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China steps up Afghan role as Western pullout nears

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By Sanjeev Miglani
KABUL – Sun Jun 3, 2012 3:38am EDT

(Reuters) – China and Afghanistan will sign an agreement in the coming days that strategically deepens their ties, Afghan officials say, the strongest signal yet that Beijing wants a role beyond economic partnership as Western forces prepare to leave the country.

China has kept a low political profile through much of the decade-long international effort to stabilize Afghanistan, choosing instead to pursue an economic agenda, including locking in future supply from Afghanistan’s untapped mineral resources.

As the U.S.-led coalition winds up military engagement and hands over security to local forces, Beijing, along with regional powers, is gradually stepping up involvement in an area that remains at risk from being overrun by Islamist insurgents.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai will hold talks on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Beijing this week, where they will seal a wide-ranging pact governing their ties, including security cooperation.

Afghanistan has signed a series of strategic partnership agreements including with the United States, India and Britain among others in recent months, described by one Afghan official as taking out “insurance cover” for the period after the end of 2014 when foreign troops leave.

“The president of Afghanistan will be meeting the president of China in Beijing and what will happen is the elevation of our existing, solid relationship to a new level, to a strategic level,” Janan Musazai, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry, told Reuters.

“It would certainly cover a broad spectrum which includes cooperation in the security sector, a very significant involvement in the economic sector, and the cultural field.”

He declined to give details about security cooperation, but Andrew Small, an expert on China at the European Marshall Fund who has tracked its ties with South Asia, said the training of security forces was one possibility.

China has signaled it will not contribute to a multilateral fund to sustain the Afghan national security forces – estimated to cost $4.1 billion per year after 2014 – but it could directly train Afghan soldiers, Small said.

“They’re concerned that there is going to be a security vacuum and they’re concerned about how the neighbors will behave,” he said.

Beijing has been running a small program with Afghan law enforcement officials, focused on counter-narcotics and involving visits to China’s restive Xinjiang province, whose western tip touches the Afghan border.

Training of Afghan forces is expected to be modest, and nowhere near the scale of the Western effort to bring them up to speed, or even India’s role in which small groups of officers are trained at military institutions in India.

China wants to play a more active role, but it will weigh the sensitivities of neighboring nations in a troubled corner of the world, said Zhang Li, a professor of South Asian studies at Sichuan University who has been studying the future of Sino-Afghan ties.

“I don’t think that the U.S. withdrawal also means a Chinese withdrawal, but especially in security affairs in Afghanistan, China will remain low-key and cautious,” he said. “China wants to play more of a role there, but each option in doing that will be assessed carefully before any steps are taken.”

JOSTLING FOR INFLUENCE

Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors Iran and Pakistan, but also nearby India and Russia, have all jostled for influence in the country at the crossroads of Central and South Asia, and many expect the competition to heat up after 2014.

India has poured aid into Afghanistan and like China has invested in its mineral sector, committing billions of dollars to develop iron ore deposits, as well as build a steel plant and other infrastructure.

It worries about a Taliban resurgence and the threat to its own security from Pakistan-based militants operating from the region.

Pakistan, which is accused of having close ties with the Taliban, has repeatedly complained about India’s expanding role in Afghanistan, seeing Indian moves as a plot to encircle it.

“India-Pakistan proxy fighting is one of the main worries,” said Small.

In February, China hosted a trilateral dialogue involving officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan to discuss efforts to seek reconciliation with the Taliban.

It was first time Beijing involved itself directly and openly in efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Musazai said Kabul supported any effort to bring peace in the country. “China has close ties with Afghanistan. It also has very close ties with Pakistan and if it can help advance the vision of peace and stability in Afghanistan we welcome it.”

(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley in BEIJING; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

Hoegh LNG, DSME to Work on LNG FPSO for Israel’s Tamar Field

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Höegh LNG Holdings Ltd. has entered into an agreement with South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. (“DSME”) to start a project specific front-end engineering design (FEED) of an LNG FPSO solution for the Tamar gas field offshore Israel.

This agreement follows the recent announcement of the agreement between DSME consortium, DSME and its Norwegian joint venture D&H Solutions AS and Tamar field owners, Noble Energy, Delek and Isramco to exploit part of the Tamar field by use of an LNG FPSO.

The agreement states that Höegh LNG with selected partners shall be the owner and operator of the LNG FPSO and that DSME shall be the EPCIC contractor, subject to further engineering work and a final investment decision.

President and CEO, Sveinung Støhle, says: “We are excited about initiating the engineering work for an LNG FPSO to monetize the gas reserves in the Tamar field in Israel based on Höegh LNG’s already developed design. This is a result of Höegh LNG’s continuous effort over the past five years to promote technical and economical sound floating solutions for LNG production. We are pleased to work with DSME and the Tamar field owners in jointly developing one of the first LNG FPSOs to come to market. DSME has been our partner for several years and we are confident that together with the other Tamar partners we will design, construct and operate an excellent solution for bringing the Tamar gas to the market.”

Tamar gas field is located some 80 km west of Haifa in waters 5,500 feet (1,700 m) deep. The gross resource estimate of Tamar has been increased to 9 Tcf from 8.4 Tcf as a result of appraisal work, Noble Energy said recently in a press release.

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USA: FMC Technologies Inks Global Alliance Agreement with Anadarko Petroleum

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FMC Technologies, Inc.  announced that it has signed a global alliance agreement with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation to provide subsea systems and life-of-field services for their worldwide subsea development projects.

In 1999, FMC supplied equipment for Anadarko’s first subsea project, North Garnet, in the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, the companies have collaborated on other projects including Independence Hub, the largest natural gas processing facility in the Gulf, and FMC has also supplied Anadarko with the industry’s first subsea wellhead qualified at a pressure rating of 20,000 psi.

“An alliance has been in place with Anadarko and its legacy companies since 1992 to support their Gulf of Mexico exploration and production projects,” said John Gremp, FMC Technologies’ Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Today’s announcement will allow FMC to broaden its support of Anadarko’s expanding exploration and production activities worldwide, including recent discoveries offshore the East and West coasts of Africa. Anadarko has an extensive deepwater program, and we are pleased to strengthen our relationship through this global alliance.”

FMC Technologies, Inc. is a leading global provider of technology solutions for the energy industry. Named by FORTUNE® Magazine as the World’s Most Admired Oil and Gas Equipment, Service Company in 2010, the Company has approximately 13,500 employees and operates 27 production facilities in 16 countries. FMC Technologies designs, manufactures and services technologically sophisticated systems and products such as subsea production and processing systems, surface wellhead systems, high pressure fluid control equipment, measurement solutions, and marine loading systems for the oil and gas industry.

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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

Technip Enters Frame Agreement with Statoil

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After a competitive tender process, Technip has been awarded by Statoil Brasil Óleo & Gàs Ltda. a frame agreement for engineering studies. The scope of this 3-year contract covers feasibility, concept and front-end engineering design studies for Statoil’s existing offshore production fields and future developments in Brazil.

All work will be performed by Technip’s operating center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with support from the Group’s European centers, and will achieve a minimum 60% of local content.

This award reinforces Technip’s leading position as engineering services supplier to the Brazilian market where the Group previously carried out similar feasibility, conceptual and front-end engineering design projects for Petrobras, OGX, OSX and Maersk.

Technip is a world leader in project management, engineering and construction for the energy industry.

From the deepest Subsea oil & gas developments to the largest and most complex Offshore and Onshore infrastructures, our 23,000 people are constantly offering the best solutions and most innovative technologies to meet the world’s energy challenges.

Present in 48 countries, Technip has state-of-the-art industrial assets on all continents and operates a fleet of specialized vessels for pipeline installation and subsea construction.

Original Article

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