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10 May 2014

Press review 10-05-2014 - Progress on Ukraine

There are signs of progress between the world powers over the Ukraine situation. The pressure exerted by US on Europe to cut its energy imports from Russia seems to have been defused, with the press now even reporting "support for Russia" within the European Council. On the other side, Russia seems to be definitely abandoning any prospects of further military intervention. Convergence seems emerging on how to re-instate democracy in the troubled country.

But on the field tension among Ukrainians keeps mounting. The death toll is now reported on the tenths, after the massacre of over 50 russophones last weekend. Some communities appear especially restless, demanding no less than independence. It is hard to see how any valid democratic process can take place in this setting.

Meanwhile the governors put in Kiev after the coup d'état started to get funds from the IMF; they should now be able to keep paying for the gas they get from Russia.

Europe stuck with Russian gas dependence, say G7 ministers
Stephen Jewkes and James Mackenzie, 06-05-2014

Europe will be saddled with its dependence on Russian gas for years, ministers from the Group of Seven industrial nations said on Tuesday, condemning the use of energy as a weapon of political coercion.

"I don't know anyone in the world who could tell us how Europe's dependency on importing Russian gas can be changed in the short term," German Economy and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters.

Meeting in Rome as the crisis in Ukraine intensified, G7 energy ministers said they were "extremely concerned about the energy security implications of developments in Ukraine as a consequence of Russia's violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Following is an article published by Nordea that goes to great depth on the consequences of an hypothetical escalation of economic sanctions on Russia. This is the sort of information that seems to have brought back the media and politicians to their feet; brilliant ideas like importing gas from net importing countries such as the US seem to have been shredded by reality. Pity the mess up with units in this article.
Oil: Ukraine crisis can trigger oil spike and tip EU back into recession
Thina Margrethe Saltvedt and Aurelija Augulyte, 02-05-2014

• Russia as important oil as gas supplier to Europe
• Disruptions to Russian oil flows will have huge impact on oil prices
• Embittered political climate, oil prices at USD 150/barrel and high financial market uncertainty can tip EU back into recession
• Oil price spike and flight to safety a recipe for broad-based USD strengthening and lower global rates: three risk scenarios
• US shale oil or SPR release will not prevent oil price spike
The role the US had, and is still having, in the events in Kiev has not been exactly a secret, but now even the American media are admitting to it. The EU must definitly build a proper common foreign policy, it can't possibly continue assisting to the destabilisation of its neighbouring countries as a bundle of scared and undecided nations.
CIA, FBI agents 'advising Ukraine government': report

Dozens of specialists from the US Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation are advising the Ukrainian government, a German newspaper reported Sunday.

Citing unnamed German security sources, Bild am Sonntag said the CIA and FBI agents were helping Kiev end the rebellion in the east of Ukraine and set up a functioning security structure.
The following story dispenses comments.
Ukraine nationalists rally to commemorate Nazi SS division

Ukrainian nationalists in western Ukrainian city of Lviv have held a rally in commemoration of a Nazi SS division created in 1943, despite a ban asking them to stop.

One attendee said "This march is to commemorate the Galician division, which had nothing to do with the divisions of the Waffen SS. Their oath of allegiance was for Ukraine. They are our heroes and that is why we honour them every year."
Forbes published a long article on the endeavours of Lukoil in Iraq. It reveals quite a good deal of information, conveying the idea that producing petroleum in the country is becoming increasingly risky. Investors are growing wary and some international companies are pulling out altogether. This is a very different story from the deluge of Iraqi petroleum promised just years ago.
Amid Chaos, Russian Billionaire Launches Giant Iraqi Oilfield
Christopher Helman, 03-05-2014

Bringing West Qurna-2 online is a huge deal. For Iraq it represents tens of billions in future revenues. For Lukoil and CEO Vagit Alekperov it represents the culmination of three decades of effort by Russian geologists and engineers — who discovered the field under the auspices of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, studied it during U.N. sanctions in the 1990s, lost it in the American invasion, and finally regained control of it in 2007, beating out the likes of BP BP +0.61% in an auction for development rights.

And yet the start-up of West Qurna-2 is bittersweet. Lukoil is dedicated to getting the field up to 400,000 bpd so that it can start making back the more than $4 billion it’s invested so far, but Kuzayev tells me (through a translator) that the company’s shareholders “have not yet approved final development” plans to goose it up to 1 million bpd.

Lukoil is also taking it slow on another Iraqi project it has lined up at a field called Nassiriya. The reason is simple: “Shareholders are very conservative towards additional risk in Iraq.” [...]

The oil sector has been hit by the strife. Analysts at Bernstein Research have tallied up 40 attacks on the pipeline running from the giant Kirkuk field into Turkey over the past year. An attack on pipeline near the Iran-Iraq border in February left 19 dead. Last November Schlumberger SLB +0.07% temporarily suspended its operations in Iraq after violent protests erupted at BP’s Rumaila field (1.4 million bpd); foreign contractors and local workers had quarreled over the display of Shi’ite flags and banners. Paring its risk, Exxon farmed out a 25% stake in its West Qurna-1 project to PetroChina PTR +0.6% earlier this year. Sonangol, the Angolan state oil company, announced it was pulling out of two projects there because of security concerns. Violence aside, Paolo Scaroni, CEO of Italian major Eni, declared recently that his company was considering pulling out of Iraq entirely, having waited six months for approval of a key permit. Norway’s Statoil used to be Lukoil’s partner in West Qurna-2, but it gave up its stake in the project back in 2012.
More evidence has surfaced on the wide support the Syrian Sunni have been having from Saudi Arabia. Across the border with Iraq other technologies are sold to the Shia government directly by the US to fight what are essentially the same Sunni factions. Business as usual.
McClathy DC
New videos show more rebel groups in Syria have U.S.-made anti-tank missiles
Mitchell Prothero, 06-05-2014

Advanced American-made anti-tank missiles can be seen in numerous videos posted by Syrian rebel groups over the weekend, an indication that what experts thought was a limited trial program to arm moderate pro-Western units recently has been expanded.

The trial program was revealed early last month when videos posted by the Hazem Movement, a rebel group with ties to the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army, showed a small number of TOW anti-tank missiles being fired at Syrian government targets. Experts who examined the videos concluded that the missiles likely had been supplied by Saudi Arabia after the United States approved transfer of the advanced weapons.

New video released over the weekend suggests the program has since been expanded to at least five rebel groups, most with ties to the FSA but some that are loyal to the Syrian Revolutionary Front, another secular rebel coalition. The videos purport to show combat operations in both Syria’s north near the border with Turkey and in its south, along the border with Jordan.
Steven Kopits has been writing for a blog at Platts' called The Barrel. His insights are precious and very well written; this time he looks into the future of international petroleum companies and what it may mean for prices.
The Barrel
More debate on the future of international oil companies
Steven Kopits, 01-05-2014

Will prices fall in the future? From the supply perspective, this is questionable. If we believe Verleger’s assertion that the IOCs are doomed, then their production will surely fall. And it is. The majors’ oil production fell by 1.4 MMb/d in 2013, though a large chunk of this was a BP divestment and therefore not a loss to the oil system as a whole.

Still, if we accept Verleger’s thesis, a continuing decline of 0.8-1.0 MMb/d / year from the IOCs would certainly seem feasible.

Who will replace this? The Bakken and Eagle Ford are both at inflection points. It seems unlikely they can pick up the pace; and indeed, any number of analyses predict the pace of growth to moderate from 2016 or so. If US shale oil production is to be limited to the Bakken, Eagle Ford and recent production trends in the Permian, then today’s growth rates look unsustainable. This matters because US shales have been the growth engine not only of US supply, but also of global supply. Without US shales, global crude oil production would be lower today than it was in 2005.
The negative press on source rock fracturation techniques is as strong as ever, with stories published almost daily by lobbying media. There is though a recent development that rises above this flow of environmental activist news. If a damaging earthquake is indeed possible, the source rock industry may be in a for serious downturn. Any event like this can lock European source rocks for good.
Live Science
Rare Earthquake Warning Issued for Oklahoma
Becky Oskin, 09-05-2014

Mile for mile, there are almost as many earthquakes rattling Oklahoma as California this year. This major increase in seismic shaking led to a rare earthquake warning today (May 5) from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

In a joint statement, the agencies said the risk of a damaging earthquake — one larger than magnitude 5.0 — has significantly increased in central Oklahoma.

Geologists don't know when or where the state's next big earthquake will strike, nor will they put a number on the increased risk. "We haven't seen this before in Oklahoma, so we had some concerns about putting a specific number on the chances of it," Robert Williams, a research geophysicist with the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program in Golden, Colorado, told Live Science. "But we know from other cases around the world that if you have an increasing number of small earthquakes, the chances of a larger one will go up."
On more future forward technologies there are important developments on Lithium-ion batteries noted by the press. A possible shortage of graphite is one more reason to remain sceptical on the scaling up of this technology. Mobile energy storage still has some sort of quantum leap to take before having a relevant impact on the transport sector.
Wealth Daily
Graphite Shortage Anticipated
Joseph Cafariello, 06-05-2014

While zero-emission, environmentally friendly, electric-powered automobiles are keeping American air clean, they are also partly responsible for millions of tons of pollution halfway around the world. The irony is difficult to miss.

As electric vehicles grow in demand, consumption of the mineral graphite used in electric power cells has been soaring as well. Each hybrid electric car uses about 22 pounds of graphite, while a fully electric auto uses about 110 pounds.

Most people’s contact with graphite is limited to the “lead” inside pencils. But if you live in China’s provinces of Shandong or Heilongjiang, where graphite is mined, you’ll come into contact with it in the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the vegetables you eat.

All that pollution is produced in the mining of graphite, a key ingredient in the electric car’s lithium-ion battery — the very thing that makes it clean.
Ending, a just released video from one of the music acts I have been listen to most in recent years. Valerinne is a trio from Bucharest heavily influenced by the Wetton/Bruford era King Crimson.

Enjoy the weekend, as much as the storms allow.

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