Oil tankers divert from Red Sea after U.S., UK strikes in Yemen

Oil tankers divert from Red Sea after U.S., UK strikes in Yemen

MRC -- At least four oil tankers have diverted course from the Red Sea since overnight strikes by the U.S. and Britain on Houthi targets in Yemen, shipping data from LSEG and Kpler showed, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The attacks were carried out from the air and sea in response to the Iranian-backed Houthi militia's attacks on ships in the Red Sea, in what is becoming a regional escalation of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

The tankers Toya, Diyyinah-I, Stolt Zulu and Navig8 Pride LHJ were all seen turning around mid-voyage in order to avoid the Red Sea between 0300 and 0730 GMT on Friday, according to ship tracking from the two companies.

One of the tankers, Toya, a very large crude carrier capable of carrying up to 2 million barrels of oil, was unladen, the data showed. The other three vessels are fuel tankers. Oil prices were up over $3 a barrel, or more than 4%, by 1144 GMT, with Brent trading above $80, amid heightened geopolitical risks.

Meanwhile, Danish oil tanker group Torm said on Friday it decided to pause all transits through the southern Red Sea.

Major container shipping companies Maersk and Hapag Lloyd welcomed measures to secure the region. But they stopped short of saying whether the U.S. and British strikes would be enough for them to return to the Suez Canal, the fastest route between Asia and Europe which accounts for about 12% of global container traffic.

We remind, Indonesia's oil and gas lifting this year is likely to fall below government targets, upstream oil and gas regulator SKK Migas said on Friday but pledged efforts to fill the gap. SKK Migas predicts lifting of oil at 596,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2024 and gas at 5,544 million standard cubic feet per day (mmscfd) based on work plans submitted by contractors. That compares with government targets of 635,000 bpd and 5,785 mmscfd.

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Bulgaria replacing Russian crude with oil from Kazakhstan, Iraq, Tunisia

Bulgaria replacing Russian crude with oil from Kazakhstan, Iraq, Tunisia

MRC -- Bulgaria is replacing Russian oil imports with crude from Kazakhstan, Iraq and Tunisia in January, according to traders and LSEG data, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

Bulgaria has a waiver from a European Union embargo that allows it to continue seaborne imports of Russian oil in 2024. But the country has restricted exports of all refined products produced from Russian crude from this month, which makes it almost impossible for its sole refinery to run on Russian oil, and has decided to stop all Russian crude imports from March.

Bulgaria purchases oil to feed its Burgas refinery, which has a capacity of 190,000 barrels per day (bpd) and is operated by Russia's Lukoil. Bulgaria was the fourth largest buyer of seaborne Russian oil in 2023, purchasing over 100,000 bpd.

But this month, no oil from Russia is set to reach Burgas port. As Lukoil is no longer able to supply the Burgas refinery with its own Urals oil, it has to use oil from elsewhere, raising costs at the plant.

The profitability of the plant is also affected by a 60% tax imposed by Bulgaria's government on the refinery's profits.

So far in January, Burgas is set to receive two 70,000 metric ton cargoes of Kazakhstan's KEBCO crude, one 76,000 ton cargo of Basrah Light, one 50,000 ton cargo of CPC Blend, and 33,000 tons of oil from Tunisia, according to LSEG data.

KEBCO, a Kazakh grade exported from Russian ports with the same quality as Urals, is the most likely replacement for Russian oil in Bulgaria, traders said, adding its supply is limited and its price is significantly higher than for Urals.

Burgas is designed to process Urals oil and currently can only run on sour grades, which is difficult and pricey in the EU, traders said.

We remind, TotalEnergies, a globally recognized energy corporation, recently announced a delay in the reboot of its mixed-feed ethylene cracker facility situated in Antwerp, Belgium. This facility, which boasts an annual production capacity of 580,000 metric tons, has had its restart schedule pushed to the second half of January, a move that signifies the intricate challenges inherent in such large-scale operations.

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Russia boosts fuel exports to Central Asia, Afghanistan and Mongolia in 2023

Russia boosts fuel exports to Central Asia, Afghanistan and Mongolia in 2023

MRC -- Central Asian countries, Afghanistan and Mongolia raised their imports of Russian fuel by around 28% in 2023 to almost 6 MMt, partially offseting a decline in Russian supplies to Europe, according to traders and industry data, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

Russia has drastically cut supplies of commodities, including oil and gas, to Europe amid deteriorating relations over the conflict in Ukraine.

Afghanistan's Taliban government doubled purchases of Russian liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) last year to 103,850 tons, while Russia tripled gasoline exports to the country in 2023 to 325,000 tons, according to the data.

Russia has not formally recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government in Afghanistan, but was one of the first countries to make contacts and clinch business deals with the group following its return to power in 2021.

A year later, Afghanistan and Russia signed a deal for gasoline, diesel, gas and wheat supplies after Moscow offered the Taliban administration a discount to average global commodity prices.

The move was the first known major international economic deal struck by the Taliban since it returned to power.

Russia supplies fuel to Central Asia mainly via railways, while pipeline exports of diesel to the region account for some 9% of total deliveries to the ex-Soviet republics of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft said this week that it increased fuel supplies to Central Asia by 29.3% to 530,000 tons in 2023.

According to traders and industry data, Russian gasoline exports to Central Asia, Mongolia and Afghanistan jumped by a third last year to 2.441 million tons.

Supplies of diesel to those markets increased by 26% to 2.943 million tons, while flows of jet fuel rose by 21% to 554,000 tons.

Fuel oil exports jumped 2.8 times to 719,500 tons, while bitumen and LPG deliveries doubled to 500,000 tons and 469,000 tons respectively.

Mongolia accounted for most of Russian motor fuel supplies. It imported 708,000 tons of gasoline via railways last year, an increase of 12%. Its diesel purchases rose 39% to 1.222 million tons.

We remind, Empire Navigation Inc, the Greek shipowner of an oil tanker seized by Iran, said it sought any help from the U.S. government in regaining control of its vessel in a U.S. court filing on Thursday. For nearly a year, the tanker has been a lightning rod in tensions between Tehran and the Washington, which has long imposed sanctions on Iranian oil over its nuclear program. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes.

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TotalEnergies increases share in Venus discovery offshore Namibia

TotalEnergies increases share in Venus discovery offshore Namibia
MRC -- TotalEnergies has signed a deal to increase its position in two operated blocks offshore Namibia, adding to its share in the Venus light oil discovery as it moves toward development, said the company.

The company agreed to acquire from Impact Oil and Gas Namibia (Pty) Ltd an additional 10.5% participating interest in Block 2913B and an additional 9.39% participating interest in Block 2912, TotalEnergies said in a release 10 Jan 2024. After completion of these deals, which will be subject to customary third-party approvals from the Namibian authorities and joint venture parties, TotalEnergies would own a 45.25% interest in Block 2913B containing the Venus discovery, up from its current 40%, as well as a 42.5% interest in Block 2912. Impact will retain a 9.5% interest in each licence.

The Venus discovery lies in Orange basin, about 290 km off the coast of southern Namibia in about 3000 m of water. The Venus-1X discovery well was drilled to a total depth of 6296 m by the Maersk Voyager drillship and encountered a high-quality light oil-bearing sandstone reservoir of Lower Cretaceous age. In the release, TotalEnergies said it intends to share the additional participating interest with joint venture member QatarEnergy, but additional details were not provided. QatarEnergy holds a 30% interest in Block 2913B.

NAMCOR holds the remaining 10%. With the agreement, Impact will be reimbursed for past costs incurred for the interests through a $99 M payment at closing. Impact will also be carried for its remaining interests until Impact receives the first sales proceeds from hydrocarbon production, secured via a repayment mechanism based on Impact's share of production.

We remnd, TotalEnergies, a globally recognized energy corporation, recently announced a delay in the reboot of its mixed-feed ethylene cracker facility situated in Antwerp, Belgium. This facility, which boasts an annual production capacity of 580,000 metric tons, has had its restart schedule pushed to the second half of January, a move that signifies the intricate challenges inherent in such large-scale operations.

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LG Chem Plans to Suspend Caustic Soda Production in South Korea

LG Chem Plans to Suspend Caustic Soda Production in South Korea

MRC -- LG Chem, a leading petrochemical company in South Korea, has announced plans to halt operations at its caustic soda production line in Yeosu, South Korea, said Chemanalyst.

Scheduled for the 20th of February, this shutdown is part of a routine maintenance strategy. The affected production line has an annual capacity of 320,000 tons of caustic soda, contributing significantly to LG Chem's total annual capacity of 728,000 tons.

The forthcoming shutdown follows a similar event in December 2021 when LG Chem suspended the operation of production line No. 2 at the same location. Initially, the company had planned to conduct repairs on this line, which also has a capacity of 320,000 tons of caustic soda per year, in early December. However, the exact timeline for these repairs remains uncertain.

As one of the world's largest chemical companies, LG Chem offers a diverse range of products. Its portfolio extends from petrochemicals to advanced plastics, demonstrating its broad manufacturing capabilities.

LG Chem's decision to suspend caustic soda production comes at a time of significant changes and challenges within the global chemical industry. With supply disruptions and high freight charges pushing caustic soda prices upwards in the USA towards the end of August 2023, the impact of LG Chem's shutdown on the market will likely be closely watched by industry stakeholders.

Moreover, other global chemical giants have been making strategic adjustments to their caustic soda production capacities. For instance, Olin Corporation announced further cuts in its diaphragm-grade chlorine and sodium hydroxide or caustic soda production. The company expects to complete the shutdown of more caustic soda capacity at its Alabama plant by the third quarter of 2022.

Similarly, Dow and other manufacturers are facing hurdles in restarting their caustic soda production capacities. With a production capacity of 2.9 million tons per year for caustic soda and over 2 million tons per year for polyvinyl chloride, the adjustments in Dow's operations underscore the complexities involved in managing large-scale chemical production in a rapidly evolving market context.

In light of these developments, it is clear that managing production capacities and maintenance schedules effectively is crucial for chemical companies like LG Chem. The upcoming shutdown of LG Chem's caustic soda production line in Yeosu is part of this larger industry-wide trend, reflecting the company's ongoing commitment to maintaining its operational efficiency and product quality.

As the shutdown progresses and the maintenance work commences, LG Chem will likely continue monitoring market trends and making strategic decisions in response to changing circumstances. The outcome of these efforts will undoubtedly influence the company's future operations and potentially shape the broader dynamics within the global caustic soda market.

We remiind, in January, Hanwha Solutions implemented a 10% reduction in the utilization of caustic soda production at its facility in Yeosu, South Korea. The decision was driven by commercial considerations, although the duration of this reduced production load has not been disclosed. The facility boasts a production capacity of 873 thousand tons of caustic soda annually.
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