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TEPCO Eyes North America LNG

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) of Japan is in advanced negotiations to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) from North America, Reuters reported, citing Toshiaki Koizumi, the general manager of TEPCO’s fuel department.

We have been in negotiations with several projects,” he said.

We want to procure LNG from the United States and Canada where prices are linked to Henry Hub. The talks have made progress, but I cannot say when they will be finalized,” he added.

Japan’s imports of LNG surged in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake. Power companies account for two-thirds of total Japanese LNG imports.

TEPCO Eyes North America LNG LNG World News.

US Alleges Zetas-Hezbollah Funding Link

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Written by  Hannah Stone

U.S. authorities have accused a Lebanese man of selling Colombian cocaine to the Zetas and laundering money on their behalf, while using the profits to finance Hezbollah, a militant group based in Beirut.

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According to the latest indictment, Ayman Joumaa, aka “Junior,” (pictured) and his partners sold 85 tons of cocaine to the Zetas between 2005-2007, which was later trafficked into the U.S., and laundered some $850 million in their profits for the group, some of it through the Lebanese Canadian Bank. The latest charges do not mention Hezbollah, though Joumaa was accused earlier this year by the Treasury of being part of a drug trafficking and money laundering ring which financed the group, reports ProPublica.

According to the indictment, Joumaa’s group would charge the Zetas 8 to 14 percent for its money laundering services.

The story speaks to some of the U.S.’s worst fears about its enemies in the Middle East gaining ground in Latin America. ABC points out that

U.S. officials have long known about [Hezbollah] operating in South America’s tri-border area in Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina where the group runs drugs and large scale counterfeiting networks, according to U.S. officials. In recent years there has been more recent concern about the group establishing a footprint in Central America.

Slate looks at the other side of the deal, pointing out that Lebanon would be a good place for the Zetas to launder money, as it has highly secretive banking regulations, while there is a large Lebanese community in Mexico, with links to the Lebanese banking sector.

The case is reminiscent of a supposed plot revealed by U.S. authorities in October, which involved a representative of the Iranian intelligence service making contact with people he thought were members of the Zetas, in order to order a hit against Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington. As with that case, which did not quite add up, it is worth treating with caution attempts to link Mexican trafficking groups to Muslim militants, which have often appeared to be more based on Washington’s fears than on evidence.

However, U.S. officials were cautious about asserting direct links between the two groups in the latest case, pointing out that “It’s not like there’s a sit-down between the leaders of Hezbollah and the Zetas,” as ProPublica reports.

A version of this article appeared on the Pan-American Post.

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Hess to spend $2.3 billion to develop Gulf of Mexico oil field

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Hess Corp., the New York-based oil company, will develop its Tubular Bells deep-water field in the Gulf of Mexico at an estimated cost of $2.3 billion.

Production is expected to begin in 2014 and may peak at the equivalent of 45,000 barrels of oil a day, Hess said in a statement today. Subject to U.S. approval, Hess said it will own 57 percent of the field, with Chevron Corp. holding the remainder. BP Plc no longer owns a stake in the project.

Tubular Bells holds an estimated 120 million barrels of oil, Hess said. Plans call for three wells in the field, which lies as much as 4,600 feet (1,400 meters) below the surface about 135 miles southeast of New Orleans, the company said.

The field will be predominantly oil with “good, attractive returns, even though the costs per well have gone up a little bit with the new government regulations,” John Hess, chairman and chief executive officer of the company, said in a Sept. 8 speech.

The U.S. government imposed new drilling rules after a BP well in the Gulf last year had the biggest offshore oil spill in the nation’s history.

Hess fell 2 percent to $59.81 at 11:21 a.m. in New York. The shares have declined 22 percent this year.?

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Don’t hold your breath on faster permitting

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It’s become a familiar refrain in the oil patch: the federal government could kick-start the country’s job machine by resuming offshore drilling permits to a pre-Macondo level.

A letter from American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard written last week implores President Obama to remember the Wood Mackenzie study API sponsored that says the oil and gas industry can create one million jobs in the next seven years and 1.4 million additional jobs by 2030.

And another a letter this week from a number of other industry groups points to another industry study that says 230,000 new or retained jobs, more than $44 billion in U.S. GDP and nearly $12 billion in tax and royalty revenues could be generated in 2012 if permitting returned to the same levels as before the Deepwater Horizon Accident.

Many in the industry (and many readers of this blog) assume the slowdown is part of a concerted effort of the White House to punish the oil and gas business. The arguments range from the administration punishing the largely Red State industry for failing to support it to kowtowing to unions and environmental groups.

Not all industry execs aren’t subscribing to the grudge-against-the-oil-industry answer on the permitting, however.

Chevron CEO John Watson also said earlier this week that he felt the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement was “working very hard to process the permit applications they have,” but that the agency needs more staff to step up the pace, especially in light of new regulations imposed since the Gulf spill.

“Whether they have the resources to do it is another matter,” Watson said. “Whether there’s political overtones elsewhere, that’s for others to judge.”

But as far as the hope of getting back to pre-spill permitting levels, the industry shouldn’t hold its  breath.

“There are many more hoops and a lot more verification the government is requiring of itself and of us,” said Gary Luquette, president of Chevron North America Exploration and Production Co., said in an interview with the Chronicle earlier this week. ”This is a much more intensive process now, so we won’t go back to the time lines of the past.”

The biggest reason for the slower pace is that waivers on a number of environmental impact studies that allowed companies to skip them pre-Macondo have been reinstated.

The pace today is certainly better than it was right when the drilling moratorium was lifted, Luquette  said, and even better than it was just last month.

“There’s a need for continuous improvement and they seem to be committed to that,” he said.

BOEMRE chief Michael Bromwich said there’s no doubt the pace of permitting is way off from before Macondo.

“But that’s largely irrelevant because it misses the sea change that’s occurred over the last 15 months, with the more rigorous requirements,” Bromwich said during the same hearings where Watson spoke.

Bromwich also repeated his refrain that there’s no deliberate attempt to stifle the industry.

“There’s absolutely no evidence that anyone in the agency up through and including me has made any effort to slow things down,” Bromwich said. ” I do appreciate [Watson] saying that there is no deliberate slowdown. It’s actually fully consistent with what we’ve been hearing behind closed doors from top company executives for months. And it’s nice that one of the ceos has come out and said so publicly. I don’t think it would hurt the others to say the same thing because I think they realize there’s no agenda to slow things down.”

Original Article

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