ExxonMobil - Africa’s premier report on the oil, gas and energy landscape.

All posts tagged ExxonMobil


Why the Current Energy Market Reminds us of ‘Tulipmania’

By Gerard Kreeft

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tulipmania  got its name from the Dutch tulip market bubble, which occured in the early to mid-1600s, when speculation drove the value of tulip bulbs to extremes. At the height of the market, the rarest tulip bulbs traded for as much as six times the average person’s annual salary.

Translated otherwise: tulips sold for approximately 10,000 Dutch guilders, equal to the value of a mansion on Amsterdam’s Grand Canal. The mania and crash occured in the short period of 1636 – 1637 when contract prices collapsed abruptly and the trade of tulips ground to a sudden halt.

The Tulipmania bubble of the 17th century is an apt description of the gas and oil sector of the last 75 years. The great divide is the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

Post-Paris there are two very differing scenarios emerging. Scenario Renewable, as the name suggests, is a proponent of renewable energy—be that hydrogen, wind, geothermal and solar energy. Scenario Oil, also as the name suggests, is a staunch believer in oil production.

Can the two scenarios be reconciled with each other?

Scenario Renewable is playing out in various versions in Europe. Offshore- wind, solar and hydrogen projects are key ingredents for Europe’s major oil and gas companies who include BP, ENI, Equinor, Shell and TOTAL.

A key strategic question is juggling funding to ensure that both oil and gas projects and renewables can be managed and implemented. Whether both types of assets can be financed and managed successfully under one roof remains unanswered.

To date, all of Europe’s majors are playing their cards close to their chests, hoping their twin stakes—oil & gas and renewables—will ensure them the best of both worlds; a continuous stream of good margins from their oil and gas assets and stable revenues from their renewables. The makings of the energy company of the 21st century.

A competing factor are Europe’s energy companies—Iberdrola, Engie,Vattenfall, RWE, Orsted, Enel—who have already drawn up their green strategies.

Increasingly, the lines of demarcation are being drawn up.

Scenario Oil is best represented by the American oil companies ExxonMobil, Chevron, and such large independents as Occidental, Marathon and Devon Energy, whose portfolios only include oil and gas projects. Any discussions about the energy transition are confined to within the scope of oil and gas. In other words: no Plan B.

Begining this October, Chevron surpassed ExxonMobil in terms of market capitalization. Since the start of 2020, ExxonMobil has lost 50% of its market value, compared with Chevron’s 39%. ExxonMobil was also forced out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average due to its sharply diminished market capitilization.

Simon Flower, Chairman & Chief Analyst of the consultancy firm of Wood Mackenzie stated in a recent study that ExxonMobil is exposed to high-cost, low margin assets, principally oil sands and other areas including Alaska.

According to the study, ExxonMobil’s cash margins are the lowest of the majors based on $30 per barrel. ExxonMobil owns 60% of the majors’ lowest assets based on $30 barrel.

In a scathing report on ExxonMobil’s CEO Darren Woods, IEEFA (Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, based in Cleveland, Ohio, USA) has asked the Board that Woods be sacked.

IEEFA maintains that ExxonMobil defined itself as the oil industry’s  global leader which all others followed. In the short span of three years (2017-2019) Woods has presided over a significant deterioration of the company’s finances.

“By both short- and long-term financial measures, ExxonMobil has shown significant signs of slippage against past performance. Faced with the same market challenges as its peer-competitors (Shell, TOTAL, BP and Chevron), Woods’s tenure has been marked by a faster rate of decline or deeper losses in profits, cash and shareholder value. Based on actual performance, IEEFA recommends that the board of directors move to replace Woods.”

Yet Chevron should not gloat. Some 50% of its oil production comes from only two key regions, making it very vulnerable in terms of diversity of supply, as highlighted:

Tengiz in Kazakhstan which in 2018 celebrated its 25th anniversary and geared to produce up to 1MMBOPD (oil equivalent). With its highly sulfur-rich oil, Tengiz could well become an ugly duckling.

Africa: Nigeria, Angola,Republic of Congo and Egypt- having a daily net oil production for Chevron of 412,000BPD (oil equivalent). Sub-Saharia Africa could also turn sour. Angola, where Chevron is a major oil producer, once the darling of the continent, has seen its oil production continuing to slip downward, now at 1,200,000 BPD.

Yet, with both ExxonMobil and Chevron there is a complete lack of any strategic discussion as to whether renewable fuels play a role. Their entire energy transition strategy is solely done within the confines of the fossil bubble.

The Spoiler: Saudi Aramco

The spoiler in both energy scenarios could be Saudi Aramco, the state oil company of Saudi Arabia. Consider the following: Saudi Aramco has 20% of the world’s oil reserves, can produce oil for only $4.00 per barrel and can quickly increase production up to 13Million barrels per day.

Regardless how low the oil majors manage to bring down their barrel of oil production price, who can compete with production costs of only $4.00 per barrel? If you are the Minister of Energy in a petro-economy, does it not make more sense to close shop and simply import Saudi oil?

The  low oil price and COVID-19 have also impaired the US shale operators, seen by the Saudis as competition needed to be sidelined. The Deloitte study entitled “The Great Compression: Implications of  COVID-19 for the US  shale market” is forecasting impairments of up to $300Billion and that 30% of shale operators are technically insolvent.

If COVID-19 and the oil spat continue for a longer period, will the Saudis  pump more oil to ensure market share and economic gain? Even at the cost of taking a wrecking ball to OPEC and the international majors?

Saudi Aramco’s message is very simple: pump the oil while it still has economic value. In 15-20 years it could become a vast stranded asset.

Saudi Aramco also has extensive downstream ambitions: possibly investing in China’s Zhejiang refinery and petrochemicals complex south of Shanghai.

Aramco is also in talks with Reliance Industries to buy a 20% stake in its oil-to-chemical business in India.

Finally, Saudi Aramco has also unveiled its renewal strategy, launching a $500Million fund to promote energy efficiency and renewables. It aims to generate 9.5 GW of renewable energy by 2030.

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 outlines the country’s three objectives wanting to create a :

Vibrant society

Thriving economy

Ambitious nation.

Expect Saudi Aramco to take an aggressive marketing stance in the coming months in order to be able to finance its domestic agenda.

Conclusions

How can Europe’s majors avert a modern version of tulipmania by continuing to fund both renewables and oil and gas projects and still be competitive?

Will we see more  spin-offs and specialization? For example, to ensure that deepwater projects can be cost effective. In the meantime, offshore wind projects are rapidly gaining due to economies of scale.

What is the role of Europe’s green energy companies?

How should the oil and gas majors co-operate with Saudi Aramco?

What will be the role of Saudi Aramco in the energy transition?

In 15-20 years will the tulip be a symbol of value or a bad memory?

Gerard Kreeft,  BA ( Calvin University ) and  MA (Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada), Energy Transition Adviser, was founder and owner of EnergyWise.  He has managed and implemented energy conferences, seminars and master classes in Alaska, Angola, Brazil, Canada, India, Libya, Kazakhstan, Russia and throughout Europe. He writes on a regular basis for Africa Oil + Gas Report.

 

 

 

 


Digital Transformation in Oil & Gas—How to Choose the Right Partners?

PAID POST

Low oil prices, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, are putting pressure on oil and gas companies to reduce operational costs through efficiency and optimization. There is only a limited number of ways to achieve this — by downsizing, reducing production, or implementing digital transformation. While a quick fix, downsizing and production reduction are not sustainable solutions. As such, more and more oil and gas companies are looking at the strategic advantages of digital transformation, driven by cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), big data, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Digitization: A Must for the Oil and Gas Industry

According to Accenture Technology Vision 2019, of the 168 oil and gas executives surveyed, 85% from upstream and 90% from downstream companies said that they were currently implementing one or more of the following technologies: Distributed Ledger Technology, AI, Extended Reality, and Quantum Computing (DARQ).

In recent years, most large oil and gas companies have increased investment in digital transformation. Internationally, large multinationals have launched their own digital and intelligent oilfield construction plans, such as the Digital Oilfield by ExxonMobil, Integrated Development by ConocoPhillips, Smart-Field by Royal Dutch Shell, I-Field by Chevron, and E-Field by BP.

Chinese enterprises have also been actively implementing new digital strategies in the industry. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has built an exploration and production cloud platform, as well as over 50 digital management systems, including exploration and development, refinery and chemical engineering, and service support, among others. Sinopec has set up three digital platforms for operation management, production operation, as well as information infrastructure and O&M. In addition, it has built several technology-driven solutions, such as ProMACE, smart factory, Chememall, and Epec. At the same time, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is developing on-going plans for intelligent oilfields. It has successfully built unmanned platforms, and has piloted multiple projects on intelligent exploration, oil production, asset management, and drilling and completion.

Oil and gas companies are rapidly investing in digital and intelligent projects to improve exploration and development efficiency and reduce production costs. Ultimately, the industry looks to seize the opportunities that digital transformation has to offer.

A Difficult Road to Digital Transformation

Each upstream enterprise progresses at a different pace during digital transformation. Various companies in the oil and gas industry have achieved different levels of development in data monitoring and collection, device networking, data analysis, and predictive maintenance; the industry overall has had some success in these domains. However, the further the industry transforms digitally, the more challenges it faces.

Zhang Tiegang, former Deputy Chief Engineer of Daqing Oilfield Exploration and Development Research Institute, introduced the three key pain points in the digital transformation of the oil and gas industry at the Huawei Oil and Gas Virtual Summit 2020 held on July 15.

  1. Massive Data Growth

Compared with other industries, oil and gas manages an even larger amount of data. For example, the amount of seismic data is increasing at an unprecedented speed. As oil and gas exploration becomes more difficult, the process requires more precise seismic wave exploration techniques. Broadband, wide-azimuth, and high-density (BWH) seismic data collection is particularly important, amounting to nearly 1 TB/km2. The exploration area is constantly expanding and the originally collected high-resolution seismic data in just a single work area may amount to over 17 TB. In addition, the continuous increase in historical data records further speeds up data growth.

  1. Increased Computation Workload and Complexity

The ever-increasing data volume leads to a sharp increase in the computation workload. For example, the computation workload of pre-stack reverse time migration (RTM) and storage volume are 10 and 50 times higher than before, respectively. To ensure comprehensive and accurate understanding of oilfield production dynamics, the computation requirements of large-scale reservoir numerical simulation also increase significantly. Therefore, oilfield companies have increasingly high requirements on data processing technologies. More and more complex algorithms — such as anisotropic pre-stack depth imaging, RTM, and full waveform inversion (FWI) — also pose higher requirements on computational capabilities.

  1. Weak Information Infrastructure

Equipment rooms, computing, storage, and IT O&M constitute the information infrastructure system of oil and gas enterprises. Most companies used to build their own, resulting in many equipment rooms with high energy consumption and low security. At the same time, low server configuration and utilization are no longer able to meet the requirements of massive data processing. In addition, the existing shared storage devices come from different providers and feature low capacity, unable to store massive data. Moreover, O&M departments face increasing pressure to hire highly skilled personnel to ensure the O&M of independent and scattered IT with a poor intelligence level.

Partnership Can Help Oil & Gas Streamline Digital Transformation Who Will the Partners Be?

The digital transformation of oil and gas enterprises is a huge systematic undertaking. Therefore, technical support from IT companies is indispensable.

Partnership Between Oil and Gas Enterprises and IT Companies (Some Cases)

Every large oil company has chosen to form partnerships for digital transformation. In this case, IT companies provide oil and gas enterprises with comprehensive digital solutions by using advanced technologies such as AI, big data, and cloud computing.

Take the partnership between Huawei and Daqing Oilfield Company as an example. Cloudification is key for digital transformation. However, data, computing, and facilities present serious challenges. To address these, Daqing Oilfield Company cooperated with Huawei to build a cloud data center, achieving an elastic supply of IT resources. The computing power of the data center now reaches 1,000 trillion FLOPS — a 300% increase in efficiency. Thanks to the elastic supply of computing and storage resources, the acquisition period has been reduced from three days to three hours. At the same time, servers with super computing power and the cloud-based deployment environment optimize data processing by 3 to 10 times. To achieve this, production data is transmitted to the cloud center through the high-speed dedicated network for processing. The calculation results are automatically sent back to the data center for archiving and management, ensuring the security of the core oilfield data.

In addition, Huawei has developed multiple technical service capabilities for oilfield digitization by using technologies such as AI, big data, and 5G. By deploying HUAWEI CLOUD, SONATRACH (Algeria) has successfully transitioned to cloud-based IT by deploying a company-wide ERP system. With AI, big data, and industrial IoT technologies, Huawei has built a fault prediction model for predictive maintenance of pumping units. Huawei has also built the largest industrial 5G oilfield lab in Europe’s biggest oil refinery, as well as implemented future-oriented services such as inspection robots, wireless sensors, “connected” employees, and predictive maintenance. Recently, Shengli Oilfield and Huawei recently signed a strategic cooperation agreement to build a cloud platform and 5G-based intelligent oilfields.

Efficiency and cost are the competitiveness indicators of the oil and gas industry. As a leading global ICT solutions provider, Huawei is continuously working with oil and gas partners to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and achieve digital transformation.

  1. Improved efficiency

In line with the strategy of increasing reserves and production, how to maximize value from historical exploration and development data has become a new requirement of CNPC. Together with partners, Huawei planned and built a computing AI platform for CNPC, to implement AI training and big data analytics. The customer has now applied AI in multiple ways, such as artificial lift fault diagnosis and seismic first arrival wave identification. The value of underused historical exploration and production data has been fully explored.

  1. Reduced cost

Huawei built a local, dedicated cloud for Daqing Oilfield, to provide oil and gas exploration computing. This in turn helped Daqing to optimize its costs and shift high-performance exploration and development computing services from CAPEX to OPEX. By reusing ten PB of historical exploration data, the cloud helped improve computing power by 833 percent, and increase the annually processed area from 400 square kilometers to 2000 square kilometers.

Strong partnerships are essential in the oil and gas industry, regardless of the digital transformation strategies a company may adopt. Alone, digital transformation is difficult, due to its complex technical requirements. The key for success is to build strong and strategic partnerships with industry leaders, ensuring a clear scope of cooperation. In this period of digital transformation, it is critical for oil and gas enterprises to choose their partners wisely — it will define the industry trends, but more importantly, it will determine who will become the new industry leaders.

© 2024 Festac News Press Ltd..