by Adam Taylor
The situation between South Sudan and Sudan over disputed oil fields has been on the verge of blowing up into a full scale war for weeks.
Read more: BI
(Reuters) – Global oil supply outages are running at more than a million barrels a day, a Reuters survey has found, helping provide justification for the United States and Britain should they release strategic reserves in a bid to cut oil prices.
Civil unrest, adverse weather and technical glitches disrupted 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of global oil output in March on the 90 million bpd world market, according to a Reuters calculation from information provided by companies, government agencies and traders.
While disruptions of supply to the world oil market are commonplace, it is rare and perhaps unprecedented that such a large volume of oil is offline at any one time outside a single major disruption.
The aggregate reduction now is close to the volume of exports lost from Libya during civil war last year which at its worst knocked out 1.4 million barrels a day.
The International Energy Agency opened emergency reserves for only the third time last year to cover that loss but is resisting doing so again, arguing that it does not see a significant supply disruption.
The United States and Britain were reported by Reuters last week to be planning a bilateral release. South Korea would support a release, a government source said, but has not yet had an approach to do so. Others including Germany and France are opposed to an increase. “I think it’s pretty clear from the administration’s references to Sudan’s and other outages that if it decides to use the SPR (Strategic Petroleum Reserve) it will justify it partly on various recent disruptions,” said a former White House energy advisor, Bob McNally, who heads consultancy Rapidan Group.
Leading oil exporter Saudi Arabia has raised its own output to 9.85 million bpd in February, according to a Reuters survey, but is the only producer with significant spare output capacity to counter serious shortfalls.
Some of the current outages could ease in April, when output from Canadian and Australian oilfields is expected to resume after temporary shutdowns. In addition, Libyan output is fast rising toward pre-war levels.
Supplies from politically volatile producers Syria, Yemen and South Sudan may remain disrupted for a prolonged period. Sanctions against Iran could also offset any increase in output from other countries, tightening oil supply later this year.
“Australian productions are just about to come back after the cyclone,” said Seth Kleinman, analyst at Citigroup. “But you always want to bet on more supply outages than less. The situation in Sudan and South Sudan has shown no signs of improvement and the key to watch is oil loadings from Iran,” he said.
With Apache’s Stag likely to follow soon, about 65,700 bpd of Australian oil and about 320,000 bpd of Canadian oil, which has been unexpectedly closed off, are likely to come back to the market in April.
Still, a larger chunk of about 710,000 bpd in South Sudan, Yemen and Syria remains shut and shows no sign of an early return.
Disruptions may grow as a European Union ban on Iranian crude takes effect on July 1 and as pressure increases on Asian importers to reduce oil purchases from Iran. EU countries late last year were importing about 700,000 bpd of Iranian crude.
The IEA estimates Iran’s oil exports could be curtailed by between 800,000 and 1 million bpd from the middle of this year.
Citi’s Kleinman said Nigeria should be kept on the watch list. Although there have not been any significant outages in March, Africa’s largest producer suffers from sabotage attacks to oil production facilities, which have forced oil majors such as Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) to suspend exports.
In the North Sea, the UK’s largest oilfield Buzzard has been experiencing sporadic technical glitches, which have reduced its output since last year.
Buzzard’s output fell to about 153,000 bpd earlier in March but recovered to a normal 200,000 bpd late last week.
Following is the breakdown of global oil production outages by region and country as of mid-March.
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA – 490,000 bpd
Syria – Export outage totals about 150,000 bpd. Syrian oil output has been severely reduced since last year and its exports suspended since September due to international sanctions.
Before the conflict, Syria exported about 150,000 bpd of mostly heavy Souedie crude.
Yemen – About 140,000 bpd of Yemen’s oil output has been reduced by months of political unrest over the last year. Output came to a near standstill in mid-February during a week-long worker strike at its largest oilfield.
Libya – Libya’s crude output as of late March was about 1.4 million bpd, or 200,000 bpd below the full production level of 1.6 million bpd before the 2011 civil war. An official with Libya’s National Oil Corporation said its exports are likely to increase to 1.4 million bpd in April, including some deliveries from tanks following some loading delays from March due to bad weather.
AFRICA – 350,000 bpd
South Sudan – South Sudan shut its crude oil output of roughly 350,000 bpd – about three quarters of the combined total from Sudan and South Sudan – in January after Sudan took some of the crude to make up for what Khartoum said were unpaid transit fees.
AMERICAS – 320,000 bpd
Canada – Oil output has been cut by about 320,000 bpd as production of Suncor Energy Inc’s (SU.TO) and Syncrude Canada has been cut by 220,000 bpd and 100,000 bpd, respectively, for unplanned outages. Both will be back online in April.
ASIA PACIFIC – 65,700 bpd
Australia – Cyclone Luna forced Apache (APA.N) and Woodside Petroleum (WPL.AX) to shut Stag, Enfield and North West Shelf oilfields last week. Woodside said on Monday it had restarted production at Enfield. After the restart, the production shut-ins total about 65,700 bpd. The figure includes the 8,800 bpd Stag field, which Apache said is expected to restart soon.
- Oil shut-ins, slow supply growth support price: IEA (business.financialpost.com)
- Murky data makes oil trading tricky (business.financialpost.com)
- Tapping oil from the SPR may be trickier than ever (business.financialpost.com)
- OPEC oil output rises to more than three-year high (business.financialpost.com)
- China urges restraint in Sudan dispute (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Analysis: More, not less, oil this year despite Iran ban (reuters.com)
China, the biggest investor in oilfields in the new nation of South Sudan, called for “calm and restraint” as a transit fee dispute threatened to cut off crude exports from the African producer.
News wires 23 January 2012 01:24 GMT
South Sudan said on Friday it planned to halt oil production within two weeks after its northern neighbour Sudan started seizing southern crude to compensate for what Khartoum called unpaid transit fees, Reuters reported.
“The Chinese side hopes that the two governments will fulfil their commitment to protecting the legal rights of Chinese enterprises and those of other partners,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Weimin said in comments posted on the ministry’s website on Saturday.
Sudan and South Sudan together made up 5% of China’s crude oil imports in 2011, or about 13 million barrels, ranking seventh among China’s oil suppliers.
Chinese customs data does not differentiate imports from South Sudan, which seceded in July, taking with it about two-thirds of the formerly united country’s oil output.
“Oil is the economic lifeline shared by Sudan and South Sudan,” Liu said.
“We urge the two sides to remain calm and restrained, avoid taking any extreme action and continue working together with mediation by the African Union and other parties to resolve their dispute through negotiation at an early date and to benefit the two countries and their peoples,” he said.
China’s foreign ministry used nearly the identical wording when the transit fee dispute first surfaced in November, Reuters reported.
It has sought to maintain good relations with Khartoum, a long-time ally, and South Sudan, home to investment by state-owned Chinese oil giants China National Petroleum Corporation and Sinopec.
China’s oil imports from Sudan grew by 3% in 2011, but average monthly volumes dropped to 998,000 tonnes from August onwards, compared with 1.14 million tonnes per months in the first seven months of the year.
Published: 23 January 2012 01:24 GMT | Last updated: 20 minutes ago
- Chinese envoy urges Sudan solution
- US eases sanctions on South Sudan
- China in ‘Sudan mediation bid’
- United plans buys after Pakistan
- China chases Sudan oil tie-ups
- CNPC ‘wins Sudan licences’
- South Sudan to halt oil production in row with Khartoum (headspills.wordpress.com)
- Shell Eyes Potential South Sudan Opportunities (mb50.wordpress.com)
- “The US Plan to Destabilize Sudan” by Thomas C. Mountain (afrospear.com)
- South Sudan Says Oil Pipeline May Shut Down on Sudan Blockade of Shipments – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Summary Box: S. Sudan says Sudan stealing oil (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- New oil dispute threatens prospects for peace between Sudan and South Sudan (yubanet.com)
- Sudan split drags oil-hungry China into the middle of a poisonous feud (smh.com.au)
by Alexis Flynn Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday, January 04, 2012
LONDON (Dow Jones Newswires), Jan. 4, 2012
“We continuously review potential business opportunities around the world. We would like to better understand the current security, political and business environment in South Sudan, and how this has been impacted by the secession,” a Shell spokesman said in a statement.
Ethiopian newspaper The Reporter on Saturday said Shell is planning to construct an oil pipeline from South Sudan to Ethiopia. Citing “reliable sources,” the paper said a Shell delegation had visited South Sudan in November.
When asked whether Shell had met with local officials and discussed a potential pipeline project, a Shell spokesman declined to elaborate beyond the company’s statement that it wasn’t pursuing business opportunities in South Sudan “at the moment.” The company doesn’t have a presence in Sudan.
Although South Sudan retained most of the country’s output and is now producing around 350,000 barrels of oil a day, the landlocked country still depends on Khartoum for refineries, ports and export pipelines.
Similar challenges also exist elsewhere in East Africa, a burgeoning oil province following recent major discoveries in Uganda‘s Albertine basin but without the necessary infrastructure to bring its crude to market. French major Total, U.K. explorer Tullow Oil and China’s CNOOC are expected to invest at least $10 billion developing Uganda’s oil assets, which will include the building of a 1,300-kilometer pipeline to the Kenyan port of Mombasa.
However, analysts cast some doubt on whether Shell would be prepared to make a significant investment into a relatively unstable part of the world.
Relations between the two Sudans have worsened in recent weeks, with the office of South Sudan President Salva Kiir late Monday accusing Sudan of stealing its oil by diverting as much as 1.2 million barrels of crude oil.
Royal Bank of Canada analyst Peter Hutton said a move into South Sudan would have little obvious operational synergy for Shell, which have been exiting Africa in the downstream, adding that their experience in Nigeria has probably made the firm’s management more risk averse. “It all looks a bit of a stretch–not the direction investors will want Shell to go in,” said Hutton.