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23 November 2013

Press review 23-11-2013

The Iraq war started over a decade ago. The date of its terminus is debatable, some were bold enough to declare an end, but the killing and sectarianism have prevailed. For a few years it seemed the country was finding some sort of normality and the Petroleum industry seemed set for a fresh restart. But religious and ethnic tensions that the war only deepened are putting all at stake one more time. The civil war in neighbouring Syria has not only further contributed to the rift between Shia and Sunni, it threatens to overflow into Iraq on a large scale.

In spite of all the fuss around tight oil, Iraq is effectively the home to the most important Petroleum resource in the planet at this moment. If the Golden Horseshoe theory by the late Dr. Ali Bakhtiari is correct, the country could delay the decline of world Petroleum extraction for a good while, providing a smoother transition to a new economic paradygm. But peace in Iraq is not in everyone's agenda.

Gulf Business
Iraq’s Ambitions Crumble As Oil Giants Opt Out
Syed Hussain, 16-11-2013

When oil giant Exxon Mobil sold half of its stake in Iraq’s giant West Qurna-1 oil field to Asian investors in August, it marked a watershed moment for the Iraqi oil industry.

As recently as four years ago, Big Oil was clamouring to get a piece of the prolific Iraqi oilfields. Geologically-compliant and near the hungry markets of Europe and Asia, Iraq was the great prize for Big Oil. With reserves of 143 billion barrels of oil – the fifth largest in the world – Iraq is often seen as the last of the low-hanging fruits in the oil world.

Not surprisingly, international majors jumped in when the country issued its first oil license auction in 2008-09. Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Total SA were falling over themselves to get a piece of the opportunity.

However, a number of unaddressed issues have finally caught up with the country’s hydrocarbon’s sector, threatening oil production in the near-term.
I expect news pieces like the one below to become more frequent, especially while the war in Syria rages on.
UPI
Protests force Baker Hughes to stop work in Iraq
12-11-2013

Oil services company Baker Hughes said it halted work temporarily at a facility in Basra, Iraq, following weekend protests by residents.

The company, which has headquarters in Texas, said it declared force majeure in Iraq, meaning it's unable to meet certain contractual obligations because of circumstances beyond its control. The decision follows weekend protests at its facilities in Basra, a port city.

"The incident is currently under investigation," the company said in a statement Monday. "Due to the significant disruption of business, Baker Hughes has suspended operations in Iraq, and has issued force majeure notices to its customers."
Moving West we find another conflict torn country: Lybia. A civil war similar to Syria's appears brewing, but this time missing the structure of a ruling government.
Reuters
Dozens dead in clash with Libyan militiamen in Tripoli
Ulf Laessing and Hani Amara, 15-11-2013

(Reuters) - At least 32 people were killed and almost 400 wounded in gun battles between Libyan militiamen and armed residents in Tripoli on Friday in the worst street fighting for months to test the shaky central government.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan is struggling to control rival militias, Islamist militants and other former fighters who refuse to surrender their arms two years after helping to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed revolt.

After Friday's violence, Zeidan demanded that all militias "without exception" leave Tripoli, but the clashes underscored how little his fledging military can do to curb ex-rebels, who have also shut down Libya's oil exports for months.
Last year's theatrical visits by NATO's leaders to the country and the ensuing democratic elections were a simple intermission to the war.
Al Jazeera
State of emergency declared in Libyan capital
17-11-2013

A 48-hour state of emergency has been declared in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, after a fresh wave of clashes broke out following a deadly protest against armed groups.

At least one person was killed and dozens wounded in Saturday's clashes that took place a day after more than 40 people were killed in firing by gunmen.

Saturday's gun battles broke out to the east of the capital in Tajoura, where rival gunmen clashed at checkpoints set up to stop more gunmen nearby city of Misrata from entering Tripoli, Mohammad Sasi, a local member of Libya's congress said.
Petroluem and Gas exports have been cut, and now even the electricity supply is at risk.
Reuters
Oil port complex protest hits Libya's electricity supply
14-11-2013

Libya's state power company said a protest at an oil and gas complex that has cut gas supplies had started hitting its electricity network, state news agency Lana said on Thursday.

Two weeks ago, Members of the Amazigh, or Berber, minority, seized the Mellitah complex, operated by Italy's ENI and the state-owned National Oil Corp (NOC), and halted gas and oil exports in support of demands for more political rights.

Libya's public power company urged authorities to take "urgent measures" to end what it called a crisis because its network was facing an "extreme power reduction," Lana said.

"A halt in gas supplies used for power generation from the Mellitah oil and gas complex is reducing the capacity of the power network in the western region," the company said.
Last week I left a few questions on the apparently erratic support by the US government to Al Qaeda, that is fuelling the conflicts mentioned above. About the same time a member of the US Senator brought to public what appears to be a scheme to finance Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The backing of the US to Al Qaeda might actually be wider than it seems.
ABC News
Senator: US Soldiers Being Killed by Terror Groups Backed With US Money
Brian Ross, Megan Chuchmach and Rhonda Schwartz, 11-11-2013

The United States has paid more than $150 million to companies in Afghanistan that are accused of helping to finance terrorist attacks on American soldiers and facilities, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

"It's like the United States government subsidizing the Taliban, al Qaeda, the Haqqani network, those groups that are trying to shoot and kill our soldiers," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., a member of the Senate's Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, in an interview to be broadcast tonight on ABC News' "World News with Diane Sawyer".

A list of 43 companies in Afghanistan was compiled by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) using data from both classified Pentagon investigative reports and Commerce Department lists of terror-connected companies.

Among them is a road construction company the U.S. says is partly owned by a leader of the brutal Haqqani network, which was blamed for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that claimed 16 lives in 2011.
The drums of war sound load in the Near East. I hope the news below to be nothing but speculation, a clash between the two Persian powers is the last the thing the world needs at this stage.
The Times of Israel
Israel said to be working with Saudi Arabia on Iran strike plan
17-11-2013

Israel is working on coordinating plans for a possible military strike with Saudi Arabia, with Riyadh prepared to provide tactical support to Jerusalem, a British newspaper reported early Sunday.

The two countries have both united in worry that the West may come to terms with Iran, easing sanctions and allowing the Islamic Republic to continue its nuclear program.

According to the Sunday Times, Riyadh has agreed to let Israel use its airspace in a military strike on Iran and cooperate over the use of rescue helicopters, tanker planes and drones.

“The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs,” an unnamed diplomatic source told the paper.
Moving now to less bellicose news, the water requirements of rock fracturation operations in the US are becoming too large to ignore. Even media outlets that promoted the shale hype are acknowledging it.
Forbes
Water Shortages Could Dry Up Shale Gas Craze
Ken Silverstein, 17-11-2013

Environmentalists won’t stop the shale gas craze. Neither will federal regulators. But a lack of water could possibly do so. And that is why drillers are looking for new ways to find water supplies — or fresh water supplies would be jeopardized as a result of fossil fuel development.

During the exploration of shale gas, a concoction of sand, water and chemicals is pumped into the ground. Some of the dirty water returns and it must either be treated or re-injected underground, which at least in the northeastern United States involves trucking such tainted water to different locales — something that then upsets the green movement. Treating — or recycling — the “fracking water,” by contrast, optimizes a scarce resource while potentially mitigating any ecological ramifications, albeit at potentially higher costs.

“No question: Recycling is the way that the industry is moving,” says Bill Charneski, chief operating officer of OriginOil, in a telephone interview. “It makes economic and environmental sense to do so. “There’s not a technical hurdle and there’s not an economic hurdle. But there is an investment that is required in new equipment, which has a payback that would occur in less than two years.”
Speaking again of Saudi Arabia, the kingdom is starting a major push to extract Gas from deep waters in the Red Sea. The highlight of this story is the motivation: growing internal demand for energy. The Red Queen also had to run as fast as she could to stay in the same place.
UPI
Saudis launch major gas drilling in Red Sea
21-11-2013

Saudi Arabia is fast-tracking its first major offshore natural gas fields in the Red Sea, a high-priority project that's seen as the start of a massive new energy program, off the kingdom's west coast.

The objective is to produce gas for power-generation to free up for export growing volumes of oil that are being used domestically to cope with a growing domestic demand.

The kingdom's giant state oil company, Aramco, has not disclosed any estimate of the Red Sea's potential yet, "but there could be up to 100 billion barrels of oil equivalent under the sea bed," observed analyst Persian Gulf analyst Kevin Baxter.
And one of Europe's most important Petroleum and Gas suppliers is facing wide outages in its North Sea fields. A story to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
Reuters
Norway's oil output 9 pct short of target in Oct
15-11-2013

Norway's oil and gas output missed forecasts by a wide margin in October as a long list of fields suffered outages, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate said on Friday.

Oil production rose from a dip in September but missed forecasts by 9 percent as 14, an unusually large number of fields, were down at least part of the month for planned or unexpected work, the NPD said in a statement.

Norway is the world's eighth biggest oil exporter and Western Europe's top gas supplier, accounting for about a fifth of the European Union's gas demand.
Norway's woes come at an inconvenient moment, when the largest Gas supply route to Europe is again menaced. Is Europe set for a winter end like the last, when shortages where at some point hours away? The weather may be the decider.
EUObserver
Gazprom warns EU of winter 'catastrophe'
Andrew Rettman, 15-11-2013

BRUSSELS - Gazprom has warned that Ukraine might not have enough gas to feed EU transit customers in the coming winter.

The deputy chairman of the Russian firm, Vitaly Markelov, told press in an emailed statement on Thursday (14 November) that Ukraine should have stored 21.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas in its underground vats, but that it is likely to have just 14 bcm by the time winter bites.

“It’s a catastrophe … in these conditions, the winter transit of Russian gas won’t be possible because storage won’t be enough to compensate for Ukrainian consumer drawdowns," he said.

Referring to the danger of a 2009-type crisis, which saw power cuts in some eastern EU states, he added: "Everyone knows the risk … it's a serious situation."
Closing a very interesting piece of news that when almost unnoticed. China is opening a Petroleum futures market that will be surprisingly priced in Yuan. This is an important step away from the Plazza Accord, and into a new international monetary system that remains largely unknown.
Reuters
China's planned crude oil futures may be priced in yuan - SHFE
21-11-2013

The Shanghai Futures Exchange (SHFE) may price its crude oil futures contract in yuan and use medium sour crude as its benchmark, its chairman said on Thursday, adding that the bourse is speeding up preparatory work to secure regulatory approvals.

China, which overtook the United States as the world's top oil importer in September, hopes the contract will become a benchmark in Asia and has said it would allow foreign investors to trade in the contract without setting up a local subsidiary. [...]

"The yuan has become more international and more recognised by the financial market," Chen Bo, Chinese trading firm Unipec's executive general manager, told Reuters.

"I don't think it would be unacceptable for the world to use the renminbi for commodities trading."
Have a nice weekend.