Showing posts with label 20th WPC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 20th WPC. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The inimitable Mr de Margerie (1951 – 2014)

The Oilholic woke up to the sad news that Total CEO and Chairman Christophe de Margerie had been killed in a plane crash at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport. This tragedy has robbed the wider oil & gas fraternity of arguably its most colourful stalwart.

Held in high regard by the industry, de Margerie had been the CEO of Total since 2007, later assuming both Chairman and CEO roles in 2010. Instantly recognisable by his trademark thick moustache, de Margerie increased the focus of Europe’s third-largest oil and gas company on its proven reserves ratio like never before.

He joined Total in 1974 straight after graduating from the Ecole Superieure de Commerce in Paris and spent his entire professional life at the company. Rising through the ranks to the top of the corporate ladder, de Margerie was instrumental in taking Total into markets the company hadn’t tested and to technologies it hadn’t adopted before. Wider efforts to improve Total’s access to the global hydrocarbon pool often saw de Margerie take actions frowned upon by some if not all. 

For instance, Total went prospecting in Burma and Iran in the face of US sanctions. France has a moratorium on shale oil & gas drilling, but de Margerie recently saw it fit to get Total involved in UK's shale gas exploration. Over the last decade, as this blogger witnessed Total ink deals which could be subjectively described by many as good, bad or ugly, one found many who disagreed with de Margerie, but few who disliked him.

Even in the face of controversy, the man nicknamed “Big Moustache” always kept his cool and more importantly a sense of humour. Each new deal or the conquering of a corporate frontier saw de Margerie raise a spot of Scotch to celebrate. That’s some tipple of choice when it came to a celebration given he was the grandson of Pierre Taittinger, the founder of Taittinger champagne.

The Oilholic’s only direct interaction with the man himself, in December 2011 at the 20th World Petroleum Congress (20th WPC) in Doha, was indeed a memorable one. Jostling for position while the Total CEO was coming down from a podium, this blogger inquired if there was time for one question. To which the man himself said one could ask three provided they could all be squeezed into the time he had between the auditorium and VIP elevator!

In a brief exchange that followed, de Margerie expressed the opinion that exploration and production (E&P) companies would find it imperative to venture into "geologically challenging and geopolitically difficult" hydrocarbon prospects.

“All the easy to extract oil & gas is largely already onstream. We’re at a stage where the next round of E&P would be much more costly,” he added. One could have gone on for hours, but alas a few minutes is all what Qatari security would permit. Earlier at the auditorium he was leaving from, de Margerie had participated in deliberations on Peak Oil, a subject of interest on which he often “updated” his viewpoint (photo above left).

“There will be sufficient oil & gas and energy as a whole to cover global demand…Even using pessimistic assumptions, I cannot see how energy demand will grow less than 25% in twenty years time. Today we have roughly the oil equivalent of 260 million barrels per day (bpd) in total energy production, and our expectation for 2030 is 325 million bpd,” he said.

De Margerie forecast that fossil fuels will continue to make up 76% of the energy supply by 2050.

“We have plenty of resources, the problem is how to extract the resources in an acceptable manner, being accepted by people, because today a lot of things are not acceptable,” the late Total CEO quipped.

He concluded by saying that if unconventional sources of oil, including heavy oil and oil shale, were to be exploited, there will be sufficient oil to meet current consumption for up to 100 years, and for gas up to 135 years. What he astutely observed at the 20th WPC does broadly stack-up today.

In wake of sanctions on Russia following the Ukrainian standoff, de Margerie called for channels of dialogue to remain open between the wider world and country’s energy sector. Total is a major shareholder in Russian gas producer Novatek, something which De Margerie was always comfortable with. He ignored calls for a boycott of industry events in Russia, turning up at both the St Petersburg forum in May and the 21st World Petroleum Congress in Moscow in June this year.

However, the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July prompted him to suspend buying more shares in Novatek. That cast a shadow over Total’s participation in Yamal LNG along with Novatek and CNPC. Nonetheless, de Margerie was bullish about boosting production in Russia. 

According to Vedomosti newspaper, he was in town on Monday to meet Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and discuss the climate for foreign direct investment in the energy sector. As events conspired, it turned out to be the last of his many audiences with dignitaries and heads of capital, state and industry.

Later that foggy Monday evening, the private jet carrying de Margerie from Vnukovo airport collided with a snow plough and crashed, killing all on-board including him and three members of the crew. Confirming the news, a shocked Total was left scrambling to name a successor or at least an interim head to replace de Margerie.

In a statement, the company said: “Total’s employees are deeply appreciative of the support and sympathy received, both in France and in the many countries where Christophe de Margerie was admired and respected.

“Mr de Margerie devoted his life to building and promoting Total in France and internationally. He was equally devoted to Total’s 100,000 employees. As he would have wished, the company must continue to move forward. Total is organised to ensure the continuity of both its governance and its business, allowing it to manage the consequences of this tragic loss.”

According to newswire AFP, Total’s third quarter results would be released as scheduled on October 29. Paying tribute, French President Francois Hollande said the country had lost “a patriot” while OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri said the industry had lost “an extraordinary and charming professional, who will be sorely and sadly missed by all who had the honour of knowing and working with him.” 

In a corporate sense, Total will move on but French commerce and the oil & gas business would be intellectually poorer in wake of de Margerie’s death. His forthright views sparked debates, his stewardship of France’s largest company inspired confidence, his commanding presence at market briefings made them more sought after and his sense of humour lit up forums. But above all, in the Oilholic’s 17 years as a scribe, one has never met a more down-to-earth industry head. Rest in peace sir, you will be sorely missed.

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© Gaurav Sharma 2014. Photo: The late Christophe de Margerie, former CEO and Chairman of Total, addresses the 20th World Petroleum Congress, Doha, Qatar, December 2011 © Gaurav Sharma.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Speaking @ OPEC & WPC plus Dec's trading lows

It’s been a hectic few weeks attending the OPEC conference in Vienna and the 20th World Petroleum Congress in Doha, but the Oilholic is now happily back in London town for a calm Christmas. In fact, a more than passive interest in the festive period’s crude trading lows is all what you will get for the next fortnight unless there is a geopolitical mishap. However, before we discuss crude pricing, this humble blogger had the wonderful experience of doing a commentary hit for an OPEC broadcast and moderating a Baker & McKenzie seminar at the WPC.

Starting with OPEC, it was a pleasure ditching pricing and quotas for once in Vienna and discussing the infrastructure investment plans of its 12 member nations in OPEC webcast on December 14th. The cartel has announced US$300 billion of upstream infrastructure investment between 2011 and 2015.

The market is right in believing that Kuwait and Qatar would lead the new build and give project financiers considerable joy. However, intel gathered at the WPC suggests the Algerians could be the surprise package. (To watch the video click here and scroll down to the seventh video on the 160th OPEC conference menu)

This ties-in nicely to the Baker & McKenzie seminar at the WPC on December 7th where the main subject under the microscope was investment opportunities for NOCs.

Six legal professionals attached to Baker's myriad global practices, including familiar names from their UK office, offered the audience insight on just about everything from sources of funding to a reconciliation of different drivers for NOCs and IOCs in partnerships.

Once the panel discussion was over, the Baker partners were kind enough to allow the Oilholic to open the floor for some lively questioning from the audience. While the Oilholic did most of the probing and Baker professionals did most of the answering, the true credit for putting the seminar and its research together goes to Baker’s Emily Colatino and Lizzy Lozano who also clicked photos of the proceedings.

Now from crude sound-bites to crude market chatter post-OPEC, as the end of last week saw a major sell off. Despite the price of crude oil staging a minor recovery in Monday’s intraday trading; both benchmarks were down by over 4 per cent on a week over week, five-day cycle basis on Tuesday. Since the festive period is upon us, trading volumes for the forward month futures contracts will be at the usual seasonal low over the Christmas holidays. Furthermore, the OPEC meeting in Vienna failed to provide any meaningful upward impetus to the crude price level, which like all traded commodities is witnessing a bearish trend courtesy the Eurozone crisis.

Sucden Financial Research analyst Myrto Sokou notes that investors remained very cautious towards the end of last week and were prompted towards some profit taking to lock in recent gains as WTI crude was sliding down toward US$92 per barrel level.

“After market close on Friday, Moody’s downgraded Belgium by two notches to Aa3, as liabilities associated with the Dexia bailout and increased Eurozone risks were cited as key factors. In addition, market rumours on Friday of a France downgrade by S&P were not followed up, though the agency did have server problems during the day. Suspicion is now that they will wait until the New Year to conclude review on Eurozone’s second largest economy,” Sokou said in a note to clients.

Additionally, crude prices are likely to trade sideways with potential for some correction higher, supported by a rebound in the global equity markets. “However, should the US dollar strengthen further we expect some pressure in the oil market that looks fairly vulnerable at the moment,” Sokou concludes.

Away from pricing projections, the Reuters news agency reports that Libya has awarded crude oil supply contracts in 2012 to Glencore, Gunvor, Trafigura and Vitol. Of these Vitol helped in selling rebel-held crude during the civil war as the Oilholic noted in June.

On to corporate matters and Fitch Ratings has upgraded three Indonesian oil & gas utilities PT Pertamina (Persero) (Pertamina), PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (Persero) (PLN) and PT Perusahaan Gas Negara Tbk (PGN) to 'BBB-' following the upgrade to Indonesia's Long-Term Foreign- and-Local-Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) to 'BBB-' from 'BB+'. The outlooks on all three entities are Stable, agency said in a note on December 15th.

Meanwhile, a Petrobras communiqué suggests that this December, the combined daily output of the Brazilian major and its partners exceeded 200,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/day) in the promising Santos Basin. The company said that on December 6, two days after operations began at well RJS-686, which is connected to platform FPSO Cidade de Angra dos Reis (the Lula Pilot Project), the total output operated by Petrobras at the Santos Basin reached 205,700 boe/day.

This includes 144,100 barrels of oil and condensate, in addition to 9.8 million cubic meters of natural gas (equivalent to an output of 61,600 boe), of which 8.5 million cubic meters were delivered to the Monteiro Lobato Gas Treatment Unit (UTGCA), in Caraguatatuba, and 1.3 million cubic meters to the Presidente Bernardes Refinery (RPBC) Natural Gas Unit, in Cubatão, both in the state of São Paulo.

Finally, ratings agency Moody's notes a potential sizable lawsuit against Chevron Corporation in Brazil could have a negative impact on the company, but it is too early to judge the full extent of any future liability arising from the lawsuit.

Recent news reports indicate that a federal prosecutor in the state of Rio de Janeiro is seeking BRL20 billion (US$10.78 billion) in damages from Chevron and Transocean Ltd. for the offshore oil leak last month. The Oilholic thinks Transocean’s position is more troublesome given it’s a party to the legal fallout from the Macondo incident.

That’s all for the moment folks – a crude year-ender to follow in early January! In the interim, have a Happy Christmas! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo 1: Gaurav Sharma on OPEC's 160th meeting live webcast from Vienna, Austria on Dec 14, 2011 © OPEC Secretariat. Photo 2 & 3: The Oilholic at Baker & McKenzie seminar on investment opportunities for NOCs at the 20th World Petroleum Congress in Doha, Qatar on Dec 7, 2011 © Lizzy Lozano, Baker & McKenzie.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Sunset in Doha: Off from WPC to OPEC!

The 20th WPC ended yesterday in Doha and it was an amazing experience. Following the opening ceremony on Dec 4th, it was another four days of intense debates, discussions, meeting and greeting and the Oilholic has been wiser for it.

Everything from peak oil to unconventional projects was under the microscope, a deal announced here and CEO speaking there, one minister throwing-up a policy initiative to another presenting a white paper and so it went. Every oil major – NOC or IOC – offered up some newsy or debatable material and the Oilholic put them across from his perspective without attempting to be everywhere at all times and being all things to all ‘crude’ men as it was near impossible.

This blogger was also truly delighted to have moderated a Baker & McKenzie event at 20th WPC which included a seminar on NOCs, where they should invest, what they should know and where the opportunities lie. Over the course of five days, several representatives from a list of companies and firms too long to list engaged in constructive discussions – some on and some off record. Furthermore, delegates from Milwaukee to the Faroe Islands got to hear about this blog and offer their insight and suggestions which are deeply appreciated.

The Qataris aside, officials from Angola, Algeria, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Kuwait, Nigeria, Netherlands, Norway, USA, Russia, Venezuela and last but not the least the UK spared their invaluable time to discuss crude matters with the Oilholic, however briefly in some cases. One oil minister even joked that if he had time – he’d be a blogger himself!

All good things come to an end and now its time to say goodbye to Doha and head back to London, albeit briefly before the 160th meeting of OPEC ministers at the cartel’s HQ in Vienna on December 14th. There were fireworks last time between the Saudis and Iranians at OPEC HQ; let’s see what happens this time.

Ahead of the OPEC meeting, Secretary General, Abdalla Salem El-Badri took a timely swipe here in Doha at speculators.

On the penultimate day of the congress he told delegates, “Speculative activities remain an issue in the current market. This can be viewed in the respective sizes of the paper and physical markets. Since 2005, there has been a sharp increase in the number of open interest futures and options contracts. At times it has surpassed three million contracts per day, equivalent to 3 billion barrels per day. This is 35 times the size of actual world oil demand.”

El-Badri also noted that between 2009 and 2011, data has shown an almost one-to-one correlation between WTI prices and the speculative activity of the net long positions of money managers. “This is in terms of both volume and value. Let me stress, excessive speculation is detrimental to both producers and consumers and can cause prices to detach from fundamentals. It is essential to avoid distorting the essential price discovery function of the market,” he added.

Meanwhile ahead of the OPEC meeting, ratings agency Moody's has raised its 2012 and 2013 price assumptions for both WTI and Brent benchmarks. It now assumes a price of US$90 per barrel WTI crude in 2012, and US$85 per barrel in 2013, dropping to US$80 per barrel in the medium term, which falls beyond 2013. The ratings agency had previously assumed a price of US$80 per barrel for WTI in 2012 and beyond.

On Brent crude, Moody's assumes a price of US$95 in 2012, US$90 in 2013 and US$80 in the medium term - higher than the previous assumption of US$90 in 2012 and US$80 thereafter. Moody's continues to use US$60 per barrel as a stress case price for both WTI and Brent.

The move reflects the rating agency's expectations that oil prices will remain robust over the next two years, while natural gas will remain significantly oversupplied. Price assumptions represent baseline approximations – not forecasts – that Moody's uses to evaluate risk when analysing credit conditions within the oil and gas industry. And on that note, its goodbye from Doha; keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: Outside the QNCC at the 20th Petroleum Congress, Doha © Gaurav Sharma 2011.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Oilholic at Qatar Petroleum’s Dukhan field

On the final day of the 20th WPC, the Oilholic skipped the morning’s proceedings and headed to Dukhan oil & gas field nearly 60 km west of Doha at the invitation of Qatar Petroleum. This field is where it all began for Qatar’s oil & gas industry when oil was first discovered in 1938 and one is privileged to have been granted access to such a historic site.

Not only was access allowed, but Qatar Petroleum’s site supervisor Abdulla Mohamed Afifa spared his valuable time to both answer the Oilholic’s questions as well as accompany him around parts of the field and its gas recycling facility.

Oil was first discovered in Dukhan in 1938 at the very site this blogger stands sporting a Qatar Petroleum uniform and overalls (see left). While prospection fields were dug over 1939 and 1940, the first meaningful export of petroleum from Dukhan had to wait until after World War II in 1949.

The field contains four reservoirs – Fahahil, Khatiyah and Jaleha/Diyab. Oil & gas are separated in Qatar Petroleum’s four degassing stations – namely Khatiyah North, Khatiyah Main, Fahahil Main and Jaleha. Stabilised crude is then transported by pipeline to the Mesaieed port.

A massive turnaround came in 1959 when natural gas was discovered in the Khuff Reservoir. The discovery at Khuff and what followed has since made the state of Qatar one of the biggest exporters of natural gas.

The Fahahil plant was commissioned to recover raw natural gas liquids (NGL) in 1974. Two years later, the first development well at Khuff reservoir was dug, and between 1978 and 1982 eight wellhead treatment plants were commissioned at Khuff alone.

Several production stabilisation techniques have been employed in the last decade making Qatar Petroleum the world’s six largest oil company by barrels of oil equivalent at the time of writing this post. These days the field produces up to 336,000 barrels of crude/crude oil equivalent per day with future plans such as Dukhan Gas Lift project aimed at maintaining crude oil production.

The adjoining Dukhan city, which began life as a mere camp for Qatar Petroleum employees, is today a vibrant city boasting its own amenities, facilities, a service sector economy and not to mention a pristine beach. It is connected to Doha by Qatar's only four-lane motorway along which the Oilholic zipped down to see this site. Visiting Dukhan was a memorable experience much enriched by site supervisor Afifa’s insight about the field.

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo I: The Oilholic at the site of the first discovery of oil in Qatar - the Dukhan field. Photo II: A well at Dukhan field, Qatar © Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo III: Oil Rig No 54, Gas separator valves in foreground, Dukhan, Qatar, Archive July 1956 © Qatar Petroleum.