North Korea Summit Reduces Tensions for Now

The summit between President Trump and the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, has come and gone in a flurry of photographs and a very short and very vague agreed statement. The meeting was largely symbolic and strict U.N. sanctions remain in place, but reduced tensions could eventually create an environment for stronger trade links between North Korea and China, Russia, and South Korea

Beijing Plays the Iranian Card in the Sino-US Trade Talks

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.

Russsia’s Refineries Invest to Cut Fuel Oil

ClipperData:
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.

What is the perfect price for oil?

CNN Money:
When it’s too high, consumers start freaking out and using less. When it’s too low, oil companies cut back operations and lay off thousands of workers. Opinions on where the sweet spot currently lies differ widely, but analysts and strategists say it’s probably somewhere between $60 and $70 per barrel.

New Projects in China to Boost Imports of Middle Eastern Crudes

China’s stockpiling in government depots will contribute 55,000 b/d to imports in 2018, and 140,000 b/d in 2019, when the delayed Zhanjiang SPR depot starts. Hengli and Zhejiang Petrochemical will process Middle East crudes, driving up imports towards the end of 2018. Meanwhile, ESAI Energy expects at least a third round of export quotas in the second half of the year due to capacity additions.

What’s Next for Iran

Following President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the JCPOA, the response of Iran, Europe, Russia and China over the next several weeks will be closely watched. The U.S. and Europe are likely to continue discussions regarding joint action on Iran and the imposition of secondary sanctions on European companies. Whether China, Russia and, one day, Iran can be brought back to the negotiating table will depend on statements, actions and likely exogenous events over the wind down period. 

Reforming Capacity to Grow in China

Hydrocarbon Engineering:
China’s reforming capacity will grow by 400 000 bpd in 2018, displacing more than 100 000 bpd of the country’s mixed aromatics imports, according to ESAI Energy’s newly published ‘China Gasoline Production and Blending to 2020 Watch.’ After 2019, additional investment will fully wean China’s gasoline producers from these imports.

LPG Demand Grows in Waves

Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide:
“LPG will be a fast-moving market for the next couple of years,” comments Andrew Reed, ESAI Energy’s Head of NGLs. “The LPG market is prone to imbalances, so one might expect the expansion of supply to lead to a glut that would hamper prices and U.S. exports. But China will soak up more and more LPG in 2019, keeping exporters happy.”

Tensions Rise as Kurdistan Votes

The autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq voted for independence last week in a resounding – but non-binding – referendum. Baghdad has dismissed the vote. Turkey and Iran, with large Kurdish populations themselves, have threatened a blockade. Turkey’s threat to shut the Kirkuk-Ceyhan crude oil pipeline puts Kurdistan’s nearly 600,000 b/d of crude exports at risk. Ongoing tensions have already encouraged a temporary run-up in Brent prices, and will keep a small geopolitical premium on the price of crude.

Tensions with North Korea will Continue

Current tensions between North Korea and the international community, but especially the U.S., South Korea and China are bound to continue and threaten military conflict that could escalate to a previously unthinkable outcome. While oil and gas trade with North Korea is quite small, any threat of military action in the region will impact shipping and lift the price of waterborne goods.

North Korea – Strategic Misperceptions

This morning the Trump Administration indicated that U.S. policy towards North Korea is moving from “strategic patience” to “strategic accountability”. That summary of the current situation seems far less bellicose than recent statements by either side. Moreover, U.S. policy is focused on encouraging China to step in more proactively, which gives the impression that U.S. direct action is still arm’s length away. Yet, as discussed below, misperceptions on both sides could quickly lead either side to escalate from statements to action.