ENERGY | East Africa Gears Up To Exploit Oil Market Contango

ENERGY | East Africa Gears Up To Exploit Oil Market Contango

By Thangapandian Srinivasalu 
Executive Director of Gulf Petrochem 

Africa’s annual appetite for gasoil and gasoline is expected to climb by as much as 8%, while demand for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) has hit double digits. The continent’s growing home-grown energy supply will help satisfy some of the burgeoning demand.

 Image Attribute: A "National Oil" Gas Station in Kenya, / Source: www.nationaloil.co.ke

Image Attribute: A "National Oil" Gas Station in Kenya, / Source: www.nationaloil.co.ke

Africa produced 8.2m b/d of crude last year - 76% came from Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt and Angola, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PWC) 2015 Africa Oil & Gas Review. But East Africa is elbowing its way under the spotlight and changing Africa’s energy map – a move easily justified by its wealth of oil and gas assets. For example, Tanzania hopes to use its 55tcf of natural gas reserves to become a liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter by 2025, while Tullow and Canada’s Africa Oil have identified 600m bls of oil reserves in Kenya’s South Lokichar basin. Many projects are still in the exploratory stage, but investors’ appetite has strengthened East Africa’s position in the global energy arena.  

Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda are amongst several East African countries addressing wobbly regulatory frameworks by establishing bidding rounds – a more transparent way to allocate resources. Plus, the East African Community (EAC) hopes to invest around $1.5b to build 1,454 kilometers of intraregional and domestic pipelines over the next few years. The longest pipeline will be the 784 kilometer route through Kenya – Uganda – Rwanda, which should significantly bolster fuel trade between the three countries.

East Africa must react quickly to satisfy the demand of its thriving middle-class. Such households in eleven sub-Saharan African countries - including Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda - are expected to more than double from 15m people to over 40m by 2030, according to Standard Bank’s 2014 research. The subsequent appetite for oil products is vast, with a large portion earmarked to powering personal cars on newly paved roads. Most of the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) demand will be soaked up for cooking to support the rapidly growing populations in Africa’s cities, which will also help boost the region’s green credentials.

Robust growth wherever it is always attracts global investors’ attention.

The time is right to explore African assets, but only the strongest players will survive in what is an increasingly competitive space. Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda are spearheading East Africa’s economic prowess, with the eastern region as a whole growing by 7.1% in 2014, with 5.6% and 6.7% growth forecast for 2015 and 2016, respectively. With many energy hubs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) beset by political strife, the largely stable democracies in the EAC offers investors respite; the EAC demands strong governance and human rights.

Chart Attribute: Bab-al-Mandab near Horn of Africa, a crucial transit point through which varieties of petro-product and crude oil passes through. Southbound legend depicts the growth in consumption in East African market. / Sources: EIA.gov

Chart Attribute: Bab-al-Mandab near Horn of Africa, a crucial transit point through which varieties of petro-product and crude oil passes through. Southbound legend depicts the growth in consumption in East African Coastline. / Sources: EIA.gov

Plus, lower crude prices since June 2014 have triggered a rising oversupply and pushed the market into contango - where spot prices are lower than future prices. This has boosted investments in oil storage and traders that have access to physical oil and storage can significantly bolster their profit margins.

The outlook for higher future prices has become particularly striking in the last three months as the surplus of crude oil production has increased stockpiles worldwide, exceeding capacity in many trading ports and forcing traders to seek alternatives. The high rates for very large crude containers (VLCC) means floating storage is still an unpopular second choice. 

The changing market structure has presented a gateway for global trading and storage firms to enter and widen their footprint in new markets in Africa, building on already strong platforms in

the Gulf, Asia and Europe. If the oversupply of oil persists, traders may become bolder and secure their own storage facilities. They may also need to incorporate more blending capabilities and roll out additional jetties to widen their mandates to help cater for future growth.

Governments and national oil companies are also joining the rush to Africa’s east coast. Oman is looking to build a foothold to promote trade of fuel and crude into the vast landlocked interior of Africa via Oman Trading International (OTI) with a $50m investment in facilities to store fuel in Mozambique or Tanzania.  

We do not see any new refineries coming in near future in Africa, but Africa’s economy is in a growth phase and we expect good demand; it presents a good opportunity for storage terminals to cater to that demand. 

About The Author:

Mr. Thangapandian Srinivasalu, Gulf Petrochem Group
Mr. Thangapandian Srinivasalu, Gulf Petrochem Group’s Executive Director is an oil and gas professional with over 30 years of experience in sales, marketing and trading of petroleum products in India & Nigeria with PSU, MNCs and Private sector companies in India.

Before joining the Gulf Petrochem, he was associated with Essar Oil Limited as CEO – Marketing & IST. He established PetroFina in India and was part of the Team that launched Gulf oil in India post opening up of the market. As Head of Marketing & IST in Essar Oil, a fully integrated oil company, his responsibilities included,  ‘Retail sales’, ‘Direct sales’, Retail Network Expansion, Sourcing Crude, Trading of Petroleum Products, Supply & Distribution for the company in India and Kenya.

    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment