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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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The United States consumed a record amount of renewable energy in 2019

In 2019, consumption of renewable energy in the United States grew for the fourth year in a row, reaching a record 11.5 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), or 11% of total U.S. energy consumption. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) new U.S. renewable energy consumption by source and sector chart published in the Monthly Energy Review shows how much renewable energy by source is consumed in each sector.

In its Monthly Energy Review, EIA converts sources of energy to common units of heat, called British thermal units (Btu), to compare different types of energy that are more commonly measured in units that are not directly comparable, such as gallons of biofuels compared with kilowatthours of wind energy. EIA uses a fossil fuel equivalence to calculate primary energy consumption of noncombustible renewables such as wind, hydro, solar, and geothermal.

U.S. renewable energy consumption by sector

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

Wind energy in the United States is almost exclusively used by wind-powered turbines to generate electricity in the electric power sector, and it accounted for about 24% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019. Wind surpassed hydroelectricity to become the most-consumed source of renewable energy on an annual basis in 2019.

Wood and waste energy, including wood, wood pellets, and biomass waste from landfills, accounted for about 24% of U.S. renewable energy use in 2019. Industrial, commercial, and electric power facilities use wood and waste as fuel to generate electricity, to produce heat, and to manufacture goods. About 2% of U.S. households used wood as their primary source of heat in 2019.

Hydroelectric power is almost exclusively used by water-powered turbines to generate electricity in the electric power sector and accounted for about 22% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019. U.S. hydropower consumption has remained relatively consistent since the 1960s, but it fluctuates with seasonal rainfall and drought conditions.

Biofuels, including fuel ethanol, biodiesel, and other renewable fuels, accounted for about 20% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019. Biofuels usually are blended with petroleum-based motor gasoline and diesel and are consumed as liquid fuels in automobiles. Industrial consumption of biofuels accounts for about 36% of U.S. biofuel energy consumption.

Solar energy, consumed to generate electricity or directly as heat, accounted for about 9% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019 and had the largest percentage growth among renewable sources in 2019. Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, including rooftop panels, and solar thermal power plants use sunlight to generate electricity. Some residential and commercial buildings heat with solar heating systems.

October, 20 2020
Natural gas generators make up largest share of U.S. electricity generation capacity

operating natural-gas fired electric generating capacity by online year

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

Based on the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) annual survey of electric generators, natural gas-fired generators accounted for 43% of operating U.S. electricity generating capacity in 2019. These natural gas-fired generators provided 39% of electricity generation in 2019, more than any other source. Most of the natural gas-fired capacity added in recent decades uses combined-cycle technology, which surpassed coal-fired generators in 2018 to become the technology with the most electricity generating capacity in the United States.

Technological improvements have led to improved efficiency of natural gas generators since the mid-1980s, when combined-cycle plants began replacing older, less efficient steam turbines. For steam turbines, boilers combust fuel to generate steam that drives a turbine to generate electricity. Combustion turbines use a fuel-air mixture to spin a gas turbine. Combined-cycle units, as their name implies, combine these technologies: a fuel-air mixture spins gas turbines to generate electricity, and the excess heat from the gas turbine is used to generate steam for a steam turbine that generates additional electricity.

Combined-cycle generators generally operate for extended periods; combustion turbines and steam turbines are typically only used at times of peak load. Relatively few steam turbines have been installed since the late 1970s, and many steam turbines have been retired in recent years.

natural gas-fired electric gnerating capacity by retirement year

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

Not only are combined-cycle systems more efficient than steam or combustion turbines alone, the combined-cycle systems installed more recently are more efficient than the combined-cycle units installed more than a decade ago. These changes in efficiency have reduced the amount of natural gas needed to produce the same amount of electricity. Combined-cycle generators consume 80% of the natural gas used to generate electric power but provide 85% of total natural gas-fired electricity.

operating natural gas-fired electric generating capacity in selected states

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

Every U.S. state, except Vermont and Hawaii, has at least one utility-scale natural gas electric power plant. Texas, Florida, and California—the three states with the most electricity consumption in 2019—each have more than 35 gigawatts of natural gas-fired capacity. In many states, the majority of this capacity is combined-cycle technology, but 44% of New York’s natural gas capacity is steam turbines and 67% of Illinois’s natural gas capacity is combustion turbines.

October, 19 2020
EIA’s International Energy Outlook analyzes electricity markets in India, Africa, and Asia

Countries that are not members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Asia, including China and India, and in Africa are home to more than two-thirds of the world population. These regions accounted for 44% of primary energy consumed by the electric sector in 2019, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected they will reach 56% by 2050 in the Reference case in the International Energy Outlook 2019 (IEO2019). Changes in these economies significantly affect global energy markets.

Today, EIA is releasing its International Energy Outlook 2020 (IEO2020), which analyzes generating technology, fuel price, and infrastructure uncertainty in the electricity markets of Africa, Asia, and India. A related webcast presentation will begin this morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

global energy consumption for power generation

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2020 (IEO2020)

IEO2020 focuses on the electricity sector, which consumes a growing share of the world’s primary energy. The makeup of the electricity sector is changing rapidly. The use of cost-efficient wind and solar technologies is increasing, and, in many regions of the world, use of lower-cost liquefied natural gas is also increasing. In IEO2019, EIA projected renewables to rise from about 20% of total energy consumed for electricity generation in 2010 to the largest single energy source by 2050.

The following are some key findings of IEO2020:

  • As energy use grows in Asia, some cases indicate more than 50% of electricity could be generated from renewables by 2050.
    IEO2020 features cases that consider differing natural gas prices and renewable energy capital costs in Asia, showing how these costs could shift the fuel mix for generating electricity in the region either further toward fossil fuels or toward renewables.
  • Africa could meet its electricity growth needs in different ways depending on whether development comes as an expansion of the central grid or as off-grid systems.
    Falling costs for solar photovoltaic installations and increased use of off-grid distribution systems have opened up technology options for the development of electricity infrastructure in Africa. Africa’s power generation mix could shift away from current coal-fired and natural gas-fired technologies used in the existing central grid toward off-grid resources, including extensive use of non-hydroelectric renewable generation sources.
  • Transmission infrastructure affects options available to change the future fuel mix for electricity generation in India.
    IEO2020 cases demonstrate the ways that electricity grid interconnections influence fuel choices for electricity generation in India. In cases where India relies more on a unified grid that can transmit electricity across regions, the share of renewables significantly increases and the share of coal decreases between 2019 and 2050. More limited movement of electricity favors existing in-region generation, which is mostly fossil fuels.

IEO2020 builds on the Reference case presented in IEO2019. The models, economic assumptions, and input oil prices from the IEO2019 Reference case largely remained unchanged, but EIA adjusted specific elements or assumptions to explore areas of uncertainty such as the rapid growth of renewable energy.

Because IEO2020 is based on the IEO2019 modeling platform and because it focuses on long-term electricity market dynamics, it does not include the impacts of COVID-19 and related mitigation efforts. The Annual Energy Outlook 2021 (AEO2021) and IEO2021 will both feature analyses of the impact of COVID-19 mitigation efforts on energy markets.

Asia infographic, as described in the article text


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2020 (IEO2020)
Note: Click to enlarge.

With the IEO2020 release, EIA is publishing new Plain Language documentation of EIA’s World Energy Projection System (WEPS), the modeling system that EIA uses to produce IEO projections. EIA’s new Handbook of Energy Modeling Methods includes sections on most WEPS components, and EIA will release more sections in the coming months.

October, 16 2020