Showing posts with label Aramco. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aramco. Show all posts

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, Fran├žois 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. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saudi’s ‘crude’ range, Fitch on Abu Dhabi & more

Petroleum economists are wondering if we have crossed a gateway to crude chaos? The magnificent one pictured (left) here in Abu Dhabi's Capital Garden is certainly no metaphor for the situation. Egypt is burning, Libya is protesting and US/UK/NATO are threatening [almost direct] action against Syria.

Add the US Federal Reserve's current stance on QE to the geopolitical mix and you get a bullish Brent price. Yes, yes, that's all very predictable. But when bulls run amok, all attention usually turns to Aramco's response. It is a well known fact that the Saudis like the crude oil price to remain within what economists prefer to describe as the "middle" ground. (You want your principal export to be priced high enough to keep you ticking, but not so high as to drive importers towards either consuming less or seeking alternatives).

Investment house Jadwa's research often puts such a Saudi comfort zone in US$80-90 per barrel price range. The Oilholic has been banging on about the same range too, though towards the conservative lower end (in the region of $78-80). The Emiratis would also be pretty happy with that too; it's a price range most here say they’ve based their budget on as well.

A scheduled (or "ordinary") OPEC meeting is not due until December and in any case the Saudis care precious little about the cartel's quota. Hints about Saudi sentiment only emerge when one gets to nab oil minister Ali Al-Naimi and that too if he actually wants to say a thing or two. As both Saudi Arabia and UAE have spare capacity, suspicions about a joint move on working towards a "price band" have lurked around since the turn of 1990s and Gulf War I.

Aramco's response to spikes and dives in the past, for instance the highs and lows of 2007-08 and a spike during the Libyan crisis, bears testimony to the so called middle approach. Recent empirical evidence suggests that if the Brent price spikes above $120 per barrel, Aramco usually raises its output to cool the market.

Conversely, if it falls rapidly (or is perceived to be heading below three digits), Aramco stunts output to prop-up the price. The current one is a high-ish price band. Smart money would be on ADNOC and Aramco raising their output, however much the Iranians and Venezuelans squeal. For the record, this blogger feels it is prudent to mention that Aramco denies it has any such price band.

Away from pricing matters, Fitch Ratings has affirmed Abu Dhabi's long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) at 'AA' with a Stable Outlook. Additionally, the UAE's country ceiling is affirmed at 'AA+' (This ceiling, the agency says, also applies to Ras al-Khaimah).

In a statement, the agency said, oil rich Abu Dhabi has a strong sovereign balance sheet, both in absolute terms and compared to most 'AA' category peers. To put things into perspective, its sovereign external debt at end of Q4 2012 was just 1% of GDP, compared to Fitch's estimate of sovereign foreign assets of 153% of GDP. Only Kuwait has a stronger sovereign net foreign asset position within the GCC.

With estimated current account surpluses of around double digits forecast each year, sovereign net foreign assets of Abu Dhabi are forecast to rise further by end-2015. Fitch also estimates that the fiscal surplus, including ADNOC dividends and ADIA investment income, returned to double digits in 2012 and will remain of this order of magnitude for each year to 2015.

Furthermore, non-oil growth in the Emirate accelerated to 7.7%. This parameter also compares favourably to other regional oil-rich peers. Help provided by Abu Dhabi to other Emirates is likely to be discretionary. Overall, Fitch notes that Abu Dhabi has the highest GDP per capita of any Fitch-rated sovereign.

However, the Abu Dhabi economy is still highly dependent on oil, which accounted for around 90% of fiscal and external revenues and around half of GDP in 2012. As proven reserves are large, this blogger is not alone in thinking that there should be no immediate concerns for Abu Dhabi. Furthermore, Fitch's conjecture is based on the supposition of a Brent price in the region of $105 per barrel this year and $100 in 2014. No concerns there either!

Just a couple of footnotes before bidding farewell to Abu Dhabi – first off, and following on from what the Oilholic blogged about earlier, The National columnist Ebrahim Hashem eloquently explains here why UAE's reserves are so attractive for IOCs. The same newspaper also noted on Friday that regional/GCC inflation is here to stay and that the MENA region is going to face a North-South divide akin to the EU. The troubled "NA" bit is likely to rely on the resource rich "ME" bit.

Inflation certainly hasn’t dampened the UAE auto market for sure – one of the first to see the latest models arrive in town. To this effect, the Oilholic gives you two quirky glimpses of some choice autos on the streets of Abu Dhabi. The first (pictured above left) is the latest glammed-up Mini Cooper model outside National Bank of Abu Dhabi's offices, the second is proof that an Emirati sandstorm can make the prettiest automobile look rather off colour.

Finally, a Bloomberg report noting that Oil-rich Norway had gone from a European leader to laggard in terms of consumer spending made yours truly chuckle. Maybe they should reduce the monstrous price of their beer, water and food, which the Oilholic found to his cost in Oslo recently. That's all from Abu Dhabi, its time to bid the Emirate good-bye for destination Oman! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo 1: Entrance to Capital Garden, Abu Dhabi, UAE Photo 2: Cars parked around Abu Dhabi, UAE © Gaurav Sharma, August, 2013.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The South Sudan question & other crude matters

Where South Sudan fits in the oil world has troubled ‘crudely’ inclined geopolitical analysts for some time now. The country celebrated the first anniversary of its creation on July 9th. But there is little to cheer about yet for South Sudan which inherited over 75% of parent Sudan’s proven oil reserves but is overtly reliant on the latter’s infrastructure to bring it to market. Sources with expertise as well as anyone with a modicum of interest in current events would agree that South Sudan’s outlook is bleak at best and abysmal at worst following decades of conflict. That’s notwithstanding a prolonged border dispute with the North, 170,000-plus refugees and tension over oil revenues which have only just shown signs of easing.

While it is early days, on August 4th a Reuters’ flash stating that the North and South sides had pulled back from the brink of war and finally agreed on oil transit payments was widely welcomed from trading floors to the Office of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And what has emerged so far is a relief for everyone from Elf to Total, from OMV to CNPC; the Chinese being the biggest players in Sudan. Of the seven exploration blocks, CNPC is majorly involved with four in case you didn’t know.

Yet deep down everyone, not least the Oilholic, is pragmatic enough to acknowledge that the time to uncork the champagne is not here yet. This humble blogger was not in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa where the agreement was reached, but courtesy dispatches from kindred souls in diplomatic circles it is known that South Sudan agreed to pay North Sudan just over US$9.05 per barrel for usage of its transport, supply and logistics infrastructure to move the crude stuff to Port Sudan.

However, nearly a fortnight on from the announcement, we still await an announcement about when the South will resume oil exports which were stopped in January. That said North Sudan will receive US$3 billion as compensation for revenue lost in that period.

The agreement is not the end of South Sudan’s problems. Without even having meaningfully exploited its precious resources, the world's newest nation is already a case study for the resource curse hypothesis. With oil production having only begun in 2005 and anti-graft measures either side of the border being ‘less than worse’, it can be safely concluded that South Sudan is more likely to resemble a 1970s Nigeria than a 2012 Botswana.

If the Americans press South Sudan to act on graft they are labelled as arrogant, the South Africans as patronising, the Brits as colonials and so on in populist circles even if the government is partially listening. The Chinese way to calm the situation either side of the disputed border and improving things is by offering to buy the crude stuff at above existing market rates (as they did in February).

Clue – nothing is going to change meaningfully anytime soon. Alas, with a production peak for existing facilities forecast for 2020, a turnaround is needed and fast! At least a plan to move away from overreliance on the North by building a pipeline to Kenya is a positive if it materialises. Happy Belated Birthday South Sudan!

Away from Sudanese problems, but sticking with the African continent – Nigeria has signed an ‘initial’ agreement with USA’s Vulcan Petroleum Resources Ltd.; a Vulcan Capital Management SPV, to build six new oil refineries worth US$4.5 billion. If ‘initial’ becomes ‘final’ and the deal materialises, it would add to the four refineries Nigeria already has increasing refining capacity by 180,000 barrels per day.

For a country which is Africa’s largest oil exporter but a net importer of refined distillates, the Oilholic has always opined that seeing is believing. So we’ll believe when we see and greet the announcement with cautious optimism.

Moving to some corporate news which also has an African flavour, its emerged that Edinburgh-based independent upstart Melrose Resources has announced a merger with Ireland’s Petroceltic. Both companies will now merge operations in North Africa along with Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

The new company will have Petroceltic’s branding and will be headquartered in Ireland. The merger values Melrose at £165 million with Petroceltic shareholders having a 54% stake in the merged company and Melrose shareholders having the rest. Sounds like a sound move!

Finally, a new computer virus is doing the rounds targeting energy infrastructure being dubbed by the security firms as the “Shamoom” attack. A notice from Symantec (available here) describes the virus as “a destructive malware that corrupts files on a compromised computer and overwrites the MBR (Master Boot Record) in an effort to render a computer unusable.”

On Wednesday, Saudi Aramco said it was subject to a virus attack but did not acknowledge whether it was a Shamoom attack. A spokesperson said Aramco had now isolated its computer networks as a precautionary measure while stressing that the attack had no impact on its production. Virulent times in the crude world. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: Oil worker © Shell

Monday, December 12, 2011

We’re nowhere near “Peak oil” er...perhaps!

The 20th World Petroleum Congress could not have possibly gone without a discussion on the Peak Oil hypothesis. In fact, every single day of the Congress saw the topic being discussed in some way, shape or form. So the Oilholic decided to summarise it after the event had ended and before the latest OPEC meeting begins.

Discussing the supply side, starting with the hosts Qatar, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa said his country was rising to challenge to secure supplies of oil and gas alongside co-operating with members of the energy organisations to which they were aparty, in order to realise this goal. Close on the Qatari Emir’s heels, Kuwaiti oil minister Mohammed Al-Busairi said his country’s crude production capacity is only expected increase between now and 2015 from the current level of 3 million barrels per day (bpd) to 3.5 million bpd, before rising further to 4 million bpd.

Then came the daddy of all statements from Saudi Aramco chief executive Khalid al-Falih. The top man at the world’s largest oil company by proven reserves of barrel of oil equivalent noted that, “rather than the supply scarcity which many predicted, we have adequate oil and gas supplies, due in large part to the contributions of unconventional resources.”

Rising supplies in al-Falih’s opinion will result in deflating the Peak Oil hypothesis. “In fact, we are on the cusp of what I believe will be a new renaissance for petroleum. This belief emanates from new sweeping realities that are reshaping the world of energy, especially petroleum,” he told WPC delegates.

Meanwhile, in context of the wider debate, Petrobras chief executive Jose Sergio Gabrielli, who knows a thing or two about unconventional told delegates that the speed with which the new sources of oil are entering into production has taken many people by surprise, adding to some of the short-term volatility.

“The productivity of our pre-salt offshore drilling moves is exceeding expectations,” he added. Petrobras now hopes to double its oil production by 2020 to over 6.42 billion barrels of oil equivalent. It seems a veritable who’s-who of the oil and gas business lined up in Doha to implicitly or explicitly suggest that Marion King Hubbert – the patron saint of the Peak Oil hypothesis believers – had always failed to take into account technological advancement in terms of crude prospection and recent developments have proven that to be the case.

But for all that was said and done, there is one inimitable chap who cannot possibly be outdone –Total CEO Christophe de Margerie. When asked if Peak Oil was imminent, de Margerie declared, “There will be sufficient oil and gas and energy as a whole to cover the demand. That’s all! 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 bpd (in total energy production), and our expectation for 2030 is 325 million bpd.”

He forecasts 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 Total CEO quipped almost to the point of getting all worked up.

He concluded by saying that if unconventional sources of oil, including heavy oil and oil shale, are exploited, there will be sufficient oil to meet today’s consumption for up to 100 years, and for gas the rough estimate is 135 years. Or enough to make Hubbert stir in his grave.

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: Total's CEO De Margerie discusses Peak Oil at the 20th World Petroleum Congress © Gaurav Sharma 2011.

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