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Last Updated: March 6, 2020
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 2 March 2020 – Brent: US$51/b; WTI: US$45/b

  • Global crude oil prices are now at three-year lows, as the weakening and deepening of the Covid-19 outbreak wrecks havoc with global demand, both on a sentiment- and on an actual consumption-basis
  • The freefall, which saw the worst weekly oil drop since 2011, has prompted calls for the OPEC+ to act; however, that requires the duelling factions within the oil producer club to cooperate on the necessity and scale of cuts
  • Despite saying that the Covid-19 outbreak will be ‘temporary’, Saudi Arabia is still urging OPEC+ to agree on a 1 million b/d cut through June 2020 at least at a planned extraordinary OPEC+ meeting this week in Vienna; the OEPC technical committee originally recommended a 600,000 b/d cut
  • Russia is reportedly ready to cooperate to support the world oil market – based on the comments of President Vladimir Putin – though there will still be squabbles over the size and length of the new supply agreement
  • This acted to support crude oil prices at the start of this week, but a 1 mmb/d cut may not even be enough to contain the rout in crude oil prices, as there is major uncertainty over how long the pandemic will last
  • Although cases and deaths in China are plateauing, cases and deaths in three new hotspots – South Korea, Italy and Iran – are accelerating, with possibilities of new hotspots in Europe and the USA; records of deaths suggest that the actual number of cases may be far higher based on the observed fatality rate
  • The outbreak in Europe is causing employers to order self-quarantines, with Chevron and Unipec among those directing workers to stay home; if this extends to manufacturing facilities, the demand hit will be even greater than it is now
  • Chinese demand for oil and gas continues to be weak, with reports of contracted crude and LNG cargoes cancelled, delayed or held back; some of these cargoes are being offered to the next largest market – India – at cheaper prices
  • The US active rig count recorded a net loss of 1 oil rig according to the Baker Hughes Rig Count, keeping the total number of rigs at 790 sites, or down 248 rigs y-o-y
  • The direction of prices will depend very much on the outcome of the OPEC+ meeting in Vienna Friday – and whether the rest of the countries can persuade Russia to join in a new supply deal; if the outcome is favourable, crude prices could be supported into the range of US$49-54/b for Brent and US$45-49/b for WTI

Headlines of the week


  • Shell has announced plans for a major deepwater well campaign in Mexico – 4 wells each in 2020 and 2021, part of an overall 10-13 planned – though it admits that any potential fields will likely start up after the current new government (under Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador) and its pro-Pemex policies serve its term
  • Rosneft is attempting to skirt US sanctions on the Venezuelan crude export complex, shifting trades to its affiliate TNK Trading International after Rosneft itself – Venezuela’s top crude buyers – was sanctioned by the US Treasury
  • The Trump administration in the US is finalising a plan for Arctic oil drilling, aiming to lease out land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
  • Eni has raised estimates of oil in place at its Agogo field in Angola to some 1 billion barrels, a 40% increase contributed by the new Agogo-3 well
  • Kazakhstan will resume pipeline exports of crude to China this month, after shipments were suspended following organic chloride contamination of crude
  • Teck Resources will be abandoning plans for its Frontier oil sands project in Alberta, taking a US$850 million write down on the cancellation
  • BP will be leaving three US trade associations, including the main lobby group American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, following an alignment review on climate policies and activities that ‘could not be resolved’


  • Algeria has restarted the Sidi Rezine refinery in Algiers after completing a modernisation overhaul that has increase capacity by 35% to some 85 kb/d
  • ExxonMobil will be restarting the largest CDU at its 502,500 b/d Baton Rouge refinery in Louisiana after a fire knocked out operations in early February
  • The oil trade row between Russia and Belarus has forced state refiner Belneftekhim to slash refinery utilisation rates by half since January
  • Saudi Aramco has gained EU antitrust appeal to proceed with the acquisition of 70% in Saudi petrochemicals group SABIC
  • Saudi Aramco’s trading arm Aramco Trading Company has established a trading desk in London to support its operations in Europe and the Americas

Natural Gas/LNG

  • Saudi Arabia has announced plans to invest US$110 billion to develop its unconventional natural gas reserves in the eastern Jafurah field, which is estimated to hold some 200 trillion cubic feet of wet gas; Jafurah output is expected to start in 2024, rising to a peak of 2.2 bcf/d by 2036
  • Venture Global has signed a 20-year LNG agreement with Electricité de France for 1 mtpa of LNG from the start date of the Plaquemines LNG export terminal
  • ExxonMobil and Indian Oil have signed an agreement to collaborate on virtual gas pipeline in India, potentially delivering LNG by road, rail or waterways in a fast-growing LNG market that is hampered by a lack of pipeline infrastructure
  • New Fortress Energy has started work on its LNG receiving and regasification terminal in the port of Pichilingue in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Natural Gas/LNG

  • The success of Saudi Aramco’s IPO is inspiring other Middle Eastern producers to go public, with Bahrain is looking to transfer its oil and gas assets in a potential state fund to be sold to investors to balance its budget
  • Total’s acquisition of Anadarko’s assets in Ghana – part of a deal signed between Occidental Petroleum and Total – has been held up over a capital gains tax claim of some US$500 million

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