PetroChina making refining loss, eyes N.America M&A

BEIJING (Reuters) – PetroChina Co Ltd (0857.HK: Quote, Profile, Research) (601857.SS: Quote, Profile, Research) (PTR.N: Quote, Profile, Research), Asia’s largest oil and gas producer and China’s second-biggest refiner, is suffering refining losses with crude oil above $90 per barrel, its chairman, Jiang Jiemin, said on Saturday.

But Jiang said oil prices at $95-$100 a barrel are largely acceptable to both producing and consuming nations.

Profit gains at PetroChina’s strong upstream profile offset losses in its refining units.

“Oil prices are already high, and should not gain much further in the near term if there is no serious new crisis in the Middle East and North Africa… and oil prices should fall after the crisis,” Jiang told reporters on the sidelines of China’s annual parliamentary session.

He said PetroChina’s oil production to inch up by 2 million tonnes and natural gas to rise by 5 to 10 percent from 2010.

Jiang also said the company was looking at unconventional gas assets and oil sands assets in North America.

He said PetroChina, the world’s second-most valuable energy company, could sign new supply deals for liquefied natural gas this year. He did not elaborate.

Jiang, who is also head of PetroChina’s parent, China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), said CNPC will produce a record of more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil equivalent from overseas fields it operates in 2011.

That would be 15 percent more than the 1.73 million bpd of oil equivalent in 2010, when production grew nearly 14 percent from a year earlier.

CNPC would be entitled to more than 1 million bpd, or half of the 2011 production under product sharing contracts, Jiang said.

He said CNPC was incurring losses from gas imports from Turkmenistan due to low domestics prices.

“Relevant government departments are reviewing this issue, I believe (CNPC) would not, and should not, undertake all losses.”

China and Turkmenistan have targeted 17 billion cubic metres of gas supplies in 2011, up from some 4 bcm last year.

Jiang warned that was a tough goal even though he expected at least 15 bcm of gas will be shipped to China this year.

CNPC runs most of its key businesses via listed PetroChina and keeps many foreign operations in its own hand, especially in politically sensitive and unstable regions.

(Reporting by Judy Hua, Jim Bai and Tom Miles; Editing by Ken Wills)