(Argus, 28.Jan.2021) — Just as Covid-19 affected each Latin American country differently, so too is the outlook of each country’s future crude oil production and exports.
Colombia’s state-owned Ecopetrol and Brazil’s state-run Petrobras developed years-long strategies that in a year fraught with hurdles managed to yield higher export figures in 2020, officials told the Argus Crude Live conference. Both companies expressed bullish sentiment for 2021, with Petrobras global head of international trade Alexandre Trevia Leite pointing to about 90pc of Chinese demand already recovered even with lockdown measures and the anticipated continued growth of the country’s GDP.
Despite a collapse of global crude oil demand in 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Ecopetrol exports grew by 10-15pc amid growing production and lower domestic refinery activity. Growing output and optimization at the Buzios field, following years of investment, lead to higher-than expected production and export volumes for Petrobras.
“We exported on average about 680,000 boe/d in 2020,” Leite said.
Normally Petrobras sells about 60-65pc of its crude exports to China, Leite said. But in 2020 when China stopped buying because of Covid-19-related drop in demand, Petrobras was able to find new buyers quickly.
“In 2020 alone we managed to sell and create 14 new customers specifically for Buzios,” he said.
Petrobras’ exports in 2020 reached 41 unique refineries around the globe in 18 different countries.
In 2020 Ecopetrol also found new homes for its crudes, including renewed exports to South Korea and India and exported about 411,000 b/d globally. This is up from 342,000 b/d in 2017 when the company readjusted its strategy to become the preferred supplier of heavy crudes in Latin America. This included a shift in customers to focus on end-users instead of trading firms, reflected in a sharp decrease of market share for the Caribbean and Central America between 2017 and 2020, from 18pc down to 4pc.
The US as a Ecopetrol target market has been little-changed as it posted just a 2pc increase to 41pc of market share over the last three years.
Half of Ecopetrol’s exports last year reached Asia-Pacific shores, a marked increase from less than 30pc in 2017. Still, the Colombian company does not see ever-growing volumes from Petrobras as a threat to that market because of the quality differences.
“With Brazil, we see that we complement each other,” Ecopetrol commercial and marketing vice president Pedro Manrique said. “Most of our crude are on the heavy side and Brazil is moving more toward intermediate and lighter crudes. If you look at the end users, (mainly China and India), they both need the same type of crudes.”
Only about 10pc of Petrobras’ crude exports are heavy grades derived from post-salt fields, Leite said. Petrobras estimates its total crude production will increase to roughly 2.3mn b/d in the coming five years on the back of lighter pre-salt production.
By Monica Rojas