Bahrain’s Bapco sees oil trading opportunities as it expands refinery

A bird’s eye view of an offshore oil platform in Bahrain. (AFP)
Updated 10 March 2019

Bahrain’s Bapco sees oil trading opportunities as it expands refinery

  • The expansion will boost the capacity of its Sitra oil refinery to 360,000 barrels per day
  • The small non-OPEC Gulf oil producer, with around 124.6 million barrels of proven reserves, gets its oil revenue from two fields

DUBAI: Bahrain plans to commission its expanded oil refinery by early 2023, allowing it to sell and trade more petroleum products in the Gulf region and Asia, the chief executive of state-owned oil company Bapco said.
The expansion will boost the capacity of its Sitra oil refinery to 360,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the current 267,000 bpd, Bapco CEO Pete Bartlett said.
Bapco currently receives 220,000-230,000 bpd of crude from state oil company Saudi Aramco and will import the same volume during the refinery’s expansion, with commissioning scheduled for late 2022 or early 2023, Bartlett said.
In October 2018 Aramco and Bapco announced the commissioning of the AB-4, a new phase of the Saudi-Bahrain crude oil pipeline, capable of transporting up to 350,000 bpd, which would serve Bahrain’s planned refinery expansion.
“We are on track,” Bartlett said of the expansion.
The small non-OPEC Gulf oil producer, with around 124.6 million barrels of proven reserves, gets its oil revenue from two fields: the onshore Bahrain field, and the offshore Abu Safah field, which is shared with Saudi Arabia. The Bahrain field produces around 50,000 bpd.
Bahrain and top oil exporter Saudi Arabia split revenues from the 300,000-bpd Abu Safah field, where production is overseen by Aramco.
“Aramco and Bapco are strong partners and so our purchases of feedstock are unaffected by what OPEC is doing in terms of managing its own sales,” Bartlett said when asked whether Saudi exports to Bahrain would be affected by OPEC-led supply cuts.
The refinery expansion and resulting production increase may prompt Bapco to focus more on spot trading, but the company is unlikely to establish its own trading joint venture like other national oil companies in the Middle East, Bartlett said.
“We will buy more feedstock and will be trading more products,” Bartlett said, adding the company would continue to look also at trading spot cargoes.
“We will be looking to develop off-take arrangements and sale arrangements further but our core markets will remain within the greater GCC (Gulf region) and increasingly we will find ourselves competing for opportunities in Asia.”
Around 88 percent of the crude that Bapco refines comes from neighboring Saudi Arabia, and the rest from Bahrain’s field.
The refinery’s expansion project financing – which is over $4 billion in size – will be finalized in March, Bartlett said.
“We have been actively working with a number of export credit agencies and commercial banks ... We’re on the cusp of concluding the financing arrangements.”
Bapco had awarded contracts for the project to a consortium comprising TechnipFMC, Samsung Engineering and Tecnicas Reunidas.
Bahrain announced last year its largest ever oil discovery, off the coast, estimated to have at least 80 billion barrels of tight oil, and deep gas resources in the region of 10-20 billion cubic feet.
It is talking to US oil companies with shale oil expertise about developing those resources and hopes to have an interested company by the end of the year, the country’s oil minister said last month.


Oil falls below $57 on virus impact and OPEC+ delay

Updated 19 February 2020

Oil falls below $57 on virus impact and OPEC+ delay

  • Contagion ‘is spooking market players,’ analysts say after Asian shares fall and Apple issues warning

LONDON: Oil fell below $57 a barrel on Tuesday, pressured by concerns over the impact on crude demand from the coronavirus outbreak in China and a lack of further action by OPEC and its allies to support the market.

Forecasters including the International Energy Agency (IEA) have cut 2020 oil demand estimates because of the virus. Though new cases in mainland China have dipped, global experts say it is too early to judge if the outbreak is being contained.

Brent crude was down 82 cents at $56.85 a barrel in mid-afternoon trade after rallying in the previous five sessions. US West Texas Intermediate crude fell 70 cents to $51.35.

“Risk aversion has returned to the markets,” said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.

“OPEC+ has shown no sign yet of reacting to the virus-related slump in demand by making additional production cuts.”

The virus is having a wider impact on companies and financial markets. Asian shares fell and Wall Street was poised to retreat on Tuesday after Apple said it would miss quarterly revenue guidance owing to weakened demand in China.

“This has spooked market players and triggered a sharp pullback in risk assets,” said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM.

The IEA last week said that first-quarter oil demand is likely to fall by 435,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the same period last year in the first quarterly decline since the financial crisis in 2009.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, including Russia, have been considering further production cuts to tighten supply and support prices.

The group, known as OPEC+, has a pact to cut oil output by 1.7 million bpd until the end of March.

The next OPEC+ meeting next month is set to consider an advisory panel’s recommendation to cut supply by a further 600,000 bpd. Talks on holding an earlier meeting in February appear to have made no progress, OPEC sources said.

As well as OPEC+ voluntary curbs, support for prices has come from involuntary losses in Libya, where output has collapsed since Jan. 18 because of a blockade of ports and oilfields.