India has been the world’s fourth-largest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) since 2011, gradually increasing LNG imports as the country’s domestic natural gas production declined and domestic consumption increased. India’s LNG import capacity more than doubled during the past 10 years, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects it to increase by a third in the next 3 years as regasification facilities currently under construction come online. However, the construction of domestic pipelines to move LNG from the coastal import facilities to major demand centers further inland has experienced delays. Future growth in India’s LNG imports will depend on the timely completion of natural gas pipeline networks.
In recent years, growth in India’s LNG imports has been driven by declining domestic natural gas production and growing consumption, particularly in the industrial sector (where natural gas is used in the production of fertilizer) and City Gas Distribution network. India’s domestic production of natural gas, 70% of which is located offshore, has experienced a steady decline, from 4.4 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2012 to 2.9 Bcf/d in 2019, and it has limited potential for further growth.
India’s LNG imports have grown from 31% of the country’s natural gas supply in 2012 to more than 50% in 2019. India does not import natural gas by pipeline and has no plans to build natural gas pipelines through the deserts and mountains that form much of its northern borders.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on India's Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and Global Trade Tracker
Currently, natural gas constitutes a relatively small share (6%) of India’s total primary energy consumption. In 2019, the Indian government set a goal to increase the share of natural gas from 6.2% in 2018 to 15% by 2030. EIA expects future growth in consumption primarily in the industrial and power generation sectors.
Earlier this year, India commissioned its sixth LNG import terminal, bringing the total regasification capacity to 5.2 Bcf/d. Four more LNG import terminals—all but one of which are on the western coast (Arabian Sea)—are currently under construction and are expected to come online by 2023, adding 2.5 Bcf/d of LNG import capacity.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on FG Energy and publicly available company and industry data
Future growth in India's LNG imports is contingent on connecting LNG regasification terminals on coasts to demand centers further inland via pipeline. Northwestern India has a highly developed natural gas infrastructure, and both Hazira and Dahej are the most highly utilized terminals in India (at 97% and 110%, respectively). However, the southern and eastern regions of the country lack pipelines to move natural gas from coastal LNG import terminals to major demand centers further inland.
The lack of pipeline infrastructure near LNG terminals is affecting both existing and planned LNG terminals. In southwestern India, LNG imports to the existing Kochi terminal are currently limited to local markets; pipelines expanding to nearby Mangalore are expected to come online in 2020 and Banagalore in 2022. Similarly, new pipelines are planned to connect the existing Ennore LNG terminal to areas beyond nearby Chennai. In northeastern India, new pipelines that are planned to come online within the next three years would connect the Dhamra LNG terminal currently under construction to nearby Kolkata as well as existing pipelines in northwest India.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers (GIIGNL) annual LNG trade reports
Although India has expanded the number of countries it imports LNG from since 2016, Qatar remains the main LNG supplier to India because of a relatively short transportation distance: an LNG tanker can leave Qatar and reach India in three days. India’s LNG imports from the United States have grown to a total of 0.25 Bcf/d in 2019 and are expected to grow as new commercial contracts are considered between the two countries. In 2019, India ranked as the seventh-highest destination for U.S. LNG exports, receiving 5% of the U.S. total last year.
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Recent headlines on the oil industry have focused squarely on the upstream side: the amount of crude oil that is being produced and the resulting effect on oil prices, against a backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. But that is just one part of the supply chain. To be sold as final products, crude oil needs to be refined into its constituent fuels, each of which is facing its own crisis because of the overall demand destruction caused by the virus. And once the dust settles, the global refining industry will look very different.
Because even before the pandemic broke out, there was a surplus of refining capacity worldwide. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019, global oil demand was some 99.85 mmb/d. However, this consumption figure includes substitute fuels – ethanol blended into US gasoline and biodiesel in Europe and parts of Asia – as well as chemical additives added on to fuels. While by no means an exact science, extrapolating oil demand to exclude this results in a global oil demand figure of some 95.44 mmb/d. In comparison, global refining capacity was just over 100 mmb/d. This overcapacity is intentional; since most refineries do not run at 100% utilisation all the time and many will shut down for scheduled maintenance periodically, global refining utilisation rates stand at about 85%.
Based on this, even accounting for differences in definitions and calculations, global oil demand and global oil refining supply is relatively evenly matched. However, demand is a fluid beast, while refineries are static. With the Covid-19 pandemic entering into its sixth month, the impact on fuels demand has been dramatic. Estimates suggest that global oil demand fell by as much as 20 mmb/d at its peak. In the early days of the crisis, refiners responded by slashing the production of jet fuel towards gasoline and diesel, as international air travel was one of the first victims of the virus. As national and sub-national lockdowns were introduced, demand destruction extended to transport fuels (gasoline, diesel, fuel oil), petrochemicals (naphtha, LPG) and power generation (gasoil, fuel oil). Just as shutting down an oil rig can take weeks to complete, shutting down an entire oil refinery can take a similar timeframe – while still producing fuels that there is no demand for.
Refineries responded by slashing utilisation rates, and prioritising certain fuel types. In China, state oil refiners moved from running their sites at 90% to 40-50% at the peak of the Chinese outbreak; similar moves were made by key refiners in South Korea and Japan. With the lockdowns easing across most of Asia, refining runs have now increased, stimulating demand for crude oil. In Europe, where the virus hit hard and fast, refinery utilisation rates dropped as low as 10% in some cases, with some countries (Portugal, Italy) halting refining activities altogether. In the USA, now the hardest-hit country in the world, several refineries have been shuttered, with no timeline on if and when production will resume. But with lockdowns easing, and the summer driving season up ahead, refinery production is gradually increasing.
But even if the end of the Covid-19 crisis is near, it still doesn’t change the fundamental issue facing the refining industry – there is still too much capacity. The supply/demand balance shows that most regions are quite even in terms of consumption and refining capacity, with the exception of overcapacity in Europe and the former Soviet Union bloc. The regional balances do hide some interesting stories; Chinese refining capacity exceeds its consumption by over 2 mmb/d, and with the addition of 3 new mega-refineries in 2019, that gap increases even further. The only reason why the balance in Asia looks relatively even is because of oil demand ‘sinks’ such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Pakistan. Even in the US, the wealth of refining capacity on the Gulf Coast makes smaller refineries on the East and West coasts increasingly redundant.
Given this, the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis will be the inevitable hastening of the current trend in the refining industry, the closure of small, simpler refineries in favour of large, complex and more modern refineries. On the chopping block will be many of the sub-50 kb/d refineries in Europe; because why run a loss-making refinery when the product can be imported for cheaper, even accounting for shipping costs from the Middle East or Asia? Smaller US refineries are at risk as well, along with legacy sites in the Middle East and Russia. Based on current trends, Europe alone could lose some 2 mmb/d of refining capacity by 2025. Rising oil prices and improvements in refining margins could ensure the continued survival of some vulnerable refineries, but that will only be a temporary measure. The trend is clear; out with the small, in with the big. Covid-19 will only amplify that. It may be a painful process, but in the grand scheme of things, it is also a necessary one.
Infographic: Global oil consumption and refining capacity (BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019)
|Region||Consumption (mmb/d)*||Refining Capacity (mmb/d)|
*Extrapolated to exclude additives and substitute fuels (ethanol, biodiesel)
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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Bloomberg L.P. data
Note: All prices except West Texas Intermediate (Cushing) are spot prices.
The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) front-month futures contract for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the most heavily used crude oil price benchmark in North America, saw its largest and swiftest decline ever on April 20, 2020, dropping as low as -$40.32 per barrel (b) during intraday trading before closing at -$37.63/b. Prices have since recovered, and even though the market event proved short-lived, the incident is useful for highlighting the interconnectedness of the wider North American crude oil market.
Changes in the NYMEX WTI price can affect other price markers across North America because of physical market linkages such as pipelines—as with the WTI Midland price—or because a specific price is based on a formula—as with the Maya crude oil price. This interconnectedness led other North American crude oil spot price markers to also fall below zero on April 20, including WTI Midland, Mars, West Texas Sour (WTS), and Bakken Clearbrook. However, the usefulness of the NYMEX WTI to crude oil market participants as a reference price is limited by several factors.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
First, NYMEX WTI is geographically specific because it is physically redeemed (or settled) at storage facilities located in Cushing, Oklahoma, and so it is influenced by events that may not reflect the wider market. The April 20 WTI price decline was driven in part by a local deficit of uncommitted crude oil storage capacity in Cushing. Similarly, while the price of the Bakken Guernsey marker declined to -$38.63/b, the price of Louisiana Light Sweet—a chemically comparable crude oil—decreased to $13.37/b.
Second, NYMEX WTI is chemically specific, meaning to be graded as WTI by NYMEX, a crude oil must fall within the acceptable ranges of 12 different physical characteristics such as density, sulfur content, acidity, and purity. NYMEX WTI can therefore be unsuitable as a price for crude oils with characteristics outside these specific ranges.
Finally, NYMEX WTI is time specific. As a futures contract, the price of a NYMEX WTI contract is the price to deliver 1,000 barrels of crude oil within a specific month in the future (typically at least 10 days). The last day of trading for the May 2020 contract, for instance, was April 21, with physical delivery occurring between May 1 and May 31. Some market participants, however, may prefer more immediate delivery than a NYMEX WTI futures contract provides. Consequently, these market participants will instead turn to shorter-term spot price alternatives.
Taken together, these attributes help to explain the variety of prices used in the North American crude oil market. These markers price most of the crude oils commonly used by U.S. buyers and cover a wide geographic area.
Principal contributor: Jesse Barnett