Due to shortage or limited availability of oil and gas, companies today are evaluating how they can harness alternative energy sources. The alternate fuel market is targeting hydro and thermal power plants, however solar and wind are catching up fast as preferred energy sources. There are still reservations about nuclear energy considering the risk of nuclear waste or manufacturing of nuclear weapons. However, strategies are shaping up to minimize the risk and maximize the profitability potential. Until then, sources such as solar and wind are being focused upon more and new sources like biofuels are explored extensively.
How will the shift towards alternate energy impact traditional oil and gas market?
There have been huge investments in the different alternate energy avenues by most of the big oil majors. These heavy investments on various alternate technologies by big oil majors and other oil companies around the world indicates a positive outlook towards the scope of clean fuel energy. However, the feasibility of its application is still questionable. Whether or not it will be able to meet the energy needs of the world while upholding its profitability is a question that is bothering the world.
Let us understand what the shift means for the companies in the energy sector.
Rate of employment
Among all renewable energy sources that have been studied, bio energy has been most influential. The fuel is created and transported within a confined space. The work is extremely labor-intensive and hence scope of employment increases. Hydropower and wind power will generate job opportunities during construction and project development phase. However, once the unit is commissioned only few operational staff will be required to perform the operational work.
Traditional energy is more expensive than renewable energy. If renewable energy can be produced on large scale, it can eliminate the gas shortage. Even other forms of renewable energy are much cheaper in comparison to traditional oil and gas sector. The cost benefits will be transferred to the consumers and they’ll be able save considerable amount on utility bills.
Improved Brand Image
It makes good business sense to make a move from traditional energy resources to renewable ones. The environmentalists have been arguing about the negative impacts of using and overusing the non-renewable source of energy. The shift towards alternate energy will boost the brand image of the traditional oil and gas company.
Higher market penetration and Mass access to energy
Due to dependence on fossil fuels which are non-renewable sources and expensive, a significant number of people in the world have no access to power. A chunk of people in Asian and Sub-Saharan Africa area are still using traditional biomass for cooking. However, if the alternate energy can completely replace the traditional oil and gas then it will have a deeper penetration into the market and majority of people will have access to it.
Ethical Investment Avenue
Renewable sector is considered as an attractive and ethical investment avenue for the ones who wish to invest outside traditional channels and are futuristic in outlook. The rising investment on alternate energy is impacting the job creation and community cohesion, which is again a positive move.
How the alternate energy is transitioning the oil and gas?
Big oil companies and other oil companies are making practical, well-researched, and steady approach towards renewable energy spanning from solar panels to genetically engineered algae. However, there are still many companies which are in research/experimentation phase and do have a concrete plan in place.
The pathway to clean fuel technology that operates with efficiency and profitability is getting paved. More than 100 countries in developing as well as developed nations have set a clean fuel target and are working towards it. The European Union has set a goal to meet its 20% energy requirements via renewable sources by 2020.
The world has acknowledged climate change and are working together to shift from carbon-intensive to carbon-neutral environment which might pave the way for generations to come.
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 11 February 2019 – Brent: US$61/b; WTI: US$52/b
Headlines of the week
Midstream & Downstream
Global liquid fuels
Electricity, coal, renewables, and emissions
2018 was a year that started with crude prices at US$62/b and ended at US$46/b. In between those two points, prices had gently risen up to peak of US$80/b as the oil world worried about the impact of new American sanctions on Iran in September before crashing down in the last two months on a rising tide of American production. What did that mean for the financial health of the industry over the last quarter and last year?
Nothing negative, it appears. With the last of the financial results from supermajors released, the world’s largest oil firms reported strong profits for Q418 and blockbuster profits for the full year 2018. Despite the blip in prices, the efforts of the supermajors – along with the rest of the industry – to keep costs in check after being burnt by the 2015 crash has paid off.
ExxonMobil, for example, may have missed analyst expectations for 4Q18 revenue at US$71.9 billion, but reported a better-than-expected net profit of US$6 billion. The latter was down 28% y-o-y, but the Q417 figure included a one-off benefit related to then-implemented US tax reform. Full year net profit was even better – up 5.7% to US$20.8 billion as upstream production rose to 4.01 mmboe/d – allowing ExxonMobil to come close to reclaiming its title of the world’s most profitable oil company.
But for now, that title is still held by Shell, which managed to eclipse ExxonMobil with full year net profits of US$21.4 billion. That’s the best annual results for the Anglo-Dutch firm since 2014; product of the deep and painful cost-cutting measures implemented after. Shell’s gamble in purchasing the BG Group for US$53 billion – which sparked a spat of asset sales to pare down debt – has paid off, with contributions from LNG trading named as a strong contributor to financial performance. Shell’s upstream output for 2018 came in at 3.78 mmb/d and the company is also looking to follow in the footsteps of ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP in the Permian, where it admits its footprint is currently ‘a bit small’.
Shell’s fellow British firm BP also reported its highest profits since 2014, doubling its net profits for the full year 2018 on a 65% jump in 4Q18 profits. It completes a long recovery for the firm, which has struggled since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, allowing it to focus on the future – specifically US shale through the recent US$10.5 billion purchase of BHP’s Permian assets. Chevron, too, is focusing on onshore shale, as surging Permian output drove full year net profit up by 60.8% and 4Q18 net profit up by 19.9%. Chevron is also increasingly focusing on vertical integration again – to capture the full value of surging Texas crude by expanding its refining facilities in Texas, just as ExxonMobil is doing in Beaumont. French major Total’s figures may have been less impressive in percentage terms – but that it is coming from a higher 2017 base, when it outperformed its bigger supermajor cousins.
So, despite the year ending with crude prices in the doldrums, 2018 seems to be proof of Big Oil’s ability to better weather price downturns after years of discipline. Some of the control is loosening – major upstream investments have either been sanctioned or planned since 2018 – but there is still enough restraint left over to keep the oil industry in the black when trends turn sour.
Supermajor Net Profits for 4Q18 and 2018
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$6 billion (-28%);
- 2018 – Net profit US$20.8 (+5.7%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$5.69 billion (+32.3%);
- 2018 – Net profit US$21.4 billion (+36%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$3.73 billion (+19.9%);
- 2018 – Net profit US$14.8 billion (+60.8%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$3.48 billion (+65%);
- 2018 - Net profit US$12.7 billion (+105%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$3.88 billion (+16%);
- 2018 - Net profit US$13.6 billion (+28%)