Showing posts with label Hawaii. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hawaii. Show all posts

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Algeria’s ‘dark cloud’, PDVSA’s ratings & more

The terrorist strike on Algeria’s In Amenas gas field last week and the bloodbath that followed as the country’s forces attempted to retake the facility has dominated the news headlines. The siege ended on Saturday with at least 40 hostages and 32 terrorists dead, according to newswires. The number is likely to alter as further details emerge. The hostage takers also mined the whole facility and a clear-up is presently underway. The field is operated as a joint venture between Algeria's Sonatrach, Statoil and BP. While an estimated 50,000 barrels per day (bpd) of condensate was lost as production stopped, the damage to Algeria’s oil & gas industry could be a lot worse as foreign oil workers were deliberately targeted.
In its assessment of the impact of the terror strike, the IEA said the kidnapping and murder of foreign oil workers at the gas field had cast a ‘dark cloud’ over the outlook for the country's energy sector. The agency said that 'political risk writ large' dominates much of the energy market, 'and not just in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya or Venezuela' with Algeria returning to their ranks. Some say it never left in the first place.
Reflecting this sentiment, BP said hundred of overseas workers from IOCs had left Algeria and many more were likely to join them. Three of the company’s own workers at the In Amenas facility are unaccounted for.
Continuing with the MENA region, news emerged that Saudi Arabia’s output fell 290,000 bpd in December to 9.36 million bpd. Subsequently, OPEC’s output in December also fell to its lowest level in a year at 30.65 million bpd. This coupled, with projections of rising Chinese demand, prompted the IEA to raise its global oil demand forecast for 2013 describing it as a 'sobering, 'morning after' view.'
The forecast is now 240,000 bpd more than the IEA estimate published in December, up to 90.8 million bpd; up 1% over 2012. "All of a sudden, the market looks tighter than we thought…OECD inventories are getting tighter - a clean break from the protracted and often counter-seasonal builds that had been a hallmark of 2012," IEA said.
However, the agency stressed there was no need for rushed interpretations. "The dip in Saudi supply, for one, seems less driven by price considerations than by the weather. A dip in air conditioning demand - as well as reduced demand from refineries undergoing seasonal maintenance - likely goes a long way towards explaining reduced output. Nothing for the global market to worry about," the IEA said.
"The bull market of 2003‐2008 was all about demand growth and perceived supply constraints. The bear market that followed was all about financial meltdown. Today's market, as the latest data underscore, has a lot to do with political risk writ large. Furthermore, changes in tax and trade policies, in China and in Russia, can, at the stroke of a pen, shakeup crude and products markets and redraw the oil trade map," the agency concluded.
Simply put, it’s too early for speculators to get excited about a possible bull rally in the first quarter of 2013, something which yours truly doubts as well. However, across the pond, the WTI forward month futures contract cut its Brent discount to less than US$15 at one point last week, the lowest since July. As the glut at Cushing, Oklahoma subsides following the capacity expansion of the Seaway pipeline, the WTI-Brent discount would be an interesting sideshow this year. 
The IEA added that non-OPEC production was projected to rise by 980,000 bpd to 54.3 million bpd, the highest growth rate since 2010. Concurrently, BP said that US shale oil production is expected to grow around 5 million bpd by 2030. This, according to the oil major, is likely to be offset by reductions in supply from OPEC, which has been pumping at historical highs led by the Saudis in recent years.
BP's chief economist Christof Ruehl said, "This will generate spare capacity of around 6 million bpd, and there's a fault line if there is higher shale production then the consequences would be even stronger." But the shale revolution will remain largely a "North American phenomenon," he added.
"No other country outside the US and Canada has yet succeeded in combining these factors to support production growth. While we expect other regions will adapt over time to develop their resources, by 2030 we expect North America still to dominate production of these resources," Ruehl said.
Along the same theme, CNN reported that California is sitting on a massive amount of shale oil and could become the next oil boom state. That’s only if the industry can get the stuff out of the ground without upsetting the state's powerful environmental lobby. Yeah, good luck with that!

Returning to Saudi Arabia, Fitch Ratings said earlier this month that an expansionary 2013 budget based on a conservative oil price will support another year of healthy economic growth for the country and a further strengthening of the sovereign's net creditor position. However, overall growth will slow “due to a decline in oil production that was already evident in recent months.”
In the full year to December-end 2013, the Saudi budget, unveiled on December 29, projected record spending of US$219 billion (34% of GDP), up by almost 20% on the 2012 budget. Budgeted capital spending is 28% higher than in 2012, though the government has struggled to achieve its capital spending targets in recent years.
While an 18% rise in Saudi revenues is projected in the budget, they are based on unstated oil price and production assumptions, with the former well below prevailing market prices. Fitch anticipates Saudi production and prices will be lower in 2013 than 2012.

"With no new revenue-raising measures announced and little scope for higher oil revenues, the revenue projection appears less cautious than usual. However, actual revenues generally substantially exceed budget revenues (by an average of 82% over the past five years) and should do so again in 2013," the agency said.
Meanwhile, political uncertainty continues in Venezuela with no clarity about the health of President Hugo Chavez. It has done Petróleos de Venezuela's (PDVSA), the country’s national oil company, no favours. On January 16, ratings agency Moody’s changed PDVSA's rating outlook to negative.

It followed the change in outlook for the Venezuelan government's local and foreign currency bond ratings to negative. "The sovereign rating action reflects increasing uncertainty over President Chavez's political succession, and the impact of a possibly tumultuous transition on civil order, the economy, and an already deteriorating government fiscal position," Moody’s said.
On PDVSA, the agency added that as a government-related issuer, the company's ratings reflect a high level of imputed government support and default correlation between the two entities. Hence, a downgrade of the government's local and foreign currency ratings would be likely to result in a downgrade of PDVSA's ratings as well.
Away from a Venezuela, two developments in the North Sea – a positive and a negative apiece – are worth taking about. Starting with the positive news first, global advisory firm Deloitte found that 65 exploration and appraisal wells were drilled on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), compared with 49 in 2011.
The activity, according to Deloitte, was boosted by a broader range of tax allowances and a sustained high oil price. The news came as Dana Petroleum said production had commenced at the Cormorant East field which would produce about 5,500 bpd initially. Production will be processed at the Taqa-operated North Cormorant platform, before being sent to BP's Sullom Voe terminal (pictured above) for sale.
Taqa, an Abu Dhabi government-owned energy company, has a majority 60% stake in the field. Alongside Dana Petroleum (20%), its other partners include Antrim Resources (8.4%), First Oil Expro (7.6%) and Granby Enterprises (4%).
While Taqa was still absorbing the positives, its Cormorant Alpha platform, about 160 km from the Shetland Islands, reported a leak leading to a production shut-down at 20 other interconnected North Sea oilfields.
Cormorant Alpha platform handles an output of about 90,000 bpd of crude which is transported through the Brent pipeline to Sullom Voe for dispatch. Of this only 10,000 bpd is its own output. Thankfully there was no loss of life and Taqa said the minor leak had been contained. It is currently in the process of restoring 80,000 bpd worth of crude back to the Brent pipeline system along with sorting its own output.
Finally, as the Oilholic blogged back in October on a visit to Hawaii, Tesoro is to close its Kapolei, O'ahu refinery in the island state in April as a buyer has failed to turn-up (so far). In the interim, it will be converting the facility to a distribution and storage terminal in the hope that a buyer turn up. The Oilholic hopes so too, but in this climate it will prove tricky. Tesoro will continue to fulfil existing supply commitments.
That’s all for the moment folks except to inform you that after resisting it for years, yours truly has finally succumbed and opened a Twitter account! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!
To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo: Sullom Voe Terminal, BP © BP Plc.

Friday, October 26, 2012

For US President, the Oilholic endorses 'neither'!

Whilst lounging on Hawaii’s beautiful White Sands Beach in Kona, the Oilholic wondered if the dear readers of this blog know what is a Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa (pronounced ‘humu – humu – nuku – nuku – apa – wapa’)? Revelation on what it is and how it relates to energy policy stances of President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney follows. The Presidential debates are over, all banners are up and the speeches are reaching a last minute fervour as Romney and Obama begin the concluding phases of their face-off ahead of the November 6, 2012 US Presidential election day.

As decision day draws nearer, the Oilholic endorses neither as both leading candidates have displayed a near lack of vision required to steer US energy policy in light of recent developments. The USA, despite its oil imports dynamic, believe it or not is the world’s third largest producer of crude oil by volume and among the market leaders in the distillates business.

With the next generation of independent wildcatters’ knack for finding value and economies of scale for small volumes (mostly in Texas and North Dakota), shale oil and an overall rise in countrywide oil output, things can only get better with the right man in charge at the White House. Additionally, the shale gas bonanza bears testimony to just about everything from American ingenuity and the benefits of an impressive pipeline (to market) network to a favourable legislative framework.

Yet both Obama and Romney sound unconvincing on respective plans for the energy industry despite their country’s domestic good fortune in recent years. The President’s policy has been a near failure while his opponent’s plans are insipid at best. Starting with the President first, since the Oilholic is in his birthplace of Hawaii and having arrived from California which hasn’t voted Republican in recent decades, bar the exception of Ronald Regan’s bid for the White House.

On the plus side, the Obama administration has opened up new US regions to oil and gas prospection though red tape persists. It has made noteworthy moves as a proponent of energy efficiency and energy economy drives for motorists and businesses alike. But on this briefest of note, the positivity ends. The BP Deepwater Horizon spill was as much about the failure of the company involved, as it was about the initial fuzzy response of the Obama administration followed by political points scoring as public anger grew when the spill wasn’t plugged for months.

Then of course there is the Solyndra boondoggle and supposed plans for “clean coal” where the less said the better, unless you are an opponent of the President. Shenanigans of the US Congress put paid to any plans he may have had for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Then of course there are politically fishy manoeuvres ranging from not offering proactive support to shale prospection and delaying the Keystone XL pipeline project from Canada until after the election and to reach (and then again subsequently threaten to reach) US strategic petroleum reserves as petrol prices rose at US pumps.

Yet for all of his incompetence, the American energy industry is not in an unhappy place thanks largely to the Bush administration’s recognition of the domestic reserve potential and Dick Cheney’s super-aggressive push on shale. What is disappointing is that it could have been much better under Obama but wasn’t. Remember all those “Yes we can” posters of his from the 2008 campaign. The Oilholic was hard pressed not to find at least one Obama banner once every four or five streets in major Californian metropolitan areas on a visit back then (using Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Sunnyvale and Sacramento as a basis).

Last week in San Diego yours truly found none and this week in Hawaii has been the same. For the US energy business, the absence of “Yes we can” banners conveys the same metaphorical message of being let down perhaps as the rest of the country. Things are tagging along in the energy business despite of Obama not because of anything in particular that he has done. Of course, he did make a tall claim of a cut in US oil imports from the Middle East which is true. However, the Oilholic agrees with T. Boone Pickens on this one – yes the US production rise has contributed to reduced importation of crude oil but so has the dip in economic performance which cuts energy usage and makes the citizenry energy frugal. What has Obama done?

Well so much so for the President, but what about his challenger? Sigh...The Right Honourable Mitt Romney’s policy is to make (and switch) a policy on the go accompanied by jumbled statements. Or, in something that would make the fictitious British civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby from BBC’s political satire Yes Minister proud – the Romney campaign’s policy is not to have a policy unless asked about a particular facet of the energy business.

So what do we know so far? Romney stands for less regulation, a more lenient approach to environmental regulations and will cut addiction to subsidies. But political waffle aside, all we have had is him blast Obama over the Solyndra affair, call for a repeal of Clean Air Act without outlining his ‘clean’ alternative and a proposal to allow wind power subsidies to lapse (again without spelling out the Romney plan for Wind Power).

He flags up the shale boom without being mindful that it too needed incentives to begin with before market forces kicked-in. Admittedly, the wind energy sector works to a different dynamic and is indeed subsidy addicted. But a quip to cut subsidies without a cohesive back-up plan reeks of political opportunism. The only way Romney scores better than Obama on energy policy is that he is not Obama and who knows if that might be reason enough to vote for good ol’ Mitt.

Both men have the fuzziest of plans with erratic changes in stance suited to the political climate in an election year. This brings us back to the Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa which is the Hawaiian state fish from the tropical reef triggerfish family. The local name simply means "the fish that grunts like a pig" for the sound it makes when caught. It is also prone to sudden erratic changes in position and swimming patterns while negotiating the Hawaiian coral reefs according to a local marine biologist. Kinda like the two main US Presidential candidates isn’t it?

That’s all from Hawaii folks as the Oilholic prepares for the long journey home. It has been a memorable week in another memorable part of America. Alas, all good things must come to an end. Yours truly leaves you with a photo of Hawaiian residents of the Punaluʻu Black Sand beach – the Hawksbill and Green sea turtles (above right) and moi at Old Kona State Airport recreation beach and park.

You can cycle down 30 miles along the Kona coastline and stop every 15 mins to ask “Is that a view? Or is that a view?” and you’ll conclude that that’s a view! The people are lovely, the food is great, the place oozes natural history and tales of human history. Since this blogger also drove 260 miles circling the entire Big Island via its main highway with the help of veteran local tour guide John Mack, one can confirm that different parts of this Hawaiian isle get 11 of the 13 climate ranges known to mankind.

It is a privilege to have spent a week here, where for a change blogging on oil did not reign supreme. Next stop Los Angeles International followed by London Heathrow – a day long up in the air affair! Keep reading; keep reading it ‘crude’ – but its goodbye to the ‘Aloha’ state!

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo 1: White Sands Beach Park, Kona. Photo 2: Oilholic at the Old Kona State Airport recreation beach park, Kona Kailua. Photo 3: Punaluʻu Black Sand beach, Hawaii, USA © Gaurav Sharma 2012.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hawaii’s crude reality: Being a petrohead costs!

In a break from the ‘crude’ norm for visits to the USA, the Oilholic packed his bags from California and headed deep out to the Pacific and say ‘Aloha’ to newest and 50th United State of Hawaii. It’s good to be here in the Kona district of the Big Island and realise that Tokyo is a lot closer than London.

It is interesting to note that Hawaii is the only US state still retaining the Union Jack in its flag and insignia. The whole flag itself is a deliberate hybrid symbol of British and American historic ties to Hawaii and traces its origins to Captain John Vancouver – the British Naval officer after whom the US and Canadian cities of Vancouver and Alaska’s Mount Vancouver are named.

What’s not good being here is realising that a 1.3 million plus residents of these northernmost isles in Polynesia pay the most for their energy and electricity needs from amongst their fellow citizens in the US. It is easy to see why, as part dictated by location constraints Hawaii presently generates over 75% of its electricity by burning Petroleum.

Giving the geography and physical challenges, most of the crude oil is shipped either from Alaska and California or overseas. Furthermore, the Islands have no pipelines as building these is not possible owing to volcanic and seismic activity. Here’s a view of one active crater – the Halema’uma’u in Kilauea Caldera (see above right). You can actually smell the sulphur dioxide while there as the Oilholic was earlier today. In fact the entire archipelago was created courtesy of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. The Big Island’s landmass of five plates is created out of Mauna Kea (dormant) and Mauna Loa (partly active) and the island is technically growing at moment as Kilaueu still spews lava which cools and forms land.

So both crude and distillates have to be moved by oil tankers between the islands or tanker lorries on an intra-island basis. The latter  creates regional pricing disparities. For instance in Hilo, the commercial heart of the Big Island and where the tanker docking stations are, gasoline is cheaper than Kona by almost 40-50 cents per gallon. The latter receives its distillates by road once tankers have docked at Hilo.

The state has two refineries both at Kapolei on the island of O‘ahu 20 miles west of capital Honolulu – one apiece owned by Tesoro and Chevron. The bigger of the two has a 93,700 barrels per day (bpd) and is owned by Tesoro; the recent buyer of BP’s Carson facility. However in January Tesoro put its Hawaiian asset up for sale.

Tesoro, which bought the refinery for US$275 million from BHP Petroleum Americas in 1998, said it no longer fitted with its strategic focus on the US Midcontinent and West Cost. The company expects the sale to be completed by the end of the year. Its Hawaiian retail operations, which include 32 gas stations, will also be part of the deal. Chevron operates Kapolei’s other refinery with a 54,000 bpd capacity. Between the two, there is enough capacity to meet Hawaii’s guzzling needs and the pressures imposed by US forces operations in the area.

In this serene paradise with volcanic activity and ample tidal movement, power generation from tidal and geothermal is not inconceivable and facilities do exist. In fact, for the remaining 25% of its energy mix, the state is one of eight US states with geothermal power generation and ranks third among them. Additionally, solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity increased by 150% in 2011, making Hawaii the 11th biggest US state for PV capacity. However, it is not nearly enough.

One simple solution that is being attempted is natural gas – something which local officials confirmed to the Oilholic. The EIA has also noted Hawaii’s moves in this direction. Oddly enough, while Hawaii hardly uses much natural gas, it is one of a handful of US states which actually produces synthetic natural gas. Switching from petroleum-based power generation to natural gas for much of Hawaii’s power generation could lower the state’s power bills considerably as the massive disconnect between US natural gas and crude oil prices looks set to continue.

Strong ‘gassy’ moves are afoot and anecdotal evidence here suggests feelers are being sent out to Canada, among others. In August, Hawaii Gas applied for a permit with the Federal Government to ship LNG to Hawaii from the West Coast. While the deliveries will commence later this year, arriving volumes of LNG would be small in the first phase of the project, according to Hawaii Gas. At least it is a start and the State House Bill 1464 now requires public utilities to provide 25% of net electricity sales from renewable sources by December 31, 2020 and 40% of net electricity sales from renewables by December 31, 2030.

That’s all for the moment folks as the Oilholic needs to explore the Big Island further via the old fashioned way which requires no crude or distillates – its the trusty old bicycle! Going back to history, it was Captain James Cook and not Vancouver who located these isles for the Western World in 1778. Regrettably, he got cooked following fracas with the locals in 1779 and peace was not made between Brits and locals until Vancouver returned years later.

Moving away from history, yours truly leaves you with a peaceful view of Punaluʻu or the Black Sand beach (see above left)! It is what nature magnificently created when fast flowing molten lava rapidly cooled and reached the Pacific Ocean. According to a US Park Ranger, the beach’s black sand is made of basalt with a high carbon content. It is a sight to behold and the Oilholic is truly beholden! On a visit there, you have a 99.99% chance of spotting the endangered Hawksbill and Green turtles lounging on the black sand. For once, yours truly is glad there are no bloody pipelines in the area blotting the landscape. More from Hawaii later - keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo 1: Halema’uma’u, Kilauea Caldera. Photo 2: Punaluʻu - the Black Sand beach, Hawaii, USA © Gaurav Sharma 2012.