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Last Updated: February 28, 2020
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 24 February 2020 – Brent: US$56/b; WTI: US$51/b

  • The Covid-19 outbreak continues to be the main headline – and the main driver – behind crude oil price trends, as the virus’ global spread continues
  • While the virus appears to be increasingly contained in its country of origin, the last week has seen major outbreaks in other parts of the world, including South Korea, Italy and Iran; this is approaching the level of a global pandemic – where the outbreak spreads in multiple locations independently
  • There is major concern that the virus outbreak in Iran could spread in the Middle East, impacting oil supply as Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kuwait all reported their first cases; the virus is now confirmed to be present in 55 countries (and suspected in at least 10 more), with over 83,000 cases globally
  • The new intensification of the outbreak might force OPEC+’s hand to act in March, after Russia scuppered a planned emergency meeting in mid-February meant to coordinate a response to the outbreak
  • With the economic meltdown in Venezuela continuing, President Nicolas Maduro has declared an ‘energy emergency’ and announced plans to revamp PDVSA in order to produce more crude; meanwhile the US sanctioned Russia’s Rosneft over maintaining ties with the Maduro regime and PDVSA
  • The US active rig count inched up last week with net gains coming from a single new oil rig, while gas rigs were flat for a new weekly total of 791
  • Fears the contagion widening its footprint outside of China has already sent global stock and commodity prices down sharply, with the Dow Jones reporting its single largest point drop in a day; unlike signs of global containment show, crude will remain in the red with Brent at US$51-54/b and WTI at US$46-49/b

Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Equinor has dropped plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, abandoning a well in the offshore Ceduna basin after facing environmental protests; officially, Equinor’s reason is that the plans – already been abandoned several times by other players – did not ‘measure up commercially’
  • Eni announced a new discovery in Mexico, with the Saasken prospect in the offshore Sureste Basin estimated to contain up to 300 million barrels of oil
  • Africa Oil SA will take a 20% stake in South Africa’s Block 3B/4B in the Orange Basin from Namibian E&P player Azinam; Azinam has also taken a 50% stake (and operatorship) of Block 2B from Africa Energy Corp

Midstream/Downstream

  • Amid the ongoing Wuhan Covid-19 outbreak, China has slashed ceiling prices for gasoline and diesel for the second time in 2020, reducing gasoline prices by 5% and diesel by 5.7%, bringing the cumulative reduction to some 10%
  • A series of outages at key refineries on the US Gulf Coast and East Coast saw American retail prices rise by an average 5% y-o-y, triggering tight supplies
  • PetroChina has exported its first batch of Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO) from its Liaohe refinery, after China waived consumption taxes and applied rebates of value-added taxes on clean marine fuels; more cargoes should follow
  • PetroChina has also resumed construction of its US$10 billion refinery project in Jieyang, Guangdong, after halting work following the Covid-19 outbreak
  • Malaysia is aiming to implement a B30 biodiesel mandate, up from the current B10 national level, following in the footsteps of Indonesia in an effort to reduce gasoil consumption and increase domestic demand for palm oil

Natural Gas/LNG

  • The USA, under Donald Trump, continues its campaign to prevent the completion of the Russia-Germany Nord Stream 2 pipeline, ratcheting up sanctions on key service providers like subsea pipeline provider Allseas Group
  • The government of Papua New Guinea and the natural gas/LNG joint venture led by ExxonMobil have informally resumed talks on the P’nyang Gas Agreement, with hopes to restart formal talks as soon as possible
  • Neptune Energy announced first gas from its new L5a-D4 well in the Dutch North Sea, tying the deepest field in the area back to the L5a-D platform
  • Hit by a mild winter and the Wuhan Covid-19 outbreak, China’s natural gas consumption declined for the first time in two years, with demand down by some 1 % y-o-y in January, mainly from industrial and power usage
  • Ramp-up at Eni’s Zohr field in Egypt continues, expected to rise to its peak plateau rate of 3 bcf/d in March 2020, confirming Egypt as a gas power
  • India’s AG&P has broken ground on the Karaikal Port LNG import facility in Puducherry, India, with operations expected to start by Q4 2021
  • Shell is ‘evaluating development options’ for its Manatee field in Trinidad & Tobago, after the government gave a go-ahead with first gas planned for 2025
  • ConocoPhillips has pushed its FID on the Barossa gas development in Northern Australia until Q2 2020, but first gas is still on track to hit the market in 2024
  • As the Abadi gas project in Indonesia takes off after a long period of gestation, operator Inpex has signed MoUs for takeoff with with PT PLN and PT Pupuk
  • The US FERC has given clearance for Cameron LNG Train 2 in Louisiana to go ahead, adding to a huge swathe of new US LNG capacity coming onstream

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