BP, and its partner US upstream independent Kosmos, have ambitious plans for three 10mn t/y LNG hubs off Mauritania and Senegal – Tortue, based on a 15tcf 2015 find on the two countries’ maritime border (MEES, 8 May 2015), Yakaar-Teranga 100km to the south in Senegal waters, and a Mauritania-only hub based on the BirAllah fields 60km to the north of Tortue (MEES, 28 February).
So far only 2.5mn t/y Phase-1 development of Tortue has been approved, with FID taken at the end of 2018 (MEES, 4 January 2019). Development work is 40% complete, putting Tortue Phase-1 on track for delayed start-up in 1H 2023 (MEES, 7 August). FID for Tortue Phase-2, originally slated for this year, is now not expected before “post-2023 when we’ve got Phase-1 onstream” says Kosmos (MEES, 15 May). On this timeline Tortue LNG would not hit planned 10mn t/y capacity before “the back end of the decade,” with development of the two other hubs beyond even this.
BP/Kosmos Mauritania/Senegal LNG Hub Plans
The likelihood of these developments ever seeing the light of day, at least under BP’s stewardship, needs to be considered anew in the light of the latest far-reaching strategy shift from the UK major announced 5 August.
Setting out interim 2030 goals towards its target of “net zero” on carbon by 2050 (MEES, 3 July), BP says it will slash oil and gas output by 40% over the next decade – from 2.6mn boe/d in 2019 to 1.5mn boe/d by 2030.
“BP has been an international oil company for over a century - defined by two core commodities produced by two core businesses. Now we are pivoting to become an integrated energy company - from IOC to IEC. From a company driven by the production of resources to one that that’s focused on delivering energy solutions for customers,” CEO Bernard Looney says.
How LNG fits into this new strategy remains unclear, with BP having a somewhat schizophrenic approach to the fuel: the firm on the one hand says it is pivoting away from the production of gas, with oil and gas to only account for 50% of BP’s capex by 2030. But on the other hand it plans to double its LNG portfolio by 2030.
Other elements of BP’s strategy shift also look borderline for BP’s Mauritania/Senegal plans. BP will henceforth “not seek to explore in countries where it does not already have upstream activities.” For sure, given the under-development nature of Tortue Phase-1, Mauritania and Senegal technically creep under the bar. But BP’s on-the-ground presence in Mauritania is minimal.
The firm adds that once “the ongoing wave of major projects” is complete, BP will look to reduce the capital-intensity of its upstream operations “resulting in significantly lower and more competitive production.” “Within 10 years we aim to …focus our oil and gas business on value, reducing production by 40%,” it says.
LNG, YES; LNG PRODUCTION, UR…MAYBE
BP’s commitment to “growing the LNG portfolio” from 14.9mn t/y in 2019 to 25mn t/y by 2025 and 30mn t/y by 2030, on the face of it looks highly promising for Mauritania/Senegal. BP’s stakes of around 56% in the three planned Mauritania/Senegal developments could single-handedly provide all of the major’s planned LNG gains.
But comments from CFO Murray Auchincloss on the firm’s 4 August earnings call make clear that BP is not committed to the actual production element of ‘its’ LNG portfolio, with ‘M&S’ in particular singled out as a borderline case.
The firm’s current LNG portfolio is “about 50-50 equity versus merchant”: half of the LNG that BP counts as being in its portfolio is purchased volumes produced by others. “We’ve got a great merchant portfolio now where you can take advantage of arbitrage and move things across locations and make great money,“ Mr Auchincloss says.
“The big decision for the decade is, can we get [Australian LNG project] Browse off the ground with a low enough carbon content that the government and the partners are happy about? Can we do the next wave of LNG inside M&S [Mauritania and Senegal]? Mauritania-Senegal: Can we make it competitive enough?”
Kosmos CEO Andy Inglis earlier this year flagged up Tortue as being “low-cost” based on “a breakeven FOB price of less than $5 (MEES, 15 May).
But BP’s Auchincloss is less than convinced. “That’s the big question for us as we move across the next decade. The challenge for our teams is how do we make sure that our own equity, the Browse’s of the world, the M&Ss of the world, the Indonesia’s of the world are low cost and competitive against [US LNG priced at] Henry Hub exported, with the right carbon footprint. Or should we instead move to merchant where you don’t have to deploy that capital. So that’s a choice ahead of us. We have clear targets out to 2025. Beyond that, we’ll see how that unfolds.”
Mauritania’s hopes of gas riches appear to be hanging by a thread.