The market is moving in an upward cycle and there will be an increase in projects in North Sea – Wood Mackenzie
The North Sea will experience contradictory trends over the next four years, according to consultancy Wood Mackenzie, as many projects are affected by lingering low oil prices, but the steep drop in supplier costs encourages other project proponents.
Wood Mackenzie has cut US$55 billion from its investment forecast in the North Sea between 2016 and 2020 with over 20 major projects re-scoped, deferred or cancelled.
Cost savings are keeping the industry afloat, with a raft of project delays and corporate spending cuts providing the means. But when will we start to see a recovery in projects sanctioned?
And will this cause a corresponding rise in costs as supply chain demand picks up?
Malcolm Dickson, Principal Analyst for Upstream Oil and Gas, discusses the future of projects on the Norwegian Continental Shelf at the Offshore North Sea (ONS) Conference in Stavanger, Norway.
Disckson looks at what the oil price drop has done to investment in Norway, what will happen to costs and demand in the supply chain and project optimisation in Norway.
3 key takeaway:
1. Market will bottom in 2017, before supply chain demand picks up
Wood Mackenzie conducted an upstream cost survey, and found that there was a marked difference between operators and suppliers in the expectations for a return of demand to the service and supply sectors.
The expectation of a recovery in demand for supply chain and services was between mid-2017 to mid-2018 price recovery, but the supply chain clearly expects demand to return sooner, while operators expect costs to remain lower further into the future.
Further cost reductions are expected across the board, with the biggest expected in the seismic and drilling spaces, where a vessel oversupply has meant expectations of a 20 per cent drop this year.
Subsea equipment is expected to fall by a similar amount this year.
2. Final Investment Decisions between now and end of 2017 are optimal to capture lower costs
We expect cost inflation to begin to creep into fields from 2018 onwards, as the oil price increases, and demand for equipment and services returns to a decimated supply chain.
This suggests that targeting FID in the next year is optimal for capturing lower costs.
The push for projects to obtain FID, in order to lock in current low costs will largely be offset by corporate pressures to protect cash flows and shareholder distributions. This means that many FIDs will be pushed back.
So where does Wood Mackenzie see the best investments in the North Sea? The chart below maps projects by their expected FID – with FID’s taking place after cost inflation marked in the red square.
But cost deflation isn’t everything – optimising projects by reducing scope or introducing new or more efficient technology can often have a larger impact on breakevens.
And reducing costs is vital – of the 21 FIDs in Norway between 2016 and 2020 – only 12 per cent breakeven at less than US$50/bbl on a reserves basis (15 per cent discount rate).
3. Project optimisation is vital – and is already taking place
Wood Mackenzie has seen plenty of examples of companies reducing costs for green and brownfield projects by optimising the concept.
This can be simplifying designs, reducing spec or with new technology. One example is Statoil’s Snorre Expansion project moving from a TLP to a subsea solution meaning that the cost per barrel has come down by around US$10/bbl.
In terms of pushing technology – this can range from cutting edge projects like Åsgard subsea compression, to logistically ambitious projects like Wintershall’s Maria, and finally areas like ‘subsea on a stick’ where companies can opt to go with unmanned platforms rather than subsea, for instance.
Another fantastic example of project optimisation can be seen with Statoil’s Johan Castberg project, resulting in a 41 per cent cost reduction.
The market is moving in an upward cycle and with that, there will be an increase in projects in the North Sea.
The growing gap in perception between suppliers and operators is troubling and suppliers will struggle to keep up with operators expectations of low costs in the longer-term.
Wood Mackenzie expects 2017 to be an active year, with operators and suppliers mitigating the risk of higher costs after 2018. For those looking to invest, FIDs targeting 2017 are ideal.