Gazprom’s gas exports inch higher

18 Aug 2017   Russia

Russia natural gas company Gazprom said it’s scaling up its deliveries to consumers that would be fed eventually by a pipeline through Turkey. The company said its natural gas shipments to countries outside the Russian commonwealth were up 12 percent year-over-year for the period ending August 15. By countries, gas exports to Bulgaria were up 11 percent, up 13.2 percent to Greece, up 24.4 percent to Hungary, up 40.8 percent and 22.4 higher year-over-year for Turkey, according to Russia news agency Tass. The first leg of the pipeline would primarily feed the Turkish market, with the second leg expected for southern European demand. Gazprom in December approved a three-and-a-half-year loan to aid the construction of the planned pipeline. The […]

Russia Claims To Have Invented Alternative To Fracking

18 Aug 2017   Russia

Russian scientists and local oil field services companies claim to have created a technology for thermochemical gas fracturing that could be an alternative to hydraulic fracturing and could increase oil production by between 1.7 and 6 times, Russia’s news agency RIA Novosti reports , citing the University of Tyumen’s press service. In hydraulic fracturing, rocks are fractured with high-pressure injection of fluids, while the new breakthrough technology, as claimed by Russian scientists and media , is creating chemical reactions in the strata that contain oil. The chemicals react and emit heat and gas, which makes extraction easier and lifts well productivity, according to the scientists and researchers. The other upside in the technology, the Russians claim, is that the main component in the chemical reactions is ammonium nitrate, which is often used as fertilizer. According to Professor Konstantin Fedorov, Director of the Institute of Physics and Technology at the […]

UK Oil Production, Reserves and Future Projection

18 Aug 2017   United Kingdom

Production History and Reserves UK oil production peaked in 1999. The peak was probably pushed out a couple of years because of the major production interruptions following the Piper Alpha disaster. Production declined quickly until around 2011, then the high oil price allowed more brownfield and then greenfield developments that created a third local peak in 2016. Production is declining again this year but there are several large projects due that will create another peak in 2018 or 2019 (nearly equal to the 2016 one). After that terminal decline is likely. The chart below shows C&C production split according to the year of first production of the field. Like all such all diagrams, this shows that the largest fields were developed first and declined the slowest. Most data here is taken from the new UK Oil and Gas Authority (which replaced part of […]

Russian company Lukoil reports slight dip in oil production

17 Aug 2017   Russia

Russian energy company Lukoil said total oil production for the second quarter was slightly lower, in part because of a reduction from operations in Iraq. One of Russia’s largest energy companies, Lukoil said second quarter production of crude oil was around 156 million barrels, a decline of about a half percent from the first quarter. Russian oil production for the period was 148 million barrels, a decline of about 0.3 percent. Its share of oil from the West Qurna-2 project in Iraq actually increased for the second quarter by 19 percent, but year-on-year compensation was lower by 75 percent to 6.4 million barrels for the first half of the year. “The year-on-year dynamics was mainly driven by the reduction […]

Russian scientist says leave coal in the ground

17 Aug 2017   Coal, Russia

Nearly all of the world’s coal reserves and 30 percent of its oil should be left alone in order to keep climate change at bay, a Russian scientist said. Mikhail Yulkin, the director general at the Center for Environmental Investments, told Russian news agency Tass that investors were moving to low-carbon energy resources with such vigor that it was “needless” to call it alternative energy. A report last week on the global energy balance from the International Energy Agency found coal was more or less at parity with natural gas as an energy source for the first time ever. According to the IEA, global coal production declined last year by 458 million tons as advanced economies move toward greener resources. “In order to […]

Libyan Oil Liberator Aims To Boost Russian Ties

16 Aug 2017   Libya, Russia

In a sign that Libya’s powerful military is moving closer to Russia, Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar—the man responsible for recapturing the country’s oil ports and essentially restarting production—is meeting top officials in Moscow. Haftar is the key political and military rival to the Western-backed central government in Tripoli, and his trip to Russia indicates a fragile game of alliances that could upset the delicate balance of control over Libyan oil. Last weekend’s was not Haftar’s first visit to Moscow: he had visited Russia at least twice in the past year, and has been forging friendly relations with Moscow, while the U.S. is supporting the increasingly weakened internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). During Haftar’s meeting with Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu this past weekend, “Special attention was paid to situation in the North Africa focusing on situation in Libya. The parties stressed the importance of […]

Gazprom expects no changes to key projects from new U.S. sanctions

15 Aug 2017   Russia

Gazprom said on Monday that new U.S. sanctions against Moscow would not result in the Russian gas exporter having to make changes to key projects, although they could cause delays.  Several provisions of the sanctions law signed by U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month target Russia’s energy sector, which produces much of its foreign income, with new limits on U.S. investment in Russian companies.  Last month Gazprom said the sanctions might delay some giant gas projects, including Nord Stream 2, Turkish Stream gas pipelines and deepwater, Arctic offshore or shale projects.  “For the time being (sanctions) are not cause for changing the strategic direction of business or adjusting the list of key Gazprom projects”, the state-owned company said in statement.

Shell’s strategic move into electricity

Royal Dutch Shell’s decision to sell electricity direct to industrial customers is an intelligent and creative one. The shift is strategic and demonstrates that oil and gas majors are capable of adapting to a new world as the transition to a lower carbon economy develops. For those already in the business of providing electricity it represents a dangerous competitive threat. For the other oil majors it poses a direct challenge on whether they are really thinking about the future sufficiently strategically. The move starts small with a business in the UK that will start trading early next year. Shell will supply the business operations as a first step and it will then expand. But Britain is not the limit — Shell recently announced its intention of making similar sales in the US. Historically, oil and gas companies have considered a move into electricity as a step too far, with the sector seen as oversupplied and highly politicised because of sensitivity to consumer price rises. I went through three reviews during my time in the industry, each of which concluded that the electricity business was best left to someone else. What has changed? I think there are three strands of logic behind the strategy. First, the state of the energy market. The price of gas in particular has fallen across the world over the last three years to the point where the International Energy Agency describes the current situation as a “glut”. Meanwhile, Shell has been developing an extensive range of gas assets, with more to come. In what has become a buyer’s market it is logical to get closer to the customer — establishing long-term deals that can soak up the supply.

Special Report: Vladimir’s Venezuela – Leveraging loans to Caracas, Moscow snaps up oil assets

12 Aug 2017   Russia, Venezuela

Venezuela’s unraveling socialist government is increasingly turning to ally Russia for the cash and credit it needs to survive – and offering prized state-owned oil assets in return, sources familiar with the negotiations told Reuters. As Caracas struggles to contain an economic meltdown and violent street protests, Moscow is using its position as Venezuela’s lender of last resort to gain more control over the OPEC nation’s crude reserves, the largest in the world. Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), has been secretly negotiating since at least early this year with Russia’s biggest state-owned oil company, Rosneft ( ROSN.MM ) – offering ownership interests in up to nine of Venezuela’s most productive petroleum projects, according to a top Venezuelan government official and two industry sources familiar with the talks. Moscow has substantial leverage in the negotiations: Cash from Russia and Rosneft has been crucial in […]

Siemens building first stretch of eHighway on public roads in Germany

12 Aug 2017   Germany

Siemens has been commissioned by the German state of Hesse to build an overhead contact line for electrified freight transport on a ten-kilometer stretch of autobahn. The line will supply electricity for the electric drive of a hybrid truck. Siemens originally presented its innovative “eHighway” concept in 2012. ( Earlier post .) The system will be installed on the A5 federal autobahn between the Zeppelinheim/Cargo City Süd interchange at the Frankfurt Airport and the Darmstadt/Weiterstadt interchange. With this field trial, the eHighway will be tested on a public highway in Germany for the first time. Siemens will be responsible for the planning, construction and, as an option, maintenance of the system. The system is being built as part of the joint project “Electrified, innovative heavy freight transport on autobahns” (ELISA) of Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). Hessen Mobil, responsible for road […]

This $65 Billion Oil Opportunity Will Never Be Tapped

10 Aug 2017   Norway

Western Europe’s biggest oil and gas producer, Norway, is also one of the countries that is most self-congratulatory on its climate action, electric cars sales, and green policies. One of the central—and most controversial—issues in the campaign leading up to a general election next month is whether Norway’s scenic Lofoten archipelago should remain off-limits for oil exploration and development. Estimates have put the potential oil resources underneath the picturesque islands at between 1.3 billion and 3 billion barrels of oil equivalent, estimated to be worth US$60-65 billion at today’s oil prices. The two biggest parties in Norway—the Conservative Party currently in power in a coalition government and the opposition Labor Party— are favoring initial steps to start an environmental impact assessment for the Lofoten area. However, both parties need coalitions with smaller parties to form a government after the September election. And all the potential junior partners of both […]

Rosneft says lent Venezuela’s state oil firm a total of $6 billion

9 Aug 2017   Russia, Venezuela

 Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft said on Tuesday it had made around $6 billion in pre-payments to Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and had no immediate plans to make any further advance payments soon.  OPEC member Venezuela is struggling to pay back creditors as its economy endures triple-digit inflation and chronic shortages of food and medicine.  Last Friday, Venezuela inaugurated a new legislative superbody that is expected to rewrite the constitution and give vast powers to President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling Socialist Party, defying protests and worldwide condemnation that it undermines democratic freedoms.  Russia is a close political ally of Venezuela’s leaders. Rosneft Chief Executive Igor Sechin said earlier this year his company, the world’s top listed oil firm by output, would continue to work in Venezuela and would never leave the country.  As of Tuesday, Rosneft’s pre-payments to PDVSA have totaled around $6 billion, Rosneft said on a conference call with investors. This includes principal of $5.7 billion and interest of $245 million, it said.  “The repayment is proceeding according to schedule,” the company said. “To date, a total of $743 million on the principal has been repaid and another $489 million in interest.”  “We expect the final repayment to be made in oil and oil product deliveries, which are ongoing strictly according to a schedule which we cannot provide to you. We expect full repayment before the end of 2019. No new pre-payments are planned.”

Shell Aims To Restart Crude Unit At Europe’s Biggest Refinery

9 Aug 2017   Netherlands

Shell will try to restart this Friday one of the two crude distillation units at its 404,000-bpd Pernis refinery—the biggest refinery in Europe—after it was shuttered following a fire at the end of July, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, quoting a person familiar with the situation. The Pernis refinery in Rotterdam was shut down on July 31, after a short circuit caused a major fire. Last week, expectations were that the Pernis refinery would be closed for at least two weeks and resume operations “at the earliest in the second half of August.” Shortly after today’s report of the expected attempt at a restart of one of two crude distillation units, European diesel futures extended their drop in London at mid-day local time, as traders faced the realization that fuel may start flowing again sooner than expected, Bloomberg and ICE Futures Europe data showed. Immediately after the Shell refinery outage […]

Poland says it could eventually do without Russian gas

9 Aug 2017   Poland

Poland is willing to keep buying natural gas from Russia if conditions are right, though its economy is moving in another direction, the foreign minister said. Poland relies on Russian energy company Gazprom for most of its natural gas shipments, though, like its European counterparts, it has tried to diversify its economy. A deal for shipments through a Russian natural gas pipeline expires in the next decade and Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said the contract will be extended if Russia offers a better price. “In five years, we will be at least less dependent on Russian gas, and maybe even independent of it,” he was quoted by Russian news […]

Barents Sea yields little for Norway’s Statoil

9 Aug 2017   Norway

Norwegian energy company Statoil finds only small amounts of gas after looking to build up its oil portfolio in the Barents Sea. Image courtesy Statoil Aug. 7 (UPI) — Norwegian energy company Statoil said Monday it was upbeat about finding more oil and natural gas despite disappointing results in the Barents Sea. The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate confirmed a minor discovery in the so-called Hoop Area in the Barents Sea. Known as a wildcat well, one drilled into an area not previously known to hold oil and gas reserves, the NPD said only minor reserves were found at the site, located about 20 miles northeast of a proved discovery. Statoil said it was looking for both oil and natural gas, but only uncovered small amounts of gas. The NPD said the discovery was “not profitable as of today.” Jez Averty, the senior vice president in charge of regional exploration for […]

Russian Crimea Project Faces New EU Sanctions

7 Aug 2017   Russia

Deputy Russian Energy Minister Andrew Cherezov and three new Russian companies now face new sanctions from the European Union due to their involvement in the delivery of gas turbines to Crimea. The additions contribute to the existing blacklist of 150 people and 37 firms subject to asset freezes and a travel ban to European countries. “The decision of Brussels to include a number of Russian officials and companies as a retaliatory measure for alleged illegitimate supply of Siemens gas turbines to Crimea prompts deep regret,” according to a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry. The EU’s stance against Russian interference in Ukraine began in 2014 when Moscow led a campaign to annex Crimea. Russia is currently in the process of constructing new energy infrastructure in Crimea, but Western sanctions continue to derail the efforts. The $1.3-billion project is to have two new high-tech plans in Crimea to ensure electricity […]

Big Oil’s Dream of $65 Billion Hidden Off Norway Is Fading Away

7 Aug 2017   Norway

Norway’s oil industry has been salivating for years over the Arctic Lofoten islands, which could hold billions of barrels of crude. It will likely have to keep dreaming. The general election next month is unlikely to lift a deadlock that’s keeping a ban on drilling off the environmentally sensitive archipelago as more and more Norwegians are turning their backs on the industry that helped make the country one of the world’s richest. “It’s a dead issue,” said Frank Aarebrot, a professor of political science at the University of Bergen. Backed by unions and business, Norway’s two biggest parties, Labor and the Conservatives, have long favored steps that could open up the area for exploration. But so far they have had to compromise with smaller parties that are determined to keep Lofoten oil-free. That’s because the area is a natural wonder. The waters off the rugged archipelago are home to […]

Wintershall warns U.S. against playing ‘geopolitical football’

3 Aug 2017   Germany, Russia, USA

German energy company Wintershall, a European partner with Russia’s Gazprom, said the European energy sector can’t be used for “geopolitical football .” President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a bill into law that sanctions Iran, North Korea and Russia. The Russian measure in particular is significant given the election issue clouding the Trump administration. Trump in a signing statement expressed reservations about the bill’s impact, saying it encroaches on presidential authority and may harm U.S. interests as they relate to Russian diplomacy and outreach with European allies. Sanctions on Russia relate in part to crude oil and natural gas pipeline infrastructure and came as the European market works to address diversity issues. Russia meets about a quarter of Europe’s […]

Poll: Shale drilling a new concept to the British public

British polling data show only a handful of respondents claim to know much about hydraulic fracturing. Photo courtesy of Cuadrilla Resources Aug. 3 (UPI) — With shale drilling about ready to go for the first time ever in the country, British opponents said public sentiment was moving against the practice. Cuadrilla Resources said the drilling rig used to tap wells at a shale basin in Lancashire arrived at its destination in late July . The industry is in its infancy in the country, though the British government estimates there may be enough natural gas locked in shale to offset gas imports on pace to increase from 45 percent of demand in 2011 to 76 percent by 2030. Polling data from the British government found only about 13 percent of those responding to its surveys said they knew “a lot” about hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Support and opposition […]

Exclusive: Sanctions gap lets Western firms tap Russian frontier oil

3 Aug 2017   Russia, USA

A gap in U.S. sanctions allows Western companies to help Russia develop some of its most technically challenging oil reserves, and risks undermining the broad aim of the measures, a Reuters investigation has found. When Washington imposed the sanctions on Moscow in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea and role in the Ukraine conflict, the U.S Treasury said it wanted to “impede Russia’s ability to develop so-called frontier or unconventional oil resources”. The restrictions were designed to prevent Russia countering declining output from conventional wells by tapping these hard-to-recover reserves which require newer extraction techniques like fracking, an area where it relies on Western technology. Three years on, however, Norway’s Statoil is helping Kremlin oil giant Rosneft ( ROSN.MM ) develop unconventional resources while British major BP ( BP.L ) is considering a similar project. Statoil is not breaching sanctions, nor would BP be doing so. […]

Russian oil producer highlights Asian reach

3 Aug 2017   Russia, Vietnam

Russian oil producer Rosneft highlighted its focus on operations offshore Asia by boasting of its future exploration and production plans for Vietnam. The Vietnamese subsidiary said it was marking 15 years of operations offshore Vietnam. Though a dominant player on the global energy stage, and one of the top exporters to the European economy, Russian energy companies have maintained a strong footing in the Asia-Pacific region. “Implementation of Vietnam projects is one of the priorities of Rosneft’s international strategy,” the company stated . The Rosneft division in Vietnam draws mostly natural gas from offshore fields, and steers about a fifth of its production toward power generating facilities in the country. Gazprom, Russia’s main natural gas company, estimates the Moc Tinh and […]

How Will The EU Respond To Fresh US Sanctions On Russia?

3 Aug 2017   Europe, Russia, USA

“Okay, you think we’re the bad guys, we’re going to be bad guys and we’ll see whether you like it or not” Konstatin Eggert, a political commentator, told The Washington Post in response to U.S.’s bid to introduce fresh economic sanctions on Russia. With the expulsion of tens of U.S. diplomats from Russia, this next stage in the great political battle is underway. Though the Trump administration has given mixed signals about whether it would sign the new sanctions bill into law, it might not matter. Combined with an earlier piece of legislation based by the Senate this summer, there could be, as Vox says, veto-proof majorities in both chambers of Congress. Effectively it would mean Trump would require permission before he could ease any sanctions on Russia – creating an obstacle in his bid to develop improved relations with Moscow. And it’s not just causing ructions between Washington […]

Russian gas pipelines to go ahead despite U.S. sanctions

3 Aug 2017   Pipelines, Russia

New U.S. sanctions will make it harder for Russia to build two gas export pipelines to Europe but the projects are unlikely to be stopped. U.S. President Donald Trump has reluctantly signed into law further sanctions on Russia but some of the measures are discretionary and most White House watchers believe he will not take action against Russia’s energy infrastructure. This would allow Gazprom’s two big pipeline projects to go ahead, although at a higher price and with some delays. The Kremlin, dependent on oil and gas revenues, sees the pipelines to Germany and Turkey – Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream – as crucial to increasing its market share in Europe. It also fears that Western partners – needed to develop the deepwater, shale and Arctic gas deposits that will fill the pipelines – will be scared off by sanctions. Gazprom warned investors last month that […]

Is Russia Poised To Own A Stake In U.S. Oil?

2 Aug 2017   Russia, USA, Venezuela

As the country’s economy continues to tank, Venezuela’s national oil company PDVSA is approaching the deadline for a $1.1bn note issue due in November, and there’s a pretty good chance they’re not going to be able to make the payment. With a dire need for more cash and credit and soaring inflation rates at an all-time high of 886 percent, Venezuela is in desperate need of allies with deep pockets. In their search for funding Venezuela has turned to Russian oil giant Rosneft. In 2016 PDVSA signed onto a loan from Rosneft offering 49.9 percent of its shares in Citgo, a U.S.-based, Venezuelan-owned refining company, as collateral. Thanks to this deal, Rosneft has a lien on all of PDVSA’s Citgo refineries in the US, meaning that if and when Venezuela defaults on the bond, Russia will seize their assets and own a number of refineries on U.S. soil. This […]

Russian Oil Output Down 307,600 Bpd

2 Aug 2017   Russia

Russian oil output is down 307,600 barrels per day, compared to October levels, according to the country’s oil minister. “At the end of July 2017, the reduction of oil production stood at 307,600 barrels a day as compared to October 2016,” Minister Alexander Novak told reporters. “Therefore Russia is meeting is obligations on lowering production.” Novak was referring to the promise Moscow made to OPEC and 10 other NOPEC nations in November to cut production by 300,000 bpd in an effort to rebalance oil supply wth demand. A week ago, Novak had said Russian cuts totaled 308,000 bpd in June. OPEC and non-member partners agreed to extend the agreement through March 2018 in late May, but the news has not translated to substantially higher barrel prices. High output from Libya, Nigeria, and the United States has offset the intended effect of the cartel’s production cuts. Nigeria recently announced its […]

Europe’s Largest Oil Refinery Shuttered For Weeks

A Royal Dutch Shell refinery in Rotterdam will remain closed until mid-August after a fire at the facility’s electricity stations caused it to shut down over the weekend, according to the owner company. The Pernis refinery will become functional again “at the earliest in the second half of August,” according to a recent statement. Pernis refines 400,000 barrels per day of oil, making it Europe’s largest refinery. The financial impact of the temporary closure is sure to be sizable, though Shell has not released any figures as of yet. “We are doing everything we can to minimize impact to our customers,” the company said . Earlier , a Shell spokesperson told AFP that all units of the refinery had to be shut down because they are all interconnected. The effects of the outage spread to other areas soon after the short circuit. European diesel prices surged following Shell’s announcement […]

Refinery news: Shell Pernis fully halted, earliest restart H2 Aug

Europe’s biggest refinery, Pernis, is currently “out of order”, Shell said late Tuesday, adding that the power station where a fire started Saturday evening needs to be repaired before “the refinery can be rebooted step by step”. Refinery: Pernis, The Netherlands Owner: Shell Overall capacity: 404,000 b/d Unit affected: Unknown Duration: Since Saturday, July 29 Earlier a Shell spokesman said operations were expected to restart “at the earliest in the second half of August.” The company declined to comment about the status of loadings from the site, but said it regretted the impact “this may cause on our customers.” “We are doing everything we can to minimize impact to our customers,” it said. Shell also confirmed its Moerdijk steam cracker in the Netherlands is in operation, but declined to give further details. LPG traders said Shell had stopped LPG loadings Monday from the Pernis plant, while ULSD and jet […]

Analysis: German wind, solar capacity hits 95 GW with 3.8 GW added in H1

2 Aug 2017   Germany, Wind

Germany’s wind and solar portfolio now stands at 95 GW after 3.8 GW of new capacity was brought online in the first six months of 2017, an S&P Global Platts analysis of the latest data shows. Onshore wind adds 2.3 GW, offshore up 0.6 GW to 52.7 GW total Solar adds 0.9 GW in H1 to 42 GW total Monthly additions average above 0.6 GW over past 24 months Onshore wind registered the biggest gains with almost 2.3 GW added as already approved projects were rushed to benefit from last-minute set feed-in-tariffs before the new auction rules are set to slow down growth from 2019 onwards, the BWE wind lobby group said in its half-yearly update. Video: EU carbon prices rally to four-month high By end-June, onshore wind capacity was 48.024 GW, it added with grid-connected offshore wind capacity at 4.749 GW, it said. Article continues below… Digital Commodities […]

Asia traders consider sending diesel, jet fuel to Europe after Dutch refinery fire

1 Aug 2017   Netherlands

Traders in Asia are considering shipping diesel and jet fuel to Europe after a fire at that region’s largest oil refinery disrupted supplies and boosted fuel margins, five traders and shipbrokers said on Tuesday. Two shipbrokers said they had seen a rise in enquiries on booking long-range vessels to ship the fuels to Europe after Royal Dutch Shell shut most of the units at its 404,000 barrels per day Pernis refinery in Rotterdam following a fire in the power supply system on July 29. Although they added that no booking had been reported yet. Shipping rates have already been affected, said one of the brokers, adding that rate for a ‘Long-Range 2’ vessel plying the Middle East to Europe route is being quoted around 12 percent higher than before the Pernis refinery outage. “Loading dates (for the diesel and jet fuel cargoes) are for around mid-August, […]

Will Sanctions On Russia Push The EU To US Energy?

1 Aug 2017   Europe, Russia, USA

We just need the smoke to settle, first. It brings me back to just a few years ago, when I found myself in the middle of a political tiff between Moscow, Brussels, and Washington. Then, the issue has centered on a move by the Obama Administration to decrease European reliance on Russian natural gas by offering alternative energy sourcing. The alternative source being considered back then was gas coming from Iraq and Kurdistan, something still being discussed today. At the time, I was a consultant to both the Iraqi Ministry of Oil and the Kurdish Ministry of Natural Resources. That meant I was in the middle of what was on occasion some rather rancorous negotiations. While the EU in Brussels wanted to diversify away from relying heavily on fuel from Russia, it has also always disliked being lectured to by Washington. This morning had all those memories coming back. […]

Russia to Cut 755 U.S. Diplomats, Staff Amid New Sanctions

31 Jul 2017   Russia, USA

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that the U.S. would have to cut 755 diplomats and staff in the country by September in retaliation for impending U.S. sanctions on Moscow. In an interview with Russian state television, Mr. Putin said the U.S. presence in Russia would be reduced by more than half, following the passage of new sanctions legislation by Congress that has further frayed ties between Moscow and…

Shell Shuts Down Europe’s Largest Refinery After Fire

31 Jul 2017   Netherlands

Royal Dutch Shell is shutting down Europe’s largest refinery after a fire at a high-voltage electricity switch station. The fire at the Pernis refinery in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, started late Saturday and was extinguished by Sunday morning, Shell spokesman Thijs van Velzen said. No one was injured, and the cause…

Russia drafts agreement to tap Iranian oil fields

29 Jul 2017   Iran, Russia

Russia and Iranian agreement involves the potential to tap into Iranian oil fields. The signing of the deal comes as both countries face tighter sanctions pressure from U.S. lawmakers. Image courtesy of Gazprom Neft. July 28 (UPI) — An agreement with an Iranian engineering services company expressed mutual interest in working in the oil fields of Iran, a Russian energy company said. Russian energy company Gazprom Neft signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran’s Oil Industries’ Engineering & Construction. The agreement confirms “both companies’ mutual interest in combining forces in the preliminary assessment and investigation of the geological potential of oil fields located in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the Russian company stated . The memorandum came as both sides faced pressure from U.S. lawmakers. On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives, in a 419-3 vote , opted to toughen sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia. House Speaker […]

Vatican to Shut Off St. Peter’s Square Fountains Due to Italy’s Drought

29 Jul 2017   Italy

The Vatican says it is shutting off all its fountains, including those in St. Peter’s Square, because of Italy’s drought. Vatican Radio on Monday said the decision is linked with Pope Francis’ teachings on the environment. The pope has decried wasteful practices and praised clean drinking water as vital for both people and the environment. Meteorologists say spring 2017 was Italy’s third-driest in some 60 years. The drought has put Rome at risk for drastic water rationing, a measure being considered later this week by authorities. Vatican Radio said all of Vatican City’s fountains will go dry, including those in its gardens, to help save water. Francis laid out his fears for the future of the world’s environment in a 2015 encyclical, a formal teaching document.

Drilling set to begin in British shale

With its drilling rig on site, a British shale gas explorer said it expects to address offshore production declines with onshore operations by year’s end. Cuadrilla Resources said the drilling rig used to tap wells at a shale basin have arrived at their destination in Lancashire. “With the decline of North Sea gas and our ever increasing reliance on gas imports, including shale gas imported from the United States, developing an indigenous source of natural gas is critical for U.K. energy security, our economy, jobs and the environment,” Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan said in a statement . “We are proud as a Lancashire company to be at the forefront of that effort.” The British government estimates shale […]

So how on earth are we going to power nine million electric cars

Earlier this year, car buyers were encouraged to take advantage of the Government’s new environmentally friendly decision to exempt from road tax all electric cars with zero carbon emissions that cost less than £40,000. Intrigued to see the choices that might be available, I visited a Mitsubishi dealer. The hottest model on the forecourt in this category was the latest hybrid Sports Utility Vehicle. A salesman told me that if I was interested in buying it and wanted to avoid the slow process of recharging the car overnight using my domestic electricity supply, he could install a more powerful charger on my driveway for free. I had never realised that owning an electric car involved such a daily palaver. So, put off by the idea of having to plug in the car every night and the potential for overloading our house’s electric circuits, I did not proceed any further. […]

Why Are Majors Shying Away From Gazprom?

Despite being the operator of Russia’s only operating LNG project, Sakhalin II, Gazprom has experienced quite a bit of misfortune with its pursuits. Its flagship endeavor, Shtokman LNG , ran aground and has been postponed indefinitely after the United States, the main presumed end market, witnessed an unprecedented surge in gas production on the back of to the shale revolution. Another project, Vladivostok LNG, destined to supply the Asia-Pacific region, was also shelved indefinitely after the Gazprom management prioritized the development of the Power of Siberia gas pipeline project to China. However, its recent initiative, Baltic LNG, might be just the thing Gazprom needed to kickstart its LNG portfolio on the Western front. The clock is ticking, too, as the emergence of a powerful Russian rival, and the general surge in LNG facilities, might sideline Gazprom from a market which it is still yet to conquer. Bolstered by palpable […]

New Sanctions On Russia Anger EU, Oil & Gas Industry

27 Jul 2017   Russia, USA

With a vote of 419 to 3, the House of Representatives passed legislation envisaging firmer economic sanctions against Russia as well as a stipulation that would make it harder for the White House to weaken any future sanctions against Moscow. The overwhelming vote, media noted, was a blow to President Trump, who had asked for flexibility in the adjustment of the sanction policy. Instead, the House passed the new sanction bill with veto-proof majority, The Hill reports , taking away Trump’s chance to block it. Now, the bill must pass through the Senate, but it’s still unclear when the upper house will vote on it. If it approves the bill, sanctions imposed on Russia two years ago will become a law. Also, fresh sanctions against Iran and North Korea are included in the package. In short, the future law stipulates that American oil and gas companies cannot do business […]

Britain will ban new petrol and diesel cars from 2040: minister

27 Jul 2017   United Kingdom

Britain will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered cars from 2040 as part of a plan to get them off the roads altogether 10 years later, environment minister Michael Gove said on Wednesday. It follows a similar announcement earlier this month by the French government, while German cities including Stuttgart and Munich have also said they are considering banning some diesel vehicles. The British government has been under pressure to take steps to reduce air pollution after losing legal cases brought by campaign groups, and in May set out proposals for a scrappage scheme to get rid of the most polluting vehicles. Ahead of a June election, the governing Conservatives pledged to make “almost every car and van” zero-emission by 2050. “Today we are confirming that that means there should be no new diesel or petrol vehicles by 2040,” Gove told BBC Radio. The […]

UK unveils new plan to cut NO2; sale of new conventional gasoline and diesel cars to end by 2040; focus on local action

27 Jul 2017   United Kingdom

The UK Government unveiled its new plan to reduce roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO 2 ) concentrations in the shortest amount of time. Among the many policy and funding details in the UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations , produced by Defra and the Department for Transport is the cessation of the sale of all new conventional gasoline and diesel cars by 2040. Another element in the plan includes possible civil and criminal charges against manufacturers implementing emissions defeat devices, with fines of up to £50,000 (US$65,000) per instance. The NO 2 plan is one element in the Government’s efforts to deliver clean air. In 2018, the Government will publish a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy which will address other sources of air pollution. Air quality in the UK has been improving significantly in recent decades, with reductions in emissions of all of the key pollutants, and NO 2 […]

Seadrill Warns Again Of Chapter 11 As Extends $14B Debt Talks

27 Jul 2017   Norway

Offshore drilling contractor Seadrill again delayed restructuring its $14 billion in debt and liabilities on Wednesday and reiterated that Chapter 11 bankruptcy was likely. Once the biggest offshore rig firm by market value and the crown jewel in the business empire of Norwegian billionaire John Fredriksen, Seadrill shares have fallen 99 percent from a September 2013 peak. The company’s business has struggled as energy firms have slashed investment due to a more than 50 percent fall in the price of crude oil since 2014. “(Seadrill) has reached an agreement with its bank group to extend the comprehensive restructuring plan negotiating period until Sept. 12,” the firm said in a statement, pushing back a previous July 31 deadline and the latest of several delays. The company […]

U.S. energy secretary duped into fake interview with Russian comedians

26 Jul 2017   Ukraine, USA

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry optimistically discussed expanding American coal exports to Ukraine and other energy matters during a lengthy phone call this month with a Russian prankster who Perry thought was Ukraine’s prime minister. Perry actually was talking with comedians known in Russia for targeting celebrities and politicians with audacious stunts, Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in a written statement. Pranksters Vladimir Krasnov and Alexei Stolyarov are sometimes called the “Jerky Boys of Russia,” after an American duo who put out recordings of their prank phone calls in the 1990s. They have made faux calls to British singer Elton John, who thought he was speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and others. “These individuals are known for pranking high-level officials and celebrities, particularly those who are supportive of an agenda that is not in line with their governments. In this case, the energy security […]

German conservative calls for phase-out of petrol and diesel

26 Jul 2017   Germany

Germany should soon start phasing out petrol and diesel, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) said as Britain announced it would ban the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered cars from 2040. Germany’s car industry is in hot water after Der Spiegel reported on Friday that Volkswagen <VOWG_p.DE >, BMW, Audi and Porsche may have colluded to fix the prices of diesel emissions treatment systems. EU antitrust regulators are investigating allegations of a cartel. The supervisory boards of Daimler and Volkswagen are due to meet on Wednesday to discuss the issue. “We need to start getting rid of combustion technology in the short-term,” Oliver Wittke, a transport expert in Merkel’s CDU, told Deutschlandfunk radio. Herbert Behrens, a transport expert in the radical Left party, also said the government should start taking action now so that it could cope without fossil fuels by 2050. […]

Stakes for Exxon in Sanctions Case Go Far Beyond a $2 Million Fine

22 Jul 2017   Russia, USA

The $2 million fine that the Treasury Department levied on Exxon Mobil this week for violating sanctions against Russia is just a sliver of the oil company’s $7.8 billion in profit last year. But Exxon has decided nonetheless to wage a legal battle — one that could make President Trump’s cabinet meetings decidedly awkward. Rex W. Tillerson , now the secretary of state, was Exxon’s chief executive at the time of the actions in dispute in 2014. And his former company is suing the Treasury and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, in hopes of getting the penalty withdrawn and its reputation cleared. The clash has created a new wrinkle in the intrigue that has captivated Mr. Trump’s Washington, and it has left some wondering why Exxon would fight over a paltry sum as a political furor over Russia swirls. “It’s a fascinating dynamic playing itself out,” said […]

Schlumberger takes control of Russian driller

22 Jul 2017   Russia, USA

U.S. oilfield services company Schlumberger announced a deal that establishes it as the majority owner in Russia’s largest drilling and services provider. Extending a six-year relationship, the leading services contractor Schlumberger said it acquired a 51 percent stake in Eurasia Drilling Co. Ltd. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed by either company. The Wall Street Journal valued the deal at $1.7 billion. EDC holds one of the largest fleets of onshore drilling units in the world and described itself as the “premier supplier” of services to the Caspian Sea region, home to some of the larger oil and gas fields in the world. “The combination of the technology knowhow and operational expertise of Schlumberger coupled to the financial strength of the investment funds, brings significant […]

Schlumberger Buys Eurasia Drilling Stake In Test Of Russia-US Ties

22 Jul 2017   Russia, USA

Schlumberger NV has agreed to buy a 51% stake in Russian peer Eurasia Drilling Co (EDC) in a deal likely to test Russia-US ties. MOSCOW, July 21 (Reuters) – U.S. oilfield services giant Schlumberger NV has agreed to buy a 51 percent stake in Russian peer Eurasia Drilling Co (EDC) in a deal likely to test Russia-U.S. ties. The deal marks Schlumberger’s second attempt to buy into EDC and the first U.S. stake in Russia’s oil and gas sector since sanctions were imposed on Moscow after its 2014 annexation of Crimea. “I warmly welcome Schlumberger as our majority shareholder. It builds on our strategic alliance with Schlumberger since 2011 and our mutually beneficial business relationship since 2007,” EDC Chief Executive Alexander Djaparidze said in a statement late on Thursday. In 2015, Schlumberger agreed to buy 45.65 percent of EDC for $1.7 billion but the deal fell through after Russia’s […]

Exclusive: Russia, Venezuela discuss Citgo collateral deal to avoid U.S. sanctions

21 Jul 2017   Russia, Venezuela

Russia’s top oil producer Rosneft is negotiating to swap its collateral in Venezuelan-owned, U.S.-based refiner Citgo for oilfield stakes and a fuel supply deal – a move to avoid complications from U.S. sanctions, two sources with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters. State-owned Rosneft holds a 49.9 percent stake in Citgo as collateral for a loan last year of about $1.5 billion to the OPEC nation, which is reeling from low oil prices and a severe recession. The arrangement with Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm, PDVSA, has drawn fire from U.S. senators who do not want Russia in a position to own a substantial stake of U.S.-based energy assets in potential violation of existing economic sanctions. The negotiations took on more urgency this week, one of the sources told Reuters, when U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to impose “strong economic actions” on Venezuela unless embattled leftist President […]

Exxon sues to stop $2m fine over Russia sanctions breach

21 Jul 2017   Russia, USA

ExxonMobil has sued the US Treasury in an attempt to stop a fine for allegations it behaved with “reckless disregard” for violating Russian sanctions while Rex Tillerson, now US secretary of state, was chief executive in 2014. The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control fined Exxon the maximum penalty of $2m in what it called an “egregious” case, saying it had failed to disclose breaches of sanctions over deals with Igor Sechin, chief executive of Russia’s state-controlled oil group Rosneft. Exxon responded with a lawsuit and an angry rejection of the Treasury’s allegations, describing Ofac’s action as “fundamentally unfair”. It accused Ofac of “trying to retroactively enforce a new interpretation of an executive order” inconsistent with guidance from the White House and Treasury. The lawsuit asks the court to deem the finding of sanctions violations “unlawful” and set it aside, as well as wipe away the $2m penalty. The oil group is seeking to permanently preventing Ofac from collecting further civil penalties related to the alleged offence. The dispute comes at a time of intense scrutiny of links between the US and Russia, prompted by allegations of Russian interference in last year’s election campaign to help Donald Trump become president. Ofac said on Thursday that presidents of Exxon’s US subsidiaries had violated sanctions by signing “eight legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russia with Igor Sechin”, who had been designated as a sanctioned individual. It said the documents were signed in May 2014, a month after the sanctions on Mr Sechin and others were imposed.

The strange legal battle that is pitting Trump’s secretaries of the Treasury and State against each other

21 Jul 2017   Russia, USA

Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson, right, attend a signing ceremony of an agreement between state-controlled Russian oil company Rosneft and Exxon Mobil corporation in 2012. At left is the CEO of Rosneft OAO, Igor Sechin. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti) Two of President Trump’s most senior cabinet members became embroiled Thursday in an unusual legal battle over whether ExxonMobil under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s leadership violated U.S. sanctions against Russia. Treasury officials fined ExxonMobil $2 million Thursday morning for signing eight business agreements in 2014 with Igor Sechin, the chief executive of Rosneft, an energy giant partially owned by the Russian government. The business agreements came less than a month after the United States banned companies from doing business with him. Hours after the fine was announced, Exxon filed a legal complaint against the Treasury Department — naming Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as the lead defendant […]

The Abrupt Demise Of Dutch Gas

21 Jul 2017   Netherlands

The largest and oldest-producing gas field in Western Europe, the Groningen field, is on the verge of being shut down. If that happens, it will entail the tumbling of Netherlands’ indigenous gas production, making it a net gas importer. This is a bitter pill to swallow for producers in the Netherlands, EU’s leading gas producer up to now, given that the Dutch led the world in the 1970s in natural gas exports volumes (the ramp-up in exports was so massive that the Dutch government implemented export caps to put some freeze on it). For Dutch locals, however, this might represent a long-awaited victory and a sign that governments can pay heed to their concerns, if sufficient pressure is applied. It remains to be seen whether an abrupt end to gas production in the Netherlands is in anybody’s interest. Graph 1. Total Consumption, Domestic Gas Production and Natural Gas Imports […]