Qatar pivots to LNG-hungry China in strategy shift

Qatar pivots to LNG-hungry China in strategy shift
Since the early 1990s, Qatar has depended on international companies, including ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Total, to help it to build its LNG industry. (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 12 May 2021

Qatar pivots to LNG-hungry China in strategy shift

Qatar pivots to LNG-hungry China in strategy shift
  • US shale gas revolution and increased focus on renewable energy as pressure mounts to tackle climate change has curbed the West’s appetite for gas

SINGAPORE/BEIJING: Qatar is in talks to make Chinese firms partners in its liquefied natural gas expansion project, the world’s largest, in a shift from the Gulf state’s reliance on western majors for technology and global outreach, industry sources said.
Since the early 1990s, Qatar has depended on international companies, including ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Total, to help it to build its LNG industry. In exchange, the Western majors received lucrative long-term supply contracts.
But the US shale gas revolution and increased focus on renewable energy as pressure mounts to tackle climate change has curbed the West’s appetite for gas.
Three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters state energy giant Qatar Petroleum (QP) was in talks with Chinese state firms, including PetroChina and Sinopec , for equity stakes in Qatar’s $28.7 billion North Field expansion, the world’s biggest single LNG project.
Western majors ExxonMobil, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Total, Chevron and Eni have also been invited to bid for a share.
The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is private, although CNOOC Ltd’s CFO Xie Weizhi said last month the firm was “very interested” in Qatar’s gas projects.
It was unclear how advanced the talks were. One of the sources said PetroChina was discussing a 5 percent stake.
Biggest meets fastest
The North Field expansion should allow Qatar to strengthen its position as the largest LNG exporter, with output of 110 million tons per annum (mtpa) by 2026, a 40 percent increase.
The second largest exporter Australia has been closing the gap with Qatar through new gas projects in recent years.
Refinitiv Eikon shiptracking data showed Australia exported 77.3 million tons in 2020 compared with Qatar’s 77.6 million tons.
Although not carbon free, natural gas is less polluting than coal and China is expected to use it to replace coal in winter heating, electricity generation and industry to curb its emissions.
As a result, China is expected by next year to overtake Japan as the world’s biggest LNG importer.
China has already agreed supply deals and invested in producers such as Russia and Mozambique and is keen to diversify from Australian LNG following a deterioration in bilateral ties.
For its part, Qatar has courted China, whose gas demand accounted for about 8.3 percent of the world’s total in 2020 and is expected to grow by 8.6 percent in 2021 to 354.2 billion cubic meters, data from CNPC’s research institute showed.
Saad Al-Kaabi, Qatar’s energy minister and the head of QP, has met Zhang Jianhua, director of China’s National Energy Administration several times since 2018 to discuss cooperation.
Sinopec and Qatar signed two long-term deals, one last year and one earlier this year, following which Sinopec set up an office in Doha.
“China is the fastest growing market and is looking into long-term contracts to secure supply,” Carlos Torres Diaz from Rystad Energy consultancy said. “So moving deals to China would make a lot of sense for Qatar.”
Able to stand alone?
The western energy companies’ expertise and investment helped to make Qatar the world’s richest country on a per capita basis and to build up a sovereign wealth fund holding more than $350 billion in assets.
Now the joint LNG projects are established, Qatar is in a position to move forward without them.
One person involved in the talks said QP’s Kaabi told energy majors in meetings over the last months that it no longer depended on them to fund new projects.
Qatar was not necessarily dispensing with them, but would be seeking terms more favorable to it, the person said.
Last month, it decided not to extend its joint-venture contract for the Qatargas 1 LNG plant, with ExxonMobil, Total and Japan’s Marubeni and Mitsui after the 25-year contract expires in 2022.
Sources from Total and ExxonMobil told Reuters on condition of anonymity the companies had expected to negotiate an extension.
Mitsui and Marubeni both said they respected QP’s decisions and Mitsui also said it was interested in participating in the expansion.
Exxon spokesman Todd Spitler told Reuters the company looked forward to “continuing success” in future projects with QP and the state of Qatar.
“ExxonMobil affiliates are working with Qatar Petroleum to identify international joint venture opportunities that further enhance the portfolio of both,” he said.
Of the foreign partners, Exxon has the highest exposure to the country with access to 15.4 million tons per annum of Qatari gas, followed by Shell at 2.4 mtpa and Total at 2.3 mtpa. For Exxon, Qatar represents over 60 percent of its LNG sales volumes.
Western energy analysts say Qatar still has a use for the big, listed Western players, although it has less need for their direct investment.
Of the other companies with interest in Qatar, Chevron, and Total had no comment and PetroChina and Sinopec did not respond to requests for comment. QP also did not comment.
ConocoPhillips said it was preparing a competitive bid for the North Field expansion and an Eni spokesman also said it was considering a bid.
“International partners, especially the majors, remain key to helping Qatargas secure LNG off-take and global market access,” Valery Chow from Wood Mackenzie consultancy said. “QP doesn’t need foreign balance sheet funding for new projects.”
Having made a final investment decision on the expansion, Qatar is effectively building the North Field expansion project alone.
Kaabi has said Qatar has the muscle to continue without help, but would prefer to have partners to boost its global outreach and strengthen long-term deals.
It could also have political incentives to maintain ties as it considers a second phase of the expansion, which sources expect will be announced later this year and would increase its LNG capacity to 126 mtpa by 2027.
The value of Qatar’s US links was underscored as Washington helped it to resolve a row with Saudi Arabia, which ended early this year.
But the ties could be maintained with US companies taking a smaller share of Qatar’s LNG than in the past and through international connections.
The Western majors have over the last two years sold QP stakes in assets around the world, including exploration projects in Argentina, Brazil and Mozambique.
But they have not handed Qatar the kind of long-term deals in fast-growing Asian markets that the Chinese energy firms can deliver and Qatar regards as a priority, the sources said.


Suez Canal posts second-highest monthly revenue

Suez Canal posts second-highest monthly revenue
Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, is seen in Egypt's Great Bitter Lake Tuesday, March 30, 2021. (AP)
Updated 5 min 22 sec ago

Suez Canal posts second-highest monthly revenue

Suez Canal posts second-highest monthly revenue
  • Tonnages amounted to 10.6 million in May, compared to 9.94 million tons during the same period last year, an increase of 11.8 percent

CAIRO: The Suez Canal Authority has posted May revenues of $530 million, the second-highest monthly revenue in the authority’s history.

Osama Rabie, head of the authority, said that it is prepared to confront any crises, and that a strategy has been prepared to handle repercussions of the pandemic.

He added that 1,712 ships transmitted through the canal during May, compared to 1,602 during the same month last year, an increase of 9.6 percent.

Tonnages amounted to 10.6 million in May, compared to 9.94 million tons during the same period last year, an increase of 11.8 percent.

Rabie stressed that these improvements attracted praise from trade bodies such as the Baltic and International Maritime Council, Sea Trade, Forbes, and Argos. The groups have lauded the authority for attracting container ships and gas and oil tankers coming from the East American coast in the direction of Asia.

He pointed out that the authority will always be a pioneer in adopting the latest methods and techniques of management and operation, as well as applying the mechanisms of integration between all elements of maritime transport.

Rabie said: “The Suez Canal Authority has prepared all scenarios to confront any emergency crises, which was clearly demonstrated when facing the coronavirus pandemic, which hit global trade and economic movement at the beginning of 2020, and negatively affected all areas related to international navigation and maritime transport in general, but this negative impact has been kept to a minimum thanks to an integrated proactive strategy prepared by the canal.”

 


Egypt, France sign transport, housing, energy agreements

Egypt, France sign transport, housing, energy agreements
Egypt's PM Mostafa Madbouli (C) looks on as France's Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire (L) signs agreement with Egyptian Minister of Transportation Kamel el-Wazir (R) in Cairo on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 13 min 43 sec ago

Egypt, France sign transport, housing, energy agreements

Egypt, France sign transport, housing, energy agreements
  • Projects offering development financing of around 1.7 billion euros ($2.06 billion) were agreed with 776 million euros coming from the French government and 990 million euros from the French Development Agency

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has highlighted the importance of his country’s strong relationship with France after the two nations signed a raft of cooperation agreements.

His comments came during a meeting with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire who also praised Egyptian-French economic and commercial links while passing on President Emmanuel Macron’s congratulations to Egypt for its efforts in helping negotiate a ceasefire in the recent Israel and Gaza conflict.

Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and Le Maire witnessed the inking of a number of agreements between their two countries relating to the transport, housing, and energy sectors.

Projects offering development financing of around 1.7 billion euros ($2.06 billion) were agreed with 776 million euros coming from the French government and 990 million euros from the French Development Agency.

Two agreements worth 150 million euros were penned to support Egypt’s social protection sector and implement a universal health insurance system.

A deal to re-establish the French University in Egypt by constructing a fully equipped new campus was also signed with funding of 12 million euros and a grant of 2 million euros.

 


Energy majors bid for Qatar LNG project despite lower returns

Energy majors bid for Qatar LNG project despite lower returns
Updated 14 June 2021

Energy majors bid for Qatar LNG project despite lower returns

Energy majors bid for Qatar LNG project despite lower returns
  • Qatar plans to grow its LNG output by 40 percent to 110 million tons per annum (mtpa) by 2026

LONDON: Six top western energy firms are vying to partner in the vast expansion of Qatar’s liquefied natural gas output, industry sources said, helping the Gulf state cement its position as the leading LNG producer while several large projects around the world recently stalled.
Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, TotalEnergies and ConocoPhillips, which are part of Qatar’s existing LNG production were joined by new entrants Chevron and Italy’s Eni in submitting bids on May 24 for the expansion project, industry sources told Reuters.
The bids show energy giants continue to have appetite for investing in competitive oil and gas projects despite growing government, investor and activist pressure on the sector to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.
Unlike Qatar’s early LNG projects in the 1990s and 2000s when the country relied heavily on international oil companies’ technical expertise and deep pockets, the country’s national oil company Qatar Petroleum (QP) has gone ahead alone with the development of the nearly $30 billion North Field expansion project.
It is, however, seeking to partner with the oil majors in order to share the financial risk of the development and help sell the additional volumes of LNG it will produce.
“I don’t think QP need the IOCs expertise in the upstream or midstream construction of the project but they will be glad to see someone take some LNG volumes off their hands,” a senior source in one of the bidding companies said.
Qatar plans to grow its LNG output by 40 percent to 110 million tons per annum (mtpa) by 2026, strengthening its position as the world leading exporter of the super-chilled fuel.
An Eni spokesperson confirmed the company is participating in the bidding process. QP, Shell, Chevron, TotalEnergies, Conoco declined to comment.
Exxon said it did not comment on market rumors, but added: “We look forward to continuing success in future projects with our partners Qatar Petroleum and the State of Qatar. ExxonMobil affiliates are working with Qatar Petroleum to identify international joint venture opportunities that further enhance the portfolio of both.”
Leading energy companies see natural gas as a key fuel in the world’s efforts to cut carbon emissions and replace the more polluting coal, although the International Energy Agency said in a report last month that investments in new fossil fuel projects should stop immediately in order to meet UN-backed targets aimed at limiting global warming.
Activists say that expansion in natural gas delays a transition to renewable energy that is needed to meet UN-backed targets to battle climate change. The European Union is in the midst of a debate about what role gas should take in the energy transition.
The outlook for global LNG supplies tightened sharply in recent months after Total suspended its $20 billion LNG project in Mozambique due to a surge in violence.
It followed a string of delays of LNG projects in North America as COVID-19 hobbled demand last year.
Global LNG demand has increased every year since 2012 and hit record highs every year since 2015 mostly due to fast-rising demand in Asia. Analysts have said they expect global LNG demand will grow about 3-5 percent each year between 2021 and 2025.
Lower returns
The interest from companies in the Qatari expansion comes despite relatively low returns.
QP offered international bidders returns of around 8 percent to 10 percent on their investment, down from around 15 percent to 20 percent returns Exxon, Total, Shell and Conoco have seen from the early LNG facilities, according to sources in three companies involved.
Qatar project returns have never previously been disclosed.
The six companies and QP declined to comment on the terms of the bids.
“Clearly Qatar has become more competitive,” a source said. “But it remains very low risk from the resource perspective.”
The results of the tender process are not expected to be announced before September, two of the sources said.
In March, QP said it will take full ownership of Qatargas 1 LNG plant when its 25-year contract with international investors including Exxon and TotalEnergies expires next year, in a sign of its growing confidence.
Qatar is also in talks to make Chinese firms partners in the project, sources told Reuters last month.
QP last month hired international banks for a multi-billion dollar debut public bond sale by the end of June, two sources said, to help in part development the Northern Field project.


Cash will not be used in Saudi energy industry city

Cash will not be used in Saudi energy industry city
Updated 14 June 2021

Cash will not be used in Saudi energy industry city

Cash will not be used in Saudi energy industry city
  • SPARK announced in March that 80 percent of the project’s first phase was officially complete

RIYADH: A new city being developed in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province will be cashless according to Riyad Bank CEO Tareq Al-Sahdan.
King Salman Energy Park (SPARK), located between Dammam and Al-Ahsa, is being built on an area of 50 square kilometers and will include a dedicated logistics zone and dry port. SPARK announced in March that 80 percent of the project’s first phase was officially complete.
A new agreement signed between Riyad Bank and the King Salman Energy City (SPARK) aims to fully transform the project into a fully digital city, Al-Sahdan told Al Arabiya.
“We aspire that Spark City will be completely digital, since it is a new city, where cash is not used, and there will be payment solutions for all uses and a special pass card used in shops and services,” he told Al Arabiya.
An agreement between the pair, which includes ten initiatives, aims to support the Kingdom’s ranking in ease of doing business and the digital economy.

 


Abu Dhabi’s ADIA said to review property strategy

Abu Dhabi’s ADIA said to review property strategy
Updated 14 June 2021

Abu Dhabi’s ADIA said to review property strategy

Abu Dhabi’s ADIA said to review property strategy
  • ADIA may consider cutting its exposure to some troubled sectors, the sources said

RIYADH: The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), one of the world’s biggest property investors, is considering changes to its real estate strategy after some of its major holdings suffered during the pandemic, Bloomberg reported citing people with knowledge of the matter.
ADIA may consider cutting its exposure to some troubled sectors, the people said, asking not to be identified.
The state-owned sovereign wealth fund has been making more direct property investments in recent years, and has amassed just under $700 billion in assets, according to estimates from data provider Global SWF.
Real estate traditionally accounts for about 5 percent to 10 percent of that overall portfolio.
ADIA could shift its focus for future deals and increase exposure to areas like warehouses, life sciences properties, technology hubs and affordable housing, one of the people said.
The fund has also invested more in private equity investments, which have outperformed during the pandemic, the people said.
The review is ongoing, and ADIA hasn’t made any final decisions on the changes it will make, Bloomberg reported.