ORLEN ORLEN Group 2017
Integrated Report

Market Environment




In 2017, the average price of Brent Crude was USD 54/bbl, an increase of 24% y/y. On London-based ICE Futures, a barrel of oil traded at USD 55/bbl in the opening session of 2017, and at USD 67/bbl in the year’s closing session.

Changes in crude oil prices [USD/bbl]

Source: Own preparation based on Bloomberg.

The main drivers of oil prices in 2017 included:
• The fastest global economic growth in a few years, leading to higher demand for oil – according to preliminary estimates by IHS Markit, the global crude oil consumption in 2017 rose by 1.8% y/y, with the fastest growing Asian markets seeing an increase of approximately 4% (y/y).
• Impact of the production cut agreement reached between OPEC and Russia – also known as the ‘Vienna Alliance’. Saudi Arabia and Russia increased their output almost to the maximum level possible before hammering out the arrangement to keep production volumes stable. In 2017, the average annual volume of oil production by the OPEC countries dropped by 0.1 mb/d, and the low crude prices in the first three quarters of 2017 hindered production growth in non-OPEC countries.

Deviation of OPEC crude oil production from the level agreed [mb/d]

Source: IHS Markit.

  • Sustained decrease in oil and fuel stocks in OECD countries since mid-2017. The fall in stock levels was supported by the shale band (oil price range defined by fluctuations in the US output in response to changes in oil prices) and a slowdown in the US production in the first half of 2017. In the following months, output in the US was rising in step with the prices; the latter, however, failed to rise above the upper end of the shale band at USD 60/bbl of Brent crude. This occurred only at the end of October, just before the OPEC summit at which the moratorium on crude production was expanded until the end of 2018 and Libya and Nigeria were included in the agreement.
  • Growing political instability and risks, in particular in Iraq and Saudi Arabia – most political risks are not significant, though in the case of Middle Eastern oil markets they affect investors' decisions.
  • Backwardation of oil futures (future prices will be lower than current), resulting from temporary undersupply, which creates a strong incentive for financial investors to take long speculative positions on futures markets. In late 2017, long positions substantially outnumbered short positions, supporting oil price increase above levels reflecting the physical fundamentals of the oil market.

Possible directions of oil price changes

As industry analysts and investment banks expect in the first half of 2018, the price of Brent crude may rise close to USD 80/bbl. In the second half of 2018, the upward trend should reverse. According to forecasts by JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, the average price of Brent crude in the fourth quarter of 2018 is expected to fluctuate between USD 60 and USD 70 per barrel. Projections by IHS Markit, which focus on the supply and demand on physical markets, suggest that oil prices will return to the fundamental level even sooner and that the crude will trade at approximately USD 60/bbl in late 2018. The main drivers of crude prices in 2018 remain the same as in 2017 and include:

  • Strong growth of global demand, which may be disrupted by the reaction of OECD markets (especially the US) to the rising fuel prices and increased demand for fuels in emerging markets (India, Saudi Arabia), in the context of high inflationary pressures and the ongoing reform of the fuel subsidy system.
  • Strength of the Vienna Alliance. The current extension of the alliance supports the increase of crude prices. The agreement may be expected to continue at least until the price of Brent crude has remained above USD 70/bbl for some time.
  • Potential output increase in the US. With appropriate price signals, the US market may show a significant increase in shale oil output. The extension of the Vienna Alliance and the decline in oil stocks in the US are the main factors driving the potential for growth of shale oil production.
  • Increased geopolitical risks. Traditionally, political risks that can push oil prices up exist in Iraq, Kurdistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, and Lebanon. However, significant risks may soon appear in Venezuela (rising debt and political instability, causing further output decline) and Iran (serious risk of further deterioration of relations between Tehran and Washington and re-imposition of sanctions).
  • Fluctuations in the US dollar, which has depreciated against the euro and the currencies of emerging economies in the last year.


2017 was another good year (after 2015 and 2016) for the global refining industry. Refining margins in Europe increased year on year, driven mainly by exceptionally extensive unplanned shutdowns of the refining capacities. In 2018, global refining margins are expected to come close to the levels seen in 2016 but below those of 2017.

Net refining margins in Europe [USD/bbl]

Source: IHS Markit.

In the short- and medium-term perspective, refining margins in Europe will be shaped by competitive pressures. The main drivers include: the advantage of enjoyed by US and Middle East refineries due to low energy cost vs relatively high energy costs in Europe; upgrades of European refineries aimed at deepening crude conversion; and the growing competitiveness of exports from Middle East producers which now supply fuel not only to Asia but also to Europe.
In a longer term, the margins will depend on the demand for refining products as well as on projects to replace and increase oil production capacities (higher risk of impairment of production assets in the future affects the producers’ willingness to invest in such assets). Until 2020 and beyond, the key drivers of refining margins will include:

  • IMO Regulations concerning sulfur content in bunker fuels, to come into force in 2020 – sulfur content is to be reduced from 3.5% to 0.5% as of January 1st 2020. Both the refining sector and the shipbuilding industry have responded to the requirement only to a limited extent so far, which increases the likelihood of major disruptions in the oil market. Industry analysts predict a significant premium for crude oil and refining products with lower sulfur content.
  • Potential decline in fuel supply from Russia by 2020, caused by the IMO regulations. As more stringent bunker fuel standards come into force, prices of high-sulfur fuel oil (HSFO) will fall sharply. This will have a particularly detrimental effect on Russian refineries, as heavy fractions make up a significant part of their output. Major refinery upgrade projects aimed at reducing sulfur content and increasing volumes of gasoline production are delayed and probably will not be completed before January 2020. In order to reduce sulfur content (and HSFO volumes), Russian refineries may have to cut back crude throughput, which may result in lower gasoline volumes being sold on the Russian market and exported.
  • The latest EU regulations on biofuels. The regulations enacted for 2021-2030 will limit the share of first generation biofuels to 7% of final energy volume used in road and rail transport, while increasing the share of more advanced biofuels, whose production does not compete with the production of food, to 3.5% in 2030.
  • Growing impact of electric cars and broadly defined electromobility on demand expectations and investment in future production. Electric vehicles have been gaining traction for years, but 2017 might have been a breakthrough year for the industry. Launch of the next generation electric cars, largest car makers’ plans to significantly increase electric car production, and the proposed ban on sales of internal combustion engines in the coming decades, as announced by the governments of China, India, France and the United Kingdom, to name just a few, can have a significant impact on the development of the refining industry and its margins.

In a longer term, the petrochemical industry may support demand for crude processing products, thus building refining margins – growing application of modern plastics in the global economy. Central and Eastern Europe is among the fastest-growing markets in terms of demand for the type of petrochemical products produced by the ORLEN Group (polypropylene, ethylene, butadiene, paraxylene PTA and PVC).

  • Olefins (ethylene, propylene, butadiene) – strong pressures of imports from Middle East and North America due to the cost advantage. European production, based on kerosene, has been and will continue to be relatively less competitive if crude oil prices continue to grow.
  • Aromatics (benzene, toluene, xylene, paraxylene) – predicted decrease in benzene and toluene production capacities in Western Europe until 2030. Manufacturers of aromatics will seek ways to extend the value chain towards paraxylene and there is a potential risk of rising imports of benzene to Western Europe.
  • Plastics (polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC) – the packaging sector is the largest consumer of plastics in Europe (40% of the demand). Forecast price pressure for ethylene derivatives due to the shale revolution in the US. Demand fluctuations may heavily affect manufacturers who are not very innovative and whose margins are mainly volume-driven.


In the New Policies Scenario presented in the World Energy Outlook 2017 report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA), global demand for electricity will grow at an average rate of 1.3% a year until 2040 relative to 2016, while the global economy will grow at an annual rate of 3.4%. In this scenario, which describes the target energy system taking into account the existing regulations and announced changes, demand for electricity is forecast to increase from the current 21,375 TWh to 34,470 TWh in 2040.

Global energy consumption [TWh]

Source: International Energy Agency.

According to the IEA, compared with the past twenty-five years, the way that the world meets its growing energy needs will change dramatically. The change will be driven primarily by the need to decarbonise industry and cut emissions from the power sector. Renewables will rise most rapidly, with concurrent improvements in energy efficiency. These improvements will play a huge role in taking the strain off the supply side: without them, the projected rise in final energy use would more than double. Renewable sources of energy will meet 40% of the increase in primary demand and their explosive growth in the power sector will mark the end of the boom years for coal. Coal-fired power generation capacity grew significantly between 2000 and 2016, but the growth will slow markedly by 2040. Renewables will capture two-thirds of global investment in power plants as they become, for many countries, the least-cost source of new generation. Rapid deployment of solar photovoltaics, led by China and India, will help solar become the largest source of low-carbon capacity by 2040. In the European Union, renewables will account for 80% of new capacity and wind power will become the leading source of electricity soon after 2030, due to strong growth both onshore and offshore.  China will continue to lead a gradual rise in nuclear power output, overtaking the United States by 2030. According to the IEA forecasts, the share of nuclear energy in the energy mix will slightly increase by 2040.

Sources of global electric energy production [TWh]

Source     New Policies Scenario
  2000 2016 2025  2040
Coal 6,005 9,282 9,675 10,086
Oil 1,259 1,004 719 491
Gas 2,753 5,850 6,730 9,181
Nuclear 2,591 2,611 3,217 3,844
Renewables 2,869 6,018 9,316 15,688
TOTAL 15,477 24,765 29,657 39,290

 Source: International Energy Agency.

Poland, where in 2010−2016 the demand for energy grew at the CAGR of 1.5%, is the key market for the power generation business of the ORLEN Group's Downstream segment. Until 2020, the CAGR is expected at around 1.7% (according to CERA), and the growth will above all be led by the country’s economic development.

The power generation industry in Poland will be largely driven by market trends related to distributed generation, the winter package and capacity market.

Essentially, distributed generation (of electricity, heat, and cold) is based mainly on renewable energy sources (RES). The development of distributed generation provides smaller players with the opportunity to enter the energy market. In particular, the prosumer model, where energy consumers generate electricity for their own needs, is becoming increasingly popular. This trend opens way to more stable electricity supplies to consumers and makes them less exposed to potential changes in market prices of energy.

The winter package, i.e. ‘Clean Energy for all Europeans’, which is a set of the European Commission’s legislative proposals, introduces a number of energy regulations to reorganise the EU energy market towards renewable and consumer-oriented energy economy, to integrate energy markets of individual EU member states, and to ensure energy security through the development of interconnections.

The capacity market, statutorily established in Poland in December 2017, adds capacity as a complementary element of the electricity market. As part of the capacity market, capacity will be offered by power producers at auctions and will help ensure security of the power system. Capacity auctions will be held already in 2018, and first capacity deliveries will take place in 2021.


In 2017, favourable macroeconomic conditions prevailed across all of the ORLEN Group’s retail markets. The Polish market continued to experience the effects of the legislative changes enacted in 2016 to limit the impact of the grey market. Consumption of premium fuels grew noticeably, with LPG sales shrinking as percentage of total fuel sales. The number of economy service stations decreased steadily, with most operators focusing on developing food services.

Rising wage pressures were seen across all markets.

The leading retail chains in the PKN ORLEN Group’s operating markets maintained their respective shares.

According to POPiHN (Polish Organisation of Oil Industry and Trade), at year end 2017, there were more than 6,600 service stations in Poland, which represented a decrease of 3% y/y.

Retail chains operated by Polish and foreign fuel companies (PKN ORLEN, LOTOS, BP, Shell) did not undergo any major transformation, with the number of supermarket service stations  remaining virtually unchanged year on year. AVIA, a new retail operator with ambitious development plans, entered the market in 2017. It is owned by Avia International, an organisation of 90 companies from 14 European countries which manages more than 3,000 service stations, including 15 in Poland. In 2017, rebranding of the Statoil chain commenced following acquisition of the retail assets by Alimentation Couche-Tard of Canada. All of the stations will operate under the Circle-K brand. The segment of motorway and expressway service stations  continued to develop.

On the Czech market, the number of fuel stations remained stable in 2017. The structure of the market evolved, however, as some smaller non-public stations (e.g. serving a single company only) became generally accessible. The Unipetrol Group’s Benzina chain acquired in 2017 OMV retail assets, thus strengthening its leading position on the Czech fuel market in terms of both the number of owned service stations (an increase of 38 stations y/y) and the volume of fuel sales (up by 21.4% y/y).

There were no major structural changes on the German market. Aral and Shell, the market leaders, maintained their respective  positions, despite the number of stations in their chains having been in decline for a number of years.
As a result of investment projects implemented for several years, the technical standard of individual chains improved, and each of the networks started to test new formats of stores and food outlets. Operation of all German chains has been greatly affected by a retail price monitoring system rolled out a few years ago. The leading premium chains, which had lost sales volumes to their competitors in the economy segment, began to take steps designed to gradually regain their market shares.

On the Lithuanian market, the acquisition of the Lukoil chain in 2016 by Amic Energy Management of Austria in partnership with Viada, a major player in the local retail segment, resulted in the emergence of a new leader which manages 115 stations and has a 20% market share. In 2017, rebranding of the Lukoil stations commenced, with approximately 80% of the stations successfully rebranded by the year end. The process also involves thorough upgrades of the key locations to expand and improve their retail stores and food services.
In 2017, Couche-Tard practically completed the rebranding of the Statoil stations acquired in 2012. As in other markets, they now operate under the "Circle-K” brand. Most of the locations were thoroughly upgraded, with retail space rearranged and food services expanded.

The ORLEN Group is the undisputed leader in retail fuel sales in Central Europe and manages a network of 2,783 service stations in the premium and economy segments.

The number of the ORLEN Group stations on the markets the Group operates on at the end of 2017.

Source: Own preparation.

In Poland, our service stations operate under the ORLEN brand in the premium segment and under the Bliska brand in the economy segment. In the Czech Republic, the brands are Benzina Plus, Benzina, Standard and Expres, and in Lithuania − ORLEN (premium segment) On the German market, ORLEN Deutschland operates economy stations under the STAR brand and the network is complemented by more than a dozen of Familia supermarket stations.

Polish market 

As at the end of 2017, the ORLEN Group had a network of 1,776 service stations on the Polish market (approximately 27% of all stations in the country).

Fuel station network in Poland

Source: Own preparation on the basis of POPiHN data as at 31 Deecember 2017.

The Group’s investments in the Retail segment were focused on construction of new service stations and motorway service areas, as well as on upgrades to the existing stations. Rollout of the new store and food format Stop Cafe 2.0 was an important element of the network development programme. A number of operational initiatives, intensification of selling efforts focused on fleet and institutional customers, and marketing campaigns helped PKN ORLEN generate higher volumes of fuel sales through its retail chains.

Share of the ORLEN Group in the retail fuel market in Poland

The fluctuations of the market share may have resulted from the  abrupt changes in fuel consumption following the successful curbing of the grey market for fuels. PKN ORLEN’s main competitors in Poland include such foreign companies as Shell, BP, Circle-K (formerly Statoil) and Lukoil, which in aggregate control approximately 22% of all stations in the country. Total has been gaining ground, but with its 23 stations it has no major impact on the retail segment of the market. The number of AS 24 and IDS self-service stations, also managed by foreign operators, remained virtually the same as in 2016. The number of independent stations fell by more than 6%, while the share of independent networks, such as Moya and Huzar, increased to almost 35%.

The road network development program in Poland had a major impact on the operation of the retail fuel market. Typically, when new sections of expressways and motorways are opened, tenders for lease of Motorway Service Areas are called and new fuel stations are launched at these locations. As at the end of 2017, there were 80 Motorway Service Areas at Polish expressways and motorways, including 30 (38%) operated by PKN ORLEN. Currently, the ORLEN Group is engaged in construction of a further seven such facilities.

German market 

The ORLEN Group has been present in Germany, considered the largest and most developed fuel market in Europe, since 2003. As at the end of 2017, ORLEN Deutschland GmbH had a network of 581 service stations and its share in the German retail market exceeded 6.0% for the first time.

Share of the ORLEN Group in the retail fuel market in Germany

ORLEN Deutschland's main competitors include international networks Aral, Shell, Esso, Total (45% of all stations), and economy chains JET and HEM (almost 9%).

Czech market 

The ORLEN Group strengthened its leading position, both in terms of the volume of sales and the network size. In 2017, the Benzina network comprised 401 stations. The launch of new service stations, including the locations acquired from OMV and incorporated into the network, technical upgrades, a consistent retail price management policy, and favourable macroeconomic conditions all contributed to an increase in Benzina’s share of the Czech market to 21.1%.

Share of the ORLEN Group in the retail fuel market in Czech Republic

Hungary’s MOL, with 306 service stations, was the second largest operator on the Czech market in terms of the network size, but its sales volume represented less than 11% of total sales. Other significant players are Shell, Euro Oil and OMV. TankOno, a private network, has been another important participant of the Czech market in recent years. It has 41 stations and, thanks to its low-price policy, enjoys an almost 16% share of the market.

Lithuanian market 

As at the end of 2017, the ORLEN Group in Lithuania owned 25 fuel stations managed by AB Ventus-Nafta, a subsidiary. The ORLEN network increased its market share to 4.5%.

Share of the ORLEN Group in the retail fuel market in Lithuania1

1In 2017, AB Ventus-Nafta changed the methodology of market shares calculations to unify the method of reporting data from other retail network. The sales of agrodiesel (which is still sold on the part of fuel stations) was icorporated to the total volume. As a result of this change the reported market share of Ventus network for year 2016 increased by 0.8pp to the level of 4.4%.

Following the acquisition of the Lukoil chain, in 2017 Viada had a total of 115 service stations and became the largest network on the Lithuanian market. Circle-K (formerly Statoil, bought by Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard) continued as the market leader in terms of the volume of sales, even though it had fewer stations (84). The two companies control over 40% of the market. The third largest player in Lithuania is Neste, with 73 self-service stations.


In the New Policies scenario presented in the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2017, until 2040 the global primary energy demand will grow for all major fuels: coal, oil, gas, nuclear energy, and renewables. However, in accordance with the baseline scenario, the growing primary energy needs will mostly be met by natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency efforts. Renewable sources of energy will meet 40% of the increase in primary demand and their explosive growth in the power sector will mark the end of the boom years for coal.

Global demand for primary energy by fuel type [mlillion toe1]

Source     New Policies
  2000 2016 2025 2040 
Coal 2,311 3,755 3,842 3,929
Oil 3,670 4,388 4,633 4,830
Gas 2,071 3,007 3,436 4,356
Nuclear 676 681 839 1,002
Hydro 225 350 413 533
Bioenergy 1,023 1,354 1,530 1,801
Other renewables 59 225 489 1,133
TOTAL 10,035 13,760 15,182 17,584

1toe – ton of oil equivalent.
Source: IEA.

Structure of global demand for primary energy [%]


Source: own preparation based on IEA data.

Until 2025, demand for crude oil in transport sector will remain robust, but will markedly slow thereafter as greater efficiency and fuel switching brings down oil use for motor vehicles. Powerful impetus from other sectors will be enough to keep oil demand on a rising trajectory. Oil use to produce petrochemicals will be the largest source of growth, closely followed by rising consumption for trucks, for aviation and for shipping.

Natural gas will grow to account for nearly a quarter of global energy demand by 2040, becoming the second-largest fuel in the global mix after oil, which is projected to meet 27% of the global energy demand in the same year. In the same time horizon, the number of liquefaction sites worldwide will double, with the main additions coming from the United States and Australia, followed by Russia, Qatar, Mozambique and Canada. Price formation will be based increasingly on competition between various sources of gas, rather than indexation to oil. In the long term, a larger and more liquid LNG market may offset the lower agility of the other energy segments. By 2040, demand for natural gas will grow by approximately 45%, with industrial consumption accounting for the largest portion of the overall increase. In addition, 80% of the overall increase will be attributable to developing countries.

In 2017, the activity of oil and gas producers measured as the number of operating wells increased by 27% year on year. The increase was seen primarily in the US and Canada and was correlated with the rise in oil prices. Further, producers in these markets have the ability and means to quickly start economically viable production of hydrocarbons from new resources. The US has already become a net exporter of natural gas and is expected to become a net exporter of oil by late 2020s. North America (i.e. the US, Canada, and Mexico combined) is becoming the largest supplier of additional oil and gas to the global market. The US market has been forecast to see a record-high growth of 630 bcm in shale gas production in the fifteen years from 2008 (the largest increase ever attributed to a single source). Such scale of expansion will have wide implications for all countries in North America, driving investments in the petrochemical industry and other energy-intensive sectors.