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13 June 2015

Press review 13-06-2015 - Geo-political risks

Geo-political events have clearly dominated the shape of the petroleum curve in the XX century - the post II World War growth, the 1970s OPEC embargo, the fall of the USSR. This century will be no different and Peak Oil will likely be marked by a similar event.

For this reason, this review has followed closely the Sunni-Shiite wars since news broke up of armed combat in Iraqi territory two years ago. The Sunni slowly took control of the Euphrates; the first attacks on Ramadi and Falluja would take place in January of 2014 and six months later the offensive veered northwards. From then these wars spread on to Libya and Yemen.

Behind the scenes two different forms of Islam fence: Arab Sunnism against Persian Shiism. An open conflict would be a world catastrophe, but even if it is avoided, one of these proxy wars can easily unravel and hit the regional source of power: petroleum.

McClatchy DC
Mideast’s worst case: A ‘big war’ pitting Shia Muslims against Sunni
Roy Gutman, 12-06-2015

The Middle East crisis that peaked one year ago Wednesday when the Islamic State captured Mosul may result in the breakup of Iraq and an indefinite continuation of a war in Syria that’s already out of control, analysts say.

Yet still worse things could happen.

“The conditions are very much like 1914,” says Michael Stephens of the Royal United Service Institute in London. “All it will take is one little spark, and Iran and Saudi Arabia will go at each other, believing they are fighting a defensive war.”

Hiwa Osman, an Iraqi Kurdish commentator, was even more blunt: “The whole region is braced for the big war, the war that has not yet happened, the Shiite-Sunni war.”
Following is a video from Defense One showing how the presence of Islamic State has changed since the US started bombing the region again.

With the failure to contain the Islamic State with the present strategy becoming ever more evident, the US media is out on a witch hunt pointing figures to internal figures. The support the US administration has been providing, directly or indirectly, to groups as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State is hard to digest in some corners.
Ex-intel officials: Pentagon report proves US complicity in ISIS
Nafeez Ahmed, 02-06-2015

As I reported on May 22nd, the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document obtained by Judicial Watch under Freedom of Information confirms that the US intelligence community foresaw the rise of ISIS three years ago, as a direct consequence of the support to extremist rebels in Syria.

The August 2012 ‘Information Intelligence Report’ (IIR) reveals that the overwhelming core of the Syrian insurgency at that time was dominated by a range of Islamist militant groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). It warned that the “supporting powers” to the insurgency — identified in the document as the West, Gulf states, and Turkey — wanted to see the emergence of a “Salafist Principality” in eastern Syria to “isolate” the Assad regime.

The document also provided an extraordinarily prescient prediction that such an Islamist quasi-statelet, backed by the region’s Sunni states, would amplify the risk of the declaration of an “Islamic State” across Iraq and Syria. The DIA report even anticipated the fall of Mosul and Ramadi.
In Yemen a stalemate of sorts sets in. But one with which no side seems comfortable with.
Crunch time coming for Saudi campaign as options narrow in Yemen
Angus McDowall, 11-06-2015

After 11 weeks of air strikes that have failed to change the balance of power in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is running out of options to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's exiled government to Sanaa.

Despite the destruction of much of their heavy weaponry, the Houthi militia and army forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh control most of the country's populated west and still daily attack Saudi territory with mortar fire or missiles.

The possibility of a ground operation in support of the ragtag local groups still fighting the Houthis in Aden, Taiz, Marib and al-Dhala appears to have been discounted by the Saudis and their allies in an Arab coalition from early on.

Riyadh may soon have to face an unpalatable choice: accept the de facto control of its foes over Sanaa and cut a deal, or keep fighting with the risk of Yemen sinking into total chaos, becoming a permanent threat to Saudi security.
On its side, Iran makes more strides towards its full re-integration into international trade. There is certainly some disconfort from Sunni nations regarding this re-aquired international prowness by Iran
Russia mulls oil sales for Iran
Daniel J. Graeber, 09-06-2015

Iranian crude oil could make its way to the international market using Russian intermediaries, the Russian energy minister said.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said it's too early to discuss direct oil imports from Iran, though expansion of bilateral trade may extend to global sales for the Islamic republic.

"Our traders will facilitate sale of Iran's oil on the global market if possible," he said.

Novak said he spoke about trade issues with Iranian representatives on the sidelines of last week's conference of ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna. Plans in the works since early 2014 include potential shipments of as much as 500,000 barrels per day of Iranian crude oil from Caspian Sea terminals.
Tension brews up between the EU and the US. There were the NSA spying scandals, the coupe d'état in Ukraine, the trans-atlantic trade treaty is turning sour. Many conservatives and liberals would like to eject Greece from the EU, but the US opposes such move to guarantee Greece remains within NATO. The foreign affairs policy of the US is going ever more at odds with Europe and in some cases causing it outright economic damage.
Washington's Blog
German Banker: Obama Is Destroying Europe
Eric Zuesse, 09-06-2015

Interviewed on June 6th by German Economic News, the chief economist at Bremer Landesbank, Folker Hellmeyer, says that because of Obama’s sanctions against Russia, German exports declined year-over-year by 18% in 2014, and by 34% in the first two months of 2015 (no later figures), but he asserts that “The damage is much more comprehensive than these statistics show,” because those are only the “primary losses,” and there are in addition “secondary effects,” which get even worse over time.

For example: “European countries with strong business in Russia, including Finland and Austria, are economically hit very hard. These countries consequently place fewer orders from Germany. Moreover, considering that European corporations will circumvent the sanctions, to create production facilities at the highest efficiency level in Russia, we lose this potential capital stock, which is the basis of our prosperity. Russia wins the capital stock,” at the EU’s expense, even though the sanctions are targeted against Russia.

But the nub is this: “For the future, Germany and the EU place their economic reliability into question with Russia. The relationship of trust is broken by Germany and the EU. In order to build such confidence, it takes several years. Between signature and delivery are up to five years. … Siemens is now thrown out from a major project for this reason [i.e., because the requisite predictability has been lost]. Alstom has likewise lost the contract for the railway line from Moscow to Beijing. Consequently, the potential for damage is much more massive than the current figures show, not only for Germany, but for the entire EU.”
Meanwhile the Brent index remains locked in a band between 60 $/b and 65 $/b, with some volatility among the way. Here in the West, where high EROEI petroleum resources are mostly gone, this price remains acutely uncomfortable.
The Daily Impact
It’s Official: The Shale-Oil Boom is Over
Tom Lewis, 09-06-2015

It comes now from the US Energy Information Agency, and is headlined by Bloomberg Business, so yes, it’s official. As Bloomberg put it, “US Shale Boom Grinds to a Halt.” Which, actually, is overstating the case by a good bit, there isn’t going to be a “halt.” Nevertheless, as sane people everywhere have been insisting for years, the shale boom is, as it always was going to be, a bust.

This — now official — assessment is in the form of a set of projections by the EIA, which, we should remember, has pretty consistently been overly optimistic in its assessment of the oil business. Remember, they were the folks who estimated that the Monterey Shale in California held 14 billion barrels of recoverable reserves — two-third of America’s total oil wealth — until they ran the numbers again and re-estimated the Monterey at 96% lower.

So they might not be great statisticians, but they are the ones we have, and upon whom the world relies for US oil numbers. And they now say that shale oil production in the US — which for five years has been on a rocket-launch trajectory that should have punched through six million barrels per day by now — will fall to 5.58 million bpd this month and to 5.49 million bpd next month and ever faster thereafter. The trajectory of a rocket when the engine quits.
The "shale gas" debacle in eastern Europe met another episode this week. In spite of the backlash from the war ravaging the country, it seems the reserve mis-assessment extends to the Ukraine.
The Jamestown Foundation
Ukraine Fails to Make Shale Gas Breakthrough
Oleg Varfolomeyev, 03-06-2015

Ukraine’s hopes to cut its dependence on gas imports from Russia through shale gas development have been dashed. The two multinationals that won government tenders to develop non-traditional gas deposits in Ukraine, Chevron and Shell, stopped their works last year, and there is no clarity about possible shale gas development in western Ukraine by the Italian company Eni. Shale gas proponents have suffered fiascos across Europe due to the opposition from environmentalists, poor geology, and a recent fall in traditional gas prices. But in Ukraine, all these factors have been exacerbated by war and its extremely negative consequences for the domestic economy.

[...] The war and economic crisis prompted the government to hike Ukraine’s mineral extraction tax to 70 percent, from 28 percent last year, in order to increase state budget revenues and defense spending. This prompted the remaining investors in the oil and gas sector to revise their projects in Ukraine and alarmed more potential investors (Zn.ua, December 26, 2014). Hardly by coincidence, Chevron terminated its shale gas contract with the Ukrainian government the same month (Kyiv Post, December 15, 2014). Chevron’s Ukrainian project was probably also affected by the shale gas exploration difficulties in Poland, where exploratory wells failed to meet expectations. Indeed, western Ukraine’s Oleska field is part of the disappointing Lublin basin shared with Poland (FT, November 16, 2014). After Poland and Ukraine, Chevron abandoned its shale gas projects also in Romania (Balkan Insight, February 23).
Rare news of investment on Nuclear power research in the OECD. At the scale of the US this figure seems far from impressive, it is more of a life line than anything else. Modern nuclear technologies are needed right now but the will to bring them about is not really there.
Yuma News Now
Energy Department Invests $60 Million to Advance Nuclear Technology

Yesterday, the Energy Department announced more than $60 million in nuclear energy research and infrastructure enhancement awards. Sixty-eight projects from across the country were selected based on their potential to create scientific breakthroughs that both help strengthen the nation’s energy security and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

“I remain convinced that nuclear energy will continue to be an important part of the nation’s energy portfolio, accounting for more than 60 percent of carbon-free electricity in the United States today,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “These awards provide essential funding for nuclear energy-related research and thereby support the long term health of our domestic nuclear energy industry.”
In Korea Nuclear power is taken a bit more seriously. In spite of the country's commitment to renewable energy Nuclear still remains in its long term energy policy programme.
S.Korea axes four coal plants, plans two new nuclear units
Meeyoung Cho, 07-06-2015

South Korea has axed plans to build four coal-fired power plants and will boost its nuclear reactor fleet by two more units, as it looks to increase the share of nuclear and gas in power generation and cut reliance on coal.

The planned changes to the country's long-term power supply plan, which will take the number of planned nuclear reactors to 36 by 2029, are parts of efforts to cut carbon emissions, the energy ministry said in a statement on Monday.

[...] Seoul scrapped a plan to build four coal power plants with a combined 3,740 megawatts (MWs), which were not approved due to fuel and transmission facility issues. Instead, it will add a combined 3,000 MWs through two nuclear power plants, one each in 2028 and 2029, according to the ministry statement.
Finishing off on a more light-hearted note, today the French flag will fly signalling the start to the mythical Le Mans 24 hours race. This is the second race after a regulation overhaul promoting hybrid technologies and drastically cutting fuel consumption. Four manufacturers bring on the table four entirely different approaches to endurance racing, producing cars that while consuming a third less are some of the fastest machines ever to take on the La Sarte circuit. If last year's race was mostly a survival contest with novel technologies bringing all the gremlins with them, this year competition is likely to be fierce. The article below runs down through these top four contending technologies.
24 Hours of Mayhem: Four cars to watch at Le Mans
Brendan McAleer, 08-06-2015

Think Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport? Think again: the FIA’s World Endurance Championship is everything F1 is not. The cars are basically spaceships with tires, the outcome of the race is anything but expected, and the stories are real, not manufactured like soap operas.

This year, over the 13th and 14th of June, there will be an entire day of racing that’ll be unlike anything we’ve seen before. Everybody has their own idea of what it’s going to take to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, from a front-driver Nissan with wastegates dumping out over the hood, to the champion turbodiesel Audis, to the V4 electro-nuttery of the Porsche team, ready to avenge last year’s defeat.
Have a great weekend.

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