Friday, November 28, 2014

Markets- OPEC status quo- VLCC rates hit highs

Aframax LR2

Brent crude slumped to its lowest level since August, 2010 on Thursday, after OPEC agreed not to cut output at its Vienna meeting.
OPEC's secretary general Abdallah Salem el-Badri said that the members would not try to shore up prices by reducing production.

"There's a price decline. That does not mean that we should really rush and do something," he said.
Following the announcement, Brent fell below $72 per barrel, before settling at $72.82 on Thursday afternoon, a 5% drop on the day. By this morning (Friday), it was trading at a fraction over $72 per barrel.

At the meeting, the 12 OPEC members decided to maintain production at 30 mill barrels per day, as first agreed in December 2011, until the next meeting scheduled for June next year.

The fall in the oil price has been causing concern for several members of the oil cartel, as most require a price above $80 per barrel to balance their government budgets and many need prices to be above $100 per barrel, according to a report from Platts.

This move should bolster a firming tanker market and comes as VLCC Worldscale rates for trips East of Suez reached their highest level for nine months on Thursday.

According to Platts, the peak was down to strong demand to ship crude in the winter season, tight supply, as charterers combine smaller cargoes and bullish owner sentiment.

The key PG/Japan route was assessed on day Wednesday at WS61, up by three points.

Higher freight rates and decline in bunker fuel prices have given a significant boost to owners’ earnings, Platts said.

Daily VLCC TCEs on the Persian Gulf to East route are now more than $52,000, up from around $5,800 at end-September, basis 270,000 tonne cargoes, according to brokers’ estimates.

So far, more than 56 VLCC fixtures for Persian Gulf and Red Sea loadings were thought to be have been fixed for December liftings, indicating higher demand compared with the previous month, according to industry estimates, Platts said.

Also good news for owners, but not for shipbuilders, was that newbuilding contracts remained few and far between.

The only deals reported this week concerned CSSC (Hong Kong) Shipping, the financial leasing subsidiary of state-run shipbuilding group CSSC, which signed contracts with Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding (SWS) for the construction of five 158,000 dwt Suezmaxes.

The total value of contracts was thought to be about $320 mill ($63.5 mill per vessel). The vessels will be chartered to an Indian company upon delivery at the end of 2016 and 2017, broking sources said.

Another newbuilding contract involved Unique Shipping who reportedly ordered a 84,000 cu m VLGC for $79 mill from Hyundai Heavy Industries. She will be delivered in 2016, brokers said.

Newbuilding resales were still ticking over with interests connected to Maersk reportedly purchasing four MRs building at Sungdong for $34.5 mill each this week. They are due for delivery in 2015.

Perhaps a sign that charterers believe that rates are going to continue to firm comes with news that Petrobras was thought to have fixed a VLCC and two Aframaxes for three year charters.

The VLCC- the 2002-built ‘Amantea’ - was said to have been fixed for $30,000 per day, while the Aframax sisters ‘Barents Sea’ and ‘Aral Sea’ were thought concluded at $20,000 per day to the Brazilian oil major.

Another Aframax - the 2007-built ‘NS Creation’ - was said to have been taken by Statoil for 12 months at $18,000 per day, while Mansel was believed to have fixed the 2011-built Suezmax ‘Suez George’ for 12 months at $23,000 per day. 

In the S&P sector, the elderly 1991-built Suezmax ‘Olympic Faith’ was reported sold to unknown interests on private terms, while the 2003-built MR ‘High Nefeli’ was believed sold to Ancora Investments for $15 mill. A previously reported sale was thought to have fallen through.

Meanwhile, Indian interests were said to have snapped up the 1999-built Handysize ‘Chemtrans Rhine’ for $7.4 mill.

Leaving the fleet was the 1991-built Handysize ‘Dugbaki’ reportedly sold to Pakistan breakers on private terms. 

Venezuelan state owned tanker owner PDVSA has shed six 1980s-built vessels. The 88,500 dwt sisters ‘Leander’ and Morichal’, two 56,000 dwt sisters ‘Paria’ and Moruy’, plus two LPG carriers, were said to have been sold for $136 per ldt each at an auction to unknown breakers. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nigeria: U.S. Crude Oil Import From Nigeria Declines By 93 Percent

File:USA Flag Map.svg

By Roseline Okere and Sulaimon Salau

THE United States' import of crude oil from Nigeria and Algeria have declined by 93 per cent since 2010, the U.S Energy Information Administration (IEA), has said.

Meanwhile, Nigeria's oil production may have recorded a major setback, as the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) shut its Trans-Niger Pipeline (TNP), which supplies products to the Bonny export terminal.

The IEA in a media statement Monday, said total U.S. crude oil imports have declined since 2010, with nearly the entire decline occurring in light sweet grades.

Indeed, the U.S did not import crude oil from Nigeria in the month of July and August this year.

The U.S. has been steadily cutting oil imports from Nigeria because of U.S. shale oil production, which is low in sulphur and otherwise called "light, sweet," similar to Nigeria's "Bonny Light" oil.

This resulted to the decline in the country's crude oil export. For example, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) put Nigeria's crude oil export in May this year at 1.88mbp; June, 1.71mbd and 1.61mbp in July.

It noted that through August 2014, U.S. light crude imports have fallen 71 per cent compared to the level in 2010.

It noted that the U.S. net crude oil imports in 2013 declined 10.2 per cent to 7.6 million barrels per day (bblpd), the lowest level since 1996, as rising domestic crude oil production cut into the volume of imports needed to meet refinery demand for crude oil.

Confirming the TNP shut-in yesterday, the oil multinational, said the pipeline that carries the Bonny light was shut after it discovered a leak on Saturday.

This is coming as the nation prepares for the possible effects of dwindling crude oil prices at the international market. As at yesterday, the oil prices stood at $75.42 per barrel, according to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The pipeline carries one of Nigeria's main export grades, Bonny Light. About six cargoes of the crude are exported monthly, equivalent of about 180,000 to 200,000 barrels per day.

"SPDC is investigating the source of a leak at Okolo Launch in Eastern Niger Delta which occurred near the 24-inch and the 28-inch TNP (Trans-Niger Pipeline)," shell said in an e-mail statement to Reuters.

"The leak occurred near where one of our contractors was preparing to remove crude theft connections on the line. On noticing the leak on November 22, we deployed booms and also shut in the 28-inch TNP."

The 24-inch pipeline has been shut since Oct. 18 last year for repair and integrity checks, the spokesman added.

Meanwhile, Nigeria is estimated to have exported 70.14 million barrels of oil including condensate in August, or an average 2.26 million barrels per day (bpd), which was 12.4 per cent higher month on month.

Data from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), also established that Europe remained the biggest destination of Nigerian crude, with the United States accounting for 30,779 bpd as against zero in July.

"Four regions, namely Europe, South America, Asia and Africa, remain the major destinations of Nigerian crude and condensate export," NNPC said.

Oil production rose 6.8 per cent in August on month on month to 2.20 million bpd.

For the second month running, ExxonMobil was assessed the biggest producer, accounting for or 435,644 bpd, followed by Anglo/Dutch Shell with 255,049 bpd.

According to the corporation, gas production stood at 226.26 billion cubic feet, while the amount of gas flaring from the oil fields rose to 17.3 per cent of total production, compared with 13.1 per cent in July.

Nigeria's four refineries operated at an average of 16 per cent of their combined nameplate capacity of 445,000 bpd in August, down from 22 per cent in July.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

National Geographic | Megastructures -Oil Ship- BBC Documentary

National Geographic | Megastructures -Oil Ship- BBC Documentary

Small quake shakes Dallas area, stirring fracking critics

Fracking ban approved by Texas voters

By Jim Forsyth

(Reuters) - A light earthquake shook the Dallas-Ft. Worth area of North Texas on Saturday night, leaving no known damage or casualties but stirring concern about the potential of the area's oil and gas fracking industry to generate seismic activity.

The magnitude 3.3 earthquake struck about 9:15 p.m. Central time on Saturday, said Dale Grant, an geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter was near the border of the cities of Dallas and Irving, near the site of the former Texas Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys football team played for nearly 40 years.

Comments on Twitter from the Dallas Ft. Worth area indicate that the quake was felt across the region.

"We have not received any reports of damage, nor are we expecting any," Grant said.

Grant said earthquakes of that size are not uncommon in the Barnett Shale Field of North Texas, near the area hit by Saturday's temblor.

Critics said the quake was a reminder of the threat posed by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The technique, pioneered in the Barnett shale formation, is the driving force behind the U.S. energy boom.

"We are guinea pigs in the middle of this fracking experiment. Texas homes are built to withstand wind, not earthquakes," Sharon Wilson, an organizer for Earthworks, an advocacy group, said on Sunday. "Who will pay for the damage to private property?"

Fracking involve the injection a mix of pressurized water, sand and chemicals to unlock hydrocarbons from rock can trigger earthquakes. Many environmental groups say the technique is wasteful, polluting and noisy, but the industry says it is safe.

Even so, the Texas Oil & Gas Association, an industry lobby group, concedes that the issue deserved more careful study.

"The oil and natural gas industry agrees that recent seismic activity warrants robust investigation to determine the precise location, impact and cause or causes of seismic events," Todd Staples, the association's president, said in an email.

The city of Denton, about 40 miles (65 km) north of the Dallas Ft. Worth area, earlier this month banned fracking in the city limits, after activists complained that the process leads to earthquakes.   
(Reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio, Texas; Writing By Frank McGurty; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Saudi sights set on US shale at crucial OPEC meeting

By Ian Timberlake

Riyadh (AFP) - OPEC's biggest crude producer Saudi Arabia will have its sights set on the upstart US shale oil business at a crucial cartel meeting to debate possible output cuts on Thursday.

-- and even some members of the cartel -- suffer from low prices and will resist pressure to reduce output and shore up the cost of oil.

A barrel of crude has plunged by about one third in value since June to around $80 in an increasingly competitive market.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi was silent about his government's intentions Monday as he arrived in Vienna ahead of the OPEC gathering.

"Is this the first time we have oversupply?" he was quoted as saying by Dow Jones Newswires when questioned about current supply and demand.

However his Iraqi counterpart Abdel Mahdi arrived in Vienna pushing for action, deeming the steep price drop "not acceptable".

Analysts say the kingdom is strong enough to withstand lower prices.

A general view of an oil refinery in the Gulf emirate …

"Saudi Arabia wants to try and knock out shale oil competitors from the market," said Saudi economist Abdulwahab Abu-Dahesh.

"They have the fiscal strength to remain steadfast for two to three years," he told AFP.

Oil prices have collapsed to four-year lows on factors including dampening demand in a sluggish world economy, a sharp rise in output from shale oil and other unconventional sources, and a strong dollar.

- Oil prices fall further -

Global oil prices fell Monday amid skepticism that OPEC would move aggressively to lift prices.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery dipped 73 cents to $75.78 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Pump jacks are seen at dawn in an oil field over the …
Meanwhile European Brent oil for January dropped 68 cents to $79.68 a barrel in London.

Although Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbours the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait could bear the burden of lower production, "I don't think they will cut because they will lose their market share," said Fahad Alturki, chief economist and head of research at Jadwa Investment in the Saudi capital.

Figures from the US Energy Information Administration showed Saudi exports to the US dropped by almost 30 percent from 1.25 million barrels per day in July to below 900,000 bpd in August, although it remains the second largest US supplier after Canada.

The kingdom then cut its prices for crude sold to the US market, sending global prices plummeting in early November by almost $2.

- Defending US market share -

Analysts saw the Saudi move as an effort to hold onto North American market share against cheaper oil from US shale fields.

The logo of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting …

Saudi Arabia also raised prices for its oil sold to Asia and other areas but was apparently "concentrating more on defending its market share in the US", Commerzbank analysts said.

The kingdom exports two-thirds of its crude to Asia but this year has seen its market share fall in China and India, said analysts from Platts, a global energy information provider.

OPEC pumped 30.6 million bpd last month, above its 30 million bpd target, according to the International Energy Agency which advises member countries on energy policy.

Of that total, Saudi Arabia produced around 9.6 million bpd in October, according to data cited by OPEC.

Some analysts expect OPEC's 12 members to retain the 30 million bpd ceiling in Vienna.

- Saudi 'is happy' -

"I think the only beneficiaries of an oil cut would be the shale oil producers who are now losing money as the prices are becoming lower than their marginal cost," Alturki said.

Technological innovations have unlocked shale resources in North America and raised daily US oil output by more than 40 percent since 2006, but at a production cost which can be three or four times that of extracting Middle Eastern oil.

Alturki said that as prices fall into the $70 range "we think the basic survival of the shale oil producer will be a question".

He said the kingdom doesn't need to make major production cuts because continuing lower prices will push shale producers out of the market, reduce excess supply and raise prices.

"So I think Saudi Arabia is happy with such a dynamic," said Alturki.

British-based analysts at Capital Economics said Saudi Arabia is "in a much stronger position" economically than many other OPEC members, and is likely to resist pressure to lower its output.

"Over the longer-term, Saudi Arabia may see a period of lower oil prices as working in its favour," boosting oil demand, they said.

"In addition, it may cause problems for the shale industry in the US and the Saudis are probably content seeing the less-friendly oil producers in the Middle East, notably Iran, coming under pressure," the analysts said in a briefing paper.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gas Prices Slide to 4-Year Low as Holiday Travel Looms

Climate Change California
Rich Pedroncelli/AP

By Caroline Humer

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States dropped 10 cents in the past two weeks, hitting a four-year low, according to the latest Lundberg survey released Sunday.

Gasoline prices fell to $2.84 a gallon of regular-grade gasoline, the lowest level since November 2010, said the survey conducted Friday.

The decline in price was driven by lower crude oil prices, said Trilby Lundberg, publisher of the survey.

"Circumstances continue to favor low oil prices," Lundberg said, adding the oil supply remained very abundant and that the stronger dollar helped. "For months now it has been crude oil leading the price down."

The gasoline price is down about 41 cents a gallon from a year ago and has dropped 88 cents from a 2014 peak of $3.72 in May.

The highest price within the survey area within 48 U.S. states was recorded in San Francisco at $3.14 a gallon, with the lowest in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at $2.47 a gallon.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Gulf of Guinea- no room for complacency

Unconfirmed reports of a pirate attack off the Nigerian coast recently show the area is still volatile and there must be no room for complacency, said maritime security company MAST.
Gerry Northwood OBE, MAST COO, said: “Complacency costs sailors lives. Professional security advice should be sought before entering the region, ensuring that both physical and medical security risks are addressed.”

The advice follows recent reports from of a pirate attack 62 miles south off the Nigerian coast, involving the Malta-flagged ‘Basat’ with 14 Turkish crew, where two crew members were allegedly kidnapped.

Unofficial reports also show an attack on another Malta-flagged tanker about 32 miles Southeast of Kwa Ibo and a third incident as pirates apparently then moved onto attack and board a Liberia-flagged tanker. which went into lockdown.

Gerry Northwood added: “The Gulf of Guinea (GoG) is a complex region. Several states have jurisdiction along the GoG coast but have limited resources to police their territorial waters and economic zones. In the case of Nigeria, jurisdiction varies across their military districts, resulting in porous borders that facilitate criminality.”

Daniel Fearon, MAST’s operations manager who has extensive experience in GoG, said: “Masters and crews need to be vigilant and good lookout must be maintained at all times. CSOs need to make sure that thorough mission planning is conducted as this will allow them to ensure that the Master and crew are prepared.”

He added: “Every vessel transiting through the GoG should have BMP 4 measures in place, a citadel and crew well drilled. Communications security measures should also be in place to ensure that the criminals have only a minimal time window to react.”

VLCCs on a roll ahead of OPEC meeting

VLCC owners have had a good run this year, with average spot earnings on the benchmark trade from the Middle East to Japan at $24,500/day (mid-November), the highest level since 2010. 
A number of factors have supported stronger VLCC returns, Gibson Research said in a report.

For example, Middle East OPEC crude production has averaged record levels since the beginning of the year. At the same time, there have been gains in the long haul trades from South America/Caribbean and West Africa to the East.

In addition, at times, VLCCs have been helped by Suezmax volatility and finally, while there have been positive demand developments, the fleet has remained virtually flat, Gibson said.

Owners were bullish for the remainder of 2014, as rates tended to firm in the run up to the holiday period on the back of typical winter related delays/disruptions and the market ‘psychology’ to fix ahead of the festive period.

Next year, there are more reasons for VLCC owners’ to be optimistic. New VLCC deliveries are anticipated to reach the lowest level since 2006, with just 20 units scheduled to enter service.

We should also continue to see further increases in the long haul trade from the Atlantic Basin to the Asia/Pacific region on the back of continued growth in US crude production and rebounding Libyan output. This will free up more Latin American and West African barrels for shipments further afield, Gibson said.

However, there are clouds gathering on the horizon. Two refineries in the Middle East, with a combined capacity of 0.8 mill barrels per day, are expected to reach full-scale operations in 2015.

Their impact on VLCC demand will be negative, as these refineries will draw a significant amount of regional supply away from international crude exports out of the MEG.

A lot will also depend on whether OPEC decides to maintain, or to cut its crude production at its next meeting at the end of this month. There is a great deal to consider - slowing growth in global oil demand, booming US crude oil production, OPEC’s market share, recovering Libyan output, a growing surplus of crude and falling oil prices, Gibson said.

If OPEC decides in favour of output cuts, these are likely to come from the Middle East, considering the budget restraints of African and Latin American producers. If that is the case, then this will push crude tanker demand from the MEG to even lower levels.

However, if OPEC decides against cutting production in order to protect its market share, this could be positive news for owners in terms of tanker demand.

In addition, unless we see stronger than expected growth in oil consumption, OPEC’s decision to maintain crude production at similar levels to those seen earlier this year, could potentially translate into a much bigger surplus of crude oil in the market.

This crude will have to be stored somewhere. From our point of view, the big question is whether it could be stored in tankers, Gibson concluded. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

This Is the Biggest Cargo Ship on Earth

This Is the Biggest Cargo Ship on Earth

In order to keep up with the frenetic growth of global shipping traffic—which has quadrupled over the past two decades alone—commercial cargo ships keep getting bigger. And the newest king of the containerships isn't one of Maersk's EEE titans, it's the CSCL Globe.

The existing cargo ship record holder, in terms of capacity, is the MV Maersk Maersk. It holds a whopping 18,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) shipping containers and beat out the older, 16,020 TEU MV CMA CMG cargo ship for the title in 2013. The new CSCL Globe from Hyundai Heavy Industries, however, will eek out an additional 1,000 TEUs—19,000 TEU in all—once it's delivered to its new owner, China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL), in the coming weeks.

The CSCL Globe is the first of an upcoming fleet of four such $175 million vessels that the company plans to operate throughout the Pacific. The Globe measures more than 1,300 feet long, almost 200 feet wide, 98 feet deep, and weighs 183,800 tons. It's powered by a single 94,791 hp MAN B&W 12-cylinder diesel engine. That's not quite as powerful as the RTA96-C, but the Globe's engine incorporates an electronically-controlled throttle that takes the ship's relative speed and the prevailing ocean conditions into account to offer increased fuel efficiency rates. In fact, the Globe's engine burns 20 percent less fuel per TEU than a cargo ship roughly half its size, even when travelling at its 16 knot top speed.
The Globe's three sister ships should be delivered by 2015, though with the rate at which even larger ships are being designed—there's already talk of 25,000 TEU behemoths—they probably won't be holding onto the title of "world's largest cargo ship" for very long.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Senate Democrats block Keystone XL Pipeline, reject bill by one vote

Keystone Pipeline Route

The Democrat-controlled Senate has defeated a bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The Senate's 59-41 vote Tuesday night was a nail-biter to the end.

The bill needed 60 votes to reach the White House. The House passed it overwhelmingly last week.

President Barack Obama did not support the bill, but the White House has been mum on whether or not he will veto it.

Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu pushed for the vote in an effort to save her seat in a Dec. 6 runoff election in Louisiana. She faces an uphill battle against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who authored the House bill.

All Republicans said publicly they supported the Senate bill, as did several moderate Democrats.

Have crude oil prices found a bottom?


Last Friday, the price of Brent crude, seen as a benchmark for what India uses, saw a low of $75.3 a barrel - it is now trading around $79

oil’s long price slide might be ending, feel some experts. Last Friday, the price of crude, seen as a benchmark for what India uses, saw a low of $75.3 a barrel — it is now trading around $79. The fall has been nearly a third from its high seen in June, only five months earlier.

However, feels T Gnanasekar, Director, CommTrendz: “The technical picture suggests Brent crude has found a bottom. Though Friday’s rebound was mostly a short-covering and profit-booking one, there are chances that prices might have bottomed out for the time being.”

Still, to sustain above technical levels, a commodity requires some demand or a fundamental support. Gnanasekar believes, “Winter demand will set in soon and that might support prices.”

Another factor could be a cut in production by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), which a meeting on November 27. Earlier, used to say $100 was the safe price below which it would not intervene. The price is well below this, partly because its stronger members were talking down the prospect of a cut in output quotas.

However, Natixis Commodities says: “What is rapidly becoming evident is the extent of the potential damage that lower oil prices might wreak upon weaker Opec members.” For instance, Nigeria’s 2014 budget is predicted upon output of 2.39 million barrels a day at a price of $77.50/bbl. Its output is running below the target and now if the price also remains lower, its budget calculations will unravel. Venezuela is repaying its international debt, especially to China, also in the form of crude oil. A lower price affects its debt repayment. And, half of Ecuador’s exports are of crude oil; a fall in its prices beyond a point would substantially hurt its economy.

Also, at some point, a lower price will affect new projects. So far, no report has come of the dropping new and big exploration. and Total, major entities in this field, have both indicated they will proceed with existing projects even at $80/bbl. BP’s chief executive, Bob Dudley, was quoted last week as saying lower prices would impose more discipline on the oil industry.

The International Energy Agency feels a price of $80/bbl would result in a 10 per cent fall in US oil investment in 2015.

Opec secretary-general Abdalla Salem el-Badri is trying to find a balance. He has said, “Opec is looking for a reasonable price, at which producers and consumers can live together.

Ghana national oil company, Trafigura discuss $700 mln loan

File:Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) logo.JPG

* GNPC says loan will save Ghana money

* Politicians call for parliamentary approval

* Loan oversteps constitutional due process-think tank (Updates with quotes, context)
By Kwasi Kpodo and Simon Falush

ACCRA/LONDON, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) is in talks with commodities trader Trafigura and banks for a $700 million five-year loan at 4.43 percent to fund oil and gas projects, GNPC and a source close to the deal said on Friday.

The deal would be Trafigura's first in Ghana and GNPC said it would be funded through its mandated share of national oil export revenue rather than using oil as collateral.

GNPC is a key player in a country where oil exports are the second biggest source of revenue and it is seeking $1 billion to become an independent operator.

GNPC cannot fund itself entirely through public sources and the loan would save money in the long term, GNPC said in a document prepared for the deal and seen by Reuters.

"GNPC has to be prudent and build up capital for its growth. This is normal commercial practice. No serious company lives from year to year," it said. It did not name the banks involved.

GNPC is in talks with Offshore Cape Three Points (OCTP) partners for a $493 million gas pipeline and receiving facility and would pay 22 percent interest were it not for the new loan.

Ghana is on course to produce around 105,000 barrels of oil per day in 2014 from its offshore Jubilee field, GNPC said. It expects $15-$20 billion in oil investment over the next decade.

Britain's Tullow Oil is the lead stakeholder in Jubilee while GNPC holds a 13.6 percent stake.

GNPC said it would not go to parliament for approval but politicians from the ruling party and the main opposition told Reuters any loan needed scrutiny in part because it exceeded the government's annual allocation to GNPC.

"We have given them the money for the year so if they are asking for $700 million they need to come and explain to us the need for this huge further expenditure," said Kobina Hammond, energy spokesman for the opposition New Patriotic Party.

Ghana discovered oil in 2007 and many groups scrutinise its financing out of concern that oil money could corrupt officials and distort the economy it has done in other countries.

The announcement comes at a sensitive time ahead of the annual budget and during talks with the International Monetary Fund for financial assistance to restore fiscal balance in a economy that has seen rapid growth on its commodity exports.

Any loan without parliamentary approval would overstep constitutional and legal due process, said the influential African Centre for Energy Policy, which called for a suspension of the loan. (Additional reporting and writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by David Evans)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Halliburton to buy Baker Hughes for about 22 billion pounds

The company logo of Halliburton oilfield services corporate offices is seen in Houston

By Swetha Gopinath

(Reuters) - Halliburton Co (HAL.N) will buy Baker Hughes Inc (BHI.N) for about $35 billion (22 billion pounds) in cash and stock, creating an oilfield services behemoth to take on market leader Schlumberger (SLB.N) as customers begin to cut spending due to falling oil prices.

Halliburton expressed confidence that the deal would clear regulatory hurdles, but Baker Hughes shares were trading well below the offer, suggesting that investors were not so sure.

Halliburton also said it was ready to divest businesses that generate revenue of $7.5 billion to satisfy regulators and would pay Baker Hughes $3.5 billion if the deal was not cleared.

"At the end of the day, we wouldn't have done this deal if we didn't believe it was achievable from a regulatory standpoint," Halliburton Chief Executive Dave Lesar said on a conference call.

The deal, the second biggest in the U.S. energy sector this year, would create a company that dominates the North American market for hydraulic fracturing.
Halliburton Company
Schlumberger Limited

While there are at least seven major services where there is an overlap between the two companies, the deal would fill gaps in two product lines in Halliburton's portfolio – product chemicals and pumps that boost output from oil and gas wells.

Baker Hughes shares were trading at $65.40 just after the opening on Monday, well short of Halliburton's offer of $80.69, which was based on Friday's close.

Halliburton shares were down 8.5 percent at $50.34. Schlumberger was up 0.3 percent at $95.60.

Talks between the two companies started over a month ago and came to a head on Friday when Halliburton threatened to replace Baker Hughes's board after its initial offer was rejected.

Baker Hughes shareholders will get 1.12 Halliburton shares plus $19 in cash for every share held, and own 36 percent of the combined company.

Baker Hughes will get three seats on the combined company's 15-member board.

The combined company's 2013 revenue was $51.8 billion on a pro-forma basis, more than Schlumberger's $45.3 billion.

Credit Suisse and BofA Merrill Lynch advised Halliburton and Goldman, Sachs & Co advised Baker Hughes.

Law firms Baker Botts LLP and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz worked with Halliburton, while Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP advised Baker Hughes.

(Additional reporting by Kanika Sikka in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Oil may drop to $50 a barrel

Crude futures prices may continue to free fall even with the 30% drop since June. The price of West Texas Intermediate for December is now hovering at the $76 a barrel level, just shy of the $75 target the team at Goldman Sachs (GS) is forecasting for 2015. While Brent for December is at $79 a barrel, the lowest since 2010 and below Goldman’s $85 a barrel target.

These prices may look good to some speculators, however Jonathan Hoenig of says forget about it. “Why go long assets in a bear market? It’s a bad move, it's a low probability bet in my book.”

Hoeing predicts the bear market in crude will continue with prices potentially falling as low as $50 a barrel, in part because the global economy is slowing, pushing supply levels higher.

This week the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) confirmed what the market is telling us by cutting its 2015 forecast for Brent crude to $83 a barrel. In a report, the EIA said, “There is significant uncertainty over the crude oil price forecast because of the range of potential supply responses from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), particularly Saudi Arabia, and U.S. tight oil producers to the new lower oil price environment.” OPEC is set to meet on November 27th in Vienna, Austria.

The other half of the energy story and also a big influence on prices, says Hoenig, is the advancement in the U.S. energy industry, and the production of great oil companies particularly in the United States. "We like to rail against fossil fuel companies, but it is their advancements in oil extraction and fracking that have brought oil and natural prices to historic lows.”  

The EIA expects Henry Hub natural gas spot price to average $3.97/million British thermal units this winter, lower than the $4.53/M BTUs last winter. The United States Natural Gas ETF (UNG), which closely tracks the natural gas market, has advanced 22% over the past 12 months.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

From the wars of West Africa to the oil boom of North Dakota

Fracking has transformed the state and attracted thousands of workers, including African immigrants
north dakota migrants fracking
Ibrahim Kamara, left, and Younger Konah outside their trailer in Williston, North Dakota, Sept. 26, 2014.

Les Stone for Al Jazeera America

WILLISTON, N.D. — The sun wasn’t yet visible over the nearby farmhouse when Younger Konah and Ibrahim Kamara stepped out of their battered trailer. The matching black T-shirts they wore read, “100% All-American premium deliciousness.”

Decaying heavy machinery lay scattered around the field near the couple’s home: a bulldozer, pickups, a boat, a howitzer cannon, even an amphibious military transport vehicle. Several nearby trailers also housed migrant workers. Konah, 23, and Kamara, 26, each of whom escaped a West African war before arriving in this country as refugees, call this informal settlement “the camp.”

On their way to work at Fuddruckers, the hamburger chain, Konah was excited to meet the puppy a co-worker had offered her from a new litter. “I want something that will be mine, something I will train my way,” she said.

Konah and Kamara are two of the African-born workers who have come to this town in northwest North Dakota, a remote part of a remote state, to capitalize on the oil boom that has transformed the landscape and local economy. Between 2009 and 2013, the number of workers and those seeking employment in the county has more than tripled, from 15,000 to nearly 50,000.
North Dakota migrants fracking
Konah outside the trailer that she and Kamara rent. Les Stone for Al Jazeera America
No one tracks how many are African. But their stories recall American traditions of immigration and fortune seeking, recast for a time when all that matters is finding well-paid work.

Thanks to the Bakken, a formation of oil-saturated shale rock that lies under parts of North Dakota, Montana and Canada’s Saskatchewan province, the United States has surpassed Saudi Arabia as the top oil-producing nation. Geologists have long known about the oil, but it’s only since recent developments in hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” technology, a process of breaking the rock with pressurized water, that it could be profitably exploited. North Dakota is now the second-largest oil-producing state, after Texas, and saw its production almost triple from 2010 to 2013.

Williston functions more like a giant open-air factory than a small town. Pickup trucks and 18-wheelers swarm the streets at all hours. In fields on the town’s outskirts, natural gas flares burn next to the nodding pumpjacks. Retired general and CIA director David Petraeus, who visited earlier this year, said Williston resembles a “war zone.”

Due to skyrocketing demand, housing costs in Williston can approach big city rates; one-bedrooms often rent for $1,200 a month. Hotels and restaurants compete for business from a transient, overwhelmingly male population of oil workers. To keep workers here, service-industry jobs tend to pay far higher than they do elsewhere. A sign in front of the Walmart — which serves as both the industry canteen and the closest thing Williston has to a public square — recently advertised a starting wage of $17 an hour.

Before the boom, Williston was “in no way diverse,” according to Debbie Slais, director of the local library. But, she said, there are now native Spanish speakers and a Turkish community as well as immigrants from numerous African countries.

“No matter your situation, you find a job” in Williston, Kamara said. “It might not be the job you looking for, but you find a job you can survive on.”
North Dakota fracking migrants
The flare from a fracking rig outside Williston.
Les Stone for Al Jazeera America
Ibrahim Kamara grew up in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. His father was a soldier, and his mother was a social worker and community organizer before they both died in the country’s civil war, which ended in 2002. He fled with his grandparents and sister to nearby Guinea before relocating to Fargo, North Dakota, in 2003. “It was like we’d been saved from Earth to heaven,” he said.

Kamara, who has a bushy goatee and a gap between his front teeth, attended middle and high school and North Dakota State University in Fargo, but he began getting in trouble and dropped out. “We’re used to the hard life over there [in Africa], where when things happen between two men they fight it out,” he said. He received a shoplifting misdemeanor conviction and an aggravated-assault charge that was dropped to a misdemeanor, he said. As a result, he was at risk of being deported.

About two-and-a-half years ago, he met Konah, who had left Liberia during its civil war. Konah has high cheekbones, a few faded tattoos and, like Kamara, speaks with a thick accent. She said she lived in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and in Minnesota and Boston, before moving to Fargo. There, she worked as a cleaner, while Kamara worked as a cook at a TGI Fridays. Wages were low, about $8 an hour, and they heard about better opportunities in the oil fields. “We decided we had to move here to build a better future if we were going to be together,” Konah said.

“We came here with zero dollars,” Kamara said. “The only thing we had was gas in our car.”

After arriving in April 2013, they began visiting a temp company that arranged day work in exchange for a portion of their wages. They showed up at 6 a.m. to see if they would work that day. Kamara found jobs in construction and maintenance, while Konah cleaned and “flagged” — directed traffic around construction sites. On days when only Kamara worked, Konah sometimes spent her time in the car waiting for him.

But Kamara’s heart was in the kitchen. “I love meat,” he said. “I love cooking steaks.” He filled out an application at Doc Holliday’s Roadhouse, a new restaurant. When it opened, he got the job.

The owner then offered him additional work at another place, a brew pub that opened a few months later. Kamara said he has worked at five restaurants since moving to Williston; all of them opened in the last 18 months.
North Dakota fracking migrants
Kamara and Konah have come to Williston in search of a path to a better life.
Les Stone for Al Jazeera America
For their first three months in Williston, Kamara and Konah usually slept in their green Chevy Impala. Finding a place for the night could be a challenge. Walmart called the police on them, Kamara said, and locals sometimes “got scared if they see somebody sleeping outside their house.” (Walmart confirmed that its store doesn’t permit migrant workers to sleep in the parking lot.) The library allowed cars to park overnight, but there wasn’t always room for everyone. The couple first heard about the camp when a friend from Fargo suggested sleeping there.

Soon, they moved into the trailer, where they pay $600 a month for a cramped space that lacks running water or sewage. The land and trailers are owned by a Vietnam War-era veteran who has won local notoriety for his impersonations of World War II Gen. George Patton. He declined to give his name. Williston residents cannot legally turn their property into unlicensed campgrounds.

A bed with a leopard-print blanket filled one end of the trailer. There was room for a stove, a couch and a large flat-screen television. DVDs and a set of poker chips were spilled across the tiny kitchen table. Pallets of bottled water were stacked on one of the seats. At the far end of the trailer, there was a bunk bed made and ready for others who want to come to Williston and try their luck.

The pair paid to shower at a nearby truck stop and stored their food in pickle barrels to keep out the rats. In late September, the area experienced record temperatures above 90 degrees. Inside the trailer, it felt even hotter. In winter, the temperature can drop to negative 40. Konah and Kamara own a heater and have endured one winter so far.

The couple would like to move to an apartment eventually, but they worry about not having a credit history. They’ve paid application fees for apartments, Kamara said, only to be rejected. “We’re stuck here taking it a day at a time.”

Relaxing in an easy chair one afternoon, as a black-and-white Western played on television, the landlord estimated that there were 10 tenants living on his property. (A reporter met at least nine, seven of whom were born in Africa.) “I don’t know where they’d go if they got kicked out of here,” he said. “It’d be a sad thing for them.” In addition to his unlawful tenants, the landlord said, he was collecting royalties from seven oil wells on his land. “I’m surviving,” he said.

Kamara and Konah were too. Together, they earned more than $30 an hour, enough to save money and send some back to family in Africa. “You don’t have to have a lot to change someone else’s life,” Kamara said. “Americans didn’t have all their problems solved when they was helping me to come here for a better life.”

Kamara said his main contact in Sierra Leone had been his uncle, a hospital worker who recently died of Ebola. In September, the epidemic was much on their minds. “It’s the type of disease that can wipe out a generation,” Konah said.
North Dakota migrants fracking
The couple has managed to earn enough money at their jobs at Fuddruckers restaurant to send some back to relatives in Africa.
Les Stone for Al Jazeera America
It’s not work at Fuddruckers that draws most people to Williston. The oil industry is constantly hiring for well-paying jobs, which rarely require more than a high-school education. Truck drivers who haul equipment and frack water can reportedly make more than $80,000. Experienced oil-field workers earn considerably more.

Abdulateef Omar, 28, a truck driver who also lives in the camp, said he fled Sudan for West Africa. After spending time in a refugee camp in Ghana, he relocated to South Dakota. He had worked in hospital food service and studied at a technical college, but he said, the oil industry paid better.

Christopher Obey, a trucker from Liberia who had just arrived in the camp via Minnesota, found work within a day. His job had taken him to 25 states so far. “I just like to go around and make some money.”

For Kamara, a job in the oil fields was more elusive. He once applied to be a roustabout, a low-ranking laborer in the industry, but was rejected, he said. “They said I wasn’t qualified.”

That experience may be common for Africans here, according to Guleed Farah. The tall Somali-born man decided to take time off from his studies at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology to work as a lab technician for a major oil-services firm. “The majority of them can’t get their leg in,” often, he believes, because of racism. “You can’t do anything about it. You have to live with it.” Farah hasn’t been so hampered; he showed off a letter from a large oil company offering him starting pay of about $8,000 a month.

Farah said employers are also wary of Africans’ imperfect English. Oil rigs are “very fast moving environments,” he said, and accidents are “due to miscommunication most of the time.”
North Dakota fracking migrants
Guleed Farah from Somalia is training to be a chemical engineer.
Les Stone for Al Jazeera America
Williston’s highly transient population — oil workers often come to town for shifts measured in weeks before going home — is not conducive to civic life. “Everybody is basically doing what they gotta do to survive, which means that everybody working,” Kamara said. Even in the camp, he said, “We don’t have a time when we all get together and sit down, talk about life.”

Religious services provide a rare opportunity to commune. Kamara and Konah like to go to a Lutheran church when their shifts allow it. And a group of Muslims rents out a room at the library for Friday prayers. The gatherings have been going on for several months, said Slais, the librarian, since one of the men’s wives came in for story hour with a child and asked if they had space available.

Before prayers, the muezzin, a Senegalese man in a floor-length caftan who works as a janitor at Walmart, laid mats over the gray carpet. “It’s a blessed city,” the imam, a Ghanaian man who washes trucks, said. As he led the service, about 50 worshippers trickled in.
North Dakota migrants fracking
Ngergal Ndiaye from Senegal prepares for Friday Prayer in the Library in Williston.
Les Stone for Al Jazeera America
North Dakota migrants fracking
Worshippers at Friday prayers at the library.
Les Stone for Al Jazeera America
Kamara said he and Konah would like to stay in Williston for three years and then leave to start a business, perhaps an import/export company that trades with their native countries. If that works out, he said, the remittances they’re sending now are helping to maintain what could become business relationships.

On a sunny September afternoon, that future seemed far away. Konah played with her new puppy, small, black and adorable, perhaps a mix of pit bull and labrador. She named it Tiger. A doggie bed had been newly installed under the trailer’s postcard of a table.

Kamara sat outside, shirtless and wearing a skullcap; he dug into a dish Konah had prepared of rice, potato leaves, spinach, palm oil and meat, flavored with habanero peppers.

Konah offered a handful to Tiger. The dog was reluctant at first but eventually sampled the fiery mix, repeatedly licking her lips in what looked like agitation. “Your first African food,” Konah said, pouring Tiger a bowl of water. “She’ll get used to it.”