A feasibility study into a virtual deep water port in the Firth of Forth has been commissioned by a newly-formed group to promote Dundee as a decommissioning hub.
Forth and Tay Decommissioning is an alliance of businesses with a shared vision to position Dundee as the UK Hub for North Sea oil and gas decom.
The group said it is looking to utilise Scotland’s natural resources by creating a port at deep water anchorage in the waters of the Firth of Forth.
It has instructed professional services firm Bureau Veritas to look into the viability of the creation of the floating quayside which would be capable of accommodating the very largest decommissioning projects.
Callum Falconer, chief executive of Dundeecom, said: “I am confident that the feasibility study, announced today, for a virtual deep water quayside will demonstrate that there is an opportunity to take an alternative approach by taking the quayside to the deep water thus capitalising on the natural deep water in the Forth.”
Forth and Tay Decommissioning members include Port of Dundee owner Forth Ports and leading firms ABB, Augean North Sea Services, COES Caledonian, John Lawrie Group, Offshore Decommissioning Services and Well-Safe Solutions.
Mr Falconer added: “This is the natural evolution of Dundeecom, which was started two years ago with the vision of creating a decommissioning hub in Dundee.
“Forth and Tay Decommissioning will create the framework for a sustainable, profitable and low cost decommissioning industry in Dundee, and better serve the future needs of our industry in Scotland.
“We are supporting and aligning with the UK Government and industry regulators through our new model for decommissioning.”
Forth and Tay Decommissioning said Dundee offered customers a highly-skilled local workforce, with access to major transport links for easy commuting and streamlined logistics.
The group said the Port of Dundee’s strategic location, ample dockside and infrastructure made it the ideal domestic hub for decommissioning
Charles Hammond, Chief Executive of Forth Ports, added: “Through significant private investment and strong partnerships, Dundee now offers a full service for the North Sea Oil and Gas decommissioning sector.
“The proximity to the skills base in Dundee, along with unrivaled land space and heavy lift quayside, makes Dundee the logical choice for large scale decommissioning in Scotland.
“The study into a virtual deep water quay will ensure that we take advantage of the deep water in the Forth to accommodate the largest of decom projects.”
An Aberdeenshire deepwater firm has announced increased staff numbers and an expansion of its facilities due to a seven-figure investment in the business.
Dyce-based Interventek confirmed today it has ploughed £750,000 into a new technology development and test centre and added six new workers to its roster.
The subsea oil and gas engineering firm now employs a total of 17 people in the north-east.
Interventek also announced increased business in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caspian Sea.
In October, the firm revealed it had secured an order in excess of £1 million for its revolution in-riser shear and safety valve from Louisiana-based Professional Rental Tools LLC (PRT Offshore).
Interventek’s new workshop has been expanded to create a technology development and test centre with a 5,000 square foot space.
The technology centre includes an overhead crane and the latest pressure and temperature test equipment.
Gavin Cowie, managing director at Interventek, said: “With the global market for our subsea technology worth in the region of half a billion pounds and the need for safer and more cost effective well intervention rising, this is a prime time for our business to be positioned to work with all types of partners from global IOCs to dynamic independents and forward-thinking service providers.
“Our new team members, with their incredibly strong design and engineering skillset, are a valuable asset to the company.
“They will help to ensure we are fully prepared for the future as we look to roll-out our portfolio of shear-seal valve designs as well as pursue our ambition for the delivery of complete subsea intervention safety systems.
“These include a landing string system, an open water riserless intervention system and well abandonment tree saver system.”
TechnipFMC has warned that Brexit could have a “material adverse effect” on its global business.
In its annual report, the firm said a range of issues have been made uncertain which could increase costs, depress economic activity, restrict access to capital and “further decrease foreign investment in the United Kingdom”.
The energy services giant is based in the UK, with operational headquarters around the world.
TechnipFMC highlighted a lack of clarity on supply chain logistics, health and safety, immigration and employment laws, financial and tax regulation and free trade deals which would affect it.
As an example, the firm said that withdrawal from the EU could lead to certain tax-related EU directives currently being applicable to UK firms, being eliminated and therefore raising its costs.
The firm also stated that it may be liable to higher taxes in the US due to the potential loss of tax treaties with America and the EU being applied to UK firms.
TechnipFMC also stated that barrier-free access could between the EU and UK could be “diminished or eliminated” in the event of a no-deal and “any of these factors could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations”.
The incoming president of the Energy Institute (EI) has condemned the “appalling” record of oil and gas on gender and ethnic diversity.
Steve Holliday, former CEO of the National Grid, is president-elect of EI and will officially take up the role in July.
He described oil and gas as the “worst” sector for diversity, with progress being “glacial” in the last five to ten years.
Mr Holliday was CEO of National Grid for almost ten years before stepping down in 2016, championing inclusion during his tenure.
Attracting a more diverse workforce will play a key role in addressing the industry’s skills shortage, according to Mr Holliday, who added that many people in the sector currently “just don’t get it”.
He said: “If I look at what we achieved at National Grid and I look at where we are in the oil and gas industry right now, the oil and gas industry is appalling. Absolutely awful. It’s pretty much the worst sector for diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity.
“The rate of progress, when you look at it over the last five to 10 years, it is what I would describe as glacial. I think the stat is, globally, it’s only eight percent female. It’s quite unbelievable.”
Mr Holliday will speak on the issue at the annual EI dinner for the Aberdeen, Highlands and Islands branch in May.
According to latest figures published in 2014, the overall oil and gas workforce is made up 23% by women, well below the national average for UK industries at 47%.
At boardroom level that figure drops further, and it’s even lower for the offshore workforce which is three percent female.
National Grid is part of an energy leaders coalition to champion women in the industry along with the likes of Shell and Scottish Power, aimed at driving up the number of females in senior roles.
The firm also sponsored the Leadership Conference for Women in Energy in London last year.
Mr Holliday is seeking to use his experience on the issue to drive it home for oil and gas.
He added: “The reason why I’m going to be talking about it in Aberdeen and going on and on about it for the next few years as well is we’ve got quite clearly a bunch of people that work in the industry at the moment who don’t quite get it.
“In my old life at the National Grid I championed diversity and, with a lot of hard work, managed to significantly increase the amount of females in our business and could see first-hand the huge difference with men in idea-generation.
“We’ve got to do something about things to really inject a sense of urgency and not assume it’s going to look after itself.
“Whether its oil and gas, whether its renewables, whether it’s all the associated industries around it, there is a tremendous opportunity both for men and women and we’ve got to do more to bring that home in the next few years.
“The oil and gas industry is going to have to step up and make quite a significant investment in this in the next few years to get the most out of the opportunity that is there.”
It’s difficult to ignore the emails, conferences and discussion around digital. There is huge focus on what digital technologies can do for our businesses, moving beyond some of the existing digitalisation of our working practices. It’s been helped hugely by the pervasive nature of technology in our lives, Alexa, Siri, couriers arriving at the door and passing you a handheld computer to sign. These technologies help our industry realise that much of this technology is very mature and, in a lot of areas, largely unexploited in the oil and gas industry.
The industry is becoming much more aware of this, and it’s interesting to see the increase in collaboration to exploit more of these technologies. The rise of organisations such as ONE, OGTC and the Technology Leadership Board plays a significant role in bringing organisations together and leading the industry forward. Learning from each other, sharing best practice and lessons is the first step to ensuring we are at least all at a similar level in gaining benefit from the technology.
Although existing in some form for many years, the Heads of IT forum has been reinvigorated and formalised to bring all the IT leaders of the major companies operating in the oil industry together to share experiences and provide some industry leadership in this area.
We are a data rich industry but the exploitation of that data to get insights and drive decisions has been more sporadic. Seeing huge investments from the likes of BP in artificial intelligence companies gives some indication of where the future can lie. However, there are a lot of real life, strong technology stories already being exploited in the industry and gaining real benefit. The question is becoming more, “why wouldn’t we make decisions with the right information at hand”. And if we aren’t turning our data into insights which drive value, why not?
The plants in Europe and the U.S. are scaling back planned maintenance later this year in anticipation of a surge in demand and fatter margins as the shipping industry gets ready for a historic fuel switch. Analysts say a similar picture is emerging in Asia, too.
Refiners in the Mediterranean and Northwest Europe so far arranged to take about 60 percent less capacity offline for routine work from September to November than they did a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. There’s been a similar plunge in planned U.S. work. Even though more maintenance will come to light, most industry observers are nonetheless expecting fewer shutdowns.
The rush to refine during what’s normally a fallow period for the industry is a response to the introduction in January in 2020 of rules to cut sulfur emissions from the shipping industry. The switch is forecast to send prices soaring for fuels that allow owners to comply with the regulations, according to the International Energy Agency. The measures are widely expected to create a profit surge for some refiners.
“We are seeing, not just in Europe but also in other regions, that refinery maintenance is definitely being front-loaded towards the spring rather than the autumn,” said Jonathan Leitch, London-based research director for refining and oil product markets at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “We think that refiners will be trying to maximize their production of middle distillates in the second half of the year.”
Read why oil analysts believe IMO 2020 will be bullish for refiner margins
Refineries typically plan maintenance in the spring and autumn in order to gear up for stronger fuel demand in the summer and winter months.
Europe’s oil refiners are so far scheduled to halt an average of 520,000 barrels per day of crude-processing capacity from September to November, the data show. That’s less than half the 1.3 million barrels per day they took offline in the same period last year — including both planned and unplanned stoppages.
One such company is Saras SpA, which operates the 300,000-barrel-a-day Sarroch refinery in Sardinia, one of the biggest plants in the Mediterranean market. The Italian company is expecting higher average refining margins year-on-year, especially from the second half of 2019, when the new regulation “will start to have effect,” it said in a March 4 earnings presentation.
The refiner concentrated its maintenance work in the first quarter of this year “in order to be ready to capture better market opportunities arising from IMO,” it said.
Likewise, Spain’s Repsol SA and Tupras Turkiye Petrol Rafinerileri AS are also conducting the bulk of their 2019 work in the first half of the year. Both are doing so with a view to capturing higher margins associated with IMO 2020, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Salih Yilmaz.
While 2018’s work was divided roughly equally between the 1.3 million barrels a day halted in Spring and 1.1 million barrels a day in Autumn, this year’s schedule for Spring is currently double what’s expected to take place in Autumn. It’s important to note that refineries often try to keep plans about work private because the information can be commercially sensitive. Plants also stop unexpectedly. That means this Autumn’s figure is sure to rise as the year progresses.
“This year’s refinery work is particularly front-loaded, likely due to IMO 2020,” researcher Energy Aspects Ltd. said in an emailed note on March 13.
The rule capping the amount of sulfur in fuel used to power the world’s merchant ships is forecast to boost prices for distillate fuels like diesel and marine gasoil, which will be used to meet the regulations.
While the rules enter into force in 2020, owners are expected to start running new fuels before then to be sure of issues like compatibility and avoid a sudden switch.
Even so, the push to produce more distillate fuels could have secondary impacts. That’s because every barrel of crude that’s processed generates a mixture of refined fuels — such as gasoline, jet fuel, diesel and fuel oil — in varying amounts, depending on which crudes the refinery buys, and its configuration.
Global crude markets have this year been inundated with supplies of lighter crudes that are typically produced by U.S. shale oil fields which yield a higher proportion of lighter fuels like gasoline. At the same time, supplies of heavier, distillate-rich crudes have been curbed by restrictions on countries like Iran, Venezuela, as well as by wider OPEC output curtailments.
U.S. refineries have so far planned about 500,000 barrels a day of work from September to November, almost 50 percent down from a year earlier.
At least nine refiners in the country are doing multi-unit turnarounds during the first two quarters, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. PBF Energy Inc. is accelerating the bulk of its 2019 refinery maintenance to the first half of the year to prepare for IMO 2020, the company said during its fourth quarter earnings call on Feb. 14. Valero Energy Corp. moved a multi-unit turnaround at its Memphis, Tenn., refinery to April from the fourth quarter, according to people familiar with operations.
Work has also happened earlier in the year in Asia, according to Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst and head of research at Energy Aspects.
“Refiners want to be ready,” ahead of the changes said Bloomberg Intelligence’s Yilmaz. “They all want to be fully prepared to capture as much of the margin boost, if that indeed starts as early as the second half of the year.”
OPEC and its allies have much work ahead to balance global oil markets and are prepared to do what’s necessary in the second half, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said.
The 24-nation coalition known as OPEC+ needs to “stay the course” until June as its job is “nowhere near complete” in terms of restoring oil-market fundamentals, Al-Falih said late Sunday at a news conference in Baku, Azerbaijan. U.S. inventories remain significantly above normal levels, and there is a risk of oversupply in the short term, he said.
But there was less full-throated support for extending the OPEC+ output-cuts agreement from Russia and Iraq — the pact’s other two biggest producers. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said at the same briefing that uncertainties arising from production in Venezuela and Iran make it difficult for the coalition to determine its next step before May or June.
The ministers spoke ahead of a planned meeting in Baku on Monday of a committee of OPEC+ members responsible for monitoring output. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies have entered its third year of curbing supply in order to defend crude prices. While they’ve helped engineer a 25 percent recovery in Brent this year, current prices of about $67 a barrel remain well below the levels that most of the producers need to cover government spending.
Job Still Remains
“My assessment is that the job still remains ahead of us,” Al-Falih said. “We’re still seeing inventory builds.” At the same time, many investors are skittish about investing in oil exploration and production due to uncertainty, and OPEC+ doesn’t want a situation where crude prices are too high, he said.
“We remain ready to continue monitoring supply and demand and doing what we have to do in the second half of 2019 to keep the markets balanced,’’ Al-Falih said.
Oil futures slipped in Asian trading on Monday morning, though remain close to a four-month high reached last week. West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery slid 22 cents to $58.30 at 1:57 p.m. in Singapore.
OPEC has faced pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to “relax” its stance on curbing supply, as severe strains on output from two members — Iran and Venezuela — threaten to trigger a shortage.
Al-Falih said the crises haven’t changed his view on the need to persevere with output restraints, as losses in both those countries haven’t been severe enough to prevent a renewed accumulation of oil inventories. If the slump in Iranian and Venezuelan supplies intensifies, OPEC is prepared to respond as it has in the past, he said.
Producers are conforming well with output cuts they agreed to make starting in January, and their compliance is improving and will easily exceed 100 percent in March, Al-Falih said. Saudi Arabia will pump about 9.8 million barrels a day in March and April and export less than 7 million barrels daily in both months, he said. The kingdom has a production target of 10.3 million barrels a day.
“We agreed today we need to keep monitoring the situation and by May or June to discuss decisions for the second half of the year,” Novak said at the conference. Russia has trimmed its output by an average of 140,000 to 150,000 barrels a day in March compared with October, the reference month for Russia’s cuts, Interfax reported.
“Currently, the price is acceptable to all the parties, both to consumers and producers, and you can see that the level of volatility is extremely low,” Novak said in an interview with Bloomberg. “We may be balanced today but we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
For an interview with Russia’s oil minister, Alexander Novak
Iraq is doing its best to adhere to its pledged reduction and will pump less in March than in either January or February, Ghadhban, the Iraqi minister, said. While welcoming the price boost from the current accord, he said he hopes that producers continue to put into effect the cuts they’ve promised.
“We should continue till June and then decide, but we are continuously observing and analyzing the market,” Ghadhban said.