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Australian crude exports may surpass 100 mil barrels on Enfield project

Australia is on course to export more than 100 million barrels of crude oil for the calendar year 2019, as the restart of the Greater Enfield project leads to ample heavy sweet crude production, while condensate sales to Asian buyers remain robust.

Australia exported 9.85 million barrels of crude oil and other refinery feedstocks including condensate in August, up 46.6% from 6.72 million barrels exported in July and up 23.4% from the same period a year earlier, latest data from the country’s Department of the Environment and Energy showed.

The Oceania producer exported 63.34 million barrels over January-August, up 12.8% from 56.15 million barrels shipped over the same period 2018, the data showed.

Contributing to the rising exports, Australia’s Woodside Petroleum announced first oil production from its Greater Enfield project offshore Western Australia in late August through the Ngujima-Yin floating production, storage and offloading vessel.

Crude oil production from the project, which was approved in 2016, is still ramping up and is expected to stabilize by year-end.

“We are achieving pleasing performance from the Ngujima-Yin FPSO following completion of the Greater Enfield Project, with over 2.5 million barrels of oil produced from the facility since restart,” Woodside CEO Peter Coleman said.

Crude from the Greater Enfield project comes from four different fields — Laverda Canyon, Norton over Laverda, Cimatti and Vincent — and together make up the heavy sweet Vincent crude grade, according to Woodside.

Under the project, output of Vincent crude was suspended from May 2018 for modifications, with the grade only recently returning to the market with the lifting of a mid-August cargo, S&P Global Platts previously reported.

The frequency of liftings from Ngujima-Yin FPSO — where Vincent crude loads from — has climbed sharply in just a month, in a sign that the project was close to reaching its full capacity of 60,000 b/d.

Three Aframax cargoes of Vincent crude were lifted in September, all shipped to waters off Malaysia’s Tanjung Pelepas for blending into the low sulfur fuel oil pool, according to Platts vessel tracking software cFlow and trade sources.

In October, another three Vincent crude cargoes are scheduled to be lifted, cFlow and shipping reports showed. All three cargoes have been or are expected to be shipped to the waters adjoining Singapore and Malaysia again.

With the average monthly exports seen at 7.92 million barrels over the first eight months, an addition of around 1.5 million barrels/month of heavy sweet crude exports from the Greater Enfield project could mean that Australia’s overall crude exports for 2019 could breach the 100 million barrel mark, according to a survey of five Australian crude and condensate traders conducted by Platts.

The last time Australia sent shipments of more than 100 million barrels of crude and condensate in a single calendar year was in 2012, when the producer exported a total of 110.02 million barrels, the government data showed.

ULTRA LIGHT CRUDE

Further supporting the upbeat Australian crude exports outlook, North West Shelf condensate returned to the Asian spot market after Woodside conducted lengthy maintenance at its Karratha gas plant at the North West Shelf project in the third quarter.

Multiple NWS condensate cargoes for loading in November were sold out just days after the final program was released, as Indonesia’s state-owned Pertamina continued to actively pick up the ultra light crude barrels as it ramps up gasoline production, Platts reported previously.

Meanwhile, Woodside said its overall condensate production rose in Q3 as higher volumes from Pluto and Wheatstone fields offset the impact of maintenance at the NWS project.

Woodside’s share of condensate, or ultra light crude production from the Western Australian North West Shelf, Pluto and Wheatstone facilities totaled 2.55 million barrels in Q3, up 4% year on year and 15% higher than the April-June quarter, it said.

Coleman said Pluto had achieved record production rates, record quarterly production and 99.7% reliability following execution of the major turnaround in Q3.

The company’s share of Pluto’s condensate production was 819,431 barrels, up 11% year on year and 187% from the same quarter last year.

Total Pluto condensate production — including Tokyo Gas’ and Kansai Electric’s 5% stakes — in Q3 ran at 9,897 b/d, which translates to an annualized rate of 3.61 million barrels.

Woodside’s share of condensate production from Wheatstone was 654,509 barrels in Q3, up 37% year on year and 4% higher than Q2, the company said. Woodside has a 13% interest in Wheatstone. Chevron is the operator with a 64.14% stake.

Wheatstone’s total daily run rate for condensate production during Q3 was 35,342 b/d, showing an annualized rate of 12.9 million barrels/year.
Source: Platts

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