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16 November 2013

Press review 16-11-2013

There are several pressing topics to cover in this edition of the press review, but I will start with one that has been almost absent from the Western media: Iraq. The country was invaded by a coalition leaded by the US and the UK more than 10 years ago and violence hasn't stopped since. So far 2013 is already one of the deadliest years since the invasion, flagging a clear degradation of the conflict. Obviously, this escalation is not unrelated to the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

Up to 2008 the US government, leaded by George Bush, backed up the Shia, in detriment of the Sunni, eventually leading them to power in Iraq. But ever since Barak Obama took office the US government has clearly shifted support to the Sunni and Al Qaeda. This shift in policy is behind most conflicts in the Near East and North Africa: Lybia, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria; Iraq is simple collateral damage.

Russia Today
Iraq 2013: Deadliest year since 2008 with 7,000+ killed

With over 7,000 civilian casualties so far, 2013 has already become the deadliest year in Iraq since 2008. In its new project, a timeline of the violence, RT brings the sad record into the spotlight.

Following the withdrawal of US troops in December 2011, instead of engaging in post-war and occupation recovery, Iraq has been with each day plunging deeper into inter-ethnic violence, prompted by ever-growing tensions mostly between the country’s majority Shiite community and the Sunni minority.

2013 saw the situation aggravate to its worst, with almost daily deaths of civilians becoming the harsh reality the country is facing today.

“You, I and anyone who walks in the streets, at any moment may face a car bomb, motorcycle bomb, or explosive belt. At any moment anyone may be killed,” a Baghdad resident sums it up speaking to RT’s Egor Piskunov.
The same news outlet provided weeks ago interesting insight on the internalisation of the Syrian conflict. Al Qaeda has been able to draft mujaheddin from all over the region, even Turkey.
Russia Today
Recruited by Al-Qaeda: Foreign fighters in a Damascus jail tell their stories

Raouchan Gazakov brought his family to Syria, taught his 5-year-old son to make bombs and bade farewell to his relative, a suicide bomber. RT’s Maria Finoshina talked to him in a Damascus prison and asked him why he came to fight for Al-Qaeda.

“A group called Murad approached me a year ago and convinced me that Muslims in Syria are being oppressed and killed, and that I should go and take up arms against Assad for world jihad,” Raouchan said in the spartan prison, where some 200 inmates are held – most of them jihadist fighters for Al-Qaeda or affiliated groups. The prisoners’ fate is unknown, although it looks grim.

Raouchan says he sneaked into Syria last January through Turkey. In Istanbul, two men claiming to be from Al-Qaeda met Raouchan and accompanied him to Syria. There, he joined a large terrorist group run by an Egyptian jihadist.
The big story brewing up is again the Gas supply to Europe. For the nth time Russia cut supplies to Ukraine, a transit country that has long struggled to pay the Gas it gets from its big neighbour. So far the transit to Europe seems unaffected, but these worries are starting far earlier than in previous winters.
Ukraine halts Russian gas imports; transit to Europe intact -sources

MOSCOW/KIEV, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Ukraine's Naftogaz halted Russian natural gas imports last Friday in a dispute over pricing, sources in the industry and at Russia's Gazprom told Reuters on Monday, but the flow to Europe via Ukraine was so far unaffected.

The stoppage comes just weeks before Kiev is due to sign a free-trade agreement with the European Union which has angered Moscow.

"There have been no supplies to Naftogaz since Friday," an industry source said, referring to the Ukrainian state energy company that buys Russian gas.

Ukraine has for years been a politically troubled buffer state between Russia and the European Union, and has used its status as a gas transit corridor to play Moscow off against Brussels.

Now, as Russia builds alternative export routes, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich is seeking a rapprochement with the West even as it struggles to pay its import bill and its public finances become increasingly precarious.
States on this side of Ukraine naturally fear that these cuts will eventually affect transit, as Kiev comes to decide between honouring contracts or letting its people freeze.
Bulgaria warns of new gas crisis

Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister Dragomir Stoynev warned yesterday (6 November) of a possible repeat of the 2009 gas crisis as a result of the intensified conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Stoynev said that the pretext for a new gas crisis was Kiev's outstanding debt of some $900 million (€666 million) to Russian gas exporters Gazprom. The Bulgarian minister added that the real reason there could be a gas crisis was Ukraine's plan to sign an association agreement with the EU at the 28-29 November Vilnius summit.

"I am concerned about the development of the talks between the two countries. I strongly hope the nightmare in the winter of 2009 will not be repeated. Such a risk exists at this stage," the minister said after the regular meeting of the Council of ministers, as quoted by the news website Kapital.
And that not's all, Gas supplies from the south have also been cut. This is leaving Italy in an especially delicate situation, the country might be able to increase supplies from Algeria, but it can hardly withstand any further disruptions.
Libyan Berbers shut gas pipeline to Italy, cut major income source

TRIPOLI, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Protesters have shut Libya's gas export pipeline to Italy, its only customer, demanding more rights for the Amazigh, or Berber, minority and depriving the weak government of a major source of income.

The closure worsens turmoil in Libya where Prime Minister Ali Zeidan warned on Sunday that the government might face budget problems next month after protesters cut oil production to a fraction of its capacity.

The North African country faces anarchy as the government has failed to rein in armed militias and radical Islamists who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but kept their weapons.

Although the closure on Monday of the Greenstream pipeline will take several hours to register at the other end, it adds to Italy's energy headaches after Ukraine halted gas imports from Russia, which could also impact supplies. Italy depends heavily on Russian gas.
And speaking of Lybia, no matter what stories NATO leaders try to feed us, the civil war goes on. This is just the story of a country that once was.
Heavy fighting rocks Libyan capital as rival militia battle
Ghaith Shennib and Ulf Laessing, 07-11-2013

(Reuters) - Rival militiamen battled each other for hours with anti-aircraft guns and grenades across Tripoli on Thursday, killing at least one person and wounding 12 in the worst fighting for months in the Libyan capital.

The second outbreak of street fighting within days shows how the government is struggling to contain militias which helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi two years ago but kept their guns after the NATO-backed uprising.

A security source told Reuters that a heavily-armed group from the central city of Misrata had entered the capital in the evening to take revenge for the killing of one of its fighters in a smaller shootout in Tripoli on Tuesday.

Gunfire broke out while young people were enjoying a water pipe on the seafront and families were shopping or dining at the start of the weekend.
An issue that I have been raising in recent weeks is the increasing requirements of fresh water input to several fossil fuel exploration methods. This is surely a limitation to come in the not too distant future, and some market agents are starting to take it as a serious issue.
Wood Mackenzie: The Energy Industry's Rising Water Challenge
Wood Mackenzie, 07-11-2013

Water poses a variety of business risks for the energy industry, and could play an influential role in shaping the future energy supply mix, according to Wood Mackenzie's latest research report "Troubled waters ahead? Rising water risks on the global energy industry", which utilizes data and maps from the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Working with WRI’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, Wood Mackenzie identified that water risks could have the greatest impact on (1) shale gas in the US and with global expansion, (2) the upside for Middle East oil, and (3) China’s future coal mining and coal-fired power plants. Aqueduct mapped key energy production centers over baseline water stress levels (measuring the ratio of total water withdrawals to available supply). The analysis identified areas more likely to see high competition amongst local water users, increased depletion of the resource over time, and growing concerns over contamination of dwindling water supplies.

"The key water-driven business risks to the global energy industry include limited accessibility to new sources of supply, delays on project developments, increasing costs and asset downtime," said Tara Schmidt, Manager of Wood Mackenzie's Global Trends Service.
There's a new article on China's Shale Gas potential every other day, but no one seems to be asking the right questions. If fresh water supply is already a major constraint to the country's Coal mining, how can it feed the expansion of another thirsty fossil fuel industry?
National Geographic
North Dakota's Salty Fracked Wells Drink More Water to Keep Oil Flowing
Patrick J. Kiger, 11-11-2013

It's well known that water has been key to the shale oil and gas rush in the United States. But in one center of the hydraulic fracturing boom—North Dakota—authorities are finding that the initial blast of water to frack the wells is only the beginning.

The wells being drilled into the prairie to tap into the Bakken shale need "maintenance water"—lots of it—to keep the oil flowing. (See related photos: "Bakken Shale Boom Transforms North Dakota.")

So while the water first pumped down the hole to crack rock formations and release the underground oil and natural gas typically totals 2 million gallons (7.5 million liters) per well, each of North Dakota's wells is daily drinking down an average of more than 600 gallons (2,300 liters) in maintenance water, according to recent calculations by North Dakota's Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). (See related quiz: "What You Don't Know About Water and Energy.")

Without water, salt buildup forms and restricts the flow of oil.

Over the life of the well, which authorities presume will be 30 to 40 years, maintenance water needs could add up to 6.6 million to 8.8 million gallons (25 to 33.3 million liters)—or more than three to four times the water required for the initial fracking.
The things that Peak Oil does. The Boeing 747 Jumbo, once an icon of the skies, seems set for retirement. It is not exactly a recent aircraft, conceived during the 1960s, but the apparent terminus of its fabrication will certainly go in history as a milestone for civil aviation.
The Colombus Dispatch
Boeing 747’s era long gone because of jet’s jumbo size, fuel use
Joshua Freed and Scott Mayerowitz, 09-11-2013

For decades, the Boeing 747 was the Queen of the Skies. But the glamorous, double-decker jumbo jet that revolutionized air travel and shrank the globe could be nearing the end of the line.

Boeing has cut its production target twice in six months. Only 18 will be produced in each of the next two years. Counting cancellations, Boeing hasn’t sold a 747 this year. Some new 747s go into storage as soon as they leave the plant.

Boeing says it’s committed to the 747 and sees a market for it in regions such as Asia. But most airlines no longer want big, four-engine planes; they prefer newer two-engine jets that fly the same distance while burning less fuel.

“We had four engines when jet-engine technology wasn’t advanced,” Delta Air Lines Inc. CEO Richard Anderson said at a recent conference. “Now, jet engines are amazing, amazing machines, and you only need two of them.”
The lack of demand for the 747 is not unique, as this earlier article demonstrates. In essence, 4 engine aircraft like these are not profitable with Petroleum prices over 100 $/b. It doesn't necessarily spells the end for civil aviation, but certainly a turning point. A new era dawns, where, for instance, the safety of redundancy is no longer a requirement.
Emirates begins parting out its A340-500s
Max Kingsley-Jones, 23-09-2013

Emirates has retired two of its 10 Airbus A340-500s, and is breaking one for spares, as sustained high fuel prices take their toll on operations of the four-engined aircraft.

The Dubai network carrier introduced the ultra-long range airliner in 2003, meaning that its oldest aircraft is only 10 years old. But the high cost of fuel makes the aircraft uneconomic to fly now, says Emirates Airline president Tim Clark.

“We’ve taken a big hit to retire them, but [their poor economics means] there’s no point in flying them,” says Clark. “They were designed in the late 1990s with fuel at $25-30. They fell over at $60 and at $120 they haven’t got a hope in hell.”
Meanwhile another World Energy Outlook by the IEA is out. So far I haven't been able to dive into it, but there are already some interesting bits coming out in the press.
IEA: Shale Boom is Only Temporary , we’ll Soon be Relying on Middle East Again
João Peixe, 12-11-2013

Claims that the shale boom in the US will eventually see the country become energy self-sufficient seems to have received its biggest blow yet after the International Energy Agency, in its latest World Energy Outlook report, stated that shale oil will only be a temporary trend, and very soon the world will return to rely on the Middle East for its oil.

The World Energy Outlook admitted that shale had transformed the global oil industry, and that the light tight oil produced was helping to usher in a new abundance of oil. High oil prices will drive further exploration and production of tight oil “but, by the mid-2020s, non-OPEC production starts to fall back and countries from the Middle East provide most of the increase in global supply.”

Maria van der Hoeven, the executive director of the IEA, said that “there is a huge growth in light tight oil, that it will peak around 2020, and then it will plateau.

We expect the Middle East will come back and be a very important producer and exporter of oil, just because there are huge resources of low-cost light oil. Light tight oil is not low-cost oil.”
Closing the energy section is a story that has been developing without any attention from major news outlets. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is coming to an halt of sorts, as it dearths after illegal immigrants. What are the risks to the Kingdom's Petroluem production? Even if these risks are negligible, this story is interesting for another reason: the actual reason behind the Kingdom's swelling unemployment is its breathtaking population growth. This is a country that will change radically in the decades to come, perhaos finishing its days as a Petroleum exporter much sooner than expected.
Associated Press
Immigrant crackdown in Saudi Arabia leaves garbage in streets, migrant workers hiding in fear
Abdullah Al-Shihri and Aya Batrawy, 14-11-2013

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Garbage is piling up on streets around the mosque housing the burial site of the Prophet Muhammad. Grocery stores have shut their doors and almost half of Saudi Arabia's small construction firms have stopped working on projects.

The mess is because foreign workers on which many businesses rely are fleeing, have gone into hiding or are under arrest amid a crackdown launched Nov. 4 targeting the kingdom's 9 million migrant laborers. Decades of lax immigration enforcement allowed migrants to take low-wage manual, clerical and service jobs that the kingdom's own citizens shunned for better paying, more comfortable work.

Now, authorities say booting out migrant workers will open more jobs for citizens, at a time when unemployment among Saudis is running at 12.1 percent as of the end of last year, according to the International Monetary Fund. But the nationalist fervor driving the crackdown risks making migrant workers vulnerable to vigilante attacks by Saudis fed up with the seemingly endless stream of foreigners in their country.
Awkward news out of the London Metal Exchange. Does this mean that investors have been selling at large metals they don't actually possess? What is the relation of this market overhaul to the record Gold exports out of the UK this year? I won't be surprised if this developments into something more relevant.
Are Prices For Every Metal About to Go Up 15%
Dave Forest, 08-11-2013

LME warehouses have been a hot issue of late. With numerous market players criticizing the company's lengthy queues for metals buyers. In some cases, metals purchasers have been waiting up to 600 days for Exchange warehouses to retrieve and deliver physical metal from inventory. The chart below shows the extended queues.

This has led some buyers to shun purchases on the exchange. Instead looking for alternative platforms like the OTC markets.

The end result being a long-running suspicion in the industry that LME prices actually run at a discount to the true market price for metals. If copper is trading at $3.50 per pound, the true market price might be $3.80. But buyers through the LME are applying a $0.30 discount because they know they'll have to wait months to actually get the supply.

This is a situation the Exchange wants to change. Yesterday it released a raft of new policies aimed at reducing waiting times at its warehouses. Largely involving requirements that warehouses de-stock metal at an equal or greater rate than new inventory is coming in.
And finally the usual note on technology. The whistle-blowing on the US government's spying activities is starting to have a very visible impact on the IT industry of that country. More is certainly to come, in what is now a one way road out of the US domination of information technologies.
Cisco’s disastrous quarter shows how NSA spying could freeze US companies out of a trillion-dollar opportunity
Christopher Mims, 14-11-2013

Cisco announced two important things in today’s earnings report: The first is that the company is aggressively moving into the Internet of Things—the effort to connect just about every object on earth to the internet—by rolling out new technologies. The second is that Cisco has seen a huge drop-off in demand for its hardware in emerging markets, which the company blames on fears about the NSA using American hardware to spy on the rest of the world.

Cisco chief executive John Chambers said on the company’s earnings call that he believes other American technology companies will be similarly affected. Cisco saw orders in Brazil drop 25% and Russia drop 30%. Both Brazil and Russia have expressed official outrage over NSA spying and have announced plans to curb the NSA’s reach.

Analysts had expected Cisco’s business in emerging markets to increase 6%, but instead it dropped 12%, sending shares of Cisco plunging 10% in after-hours trading.
Have a nice weekend and don't abuse of the heating.

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