Aramco is cleanest supplier of oil to China, US research finds

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Saudi Aramco’s Manifa oilfield. The national oil company is China’s cleanest supplier of crude, the annual CERAWeek energy conference in Houston heard. (Reuters)
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Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser speaks at the annual CERAWeek energy conference in Houston where it was revealed that the national oil company was China’s cleanest crude supplier. (Reuters)
Updated 08 March 2018

Aramco is cleanest supplier of oil to China, US research finds

HOUSTON: Saudi Aramco supplies the environmentally cleanest oil to China, the biggest energy consumer in the world, according to a recent scientific study.
A research paper by Nature Energy, a publication of Stanford University in the US, compared the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 13 big oil producers that shipped crude oil to China.
The results showed that Saudi crude had the lowest average carbon intensity when processed and used by Chinese industry, meaning that it produced fewer environmentally harmful emissions than other suppliers.
Venezuela sold China the “dirtiest” oil, according to the study, followed by Iran and Iraq, the researchers found.
Oil industry experts said that the findings reflect not only the higher quality of Saudi crude, but also the efficiency of the technology used to get the crude from reservoirs to shipment.
The study was highlighted at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit event in Houston, Texas. Amin Nasser, chief executive of Saudi Aramco, said: “Not all crudes are equal, and (the research shows that) Saudi Arabia has among the lowest carbon intensities of crude production in the world.”
The researchers said: “Oilfields in Saudi Arabia showed the lowest average GHG intensities due to highly productive reservoirs (high productivity index), low water production (leads to lower mass lifted and less energy expenditure in separation per unit of oil extracted) and low flaring rates.”
Ahmad Al-Khowaiter, Aramco’s chief technology officer, said that the findings showed the value of the big research and development program that the Saudi national oil company has made one of its main business priorities.
“It is good business, not just good environmental practice. We are the lowest cost producer, and the lowest emissions producer. It will help achieve sustainability through greater energy efficiency,” he said.
China is the biggest oil consumer in the world, but is also a major environmental polluter, mainly because it continues to use local coal as its main energy source.
The CERAWeek event has sought to understand the country’s new attitude toward the environment, dubbed “making China skies blue again” by the government.
Mikael Höök, an energy scientist at Sweden’s Uppsala University, said: “Documenting the emissions and net energy of a crude supply could be essential to meeting national emission and energy security targets.
“The data presented by Nature Energy indicates that the impact of replacing or phasing out just the most carbon-intensive 10 percent of Chinese oil imports could be significant — not just for continuing climate-informed energy strategies but also for geopolitical and energy security reasons, such as avoiding potentially risky suppliers in regions with security concerns.
“Improved understanding of Chinese oil policies and import preferences are, therefore, vital for modeling emission trends on local and global scales with a nuance that can inform policy realistically,” he said.


WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Keeping things in balance

Updated 08 December 2019

WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Keeping things in balance

  • The over-compliance will result in cuts of 1.7 million bpd

Brent crude rose above $64 per barrel after OPEC+ producers unanimously agreed to deepen output cuts by 503,000 barrels per day (bpd) to a total 1.7 million bpd till the end of the first quarter of 2020.

The breakdown is that OPEC producers are due to cut 372,000 bpd and non-OPEC producers to cut 131,000 bpd.

Current market dynamics led to this decision as oil price-positive news outweighed more bearish developments in the US-China trade narrative that has weighed on oil prices throughout the year, with US crude exports rising to a record 3.4 million bpd in October versus 3.1 million bpd in September.

OPEC November crude oil output levels at 29.8 million bpd show that producers were already overcomplying with its current 1.2 million bpd output cuts deal by around 400,000 bpd. 

The over-compliance will result in cuts of 1.7 million bpd, especially when Saudi Arabia continues to voluntarily cut more than its share.

This makes the agreed 1.7 million bpd output cuts pragmatic since it won’t taken any barrels out of the market.

It isn’t a matter of OPEC making room in the market for other additional supplies from non-OPEC sources, as OPEC barrels can’t be easily replaced.

Instead, this is about avoiding any oversupply that might damage the global supply-demand balance.

Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has effectively kept his promise and managed to smoothly forge a consensus among OPEC and non-OPEC producers.

He has also successfully managed the 24-country coalition of OPEC+ including Russia in reaching an agreement.

Despite suggestions otherwise in recent coverage of the Vienna meeting, the deeper cuts announced on Friday have nothing to do with the Aramco IPO. Let’s remember this meeting was scheduled six months ago and the IPO has been in the works for much longer.

The Aramco share sale did not target a specific oil price. If that was a motivating factor it could easily have chosen another time.