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Activist investors face uphill battle at US majors

  • Spanish Market: Crude oil, Natural gas
  • 27/03/23

The US majors are on the front foot entering this year's shareholder proxy season, emboldened by record profits and a growing conviction that fossil fuel demand is not going away any time soon.

This may mean climate-minded shareholders who saw their 2021 proxy season successes — including the ouster of one-quarter of the ExxonMobil board — fade in 2022 will have an even harder time gaining ground. Support for environmental proposals waned last year as concerns around energy security trumped climate change following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which sent oil prices spiralling and sparked a full-blown energy crisis in Europe.

This time around, the oil industry has regained its feel-good factor and is unashamedly investing in upstream production growth after highlighting the risks of an energy transition push that tries to abandon oil and gas before clean energy investments and policy ensure a corresponding shift in demand. The US majors will still be confronted with climate-related shareholder proposals at annual general meetings. Follow This, a Dutch activist group, is calling on ExxonMobil and Chevron to set medium-term reduction targets for Scope 3 end-use emissions — which account for the vast majority of their carbon footprint. Shareholder advocate As You Sow is pressing both to recalculate baselines to strip out emissions associated with divestments since 2016, to give a more accurate picture.

Climate activists counter that the crisis is only getting worse, as reflected in a UN IPCC climate report last week, and shareholder campaigns could see renewed support this year. "I don't think the energy security narrative is going to dampen that interest," think-tank Carbon Tracker's North American executive director Rob Schuwerk says. In any case, the "long-term trend in terms of energy security is to have localised supply and that's going to favour renewables".

But as a growing backlash against investing along environmental, social and governance guidelines in some Republican states gathers momentum, climate campaigners may have their work cut out. Larry Fink, chief executive of Blackrock, the world's biggest asset manager, wrote in his recent annual letter to shareholders that it is not the job of firms like his to be the "environmental police", in a shift in tone from recent years.

Transition balance

Both ExxonMobil and Chevron plan to ramp up spending on low-carbon initiatives in coming years, and have welcomed incentives provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, although they still lag their European rivals. Yet at industry gathering the S&P Global CERAWeek conference in Houston this month, executives talked about the need for more balance when it comes to the energy transition. "The issue of how we best move toward a lower-carbon energy system is one that is getting reframed as we get some real experience with the challenges of pushing some of these new technologies forward," Chevron chief executive Mike Wirth said. "The reality is that affordability and energy security actually do matter."

Although tracking Scope 3 emissions may make sense for measuring global progress on combating climate change, there are "significant downsides" to applying such targets at the company level, according to ExxonMobil's chief executive Darren Woods. "We are growing our LNG business," Woods said. "Every tonne of LNG we produce backs out coal somewhere in the world."

There is now a broad consensus that oil and gas will be required for decades to come, while lower-carbon sources take time to ramp up, bank HSBC Global Research analysts say. "This means oil majors cannot afford to step off the upstream oil and gas ‘treadmill' too soon," they wrote in a recent note.


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25/07/24

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

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.

Indian budget lifts spending for refining, crude SPR


24/07/24
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.

Repsol 2Q profit doubles but cash flow turns negative


24/07/24
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.

Equinor 2Q profit supported by higher European output


24/07/24
24/07/24

Equinor 2Q profit supported by higher European output

London, 24 July (Argus) — Norway's state-controlled Equinor posted a small rise in profit on the year in the April-June period, as a lift in its European production offset lower gas prices. Equinor reported a profit of $1.87bn in the second quarter, up by 2.2pc on the year but down by 30pc from the first three months of 2024. The company paid two Norwegian corporation tax instalments, totalling $6.98bn, in the second quarter, compared with one in the first quarter. Equinor paid $7.85bn in tax in April-June in total. Its average liquids price in the second quarter was $77.6/bl, up by 10pc from the second quarter of 2023. But average gas prices for Equinor's Norwegian and US production fell in the same period by 17pc and 6pc, respectively. The company noted "strong operational performance and lower impact from turnarounds" on the Norwegian offshore, including new output from the Breidablikk field . Equinor's entitlement production was 1.92mn b/d of oil equivalent (boe/d) in April-June, up by 3pc on the year. The company cited "high production" from Norway's Troll and Oseberg fields in the second quarter, as well as new output from the UK's Buzzard field. But US output slid, owing to offshore turnarounds and "planned curtailments onshore to capture higher value when demand is higher", the company said. It estimates oil and gas production across 2024 will be "stable" compared with last year, while its renewable power generation is expected to increase by around 70pc across the same timespan. Equinor's share of power generation rose by 14pc on the year to 1.1TWh in April-June. Of this, 655GWh was renewables — almost doubling on the year — driven by new onshore wind capacity in Brazil and Poland. "Construction is progressing" on the UK's 1.2GW Dogger Bank A offshore windfarm , Equinor said. It is aiming for full commercial operations in the first half of 2025 at Dogger Bank A — a joint venture with UK utility SSE. Equinor was granted three new licences in June to develop CO2 storage in Norway and Denmark. The Norwegian licences — Albondigas and Kinno — together have CO2 storage potential of 10mn t/yr. The Danish onshore licence, for which Equinor was awarded a 60pc stake, has potential capacity of 12mn t/yr. Equinor has a goal of 30mn-50mn t/yr of CO2 transport and storage capacity by 2035. The company's scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions amounted to 5.6mn t/CO2 equivalent (CO2e) in the first half of the year, edging lower from 5.8mn t/CO2e in January-June 2023. It also incrementally cut its upstream CO2 intensity, from 6.7 kg/boe across 2023, to 6.3 kg/boe in the first half of this year. Equinor has kept its ordinary cash dividend steady , at $0.35/share, and will continue the extraordinary cash dividend of $0.35/share for the second quarter. It will launch a third $1.6bn tranche of its share buyback programme on 25 July. By Georgia Gratton Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

US House passes waterways bill


23/07/24
23/07/24

US House passes waterways bill

Houston, 23 July (Argus) — The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill on Monday authorizing the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to tackle a dozen port, inland waterway and other water infrastructure projects. The Republican-led House voted 359-13 to pass the Waterways Resources Development Act (WRDA), which authorizes the Corps to proceed with plans to upgrade the Seagirt Loop Channel near Baltimore Harbor in Maryland. The bill also will enable the Corps to move forward with 160 feasibility studies, including a $314mn resiliency study of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which connects ports along the Gulf of Mexico from St Marks, Florida, to Brownsville, Texas. Water project authorization bills typically are passed every two years and generally garner strong bipartisan support because they affect numerous congressional districts. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously passed its own version of the bill on 22 May. That bill does not include an adjustment to the cost-sharing structure for lock and dam construction and other rehabilitation projects. The Senate's version is expected to reach the floor before 2 August, before lawmakers break for their August recess. The Senate is not scheduled to reconvene until 9 September. If the Senate does not pass an identical version of the bill, lawmakers will have to meet in a conference committee to work out the differences. WRDA is "our legislative commitment to investing in and protecting our communities from flooding and droughts, restoring our environment and ecosystems and keeping our nation's competitiveness by supporting out ports and harbors", representative Grace Napolitano (D-California) said. By Meghan Yoyotte Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

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