Australia's oil production will reach 620,000 b/d in 2012
The Aframax market in Southeast Asia and in the Fast East can expect some support as Australia's crude and natural gas liquids output makes modest gains, shipbroker Poten & Partners said in a report published over the weekend.
"It is estimated that Australia's oil production will increase to reach 620,000 b/d over the course of 2012 [from 562,000 b/d in 2010, according to a BP report]. Some of this gain will come from incremental output at Australia's existing fields and developments planned to come on stream in the next two years," the shipbroker said.
"Additionally, the continued development of Australia's LNG sector is anticipated to produce steady increases in condensate production from wet gas fields." According to Poten, Australia's condensate production is expected to add over 250,000 b/d by 2015.
"Australian oil production steadily decreased over the past decade, and new crude oil production has not been able to compensate fully for the natural decline in volumes from the country's maturing fields," the report said. "However, the past few years have seen significant increases in reported spot fixture volumes for Australian oil along with modest gains in production."
Meanwhile, if all new condensate production from Australia is exported, the report said, this could create demand for over 180 additional Aframax voyages.
So far this year, the condensate cargoes have accounted for over 40% of reported spot lifting of unrefined Australian oil. However, the impact from the increase in the export volumes of condensate will be dependent on the destination of these cargoes.
Currently condensate cargoes out of Australia is mostly shipped on relatively short-haul voyages on Aframax tankers to Asian demand centers such as Japan, which takes 11 days, South Korea, taking 10 days, China, around eight days and Singapore at five days.
"The largest markets for Australia's condensate exports include some of the fastest growing economies worldwide, and it is likely that trade with these Asian markets will grow as condensate production also increases," the report said.
"The anticipated growth in automobile demand in both India and China will likely whet regional refiners' appetite for high-naphtha content oils."
The Australian Northwest Shelf condensate, which contains a high proportion of naphtha, is well suited for gasoline production and use in petrochemicals, Poten said.
The shipbroker noted that while 12 spot fixtures were reported on the Aframaxes in 2000 when Australia registered its peak crude oil production at 828,000 b/d, close to eight spot fixtures have been report out of Australia so far this year.
"It is also possible that North American refiners may choose to purchase Australian condensate as more volumes become available," the report said.
It added that the demand for these cargoes was likely be driven by price opportunities rather than regular shuttle trade.
"However, the evolution of these longer arbitrage movements could help to absorb tonnage and provide some degree of support to Aframax freight rates in Far Eastern markets," it said.
The Aframax market in the key Indonesia region has been fairly stagnant for some time now. The rate on the Indonesia-Australia voyage has been stuck at the w96-w98 levels since May 24 as a result of a chronic oversupply of tonnage.