I am in “Gas City” or Doha, the capital of the state of Qatar. Located halfway along the Western coast of the Gulf, Qatar has been enjoying a construction boom fuelled by its hydrocarbon riches, in particular the world’s largest single gas field, the North Field. The field contains more than 900 trillion cubic feet of gas, equivalent to 150bn barrels of oil, or more than 10 per cent of worldwide gas resources.
The field was first discovered in the early 1970s by what is now Royal Dutch Shell and in just a few week’s time the Anglo-Dutch oil and gas giant will make history when it starts up its Pearl Gas-To-Liquids (GTL) plant. Via pipelines feeding from two offshore platforms 60km off the Qatar coast, the plant will take gas from the North Field and turn it into valuable liquids such as cleaner-burning diesel and aviation fuel, oils for advanced lubricants and naptha used to make plastics.
Royal Dutch Shell’s announcement this morning that it is selling its holding in six oil and gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico is by no means a signal that the Anglo-Dutch major is about to reduce its presence in the area. The company is doing what most of its peers have been doing - selling non-core assets and focusing on higher-quality ones.
At the same time, most of the supermajors are also increasing their capital expenditure budgets in an attempt to increase production growth – one of the themes to come out of the third quarter reporting season that just ended which saw Exxon and Shell report sharply higher profits, fuelled by strong crude prices and better refining margins.
Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co Securities puts out a chatty research report every day, and it is worth reading. Case in point came yesterday when I came down to the header Industry response to Macondo.
It referred to a full-page advertisement in the Houston Chronicle from BP’s peers – ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips. The ad was for the new oil containment system this group of four have agreed to spend $1bn building to ensure there is never again such a disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. From the ad:
Engineer it. Build it. And make sure it is never needed.
But read on….