Friday, December 06, 2019

OPEC+ announces deeper cuts of 500kbpd

It's official - OPEC+ has decided to "deepen its cuts" by ~500,000 barrels per day (bpd), thereby upping its output reduction from 1.2 million bpd, 1.7 million bpd.

And if the new chief OPEC powerbroker Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman is to be believed, and every participant well...err....participates, the market could well be looking at a real terms cut of 2.1 million bpd. 

That is wishful thinking and will be severely tested as the Saudis say OPEC+ compliance would be keen monitored. To this effect, OPEC will have an extraordinary meeting of ministers in March 2020, on top of its regular meeting in June. 

For its part Saudi Arabia will up its cuts "voluntarily" to 400,000 bpd (+167,000 bpd) bringing its headline production down to 9.744 million bpd. Errant Iraq has promised to cut 50,000 bpd. Nigeria, Libya and Iraq remain exempt, but Nigerian Minister Timipre Marlin Sylva said his country would be cutting production "voluntarily."

There seems to be no shortage of volunteers. Here are two other key quotes:
  • "Signal we want market to take is that we are collectively showing readiness to rebalance the market, prevent heavy inventory buildup in Q1 2020," - Abdulaziz bin Salman.
  • "Russia wants to avoid any oil market turbulence in 2020. We are not concerned with US shale, seeing signs of shale slowdown," - Russian Oil Minister Alexander Novak. 

Finally, the Saudi Minister sounded pretty peeved about getting a "battering from the media" about the Saudi Aramco IPO, adding that the company's valuation would hit $2 trillion very soon. And that's that; more composed thoughts upon the Oilholic's return to London, but that's all for the moment from OPEC folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo: Saudi Oil Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman speaks at the conclusion of the OPEC+ meeting in Vienna, Austria © Gaurav Sharma December 6, 2019.

Late one to early crude commotion at OPEC

So after having kept analysts and media in the OPEC Secretariat almost till midnight, and then not issuing a final brief, the producers' group has started day two with its planned OPEC and Non-OPEC meeting of ministers. 

The figure of a 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) deepening of the cuts remains on the cards, but whether it is a paper adjustment or a real-term cut remains to be seen. 

Even before proceedings began, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh left the meeting, with there being little sense in his sticking around given Tehran is exempt from the cuts. 

However, he did quip to journalists on his way out that the deal being brokered is indeed a "fresh cut". Inside the meeting hall, Russian Oil Minister Alexander Novak said the OPEC and non-OPEC agreement was working despite doubts expressed by sceptics, and his Saudi counterpart Abdulaziz Bin Salman asked for the "faith and mercy" of analysts and market commentators so that they don't "twist" numbers put out by OPEC+. (Yup, he really did!)

The oil market will have to believe OPEC+, and objective as well as cynical analysts will have to trust them, he added. Felt more like a sermon, and less like a statement, but hey - whatever works. More drama from here later in the day. But that's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'! 

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo: OPEC and Non-OPEC Meeting Room, Vienna, Austria © Gaurav Sharma, December 2019. 

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Saudi Aramco IPO price set at SAR 32 ($8.53)

Finally, finally, finally - the Saudi Aramco IPO price has been set - at SAR32 ($8.53) per share. That means the company would raise ~$29.4 billion. Here's the final communique from the company that's just landed in the Oilholic's mailbox (click to enlarge image). 


That means the company will raise $29.4 billion, and get a valuation of $1.7 trillion. It's well shy of the $2 trillion valuation craved by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. However, its still now the world's largest IPO in history and this blogger heard it while sitting in the OPEC media briefing room at 8pm in Vienna!! Bring in the noise.

On OPEC discipline & deepening cuts

The Oilholic is back in Vienna, Austria for the 177th OPEC Ministers' meeting and their (now) regular haggling with 10 Russian led non-OPEC producers who've signed up to a collective cut of 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd).

With the cuts set to expire in March and the oil price nowhere near $70 per barrel using Brent as a benchmark, there is chatter here of deepening the cuts.

Ironically, these are being flogged to the media and analysts by Iraq; the one OPEC member that has hardly complied with its share of the cuts. However something is definitely afoot at Helferstorferstrasse 17. The reasons being a paucity of leaks, few unscheduled remarks, Iranians keeping mum despite being tetchy, and the media / analysts not being allowed "access to ministers" before their opening remarks to the conference, i.e. no "gang bang", only a "speech listening" at more than an arm's length. 


From that has emerged the "deepening of cuts" figure of 500,000 bpd. Of course, no details have been provided, especially on the level of Russian compliance. Apparently the likes of Nigeria and Iraq would be squeezed to fall in line too, according to the rumour mill.

What's more is this 500,000 bpd cut a "paper adjustment" with compliance current over 140% or is the cut being upped to 1.7 million bpd? Not too sure, not convinced as convincing answers are not forthcoming.

And will that even work? The Oilholic seriously doubts it; simply because 2-2.5 million bpd of non-OPEC supply growth is expected next year, and there are deep rooted concerns over demand, as noted on Forbes. Still the OPEC show goes on, and we'll probably have some finality after the OPEC+ meeting concludes tomorrow (Dec 6). 

That's all for the moment from Vienna folks, but there's more to follow. Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo: Media briefing room at OPEC's 177th Ministers' Meeting in Vienna, Austria on December 5, 2019 © Gaurav Sharma, 2019

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Oil market in wait & see mode ahead of OPEC

The next OPEC+ ministers' meeting on December 5-6 is upon us, and the Oilholic's reading of the past few weeks does seem to suggest the oil market is in a holding pattern. More so as there has been little by way of resolution of the ongoing US-China trade spat. 

For many intents and purposes, trade concerns remain the key market driver, perhaps making OPEC a bit of a non-event. A rollover of the OPEC+ agreement - that has kept 1.2 million barrels per day of production - out of the market has already been priced in. So the only surprise to the upside would be if the producers' group introduces even deeper cuts; a scenario that on paper appears to be highly unlikely. 

Meanwhile, excluding a short-lived spike in the wake of the drone attack on Saudi Aramco, oil prices, using Brent as a benchmark, have largely remained range-bound at lower $60 per barrel levels oscillating between $58-$65 (see chart above left, click to enlarge). . OPEC's basket of 14 crude oils meanwhile is averaging just shy of $64 at the time of writing (see chart left, click to enlarge). 

While the OPEC meeting would be interesting from the standpoint of soundbites, this blogger is not holding his breath out for any substantial price movement. Continuing with the markets theme, yours truly also made several observations from the recently concluded ADIPEC in Abu Dhabi, for various publications, including OPEC's ongoing dilemma for Forbes. There's also the issue of oil demand, and while attention has been focussed on how the US-China trade spat is impacting it, here's the Oilholic's take on whether, and by how much, the proliferation of electric vehicles could stunt demand growth

Plenty of words were penned on the Aramco IPO too, but here's a piece - via Rigzone - on how Brit oil majors Shell and BP are attempting to add long-term value for shareholders. Additionally, here are the Oilholic's recent Forbes reports on ADNOC upping its digital drive and India's wooing of global energy investors as its energy demand continues to rise

Finally, here is the Oilholic's missive on another piece of industry process efficiency and optimisation kit that has just been successfully tested by ABB in waters off Vaasa, Finland. The global software industrial giant claims to have found the "holy grail" of offshore subsea power solutions via its joint industry project with Chevron, Equinor and Total.


Its latest power distribution and conversion technology system for energy companies will be able to provide a reliable supply of up to 100MW of power, over distances up to 600km out at sea and down to a whopping 3,000m water depth. 

ABB claims the system will need "little or no maintenance for up to 30 years following deployment" making oil and gas production feasible in far out and deep ocean environments. It'll be interesting to see the take up of the kit, and company sources have promised to update the market on a regular basis. 

And on that note, its time to end this blog post leaving you with a view of the waters of the Gulf of Bothnia, from Kalle's Inn, Finland (above right, click to enlarge);  a popular spot near Vaasa that the Oilholic visited before heading back home. From here you can catch the Northern Lights, maybe even rent one of the waterfront cabins for the night. That's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Graph I: Brent futures 3-month movement © BBC. Graph II: Average price tracker of OPEC crude oils basket. Photos: View of Gulf of Bothnia from Kalle's Inn, Finland © Gaurav Sharma 2019.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

ADIPEC Day IV: Final notes from Abu Dhabi

The Oilholic has just rounded off day four, or the final day of ADIPEC 2019, here in Abu Dhabi concluding nearly a week of engaging industry dialogues.

Under the 'Oil and Gas 4.0' discussion umbrella, talking points ranged from upstream challenges to downstream efficiencies, digitisation to robotics, natural gas to hydrogen-powered mobility, oil demand [or perhaps lack of] to the changing nature of demand itself, and well pretty much all else in between. 

Summing up the last four days, Omar Suwaina Al Suwaidi, ADIPEC Conference Chairman, and Director, Executive Office Directorate at ADNOC, opined: "Through Oil and Gas 4.0, ADIPEC is unlocking the opportunities created by the Fourth Industrial Era. 

"To continue to thrive, it is critical that we better harness our data, utilise big data value-adding technology and innovation, capture digital insights to our business, and understand how all aspects of our operations and activities are interconnected to unlock greater value in the evolving energy landscape."

Amen to that sentiment, and the human resource and ingenuity at the heart of that progressive drive! Speaking of which, the crucial subject of gender diversity was under the microscope today. ADIPEC also received a presidential visit when Egypt's Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who is on an official visit to the UAE, came calling. 

This blogger also took some time out to leave the conference venue and pay a visit to the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company's (ADNOC) Panorama Command Centre at its headquarters (pictured above left) and meet the company's digital team that handles its operation. 


During the site visit, the Oilholic got a glimpse of how ADNOC is deploying advanced analytics and digital solutions to monitor throughput in real-time and learn lessons in order to improve efficiencies across its value chain. 

When we are talking of a company producing 3 million barrels per day of crude oil and 9.8 billion cubic feet of gas per day; that's quite a sizeable operation as the readers would acknowledge. A special thanks to Abdul Nasser Al Mughairbi, SVP of Digital at ADNOC, who spared his time to take The Oilholic around, answer questions and host yours truly to spectacular views from an office floor home to equally spectacular technological solutions. 

Away from the ADNOC HQ, one also got a first-hand feel of a 'drive thru fuel station' launched in UAE by ADNOC Distribution. The fuel service is called 'On The Go', which will allow motorists to purchase fuel products from the comfort of their car.

The service will be "complementary, and at no additional fees" motorists can shop at an ADNOC convenience store while their vehicle is getting filled, receive their shopping items in the vehicle and pay for it using a new Wi-Fi payment method! Now that's convenient. 

And concluding a hectic afternoon of walkabouts, before bidding goodbye to ADIPEC, the Oilholic also visited offshore support vessel QMS Bani Yas, a new jack up barge docked close to the event venue, right in time for sunset. Among other things, it was great to get to the vessel's helipad as well as understand operating procedures of a support ship of its size. 

Alas, that's all from ADIPEC 2019 folks. Its time to say goodbye and head for the flight home. Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo I: ADNOC Panorama Command Centre, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Photo II: View of Abu Dhabi, UAE from ADNOC Panorama Command Centre. Photo III: Concept mock-up of ADNOC Distribution's drive thru fuel station 'On The Go' at ADIPEC 2019. Photos III, IV and V: Offshore support vessel QMS Bani Yas docked off ADIPEC 2019 venue, Abu Dhabi, UAE © Gaurav Sharma, November 2019. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

ADIPEC Day III: Oil demand, AI and robots

Day three of ADIPEC 2019 has just concluded here in Abu Dhabi, UAE and much was said about oil demand concerns. Morning discourse was coloured by the International Energy Agency's take that demand is set to plateau by 2030 due to a pick up in the use of electric vehicles around the world.

In its latest market projections, the IEA said overall demand for energy is set to increase by 1% every year until 2040, however headline demand will plateau ten years earlier than it had previously forecast.

Elsewhere in its World Energy Outlook report, the IEA said US shale output, which has made the country the world's biggest oil producer, is likely to stay higher for longer than previously projected, with the country accounting for 85% of the increase in global oil production by 2030, and for 30% of the increase in natural gas.

Meanwhile, switching tack to the coming 12 months, OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo said an uptick in demand for 2020 may be on the cards should the US-China trade stand-off end.

"We are confident that there will be a deal and the deal will be positive for the world economy and will remove the dark cloud that has engulfed the global economy because of the size of the countries," Barkindo said on the sidelines of ADIPEC.

Among the VIPs in town today was Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Ruler of neighboring Dubai. Alongside his visit, came that of nearly 900 local school kids to learn more about the industry, its processes, careers and well to marvel – perhaps like the rest of us – at some of the innovative robots and kits on display here.
And then there's the launch of a new branch of local government focused on research and development as well as an artificial intelligence (AI) joint venture inked by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) to take in.

The new Abu Dhabi Research and Development Authority will be tasked with inventions that tackle Earth's most pressing challenges. Under auspices of the emirate's Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), five virtual research institutes will focus on biotechnology, food security, sustainability, artificial intelligence and high-performance computing, and advanced materials. The announcement came in step with ADNOC's agreement at ADIPEC with UAE-based AI company, Group 42, on a joint venture to develop AI products for the energy sector.

In sync with this hot topic, the Oilholic also participated in ADIPEC Middle East Petroleum Club's Leadership dialogue on Human and machine collaboration and the impact this has on current business transformation.

IIoT, big data, augmented reality and virtual reality premised solutions, and the changing nature of the workforce were all under a lively 90-minute discussion with Greg Cross, Co-founder of Soul Machines and AI pioneer (third from left) leading the talk. 

Finally, here is one's analysis for Rigzone on why BP and Shell's low carbon overtures and portfolio tweaking hold both oil majors in good stead despite a dire set of numbers. That's all for the moment folks, more from here on the final day at ADIPEC tomorrow. Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo I: Day three of exhibition at ADIPEC 2019. Photo II: Industry robot at Total's stand. Photo III: AI pioneer Greg Cross speaks at ADIPEC Middle East Petroleum Club, Abu Dhabi, November 2019 © Gaurav Sharma 2019. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

ADIPEC Day II: Oil & Gas 4.0 sessions & more

Day two of ADIPEC 2019 has just concluded in Abu Dhabi, UAE and as expected it was another action packed one with half a dozen CEOs, dignitaries and ministers in town. As part of the proceedings, the Oilholic moderated a downstream panel under the event's Oil and Gas 4.0 strategic dialogues programme.

The subject under discussion - Sustaining industry momentum in downstream: how will companies build an agile and resilient business model capable of withstanding the inevitable cyclical highs and lows in the years ahead? 

The panel included Abdulaziz Alhajri, Executive Director Downstream Directorate at ADNOC, Thomas Gangl, Chief Downstream Operations Officer at OMV, Philippe Boisseau, CEO of CEPSA, François Good, Senior Vice President Refining & Petrochemicals Orient at Total and Catherine MacGregor, CEO-elect at TechnipFMC. 

The panelists touched on a host of slants under the topic including the crucial issue of long-term objectives underpinned by technology, corporate patience on the return on investment front, tech-enabled throughput improvements and the need to invest in talent, not just hardware and software. 

Of course, lurking around ADIPEC corridors is the subject of the oil price direction and what OPEC will or won't do when it meets in Vienna, Austria on December 5-6, 2019. Here is one's take via Forbes, with soundbites and analysis aplenty, and the central conclusion that OPEC is damned if it cuts production or rolls existing cuts over further, and damned if it opens the taps

Away from the oil price and to the exhibition floor where industry vendors made deal announcements with customary aplomb. ABB announced it had won a project to install its extended automation system at a greenfield pilot plant for SABIC in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, supporting the Saudi company's broader vision to digitalise its operations. 

Under the contract, ABB's Ability System will apply integrated automation, control and safety solutions to the company's Utilities Park and Pilot project. The park is part of the SABIC Technology Centre (STC), which marks the company’s biggest global investment in innovation, and the largest of its 21 technology centers worldwide.

Not to be outdone, Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS), the global software industrials' automation unit, announced that Kuwait Integrated Petroleum Industries Company (KIPIC) has selected it as the main automation contractor for its new Petrochemicals and Refinery Integration Al Zour Project (PRIZe). 

Under the agreement, HPS will provide KIPIC with front-end engineering design and advanced process control technology for the complex, which will help KIPIC expedite production start-up and assist with reaching production targets faster and more efficiently. 

The PRIZe project will become the first integrated refining and petrochemicals complex in Kuwait.

The new facility – developed as part of the Al-Zour Complex – will significantly enhance Kuwait’s domestic petrochemicals, aromatics and gasoline manufacturing capabilities.

Customarily, neither ABB nor Honeywell provided any details on financials of the contract in a fiercely competitive industry in which demand for Industry 4.0 solutions is growing by the minute. Finally, out on the exhibition floor, this blogger spotted another hydrogen powered
Toyota Mirai, this time at Saudi Aramco's stand, following one yesterday at Shell's stand.

What do you know - an IOC and a NOC flagging an alternative fuel - now the Oilholic has really seen it all. 

That's all for the moment folks, more from here over the coming days  as the event gathers further momentum. Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo I: Gaurav Sharma (left) at ADIPEC 2019 Oil and Gas 4.0 strategic dialogue in Abu Dhabi, UAE © DMG Events. Photo II &III: Toyota Mirai cars at ADIPEC 2019 exhibition © Gaurav Sharma 2019. 

ADIPEC panel session on dowstream innovation

The Oilholic will be moderating a downstream panel session later today at ADIPEC 2019 and looking forward to a fantastic industry dialogue. 


The subject under discussion - Sustaining industry momentum in downstream: how will companies build an agile and resilient business model capable of withstanding the inevitable cyclical highs and lows in the years ahead? (Click image to enlarge banner)

And the panel includes: 
  • Abdulaziz Alhajri, Executive Director Downstream Directorate, ADNOC
  • Thomas Gangl, Chief Downstream, Operations Officer, OMV
  • Philippe Boisseau, CEO, CEPSA
  • François Good, Senior Vice President Refining & Petrochemicals Orient, Total
  • Catherine MacGregor, President, New Ventures, TechnipFMC
Here's to day II to in Abu Dhabi.

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo © ADIPEC 2019 / DMG Events

Monday, November 11, 2019

ADIPEC Day I: Oil & Gas 4.0, efficiencies & VIPs

The Oilholic finds himself in the UAE for the 2019 Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference (ADIPEC), rounding up day one of the global event with more than a packed agenda to report back.

Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ANDOC) got things going on Monday noting how Industry 4.0 is creating a "paradigm shift in global growth and energy demand."

"Oil and gas will play, as an essential part of the broader energy mix, in enabling tomorrow’s global economy. We have to admit some realities - our industry is being disrupted by new technologies, new forms of energy, a new geopolitical order. This disruption is only beginning and will gather pace," he added. 

Rubbing shoulders with attendees, expected to number 150,000 over the next few days, were several VIPs both foreign and domestic, and day one included sessions with the OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo, Indian oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan, BP Boss Bob Dudley, Eni’s Claudio Descalzi, and Total’s Patrick Pouyanné to name a few.

And former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told ADIPEC attendees the post World War II "established" economic model "is under strain [and] threat" from terrorism, cyber threats & global power rivalries. 

Away from the VIPs, quite a bit of "Oil and Gas 4.0" kit was on display alongside hydrogen cars, automation equipment and analytics platforms for integrated asset management, interspersed with nuts, bolts and pipeline joints.

Finally, day one was also timed to coincide with the official launch of the Abu Dhabi oil futures, that sees ADNOC partner with exchange group ICE, major oil companies, refiners and trading house Vitol.

The idea is an ambitious one of establishing Murban – Abu Dhabi's signature crude – as a potential oil benchmark. Here is some background to the development from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. (MS Word Download here)

Elsewhere, at the ADIPEC Awards, BP's Dudley, who is due to retire as the oil and gas major's CEO next year, was awarded a lifetime achievement award for his commitment to the energy industry.

That's all for the moment folks, more from here over the coming days. The Oilholic will be moderating and speaking on days two and three as the event gathers further momentum. Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo I: Exhibition Hall at ADIPEC 2019. Photo II: Drone on display at ADIPEC exhibition © Gaurav Sharma 2019. 

Saturday, November 09, 2019

On Aramco IPO, OPEC & a Honeywell Interview

The last few weeks in the oil market have been dominated by two key topics. First off, the Saudi Aramco IPO that is finally happening, albeit not in the way and to the international scale it and much of the market wanted. Second development has been OPEC's keen awaited global oil outlook. 

Starting with Aramco, here is the Oilholic's take via Forbes, on what the likely valuation could be. That might well be substantially below the $2 trillion level Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman craves. 

As for the OPEC report, the producers' group expects a flood of US shale barrels, with American production tipped to rise to 17 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2024. Here is one's report via Forbes. That'll make for an interesting OPEC ministers meeting on December 5/6 in Vienna. Will OPEC+ keep its 1.2 million bpd of production cuts going as its price support is nothing of the magnitude it hoped for, and shale players keep plugging on. 

Finally, here's The Oilholic's interview with Jason Urso, Chief Technology Officer at Honeywell Process Solutions, the global software industrials company's automation unit, for Rigzone. In it Urso says:"Our ideal recruits would be either sector specialists deeply familiar with software based technologies or software specialists with a deep interest in the energy sector." Well worth a read here

That's all for the moment folks. Next stop ADIPEC 2019, Nov 11-14 in Abu Dhabi, UAE. More from there soon. Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Turkey Energy Summit and Eastern Med tussles

The Oilholic is about to complete a quick visit for a speaking engagement at the 10th Turkey Energy Summit in Altalya on the sunny shores of the Mediterranean, off the coast of which is brewing an almighty tussle for natural gas riches. 

For Eastern Mediterranean offshore prospection could potentially provide a pathway to over 70 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas. 

With great resource riches often come great geopolitical tensions. Cyprus has awarded drilling licences to its preferred partners, but Turkey which invaded the island in 1974 following a Greek-inspired coup and created a Northern Turkish Cypriot enclave in its wake, won't have any of it. 

Its response has been to send drilling ships of its own to howls from the EU and US, and of course Cyprus. But Turkey's Energy Minister Fatih Donmez told the summit in his keynote speech that Ankara won't be backing down, and more has emerged on the Turkish stance since. Here's yours truly's full report for Forbes

All the more fitting it was then that this blogger moderated two panels at the summit on 7 and 8 October, touching on geopolitics and its impact on energy and commodities market, and LNG market permutations. 

It was a pleasure and privilege to have conducted them and having partaken in some exciting and engaging industry dialogues. 

Alas, it is now time for the flight home, but before one takes your leave, here's a glimpse of Antalya's amazing coastline. That's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo 1: Gaurav Sharma (left), moderates the geopolitics session at the 10th Turkey Energy Summit in Antalya, Oct 7, 2019 © Turkey Energy Summit. Photo 2: Coastline of Belek, Antalya © Gaurav Sharma, October 2019. 

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

On oil price direction and EMF 2019

The Oilholic returned overnight from a visit to Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, for the 9th Gulf Intelligence Energy Markets Forum; the burgeoning shipping and storage port's annual gathering of industry minds. 

And on everyone's mind - unsurprisingly - was the direction of the oil price. This blogger has maintained the market is stuck in the modest middle, given that even 58% of Saudi capacity being temporarily knocked offline last month was not enough to keep Brent futures above $70 per barrel for a sustained period of time. 

Demand concerns have returned with a vengeance to temper risk driven upticks. The Oilholic remains in the $65 per barrel Brent average bracket. But majority of the delegates to the Forum were even more bearish for the quarter, based on the findings of an instant poll conducted at Gulf Intelligence's behest by yours truly (see image top left, click to enlarge). Many are bracing for a Q4 2019 Brent price in the range of $60-$65 per barrel. 


As part of the proceedings, one also got a chance to interview Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), both to discuss the spot poll's findings, as well as how Nigeria views the current market dynamic. 

Kyari stressed that Nigeria expects global demand to continue at pace driven by petrochemicals and aviation fuel. Tied into that is of course NNPC's own, and much-needed push to both invest, as well as court investment in its downstream sector. 

And away from the main auditorium, were several informative industry roundtables. Fujairah itself is undergoing significant changes in light of current geopolitics, inward investment, and the likes of ADNOC and Saudi Aramco mulling trading and storage outposts there. Will be penning thoughts on that subject for Forbes and Rigzone shortly, but that's all from Fujairah for the moment folks. Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

Addendum I - 06.10.19: Thoughts via Forbes - ADNOC Gets Serious About Its Oil Exports Bypassing Strait Of Hormuz Via Fujairah, here.
  
Addendum II - 07.10.19: And via Rigzone - Oil Hub of Fujairah Thriving Amid Rising Geopolitical Risk, here.

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Chart 1: Findings of oil price direction survey at Energy Markets Forum in Fujairah, Oct 1, 2019 © Gulf Intelligence. Photos 1 & 2: Gaurav Sharma interviews Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) © Photo 1 - Samantha Morris, © Photo 2 - Gulf Intelligence, October 1, 2019.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Back at HUG19 talking energy cybersecurity

The Oilholic is back in The Hague, Netherlands for the 2019 installment of Honeywell Users Group EMEA; the annual European jamboree of the global software industrial company's automation and optimisation unit - Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS).

Everything from state-of-the-art plant processing systems to virtual reality kit for health and safety happen to be on display, and every year the event gets bigger, because the energy and petrochemical world's appetite for big data and cost optimisation is getting voracious by day.

Advanced analytics, digital optimisation of throughput, cloud solutions - you name it. To quote our old friend - Jason Urso, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of HPS, "It not the data that's big, it's what you do with it that matters."

In a mammoth two-hour long keynote and presentation to kick-off the event's first morning, Urso touched on how Honeywell's old workhorse of a plant control system - the TDC 3000 - can benefit from deployment of its digital twin his team have been aggressively promoting in recent years.

To the uninitiated on the plant control front, basically Urso and his team are saying, if you want a swanky new control system, by all means go for, but the existing infrastructure can indeed be "digitally optimised" and upgraded; reducing the need for everything from multiple clunky servers to a messy mass of cables. And no its not getting too cloudy in the age of Big Data, because the usage of cloud computing and off premise data storage (where permissible by law) is growing.

Of course, as digital techniques proliferate, so does the worry, and in HPS' case, the opportunity of cybersecurity. In sync with that sentiment, HPS is notching up its cybersecurity offering and there is form here. In 2018, the company launched its dedicated cybersecurity consulting outfit to help customers rightly spooked about the growing threat.

It seems 12 months on, that dedication has multiplied several times over via its - Honeywell Forge Cybersecurity platform, which "simplifies, strengthens and scales cybersecurity for asset-intensive businesses and critical infrastructure facing cyber threats."

According to Jeff Zindell, HPS' Vice Present of Cybersecurity, the offering can be scaled to match cyber-requirements and budgets, and the allied customer support that goes with it. With over 50% of HPS' client base being in the energy and petrochemicals sphere, it is easy to fathom where it sees the demand coming from.

Zindell describes the new unified suite of applications, services and products as a "natural step to take to address a range of end-user requirements from asset discovery and monitoring to fully managed services.

In what would be music to margin squeezed downstream and midstream players' ears, Zindell said the unified suite will also bring down costs alongside optimisation of cybersecurity mechanisms.

Plenty to chew on, and some images from the exhibition you to look at, but that's all from The Hague on this visit. Next stop Dubai and Fujairah via London Heathrow; keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo 1: Jason Urso, Vice President and CTO of HPS, discusses Honeywell TDC 3000's digital twin options. Photo 2,3 & 4: Honeywell virtual reality headsets, kits and flow management and monitoring equipment © Gaurav Sharma, Oct 24-25, 2019, The Hague, Netherlands.    

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Why drone attacks on Saudi Aramco haven’t sparked sustained oil price spike

The Oilholic returned from researching enhanced oil recovery in rural Pennsylvania on Friday (September 13), only to wake up to a tumultuous weekend, and week, for the oil market in that order. For in the small hours of Saturday morning, multiple drone and alleged missile attacks, claimed by Houthi rebels, hit Saudi Aramco’s crude processing facilities in Abqaiq and the Khurais oilfield. 

The attack took out 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd) of Saudi production capacity. Going by the last Platts survey, the Kingdom pumped 9.77 million bpd in August, implying the attack created a 58% drop in production at the very least when measured against last month's production levels.

The situation remains unpredictable, and as yours truly told the BBC – were it not for US production serving as a buffer, current oil pricing scenario and modelling would be very different.

The Americans remain the world's largest oil producer pumping in excess of 12 million bpd, and the country’s production could rise to 13.4 million bpd at some point in 2020. That is what has largely kept the market sane. Predictably, Brent futures shot up 20% to $71 per barrel at the Asian open on Monday but the uptick did not last. As the week’s trading came to a close on Friday (September 20), a look at benchmark prices - ironing out the week’s volatility - says it all. Brent closed at $64.28 per barrel, up $4.06 or 6.84% while the WTI closed at $58.09 per barrel, up $3.24 or 5.9% on the week.

The said movement is hardly the stuff of bullish dreams; even if the week belonged to the longs, short-sellers did not take as big a hammering as some feared. And consumers need not be overly concerned for now at least. As the Oilholic said on ITN/Channel 5 News, the physical crude market’s response and its domino effect on fuel prices depend not on the here and now, but on where from here? Lot depends on the Saudi and US response to the attack that both parties near instantaneously blamed on Iran which backs the Houthi rebels.

If the Saudis, in concert with the Americans, hit sites in Iran, then that could lead to a wider conflict in the Persian Gulf and some very real turmoil associated with it; not just knee-jerk price reactions of the sort we saw in the immediate aftermath of the revolt.

It is here that the market could see a sustained geopolitical risk driven uptick in oil prices for $10 to $15 per barrel. Plausibly, you will see prices at the pump rising given that retailers pass an oil price rise near instantaneously but are pretty slow in cutting them in the event of a price drop. And of course governments who in many cases take two-thirds of the price we pay per litre at the pump, might have some serious thinking to do as well.

For now an eerie calm prevails, with the market soaking in verbal salvos between Riyadh, Washington and Tehran. Logical conclusion is that an attack of this magnitude cannot go unanswered or Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the power hungry favourite son of Saudi King Salman, would look weak. Finally, here are the Oilholic’s thoughts in detail on Forbes summing up the turbulent trading week. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'! 

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo 1: Gaurav Sharma on BBC News at Six on September 15, 2019 © BBC, Photo 2: Gaurav Sharma on 5 News on September 16, 2019 © ITN

Friday, September 20, 2019

Enhanced gas recovery & the good folks at DGOC


The Oilholic just got back from a quick turnaround research trip to the US Appalachian Basin covering the hydrocarbon rich prospection patch between Morgantown, West Virginia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The latter being that promised American departure point yours truly told you about in 2016, where even the airport authority is privy to the proceeds natural gas

Having spent the last six months being convinced by academics and policy wonks that the Appalachian Basin is in trouble given oversupply, pipeline capacity issues, and the prospect of sub-$2/MMBtu Henry Hub prices, it was a breath of fresh air listening to the good folks at Diversified Gas and Oil Plc (LON:DGOC).


The company is currently listed on AIM, has formally announced its intention to move to London's main market and says that business is good. DGOC's simple, effective modus operandi is going after mature long life conventional wells in the region, often neglected by exploration and production firms obsessed with unconventional shale exploration.

The company's CEO Rusty Hutson (fifth from left), COO Brad Gray (second from left) and their team on the ground in Pennsylvania took this blogger around their patch explaining their methods, which include deploying a surprisingly low amount of contractors on site, entrusting employees to chart cost effective, efficient and resource maximising pathways, and of course some prudent management.

Hutson and Gray are also pretty acquisitive almost, always fishing around for primarily natural gas assets they can buy, often at low cost, to turn them around. To give the readers a flavour, recent sellers to DGOC have included the likes of EQT, CNX and Anadarko.

By drilling few wells, and mainly operating and maximising already onstream wells totalling over 60,000, team DGOC believe they can make a decent margin even at $2/MMbtu Henry Hub prices with smart strategic hedging, including hedges stretching 10 years out in the case of some instruments they have deployed.

If enhanced hydrocarbon recovery will bring about a new output wave stateside as many market commentators think, DGOC's contribution is over 92,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) to that pool and rising.

You can expect more of the same, and more, Hutson assures the Oilholic. More observations from the trip to follow for publishing outlets but that's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

Addendum I - 27.09.19: Thoughts via Rigzone - 'Smart' Appalachian Operators Can Handle Sub $2 Natural Gas. Click here.

Addendum II - 07.10.19: Thoughts via Forbes - Enhanced Recovery Maverick: Meet West Virginia Oilman Taking Resource Maximization To New Heights. Click here.

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo I: Morgantown, West Verginia, US from the air. © Gaurav Sharma, September 2019. Photo II & III: Gaurav Sharma onsite with DGOC personnel in Pennsylvania, US © Ben Romney, September 2019. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Two crude charts that say it all

We are nearly at the end of the third quarter of the current oil trading year and the Oilholic has two relevant charts for you. The first figure below (click images to enlarge), offers a glimpse into the OPEC Crude Basket of its member exporters' prices, and it is currently averaging just shy of $65 per barrel. 

The second figure tracks the Friday closing prices of oil benchmarks year to date, which points to the fact that oil futures, while volatile, are still oscillating in a fairly predictable range, unable to breach a $50 per barrel floor or meaningfully escape a $70 per barrel ceiling.














Figure I
















Figure II

As this blogger has said before; oil prices remain range-bound and are going nowhere fast. Keep reading, keep it 'crude' folks!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Charts: Figure I - Direction of OPEC's crude basket. Figure II - Friday closes of oil benchmark prices, year till Friday, 23 August, 2019  © Gaurav Sharma, August 2019

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Various media missives on energy market

The last fortnight has just zipped by with so much going on in the energy market that the Oilholic did not get time to pen his thoughts here (apologies!). However, here are a plethora of thoughts for various publishing outfits on various energy related subjects. 

First off, despite all the geopolitical pressures, worries of an escalating trade war continues to be the dominant bearish sentiment in the market and could turn mildly bullish if resolved. So here are some thoughts on Forbes in defence of those with bearish oil price forecasts who some say are being complacent, alongside a note on the prospects of US Midstream stocks

And a take on why Formula E versus Formula 1 motorsports offer a microcosm of the tussle for human mobility. Away from Forbes here is yours truly's article on the Big Data tsunami that is heading the oil and gas industry's way via Rigzone.

Finally, here's a take on the cybersecurity challenge the energy industry faces on Energy Post (behind paywall). More on this mad, mad crude market soon. Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Gauging Wall Street's 'crude' mood

The Oilholic has just about rounded up a near week-long power markets trip to New York, including a visit to understand the energy supply dynamic of the City’s landmark Rockefeller Center courtesy of industry colleagues at ABB, and a weekend of Formula E racing

But when in New York City old habits die hard, and this blogger rarely misses opportunities to discuss the oil market direction with fellow analysts and crude traders. The latest visit was no exception. Even New York's weather of the past week chimed with what we've seen in the crude market. On Thursday (July 11) the Oilholic arrived to a rain drenched Wall Street (above left) full of soggy bears with both oil benchmarks on the rise and WTI futures even touching $60 per barrel at one point (Brent - $66.52/bbl & WTI $60.20/bbl). 

Yet by the time yours truly packed it in a week later, New York and its Wall Street oil market bears were again basking in the sunshine (Brent at $61.93/bbl & WTI $55.30/bbl) even if Iran's grab of a UK-flagged Swedish-owned oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz added another dollar or two per barrel. And for all the kerfuffle, the inescapable truth is that both benchmarks have stayed range-bound. 

The Oilholic has assigned the reasons as - the abundance of US light crude (especially copious amounts being exported to Asia), deep concerns over global demand (and a possible negative quarter if not a full blown recession for the US economy on the horizon), and supply dynamic largely outweighing OPEC cuts over the near-term.

One has also said it on record that if the oil market bears are to be tamed, the key bullish factor on the horizon is not the Iranian shenanigans in the Persian Gulf (short of an unlikely all out war), but the easing of US-China trade tensions. 

Putting these thoughts to a select group of Wall Street analysts this blogger has known for over 10 years, came up with unsurprisingly similar conclusions. Ok, discussing market direction with a beer in the Fraunces Tavern in the company of seven industry acquaintances is hardly a scientific poll, and more of an indicative opinion – but whichever way you look at it, few put forward an obvious bullish breakout factor that would pull the oil price from its current range. 

Many see a $70 level as a near-term possibility for Brent, as does the Oilholic, but few reckon the level would be meaningfully capped given clouds on the 2020 horizon. 

More so, many agree that OPEC’s market credibility is now tied to how much and how far the Russians go along with its – or should we their own – agenda, as the Oilholic recently wrote for Rigzone

Away from the near-term, most expect the US production to provide a meaningful buffer for a minimum of five years. In that time, the supply-demand dynamic is bound to face profound changes and resulting scenarios could be materially different from where we currently are. To sum it up, the Oilholic has a $65-70 per barrel 2019 average price for Brent, and $55-60 per barrel for WTI; with both leaning towards the lower end of the range, bar a full-blown conflict in the Persian Gulf. 

As one wrote for Forbes, right after OPEC’s twice-delayed oil ministers’ summit; 2020 could get even more bearish. Many known contacts on Wall Street share that opinion, and the time they spared at such short notice this week is truly appreciated. And on that note, its time to say goodbye to NY Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo 1: New York Stock Exchange, NewYork, USA. Photo 2: Wall Street, Lower Manhattan, New York, USA © Gaurav Sharma, July 2019. 

Contact:

For comments or for professional queries, please email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

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