Showing posts with label Qatar Petroleum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Qatar Petroleum. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

US LNG exports to the UK: The ‘Stateside’ Story

The Oilholic finds himself in Chicago IL, meeting old friends and making new ones! A story much discussed this week in the Windy City is US firm Cheniere Energy’s deal to export LNG to UK’s Centrica. More on why it is such a headline grabber later, but first the headline figures related to the deal.

The agreement, inked by Centrica and Cheniere on March 25, sees the latter provide 20-years' worth of LNG shipments starting from September 2018, which according to the former is enough to fuel 1.8 million British homes.

Centrica said it would purchase about 1.75 million metric tonnes per annum of annual LNG volumes for export from the Sabine Pass Project in Louisiana. (see Cheniere Energy’s graphic on the left, click image to enlarge). The contract covers an initial 20-year period, with an option for a 10-year extension.

Centrica, which owns utility British Gas, has fished overseas in recent years as the North Sea’s output plummets. For instance, around the 20th World Petroleum Congress in 2011, it inked deals with Norway’s Statoil and Qatar Petroleum. US companies have also flirted with the export market. So the nature of the deal is not new for either party; the timing and significance of it is.

According to City analysts and their peers here in Chicago, the announcement is a ground breaking move owing to two factors – (1) it’s the first ever long-term LNG supply deal for the Brits and (2) a market breakthrough for a US gas exporter in Europe.

Additionally, it blows away the insistence by the Russians and Qataris to link longer term supply contracts to the crude oil price (hello?? keep dreaming) instead of contracts priced relative to gas market movements. As for gas market prices, here is the math – excluding the recent (temporary) spike, gas prices in the UK are on average 3 to 3.5 times higher than the current price in the US. So we’re talking in the range of US$9.75 to $10.25 per million British thermal units (mmBtu). The Americans want to sell the stuff, the Brits want to buy – it’s a no brainer.

Except – as a contact in Chicago correctly points out – things are never straightforward in this crude world. Sounding eerily similar to what Chatham House fellow Prof. Paul Stevens told the Oilholic earlier this month, he says, “Have you forgotten the politics of ‘cheap’ US gas exports landing up on foreign shores? Even if it’s to our old friends the Brits?”

The US shale revolution has been price positive for American consumers – the exchequer is happy, the political classes are happy and so is the public which sees their country edging towards “energy independence.” (A big achievement in the current geopolitical climate and despite the quakes in Oklahoma).

The only people who are not all that happy, apart from the environmentalists, are the pioneers who persevered and kick-started this US shale gas revolution which was three decades in the making. To quote one who is now happily retired in Skokie, IL, “We no longer get more bang for our bucks anymore when it comes to domestic contracts.”

Another valid argument, from some in the trading community here in Chicago, is that as soon as US gas exports gain traction, bulk of which would head to Asia and not mother England, domestic prices will start climbing. So the Centrica-Cheniere deal, while widely cheered in the UK, has got little more than a perfunctory, albeit positive, acknowledgement from the political classes stateside.

In contrast, across the pond, none other than the UK Prime Minister David Cameron himself took to the airwaves declaring, “Future gas supplies from the US will help diversify our energy mix and provide British consumers with a new long term, secure and affordable source of fuel.”

The Prime Minister is quite right – the UK would rather buy from a ‘friendly’ country. Problem is, the friendly country might cool off on the idea of gas exports, were US domestic prices to pick-up in tandem with a rise in export volumes.

That’s all for the moment from Chicago folks! More from here over the next few days; keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo: Sabine Pass Project, USA © Cheniere Energy Inc.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

EU’s Iran ban, upcoming Indian adventure & Cairn

Earlier on Monday and in line with market expectations, the European Union agreed to impose an embargo on the import of Iranian crude oil. The EU, which accounts for 20% of Iran’s crude exports, now prohibits the import, purchase and transport of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products as well as related finance and insurance. All existing contracts will have to be phased out by July 1st, 2012.

In response, Iran declared the ban as "unfair" and "doomed to fail", said it will not force it to change course on its controversial nuclear programme and renewed threats to blockade the Strait of Hormuz. Going into further details, EU Investment in as well as the export of key equipment and technology for Iran's petrochemical sector is also banned.

A strongly worded joint statement by British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel says, “Until Iran comes to the table, we will be united behind strong measures to undermine the regime’s ability to fund its nuclear programme, and to demonstrate the cost of a path that threatens the peace and security of us all.”

That’s all fine and yes it will hurt Iran but unless major Asian importing nations such as China, India and Japan decide to ban Iranian imports as well, EU’s ban would not have the desired impact. Of these, China alone imports as much Iranian oil as the EU, Japan accounts for 17% of the country’s exports, followed by India (16%) and South Korea (9%).

So until the major Asian economies join in the embargo, both EU and Iran will end up hurting themselves. As a Sucden Financial note concludes, “Unless a deal can be agreed unilaterally, it is likely that the weak European economies could suffer from firmer crude prices whilst relatively robust Asian economies might benefit from preferential crude trade agreements.”

China is unwilling to follow suit while it is thought that Japan and South Korea are seeking supply assurances from other sources before reacting. India’s response had been lukewarm in the run-up the EU’s decision. Now that the decision has been made, it will be interesting to note how the Indian government responds. The Oilholic is heading to India this week (and for better parts of the next) and will try to sniff out the public and government mood.

Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings has said the EU embargo will increase geopolitical risk in the Middle East region supporting high oil prices. The agency considers blocking the Strait of Hormuz - the world's most important oil chokepoint - to be a low-probability scenario and believes any obstruction to trade routes would have a short duration if it did actually transpire.

Arkadiusz Wicik, Director in Fitch's European Energy, Utilities and Regulation team and an old contact of the Oilholic’s, feels that the EU ban on Iranian oil is largely credit neutral for EU integrated oil and gas companies. "The cash flow impact of the ban may be negative for refining operations, but should be positive or neutral for upstream operations," he says.

The most likely scenario is that the EU embargo will result in higher oil prices. However, prices may not necessarily increase markedly from current levels as some of the risks related to the EU ban on Iranian oil appear factored in already.

A new Fitch report further notes the ban is likely to have a moderately negative impact on EU refiners as high oil prices may further erode demand for refined products in Europe. This would worsen the already weak supply-demand balance in European refining. The embargo may also change oil price spreads in Europe as Iranian crude imports would likely be replaced with alternative crude, which may be priced at a lower discount to Brent than Iranian crude oil.

EU refiners' security of oil supply is unlikely to be substantially affected by an Iran ban. There are alternative suppliers, such as Saudi Arabia (which has said it is able and willing to increase oil production to meet additional demand), Russia and Iraq. Libyan oil production is also recovering. Iranian oil accounted for just 5.7% of total oil imports to the EU in 2010, and 4.4% in Q111. Furthermore, the sanctions will be implemented gradually by July 1st, 2012, which should give companies that use Iranian crude oil time to find alternative suppliers, the report notes.

Southern European countries - Italy, Spain and Greece - are the largest importers of Iranian crude oil in the EU. A rise in oil prices could be further bad news for these countries, which already face a weak economic outlook in 2012.

“The impact of the new US sanctions signed into law late last year against Iran is difficult to predict at this stage. It is not certain whether Asian countries, which are by far the largest importers of Iranian crude, accounting for about 70% of total Iranian oil imports, will substantially reduce supplies from Iran in 2012 and replace them with other OPEC sources as a result of the new US sanctions,” the Fitch report notes further.

The agency’s report does make one very important observation – one that has been doing the rounds in the City ever since news of the ban first emerged – that’s if Asian reduction is substantial, in combination with the EU ban, it could considerably lower OPEC's spare production capacity. In such a scenario, the global oil market would have less flexibility in the event of large unexpected supply interruptions elsewhere, potentially sending oil prices much higher than current levels.

Moving away from the Iranian situation, Cairn Energy has sold a 30% stake in one of its Greenland exploration licences to Norway’s Statoil. The UK independent upstart spent nearly £400 million in exploration costs last year with little to show for it as no commercially exploitable oil or gas discovery was recorded. While the percentage of the stake has been revealed, neither Cairn nor Statoil are saying how much was paid for the stake. Nonetheless, whatever the amount, it would help Cairn mitigate exploration costs and risks as it appears to be in Greenland for the long haul.

Elsewhere, there is positive and negative news on refineries front. Starting with the bad news, shares in Petroplus – Europe’s largest independent refiner – were suspended from trading on the Swiss SIX stock exchange on Monday at the company’s request. As fears rise about Petroplus defaulting on its debt following an S&P downgrade last month and yet another one on January 17th, looks like the refiner is in a fight for its commercial life.

Lenders suspended nearly US$1 billion in credit lines last month which prevented Petroplus from sourcing crude oil for its five refineries. However, it had still managed to keep refineries at Coryton (Essex, UK) and Ingolstadt (Germany) running at reduced capacity. Late on Monday, Bloomberg reported that delivery lorries did not leave the Coryton facility and concerns are rising for the facility’s 1000-odd workforce. PwC, which has been appointed as the administrator of Petroplus' UK business, said on Tuesday that it aims to continue to operate the Coryton facility without disruption. The Oilholic hopes for the best but fears the worst.

Switching to the positive news in the refineries business, China National Petroleum Corp, Qatar Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell agreed plans on January 20th for a US$12.6 billion refinery and petrochemical complex in eastern China. Quite clearly, hounded by overcapacity and poor margins in Europe, the future of the refineries business increasingly lies in the Far East on the basis of consumption patterns. That’s all for the moment folks. Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: Oil tanker © Michael S. Quinton / National Geographic.

Monday, December 12, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But for all that was said and done, there is one inimitable chap who cannot possibly be outdone –Total CEO Christophe de Margerie. When asked if Peak Oil was imminent, de Margerie declared, “There will be sufficient oil and gas and energy as a whole to cover the demand. That’s all! Even using pessimistic assumptions, I cannot see how energy demand will grow less than 25% in twenty years time. Today we have roughly the oil equivalent of 260 million bpd (in total energy production), and our expectation for 2030 is 325 million bpd.”

He forecasts that fossil fuels will continue to make up 76% of the energy supply by 2050. “We have plenty of resources, the problem is how to extract the resources in an acceptable manner, being accepted by people, because today a lot of things are not acceptable,” the Total CEO quipped almost to the point of getting all worked up.

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

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

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Oilholic at Qatar Petroleum’s Dukhan field

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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