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Oil & Gas Stock Roundup Headlined by Equinor's North Sea Start-Up, Marathon's JV

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It was a week when both oil and natural gas prices scored double-digit returns.

On the news front, integrated energy major Equinor ASA (EQNR - Free Report) started gas production at its Troll Phase 3 development in the North Sea, while refiner Marathon Petroleum (MPC - Free Report) announced a soyabean oil joint venture with agricultural processor and transporter Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM - Free Report) .

Overall, it was a very good week for the sector. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures gained more than 10% to close at $68.74 per barrel and natural gas prices moved up in excess of 13% to end at $4.37 per million British thermal units (MMBtu). In particular, the oil market experienced a big weekly jump after tumbling to a three-month low the previous week.

Coming back to the week ended Aug 27, crude prices surged due to potential supply disruptions from the Gulf of Mexico as most platforms were evacuated in preparation for Hurricane Ida. Prices were also boosted by a weekly report from the Energy Information Administration ("EIA") that showed a stockpile draw. The third straight fall in domestic oil stocks was accompanied by a decrease in gasoline inventories.

Natural gas soared too, buoyed by a bullish inventory report and hurricane-led shut-ins.

Recap of the Week’s Most-Important Stories

1.  Equinor recently announced that offshore Troll phase 3 production has commenced in the North Sea. The field came online back in 1995. With the initiation of the third phase, the Troll A platform and Kollsnes processing facility’s production life is expected to extend beyond 2050.

Equinor labels the Troll phase 3 as one of its most profitable projects as it has a breakeven price of $10 per barrel. Also, its low carbon dioxide emissions of less than 100 grams per barrel of oil equivalent are praiseworthy. The Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) Norwegian company has managed to reduce emissions from the project as the Troll A platform is powered by electricity from shore.

You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Phase three will produce from the Troll West gas cap and has a recoverable resource of 347 billion cubic meters of gas. The gas cap is placed over the oil column in Troll West. Oil and gas production from the site will continue simultaneously. The project includes eight wells, divided into two templates, which are connected to the Troll A platform through an umbilical. (Equinor Commences Massive Troll Phase 3 Gas Production)

2.   Downstream operator Marathon Petroleum and Archer-Daniels-Midland Company — a leading producer of food and beverage ingredients — recently entered into an agreement to form a joint venture for producing soybean oil to meet the steadily expanding demand for renewable diesel fuel.

The Spiritwood facility, which is expected to be completed in 2023, will source and process local soybeans and supply the resultant soybean oil solely to Marathon Petroleum. The Spiritwood complex has plans to produce 600 million pounds of refined soybean oil per year, which is enough feedstock for 75 million gallons of sustainable diesel, annually.

The approximately $350-million worth Spiritwood complex will feature cutting-edge automation technologies and have the potential to process 150,000 bushels of soybeans per day once completed. Plenty of new jobs have been created in the region as a result of the new complex building and the facility is said to employ roughly 75 people once it is fully functional.

The Spiritwood complex intends to commence production, keeping the 2023 harvest in view. (Marathon Petroleum, ADM to Form Soybean Oil Production JV)

3.   Offshore contract drilling operator Transocean Ltd. (RIG - Free Report) recently secured a firm contract worth $252 million for its new-build ultra-deepwater drillship the Deepwater Atlas from BOE Exploration & Production LLC (BOE), which includes a $30-million mobilization fee. A hefty performance bonus based on the agreed-upon operating indicators is also included in the contract.

This award is the outcome of BOE and the Shenandoah working interest owners' final investment decision to sanction the previously announced Shenandoah project in the United States Gulf of Mexico.

The Shenandoah program is divided into two sections. The Deepwater Atlas is scheduled to begin operations in the third quarter of 2022 after its delivery from the shipyard, initially with dual blowout preventers (BOP) rated to 15,000 psi. The initial drilling operation will take about 255 days to complete and generate nearly $80 million of contract drilling revenues. (Transocean Wins $252M Deal for Deepwater Atlas Drillship)

4.   Canada’s Imperial Oil (IMO - Free Report) recently announced that it is on track to build an international-level renewable diesel facility at its Strathcona refinery close to Edmonton, Alberta.

From locally produced and cultivated feedstocks, this new complex is set to produce more than 1 billion liters of renewable diesel fuel, annually. The project is intended to reduce emissions in the Canadian transportation industry by around 3 million tons a year, which is equivalent to removing almost 650,000 passenger vehicles from the road for a year.

Blue hydrogen (hydrogen produced from natural gas with carbon capture and storage) will be used in renewable diesel manufacturing to significantly curb greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional hydrogen production. Annually, around 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide are predicted to be captured.

To manufacture premium low-carbon diesel fuel, the blue hydrogen and biofeedstock will be mixed with a patented catalyst. (Imperial Oil to Make Renewable Diesel Plant at Strathcona)

5.  NOV Inc. (NOV - Free Report) recently inked a deal wherein it agreed to supply two GustoMSCTM NG-20000X self-propelled wind turbine installation jack-up vessel designs known as the Cadeler X-Class to COSCO SHIPPING Heavy Industry and Cadeler.

The Cadeler X-Class has a deck area of 5,600-meter square and a carrying potential of above 17,600 tons. The hybrid, DNV-certified, cyber-secure jack-up vessel is devised to transport and install seven complete 15-Megawatt (MW) turbine sets or five sets of 20-plus MW turbines, representing a major improvement from the previous designs.

The oilfield service provider’s chairman, president and CEO Clay Williams stated that "NOV is honored to partner with Cadeler and COSCO as we design and deliver the next generation of wind turbine installation jack-up vessels. These vessels, which will be a key part of the next stage in the evolution of offshore wind energy, are a perfect example of what comes from close collaboration with our customers and an unending desire to seek improvement." (NOV Inks Deal to Offer Two Self-Propelled Wind Turbine Vessels)

Price Performance

The following table shows the price movement of some major oil and gas players over the past week and during the last six months.

Company    Last Week    Last 6 Months

XOM                   +5.7%             +1.5%
CVX                   +4.6%              -1.6%
COP                  +7.5%              +8.1%
OXY                   +16.9%             -5.1%
SLB                   +9.9%               +1.3%
RIG                    +24.3%             +2.3%
VLO                    +11.5%             -14.2%
MPC                   +9.6%               +7.9%

The Energy Select Sector SPDR — a popular way to track energy companies — was up 7.5% last week. The best performer was Transocean whose stock surged 24.3%.

Over the past six months, the sector tracker has increased 1.2%. Upstream biggie ConocoPhillips (COP - Free Report) was the major gainer during the period, experiencing an 8.1% price appreciation.

What’s Next in the Energy World?

As the global oil consumption outlook strengthens amid tightening fundamentals, market participants will be closely tracking the regular releases to watch for signs that could further validate the upward momentum. In this context, the U.S. government’s statistics on oil and natural gas — one of the few solid indicators that come out regularly — will be on energy traders' radar.

Data on rig count from the energy service firm Baker Hughes, which is a pointer to trends in U.S. crude production, is closely followed too. News related to coronavirus vaccine approval/rollout/distribution will be of utmost importance. Last but not the least, investors will keep an eye on the OPEC+ summit outcome for the next course of their oil production policy.