Latin America swaps oil flag for welcome mat

Big Oil is roaring back into Latin America, sweeping past the detritus of resource nationalism to scoop up acreage once reserved for national oil companies. Ho hum shifts the pendulum, but with a twist: most of the focus is now offshore.

Witness Mexico’s historic auction this week. ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Statoil, and Total, plus a smattering of independents, were awarded deepwater acreage in the Gulf of Mexico, some tantalizingly close to prolific developments on the US side of the maritime border. That includes Trion, the Perdido fold belt field that state-owned Pemex will develop with its new farm-in partner BHP Billiton. This wasn’t just a private-sector affair. China’s state-owned CNOOC picked up two blocks, the only bidder to go it alone.

Shell was conspicuously absent from the Mexican winner’s circle, even though it presented an offer for one of the blocks. The European major already has a full plate of offshore assets in Brazil, where it is the largest private-sector producer after state-controlled Petrobras, thanks to its BG acquisition early this year. Expect the gap to narrow as Petrobras’ legacy Campos basin fields decline and foreign firms prepare to operate sub-salt projects, a role that had been, until recently, the exclusive domain of Petrobras. A series of upstream tenders are scheduled for 2017. Oil companies like Shell, Statoil, and Chevron are keeping a close eye on Brazil’s evolving regulations and still-tumultuous politics.  Continue reading

Vienna walkout in the offing?

Are the odds on a pre-planned spontaneous walkout by the Saudi delegation in Vienna narrowing?

Some points to consider.

First, on 25 November an “Opec delegate” told Argus that this week’s meeting of ministers might fail to reach an output restraint deal. In subsequent days that message has been reinforced, with Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih telling reporters at the weekend that the market is rebalancing without Opec action and that Riyadh has other options.

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A refiner for all seasons

The icy blast of the 2008 financial crisis, a high-cost base, fierce competition from new capacity in the Middle East and Asia, downward demand trends because of stagnant population growth and greater engine efficiency, perverse tax regimes, and the rolling thunder of environmental legislation. To survive as a refiner in Europe requires constant vigilance and frequent reinvention.

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