Opinion

Your Weekly Update: 28 Aug - 1 Sep


Last week in the world oil:

Prices

-       Crude prices rose as key refineries and pipelines in the US Gulf resume operations after being shut for Hurricane Harvey. WTI prices recovered to US$48/b, as refining centres around Corpus Christi, Houston and Port Arthur avoided major damage and resumed crude intake. Brent also gained, moving up to US$53/b, maintaining its premium against WTI.

Upstream

-       Total's attempt to begin exploration in the Foz do Amazonas basin in Brazil has been rejected by environmental regulator Ibama, which demanded Total provide additional information to its environmental impact study or risk its licence suspended. The five blocks held by Total, together with BP and Petrobras, contain up to 14 billion barrels of oil.

-       Libya's see-saw battle with production continues. Armed brigades have blockaded pipeline and closed the major Sharara, El Feel and Hamada oilfields in the last week, causing a 360 kb/d drop in production. This has provided some momentum to global crude prices, but the continued on-off swings will hamper OPEC efforts to support crude prices.

-       India's ONGC announced plans to acquire some oil-and-gas exploration blocks put up by Israel in November 2016. With the auction closing on 15 November, India wants to leverage its deep military ties with Israel into the energy sector to tap into Israel's new-found hydrocarbon potential.  This would in turn feed into ONGC's stated aim to acquire foreign assets to bolster its own upstream output, in line with India's stated aims.

-       The US active rig count rose by three last week, with closures in the Gulf and inland Eagle Ford shale play due to Hurricane Harvey offset by gains in the Permian basin and in Alaska. Additional gains are expected in the coming weeks as storm-hit sites resume operations. 

Natural Gas and LNG

-       Israel had given approval for Energean Oil & Gas' offshore Karish-Tanin natural gas field to go ahead. FID for the project – which will bridge the Karish and Tanin gas field with a newbuild FPSO – is expected by end-2017, with an expected cost of US$1.3-1.5 billion. Estimated recoverable resources at the fields are expected to be 2.7 trillion cubic feet of gas, along with 41 million barrels of oil equivalent. Initial production at the FPSO, the first in the eastern Mediterranean, is expected at 400 mcf/d, with first gas scheduled to flow in 2020.

-       The US is looking to fast-track approval of smaller-scale LNG exports, as producers aim to target markets in the Caribbean and Latin America. For most part, the US LNG industry has been centred around large-scale VLGC volumes to long-haul destinations in Asia and Europe; but the US Department of Energy now wants to open up routes to South America that require regular shipments of smaller cargoes.

-       ExxonMobil is planning to spend some US$200 million to boost natural gas output at the Vaca Muerta shale play in Argentina, asking for a 35-year unconventional production concession in return. The Vaca Muerta shale play, roughly the size of Belgium, is one of the world's largest unconventional gas reserves, and ExxonMobil is aiming to spend more then US$10 billion over 20-30 years to be the major player here.

Last week in Asian oil

Upstream

-       Saudi Aramco is giving the Empty Quarter another go, after previous joint ventures failed to discover recoverable volumes of oil and gas. New seismic technology, however, could be a gamechanger, with Aramco aiming to deploy the new technology in the 15,400 square kilometres around Turayqa, a conventional onshore gas field discovered in 2013. The move is not out of necessity – Saudi Arabia's proven resources are already vast, at 261 billions barrels – but out of projection. Any big new find would allow Saudi Arabia to maintain its current reserves estimate for the foreseeable future, particularly as it comes under scrutiny ahead of its planned IPO next year.

-       China's CNOOC and South Korea's SK Innovation have begun work on Block 17/08 in the South China Sea, a shallow water block at the mouth of the Pearl River. The PSC for the block names SK at the operator, with CNOOC having a right to acquire up to a 51% stake if it moves into development phase. With Chinese upstream production dwindling, CNOOC has been attempting to attract more foreign participation to help boost domestic output.

Downstream & Midstream

-       China continues its crackdown on its independent teapot refineries, as it seeks to tame wanton growth in the sector. The National Development & Reform Commission (NDRC) announced new guidelines that would penalise the teapots from contravening import/trade permit rules. This includes unapproved expansion of refining capacity and reselling of crude oil. State refiners Sinopec and PetroChina have been pushing for the government to get tougher on the teapots, alleging widespread abuse of their import quotas, and this will be another step in bringing some structure to a previously unscrutinised segment of the industry.

-       ExxonMobil has completed its acquisition of Singapore's Jurong Aromatics. This will add the JAR refining/petrochemical plant, which has struggled in a low price environment since it opened in 2014, to ExxonMobil's vast refining complex in Singapore. JAR will add some 3.5 mtpa of aromatics capacity to ExxonMobil's production slate, alongside 65,000 b/d of refined fuel output.

Natural Gas & LNG

-       ExxonMobil expects to begin development of its Blue Whale gas project in Vietnam in November. With an estimated 150 bcm of natural gas reserves, the project is key to Vietnam's ambitions to move away from coal-fired power generation to natural gas. ExxonMobil expects first gas from the field, also known as Ca Voi Xanh, in 2023. Production from the field in the deepwater Block 118 could potentially hit 375 million cubic feet of natural gas and 3,000 barrels of condensate per day.

-       China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) will be piloting a methane hydrate project in the South China Sea, with the provincial government of Guangdong and the national Ministry of Land and Resources. Commercial development of the resource – known as ‘flammable ice' – from the offshore Shenhu area is very far in the future, beyond 2030, although a test drilling platform offshore Zhuhai managed to produce 309,000 cbm of natural gas for 60 days, hinting at the potential of the resource.

 


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