Seeking higher revenues, Saudi sets out stall for light crude

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Despite OPEC's oil output curbs, Saudi Arabia has been offering its customers more light crudes while cutting heavy grades, a trend that could increase as the kingdom wants to maximize revenue and needs more heavy oil to power its own refineries, said Reuters.

This trend, if sustained, will impact refining margins particularly in Asia, and narrow the spread between light and heavy crude globally, industry sources and analysts said. That would be bad news for sophisticated refiners, which value heavy grades because the lower cost of such oil results in higher margins, and good news for older, simpler plants that generally need light, sweet crude.

Saudi Arabia cut the April prices of light crude it sells to Asia for the first time in three months in an effort to shore up demand. The spread between Arab Light and Heavy was at USD2.45 a barrel, the narrowest since September.

Before the OPEC output pact, in mid-November 2016, Brent futures for delivery in June 2017 were trading at a premium of around USD4 per barrel over Oman futures. That has since narrowed to around USD1.25.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and a number of other producers pledged to cut output by about 1.8 MMbpd from Jan. 1, the first curb in eight years, to boost prices and erode a glut. OPEC is discussing whether to extend the pact beyond June.

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, accounts for some 40% of the pledged OPEC curbs and has reduced output by more than 500,000 bpd to slightly below 10 MMbpd, with cuts concentrated mainly in medium and heavy grades.

Those cuts, and increasing output of US shale oil, have increased the price of Middle Eastern heavy crudes for Asian delivery, making it economical for traders to ship crude from Russia, the Atlantic Basin and the United States to Asia.

Most of the heavier Saudi grades comes from offshore fields -- mainly Safaniya, Manifa and Zuluf, which makes production costly compared to other Middle Eastern producers such as Iran and Iraq, industry sources said. "You have to meet local demand first, and domestic refineries in Saudi Arabia need the heavy grades," one industry source said.

"To sell the heavy grades at a competitive price against other producers, you would be producing at higher cost but selling at low profit."

Saudi Arabia produces a range of crudes ranging from Arab Extra Light to Arab Heavy. It has nine refineries with processing capacity of about 2.9 MMbpd, of which just above 1 MMbpd of refining power runs on medium and heavy grades.

"Strategically, if they have to cut back a little they would prefer to cut back the expensive offshore production and sustain the lighter crudes," said Sadad al-Husseini, an energy consultant and former senior executive at state oil giant Saudi Aramco.

Light, sweet crudes are more valuable to refiners because they are easier to process, while heavier and sour grades often trade at a discount.

Alfa Laval awarded heat exchanger order for West African refinery

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Alfa Laval has won an order to supply Alfa Laval Packinox heat exchangers to a refinery in West Africa. The order, booked in the Welded Heat Exchangers unit of the Energy Division late March, has a value of approximately SEK 55 million and delivery is scheduled for 2017 and 2018, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The order comprises the delivery of compact heat exchangers for energy recovery in a chemical process, where low octane refinery naphthas are converted into high-octane liquid products.

"This is the third Packinox order that we have booked within a short period of time," said Susanne Pahlen Aklundh, President of the Energy Division. "These reliable and highly energy-efficient products play a vital role in recovering and saving energy and are therefore well-suited for the energy-intense refinery and petrochemical industries."

Reliance Industries shuts its PP plant in Gujarat for maintenance

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has shut down its polypropylene (PP) plant for maintenance, reported Apic-online.

A Polymerupdate source informed that the plant was shut recently for a maintenance turnaround. The plant is likely to remain shut for around 25 days.

Located at Hazira near Surat in Gujarat, the PP plant has a production capacity of 600,000 mt/year.

As MRC informed previously, RIL has delayed the start-up of its new monoethylene glycol (MEG) plant until Q2 2017. The company scheduled to commence operations at the plant in Q2 2017. As per the earlier plans, the plant was to be started in December 2016. Located at Jamnagar, Gujarat in India, the plant has a production capacity of 750,000 mt/year.

Reliance Industries is one of the world's largest producers of polymers. The company is engaged in a wide range of activities, ranging from oil and gas production to production of polyester and polymer goods, including the production of polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and textiles.

Brazil's black market pipeline: Gangs hijack Petrobras oil, fuel

MOSCOW (MRC) -- In September, police investigating a wave of killings in the northern Rio de Janeiro suburbs followed a tip to the isolated scrubland near the massive Duque de Caxias oil refinery, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

Police presumed the killings were linked to turf battles between criminal gangs in the run-up to municipal elections the following month. They found a different explanation buried beneath the grass: a system of tubes to siphon fuel from underground pipelines leading from the refinery, owned by state-run oil company Petrobras.

Some of the killings, police said, were part of a power struggle between rival gangs earnings millions of dollars a year from stealing crude oil, diesel and gasoline and selling it on a thriving black market.

The discovery highlighted a fast-growing criminal enterprise in Brazil's oil heartland, between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. From just one recorded incident in 2014, the number of thefts and attempted thefts from Petrobras rose to 14 in 2015 -- before jumping five-fold to 73 last year, the company told Reuters.

The racket is part of a larger crime wave in Brazil, and especially Rio, amid the country's worst recession on record. Investigators believe the oil and fuel thefts were masterminded by the city's powerful militias -- often made up of retired or off-duty cops -- as they seek to move away from terror and violence to lower-profile crimes following a crackdown by authorities in recent years.

The thieves' methods range from hijacking tanker trucks to tapping the company's more than 11,000 km of pipelines -- and processing stolen crude at their own secret refineries. "Not even Petrobras knows exactly how much is being stolen," said Giniton Lages, the Rio police chief who led the investigation at Duque de Caxias. "It's a huge business, moving millions of reais."

While oil theft -- often with environmental damage from the accompanying spills -- is commonplace in regions like the Niger Delta of Nigeria, it has not traditionally been a problem in Brazil.

The thefts add to the steep challenges facing Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the Rio-based firm is formally known. Amid weak oil prices, the company is scaling back under new CEO Pedro Parente and trying to emerge from a USD100 MM pile of debt.

For the past three years, the state-run company has been hit by a sprawling investigation into corruption and political kickbacks in its dealings with construction firms. Police suspect corruption in the oil thefts as well. The taps and pipes near the Duque de Caxias refinery were so precisely engineered that investigators concluded the thieves must have had help from inside Petrobras.

"They knew what type of fuel was inside each pipe and what was the ideal point to place a tap without the change of pressure in the tube raising the attention of the company's security system," Lages said.

Petrobras, whose production of about 2.8 MMbpd makes it one of the world's top 10 oil companies, said it was working with police to identify any employees or ex-employees that may have been involved in the crimes.

"In 2016, there was a startling increase in theft from our pipelines," said Rodrigo Spagnolo, head of pipeline maintenance at Transpetro, Petrobras' transport subsidiary. The company, however, said the robberies had no material impact on its earnings. Petrobras reported revenues of USD81 B last year.

Berkshire Hathaway affiliate buys Prism Plastics

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Precision automotive molder Prism Plastics Inc. has been sold to a subsidiary of Marmon Engineered Components Co., according to an announcement from Altus Capital Partners, the investment firm that had owned Chesterfield, Mich.-headquartered Prism along with its founders since June 2014, said Plasticsnews.

Marmon is an affiliate of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the publicly traded conglomerate headed by Warren Buffett. Under Altus ownership Prism has undertaken several growth initiatives, including the June 2016 acquisition of Tech Molded Plastics Inc. of Meadville, Pa. That move doubled Prism’s size and added in-house toolmaking capabilities.

In addition to that facility and its Chesterfield headquarters, Prism has manufacturing operations in Port Huron, Mich., and Harlingen, Texas.

Marmon Engineered Components Co. is a company of Marmon Holdings Inc., part of Berkshire Hathaway, that spans the business sectors of distribution services; industrial products; and tubing, fittings and wire products, of which Prism will be a part. Rodney Bricker will continue to lead Prism as president.

Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway bought Marmon in 2008. At the time, Marmon already had plastics holdings, including fastener makers Nylok Corp. of Macomb, Mich., and Nylok Canada Inc. of Brampton, Ontario; as well as several units that make polymer-insulated wire and cable products.

Terms of the Prism deal were not disclosed.

Prism, which was a Plastics News Processor of the Year finalist in 2014, had estimated 2015 sales of USD37 million according to PN's most recent survey of North American injection molders. That total did not include Tech Molded Plastics, which won the PN Processor of the Year award in 2013, and had estimated 2015 injection molding sales of USD18 million.