked away from talks over the P’nyang gas field, impacting the planned expansion of ExxonMobil’s PNG LNG project; the government had previously tried a similar tactic with Total
  • The EU has imposed sanctions on Turkey, in retaliation for its continued exploration of gas resources in the disputed waters off Cyprus that Turkey claims is part of the breakaway Turkish province in the north of the island
  • CNOOC has declared force majeure on some LNG contracts due to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, but two of the world’s largest LNG traders – Shell and Total – have rejected the Chinese attempt to nullify contractual terms
  • Centrica will take a major write-down on its gas assets in Europe, continuing a trend of the global natural gas glut eroding the value of gas assets worldwide
  • GeoPark has made a new natural gas discovery in Chile, with the Jauke Oeste field in the Fell block of the Magallanese Basin yielding small-but-significant gas flows of some 4.4 mscf/d

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