Showing posts with label PSG. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PSG. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The fortnight’s ‘crude’ conjecture & UK’s budget

It’s been an interesting few weeks with varying takes on the ‘crude’ state of affairs, but first the UK’s union budget and its impact on the North Sea. Delivering his 2012 budget in the British House of Commons on Wednesday, Chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne announced plans for a major package on tax changes to boost oil and gas extraction in the North Sea, along with a £3 billion new field allowance West of Shetland.

The Chancellor also said a new gas strategy designed to secure investment in the sector will be announced in the autumn. Of the two, the tax incentives announcement allowing British companies operating in the North Sea to enter into contracts with the UK Government aimed at offering long term certainty on future decommissioning cost tax relief was perhaps a more significant announcement from the Chancellor in the Oilholic’s humble opinion given the acrimony caused by last year's tax rises. Most in the City are united in their belief that this will go some way towards restoring trust which had been shaken by last year’s oil tax increase.

Osborne said the government "will end the uncertainty over decommissioning tax relief that has hung over the industry for years by entering into a contractual approach”, adding that he wanted to ensure the UK "extracts the greatest possible amount of oil and gas from our reserves in the North Sea".

Roman Webber, UK head of oil & gas tax at Deloitte, believes the announcement will remove a major fiscal risk for UK North Sea investors and release significant funds for investment if companies can move to post-tax decommissioning guarantees.

“In the longer term this measure should also increase the tax take for the Government. Whilst much work remains to be done to work out the detail and legislation is not expected until 2013, this is a very positive development. Deloitte Petroleum Services Group estimates that the UK North Sea decommissioning costs for the remainder of the life of the UK North Sea will be around £27 to 30 billion (US$44 to $48 billion),” he concludes.

Away from the UK budget and on to market conjecture, Mark Brown of Fitch Ratings hypothesises that Abu Dhabi will become the oil producing member of the Gulf Cooperation Council that is best insulated from a closure of the Strait of Hormuz, once the Habshan-Fujairah pipeline is fully operational later this year.

In January, the UAE's energy minister said that the pipeline, designed to transport 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd), should hopefully be operational within six months. “As we have previously said, a prolonged closure of the Strait is a low probability. As well as the practical challenge of physically blocking it, we think Iran would only choose to close an international shipping lane that is the world's most important oil chokepoint as a last resort, given the potential for international retaliation. Iran also exports oil via the Strait,” Brown says.

However, if the Strait was blocked in the second half of this year, when the Habshan-Fujairah pipeline could be operational, it would potentially give Abu Dhabi the best safety net. “It would enable Abu Dhabi, which has the world's second largest per capita reserves of hydrocarbons, to continue to export up to around two-thirds of its oil output, or around three-quarters of its current net oil exports, by bypassing the Strait and delivering oil to the Gulf of Oman,” he concludes.

Fitch also believes Saudi Arabia currently has the advantage that it already enjoys pipeline access to the Red Sea via the East-West pipeline. The country could export more than half its output through this pipeline, which has a maximum capacity of 5 million bpd and currently transports around 1.8 million bpd.

However, even at maximum capacity, with 2011 output running at 9.3 million bpd and no decline so far this year due to the tensions over Iran, a higher proportion of Saudi oil output and exports would be stuck inside the country if they could not be shipped out of the Persian Gulf than would be the case for Abu Dhabi once the Habshan-Fujairah pipeline is operational.

Switching tack to an unrelated comment from Moody’s, the ratings agency believes that as a result of financial flexibility built up over the past two years, rated Russian integrated oil & gas companies will be able to accommodate volatility in oil prices and other emerging challenges in 2012 within their current rating categories.

In a note to clients, Victoria Maisuradze, an Associate Managing Director in Moody's Corporate Finance Group, writes: "In 2011, rated Russian players continued to demonstrate strong operating and financial results, underpinned by elevated oil prices. Indeed, operating profits are likely to remain stable in 2012 as an increased tax and tariff burden will offset the benefits of high crude oil prices."

Speaking of prices, WTI-Brent price differential did narrow down to under US$18 over the course of the last fortnight. Brent is resisting a price level of US$123, while WTI is resisting a price level of US$106 and market trends remain moderately bullish with Greece having been “sorted”, US data being encouraging and geopolitical factors nudging the forward month futures price upwards.

Following minor bearish trends, crude oil prices were again correcting higher on Wednesday, tracking a broader rally in risk assets as the dollar eases back from yesterday’s gains. Specifically, front-month WTI is trading around the US$106.50 mark ahead of US data, notes Jack Pollard of Sucden Financial research.

“Bears will happily refer to repeated Saudi claims of increased production, though the threat in the Straits of Hormuz as well as the reduction in Saudi spare capacity (amid broad based geopolitical volatility) will remain the bulls’ best bet,” concludes Pollard.

This brings the Oilholic to a superb editorial in The Economist. The inimitable publication, of which yours truly has been a loyal reader for the past 14 years, debates in a recent edition whether another oil shock maybe on the cards. It comes-up with its own unique equation, in an American context: "Politician + pump prices + poll = panic"

From a global standpoint, The Economist notes that Iranian threats are only one of many scares facing oil markets drawing an analogy with a horror flick:

“When things get too quiet in horror films it is a sure sign that something nasty is just around the corner. Stability in oil prices (earlier in the year) may have been the forerunner of something unpleasant too…But as in any scary movie, the obvious suspect is not always to blame…Many analysts reckon that Iran would not close the strait because of the damage it would do to its own oil exports and vital imports. And anyway such a move would almost certainly lead to military retaliation.” (Oil Markets: High Drama, The Economist, February 25, 2012)

Well said sir! In fact many in the City agree and do believe Sudan, Nigeria and maintenance issues in the North Sea are as much to blame for the price rise. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: North Sea Oil Rig © Cairn Energy

Sunday, October 17, 2010

UK Drilling Activity Down But Exploration is Rising

Offshore drilling in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) dipped 20% Q3 2010 on an annualised basis, according to the latest oil and gas industry figures obtained from Deloitte.

It’s Petroleum Services Group (PSG), revealed in a report published on Friday that a total of 24 exploration and appraisal wells were spudded in the UK sector between July 1 and September 30, compared with 30 exploration and appraisal wells during the corresponding period last year.

Concurrently, PSG also said a 4% quarter over quarter rise was noted in the number of wells spudded in the UKCS in the third quarter of this year, attributed to higher levels of exploration drilling in the UKCS, up 32% for the first three quarters of 2010 when compared to the same period of 2009.

Overall, international deal activity saw a marked increase during the third quarter of 2010, following a period of no activity at all in the previous quarter. Most notable were the corporate acquisitions announced following KNOC’s acquisition of Dana and EnQuest’s decision to buy Stratic Energy.

However, corporate level activity within the UK has decreased since the second quarter of 2010 with only one corporate asset sale announced compared to three announcements and one completion in the previous quarter.

Graham Sadler, managing director of Deloitte’s PSG, commented in a statement that seeing deal activity in the UK decreasing for a second consecutive quarter was not a major surprise.

“There is evidence of a shift in company strategy as organisations are opting for less costly and less risky policies as they look to adjust their portfolios. This is reflected in the fact that the number of farm-ins announced has almost tripled this quarter to 11, in comparison with just four announcements during the second quarter. Until more confidence in the recovery of the market becomes further evident, this may be a trend that continues in the future,” Sadler said.

Elsewhere in the UKCS, Norway saw seven exploration and appraisals wells spudded, which represents a 56% decrease when compared to the number of wells drilled in the second quarter of this year.

Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland also reported low levels of drilling activity according to the Deloitte report while the four wells spudded in the Cairn Energy drilling programme in Greenland marked the first activity in the region for a decade.

On the pricing front, despite the overall decreased activity, the price of Brent Crude oil has remained stable throughout the whole of the third quarter of 2010, achieving a quarterly average of US$76.47 per barrel.

Carrying on with the theme, I met several analysts here at OPEC who think Brent appears to be winning the battle of the indices. The sentiment is gaining traction. David Peniket, President and Chief Operating Officer of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) Futures Europe remarked in May that WTI is an important US benchmark but that it does not reflect the fundamentals of the global oil market in the way that Brent reflects them.

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo: Andrew Rig-North Sea © BP

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