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17 May 2014

Press review 17-05-2014 - The undercovered

Ukraine continues to be the most relevant story in the Energy world, both for what is happing and for what is not happening. On the field a doubtful democratic process borne an independence decision for the region of Donetsk that no one seems really willing to recognise. Another doubtful election by the end of this month shall decide who presides the insurgents that took power in Kiev. Scattered skirmishes are reported almost daily between forces loyal to Kiev and the separatists.

As alluded in previous press reviews, there seems to be foreign agents on the field playing an important role in the course of events. This week the German press is reporting the presence of some 400 American mercenaries in Ukraine engaging the separatists. One has to wonder what was the role of this force in the massacre in Maidan square and more recently in Odessa.

Einsatz gegen Separatisten: Ukrainische Armee bekommt offenbar Unterstützung von US-Söldnern

Es war ein eindeutig formuliertes Dementi. "Unverantwortliche Blogger und ein Onlinereporter" hätten "Gerüchte" verbreitet, wonach Angestellte der Firma Academi in der Ukraine im Einsatz seien. Das sei falsch und nichts mehr als ein "sensationalistischer Versuch, eine Hysterie zu kreieren". So äußerte sich der US-Militärdienstleister, ehemals unter dem Namen Blackwater zu unrühmlicher Bekanntheit gelangt, am 17. März auf seiner Webseite.

Die staatliche russische Nachrichtenagentur "Ria Novosti" legte freilich am 7. April nach: Blackwater-Kämpfer agierten in der Ostukraine - und zwar in der Uniform der ukrainischen Sonderpolizei "Sokol". Eine unabhängige Bestätigung dafür gab es nicht.

Ein Zeitungsbericht legt nun nahe, dass an der Sache womöglich doch etwas dran sein könnte: Laut "Bild am Sonntag" werden die ukrainischen Sicherheitskräfte von 400 Academi-Elitesoldaten unterstützt. Sie sollen Einsätze gegen prorussische Rebellen rund um die ostukrainische Stadt Slowjansk geführt haben. Demnach setzte der Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) die Bundesregierung am 29. April darüber in Kenntnis. Wer die Söldner beauftragt habe, sei noch unklar.
Europe continues playing the double game, one the one hand imposing sanctions on individuals, on the other hand maintaining institutional and economic relations as regular as possible. There isn't much of an alternative at the moment, but this is a perilous fine line to walk.
Le Parisien
Washington presse la France de renoncer à vendre ses navires Mistral à la Russie

La France et la Russie ont signé en 2011 ce contrat de 1,2 milliard d'euros pour deux navires Mistral, le premier devant être livré en octobre 2014, le second en 2015 et destiné à la Flotte russe de la mer Noire. Ce sont des bâtiments de projection et de commandement (BPC), des navires de guerre polyvalents pouvant transporter des hélicoptères et des chars. Le président français François Hollande avait indiqué samedi que ce contrat était maintenu «pour l'instant».

«Ce contrat a été signé en 2011, il s'exécute et il trouvera son aboutissement au mois d'octobre prochain. Pour l'instant il n'est pas remis en cause», avait déclaré le chef de l'Etat.

Fin mars, Laurent Fabius avait déclaré que Paris pourrait «annuler ces ventes» si Moscou ne changeait pas de politique à l'égard de Kiev. Son collègue à la Défense, Jean-Yves Le Drian, avait ensuite reporté toute décision à octobre. La Russie avait averti la France qu'elle «fera(it) valoir ses droits jusqu'au bout» en cas de rupture du contrat.
Ukraine has now the funds to pay for the regular flow of gas from Russia. In spite of all the upheaval in the press, I am not expecting Russia to cut off the flow next month; unless Kiev tries something.
Ukraine to use EU and IMF money to pay for Russian gas
Andrew Rettman, 14-05-2014

Ukraine plans to use EU and IMF money to pay for Russian gas, but will not pay a cent unless Moscow agrees a market price, its authorities say.

Its caretaker PM, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, made the point at a meeting with European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels on Tuesday (13 May).

He said: “We want a deal based on market conditions. If Russia rejects this, we will bring Russia to [an international arbitrage] court in Stockholm. If I’m not mistaken, there’s 20 days left - this is the final call for Russia to sit at the negotiating table.”

He noted that Russia’s ultimatum on gas debts is offset by its seizure of Ukrainian energy assets in Crimea last month, worth “tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars.” He listed stolen assets as: 2 billion cubic metres of gas in storage vats; two energy firms; onshore and offshore drilling facilities; and offshore gas fields.
Right after Russia, Norway is the second most important fossil fuel supplier to Europe. But for this Nordic nation the writing is on the wall, the resources left under the North Sea are becoming simply too expensive; the decline is now definitive.
Insight - End of oil boom threatens Norway's welfare model
Balazs Koranyi, 08-05-2014

The fortunes of the oil industry, which accounts for a fifth of Norway's economy, have shifted abruptly as the global oil sector slammed on the brakes.

Costs are spiking and capital spending has been so high that energy firms are selling assets to pay dividends. With oil prices seen falling this year and next, appetite for capital expenditure is low.

Investments, which tripled over the past decade, are now seen declining in the years ahead, confounding earlier expectations for a steady increase, while oil production remains flat, despite years of heavy spending.

Energy companies are cutting some of their most innovative projects, a big worry as the sector has relied on cutting edge innovation to offset its high costs.
Mind here that this is happening while petroleum prices hover around 110 $/b. Either these resources will remain locked under the sea or a serious price hike might have to happen later this decade. Given the current Energy policy in Europe the later is probably the most likely.
Mikael Holter, 09-06-2014

Expenses have jumped amid increasing complexity, higher raw-materials costs and rising demand. Coupled with stagnating energy prices, they’ve led companies such as Statoil ASA (STL), the state-controlled operator of more than 70 percent of Norway’s production, to cut spending plans.

Investments by oil companies in Norway are expected to fall after peaking at 214 billion kroner ($36.5 billion) next year, according to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate. Meanwhile, oil and gas production has fallen 20 percent during the past decade as aging North Sea fields are depleted.

Statoil last year delayed its Johan Castberg oil project in the Arctic Barents Sea, citing costs and a tax increase by Norway’s previous government, shelving $15 billion of investments that included a new oil terminal at North Cape. The Stavanger-based company is also reviewing a plan to raise recovery at the North Sea’s Snorre field, and has scrapped building a gas-export pipeline at its Kristin field.
The data rolling out of the source rock plays in the US are starting to point an end to production growth in a matter of months, with at least Bakken entering terminal decline already next year. Eventually, Peak Oil will kill "shale oil".
Peak Oil Barrel
Bakken Update, March Production Data
Ron Patterson, 14-05-2014

I think we can look for a Bakken production to increase through the end of this year but by not nearly as much as a lot of the Bakken cheering section is expecting. The high decline rates are catching up. Any kind of bad weather or other problems slows drilling but the decline continues regardless of weather or other problems.

Jean Laherrere just sent me some Bakken graphs. I am posting them below along with his comments:

I have also plotted ND production and number of rigs. The fit with a shift of 20 months seems good, meaning a ND peak for this year. The Hubbert linearization of ND Bakken trends towards an ultimate of 2,4 Gb. The forecast with an ultimate of 2.4 Gb is for a Bakken peak this year. The next months data out of the severe winter has to confirm the present data which was disturbed by such winter.
The following is really strange and not easy to fully explain. Gas storage in the US is well below average for this time of the year, raising concerns over appropriate supply the coming winter. Is this the signal of a serious price hike ahead? Or simply the symptom of an industry in disarray?
The Status of U.S. Oil and Gas Production (Spring 2014)
Roger Blanchard, 15-05-2014

The reality is that the price of natural gas is likely to rise significantly in coming years even if natural gas is not exported. It’s unlikely that you heard anything about it from media sources but the storage level of natural gas in the U.S. dropped 1 trillion cubic feet (TCF) below average in the spring of 2014. On average the storage level drops from ~3.8 TCF at the start of the heating season to around 1.8 TCF at the end of the season. This year it dropped to 0.8 TCF. The elevated decline was due to the cold winter of 2013/2014.

Media sources are so engrossed with telling the public about how natural gas production is booming that they don’t want to inform the public of this year’s extraordinarily low storage level. As for the booming U.S. natural gas supply, dry gas production increased 0.9% in 2013.

What I expect to happen this year is that as the summer progresses, the storage level will continue to remain much below where it should be. As we go into the next heating season, I expect the price of natural gas to rise significantly to entice gas producers to produce more gas to try and bring the storage level up to where it should be at the start of the heating season.
The reconquest of Homs by the Shia regime in Syria was well patent in the news last week. What might have not transpired is that this might mark the definitive failure of NATO and its allies to topple the Assad government.

Assad may have won the civil war
Mona Alami, Osama Abu Zeid and Elizabeth Parker Magyar, 14-05-2014

"The rebels are in bad shape – they can't win this war," said Joshua Lendis, director of the Center for Middle East studies at the University of Oklahoma. "On the other hand, it is going to be hard for the regime to defeat them because the rebels get money and arms from the outside."

With the fall of Homs, the Syrian government now controls about 50% of the territory and two of the country's largest city hubs: the other being the capital of Damascus, says Lebanese military expert Wehbe Katisha, a former general.

"Assad has certainly managed to score points in the last few weeks, but it is still a bit premature to say that the Syrian rebellion is over," says Katisha.

One year ago it looked as if Assad may go the way of other Arab despots toppled by popular uprisings demanding democratic reforms. The so-called Arab Spring ousted dictators in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt.
The press also produced some buzz over the successful election of a prime minister in Libya, but so far this does not seem to have translated into any real progress in the field.
Libyan oil operations closed since March, OMV says
Daniel J. Graeber, 13-05-2014

"Libyan operations ... were again impacted by security issues and production has been shut in since mid-March," he said in a statement. "We took several steps to further strengthen our upstream portfolio."

OMV said the situation in Libya remains "very difficult to predict."

Optimism over a rebound in the Libyan oil sector increased last month when the Libyan National Oil Company announced it lifted an emergency declaration on oil operations at its Zueitina terminal in the east of the country.

OMV, however, said production from its operations in Libya has been shut down since the middle of March. Its low-end production forecast for 2014 assumed no production from Libya going forward.
And a final note to a new record for renewable energies in Germany. The article refers to 74% of the energy, when it is actually 74% of the power supplied to the grid; quite relevant nonetheless. Prices dropped like a stone, the reflex of the perfect competition market renewables create. And here is the reason why the government is trying desperately to stop the growth of affordable and decentralised electricity sources.
Think Progress
Germany Hits Historic High, Gets 74 Percent Of Energy From Renewables
Kiley Kroh, 14-05-2014

On Sunday, Germany’s impressive streak of renewable energy milestones continued, with renewable energy generation surging to a record portion — nearly 75 percent — of the country’s overall electricity demand by midday. With wind and solar in particular filling such a huge portion of the country’s power demand, electricity prices actually dipped into the negative for much of the afternoon, according to Renewables International.

In the first quarter of 2014, renewable energy sources met a record 27 percent of the country’s electricity demand, thanks to additional installations and favorable weather. “Renewable generators produced 40.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, up from 35.7 billion kilowatt-hours in the same period last year,” Bloomberg reported. Much of the country’s renewable energy growth has occurred in the past decade and, as a point of comparison, Germany’s 27 percent is double the approximately 13 percent of U.S. electricity supply powered by renewables as of November 2013.

Observers say the records will keep coming as Germany continues its Energiewende, or energy transformation, which aims to power the country almost entirely on renewable sources by 2050.
And that's it for this time. Hope you can enjoy some sun this weekend.

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