Latest market news

Sucre Energy bets on Venezuelan gas

  • Market: Crude oil, Emissions, Natural gas
  • 08/09/21

Venezuela's abundant hydrocarbons are beckoning a new generation of investors, stepping in where more established companies are pulling out.

Sucre Energy, a Netherlands-based and Spanish-registered private equity company, acquired the central Venezuelan assets of Japan's Inpex in a deal that closed in May for an undisclosed sum. In an interview with Argus, Sucre directors Santiago Fontiveros and Nicolas Faillace say Venezuela is at an inflection point in the oil investment cycle, regardless of which way the political winds blow.

The main asset acquired by Sucre is a 70pc stake in Gas Guárico, currently producing around 53mn cf/d of gas. Venezuela's state-owned PdV, which has a wholesale gas monopoly through PdV Gas, holds the remaining 30pc. The other newly acquired asset is a 30pc stake in PetroGuárico, a marginal oil field joint venture controlled by PdV with 70pc.

The acquisition marks Sucre's first direct upstream investment in Venezuela. The company is already an indirect minority shareholder in PdV-led oil joint venture Petroregional del Lago (PRDL) through Maurel and Prom, the French unit of Indonesia's state-owned Pertamina that purchased Shell's 40pc stake for $80mn in late 2018.

Sucre sees the most upside in gas. "We believe there will be more realistic adjustments in the gas price so license holders will keep investing and producing gas," Fontiveros said. "We don't have a crystal ball, but we believe it will happen sooner rather than later."

Venezuela has long focused on crude rather than gas, much of which is flared. Capturing that gas offers potential carbon offset opportunities, Sucre says.

The partners do not share the view that Venezuela needs new hydrocarbons legislation to attract investment. Venezuela's gas law — which permits private sector control — is adequate and only five or six main articles of the oil law should be amended, along with implementation of tax cuts, to be competitive. And in the short term, Venezuela offers debt-for-equity opportunities, the partners say.

Sucre sees Venezuela as among the world's last oil suppliers. "In any energy transition scenario, the world in 2050 or 2060 will need to consume 20mn-50mn b/d of oil, and there are few countries that will be able to sell oil competitively by then," said Fontiveros, evoking the view of Chevron's former head of Latin America and African operations Ali Moshiri.

Faillace adds that Venezuela's infrastructure, albeit neglected, "can still be rehabilitated at a lower cost than a new project in the deep offshore or in the Arctic."


Sharelinkedin-sharetwitter-sharefacebook-shareemail-share

Related news posts

Argus illuminates the markets by putting a lens on the areas that matter most to you. The market news and commentary we publish reveals vital insights that enable you to make stronger, well-informed decisions. Explore a selection of news stories related to this one.

News
25/07/24

South Africa adopts climate change law

South Africa adopts climate change law

Cape Town, 25 July (Argus) — South Africa's president Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law the country's climate change bill, which sets out a national response to climate change for the first time. The new climate change act will enable the orderly reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the implementation of sectoral emission targets towards South Africa's commitment to reach net zero by 2050. Currently, the country is the 15th largest GHG emitter in the world, according to the World Resources Institute. The law provides policy guidelines to ensure South Africa reaches its nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris climate agreement by assigning individual enterprises carbon budgets and facilitating public disclosure of their progress. In its updated 2021 NDC, the country has undertaken to cut its GHG emissions to 350mn-420mn t of CO2 equivalent (CO2e), equivalent to 19-32pc below 2010 levels, by 2030. The lower end of this range is in line with the Paris Agreement's 1.5°C global warming threshold. To meet this, South Africa will have to achieve a steep decline in coal-fired electricity generation. A carbon tax is seen as a vital component of the country's mitigation strategy, according to the president. "By internalising the cost of carbon emissions, carbon tax incentivises companies to reduce their carbon footprint and invest in cleaner technologies, and also generates revenue for climate initiatives," Ramaphosa said. South Africa's carbon tax was introduced in a phased approach in June 2019 at a rate of 120 rands/t ($7/t) of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) and increased to R134/t of CO2e by the end of 2022. But tax-free allowances for energy-intensive sectors such as mining, and iron and steel, along with state-owned utility Eskom's exemption, implied an initial effective carbon tax rate as low as R6-48/t of CO2e. South Africa's National Treasury is targeting an increase to $30/t of CO2e by 2030. But the extension of phase one from the end of 2022 to the end of 2025, together with an uncertain future price trajectory and lack of clarity on future exemptions, means the effective carbon tax rate is likely to remain well below the IMF's recommended $50/t of CO2e by 2030 for emerging markets. The new climate change act seeks to align South Africa's climate change policies and strengthen co-ordination between different departments to ensure the country's transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy is not constrained by any policy contradictions. It outlines South Africa's planned mitigation and adaptation actions aimed at cutting GHG emissions over time, while reducing the risk of job losses and promoting new employment opportunities in the emerging green economy. The law also places a legal obligation on provinces and municipalities to ensure climate change risks and associated vulnerabilities are acted upon, while providing mechanisms for national government to offer additional financial support for these efforts. The new act formally establishes the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC) as a statutory body tasked with providing advice on the country's climate change response. Among other things, the PCC is developing proposals for a just transition financing mechanism, for which a platform will be launched in the next few months. Over the last three years, South Africa has seen an increase in extreme weather events often with disastrous consequences for poor communities and vulnerable groups. To address the substantial gap between available disaster funds and the cost of disaster response, the government announced in February that it would establish a climate change response fund. At the time of the announcement, Ramaphosa reiterated that South Africa would undertake its just energy transition "at a pace, scale and cost that our country can afford and in a manner that ensures energy security". Elaine Mills Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Find out more
News

Refining, LNG segments take Total’s profit lower in 2Q


25/07/24
News
25/07/24

Refining, LNG segments take Total’s profit lower in 2Q

London, 25 July (Argus) — TotalEnergies said today that a worsening performance at its downstream Refining & Chemicals business and its Integrated LNG segment led to a 7pc year-on-year decline in profit in the second quarter. Profit of $3.79bn was down from $5.72bn for the January-March quarter and from $4.09bn in the second quarter of 2023. When adjusted for inventory effects and special items, profit was $4.67bn — slightly lower than analysts had been expecting and 6pc down on the immediately preceding quarter. The biggest hit to profits was at the Refining & Chemicals segment, which reported an adjusted operating profit of $639mn for the April-June period, a 36pc fall on the year. Earlier in July, TotalEnergies had flagged lower refining margins in Europe and the Middle East, with its European Refining Margin Marker down by 37pc to $44.9/t compared with the first quarter. This margin decline was partially compensated for by an increase in its refineries' utilisation rate: to 84pc in April-June from 79pc in the first quarter. The company's Integrated LNG business saw a 13pc year on year decline in its adjusted operating profit, to $1.15bn. TotalEnergies cited lower LNG prices and sales, and said its gas trading operation "did not fully benefit in markets characterised by lower volatility than during the first half of 2023." A bright spot was the Exploration & Production business, where adjusted operating profit rose by 14pc on the year to $2.67bn. This was mainly driven by higher oil prices, which were partially offset by lower gas realisations and production. The company's second-quarter production averaged 2.44mn b/d of oil equivalent (boe/d), down by 1pc from 2.46mn boe/d reported for the January-March period and from the 2.47mn boe/d average in the second quarter of 2023. TotalEnergies attributed the quarter-on-quarter decline to a greater level of planned maintenance, particularly in the North Sea. But it said its underlying production — excluding the Canadian oil sands assets it sold last year — was up by 3pc on the year. This was largely thanks to the start up and ramp up of projects including Mero 2 offshore Brazil, Block 10 in Oman, Tommeliten Alpha and Eldfisk North in Norway, Akpo West in Nigeria and Absheron in Azerbaijan. TotalEnergies said production also benefited from its entry into the producing fields Ratawi, in Iraq, and Dorado in the US. The company expects production in a 2.4mn-2.45mn boe/d range in the third quarter, when its Anchor project in the US Gulf of Mexico is expected to start up. The company increased profit at its Integrated Power segment, which contains its renewables and gas-fired power operations. Adjusted operating profit rose by 12pc year-on-year to $502mn and net power production rose by 10pc to 9.1TWh. TotalEnergies' cash flow from operations, excluding working capital, was $7.78bn in April-June — an 8pc fall from a year earlier. The company has maintained its second interim dividend for 2024 at €0.79/share and plans to buy back up to $2bn of its shares in the third quarter, in line with its repurchases in previous quarters. By Jon Mainwaring Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Feedstock imports shake up US biofuel production


24/07/24
News
24/07/24

Feedstock imports shake up US biofuel production

New York, 24 July (Argus) — Waste from around the world is increasingly being diverted to the US for biofuel production, helping decarbonize hard-to-electrify sectors like trucking and aviation. But as refiners turn away from conventional crop-based feedstocks, farm groups fear missing out on the biofuels boom. Driven by low-carbon fuel standards (LCFS) in states like California, US renewable diesel production capacity has more than doubled over the last two years to hit a record high of 4.1bn USG/yr in April according to the Energy Information Administration. Soybean and canola processors have invested in expanding crush capacity, expecting future biofuels growth to lift vegetable oil demand. But policymakers' growing focus on carbon intensity, a departure from the long-running federal renewable fuel standard (RFS) that sets volume mandates for broad types of fuel, primarily benefits waste feedstocks, which generate larger LCFS credits because they are assessed as producing fewer emissions. Argonne National Laboratory's GREET emissions model, which has been modified by federal and California regulators for clean fuels programs, factors in emissions sources like fertilizers and diesel use on farms for virgin vegetable oils but not for used oils sourced from cooking operations. Refiners trying to maximize government subsidies are thus sourcing waste-based feedstocks from wherever they can find them. Through May this year, imports to the US under the tariff code that includes used cooking oil (UCO) and yellow grease rose 90pc from year-prior levels to more than 1.8bn lb (844,000t). While China represents most of that, sources are diverse, with significant sums coming from Canada, the UK, and Indonesia. Imports of inedible and technical tallow, waste beef fat that can be turned into biofuels, have also risen 50pc so far this year to 800,000lb on ample supply from Brazil. While soybean oil was responsible for nearly half of biomass-based diesel production in 2021, that share has declined to around a third over the first four months this year as imports surge (see graph). "Every pound of imported feedstock that comes in displaces one pound of domestically sourced soybean oil or five pounds of soybeans," said Kailee Tkacz Buller, chief executive of the National Oilseed Processors Association. Even as LCFS and RFS credit prices have fallen over the last year, hurting biofuel production margins and threatening capacity additions , imports have not slowed. Feedstock suppliers, many from countries with less mature biofuel incentives and limited biorefining capacity, might have few options domestically. And exporting to the US means they can avoid the EU's more prescriptive feedstock limits and mounting scrutiny of biofuel imports. More ambitious targets in future years, particularly for sustainable aviation fuel, "will create a lot of competition for UCO in the global market," said Jane O'Malley, a researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation. But for now, "the US has created the most lucrative market for waste-based biofuel pathways." Incentives for US refiners to use waste-based feedstocks will only become stronger next year when expiring tax credits are replaced by the Inflation Reduction Act's 45Z credit, structured as a sliding scale so that fuels generate more of a subsidy as they produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. While essentially all fuel will receive less of a benefit than in past years since the maximum credit is reserved for carbon-neutral fuels, the drop in benefits will be most pronounced for fuels from vegetable oils. Granted, President Joe Biden's administration wants the 45Z credit to account for the benefits of "climate-smart" agriculture, potentially helping close some of the assessed emissions gap between crop and waste feedstocks. But the administration's timeline for issuing guidance is unclear, leaving the market with little clarity about which practices farmers should start deploying and documenting. "While a tax credit can be retroactive, you can't retroactively farm," said Alexa Combelic, director of government affairs at the American Soybean Association. Squeaky wheel gets the soybean oil The concerns of agricultural groups have not gone unnoticed in Washington, DC, where lawmakers from both parties have recently called for higher biofuel blending obligations, prompt 45Z guidance, and more transparency around how federal agencies scrutinize UCO imports. There are also lobbying opportunities in California, where regulators are weighing LCFS updates ahead of a planned hearing in November. At minimum, agricultural groups are likely to continue pushing for more visibility into the UCO supply chain, which could take the form of upping already-burdensome recordkeeping requirements for clean fuels incentives and setting a larger role for auditors. Fraud would be hard to prove, but two external groups told Argus that the Biden administration has indicated that it is looking into UCO collection rates in some countries, which could at least point to potential discrepancies with expected supply. More muscular interventions, including trade disincentives, are also possible. Multiple farm associations, including corn interests frustrated that the country's first alcohol-to-jet facility is using Brazilian sugarcane ethanol , have asked the Biden administration to prevent fuels derived from foreign feedstocks from qualifying for 45Z. The possible return of former president Donald Trump to the White House next year would likely mean sharply higher tariffs on China too, potentially stemming the flow of feedstocks from that country — if not from the many others shipping waste-based feedstocks to the US. Protectionism has obvious risks, since leaving refiners with fewer feedstock options could jeopardize planned biofuel capacity additions that ultimately benefit farmers. But at least some US agriculture companies, insistent that they can sustainably increase feedstock production if incentives allow, see major changes to current policy as necessary. By Cole Martin Waste imports crowd out soybean oil Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Indian budget lifts spending for refining, crude SPR


24/07/24
News
24/07/24

Indian budget lifts spending for refining, crude SPR

Mumbai, 24 July (Argus) — India allocated 1.19 trillion rupees ($14.2bn) to the oil ministry in its budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year ending 31 March, up from Rs1.12 trillion in the 2023-24 revised budget. The budget presented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on 23 July was the first since the BJP-led administration was re-elected in June . Indian state-controlled refiner IOC was allocated Rs273bn for 2024-25, up from Rs270bn in the revised budget for 2023-24. Bharat Petroleum (BPCL) received an increased allocation of Rs110bn, up from 95bn, while Hindustan Petroleum (HPCL) was allotted Rs107bn that was up from Rs102bn previously. No capital support was allocated to the oil marketing companies in the budget given IOC, BPCL and HPCL all reported record profits in 2023-24. India's crude import dependency rose to 88.3pc in April-June from 88.8pc the previous year, oil ministry data show. India's crude imports during January-June were up by around 1pc on a year earlier at 4.65mn b/d, according to Vortexa data. ONGC's allocation rose to Rs308bn for 2024-25, while fellow state-controlled upstream firm Oil India's increased to Rs68bn from Rs305bn and Rs56bn rupees respectively in the revised budget for 2023-24. India has been trying to reduce its dependence on imports and will offer 25 oil and gas blocks in the tenth bidding round in August or September under the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy's Open Acreage Licensing Programme (OALP). It offered 136,596.45km² in 28 upstream oil and gas blocks in the ninth bidding round. ONGC in January secured seven of the 10 areas of exploration blocks offered under India's eighth OALP round. A private-sector consortium of Reliance Industries and BP, Oil India and private-sector Sun Petrochemicals received one block each. Allocation for the Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) received a push to Rs4.08bn for the construction of caverns under its second phase against Rs400mn in the previous budget. The first phase of India's SPR built 1.33mn t (9.75mn bl) of crude storage at Vishakhapatnam, 1.5mn t at Mangalore and 2.5mn t at Padur. A provision of Rs119.25bn was made for LPG subsidies in 2024-25 compared with spending of Rs122.4bn in 2023-24. By Roshni Devi Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Repsol 2Q profit doubles but cash flow turns negative


24/07/24
News
24/07/24

Repsol 2Q profit doubles but cash flow turns negative

Madrid, 24 July (Argus) — Spanish integrated Repsol's profit more than doubled on the year in the second quarter, as lower one-time losses and better results in the upstream and customer divisions more than offset a weaker refining performance. But its cash flow turned negative as it completed the buyout of its UK joint venture with China's state-controlled Sinopec, raised investments and experienced weaker refining margins. Net debt was sharply higher, largely reflecting share buy-backs. Repsol has said it will acquire and cancel a further 20mn of its own shares before the end of the year, which will probably further increase its debt. It completed a 40mn buy-back in the first half of the year. Repsol's profit climbed to €657mn ($714mn) in April-June from €308mn a year earlier, when earnings were hit by a large provision against an arbitration ruling that obliged it to acquire Sinopec's stake in their UK joint venture. Excluding this and other special items, such as a near threefold reduction in the negative inventory effect to €85mn, Repsol's adjusted profit increased by 4pc on the year to €859mn. Repsol confirmed the fall in refining margins and upstream production reported earlier in July . Liquids output increased by 3pc on the year to 214,000 b/d, and gas production fell by 4pc to 2.1bn ft³/d. Adjusted upstream profit increased by 4pc on the year to €427mn. The higher crude production and a 13pc rise in realised prices to $78.6/bl more than offset lower gas production and prices, which fell by 6pc to $3.1/'000 ft³ over the same period. Adjusted profit at Repsol's industrial division — which includes 1mn b/d of Spanish and Peruvian refining capacity, an olefins-focused petrochemicals division, and a gas and oil product trading business — was down by 16pc on the year at €288mn. Profit fell at the 117,000 b/d Pampilla refinery in Peru after a turnaround and weak refining margins, and there was lower income from gas trading. Spanish refining profit rose on a higher utilisation rate and gains in oil product trading. Repsol's customer-focused division reported adjusted profit of €158mn in April-June, 7pc higher on the year thanks to higher retail electricity margins, a jump in sales from an expanded customer base, higher margins in aviation fuels and higher sales volumes in lubricants. Repsol swung to a negative free cash flow, before shareholder remuneration and buy-backs, of €574mn in the second quarter, from a positive €392mn a year earlier. After shareholder remuneration, including the share buy-backs and dividends, Repsol had a negative cash position of €1.12bn compared with a positive €133mn a year earlier. Repsol's net debt more than doubled to €4.595bn at the end of June from €2.096bn on 31 December 2023, reflecting the share buy-backs and new leases of equipment. By Jonathan Gleave Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Generic Hero Banner

Business intelligence reports

Get concise, trustworthy and unbiased analysis of the latest trends and developments in oil and energy markets. These reports are specially created for decision makers who don’t have time to track markets day-by-day, minute-by-minute.

Learn more