Iranian President Rouhani recently met with President Xi at the SCO Summit. This meeting comes shortly after the withdrawal of the U.S. from the JCPOA, and the threat of U.S. sanctions on companies doing business with Iran. It is tempting to assume that China will strengthen ties with Iran, expanding oil trade with the Islamic Republic. However, China’s interaction with Iran is likely to be more symbolic than substantive.
Jet fuel prices are at six-year highs, and part of the reason is linked to record U.S. shale crude production and the unique properties refiners contend with when they refine that oil
Aggressive fuel price increases caused Brazil’s truckers to strike in May. The resulting government subsidy to smooth out diesel prices for consumers will help Petrobras raise runs and avoid sacrificing market share to importers. At the same time, demand is expected to grow by 20,000 b/d to 960,000 b/d. ESAI Energy expects Brazil’s diesel import requirement to remain flat in the second half of 2018 at 210,000 b/d.
Southeast Asia’s oil demand will remain strong in 2018. National elections in a half-dozen Asian countries this year and next are prompting some governments, like Indonesia and Malaysia, to reintroduce fuel subsidies to quell inflation as oil prices rise. This should support demand growth in the short term, but a deceleration is likely by the first half of 2019.
Later this year, California regulators will vote whether to extend the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard(LCFS) from its current expiration in 2020 to 2030. If it passes, renewable diesel would be the biggest winner among biofuels. A shortage of renewable diesel in California would create a strong incentive for producers to build new capacity in the next decade, particularly in feedstock-rich Asia.
Kazakhstan’s production growth will slow from 175,000 b/d last year to about 70,000 b/d this year and 40,000
b/d in 2019. Due to Kazakhstan’s slowing production growth, overall FSU production will increase by only 60,000 b/d this year. In 2019, the continued deceleration in Kazakhstan means the prospects for FSU production growth will hinge on Russia’s role in the OPEC+ deal. In that country, the Kremlin’s consideration of an agreement to loosen restrictions signals that political leaders are aligning more closely with producers who are eager to raise output.
The strength of Russian crude demand and improving notional refining margins contrast with reports of weak Russian refining margins. Despite the tax maneuver and other setbacks to refineries, annual crude demand will bounce back from its recent low of 5.6 million b/d in 2016 to 5.75 million b/d in 2018. Coupled with secondary unit investment, higher throughput assures growing gasoline and diesel exports.
Proposed RFS targets for 2019 are circulating, though they are not yet official. The use of a cellulosic waiver limits any reduction in the overall advanced biofuels volume requirement. The result is a more than 400 million gallon increase in the requirement for “other” advanced biofuels. This advanced deficit will provide additional support for D4 and D5 RIN prices in 2019 and will widen D5 – D6 price differentials during the second half of 2018 and into 2019.
Libya’s crude production should remain near 1 million b/d for the next several months. The likelihood of production-disrupting violence, however, will increase significantly in the run-up to the December 2018 election. Production could fall by up to 200,000 b/d as a result. Europe’s refiners would look elsewhere for light sweet crude, including the U.S.
Oil and Gas Journal:
The rise in medium and heavy refiner demand was already pushing the production-cut agreement among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries as well as some non-members towards an end by 2019, ESAI Energy points out in its May Global Crude Oil Outlook. The US request for more crude oil and apparent willingness of Saudi Arabia and Russia to respond provides additional rationale.
Europe has at least 1.2 million b/d of refining capacity that are at greater risk from new IMO specifications. These refineries’ high yields of heavy fuel oil, smaller and less-efficient size, and lack of plans to invest in upgrading make them vulnerable to weaker demand for heavy fuel oil and widening spreads once IMO changes take effect. Other bigger refineries are investing to adapt to market changes and remain viable.
Over the next twelve months North Sea crude and condensate production will increase by about 30,000 b/d to an average of over 2.7 million b/d, after falling by roughly 100,000 b/d in the previous twelve months. This recovery will be driven by the U.K., where output growth is slated to accelerate. Nevertheless, on a calendar year basis North Sea output will fall marginally in both 2018 and 2019.These developments are the most public display of substantial change underway, which we wrote about last month. For a number of reasons, OPEC and Russia will likely raise production, although maybe not until the end of the year. Meanwhile, U.S. shale producers show no signs of slowing down. So, the market is caught between geopolitical events that can be read as bullish and supply/demand developments that can be read as bearish. We believe the supply/demand developments will generally guide the market to lower prices by 2019. Shale producers will eventually have to take a breath, and that will temper the price decline in 2019. In other words, this is not 2014 all over again, so not quite deja vu.
In its May Global Crude Oil Outlook ESAI Energy points out that the growth in medium and heavy refiner demand was already pushing the OPEC+ deal towards an end by 2019. The U.S. request for more crude oil and Saudi Arabia and Russia’s apparent willingness to respond provides additional rationale. How this “end” is finessed remains to be seen, but clearly the medium and heavy producers of OPEC (besides Venezuela and Iran) will increase production in 2019.
ESAI Energy’s Amrit Naresh is featured in the May 2018 Fuel Oil and Feedstock Trader publication discussing Russia’s Refineries Invest to Cut Fuel Oil, which was based on a presentation given at the Platts Middle Distillate Conference in Antwerp in February 2018.
In July 2011, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the heads of Russia’s leading oil companies to a meeting near St. Petersburg and gave them a choice: increase the secondary processing capacity at your refineries or go bust. Putin had long wanted to improve the value-adding capabilities of Russian industry and see Russia export fewer raw materials and more finished goods, less dirty and more clean fuel.
Europe has signaled that the rift with the U.S. over Iran is significant even if both sides would like to see change in Iranian behavior. It is unclear how this rift will play out with regard to sanctions on European companies doing business with Iran, especially those buying oil. Both sides are likely to take stands on sanctions in principle, but then negotiate a series of individual time or condition-based exemptions or waivers. This may limit any reduction in European oil imports, even without a Saudi guarantee to make up a shortfall.