Daily Archives: May 10, 2012

Recap: Worldwide Field Development News (May 4 – May 10, 2012)

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This week the SubseaIQ team added 5 new projects and updated 20 projects. You can see all the updates made over any time period via the Project Update History search. The latest offshore field develoment news and activities are listed below for your convenience.

Africa – West
Harvest Natural Completes Technical Evaluation over Dassafu Ruche Marin
May 9, 2012 – A technical evaluation of the 2011 Ruche discovery has been completed, reported Panoro Energy. Studies indicate that the discovery has recoverable resources of around 11 MMbbl and is commercially marginal. Further resources will need to be found in order to proceed with a commercial development of the field. The Tortue prospect, about 9 miles (15 kilometers) southeast of Ruche, has been selected as the next exploration prospect to drill. The well will target pre-salt Gamba and mid-Dentale reservoirs and a secondary post-salt Madiela reservoir. When combining these reservoirs, the Tortue prospect has consolidated mean prospective resources of 28 MMbbls with 56 percent geological chance of success. When combining a discovery on Tortue with the existing discovery on Ruche, the minimum commercial threshold for Tortue is estimated to be around 10MMbbl resulting in a commercial chance of success of 46 percent. Rig options are currently being reviewed to drill the Tortue prospect.
Project Details: Dussafu Ruche Marin
Aker to Supply Subsea Trees for Dalia Field
May 4, 2012 – Total awarded Aker Solutions a contract for the delivery of seven subsea tree systems to the Dalia field offshore Angola. The scope of work includes seven production trees, seven wellhead systems and seven well jumper systems, and may include some contract options. Management and engineering of the subsea tree systems will be performed at Aker Solutions’ manufacturing center in Tranby, Norway. Procurement, manufacturing and assembly will take place in Port Klang, Malaysia, and Aberdeen, UK. Equipment deliveries will be made in 2013 and 2014.
Project Details: Dalia
Kosmos to P&A Teak-4A Well
May 4, 2012 – Kosmos Energy has completed drilling the Teak-4A appraisal well, located in the West Cape Three Points Block, offshore Ghana. The well, targeting the stratigraphic extension of the Teak discovery area, encountered thin, non-commercial reservoirs and is being plugged and abandoned. Kosmos and partners have begun integrating well results into the Teak field model to determine forward appraisal and development plans. The Atwood Hunter (DW semisub) drilled Teak-4A to a total depth of 9,348 feet (2,850 meters) in a water depth of 1,817 feet (554 meters). Following the completion of operations at the Teak-4A well, the drilling rig will set gauges at the Teak-2A well and perform a drill stem test at the Akasa oil discovery on the West Cape Three Points Block.
Project Details: Teak
Europe – North Sea
Lundin Spuds Albert Prospect
May 10, 2012 – Lundin Petroleum has commenced drilling exploration well 6201/11-3 in PL519 in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. The well will target the Albert prospect. The main objective of the well is to test Cretaceous and Triassic age sandstones of a multiple target structure. Lundin Petroleum estimates the Albert prospect contains unrisked, gross, prospective resources of 177 MMboe. The planned total depth is 10,335 feet (3,150 meters) below mean sea level and the well will be drilled using the Bredford Dolphin (mdi-water semisub). Drilling is expected to take approximately 55 days.
Project Details: Albert
Total to Begin Elgin Kill Op in Near Future
May 10, 2012 – Total reported that the West Phoenix (UDW semisub) drilling rig has been positioned about 99 feet (30 meters) away from its North Sea Elgin platform, where a gas leak was discovered in late March. Dependent on weather, the well intervention should start “within a very few days,” according to the operator. Additionally, drilling of the first back-up relief well by the Sedco 714 (mid-water semisub) is still progressing as per plan, added the company.
Project Details: Elgin/Franklin
Lundin, Partners Finalize Johan Sverdrup Timetable
May 10, 2012 – Lundin Petroleum and partners have agreed to a development schedule to move forward the Johan Sverdrup discovery. The current timetable for Johan Sverdrup is: concept selection to be selected in 4Q 2013; POD submission in 4Q 2014; and first oil in 4Q 2018. The field is expected to have a production life extending to 2050. Ashley Heppenstall, President and CEO, commented, “We are very pleased that the Johan Sverdrup partners have agreed on a development schedule to move forward this very large discovery. This highlights the importance of this project to all stakeholders.”
Project Details: Johan Sverdrup
Centrica Spuds Cooper Prospect in North Sea
May 9, 2012 – Centrica Resources has commenced drilling the Cooper prospect in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. Drilled by the West Alpha (UDW semisub), the exploration well will target the Cooper prospect located in P L477 in Block 6506/11 on the Halten Terrace between the Smorbukk oil field, immediately to the east, and the Morvin oil field, to the west. Cooper consists of an untested north to south trending fault block. The main reservoir objectives are the prolific Middle Jurassic Garn and Ile formations, which are the main producing reservoirs in the neighboring Smorbukk and Morvin fields.
Project Details: Cooper
CB&I to Provide FEED Services for Aasta Hansteen Project
May 4, 2012 – Statoil awarded CB&I a contract for the provision of front-end engineering design (FEED) services for the Aasta Hansteen, formerly Luva, topsides project in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. The platform will process hydrocarbons from the field in a water depth of 4,265 feet (1,300 meters). The development concept consists of a spar platform tied to subsea templates. Processing on the topsides will consist of conventional gas dehydration and dew-pointing with condensate stabilization through heating and separation, designed for daily production rates of 23 MMcm/d. CB&I???s scope of work consists of the FEED package for the topsides which includes units for processing, utilities, 108-bed living quarters and flare, with a total dry weight of about 21,500 tonnes. FEED is scheduled for delivery by year-end.
Project Details: Aasta Hansteen (Luva)
MPX North Sea Spins Bit at Timon Prospect
May 4, 2012 – Valiant Petroleum announced that the WilHunter (UDW semisub) has arrived on location to drill the Timon prospect, located in the UK sector of the North Sea. The well is anticipated to spud within the next few days and take around 40 days to complete. Timon is an Upper Jurassic channelized sand play similar to the Cladhan and Tybalt discoveries also located in the UK Northern North Sea. Gross best estimate prospective resources are estimated by Valiant to be 30 million barrels of oil equivalent.
Project Details: Timon
N. America – US GOM
Stone Energy Acquires Additional Shares in Pompano
May 10, 2012 – Stone Energy will purchase Anadarko’s working interests in the Pompano field for $67 million. Under the terms of the agreement, Stone Energy will acquire Anadarko’s 25% working interest in the five-block deepwater Pompano field, 22% in Block 29, and 10% in portions of Block 72 of the Mississippi Canyon.
Project Details: Pompano
Nexen P&A Kakuna Well
May 8, 2012 – Nexen failed to encounter commercial hydrocarbons in its Kakuna well and is in the process of plugging and abandoning the well. Kakuna was drilled to a depth of 30,300 feet (9,235 meters) by the ENSCO 8502 (UDW semisub).
Project Details: Kakuna
AMEC to Perform FEED for Mad Dog Phase 2 Development
May 8, 2012 – AMEC received a contract from BP to provide Front End Engineering Design services (FFED) for the topsides facilities for the second phase of the Mad Dog field development. The new facility, expected to be one of the largest floating production systems installed in the GOM, will produce oil and gas from the Phase 2 development area within the existing Mad Dog field.
Project Details: Mad Dog
Apache to Spud Parmer
May 8, 2012 – The deep water Parmer step-out appraisal well is expected to spud late in the second quarter of 2012. The well is expected to drill for approximately three months, followed by a possible sidetrack. Apache operates the prospect.
Project Details: Parmer
S. America – Brazil
Manati’s Production Increases as Wells Come Online
May 9, 2012 – Average gas production at the Manati field was 5.2 MMcm/d in the first quarter of 2012, stated Panoro Energy, a partner in the field. The production figures represent an increase of approximately 12 percent from the fourth quarter 2011 and an increase of approximately 27 percent compared to the first quarter 2011. The year-on-year increase is a result of the wells being back at full production capacity, after repair and maintenance work last year that resulted in lower production capacity. Average production in Q2 2012 has been 6.4 MMcm/d to date with the field currently producing from all six wells. The operator has scheduled a shut-down of the field for two to three weeks, which has now been postponed to November/December 2012, for maintenance of the gas processing plant and replacement of certain topside equipment on the platform. Annual production from the field is expected to average between 5.5 to 6 MMcm/d.
Petrobras will Re-inject Gas from Bauna, Piracaba Fields
May 9, 2012 – Petrobras reported that the nearby Tiro/Sidon discoveries (now renamed Bauna and Piracaba) will re-inject the gas produced from these fields, rather than export gas through a common pipeline with gas from the BS-3 fields. Gas export options for the BS-3 fields are consequently being re-evaluated, including potential volumes from several nearby high-profile exploration wells for which results are expected within the next year. Revised development plans will be filed with the ANP, including a gas export solution and a strategy to evaluate the area B1 zone potential.
Vanco Preps for Drilling Campaign
May 9, 2012 – Vanco reported that the GSF Arctic I (mid-water semisub) is undergoing required inspections and preparations to commence an exploratory drilling campaign offshore Brazil. The campaign includes the drilling of three prospects, Sabia, Canario and Jandaia, with Sabia being the first drilling target. The shipyard operations are on track and the drilling campaign on the three exploration licenses is expected to start in June/July 2012. The three prospects to be drilled in this campaign are estimated to hold around 100 MMBOE of unrisked resources.
Oceaneering to Supply Umbilicals for Lula, Sapinhoa Development
May 8, 2012 – Petrobras awarded Oceaneering a contract to supply nearly 125 miles (200 kilometers) of thermoplastic production control umbilicals for field development projects, Lula and Sapinhoa, offshore Brazil. Product manufacturing is expected to commence in 3Q 2012 and be completed in 3Q 2015.
Project Details: Sapinhoa (Guara)
Asia – SouthEast
Talisman Progresses HST/HSD Development
May 9, 2012 – The Hai Su Trang and Hai Su Den (HST/HSD) development, which was sanctioned in December 2011, is progressing on schedule and on budget, announced Talisman. First production from the project is planned for the second half of 2013.
McDermott to Provide Subsea Infrastructure for Siakap North Development
May 9, 2012 – McDermott has received a subsea contract to execute a deepwater engineering, procurement, construction, transportation, installation and commissioning project offshore Malaysia. The award is for the subsea infrastructure of the Siakap North – Petai (“SNP”) development project operated by Murphy Sabah Oil Co., comprising rigid flowlines, flexible risers, an umbilical and subsea hardware and controls. The SNP field is located nearby the existing Kikeh field, northwest of Labuan Island, Malaysia, in waters measuring 3,900 to 4,900 feet (1,189 to 1,494 meters) deep. The SNP field architecture consists of two rigid, insulated, pipe-in-pipe production flowlines, one rigid water injection flowline and one main umbilical system connecting eight new manifolds and subsea distribution units to existing riser slots on the Kikeh FPSO. The development calls for five water injection and eight production wells, drilled from the manifolds at each of the four drill center locations. The project scope is scheduled to be completed by the third quarter of 2013.
Project Details: Kikeh
Aker to Provide Subsea Production System for the Siakap North Project
May 4, 2012 – Murphy Sabah Oil has awarded Aker Solutions a contract for the delivery of a subsea production system for the Siakap North project. The scope of work includes 13 subsea trees, eight manifolds, well jumpers, engineering for topside controls and life cycle support services. The first hardware delivery is slated for 1Q 2013. The subsea production system will be tied-back to Murphy’s Kikeh FPSO.
Project Details: Kikeh
Mediterranean
Noble Suspends Leviathan Drilling Ops
May 4, 2012 – Noble Energy announced that the Leviathan deep well offshore Israel has reached a depth of approximately 21,400 feet (6,523 meters), the deepest known penetration in the Levant Basin. High well pressure and the mechanical limits of the wellbore design resulted in the suspension of drilling operations before the primary objective was reached. Over the course of deepening the Leviathan No. 1 well, the operator obtained valuable geologic and engineering data about the basin. At approximately 21,000 feet (6,401 meters), the well encountered a zone where natural gas was detected. The composition of the natural gas was heavier than discovered in the shallower intervals and suggests a thermogenic source. At a total depth of 21,400 feet (6,523 meters) higher pressure was encountered indicating the possibility of an overlying seal. The Noble Homer Ferrington (mid-water semisub) is scheduled to remain on location at the No.1 well to conduct a production flow test of the previously discovered natural gas sands at Leviathan
Project Details: Leviathan
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Desperate Argentina Now Seen Begging for Oil Investment

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Thursday, May 10, 2012 – by Staff Report

Argentine Vice President Amado Boudou on Tuesday urged US companies to invest in YPF, the nationalized oil company that Argentina recently expropriated from Spain’s Repsol … “We are very optimistic in terms of what is coming for the Argentine economy in general and the hydrocarbons sector specifically” Boudou said at a Conference on the Americas at the US State Department in Washington. Far from scaring off foreign investment because of the expropriation, the government of President Cristina Fernandez has set the framework for “excellent opportunities for those who want to invest in joint ventures and possibilities of joint work in the energy sector,” he said. The Cristina Fernandez administration is gambling that the discovery in May 2011 of a giant oilfield in Argentina’s Patagonia would be too tempting for foreign oil giants to ignore. YPF needs the know-how and the capital to fully exploit the oil fields in the south-western Nequen province, known as Vaca Muerta (Dead Cow), which according to official estimates holds 150 million barrels of oil. YPF is “open to capital and the possibility of working together with public or private companies in Argentina or abroad,” Boudou said. – Merco Press

Dominant Social Theme: Don’t cry for Argentina. It’s all under control …

Free-Market Analysis: Are Argentina’s top officials having second thoughts about their expropriation of Spain’s Argentine oil-producer? It would seem that way from the above news report via Merco Press.

If the move was as wildly destructive as people think it may have been, then this posture would tend to confirm the idea that one of the world’s more powerful and influential states is simply spinning out of control.

The results may be truly catastrophic, not just for Latin America but for the larger, struggling world.

This boom may well be ending – or certainly growing long-in-the-tooth after a decade or more.

Although the Argentine expropriation of Repsol made major shock waves, the Argentine government under President Cristina Fernandez has portrayed it as a judicious and necessary gambit.

Many other observers regardless of political affiliation have branded the move as a shallow populist one that will bring disaster to Argentina and environs.

As the predictions of damage mount, there is more speculation that Fernandez’s action may bring down not only her own government but other regional governments as well.

These predictions involve inevitably a peso devaluation that will set off a dollar-withdrawal frenzy in big regional banks. Real estate prices – radically inflated after a decade of monetary expansion – may well plunge. The results could affect large swaths of South America.

Countries that could be affected include Uruguay, Brazil, Chile and Peru among others – all countries that have pursued moderate market-based policies and have benefitted from the South American industrial and monetary boom.

Meanwhile, Repsol doesn’t seem apt to surrender. Here’s more from the article.

YPF is “open to capital and the possibility of working together with public or private companies in Argentina or abroad,” Boudou said.

Last week the Argentine president signed a bill expropriating 51% of YPF stock from Repsol, its majority shareholder, sealing a measure that has roiled the country’s trade ties with Europe.

Cristina Fernandez has argued that the move was justified because Argentina faces sharp rises in its bill for imported oil, and Repsol has failed to make agreed investments needed to expand domestic production.

In Madrid, a Repsol spokesman Tuesday said the company has warned its competitors that they will face legal action if they invest in YPF.

“The idea is to protect the assets that were confiscated in Argentina until the situation is resolved in a satisfactory way for the parties that are involved,” the spokesman said.

Conclusion: A cascading crisis in South America may still seem likely …

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Quantitative Easing Forever?

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Central bankers don’t see their mistakes.

Posted August 10, 2011
Guatemala City, Guatemala

Despite assertions that it has ended its policy of quantitative easing (QE), the Fed is unlikely to be able to do so until it also ends its zero-interest-rate policy (ZIRP). This deadly policy duo has had terrible consequences for the American economy and every country using U.S. dollars, which continue to depreciate.

It is as though the Fed were riding on the back of a double-headed monster. It cannot hang on forever, but it cannot dismount the beast without being devoured. As it is, the U.S. Treasury depends on ZIRP to fund America’s ballooning debt. As investors flee an enfeebled dollar and ponder S&P’s downgrade, the Fed is likely to be the “buyer of first resort” so that the price of Treasuries does not fall, pushing up interest rates. So with the Fed insisting that short-term interest rates will remain near zero “for an extended period,” a phrase used for the past two years, a new round of QE is almost inevitable.

Excess Liquidity

For its part, QE involves flooding financial institutions with excess liquidity to try to flatten out the yield curve and depress long-term interest rates in hopes of sparking a recovery. But QE has created a massive overhang of excess reserves in the banking system that constitute repressed price inflation. And the sums involved are truly staggering with the Fed having injected at least $2.3 trillion into the financial system since Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008.

From late 2008 through March 2010, the Fed bought longer-term securities worth $1.7 trillion (QE1). This included purchases of $500 billion of mortgage securities and $100 billion of agency debentures with a target of $1.25 trillion for mortgage debt. purchasing mortgage-backed securities and bailing out AIG and Bear Stearns, as well as buying other securities, led to an increase in the monetary base of 140 percent.

In November 2010 the Fed began QE2 by buying an additional $600 billion in longer-term Treasury securities, a program that officially expired at the end of June. Yet the Fed has indicated it will continue buying Treasuries using proceeds from maturing debt it already owns, allowing it to engage in continuing quantitative easing by another name.

With over $112 billion of the Fed’s government bond holdings maturing over the coming 12 months, replacement alone would involve purchases of Treasurys of over $9 billion each month. It also has more than $914 billion of mortgage-backed debt and $118 billion of debentures issued by government-sponsored enterprises (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). As such, this is a “stealth” continuation of QE with only a limited, if any, decrease in the money-creation process.

Last Gasp

For all the fanfare about QE, it must be said that it constitutes a last-gasp step and admission of failure of other monetary policy tools. Consider the case of Japan. Its central bank, the Bank of Japan (BoJ), began asset purchases under QE to offset deflation and stimulate its ailing economy in early 2001.

After nearly a decade of setting interest rates near zero, the BoJ realized it had been unable to conjure up an economic recovery. Then after five years of gradually expanding its bond purchases, the BOJ exercised an exit strategy from QE in 2006, only to begin again.

Last March the BoJ increased its QE program from ¥5 trillion to ¥10 trillion (about $130 billion) scheduled until the end of 2012. Recently, it announced another expansion to ¥15 trillion ($183 billion).

A child untutored in economics might think it makes no sense to continue massive increases of liquidity into the economy that have been ineffective for so long. But most central bankers and many economists demur that previous amounts were too little and more is needed.

No Growth

But the incentives that QE and ZIRP create for commercial banks make it easy to see why these policies cannot promote economic growth. On the one hand, low interest rates reduce the cost of borrowing, which should encourage more investment spending. But on the other, commercial banks pay almost nothing to borrow yet receive interest payments from the Fed to hold excess reserves, making them unlikely to extend new loans.

A sufficiently high interest rate paid on bank reserves will induce banks to choose a risk-free, interest-bearing asset rather than lending to private-sector borrowers. And so it is that commercial banks are earning record profits while making very few new loans.

The question of whether the Fed or the BoJ have an effective “exit strategy” from their policies of monetary expansion using near-zero interest rates and quantitative easing remains open. One possibility for the Fed is to engage in repurchase agreements (reverse repos) to remove some of the excess liquidity that it pumped into the financial system.

These reverse repos involve selling securities to commercial banks with the Fed agreeing to buy them back at a higher price at a later date. But once again, commercial banks will find the choice between holding risk-free, interest-bearing assets a much better bet than issuing new commercial loans.

Repressed Inflation

In the end both QE and ZIRP have been ineffective in restoring economic vitality while also creating a massive overhang of repressed inflation. Most economists view business startups, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises, as the key to economic recovery and growth. Yet QE and associated central-bank policies are diverting credit away from newly forming firms.

The Fed has now announced it will continue the “exceptionally” low short-term interest rates until the middle of 2013! This indicates that U.S. central bankers are unconvinced of the errors of their ways in their policy choices. That they are unwilling and unable to change course means that the U.S. and Japanese economies are doomed to painfully slow economic growth for the foreseeable future.

Christopher Lingle is visiting professor of economics at Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala and research fellow at the Centre for Civil Society in New Delhi.See All Posts by This Author

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Oil Wars on the Horizon

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Posted by Michael Klare at 7:42am, May 10, 2012.

There has been much discussion recently about the Obama administration’s “pivot” from the Greater Middle East to Asia: the 250 Marines sent to Darwin, Australia, the littoral combat ships for Singapore, the support for Burmese “democracy,” war games in the Philippines (and a drone strike there as well), and so on.  The U.S. is definitely going offshore in Asian waters, or put another way, after a decade-long hiatus-cum-debacle on the Eurasian continent, the Great Game v. China is back on.

While true, however, the importance of this policy change has been exaggerated.  At the moment, as it happens, the greatest game isn’t in Asia at all; it’s in the Persian Gulf where, off the coast of Iran and in bases around the region, the U.S. is engaged in a staggering build-up of naval and air power.  Most people would have little idea that this was even going on, since it rarely makes its way into the mainstream and even less often onto front pages or into the headlines.  The Washington Times, for instance, has been alone in reporting that, for the U.S. military, “war planning for Iran is now the most pressing scenario.”  It adds that the “U.S. Central Command believes it can destroy or significantly degrade Iran’s conventional armed forces in about three weeks using air and sea strikes.”

Most of the time, however, you have to be a genuine news jockey or read specialist sites to notice the scale of what’s going on, even though the build-up in the Gulf is little short of monumental and evidently not close to finished.  It’s not just the two aircraft carrier task forces now there, but (as the invaluable Danger Room website has reported) the doubling of minesweepers stationed in Bahrain, as well as the addition of minesweeping helicopters and coastal patrol boats that are being retrofitted with Gattling guns and missiles.  Throw in new advanced torpedoes for Gulf waters and mini-drone subs; add in newly outfitted units of F-22s and F-15s heading for bases in the Gulf to make up “the world’s most powerful air-to-air fighting team.”  And don’t forget the major CIA drone surveillance program already in operation over Iran (and undoubtedly still being bolstered).

And then, of course, you would have to add in what we don’t know about, including — you can be sure — the strengthening of special operations activities in the region.  It’s the perfect build-up for a post-presidential-election war season.  After a failed war in Iraq that left that country ever more firmly allied with Iran and another failing war in Afghanistan, you might think that the Pentagon would want to back off.  Well, think again.  To adapt the famed mantra of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential run, “It’s the oil heartlands of the planet, stupid.”  And as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, author of a new, must-read book, The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, points out, we’re now entering an era when “war” and “oil” may become synonymous. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Klare discusses global energy conflicts, click here or download it to your iPod here.) Tom

 

Oil Wars on the Horizon

by MICHAEL T. KLARE

Conflict and intrigue over valuable energy supplies have been features of the international landscape for a long time.  Major wars over oil have been fought every decade or so since World War I, and smaller engagements have erupted every few years; a flare-up or two in 2012, then, would be part of the normal scheme of things.  Instead, what we are now seeing is a whole cluster of oil-related clashes stretching across the globe, involving a dozen or so countries, with more popping up all the time.  Consider these flash-points as signals that we are entering an era of intensified conflict over energy.

Six Recent Clashes and Conflicts on a Planet Heading Into Energy Overdrive

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Argentina to the Philippines, here are the six areas of conflict — all tied to energy supplies — that have made news in just the first few months of 2012:

* A brewing war between Sudan and South Sudan: On April 10th, forces from the newly independent state of South Sudan occupied the oil center of Heglig, a town granted to Sudan as part of a peace settlement that allowed the southerners to secede in 2011.  The northerners, based in Khartoum, then mobilized their own forces and drove the South Sudanese out of Heglig.  Fighting has since erupted all along the contested border between the two countries, accompanied by air strikes on towns in South Sudan.  Although the fighting has not yet reached the level of a full-scale war, international efforts to negotiate a cease-fire and a peaceful resolution to the dispute have yet to meet with success.

This conflict is being fueled by many factors, including economic disparities between the two Sudans and an abiding animosity between the southerners (who are mostly black Africans and Christians or animists) and the northerners (mostly Arabs and Muslims).  But oil — and the revenues produced by oil — remains at the heart of the matter.  When Sudan was divided in 2011, the most prolific oil fields wound up in the south, while the only pipeline capable of transporting the south’s oil to international markets (and thus generating revenue) remained in the hands of the northerners.  They have been demanding exceptionally high “transit fees” — $32-$36 per barrel compared to the common rate of $1 per barrel — for the privilege of bringing the South’s oil to market.  When the southerners refused to accept such rates, the northerners confiscated money they had already collected from the south’s oil exports, its only significant source of funds.  In response, the southerners stopped producing oil altogether and, it appears, launched their military action against the north.  The situation remains explosive.

* Naval clash in the South China Sea: On April 7th, a Philippine naval warship, the 378-foot Gregorio del Pilar, arrived at Scarborough Shoal, a small island in the South China Sea, and detained eight Chinese fishing boats anchored there, accusing them of illegal fishing activities in Filipino sovereign waters.  China promptly sent two naval vessels of its own to the area, claiming that the Gregorio del Pilar was harassing Chinese ships in Chinese, not Filipino waters.  The fishing boats were eventually allowed to depart without further incident and tensions have eased somewhat.  However, neither side has displayed any inclination to surrender its claim to the island, and both sides continue to deploy warships in the contested area.

As in Sudan, multiple factors are driving this clash, but energy is the dominant motive.  The South China Sea is thought to harbor large deposits of oil and natural gas, and all the countries that encircle it, including China and the Philippines, want to exploit these reserves.  Manila claims a 200-nautical mile “exclusive economic zone” stretching into the South China Sea from its western shores, an area it calls the West Philippine Sea; Filipino companies say they have found large natural gas reserves in this area and have announced plans to begin exploiting them.  Claiming the many small islands that dot the South China Sea (including Scarborough Shoal) as its own, Beijing has asserted sovereignty over the entire region, including the waters claimed by Manila; it, too, has announced plans to drill in the area.  Despite years of talks, no solution has yet been found to the dispute and further clashes are likely.

* Egypt cuts off the natural gas flow to Israel: On April 22nd, the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Companyinformed Israeli energy officials that they were “terminating the gas and purchase agreement” under which Egypt had been supplying gas to Israel.  This followed months of demonstrations in Cairo by the youthful protestors who succeeded in deposing autocrat Hosni Mubarak and are now seeking a more independent Egyptian foreign policy — one less beholden to the United States and Israel.  It also followed scores of attacks on the pipelines carrying the gas across the Negev Desert to Israel, which the Egyptian military has seemed powerless to prevent.

Ostensibly, the decision was taken in response to a dispute over Israeli payments for Egyptian gas, but all parties involved have interpreted it as part of a drive by Egypt’s new government to demonstrate greater distance from the ousted Mubarak regime and his (U.S.-encouraged) policy of cooperation with Israel.  The Egyptian-Israeli gas link was one of the most significant outcomes of the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries, and its annulment clearly signals a period of greater discord; it may also cause energy shortages in Israel, especially during peak summer demand periods.  On a larger scale, the cutoff suggests a new inclination to use energy (or its denial) as a form of political warfare and coercion.

* Argentina seizes YPF: On April 16th, Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, announced that her government would seize a majority stake in YPF, the nation’s largest oil company.  Under President Kirchner’s plans, which she detailed on national television, the government would take a 51% controlling stake in YPF, which is now majority-owned by Spain’s largest corporation, the energy firm Repsol YPF.  The seizure of its Argentinean subsidiary is seen in Madrid (and other European capitals) as a major threat that must now be combated.  Spain’s foreign minister, José Manuel García Margallo, said that Kirchner’s move “broke the climate of cordiality and friendship that presided over relations between Spain and Argentina.”  Several days later, in what is reported to be only the first of several retaliatory steps, Spain announced that it would stop importing biofuels from Argentina, its principal supplier — a trade worth nearly $1 billion a year to the Argentineans.

As in the other conflicts, this clash is driven by many urges, including a powerful strain of nationalism stretching back to the Peronist era, along with Kirchner’s apparent desire to boost her standing in the polls.  Just as important, however, is Argentina’s urge to derive greater economic and political benefit from its energy reserves, which include the world’s third-largest deposits of shale gas.  While long-term rival Brazil is gaining immense power and prestige from the development of its offshore “pre-salt”petroleum reserves, Argentina has seen its energy production languish.  Repsol may not be to blame for this, but many Argentineans evidently believe that, with YPF under government control, it will now be possible to accelerate development of the country’s energy endowment, possibly in collaboration with a more aggressive foreign partner like BP or ExxonMobil.

* Argentina re-ignites the Falklands crisis: At an April 15th-16th Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia — the one at which U.S. Secret Service agents were caught fraternizing with prostitutes — Argentina sought fresh hemispheric condemnation of Britain’s continued occupation of the Falkland Islands (called Las Malvinas by the Argentineans).  It won strong support from every country present save (predictably) Canada and the United States.  Argentina, which says the islands are part of its sovereign territory, has been raising this issue ever since it lost a war over the Falklands in 1982, but has recently stepped up its campaign on several fronts — denouncing London in numerous international venues and preventing British cruise ships that visit the Falklands from docking in Argentinean harbors.  The British have responded by beefing up their military forces in the region and warning the Argentineans to avoid any rash moves.

When Argentina and the U.K. fought their war over the Falklands, little was at stake save national pride, the stature of the country’s respective leaders (Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher vs. an unpopular military junta), and a few sparsely populated islands.  Since then, the stakes have risen immeasurably as a result of recent seismic surveys of the waters surrounding the islands that indicated the existence of massive deposits of oil and natural gas.  Several UK-based energy firms, including Desire Petroleum and Rockhopper Exploration, have begun off-shore drilling in the area and have reported promising discoveries.  Desperate to duplicate Brazil’s success in the development of offshore oil and gas, Argentina claims the discoveries lie in its sovereign territory and that the drilling there is illegal; the British, of course, insist that it’s their territory.  No one knows how this simmering potential crisis will unfold, but a replay of the 1982 war — this time over energy — is hardly out of the question.

* U.S. forces mobilize for war with Iran: Throughout the winter and early spring, it appeared that an armed clash of some sort pitting Iran against Israel and/or the United States was almost inevitable.  Neither side seemed prepared to back down on key demands, especially on Iran’s nuclear program, and any talk of a compromise solution was deemed unrealistic.  Today, however, the risk of war has diminished somewhat – at least through this election year in the U.S. — as talks have finally gotten under way between the major powers and Iran, and as both have adopted (slightly) more accommodating stances.  In addition, U.S. officials have been tamping down war talk and figures in the Israeli military and intelligence communities have spoken out against rash military actions.  However, the Iranians continue to enrich uranium, and leaders on all sides say they are fully prepared to employ force if the peace talks fail.

For the Iranians, this means blocking the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow channel through which one-third of the world’s tradable oil passes every day.  The U.S., for its part, has insisted that it will keep the Strait open and, if necessary, eliminate Iranian nuclear capabilities.  Whether to intimidate Iran, prepare for the real thing, or possibly both, the U.S. has been building up its military capabilities in the Persian Gulf area, deploying two aircraft carrier battle groupsin the neighborhood along with an assortment of air and amphibious-assault capabilities.

One can debate the extent to which Washington’s long-running feud with Iran is driven by oil, but there is no question that the current crisis bears heavily on global oil supply prospects, both through Iran’s threats to close the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for forthcoming sanctions on Iranian oil exports, and the likelihood that any air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities will lead to the same thing.  Either way, the U.S. military would undoubtedly assume the lead role in destroying Iranian military capabilities and restoring oil traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. This is the energy-driven crisis that just won’t go away.

How Energy Drives the World

All of these disputes have one thing in common: the conviction of ruling elites around the world that the possession of energy assets — especially oil and gas deposits — is essential to prop up national wealth, power, and prestige.

This is hardly a new phenomenon.  Early in the last century, Winston Churchill was perhaps the first prominent leader to appreciate the strategic importance of oil.  As First Lord of the Admiralty, he converted British warships from coal to oil and then persuaded the cabinet to nationalize the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the forerunner of British Petroleum (now BP).  The pursuit of energy supplies for both industry and war-fighting played a major role in the diplomacy of the period between the World Wars, as well as in the strategic planning of the Axis powers during World War II.  It also explains America’s long-term drive to remain the dominant power in the Persian Gulf that culminated in the first Gulf War of 1990-91 and its inevitable sequel, the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The years since World War II have seen a variety of changes in the energy industry, including a shift in many areas from private to state ownership of oil and natural gas reserves.  By and large, however, the industry has been able to deliver ever-increasing quantities of fuel to satisfy the ever-growing needs of a globalizing economy and an expanding, rapidly urbanizing world population.  So long as supplies were abundant and prices remained relatively affordable, energy consumers around the world, including most governments, were largely content with the existing system of collaboration among private and state-owned energy leviathans.

But that energy equation is changing ominously as the challenge of fueling the planet grows more difficult.  Many of the giant oil and gas fields that quenched the world’s energy thirst in years past are being depleted at a rapid pace.  The new fields being brought on line to take their place are, on average, smaller and harder to exploit.  Many of the most promising new sources of energy — like Brazil’s “pre-salt” petroleum reserves deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean, Canadian tar sands, and American shale gas – require the utilization of sophisticated and costly technologies.  Though global energy supplies are continuing to grow, they are doing so at a slower pace than in the past and are continually falling short of demand.  All this adds to the upward pressure on prices, causing anxiety among countries lacking adequate domestic reserves (and joy among those with an abundance).

The world has long been bifurcated between energy-surplus and energy-deficit states, with the former deriving enormous political and economic advantages from their privileged condition and the latter struggling mightily to escape their subordinate position.  Now, that bifurcation is looking more like a chasm.  In such a global environment, friction and conflict over oil and gas reserves — leading to energy conflicts of all sorts — is only likely to increase.

Looking, again, at April’s six energy disputes, one can see clear evidence of these underlying forces in every case.  South Sudan is desperate to sell its oil in order to acquire the income needed to kick-start its economy; Sudan, on the other hand, resents the loss of oil revenues it controlled when the nation was still united, and appears no less determined to keep as much of the South’s oil money as it can for itself.  China and the Philippines both want the right to develop oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea, and even if the deposits around Scarborough Shoal prove meager, China is unwilling to back down in any localized dispute that might undermine its claim to sovereignty over the entire region.

Egypt, although not a major energy producer, clearly seeks to employ its oil and gas supplies for maximum political and economic advantage — an approach sure to be copied by other small and mid-sized suppliers.  Israel, heavily dependent on imports for its energy, must now turn elsewhere for vital supplies or accelerate the development of disputed, newly discovered offshore gas fields, a move that could provoke fresh conflict with Lebanon, which says they lie in its own territorial waters.  And Argentina, jealous of Brazil’s growing clout, appears determined to extract greater advantage from its own energy resources, even if this means inflaming tensions with Spain and Great Britain.

And these are just some of the countries involved in significant disputes over energy.  Any clash with Iran — whatever the motivation — is bound to jeopardize the petroleum supply of every oil-importing country, sparking a major international crisis with unforeseeable consequences.  China’s determination to control its offshore hydrocarbon reserves has pushed it into conflict with other countries with offshore claims in the South China Sea, and into a similar dispute with Japan in the East China Sea.  Energy-related disputes of this sort can also be found in the Caspian Sea and in globally warming, increasingly ice-free Arctic regions.

The seeds of energy conflicts and war sprouting in so many places simultaneously suggest that we are entering a new period in which key state actors will be more inclined to employ force — or the threat of force — to gain control over valuable deposits of oil and natural gas.  In other words, we’re now on a planet heading into energy overdrive.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet and The Race for What’s Left.

This article originally appeared on TomDispatch.

Obama Forms Soros-Controlled Energy Council To ‘Fix’ Thriving Natural Gas Industry

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By Ken Blackwell
May 10, 2012

When politicians want to look busy while avoiding tough decisions during an election year, what do they do? They form commissions and councils.

And when President Barack Obama saw Americans struggling with higher gasoline and home energy prices, did he encourage more domestic oil exploration, off-shore drilling, or coal production, while lowering taxes on energy?

Of course not. After all, with political observers expecting a close presidential race this year, Obama needs the financial and institutional support far-left environmental groups. The result has been the president anointing certain energy sources – such as wind and natural gas – as energies of the future, while implementing regulatory hurdles for more dependable fuels like oil and coal.

Over the last decade, natural gas has exploded as an important energy source in the United States, accounting for almost one quarter of all energy consumed. Natural gas has boosted economic activity in states like Ohio, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania, and until recently has done so largely without the benefit of preferential treatment from the federal government.

But to expedite this natural gas boom, President Obama just recently decided to form an interagency natural gas council run by Cecilia Munoz, a former community organizer with La Raza and White House bureaucrat with deep-ties to George Soros, the billionaire investor who made his fortune in currency trading throughout the world while bankrolling liberal political efforts. Munoz formerly led the OpenSociety Institute and the Center for Community Change, two organizations which are directly connected to Soros, MoveOn.org, ACORN, and other fringe groups with a long record of opposing the development of America’s oil and coal resources.

As if having a new council run by the far left was not enough, Obama continues to support major Democratic donors such as Soros by picking winners and losers in the energy through risky subsidies, through a bill known as the NAT GAS Act.

This legislation attempts to artificially encourage a transition to more natural gas usage, by offering tax credits for natural gas vehicles, fueling stations, and storage facilities. As we all saw with the collapse of inefficient companies like Solyndra, when private investors are not willing to fund a new project, politically connected firms try to force taxpayers to fund their schemes.

But if natural gas is an already cheap and abundant source of energy, why would we subsidize it?

The answer may be found with the Soros Management Fund, which is Soros’ investment vehicle, owns more than $90 million of shares in a Vancouver, British Columbia company which produces the same natural gas-powered engines which the act would encourage the use of.

Soros has personally donated $5,000 to the act’s co-sponsor Rep. Nita Lowey of New York and his family donated $121,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, while the lead sponsor of the act, Senator Robert Mendez of New Jersey, was chairman. This is in addition to the countless (and often untraceable) millions of dollars Soros pours into Democratic campaigns through the activities of his non-profit organizations and political committees.

Natural gas is a valuable and commonly used fuel. But it is not a silver bullet to our nation’s massive energy conundrum. And just like wind, solar, and nuclear, it should be left to succeed or fail based on private market forces. Government should not have the legal authority to hand your hard-earned dollars over to a private industry, just because a handful of politicians think they have the right to make decisions about what energy consumers use.

We have seen the costly errors of government manipulating energy markets, and Obama must not allow wealthy activists to profit at the expense of taxpayers. Conservatives should oppose the NAT GAS Act and other measures that give one specific fuel a distinct marketplace advantage over others.

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