Shell outlines USD4-5 billion annual spend on chemicals business growth

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Shell says it will invest between USD4-5 billion annually to grow its chemicals and products business as part of a wider rebalancing of its group portfolio to reach its net-zero carbon emissions goal by 2050, according to Chemweek.

The investments, to be made “in the near term,” are part of a wide-ranging package of strategic measures the energy major announced today to accelerate its lower-emissions drive. Shell will also invest USD5-6 billion per year in renewables and marketing, around USD4 billion annually on its integrated gas business, and approximately USD8 billion on its legacy upstream assets. It also confirmed its expectation that its total carbon emissions peaked in 2018 at 1.7 gigatonnes/year and that company oil production peaked in 2019.

“We see chemical demand continuing to grow, outpacing GDP… so we will continue to grow our chemicals business with a focus on intermediates and performance chemicals. These are the areas where we have competitive advantages in technology, scale, and market access. We are currently building or studying projects in Pennsylvania and Louisiana in the US, and at Nanhai in China. We will also produce virgin chemicals from recycled waste,” says Shell CEO Ben van Beurden. “Between our opportunities to increase margins and the options that we have to invest for growth, we will increase our chemicals cash generation by USD1-2 billion a year by 2030,” he says.

Shell says it aims to complete before the end of the decade its previously announced plan to streamline its refining and chemicals business, reducing it from 13 refining sites currently to six core integrated energy and chemicals parks. These will deliver synergies and expand low-carbon product offerings, with the company to also undertake “selective growth in chemicals,” it says. It will utilize existing infrastructure and assets to enable a faster and more efficient transition, it adds.

“These six energy and chemicals parks will be highly integrated with our trading and optimization business, along with our standalone chemicals sites, of course,” says van Beurden. “Our shift to energy and chemical parks means we will reduce our production of traditional fuels by 55% by 2030. At the same time, we will produce more low-carbon fuels and performance chemicals,” he says.

The company’s enhanced focus on performance chemicals will achieve higher returns than from commodity chemicals due to increased resilience and lower volatility, according to Shell. It will also use value chains where it has a competitive advantage through advantaged feedstocks, scale, proprietary technology, and market access, such as the developments at Geismar, Louisiana; Monaca, Pennsylvania; and an expansion at Nanhai, China.

The chemicals business will be grown as an “enabler,” Shell says. It aims to achieve this through investments in integrated petrochemical complexes in emerging markets, and by reducing its commodity chemicals exposure by up to 70% by 2030. This will be done by increasing margins through its investments in intermediate and performance chemicals projects, it says. The company says it sees a “healthy funnel of opportunities to increase annual cash flow from operations by up to an additional USD1-2 billion by 2030 compared with medium-term cash generation.”

Shell estimates the average investment rate of return from projects in its chemicals and products business will range between 10-15%, describing the segment in its strategy presentation as “capital-intensive with longer-term cash flow profile and limited downside.” The average period for project payback on investments will be around 10 years, it says. Cash flow from its chemicals and products business has “limited exposure to commodity prices,” it adds.

The processing of 1 million metric tons/year of waste plastic by 2025 will also be targeted as part of Shell’s circular economy strategy to develop sustainable product offerings, as well as opportunities to use biomass feedstocks, electricity, and hydrogen as power sources, it says. It also aims to increase the amount of recycled plastic in its packaging to 30% by 2030 and ensure that the packaging is reusable or recyclable.

Shell will also seek to have access to an additional 25 million metric tons/year (MMt/y) of carbon capture and storage (CCS) capacity by 2035, with three projects totaling 4.5 MMt/y of capacity already operating, sanctioned, or planned, it adds.

To achieve net zero by 2050, Shell says it is targeting the reduction of its net carbon intensity by 6-8% by 2023, 20% by 2030, 45% by 2035, and 100% by 2050.

As MRC wrote previously, Shell expects its oil production to decrease by 1%-2% annually as it prioritizes spending on transition projects in an acceleration of its strategy to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

We remind that Royal Dutch Shell has reported an outage at its olefins plant in Deer Park, Texas, USA, on 5 January, 2021. The plant flared for 16 hours following unspecified process upset. Maximum steam cracker operating rate in Texas falls to 89%.

Ethylene and propylene are feedstocks for producing polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 2,220,640 tonnes in 2020, up by 2% year on year. Only shipments of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) increased. At the same time, polypropylene (PP) shipments to the Russian market reached 1 240,000 tonnes in 2020 (calculated using the formula: production, minus exports, plus imports, excluding producers' inventories as of 1 January, 2020).

Royal Dutch Shell plc is an Anglo-Dutch multinational oil and gas company headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands and with its registered office in London, United Kingdom. It is the biggest company in the world in terms of revenue and one of the six oil and gas "supermajors". Shell is vertically integrated and is active in every area of the oil and gas industry, including exploration and production, refining, distribution and marketing, petrochemicals, power generation and trading.

COVID-19 - News digest as of 12.02.2021

1. Evonik expands lipids production to support Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Evonik Industries says it is expanding its partnership with BioNTech (Mainz, Germany) to increase supply security for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and is investing in a short-term production expansion for specialty lipids, essential for messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) COVID-19 vaccines, reported Chemweek. The company says that "commercial lipid quantities" are to be produced at Evonik’s Hanau and Dossenheim, Germany, sites as early as the second half of 2021. Further details have not been disclosed. "The pandemic requires decisive action," says Christian Kullmann, chairman of Evonik. "We are therefore doing everything possible to supply our partners with the critical lipids they need. At the same time, we are expanding our production capacity and competencies along the entire value chain."


Crude retreats as demand uncertainty prompts profit-taking

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Crude oil futures settled lower Feb. 11, retreating from 13-month highs as traders booked profits amid mixed demand outlooks, reported S&P Global.

NYMEX March WTI settled 44 cents lower at USD58.24/b, and ICE April Brent declined 36 cents to USD61.11/b.

The International Energy Agency on Feb. 11 pointed to a tightening oil market this year, despite lowering its estimate of the recovery in global oil demand and seeing improving non-OPEC supply growth.

The Paris-based agency predicts global oil demand will grow by 5.4 million b/d in 2021 to reach 96.4 million b/d, noting this would be around 60% of the volume lost to the pandemic in 2020.

This is the fourth straight month the IEA has lowered its demand outlook, given the challenges the world is having in reining in COVID-19, as it shifted its optimism to the second half of the year.

"Crude prices are taking a moment after the February breakout took prices above levels some analysts thought couldn't be touched until a couple years down the road," OANDA senior market analyst Edward Moya said in a note. "The key for whether the crude rally continues is if we don't see a spike in (COVID-19) cases as restrictive measures are eased."

It was the first down day for front-month WTI since Jan. 29 and for front-month Brent since Jan. 28.

Downside price pressure from the IEA report was blunted after OPEC raised its estimate of 2021 global oil demand from last month, saying growth, especially for industrial fuels, in the second half will be led by positive economic developments supported by "massive stimulus programs."

Demand will average 96.1 million b/d this year, up from 95.91 million b/d forecast last month, OPEC said Feb. 11 in its closely watched monthly market report. The estimated increase of 5.8 million b/d over 2020 was revised down by about 100,000 b/d as H1 projections were lowered due to extended and partially re-introduced lockdowns because of the pandemic. Demand fell 9.7 million b/d in 2020.

S&P Global Platts Analytics takes a more sanguine view, predicting global oil demand will grow by 6.1 million b/d after a contraction of 8.8 million b/d in 2020, as it sees an even quicker recovery.

NYMEX March RBOB settled down 32 points Feb. 11 at USD1.6502/gal, and March ULSD declined 1.64 cents at USD1.7446/gal.

RBOB cracks edged higher as the market clawed back some losses posted during the previous session. The front-month ICE New York Harbor RBOB crack versus Brent was holding around USD13.64/b in afternoon trading, up from USD13.46/b the session prior.

US gasoline stocks rose by 4.3 million barrels the week ended Feb. 5, US Energy Information Administration data showed Feb. 10, including a 3.43 million-barrel increase on the US Atlantic Coast, home of the New York delivery point for NYMEX RBOB futures.

The USAC build pushed stocks 1.4% above the five-year average, snapping a six-week tightening trend that saw inventories fall as much as 3.2% behind average in late January.

Front-month RBOB declined nearly 1% Feb. 10 against a broadly higher oil complex, weighing on cracks.

As MRC informed previously, oil producers face an unprecedented challenge to balance supply and demand as factors including the pace and response to COVID-19 vaccines cloud the outlook, according to an official with International Energy Agency's (IEA) statement.

We remind that the COVID-19 outbreak has led to an unprecedented decline in demand affecting all sections of the Russian economy, which has impacted the demand for petrochemicals in the short-term. However, the pandemic triggered an increase in the demand for polymers in food packaging, and cleaning and hygiene products, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company. With Russian petrochemical companies having the advantage of access to low-cost feedstock, and proximity to demand-rich Asian (primarily China) and European markets for the supply of petrochemical products, these companies appear to be well-positioned to derive full benefits from an improving market environment and global economy post-COVID-19, says GlobalData.

We also remind that in December 2020, Sibur, Gazprom Neft, and Uzbekneftegaz agreed to cooperate on potential investments in Uzbekistan including a major expansion of Uzbekneftegaz’s existing Shurtan Gas Chemical Complex (SGCC) and the proposed construction of a new gas chemicals facility. The signed cooperation agreement for the projects includes “the creation of a gas chemical complex using methanol-to-olefins (MTO) technology, and the expansion of the production capacity of the Shurtan Gas Chemical Complex”.

Ethylene and propylene are feedstocks for producing polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 2,220,640 tonnes in 2020, up by 2% year on year. Only shipments of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) increased. At the same time, polypropylene (PP) shipments to the Russian market reached 1 240,000 tonnes in 2020 (calculated using the formula: production, minus exports, plus imports, excluding producers' inventories as of 1 January, 2020).

Total eyes stable oil, gas output in 2021 after OPEC+ cuts hit Q4 production

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Total expects to hold its oil and gas production flat in 2021, after OPEC+ cuts, field declines, and asset sales saw its output shrink 9% year on year in the fourth quarter, reported S&P Global with reference to the French energy major's statement on Feb. 9.

Reporting stronger than expected fourth-quarter earnings, Total said its production averaged 2.84 million b/d of oil equivalent in the period. With production volumes in Libya now recovering, however, Total said it expects production to be stable this year compared with 2020, when it pumped an average of 2.87 million boe/d.

Underlining plans to accelerate its transformation into an integrated energy company, Total said it plans to change its name to TotalEnergies to reflect its ambition to transition to carbon neutrality.

"2020 represents a pivoting year for the group's strategy with the announcement of its ambition to get to Net Zero, together with society," Total's CEO Patrick Pouyanne said in a statement. "The group affirms its plan to transform itself into a broad energy company to meet the dual challenge of the energy transition: more energy, less emissions."

It said it plans to propose the new name to its shareholders at its annual general meeting on May 28.

Like many of its European rivals, Total has signaled a major boost in spending on renewable energy in the coming years as part of its strategy to shift to cleaner, lower-carbon fuels.

The company, which has said it expects global oil demand to peak in the 2030s, last September announced plans to grow its overall energy production by a third in the next decade, with half the growth coming from LNG and half from electricity, mainly renewables. With a shift in focus to cleaner, low-carbon energy, however, it said it expects its oil product sales will be reduced by almost 30% in the same timeframe. The company expects its energy sales mix to be 50% gases, 30% oil products, 5% biofuels and 15% electrons by 2030, compared with 55% oil products, 40% gas and 5% electrons in 2019.

In the near term, Total said the global oil market outlook remains "uncertain" and dependent on the recovery of global demand, which is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Citing the ongoing market uncertainties, Total said it expects net investments of USD12 billion in 2021, down from nearly USD13 billion in 2020, but up from previous guidance of "less than" USD12 billion. It said a fifth of the spending will go to its renewables and electricity division this year.

Total said it continues to see profitable growth in LNG, with sales expected to increase by 10% in 2021 compared with 2020, notably due to the ramp-up of Cameron LNG in the US. Last year, its LNG sales rose by 12% thanks to the startup of three trains at Yamal LNG in Russia and Ichthys LNG in Australia and an increase in trading activity.

Downstream, Total said it sees European refining margins remaining "fragile", with low demand for jet fuel weighing on the recovery of distillates.

"However, thanks to the resilience of marketing and services, the group expects downstream to contribute more than USD5 billion of cash flow in 2021, assuming refining margins of USD25/mt," Total said.

Total, Europe's biggest refiner, saw its average refining margin recover to positive territory during the fourth quarter after turning negative for the first time in more than a decade when demand for fuels collapsed due to coronavirus lockdowns.

Total's "variable cost margin" for its European refineries averaged USD4.60/mt, or about 63 cents/b, in the fourth quarter, compared with minus USD2.70/mt in the previous quarter and down from USD30.20/mt in the year-earlier period, it said.

Refinery throughput volumes fell by 16% in the quarter compared to 1.26 million b/d in the previous year, as fuel demand remained depressed due to the pandemic which led to the economic shutdown of its Donges refinery due to weak margins. Throughputs rose, however from 1.21 million b/d in the previous quarter.

Total reported adjusted net earnings of USD1.3 billion for the quarter, 59% lower than the year-ago period but up from USD848 million in Q3 helped by stronger oil prices. The Q4 result beat consensus forecasts of USD1.13 billion by about 15%, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

"The... results rebounded from the previous quarter in a context where oil prices stabilized above $40/b thanks to strong OPEC+ discipline, and where gas prices rose sharply in Europe and Asia, but where refining margins remained depressed, still affected by low demand and high inventories," Pouyanne said.

For the year, Total posted an adjusted net income of USD4.06 billion, down 66% on 2019, but supported by 26% lower capex, USD1.1 billion in cost savings, and an organic cash breakeven of USD26/b.

As MRC wrote earlier, within the framework of its net zero strategy, Total will convert its Grandpuits refinery (Seine-et-Marne) into a zero-crude platform and will invest more then EUR500 mln into this project. By 2024 the platform will focus on four new industrial activities: production of renewable diesel primarily intended for the aviation industry, production of bioplastics, plastics recycling and operation of two photovoltaic solar power plants.

We remind that in November 2019, Total disclosed that itis evaluating construction of a new gas cracker at its Deasan, South Korea, joint venture (JV) with Hanwha Chemical.

Ethylene and propylene are feedstocks for producing polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 2,220,640 tonnes in 2020, up by 2% year on year. Only shipments of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) increased. At the same time, polypropylene (PP) shipments to the Russian market reached 1 240,000 tonnes in 2020 (calculated using the formula: production, minus exports, plus imports, excluding producers' inventories as of 1 January, 2020).

Total S.A. is a French multinational oil and gas company and one of the six "Supermajor" oil companies in the world with business in Europe, the United States, the Middle East and Asia. The company's petrochemical products cover two main groups: base chemicals and the consumer polymers (polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene) that are derived from them.

Sumitomo Chemical to establish PP compound plant in Poland

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Sumitomo Chemical will establish a subsidiary, Sumika Polymer Compounds Poland (SPCP), to build and operate a polypropylene (PP) compounding facility at PoznaA, Poland, reported Chemweek.

The capacity of the planned PP compounding plant will be 30,000 metric tons/year. It is due to commence operations in 2022.

PP compounds are materials made by kneading PP with synthetic rubber, glass fibers, or inorganic fillers to improve its functionality and increase rigidity and other properties, for use in automobile bumpers, interiors, and home appliances.

The company produces short glass fiber reinforced PP compounds (GFPP). GFPP is a high-performance material that combines the lightweight and superior moldability of PP with the strength and heat tolerance of glass fibers. It has been expanding GFPP sales globally for use in automotive parts, such as battery casings, and home appliances, such as drum cover cases for washing machines.

Many automobile and electric manufacturers have production bases in Poland and neighboring regions, such as eastern Germany and the Czech Republic. Because of the widespread adoption of electric vehicles prompted by tighter environmental regulations, strong demand for PP compounds is expected to continue, it added.

As the European Union’s circular economy action plan heightens the need for recycled products, Sumitomo Chemical intends to increase the market share of GFPP containing 60 to 100% recycled PP by starting production in SPCP, following the lead of Sumitomo Chemical’s bases in the United Kingdom and France.

As MRC reported earlier, in December 2020, Sumitomo Chemical and Axens signed a license agreement of ethanol-to-ethylene technology Atol for Sumitomo Chemical’s waste-to-polyolefins project in Japan. In the project, to promote circular economy, Axens’ Atol technology will transform ethanol produced from waste into polymer-grade ethylene that will be polymerized in Sumitomo Chemical’s assets into polyolefin, a key product in the petrochemical industry.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, PP shipments to the Russian market reached 1 240,000 tonnes in 2020 (calculated using the formula: production, minus exports, plus imports, excluding producers' inventories as of 1 January, 2020).