Showing posts with label Offshore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Offshore. Show all posts

Friday, January 12, 2018

US, Canada rig counts jump as Brent hits $70/bbl

The latest Baker Hughes rig count is out with the number of US, Canadian and International rigs all on the up. 

The US rig count is up 15 rigs from last week to 939, with oil rigs up 10 to 752, gas rigs up 5 to 187, and miscellaneous rigs unchanged. 

Compared to last year, US rig count is up 280 rigs from 2017's count over the same week of 659, with oil rigs up 230, gas rigs up 51, and miscellaneous rigs down 1 to 0. 

Canada's rig count is up 102 rigs from last week to 276, with oil rigs up 87 to 185 and gas rigs up 15 to 91. The headline figure is down 39 rigs from last year's count of 315, with oil rigs up 15, gas rigs down 53, and miscellaneous rigs down 1 to 0. 

As for the international rig count, it was up 12 in December, compared to the month before to 954 rigs, and up 25 on the same month in 2016. With the West Texas Intermediate firming up around $65 per barrel, and Brent hitting $70 for the first time since December 2014, the latest data does give the bears some food for thought. Happy Friday folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’! 

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here

© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Photo: Workers examining offshore rig in the distance © Cairn Energy.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

OPEC vibes, a Libyan matter & market chatter

As OPEC prepares to meet for the first time this year, oil ministers of the 12 member nations should feel reasonably content. The hawks always like the oil price to be in three figures and doves usually like a support level above the region of US$85 per barrel using Brent as a benchmark. Needless to say, both camps are sitting comfortably at the moment and will continue to do so for a while.

Macroeconomic permutations and risk froth is keeping the oil price where OPEC wants it, so the Oilholic would be mighty surprised if the ministers decide to budge from the present official quota cap of 30 million barrels per day. Those going long on Brent have already bet on OPEC keeping its output right where it is.

Over the week to May 27, bets on a rising price rose to their highest level since September 2013. ICE's Commitment of Traders report for the week saw all concerned, including hedge funds, increase their net long position in Brent crude by 6% (or 4,692) to 213,364 positions, marking a third successive week of increases. Going the other way, the number of short positions fell by 7,796 to 42,096.

Wires might be saying that "all eyes" are on OPEC, but not many eyes would roll at Helferstorferstrasse 17 once the announcement is made. Futures actually slipped by around 0.5% as dullness and a minor bout of profit taking set in last week at one point. While the quota level is a done deal, what ministers would most likely discuss, when those pesky scribes (and er...bloggers) have been ejected out for the closed door meeting, is how much China would be importing or not.

Several independent forecasters, including the US EIA have predicted that China is likely to become the largest net importer of oil in 2014. By some measures it already is, and OPEC ministers would like to ponder over how much of that Chinese demand would be met by them as US imports continue to decline.

Other matters of course pertain to the appointment of a successor to Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri, and where OPEC stands on the issue of production in his home country of Libya, which is nowhere near the level recorded prior to the civil war.

In order to pick-up the Libyan pulse a little better ahead of the OPEC meet, yours truly headed to IRN/Oliver Kinross 3rd New Libya Conference late last month. The great and good concerned with Libya were all there – IOCs, Libyan NOC, politicians, diplomats and civil servants from UK and Libya alike.

A diverse range of stakeholders agreed that the race to reversing Libyan production back to health would be a long slow marathon rather than a short sprint. Anyone who says otherwise is being naively optimistic.

Forget geopolitics, several commentators were quick to point out that Libya has had no private sector presence in the oil & gas sector. Instead, until recently, it has had 40 years of a controlling Gaddafi fiefdom. Legislative challenges also persist, as one commentator noted: "The road map to a petroleum regime starts first with a constitution."

That's something newly-elected Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteg must ponder over as he tries to bring a fractured country together. Then there is the investment case scenario. Foreign stake-holding in Libyan concerns is only permitted up to 49% despite a risky climate; the Libyan partner must be the majority owner. The oil & gas business has always operated under risk versus reward considerations. But a heightened sense of risk is something not all investors can cope with as noted by Sir Dominic Asquith, former UK ambassador to Iraq, Egypt and Libya, who was among the delegates.

"There is a long term potential with a bright Libyan horizon on the cards. However, getting to it would be a difficult journey, and particularly so for small and medium companies with a lesser propensity to take risk on their balance sheets than major companies," he added.

Meanwhile, a UK Foreign & Commonwealth office spokesperson said the British Government was not changing travel advice to Libya for its citizens any time soon. "We advise against all but essential travel to the country and Benghazi remains off limits. In case of companies wishing to do business in Libya, we strongly urge them to professionally review their own security arrangements."

Combine all of these latent challenges with the ongoing shenanigans and its not hard to figure out why the nation has become one of the smallest producers among its 12 OPEC counterparts and it may be a while yet before investors warm up to it. However, amid the pessimism, there is some optimism too.

Ahmed Ben Halim, CEO of Libya Holdings Group noted that sooner rather than later, the Libyans will sort their affairs out, even though the journey would be pretty volatile. Fares Law Group's Yannil Belbachir pointed out that despite everything all financial institutions were functions normally. That's always a good starting point.

Some uber-optimists also expressed hope of making Libya a "solar power" by tapping sunlight to produce electricity, introduce it back into the grid and send it via subsea cable from Tripoli to Sicily. Noble cause indeed! Being more realistic and looking at the medium term, with onshore prospection and production getting disrupted, offshore Sirte exploration, first realised by Hess Corporation, could provide a minor boost. Everyone from BP to the Libyan NOC is giving it a jolly good try!

Just one footnote, before the Oilholic takes your leave and that's to let you all know that one has also decided to provide insight to Forbes as a contributor on 'crude' matters which can be accessed here; look forward to your continued support on both avenues. That's all from London for the moment folks; more shortly from sunny Vienna at the 165th meeting of OPEC ministers . Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com 

© Gaurav Sharma, 2014. Photo 1: OPEC HQ, Vienna, Austria. © Gaurav Sharma, 2014.

Friday, October 11, 2013

North Sea & the 'crude' mood in Aberdeen

The Oilholic spent the wee hours of this morning counting the number of North Sea operational support ships docked in Aberdeen Harbour. Interestingly enough, of the nine in the harbour, six were on the Norwegian ships register.

Whether you examine offshore oil & gas activity in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea or the British sector, there is a sense here that the industry is enjoying something of a mini revival if not a full blown renaissance. As production peaked in the late 1990s, empirical evidence that oil majors had begun looking elsewhere for better yields started emerging. Some even openly claimed they’d given up.

Over a decade later, with new extraction techniques and enhanced hydrocarbon recovery mechanisms in vogue – a different set of players have arrived in town from Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA) to Austria's OMV, from Canada's Talisman Energy to China's Sinopec. Oil recovery from mature fields is now the talk of the town.

Even the old hands at BP, Shell and Statoil – who have divested portions of their North Sea holdings – seem to be optimistic. The reason can be found in the three figure price of Brent! Most commentators the Oilholic has spoken to here, including energy economists, taxation experts, financiers and one roughneck [with 27 years of experience under his belt] are firmly of the view that a US$100 per barrel price or above supports the current level of investment in mature fields.

One contact remarks that the ongoing prospection and work on mature fields can even take an oil price dip to around $90-level. "However, anything below that would make a few project directors nervous. Nonetheless, the connect with between Brent price fluctuation and long term planning is not as linear as is the case between investment in Canadian oil sands projects and the Western Canadian Select (WSC) price."      

To put some context, the WSC was trading at a $30 per barrel discount to the WTI last time yours truly checked. Concurrently, Brent's premium to the WTI, though well below historic highs, is just shy of $10 per barrel. Another contact, who retains faith in the revival of the North Sea hypothesis, says it also bottles down to the UK's growing demand for natural gas.

"It's what'll keep West of Shetland prospection hot. Furthermore, and despite concern about capacity constraints, sound infrastructural support is there in the shape of the West of Shetland Pipeline (WOSP) which transports natural gas from three offshore fields in the area to Sullom Voe Terminal [operated by BP]."

While further hydrocarbon discoveries have been made atop what's already onstream, they are not yet in the process of being developed. That's partially down to prohibitive costs and partially down to concerns about WOSP's capacity. However, that's not dampening the enthusiasm in Aberdeen.

Five years ago, many predicted a rig and infrastructure decommissioning bonanza to be a revenue generator and become a thriving industry itself. "But enhanced oil recovery schemes keep pushing this 'bonanza' back for another day. This in itself bears testimony to what's afoot here," says one contact.

UK Chancellor George Osborne also appears to be listening. In his budget speech on March 20, he said that the government would enter into contracts with companies in the sector to provide "certainty" over tax relief measures. That has certainly cheered industry players in Aberdeen as well the lobby group Oil & Gas UK.

"The move by the Chancellor gives companies the certainty they need over the tax treatment of decommissioning. At no cost to the government, it will speed up asset sales and free up capital for companies to use for investment, extending the productive life of the UK Continental Shelf," a spokesperson says, echoing what many here have opined.

Osborne's budget speech also had one 'non-crude' bit of good news for the region. The Chancellor revealed that one of the two bidders for the UK government's £1 billion support programme for Carbon Capture and Storage (CC&S) is the Peterhead Project here in Aberdeenshire. Overall, the industry sounds optimistic, just don't mention the 'R-word'. Scotland is due to hold a referendum on September 18, 2014 on whether it wants to be independent or remain part of the United Kingdom.

Hardly any contact in a position of authority wants to express his/her opinion on record with the description of political 'hot potato' attributed to the referendum issue by many. The response perhaps is understandable. It's an issue that is dividing colleagues and workforces throughout the length and breadth of Scotland.

General consensus among commentators seems to be that the industry would be better off in a 'United' Kingdom. However, even it were to become a 'Disunited' Kingdom come September 2014, industry veterans believe the global nature of the oil & gas business and the craving for hydrocarbons would imply that the sector itself need not be spooked too much about the result. National opinion polls suggest that most Scots currently prefer a United Kingdom, but also that a huge swathe of the population is as yet undecided and could be swayed either way.

In a bid to conduct an unscientific yet spirited opinion poll of unknown people since known ones were unwilling, the Oilholic quizzed three taxi drivers around town and four bus drivers at Union Square. Result – two were in the 'Yes to independence' camp, four were in the 'No' camp and one said he'd just about had enough of the 'ruddy question' being everywhere from newspapers to radio talk shows, to a stranger like yours truly asking him and that he couldn't give a damn!

Moving away from the politics and the projects to the crude oil price itself, where black gold has had quite a fortnight in the wake of a US political stalemate with regard to the country's debt ceiling. Nervousness about the shenanigans on Capitol Hill and the highest level of US crude oil inventories in a while have pushed WTI’s discount to Brent to its widest in nearly three months by this blogger's estimate.

Should the unthinkable happen and the political stalemate over the US debt ceiling not get resolved, it is the Oilholic's considered viewpoint that Brent is likely to receive much more support at $100-level than the WTI, should bearish trends grip the global commodities market. This blogger has maintained for a while that the WTI price still includes undue froth in any case, thereby making it much more vulnerable to bearish sentiment. 

Just one final footnote, before calling it a day and sampling something brewed in Scotland – according to a recent note put out by the Worldwatch Institute, the global commodity 'supercycle' slowed down in 2012. In its latest Vital Signs Online trends report, the institute noted that global commodity prices dropped by 6% in 2012, a marked change from the dizzying growth during the commodities supercycle of 2002-12, when prices surged an average of 9.5% per annum, or 150% over the stated 10-year period.

Worldwatch Institute says that during the supercycle, the financial sector took advantage of the changing landscape, and the commodities market went from being "little more than a banking service as an input to trading" to a full-fledged asset class; an event that some would choose to describe as "assetization of commodities" and that most certainly includes black gold. Supercycle or not, there is no disguising the fact that large investment banks participate in both financial as well as commercial aspects of commodities trading (and will continue to do so).

Worldwatch Institute notes that at the turn of the century, total commodity assets under management came to just over $10 billion. By 2008 that number had increased to $160 billion, although $57 billion of that left the market that year during the global financial crisis. The decline was short-lived, however, and by the end of the third quarter in 2012, the total commodity assets under management had reached a staggering $439 billion.

Oil averaged $105 per barrel last year and a slowdown in overall commodity price growth was indeed notable, but Worldwatch Institute says it is still not clear if the so-called supercycle is completely over. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo 1: North Sea support ships in Aberdeen Harbour. Photo 2: City Plaque near ferry terminal, Aberdeen, Scotland © Gaurav Sharma, October 2013.

Monday, September 10, 2012

BP’s sale, South Africa’s move & the North Sea

BP continues to catch the Oilholic’s eye via its ongoing strategic asset sale programme aimed at mitigating the financial fallout from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill. Not only that, a continual push to get rid of refining and marketing (R&M) assets should also be seen as positive for its share price.
 
This afternoon, the oil giant inked a deal to sell five of its oil & gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico for US$5.6 billion to Plains Exploration and Production; an American independent firm. However, BP Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley reiterated that the oil giant remains committed to the region.
 
"While these assets no longer fit our business strategy, the Gulf of Mexico remains a key part of BP's global exploration and production portfolio and we intend to continue investing at least US$4 billion there annually over the next decade," he said in statement following the announcement.
 
Last month BP agreed to sell the Carson oil refinery in California to Tesoro for US$2.5 billion. As a footnote, the agreement holds the potential to make Tesoro the largest refiner on the West Coast and a substantial coastal R&M player alongside the oil majors. While regulatory scrutiny is expected, anecdotal evidence from California suggests the deal is likely to be approved. Back in June, BP announced its intention to sell its stake in TNK-BP, the company's lucrative but acrimony fraught Russian venture.
 
One can draw a straight logic behind the asset sales which BP would not contest. A recent civil case filed by the US Department of Justice against BP does not mince its words accusing the oil giant of “gross negligence” over the Gulf of Mexico spill which followed an explosion that led to the death of 11 workers. Around 4.9 million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf according to some estimates.
 
The charges, if upheld by the court, could see BP fined by as much as US$21 billion. The trial starts in January and BP, which denies the claim, says it would provide evidence contesting the charges. The company aims to raise US$38 billion via asset sales by Q4 2012. However, the Oilholic is not alone is his belief that the sale programme, while triggered by the spill of 2010, has a much wider objective of portfolio trimming and a pretext to get rid of burdensome R&M assets.
 
Meanwhile in Russia, the Kremlin is rather miffed about the European Commission’s anti-trust probe into Gazprom. According to the country’s media, the Russian government said the probe “was being driven by political factors.” Separately, Gazprom confirmed it would no longer be developing the Shtokman Arctic gas field citing escalating costs. Since, US was the target export market for the gas extracted, Gazprom has probably concluded that shale exploration stateside has all but ended hopes making the project profitable.
 
Sticking with Shale, reports over the weekend suggest that South Africa has ended its moratorium on shale gas extraction. A series of public consultations and environmental studies which could last for up to two years are presently underway. It follows a similar decision in the UK back in April.
 
Sticking with the UK, the country’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) says output of domestic mining & quarrying industries fell 2.4% in July 2012 on an annualised basis; the 22nd consecutive monthly fall. More worryingly, the biggest contributor to the decrease came from oil & gas extraction which fell 4.3% in year over year terms.
 
The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has reacted to declining output. After addressing taxation of new UKCS prospection earlier this year, Osborne switched tack to brownfield sites right after the ONS released the latest production data last week.
 
Announcing new measures, the UK Treasury said an allowance for "brownfield" exploration will now shield portions of income from the supplementary charge on their profits. It added that the allowance would give companies the incentive to "get the most out of" older fields. Speaking on BBC News 24, Osborne added that the long-term tax revenues generated by the change would significantly outweigh the initial cost of the allowance.
 
According to the small print, income of up to £250 million in qualifying brownfield projects, or £500 million for projects paying Petroleum Revenue Tax (PRT), would be protected from a 32% supplementary charge rate applied by the UK Treasury to such sites.
 
Roman Webber, tax partner at Deloitte, believes the allowance should stimulate investment in older fields in the North Sea where it was previously deemed uneconomical. Such investment is vital in preserving and extending the life of existing North Sea infrastructure, holding off decommissioning and maximising the recovery of the UK’s oil & gas resources.
 
“Enabling legislation for the introduction of this allowance was already included in the UK Finance Act 2012, announced earlier this year. The allowance will work by reducing the profits subject to the 32% Supplementary Charge. The level of the allowances available will depend on the expected project costs and incremental reserves, but will be worth up to a maximum of £160 million net for projects subject to PRT and £80 million for those that are not subject to the tax,” Webber notes.
 
Finally on the crude pricing front, Brent's doing US$114-plus when last checked. It has largely been a slow start to oil futures trading week either side of the pond as traders reflect on what came out of Europe last week and is likely to come out of the US this week. Jack Pollard of Sucden Financial adds that Chinese data for August showed a deteriorating fundamental backdrop for crude with net imports at 18.2 million metric tonnes; a 13% fall on an annualised basis.
 
Broadly speaking, the Oilholic sees a consensus in the City that Brent’s trading range of US$90 to US$115 per barrel will continue well into 2013. However for the remaining futures contracts of the year, a range of US$100 to US$106 is more realistic as macroeconomics and geopolitical risks seesaw around with a relatively stronger US dollar providing the backdrop. It is prudent to point out that going short on the current contract is based Iran not flaring up. It hasn't so far, but is factored in to the current contract's price. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!
 
© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: Oil Rig © Cairn Energy

Monday, March 19, 2012

Three Months, Three Cities, Three ‘crude’ reports

The three cities being – Delhi, Doha and Vienna, the three reports being Oilholic’s work on Latin American Offshore, Shale Oil & Gas and Refineries projects outlook, research for which was spread over December, January and February from the 20th World Petroleum Congress to the 160th OPEC Meeting to the streets of ‘crude’ Delhi.

The last of the three reports was published by Infrastructure Journal on Feb 29th and while the analysis in the reports remains the preserve of the Journal’s subscribers, the Oilholic is more than happy to share a few snippets starting with the Latin American offshore landscape, which shows no signs of a post ‘Macondo’ hangover [1].

In fact, the month of May, will be a momentous one for the region’s offshore oil & gas projects market in general and Brazil in particular, as the country would dispatch its first shipment of oil from ultradeepwater pre-sal (‘below the salt layer’) sources. The said export consignment of 1 million barrels destined for Chile is a relatively minor one in global crude oil volume terms. However, its significance for offshore prospection off Latin American waters is immense.

When thinking about Latin American offshore projects think Brazil; think Brazil and think Petrobras’ Lula test well in the Santos basin, named after the former president, which is producing 100,000 barrels per day (bpd). Almost over a third of the Chilean consignment originated from the Lula well according to the Oilholic’s sources.

What should excite project financiers, corporate financiers and technical advisers alike is the fact the company expects to pump nearly 5 million bpd by 2020 and its ambitious drive needs investment.

However, ignoring other jurisdictions in the region and focussing only on Brazil, its promise and problems would be a fallacy. Others such as Argentina, Columbia and prospection in Falkland Islands waters are worth examining, the latter especially from the standpoint of corporate financed asset acquisitions.

Data always helps in contextualising the market movements. Using the present Infrastructure Journal data series on project finance, which commenced in 2005, figures certainly suggest the sun is shining on the Brazilian offshore industry. Of the 15 Latin American offshore projects on record which reached financial close between October 2006 and Sept 2011, 13 were Brazilian along with one apiece from Panama and Peru (Click on pie-chart above to enlarge). With a cumulative deal valuation of just under US$9.3 billion, among these Brazil’s Guara FPSO valued at US$1.2 billion led the way reaching financial close in June 2011.

The year 2010, was a particularly good one for Brazil with five projects reaching financial close. Over the last three years, sponsors of offshore projects in the country have been consistent in approaching the debt markets and bringing three to five projects per annum to financial close, with 2011 following that trend.

Moving on to the Oilholic’s second report, for all intents and purposes, Shale oil & gas prospection has been the energy story of the last half decade and Q1 2012 would be an apt time to scrutinise the ‘Fracks’ and figures[2].

To say that shale gas has altered the American energy landscape would be the understatement of the decade, or to be more specific at least half a decade. Courtesy of the process of hydraulic ‘fracking’, shale gas prospection – most of which was initially achieved in the US by independent upstart project developers – has been an epic game changer.

US shale gas production stood at 4.9 trillion cubic feet (tcf) by end-2011, which is 25% of total US production up from 4% in 2005. Concurrently, net production itself is rising exponentially owing to the shale drive according to the EIA.

Project finance aside, it is in the corporate finance data where the shale story is truly reflected – i.e. one of a steady rise both in terms of deal valuation as well as the number of projects. From four corporate infrastructure finance deals valued at US$1.89 billion in 2009, both data metrics posted an uptick to seven deals valued at US$8.35 billion in 2010 and 10 deals valued at US$7.58 billion in 2011 (Click on bar-chart above to enlarge).

However, a short term global replication of a US fracking heaven is unlikely and not just because there isn’t a one size fits all model to employ. While American success with shale projects has not escaped the notice of Europeans; financiers and sponsors in certain quarters of the ‘old continent’ are pragmatic enough to acknowledge that Europe is no USA. The recent shale projects bonanza stateside is no geological fluke; rather it bottles down to a combination of geology, American tenacity and inventiveness.

Europe’s best bet is Poland, but European shale oil & gas projects market is unlikely to record an uptick between 2012 to 2017 on a scale noticed in North America in general and the USA in particular between 2007 and 2012. The financing for shale projects – be it corporate finance or project finance – would be a slow, but steady trickle rather than a stream beyond North America.

Finally, to the Refineries report, given the wider macroeconomic climate, refinery infrastructure investment continues to face severe challenges in developed jurisdictions and Western markets[3]. Concurrently, the balance of power in this subsector of the oil & gas infrastructure market is rapidly tipping in favour of the East.

Even if refinery investment of state-owned Chinese oil & gas behemoths, which rarely approach the debt markets, is ignored – there is a palpable drive in emerging economies elsewhere in favour of refinery investment as they do not have to contend with overcapacity issues hounding the EU and North America.

For some it is a needs-based investment; for others it makes geopolitical sense as their Western peers holdback on investing in this subsector. The need for refined products is often seen superseding concerns about low refining margins, especially in the Indian subcontinent and Asia Pacific.

Industry data, empirical, anecdotal evidence and direct feedback from industry participants do not fundamentally alter the Oilholic’s view of tough times ahead for refinery infrastructure. As cracking crude oil remains a strategic business, investing in refinery infrastructure reflects this sentiment, investor appetite and financiers' attitudes.

According to current IJ data, investment in refinery infrastructure via private or semi-private financing continues to remain muted; a trend which began in 2008. In fact, 2011 has been the most wretched year since the publication began recording refinery project finance data.

Updated figures suggest the year 2010, which saw the artificial fillip of Saudi Arabia’s mega Jubail refinery project (valued at US$14.04 billion) reach financial close, has been the best year so far for refinery project finance valuation despite closing a mere two projects. However, industry pragmatists would look at 2008 which saw ten projects valued at US$9.39 billion as a much better year (Click on bar-chart above to enlarge).

From there on it has been a tale of post global financial crisis woes with the market struggling to show any semblance of a recovery and most of the growth coming from non-OECD jurisdictions. In 2009, three projects valued at US$4.79 billion reached financial close, followed by two projects including Jubail valued at US$15.04 billion in 2010, and another two projects valued at US$1.49 billion in 2011. By contrast, the pre-crisis years of 2005, 2006 and 2007 averaged US$6.71 billion in terms of transaction valuations.

A general market trend in favour of non-OECD project finance investment in refineries is obviously mirrored in the table of the top deals between 2005 and 2011 (above). Of the five, four are in non-OECD countries – led by Jubail Refinery (Saudi Arabia) valued at US$14.04 billion which closed in 2010, followed by Guru Gobind Singh Bhatinda Refinery, India (valued at US$4.69 billion, financial close – 2007), Jamnagar 2 Refinery, India (US$4.50 billion, financial close – 2006) and Paradip refinery, India (US$2.99 billion, financial close – 2009).

Only one deal from an OECD nation, which is a very recent member of the club, made it to the top five, namely Poland’s Grupa Lotos Gdansk Refinery Expansion valued at US$2.85 billion which reached financial close in 2008. Simply put, the future of infrastructure investment in this sub-component of the oil & gas business lies increasingly in the East wherein India could be a key market. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

NOTES:

[1] Latin American Offshore O&G Outlook 2012: Brazil’s decade, By Gaurav Sharma, Infrastructure Journal, January 17, 2012. Available here.

[2] Shale Oil & Gas Outlook 2012: The ‘Fracks’ and figures, By Gaurav Sharma, Infrastructure Journal, January 25, 2012. Available here.

[3] Refinery Projects Outlook 2012: ‘Cracking’ times for Eastern markets, By Gaurav Sharma, Infrastructure Journal, February 29, 2012. Available here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Graphics: Pie Chart 1 – Latin American Offshore Project Finance transactions (October 2006 to Sept 2011), Bar Chart 1 – Number of Shale Corporate Finance transactions (2009-2011), Bar Chart 2 – Refinery Project Finance Valuation (2005-2011) © Infrastructure Journal.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mr. Gabrielli, an IEA revision & the Kuwaiti situation

This Monday, the crude world bid farewell to Petrobras’ inimitable CEO José Sergio Gabrielli de Azevedo who stepped down from his position having been at the Brazilian major's helm since July 2005. Over his tenure, Petrobras took great strides towards ultradeepwater offshore exploration and made several overseas forays. Rumours had been lurking around since January that Gabrielli was in the twilight of his career at Petrobras following differences with Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff – but both the government and the company strenuously denied it.

The reins of Petrobras have now passed on to Maria das Graças Silva Foster (pictured left) a corporate veteran who has worked at Petrobras for 31 years. In addition to occupying various executive level positions in the company, Foster has been CEO of Petroquisa - Petrobras Química, and CEO and CFO of Petrobras Distribuidora. In her career, she was also Secretary of Oil, Natural Gas and Renewable Fuels at the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy from January 2003 to September 2005.

Earlier, Petrobras approved the contract for 21 offline rigs with Sete Brasil, at an average daily rate of US$530,000 and the contract for 5 dual activity rigs with Ocean Rig, at the average day rate of US$548,000, both for a 15-year term. All units, which have local content requirements ranging from 55% to 65%, are to be delivered within 48 to 90 months, according to the schedules established in the contracts.

The project includes the construction of new shipyards in the country and the use of existing infrastructure. Petrobras expects to reduce the average daily rates to US$500,000 for the Sete Brasil contract and to US$535,000 for the Ocean Rig contract. These amounts may suffer further reductions if the parties detect and agree to mechanisms that reduce operating costs.

With these contracts, the plan to contract 28 drilling rigs to be built in Brazil to meet the demands of the long-term drilling program, primarily for use in pre-salt wells has been completed. Based on the conditions submitted by the companies and on the current demand for the development of future projects, Petrobras, in its own words, "chose to take advantage of the negotiated conditions and contract five additional which were not originally planned."

All this is fine and dandy, but since the timelines of construction and delivery are so lengthy, a hike in construction costs is likely – more so because some yards where the rigs are expected to be built, haven’t yet been built themselves. But the Oilholics loathes being too sceptical about what is a reasonably positive agreement.

Meanwhile, the IEA has cut its oil demand forecast again! In an announcement last week, the agency said a weak global economy had prompted its sixth successive monthly revision to forecasts by 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 800,000 barrels for 2012. Before the IEA, the US EIA actually made an upward revision of 50,000 barrels to 1.32 million bpd while OPEC cut its forecast by 120,000 bpd to 940,000. All three forecasters are looking towards non-OECD jurisdictions for demand growth.

Elsewhere, the Oilholic would like to highlight two very interesting corporate client notes. In one issued on February 7th, Fitch Ratings observed that following the recent parliamentary elections in Kuwait, marked frictions between an elected Parliament and the appointed government will continue to weigh on the reform agenda and hamper political effectiveness.

The agency feels that difficulties in reaching agreement at the political level will continue to affect economic reforms, including the implementation of a four-year development plan (worth 80% of GDP over 2010-11 and 2013-14), which aims at boosting the country's infrastructure and diversifying the economy away from oil.

Nonetheless, Fitch rates Kuwait as 'AA' with a Stable Outlook. As relatively high oil prices are being forecast, Fitch’s own being at US$100/barrel for 2012, Kuwait’s earnings should continue to ensure double digit current account and fiscal surpluses which lend support to the rating.

Moving on to the second note, on the expected impact of US' QE3 on the commodity market circulated on February 10th, Société Générale analysts Michael Haigh and Jesper Dannesboe opine that an increase of expected inflation during QE3 Stateside coupled with the impact of the EU embargo on Iran could result in the DJ-UBS commodity index rising 20% and Brent prices rising to US$130/barrel.

“Sep12 Brent call spread with strikes at US$117 (long) and US$130 (short). The current net up-front cost: about US$4.6/barrel. This results in a maximum net profit of US$8.4/barrel. If one also sells a Sep12 US$100/barrel put, the overall structure would have zero upfront cost and the maximum net profit would be US$13.7/barrel. We consider a price drop below US$100 to be very unlikely,” they wrote and the Oilholic quotes. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: Petrobras CEO Maria das Graças Silva Foster © Petrobras Press Office.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Discussing Offshore, BP & all the rest on TV

After researching the impact of BP’s disaster on offshore drilling stateside using Houston as a hub to criss-cross North America for almost a month, I published my findings in a report for Infrastructure Journal noting that both anecdotal and empirical evidence as well as industry data suggested no material alteration when it comes to offshore drilling activity. The reason is simple enough – the natural resource in question – crude oil has not lost its gloss. Consumption patterns have altered but there is no seismic shift; marginally plummeting demand in the West is being more than negated in the East.

So over a year on from Apr 20, 2010, on that infamous day when the Deepwater Horizon rig at the Macondo oil well in Gulf of Mexico exploded and oil spewed into the ocean for 87 days until it was sealed by BP on July 15, 2010, the oilholic safely observes that if there was a move away from offshore – its clearly not reflected in the data whether you rely on Smith bits, Baker Hughes or simply look at the offshore project finance figures of Infrastructure Journal.

After publication of my report on the infamous first anniversary of the incident, I commented on various networks, most notably CNBC (click to watch), that (a) while offshore took a temporary hit in the US, that did not affect offshore activity elsewhere, (b) no draconian knee-jerk laws were introduced though the much maligned US Minerals Management Service (MMS) was deservedly replaced by Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and (c) Brazil is fast becoming the “go to destination” for offshore enthusiasts. Finally as I blogged earlier, the sentiment that BP is somehow giving up or is going to give up on the lucrative US market – serving the world biggest consumers of gasoline – is a load of nonsense!

So what has happened since then? Well we have much more scrutiny of the industry – not just in the US but elsewhere too. This increases what can be described as the diligence time load – i.e. simply put the legal compliance framework for offshore projects. Furthermore, without contingency plans and costly containment systems, the US government is highly unlikely to award offshore permits. So the vibe from Houston is that while the big players can take it; the Gulf may well be out of reach of smaller players.

Now just how deep is 'deepwater' drilling as the term is dropped around quite casually? According a Petrobras engineer with whom I sat down to discuss this over a beer – if we are talking ultra-deepwater drilling – then by average estimates one can hit the ocean floor at 7,000 feet, followed by 9800 feet of rock layer and another 7,000 feet of salt layer before the drillbit hits the deep-sea oil. This is no mean feat – its actually quite a few feet! Yet no one is in a mood to give-up according to financial and legal advisers and the sponsors they advise both here in London and across the pond in Houston.

To cite an example, on Oct 12, 2010 – President Obama lifted the moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf. By Oct 21, Chevron had announced its US$7.5 billion offshore investment plans there – a mere 9 days is all it took! Whom are we kidding? Offshore is not dead, it is not even wounded – we are just going to drill deeper and deeper. If the demand is there, the quest for supply will continue.

As for the players involved in Macondo, three of the five involved – BP, Anadarko Petroleum and Transocean – may be hit with severe monetary penalties, but Halliburton and Cameron International look less likely to be hit by long term financial impact.

How Transocean – which owned the Deepwater Horizon rig – manages is the biggest puzzle for me. Moody's currently maintains a negative outlook on Transocean's current Baa3 rating. This makes borrowing for Transocean all that more expensive, but not impossible and perhaps explains its absence from the debt markets. How it will copes may be the most interesting sideshow.

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: Gaurav Sharma on CNBC, April 20, 2011 © CNBC

Friday, December 31, 2010

Final Notes of Crude Year 2010

Recapping the last fortnight, I noted some pretty interesting market chatter in the run-up to the end of the year. Crude talk cannot be complete without a discussion on the economic recovery and market conjecture is that it remains on track.

In its latest quarterly Global Economic Outlook (GEO) Dec. edition, Fitch Ratings recently noted that despite significant financial market volatility, the global economic recovery is proceeding in line with its expectations, largely due to accommodative policy support in developed markets and continued emerging-market dynamism.

In the GEO, Fitch has marginally revised up its projections for world growth to 3.4% for 2010 (from 3.2%), 3.0% for 2011 (from 2.9%), and 3.3% for 2012 (from 3.0%) compared to the October edition of the GEO. Emerging markets continue to outperform expectations and Fitch has raised its 2010 forecasts for China, Brazil, and India due to still buoyant economic growth. However, the agency has revised down its Russian forecast as the pace of recovery proved weak, partly as a result of the severe drought and heatwave in the summer.

Fitch forecasts growth of 8.4% for these four countries (the BRICs) in 2010, and 7.4% for each of 2011 and 2012. While there are ancillary factors, there is ample evidence that crude prices are responding to positive chatter. Before uncorking something alcoholic to usher in the New Year, the oilholic noted that either side of the pond, the forward month crude futures contract capped US$90 per barrel for the first time in two years. Even the OPEC basket was US$90-plus.

Most analysts expect Brent to end 2012 at around US$105-110 a barrel and some are predicting higher prices. The city clearly feels a US$15-20 appreciation from end-2010 prices is not unrealistic.

Moving away from prices, in a report published on December 15th, Moody's changed its Oilfield Services Outlook to positive from stable reflecting higher earnings expectations for most oilfield services and land drilling companies in 2011.

However, the report also notes that the oilfield services sector remains exposed to significant declines in oil and natural gas prices, as well as heightened US regulatory scrutiny of hydraulic fracturing and onshore drilling activity, which could push costs higher and limit the pace and scale of E&P capital investment.

Peter Speer, the agency’s Senior Credit Officer, makes a noteworthy comment. He opines that although natural gas drilling is likely to decline moderately in 2011, many E&Ps will probably keep drilling despite the weak economics to retain their leases or avoid steep production declines. Any declines in gas-directed drilling are likely to be offset by oil drilling, leading to a higher US rig count in 2011.

However, Speer notes that offshore drillers and related logistics service providers pose a notable exception to these positive trends. "We expect many of these companies to experience further earnings declines in 2011, as the U.S. develops new regulatory requirements and permitting processes following the Macondo accident in April 2010, and as activity slowly increases in this large offshore market," he concludes.

Couldn’t possibly have ended the last post for the year without mentioning Macondo; BP’s asset sale by total valuation in the aftermath of the incident has risen to US$20 billion plus and rising. Sadly, Macondo will be the defining image of crude year 2010.

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo: Oil Rig © Cairn Energy Plc

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chinese Tightening, Irish Overhang & ITPOES at it!

It has been an interesting five days over which, most notably, analysts at Goldman Sachs opined on Monday that the Chinese government will in all likelihood employ more tightening measures on the economy but their impact on the burgeoning economy’s oil demand for is likely to be “limited.”

The Goldman guys believe a far greater near term risk will come from the “current exceptional strength in diesel demand, which could push Chinese oil demand to new highs in November and December.” Fair dues I say, but not the best of expressions when talking about Ireland.

As further details about its imminent bailout are awaited not many in the City were keen to commit further funds towards crude futures. However, some city types I know were fairly cool about both the fate of the Irish and the connection of the country's troubles with an equities overhang on either side of the pond.

From Goldman analysts, the Irish and the Chinese to the ITPOES who were at it again last week. ITPOES are of course, the (UK) Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security, who warned the British government again last week that a new "peak oil threat" is likely to be felt in the UK within the next five years.

The ITPOES came into being in 2008 led by none other than the inimitable Sir Richard Branson. Their latest report, which is part rhetoric, part fact, is titled Peak Oil Implications of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and was released on Friday (Available here).

Deepwater drilling, they say, is expected to constitute 29 per cent of new global extraction capacity by 2015, up from only 5 per cent. The result is that any future delays or problems associated with deepwater drilling in wake of the BP Gulf of Mexico accident will have much greater impact on supply than is the case today. Wonder whether that implies the end of "cheap oil" rather than the nearing of "peak oil."

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo: Oil Rig, Santa Barbara Channel, USA © Rich Reid / National Geographic

Monday, October 25, 2010

Life After the Gulf Spill for Dudley & BP

I had the pleasure of listening to Robert Dudley this morning in what was his first major speech since taking over from Tony Hayward as the group chief executive of BP and there were quite a few noteworthy things to take away from it.

Speaking to delegates at the UK business lobby group CBI’s 2010 annual conference, Dudley said BP had learnt from the Gulf of Mexico tragedy of April 20 and added his own apology for the incident to that of his predecessor and colleagues.

He said that earning and maintaining trust is central to BP’s licence “to operate in society”, as for any business. Crucial to that was re-establishing confidence in BP and its ability to manage risk. “I am determined for BP to succeed in both,” he added emphatically.

Dudley opined that a silver lining of the event is the significant and sustained advance in industry preparedness that will now exist going forward from the learnings and the equipment and techniques invented by necessity under pressure to contain the oil and stop the well.

Not looking too overwhelmed by the task at hand, Dudley also defended BP’s position noting that it found that no single factor caused the tragedy, and that the well design itself, despite what “you have heard”, does not appear to have contributed to the accident. This has been further verified by recent retrieval of equipment.

Predictably there was much talk by Dudley about winning back trust and restoring the oil giant’s reputation. BP new American chief executive said “British Petroleum” was a part of the American community and would not cut and run from the US market. For good measure, he added that there was too much at stake, both for BP and the US.

“The US has major energy needs. BP is the largest producer of oil and gas in the country and a vital contributor to fulfilling them. We also employ 23,000 people directly, have 75,000 pensioners and have ½ million individual shareholders. Our investments indirectly support a further 200,000 jobs in the US. We have paid roughly US$25 billion in taxes, duties and levies in the last several years. These are significant contributions to the US economy,” Dudley explained.

Moving away from defending his own company, Dudley then launched a robust defence of offshore drilling. “The fact is that until this incident, over 5,000 wells had been drilled in over 1,000 feet of water with no serious accident. BP had drilled safely in deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico for 20 years. As business people are telling political leaders all the time, we cannot eliminate risks, but we must manage them,” he concluded.

He also had a pop at the media – noting that while BP’s initial response was less than perfect, for much of the media the Macondo incident seemed like the only story in town. Overall, a solid performance by the new boss of BP in front of what can be safely regarded as a largely sympathetic audience.

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo 1: Aerial of the Helix Q4000 taken shortly before "Static Kill" procedure began at Macondo (MC 252) site in Gulf of Mexico, August 3, 2010. Photo 2: Robert Dudley, Group Chief Executive, BP © BP Plc

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Veraciously Detailed Analysis of Prof. Gorelick

The debate over the “peak oil” hypothesis used to keep rearing its head from time to time in media and commodities circles – but of late it has become a bit of a permanent mainstream fixture, with regular discussions in the popular press.

No one discounts the fact that oil is a non-renewable and finite hydrocarbon, but the positions people take on either side of the hypothesis often evoke fierce emotions. Enter Prof. Steven M. Gorelick – the author of the brilliant book – Oil Panic and The Global Crisis: Predictions and Myths.

In my years as a journalist who has written on oil and follows crude markets closely, I feel this book is among the most engaging, detailed and well written ones that I have come across in its genre. Gorelick examines both sides of the argument and allied “crude” topics in some detail. He notes that commentators on either side of the peak oil debate, their respective stances and the arguments are not free of some pretty major assumptions. This pertains, but is not limited, to the complex issue of oil endowments and the methodology of working them out.

The author examines data and market conjecture that both supports and rejects the idea that the world is running out of crude oil. Prior to entering the resource depletion debate, Gorelick charts the landscape, outlines the history of the oil trade and crude prospection and exploration.

Following on from that, he discusses the resource depletion argument followed by a refreshingly well backed-up chapter offering arguments against imminent global oil depletion. The veracity of the research is simply unquestionable and the figures are not substantiated by rants or guesswork, but by a methodical analysis which makes the author's argument sound extremely persuasive. If you are taken in by popular discourse or media chatter about the planet running out of oil, this book does indeed explode more than a few myths.

The text is backed-up by ample figures, graphics and forecasts from a variety of industry recognised sources, journals and organisations. Unlike a straight cut bland discourse, the narrative of this book is very engaging. It may well be data intensive, but if the whole point of the book is substantiating an argument - then the data adds value and makes for an informed argument - for which author deserves full credit.

Above anything else, I find myself in agreement with the author that the US, where production peaked a few decades ago, is a “pincushion of exploration relative to other parts of the world.” Backed-up by data, Gorelick explains that the Middle East, Eastern (& Central) Europe and Africa contain 75% of global crude reserves but account for only 13% of exploratory drilling. This must change.

Every key topic from the Malthusian doctrine to M.K. Hubert's approach, from Canadian Oil sands to drilling offshore and the relative cost of imported oil for consuming nations have been discussed in context of the resource depletion debate and in some detail.

Gorelick correctly notes that while the era of "easy" oil may well be over and how much oil is extracted from difficult sources remains to be seen. I quite agree with the author that the next or shall we say the current stage of extraction and prospection would ultimately be dictated by the price of oil.

Many commodities traders believe a US$50 per barrel price or above would ensure extraction from difficult to reach places. However, that is not to say that a high price equates to the planet running out of oil, according to the author. He writes so from a position of strength having spent years analysing industry data and I find it difficult not to be swayed by the force of his honest arguments.

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Book Cover © Wiley

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rig Building Industry Remains in a State of Flux

Post-recession, if one may use the expression, the global rig building industry remains in a state of flux. Often oil market commentators give due attention to global rig counts as a way of gauging the prosperity of oil business. The simple conjecture is that when oil price is high, it makes it worthwhile for oil companies to order jack-ups and semi-submersibles in greater numbers for usage at difficult offshore extraction spots.

The latest overall Baker-Hughes rig count, suggests that in year over year terms, 1282 rigs were in operation in the U.S., 233 fewer than the corresponding week last year. Over a comparable period, Canada saw 495 rigs in operation, up by 69. Internationally, excluding U.S. and Canada, 1024 rigs were in operation, down 54 using December 2009 as a cut-off point.

The stated figures are by no means excellent. However, they are not catastrophic either according to those in the rig building business. The first real rig building boom was seen in the early 1980s. Subsequently, American shipyards as well as their European counterparts lost ground of sorts when demand flattened.

Manufacturing sector analysts partly attribute this to the average age of a jack-up being 20 years, which in truth, most oil firms extend by a further two years. Hence, when the next boom arrived in 2001, Asian players seized the initiative. Of particular significance is the global emergence of two Singapore-based companies – SembCorp and Keppel Offshore & Marine. In between 2002 and 2007, both firms became the world’s leading suppliers of rigs.

As oil prices soared over 2007-08, touching $147 a barrel at one point, both saw their collective order books swell to $8 billion. Apart from being listed companies whose share prices were soaring, direct investment from the Singaporean Government, which has a stake in both, undoubtedly boosted confidence.

Inevitably, the rig count took a beating when the oil price plummeted. Prior to that, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005) took five rigs offline completely and damaged several others. However, that proved to be a different sort of a growth trigger. To begin with, both hurricanes added to order books of rig builders. Furthermore, as the U.S. economy began to take a beating in 2007, drilling companies signed long-term deals to send rigs overseas. It meant the Gulf of Mexico, widely held as the birthplace of offshore drilling, ceased to dictate contract terms benchmarks for drilling equipment.

Emergence of several offshore zones off the coasts of Africa, Middle East, Indian subcontinent and China along with a partial rebound in crude prices has stabilised rig building activity, admittedly at a level below that of fiscal year 2005-06. Rig builders worldwide had 91 major offshore rig manufacturing contracts in 2005-06, up from less than 10 in 2002-03, according to ODS-Petrodata, a research and analysis firm.

Since then, the recession and fluctuation in oil prices has made building trends forecasting extremely tricky. ODS-Petrodata’s latest research reveals that 577 of 751 mobile offshore drilling units were under contract worldwide with global offshore rig fleet utilisation at 76.8%; the highest level since July 2009. Speaking in November 2009, at the IADC Annual General Meeting in Miami, Florida, Tom Kellock, head of consulting and research, ODS-Petrodata, highlighted some of the difficulties faced by forecasters and rig builders alike.

He noted that over 100 jack-ups were idle at the time, i.e. assembled but not online. Another 60 or more were nearing completion and Kellock felt that most but not all will enter the market. Furthermore, ODS-Petrodata had seen a trend of rising gas prices and falling jack-up utilisation from 2002 into 2008.

“No longer do we have the close correlation between gasoline prices and jack-up activity. And the only obvious explanation and the one I would support is that, this is such a mature market, the prospects are just not there anymore. Analysts and even some contractors say, well, when gas prices get back to $5, $6 or $7, (at U.S pumps/per gallon) it’s all going to be OK. I really have difficulty with that,” Kellock told IADC delegates.

“I think industry needs to move on from shallow-water Gulf of Mexico, quite honestly.…This is not where people are going if they have a choice these days to look for oil and gas,” he concluded. Pretty much the same arguments are being put forward to explain the difficulties faced by North Sea as an offshore extraction zone.

Looking ahead, ODS-Petrodata forecasts a supply of 506 jack-ups worldwide by the end of 2015, assuming no additional new-builds or attrition. Its middle of the road forecast, based on gradually increasing oil and gas prices, puts jack-up demand at 334 rigs by end-2015, while the conservative forecast is set at 282 units.

Depending on the type of rigs being ordered, costs could range from US$200 million to $900 million. Hire-purchase and subletting rates of oil rigs, which were seen stabilising in 2008, are likely to remain stable over the next three years before a possible shortage develops. The silver lining is that offshore opportunities in China and India are thought to be growing rapidly. The industry also hopes that Petrobras’ prospecting and subsequent extraction off the coast of Brazil would provide a much needed boost.

While many players fret over pragmatically tight market forecasts, SembCorp and Keppel Offshore & Marine have shown the way by diversifying heavily since 2005. SembCorp builds as well as repairs shipping liners. Keppel has real estate and infrastructure divisions. Both Singaporean firms have expanded overseas and currently operate not just rig-building yards but also ship-repair yards around the world.

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo Courtesy © Cairn Energy Plc

Contact:

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

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here