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PETALING JAYA: Crude oil price is expected to remain high with a rebound in global oil consumption while supply is expected to remain tight.

However, Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) is unlikely to raise its capital expenditure for the local upstream oil and gas (O&G) sector.

In recent days, oil prices have continuously hit multi-year highs with Brent crude oil touching US$86.70 (RM359.74) a barrel on Monday – the highest level since October 2018.

Yesterday, Brent crude oil settled at US$83.77 (RM347.59) a barrel.

UOB Kay Hian Research (UOBKH) said there are some hints by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) that it intends to keep O&G prices high and stable to encourage investments and ensure sustainable energy security.

It pointed out that the global crude supply was crippled by the lack of investments for more than seven years and volatile O&G prices were the main reason.

“Today, investors are factoring in sustainability reasons and the transition towards clean energy is forcing large O&G majors like Shell to cut high-carbon projects.

“Even if both of these reasons contributed to the tightness in crude supply today, Opec+ said it does not want to boost production suddenly in the short term,” it said.

According to UOBKH, it may be the Opec+’s intention to ensure a high and stable O&G price even as it increases output because without investments, Opec+’s crude supply will not be sustainable.

In addition, it pointed out that Saudi Arabia energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman al-Saud had said Opec+ did not see crude shortages in the market.

Even if Opec+ pumped more, there were not enough refineries to absorb additional supply, he was quoted as saying.

Notwithstanding the higher oil price forecast, UOBKH believes that Petronas would remain conservative.

The national oil company is planning to allocate RM20bil for upstream capital expenditure (capex) per year from 2022 to 2027.

The research firm said Petronas had a track record of underspending.

Quoting a recent interview with Petronas executive vice-president and upstream chief executive officer Adif Zulkifli, Petronas believes that oil prices will be at US$50 (RM207.47) to US$60 (RM248.96) per barrel as more supply will be released at a high price.

According to the research firm, Adif’s guidance implies local upstream capex of RM10bil to RM12bil per year, which is slightly higher than RM9bil to RM10bil in 2019 to 2020.

Prior to 2014 when oil prices were more than US$80 (RM331.94) per barrel, Petronas’ annual local upstream capex base was more than RM20bil.

“Given Petronas’ past track record of missing local upstream capex guidance since 2018, we think local upstream capex towards 2022 horizon will be better year-on-year but may still have some risk of deferrals,” UOBKH said.


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