Daily Archives: September 21, 2011

Obama’s Arc of Instability: Destabilizing the World One Region at a Time

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By Nick Turse
Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011

The “arc of instability” includes 97 countries. A startling number of these nations are in turmoil, and in every single one of them, Washington is militarily involved.

It’s a story that should take your breath away: the destabilization of what, in the Bush years, used to be called “the arc of instability.”  It involves at least 97 countries, across the bulk of the global south, much of it coinciding with the oil heartlands of the planet.  A startling number of these nations are now in turmoil, and in every single one of them — from Afghanistan and Algeria to Yemen and Zambia — Washington is militarily involved, overtly or covertly, in outright war or what passes for peace.

Garrisoning the planet is just part of it.  The Pentagon and U.S. intelligence services are also running covert special forces and spy operations, launching drone attacks, building bases and secret prisons, training, arming, and funding local security forces, and engaging in a host of other militarized activities right up to full-scale war.  But while you consider this, keep one fact in mind: the odds are that there is no longer a single nation in the arc of instability in which the United States is in no way militarily involved.

Covenant of the Arc

“Freedom is on the march in the broader Middle East,” the president said in his speech.  “The hope of liberty now reaches from Kabul to Baghdad to Beirut and beyond. Slowly but surely, we’re helping to transform the broader Middle East from an arc of instability into an arc of freedom.”

An arc of freedom.  You could be forgiven if you thought that this was an excerpt from President Barack Obama’s Arab Spring speech, where he said “[I]t will be the policy of the United States to… support transitions to democracy.”  Those were, however, the words of his predecessor George W. Bush.  The giveaway is that phrase “arc of instability,” a core rhetorical concept of the former president’s global vision and that of his neoconservative supporters.

The dream of the Bush years was to militarily dominate that arc, which largely coincided with the area from North Africa to the Chinese border, also known as the Greater Middle East, but sometimes was said to stretch from Latin America to Southeast Asia.  While the phrase has been dropped in the Obama years, when it comes to projecting military power President Obama is in the process of trumping his predecessor.

In addition to waging more wars in “arc” nations, Obama has overseen the deployment of greater numbers of special operations forces to the region, has transferred or brokered the sale of substantial quantities of weapons there, while continuing to build and expand military bases at a torrid rate, as well as training and supplying large numbers of indigenous forces.  Pentagon documents and open source information indicate that there is not a single country in that arc in which U.S. military and intelligence agencies are not now active.  This raises questions about just how crucial the American role has been in the region’s increasing volatility and destabilization.

Flooding the Arc

Given the centrality of the arc of instability to Bush administration thinking, it was hardly surprising that it launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and carried out limited strikes in three other arc states — Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia.  Nor should anyone have been shocked that it also deployed elite military forces and special operators from the Central Intelligence Agency elsewhere within the arc.

In his book The One Percent Doctrine, journalist Ron Suskind reported on CIA plans, unveiled in September 2001 and known as the “Worldwide Attack Matrix,” for “detailed operations against terrorists in 80 countries.”  At about the same time, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld proclaimed that the nation had embarked on “a large multi-headed effort that probably spans 60 countries.”  By the end of the Bush years, the Pentagon would indeed have special operations forces deployed in 60 countries around the world.

It has been the Obama administration, however, that has embraced the concept far more fully and engaged the region even more broadly.  Last year, the Washington Post reported that U.S. had deployed special operations forces in 75 countries, from South America to Central Asia.  Recently, however, U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me that on any given day, America’s elite troops are working in about 70 countries, and that its country total by year’s end would be around 120.  These forces are engaged in a host of missions, from Army Rangers involved in conventional combat in Afghanistan to the team of Navy SEALs who assassinated Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, to trainers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines within U.S. Special Operations Command working globally from the Dominican Republic to Yemen.

The United States is now involved in wars in six arc-of-instability nations: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.  It has military personnel deployed in other arc states, including Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates.  Of these countries, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates all host U.S. military bases, while the CIA is reportedly building a secret base somewhere in the region for use in its expanded drone wars in Yemen and Somalia.  It is also using already existing facilities in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the United Arab Emirates for the same purposes, and operating a clandestine base in Somalia where it runs indigenous agents and carries out counterterrorism training for local partners.

In addition to its own military efforts, the Obama administration has also arranged for the sale of weaponry to regimes in arc states across the Middle East, including Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.  It has been indoctrinating and schooling indigenous military partners through the State Department’s and Pentagon’s International Military Education and Training program.* (Emphasis added) Last year, it provided training to more than 7,000 students from 130 countries.  “The emphasis is on the Middle East and Africa because we know that terrorism will grow, and we know that vulnerable countries are the most targeted,” Kay Judkins, the program’s policy manager, recently told the American Forces Press Service.

According to Pentagon documents released earlier this year, the U.S. has personnel — some in token numbers, some in more sizeable contingents — deployed in 76 other nations sometimes counted in the arc of instability: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Syria, Antigua, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

While arrests of 30 members of an alleged CIA spy ring in Iran earlier this year may be, like earlier incarcerations of supposed American “spies”, pure theater for internal consumption or international bargaining, there is little doubt that the U.S. is conducting covert operations there, too.  Last year, reports surfaced that U.S. black ops teams had been authorized to run missions inside that country, and spies and local proxies are almost certainly at work there as well.  Just recently, the Wall Street Journal revealed a series of “secret operations on the Iran-Iraq border” by the U.S. military and a coming CIA campaign of covert operations aimed at halting the smuggling of Iranian arms into Iraq.

All of this suggests that there may, in fact, not be a single nation within the arc of instability, however defined, in which the United States is without a base or military or intelligence personnel, or where it is not running agents, sending weapons, conducting covert operations — or at war.

The Arc of History

Just after President Obama came into office in 2009, then-Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair briefed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  Drawing special attention to the arc of instability, he summed up the global situation this way: “The large region from the Middle East to South Asia is the locus for many of the challenges facing the United States in the twenty-first century.”  Since then, as with the Bush-identified phrase “global war on terror,” the Obama administration and the U.S. military have largely avoided using “arc of instability,” preferring to refer to it using far vaguer formulations.

During a speech at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Symposium earlier this year, for example, Navy Admiral Eric Olson, then the chief of U.S. Special Operations Command, pointed toward a composite satellite image of the world at night.  Before September 11, 2001, said Olson, the lit portion of the planet — the industrialized nations of the global north — were considered the key areas.  Since then, he told the audience, 51 countries, almost all of them in the arc of instability, have taken precedence.  “Our strategic focus,” he said, “has shifted largely to the south… certainly within the special operations community, as we deal with the emerging threats from the places where the lights aren’t.”

More recently, in remarks at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., John O. Brennan, the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, outlined the president’s new National Strategy for Counterterrorism, which highlighted carrying out missions in the “Pakistan-Afghanistan region” and “a focus on specific regions, including what we might call the periphery — places like Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and the Maghreb [northern Africa].”

“This does not,” Brennan insisted, “require a ‘global’ war” — and indeed, despite the Bush-era terminology, it never has.  While, for instance, planning for the 9/11 attacks took place in Germany and would-be shoe-bomber Richard Reid hailed from the United Kingdom, advanced, majority-white Western nations have never been American targets.  The “arc” has never arced out of the global south, whose countries are assumed to be fundamentally unstable by nature and their problems fixable through military intervention.

Building Instability

A decade’s evidence has made it clear that U.S. operations in the arc of instability are destabilizing.  For years, to take one example, Washington has wielded military aid, military actions, and diplomatic pressure in such a way as to undermine the government of Pakistan, promote factionalism within its military and intelligence services, and stoke anti-American sentiment to remarkable levels among the country’s population.  (According to a recent survey, just 12% of Pakistanis have a positive view of the United States.)

A semi-secret drone war in that nation’s tribal borderlands, involving hundreds of missile strikes and significant, if unknown levels, of civilian casualties, has been only the most polarizing of Washington’s many ham-handed efforts.  When it comes to that CIA-run effort, a recent Pew survey of Pakistanis found that 97% of respondents viewed it negatively, a figure almost impossible to achieve in any sort of polling.

In Yemen, long-time support — in the form of aid, military training, and weapons, as well as periodic air or drone strikes — for dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh led to a special relationship between the U.S. and elite Yemeni forces led by Saleh’s relatives.  This year, those units have been instrumental in cracking down on the freedom struggle there, killing protesters and arresting dissenting officers who refused orders to open fire on civilians.  It’s hardly surprising that, even before Yemen slid into a leaderless void (after Saleh was wounded in an assassination attempt), a survey of Yemenis found — again a jaw-dropping polling figure — 99% of respondents viewed the U.S. government’s relations with the Islamic world unfavorably, while just 4% “somewhat” or “strongly approved” of Saleh’s cooperation with Washington.

Instead of pulling back from operations in Yemen, however, the U.S. has doubled down. The CIA, with support from Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service, has been running local agents as well as a lethal drone campaign aimed at Islamic militants.  The U.S. military has been carrying out its own air strikes, as well as sending in more trainers to work with indigenous forces, while American black ops teams launch lethal missions, often alongside Yemeni allies.

These efforts have set the stage for further ill-will, political instability, and possible blowback.  Just last year, a U.S. drone strike accidentally killed Jabr al-Shabwani, the son of strongman Sheikh Ali al-Shabwani.  In an act of revenge, Ali repeatedly attacked one of Yemen’s largest oil pipelines, resulting in billions of dollars in lost revenue for the Yemeni government, and demanded Saleh stop cooperating with the U.S. strikes.

Earlier this year, in Egypt and Tunisia, long-time U.S. efforts to promote what it liked to call “regional stability” — through military alliances, aid, training, and weaponry — collapsed in the face of popular movements against the U.S.-supported dictators ruling those nations.   Similarly, in Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, popular protests erupted against authoritarian regimes partnered with and armed courtesy of the U.S. military.  It’s hardly surprising that, when asked in a recent survey whether President Obama had met the expectations created by his 2009 speech in Cairo, where he called for “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world,” only 4% of Egyptians answered yes.  (The same poll found only 6% of Jordanians thought so and just 1% of Lebanese.)

A recent Zogby poll of respondents in six Arab countries — Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates — found that, taking over from a president who had propelled anti-Americanism in the Muslim world to an all-time high, Obama managed to drive such attitudes even higher. Substantial majorities of Arabs in every country now view the U.S. as not contributing “to peace and stability in the Arab World.”

Increasing Instability Across the Globe

U.S. interference in the arc of instability is certainly nothing new.  Leaving aside current wars, over the last century, the United States has engaged in military interventions in the global south in Cambodia, Congo, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Egypt, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Panama, the Philippines, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Somalia, Thailand, and Vietnam, among other places.  The CIA has waged covert campaigns in many of the same countries, as well as Afghanistan, Algeria, Chile, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, and Syria, to name just a few.

Like George W. Bush before him, Barack Obama evidently looks out on the “unlit world” and sees a source of global volatility and danger for the United States.  His answer has been to deploy U.S. military might to blunt instability, shore up allies, and protect American lives.

Despite the salient lesson of 9/11– interventions abroad beget blowback at home — he has waged wars in response to blowback that have, in turn, generated more of the same.  A recent Rasmussen poll indicates that most Americans differ with the president when it comes to his idea of how the U.S. should be involved abroad.  Seventy-five percent of voters, for example, agreed with this proposition in a recent poll: “The United States should not commit its forces to military action overseas unless the cause is vital to our national interest.”  In addition, clear majorities of Americans are against defending Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and a host of other arc of instability countries, even if they are attacked by outside powers.

After decades of overt and covert U.S. interventions in arc states, including the last 10 years of constant warfare, most are still poor, underdeveloped, and seemingly even more unstable.  This year, in their annual failed state index — a ranking of the most volatile nations on the planet — Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace placed the two arc nations that have seen the largest military interventions by the U.S. — Iraq and Afghanistan — in their top ten. Pakistan and Yemen ranked 12th and 13th, respectively, while Somalia — the site of U.S. interventions under President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, during the Bush presidency in the 2000s, and again under Obama — had the dubious honor of being number one.

For all the discussions here about (armed) “nation-building efforts” in the region, what we’ve clearly witnessed is a decade of nation unbuilding that ended only when the peoples of various Arab lands took their futures into their own hands and their bodies out into the streets.  As recent polling in arc nations indicates, people of the global south see the United States as promoting or sustaining, not preventing, instability, and objective measures bear out their claims.  The fact that numerous popular uprisings opposing authoritarian rulers allied with the U.S. have proliferated this year provides the strongest evidence yet of that.

With Americans balking at defending arc-of-instability nations, with clear indications that military interventions don’t promote stability, and with a budget crisis of epic proportions at home, it remains to be seen what pretexts the Obama administration will rely on to continue a failed policy — one that seems certain to make the world more volatile and put American citizens at greater risk.

Original Article

World Bank: ditch fossil fuel subsidies to address climate change

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Leaked Leaked documents seen by Guardian say rich countries should use money to help poorer countries adapt to climate change

World Bank documents propose that rich countries should eliminate the $50bn a year they give in fossil fuel subsidies, in order to financially help poor countries address climate change.

The documents, due to be presented to the G20 finance ministers in November, also suggest that countries redirect “climate aid” money already pledged, towards the propping up ailing carbon markets.

The Mobilizing Climate Finance paper, seen in draft form by the Guardian, has been prepared at the request of the world’s leading economies. It is likely to provide a template for action in the UN climate talks that resume in Panama next week, in preparation for a major meeting of 194 countries in Durban in November.

According to the confidential paper, there is little likelihood that in the current economic climate, public money will be available for raising the $30bn rich countries have pledged for the 2010-2012 period, and the $100bn a year that must be found by 2020. Instead, says the paper, “the large financial flows required for climate stabilization and adaptation will, in the long run, be mainly private in composition”.

It says: “A starting point should be the removal of subsidies on fossil fuel use. New OECD estimates indicate that reported fossil fuel production and consumption supports in Annex II countries [24 OECD countries] amounted to about $40-$60bn per year in 2005-2010 … if reforms resulted in 20% of the current level of support being redirected to public climate finance, this could yield $10bn per year.

“Reform of fossil fuel subsidies in developed countries is a promising near-term option because of its potential to improve economic efficiency and raise revenue in addition to environmental benefits.”

New analysis, says the paper, suggests that half the $50bn-a-year fossil fuel subsidies go to the oil industry, and around a quarter to coal and natural gas. It says: “About two-thirds of total fossil fuel support in 2010 was estimated to be for consumer support, with a little over 20% being producer support.”

Developing countries are increasingly frustrated by the refusal of rich countries to meet their climate finance pledges. But they are unlikely to approve of the bank’s innovative proposal that some of the money pledged to them should be used to prop up struggling carbon markets.

The report proposes: “Governments could make innovative uses of climate finance to sustain momentum in the market while new initiatives are being developed. They could, for example, dedicate a fraction of their international climate finance pledges to procure carbon credits for testing and showcasing new approaches, such as country programme concepts, new methodologies, CDM reforms and new mechanisms.

“This would be a cost-efficient use of climate finance as it would target least cost-options and would be performance-based. It would also help build up a supply pipeline for a future scaled-up market, preventing future supply shortages and price pressures.”

It also appears to back a levy on aviation and maritime fuels. “Increasing from zero a tax on an activity that causes environmental damage is likely to be a more efficient way to raise revenue than would be increasing a tax that already causes significant distortion.”

“A globally implemented carbon charge of $25/tonne CO2 on fuel used could raise around $13bn from international aviation and around $26bn from international maritime transport in 2020, while reducing CO2 emissions from each industry by around 5 to 10%. Compensating developing countries for the economic harm they might suffer from such charges … seems unlikely to require more than 40% of global revenues. This would leave about $24bn or more for climate finance or other uses,” says the paper.

Last month, the UK shipping industry’s trade body roundly rejected calls to be brought into the EU’s carbon trading scheme, saying that any solution to reducing the industry’s emissions must be global.

Original Article

Soros-Backed San Leon Says Polish Shale Gas Profits to Beat U.S.

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By Marek Strzelecki

Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) — San Leon Energy Plc, the natural- gas explorer backed by billionaire George Soros and Blackrock Inc., expects its Polish shale licenses to be more profitable than U.S. deposits, the company’s exploration director said.

San Leon, which became one of the leading shale gas explorers in Poland after buying Realm Energy International Corp. for $142 million last month, seeks to profit either through so-called farm-outs with a cash component or asset sales once it develops its fields and proves they can produce gas, John Buggenhagen said in an interview in Warsaw.

Shale gas, unlocked from rocks by blasting them with sand, chemicals and water, has boosted U.S. production and delivered the lowest prices in almost a decade. Companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. seek to emulate the U.S. boom in Poland, Europe’s biggest holder of shale.

“If you’re getting $4 for your gas in the U.S., here you’re getting $8, meaning I can produce half as much gas for the same profit,” Buggenhagen said.

Dublin-based San Leon has 14 licenses and 1.7 million acres of land in the eastern European country to explore for shale gas and conventional hydrocarbons, according to a presentation on its website. Poland has granted 101 licenses, with eight wells completed out of a mandatory 124. Test production has started on two wells.

U.S. Example

“If you look at what’s going on in North America, I mean that people are paying $10, $20, $30 an acre, and selling it for $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 an acre, that’s the kind of return that we’re looking for.” Buggenhagen said. “We would like to use our existing capital to start exploring those Realm concessions on our own, as opposed to giving away acreage through farm-outs.”

Last year, the company signed a farm-out agreement with Talisman Energy Inc., under which the Canadian gas explorer will drill one well on each of San Leon’s concessions in the Baltic basin in northern Poland in exchange for 30 percent stakes in the licenses. Talisman has an option to increase its holdings to 60 percent if it drills an additional well on each license.

San Leon was approached by three “significant oil and gas companies” and may consider more farm-outs after upcoming drillings, Buggenhagen said.

“If I come and drill the well that costs me $4 million to $5 million and if I’ve increased the value of that block 10- fold, then the value of my farm-out is that much more” he said.

Production Start

Poland may sit atop about 5.2 trillion cubic meters of shale gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Commercial production can start in three to five years, helped by the relatively high price of Russian gas, Buggenhagen said.

The country buys some 60 percent of its gas under a long- term contract from Russia. In the second quarter the country was paying more than $400 a 1,000 cubic meters of Russian gas, according to Polish Deputy Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak. That’s about three times today’s gas price for October delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

While Poland’s almost complete reliance on coal as fuel for power generation may help boost shale production given the European Union’s push to lower carbon-dioxide emissions, the country should be cautious in increasing royalties for oil and gas producers, Buggenhagen said.

“What we’re struggling to know is how is the Polish government going to respond to success, in terms of changing royalties and income taxes,” he said. “You see that everywhere in the world — the greed factor — how much greed we will see over the next three to five years.”

Production Fees

Last month, Poland’s largest opposition Law and Justice party presented a draft law calling for output fees to be at least 40 percent of the value of the deposit. While the government argues mining fees should not be set before gas deposits are proven, in June Pawlak said the country saw Norway and its sovereign wealth fund as a model to benefit from shale gas production.

“Royalties are less than 1 percent now, so very low,” Buggenhagen said. “They will go up, for sure, But if you raise it to 40 percent you’re going to discourage the investment.”

Original Article

USA: BOEMRE Awards USD 5.6 Million for Environmental Study of Hanna Shoal

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The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) announced it has signed a cooperative agreement with the University of Texas at Austin and a team of highly qualified and experienced Arctic researchers for a comprehensive study of the Hanna Shoal ecosystem in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast. The study will be conducted from 2011-2016 and is expected to cost $5,645,168.

Ongoing studies have highlighted Hanna Shoal as an important biological ecosystem between the Chukchi Sea and Arctic Ocean waters. BOEMRE analysts and decision makers will use the information developed by this study in future National Environmental Policy Act analyses and decision-making regarding potential energy development in the Chukchi Sea.

Over the course of many years, we have devoted substantial resources to promote better understanding of the Arctic environment,” said BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich. “This five-year study will greatly contribute to the body of knowledge regarding the biological diversity of the Hanna Shoal area and will provide additional valuable information about the ecosystem that supports marine life.”

The main objectives of the study are to identify and measure important physical and biological processes that contribute to the high concentration of marine life in the Hanna Shoal area. The study will document physical and oceanographic features, ice conditions, and information concerning local species. BOEMRE will integrate data gained from this study with other relevant Chukchi Sea studies to provide a more complete understanding of environmental considerations such as food web and contaminant bioaccumulations.

Dr. Kenneth H. Dunton, University of Texas at Austin, will serve as Principal Investigator. His team will include researchers from the Florida Institute of Technology, Old Dominion University, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of Maryland, the University of Rhode Island​, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. BOEMRE will be involved in all phases of the study, including substantial input to the field research design and coordinating with other research efforts in the Chukchi Sea to ensure BOEMRE information needs are met. BOEMRE staff may also participate in field cruises, field data interpretations and analyses, and in writing articles that flow from research that will be conducted under this cooperative agreement.

Although BOEMRE developed the Hanna Shoal study parameters in 2010, the study will also address several issues raised by the U.S. Geological Survey June 2011 report, An Evaluation of the Science Needs to Inform Decisions on Outer Continental Shelf Energy Development in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, Alaska.

Since the early 1970s, BOEMRE and its predecessor organizations have funded more than $340 million in studies in Alaska. The Hannah Shoal study is one of approximately 40 ongoing studies the bureau’s Alaska Region is currently coordinating and managing. The bureau’s Environmental Studies Program conducts and oversees world-class, scientific research to inform policy decisions regarding leasing and development of OCS energy and mineral resources.

Original Article

USA: Statoil Signs Energy Partneship Agreement with UT

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International energy company Statoil  and the University of Texas at Austin (UT) have signed an Energy Partnership agreement providing the university with an annual funding of USD 1 million for 5 years.

The agreement is Statoil’s largest of its kind outside Norway, and UT has been chosen as the company’s pilot university in the United States.

“We are very pleased to enter into this agreement with UT, a world-class academic institution, renowned for its leading research and education within several important areas for us,” says Bill Maloney, executive vice president for Statoil in North America.

Statoil wants to further develop its position in the market for talented women and men to join us. We plan to significantly grow our activities in the United States and Canada. Universities and academic institutions in North America represent important arenas for Statoil in research and competence development, both on a regional and global level,” says Maloney.

“Statoil is a world-class energy company with a commitment to research and education, and we look forward to working with them in the years to come to develop talented young people who will become the energy leaders of tomorrow,” says Scott Tinker, the director of UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology. He will sit on the strategic board helping to guide the program.

The agreement was signed in Austin on September 19 by Statoil executive vice president Bill Maloney and UT research vice president Juan M. Sanchez.

“Statoil technology is world leading in many areas. However, the oil and gas industry is changing with more complex technological challenges. Increased global focus on research and development is needed to close technological gaps. Academia agreements are of strategic importance to Statoil in order to maintain a rapid pace of technological innovation and continue developing a business mindset,” says Hersvik.

UT has for many years been an important partner for Statoil within research and technology development, especially in the areas of geology, geophysics and petroleum engineering. Four strategic areas are identified in the new agreement:

  • Integration of geological, geophysical and petrophysical data in earth models
  • Trap integrity in salt basins – sub-salt imaging and seal versus pore pressure challenges
  • Drainage of deep marine reservoirs – static and dynamic reservoir models and drainage methods
  • Unconventionals – improved development and drainage of shale plays

“This agreement is vital for Statoil’s long-term ambitions in the US,” says Helge Haldorsen, vice president for strategy in Statoil North America.

“We are in a growth mode, and this agreement will allow us to access world-class research and long-term recruitment opportunities. By extending and formalising our collaboration with UT, we aim at stimulating research and competence development within strategic important areas both for UT and Statoil,” he says.

Statoil’s academia programme consists of 11 bilateral agreements. Of these, eight are with Norwegian institutions and three are international. In addition to the UT agreement, Statoil has formalised collaboration with Imperial College in the UK and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Statoil is an international energy company with operations in 34 countries. Building on more than 35 years of experience from oil and gas production on the Norwegian continental shelf, Statoil is committed to accommodating the world’s energy needs in a responsible manner, applying technology and creating innovative business solutions. Statoil is headquartered in Norway with 20,000 employees worldwide, and is listed on the New York and Oslo stock exchanges.

In North America, Statoil is established with US offices in Houston, Texas; Stamford, Connecticut; Washington DC and Anchorage, Alaska, and Canadian offices in Calgary, Alberta and St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Statoil is one of the largest holders of deepwater acreage in the US Gulf of Mexico, where it also has interests in six producing fields. Onshore US, the company holds material positions in the Marcellus and Eagle Ford shales. In Canada Statoil is operator for the Kai Kos Dehseh project in Alberta and has interests in two producing fields offshore Newfoundland.

Statoil’s Research and Development department has about 700 employees. Statoil is devoting approximately USD 430 million to research activities in 2011, and has research centres in Norway (Trondheim, Karsto, Bergen, Porsgrunn), a heavy oil technology centre in Canada (Calgary) and technology activities in Beijing, Rio de Janeiro and Houston.

Original Article

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