Mark Latham Commodity Equity Intelligence Service

Wednesday 18th May 2016
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    Macro

    China April power consumption up 1.9 pct on year -energy regulator


    China consumed 456.9 kilowatt hours of power in April, up 1.9 percent compared to the same month of last year, the country's energy regulator said on Wednesday.

    The National Energy Administration also said that total generation capacity rose to 1,499.6 gigawatts by the end of April, up 11.9 percent on the year.

    According to official data released on Saturday, power output declined 1.7 percent in April on the year, driven by a 5.9 percent drop in thermal power generation.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/china-power-consumption-idUSENNG580T4
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    Shanxi Jan-Apr power use edges down 0.2pct on year


    Shanxi province consumed a total 56.7 TWh of electricity over January-April, edging down 0.2% on year and unchanged from the first quarter this year, showed the latest data from the provincial Commission of Economy and Information Technology.

    The power consumption of industrial sector stood at 42.6 TWh during the same period, falling 2.4% from a year ago, data showed.

    In April, power use of the province dropped 0.1% on year to 13.79 TWh, with that of industrial sector down 1.9% on year to 10.59 TWh.

    It was mainly attributed to the plunging electricity consumption of coal and steel industries. In April, the coal, steel, chemical and ferrous industries consumed 1.89 TWh, 1.83 TWh, 1.18 TWh and 1.05 TWh of electricity, falling 6.1%, 16.8%, 8.2% and up 4.3% from a year ago.

    The province produced a total 78.09 TWh of electricity over January-April, down 2.6% on year, with power output in April falling 2.4% on year to 19.38 TWh.

    http://en.sxcoal.com/0/146228/DataShow.html
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    China's home prices continue to rise


    China's property sector continued to recover in April, with more citiesreporting month-on-month rises in new home prices, an official survey showedWednesday.

    Of 70 large and medium-sized cities surveyed in April, 65 saw new home prices climbingmonth on month, up from 62 in the previous month, the National Bureau of Statistics(NBS) said.

    Meanwhile, five cities reported month-on-month price declines, down from eight in March,according to NBS data.

    On a yearly basis, 46 cities posted new-home price increases and 23 reported falls in April,compared with 40 and 29 in March.

    New-home prices soared 63.4 percent year on year in the southern city of Shenzhen, thesharpest increase last month among all the major cities.

    Prices in Shanghai, Nanjing, Xiamen and Beijing also rose fast, up 34.2 percent, 22.6percent, 21.7 percent and 20.2 percent year on year, respectively.

    The northeastern city of Jinzhou registered the steepest price decline of 3.2 percent over ayear earlier.

    For existing homes, 51 cities reported month-on-month price increases in April and 10reported lower prices, compared with 54 and 13 in March.

    China's housing market started to recover in the second half of 2015 after cooling for morethan a year, boosted by government support measures, including interest rate cuts andlower deposit requirements.

    In February, taxes on some property transactions were slashed and further reductions tothe minimum downpayments for eligible first- and second-time home buyers wereannounced.

    http://en.people.cn/business/n3/2016/0518/c90778-9059472.html
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    NUM rejects Eskom’s 5% wage offer



    The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Wednesday said it had rejected “with disgust a lousy offer” by power utility Eskom of 5% In an statement NUM said: “This horrible increase will drive thousands of Eskom employees into poverty taking into account the continued rise of Consumer Price Index”. 

    NUM Energy Sector Coordinator, Paris Mashego: “We are very shocked by the declaration by Eskom management that 42% of the estimated profit of R28.2-billion will be set aside as bonuses”. 

    Mashego added: “With this declaration, Eskom executives will receive 25%, managers will take home 16.7% while NUM members receive a mere 12%”. The NUM said it was demanding an increase of 18% for the lowest paid workers and 15% for the highest paid workers.

     “We call upon this hostile employer to compensate workers accordingly in terms of their contribution to the profitability of the company. While we accept bonuses, which is a once-off payment, we demand a salary increase which is a long-term earning and pensionable,” said Mashego.

    The NUM demanded salary increases for workers that “address income differentials that will address the apartheid wage gap” that still exists 22 years after democracy. “Eskom must improve the salaries of black females who are the lowest paid employees in the company,” said Mashego. “We further demand that Eskom must negotiate in good faith by disclosing relevant information to foster sound industrial relations.”

    http://www.miningweekly.com/article/num-rejects-eskoms-5-wage-offer-2016-05-18
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    Oil and Gas

    Iran's May oil exports set to surge nearly 60 pct from a year ago -source


    Iran's oil exports are set to surge in May, climbing nearly 60 percent from a year ago, with European shipments recovering to about half of pre-sanction levels, according to a source with knowledge of the country's crude lifting plans.

    This shows Tehran is regaining market share at a faster pace than analysts had projected as it battles with Saudi Arabia for customers by cutting its prices. April loadings at 2.3 million barrels per day (bpd) were around 15 percent higher than the International Energy Agency estimated earlier this month.

    May shipments are set to jump to 2.1 million bpd from 1.3 million bpd during the same month in 2015, when Iranian exports were constrained by Western sanctions imposed because of the country's nuclear programme. The April loadings were the highest since January 2012.

    The increase in loadings suggests that Iran has overcome a tanker shortage that threatened to derail attempts to regain market share after the sanctions were lifted in January.

    Saudi Arabia will feel the surge in Iranian exports most keenly as it struggles for regional supremacy with Iran, with the oil market becoming a key battleground.

    Saudi Arabia plans to boost production in the coming months to squeeze the Iranians, said Ian Bremmer, the president of political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, who spoke recently with executives and a member of the ruling family.

    The production increase could also boost returns for the planned Saudi Aramco share sale and help ensure a smooth succession for deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, Bremmer told Reuters on Wednesday.

    Increases of as much as 1 million bpd were mentioned, Bremmer said, though he was sceptical about the higher targets.

    "The challenge against Iran will mean an expanded effort to work with Asian economies," he said.

    That will mean investing in refineries in the Asian market, "something the Iranians can't do, given both their resource limitations and the remaining sanctions environment," he said.

    In the meantime, Iranian exports are rapidly returning to near pre-sanctions levels. Loadings to Asia were 1.7 million bpd in April, about a third higher than a year ago and the most since 2011, according to the source.

    Loadings will stay near that level for May, with 1.6 million bpd scheduled.

    Loadings for China, Iran's biggest customer, were nearly 840,000 bpd in April and more than 620,000 bpd are planned for May.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/iran-oil-exports-idUSL3N18E2ZH
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    China's surging crude oil imports for storage may ease


    China appears to be stockpiling crude oil at a faster pace than the market had expected, taking advantage of low prices but perhaps also pulling forward its demand for imported crude.

    While China doesn't disclose the amount of crude flowing into strategic storage, an estimate can be made simply by subtracting refinery runs from the total amount of oil available from both imports and domestic output.

    Domestic crude production dropped 5.6 percent in April from a year earlier to 16.59 million tonnes, equivalent to about 4.04 million barrels per day (bpd), the National Bureau of Statistics said on May 14.

    This was the lowest rate on a daily basis since July 2013, and it brought the decline in the first four months of the year to 2.7 percent from the same period in 2015, with about 4.11 million bpd being produced.


    While lower domestic output in the world's fourth-largest producer shows China's oil firms aren't immune to the pressures of low prices, the shortfall has been more than made up by sharply higher imports.

    Crude imports for the first four months of the year were 123.7 million tonnes, equivalent to about 7.46 million bpd, and 11.8 percent higher than for the same period last year.

    Taking imports and domestic output together, total crude availability in China for the January to April period was 11.56 million bpd.

    Total refinery throughput was 2.9 percent higher in the first four months at about 10.69 million bpd.

    This means that there was about 870,000 bpd of crude available that wasn't processed through refineries, meaning it most likely made its way into commercial and strategic storages.

    This means that China is filling storages at a considerably faster pace than had been expected in a Reuters poll of analysts conducted in December.

    According to the poll, China was seen adding 70 to 90 million barrels to its Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in 2016, or about 245,000 bpd at the upper end of that range.

    If all the surplus crude has indeed flowed into storage, it implies that about 105 million barrels were added in the first four months alone, more than what analysts had expected for the entire year.

    It is worth noting that some analysts had expected greater flows into the SPR, with Energy Aspects predicting 150 million barrels for the year.

    It would now seem that even optimistic forecasts may be exceeded, if China maintains the rate of crude imports directed for storage.

    China is currently filling its second phase of SPR, which has a capacity of 244.8 million barrels, and Thomson Reuters Oil Research and Forecasts expects this process will be completed by the end of the year.

    A planned third phase of undisclosed capacity is due for completion by 2020 as China works toward the goal of reserves equal to 90 days of imports.

    It would appear that China still has the capacity to add more oil to its SPR in the coming months, but questions must be asked whether it can do so at the same pace seen in the first four months.

    It's possible that storage flows may ease back in coming months, resulting in slower growth in crude imports.

    This may already be happening, with Thomson Reuters Oil Research and Forecasts provisionally assessing May imports at 29.47 million tonnes, down from the 32.58 million reported by customs for April.

    Higher oil prices may also help dissuade the Chinese from importing for storage, with Brent crude closing on Tuesday at $49.28 a barrel, some 77 percent higher than the lowest close of 2016 of $27.88 on Jan. 20.

    Certainly, history suggests the Chinese tend to buy more when they deem prices to be cheap, and ease back when they believe prices have risen too far, too quickly.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/column-russell-crude-china-idUSL3N18F23B

    Attached Files
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    Libyan factions agree in principle on unified oil structure: foreign minister


    Rival factions have agreed in principle to have one oil organization for strife-torn Libya, the foreign minister in the new U.N.-backed, national unity government said on Tuesday.

    The West is counting on the unity government to gradually end armed anarchy in the OPEC member state, tackle Islamic State militants and stop new flows of migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe, though the new leaders still lack effective control over the capital city Tripoli.

    "These institutions can only be managed centrally. That's why it was agreed that both institutions from east and west be united, so that there is only one oil company, one investment company and one central bank," Foreign Minister Mohammed Siyala told reporters in Vienna.

    "The first steps to achieve this are being taken now, there is an agreement on the basic points and principles and now we're waiting for the implementation."

    Libya, an OPEC member, will resume oil shipments from the port of Marsa El Hariga after a deal reached at talks in Vienna between rival oil officials representing the east and west of the country, Libyan oil sources said on Monday.

    Exports from Marsa El Hariga have been blocked for two weeks due to a standoff between the rival national oil corporations in the east and west of the vast OPEC member state.

    Asked on Tuesday about the time frame for the first oil exports, Siyala said:

    "You know that sanctions against Libya existed... Now it's up to us. There is already a shipment from the official ports and with international agreement and under international rules and I believe that oil exports, be they from the eastern or western ports, will return to what they used to be."

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-minister-idUSKCN0Y814E
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    Drought triggers unusual thirst for gasoil in Asia


    Hit hard by an El Nino-induced drought, some Asian countries are witnessing an unusual spike in gasoil demand for power generation with water shortage severely curtailing hydro power generation, especially when the crop season is drawing near.

    Analysts said that while India, Pakistan and Vietnam are witnessing a spike in demand, Malaysia is also facing dry weather in many areas but has not yet boosted gasoil imports. The market, though, is keeping a close eye on any additional demand from Malaysia.

    "Across Asia, we have seen a significant switch to diesel in the power sector due to the drought. We have also seen air conditioning demand soar, supporting gasoil demand further," said Amrita Sen, Chief Oil Analyst at Energy Aspects.

    In India, state-run oil firms have been issuing rare gasoil import tenders to tide over the crisis. Some Vietnamese importers have also sharply raised their gasoil imports. And Pakistan State Oil, or PSO, recently stepped into the international market, in an unusual move, to import gasoil.

    "The El Nino conditions have meant that India has had two successive years of below-normal rainfall. If weak rainfall persists for a third year, agri-based diesel demand may continue to accelerate," Macquarie said in a recent research report on India's oil sector.

    The agriculture sector contributes to about 13% of India's overall diesel demand. It is heavily dependent on rainfall, and diesel pumps supplant irrigation supply. A fall in hydro-electricity generation has also meant more diesel is needed to run gen-sets in times of electricity shortage at homes and commercial establishments.

    All this implies that weak rainfall almost always results in boosting diesel demand growth, Macquarie added.

    Under the El Nino weather phenomenon, warm water spreads from the west Pacific and the Indian Ocean to the east Pacific, causing extensive drought in the western Pacific and rainfall in the normally dry eastern Pacific.

    In India, gasoil imports have gone up significantly over the past few months, partly triggered by water scarcity in the country that led state-owned refiner Mangalore Refining and Petrochemicals Ltd. to idle some units, and partly due to state-owned refiners switching to imports instead of buying from private refiners Essar Oil and Reliance Industries, market sources said.

    http://www.platts.com/latest-news/oil/singapore/analysis-drought-triggers-unusual-thirst-for-27581582
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    Shell Looks to Offload $40B In Non-Core Assets


    Royal Dutch Shell plc is divesting US$40 billion in non-core assets in its attempt to cut capital expenditures and raise cash in a desperate attempt to right its balance sheet wrongs after its takeover of BG Group plc earlier this year left it strapped for cash and laden with nearly US$81 billion worth of debt.

    The costly merger at a time of depressed oil prices has rendered Shell the largest published owned company in the UK and the largest producer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world.

    Shell’s massive debt rose from US$43.84 billion to US$80.87 billion from Q1FY15 to Q1FY16, while free cash flow fell from US$.53 billion to -$5.06 billion over the same period.

    Unfortunately for Shell, as far as oil assets go, it’s a buyer’s market, with drilling rigs and the like selling for 10 percent of their value during “normal” times. But divest it must, so it’s quite possible that Shell will be forced to take drastic measures and issue an initial public offering (IPO) to lighten its load.

    Simon Henry, Shell’s CFO, confirmed that an IPO was a possible solution, and that he expected this move would help to lower Shell’s net debt by over $50 billion over the next four years. “There are no prima facie reasons why we would not look at such a monetization route, if that was the best way to create value.”

    An IPO of Shell’s mature assets would allow Shell to still benefit from any future oil recovery, if there is indeed an oil recovery on the horizon.

    A decision on how to implement the divestment is not expected anytime soon, although analyst Aneek Haq of Exane BNP Paribas believes that an IPO announcement could be made within a year.

    http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Shell-Looks-to-Offload-40B-In-Non-Core-Assets.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+oilpricecom+%28Oil+Price.com+Daily+News+Update%29
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    Petrobras raises $6.75 billion in return to global bond markets


    State-controlled Petróleo Brasileiro SA raised $6.75 billion on Tuesday from a sale of five- and 10-year dollar-denominated bonds, in a closely watched return to global debt markets after the suspension of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

    The sale is the first by any Brazilian company since June and the first to test investor sentiment toward Brazil since Rousseff was ousted last week to face an impeachment trial. Petrobras, as the firm is known, will also buy back up to $3 billion of debt maturing in 2018.

    Investors have said Petrobras, which for years was Rousseff's main tool to enact policies that helped drive Brazil into a recession not seen in eight decades, could gain most from the change in Brazil's leadership. Rousseff forced Petrobras to borrow beyond capacity to bolster her Workers Party's political agenda. The company is the world's most indebted oil firm.

    In a strong sign of backing for a company that has been the largest emerging market corporate borrower in recent decades, investors placed more than $20 billion worth of bids for the new securities, according to three sources directly involved with the transaction. They asked to remain anonymous because terms of the deal are private.

    The deal could help pave the way for other Brazilian companies to raise money in a "very gradual" reopening of debt markets, as optimism mounts that Rousseff's exit may usher in the implementation of more business-friendly policies, said Eduardo Vieira, an analyst with Deutsche Bank Securities in New York.

    "Petrobras needed to tap the market, since one of the company's pressing issues was liquidity," he said.

    The sale is Petrobras' first attempt to place global bonds since a $2.5 billion offer of bonds maturing in 2115 last June. The company borrowed from Chinese lenders in recent months to counter the impact of plunging oil prices, restricted access to capital markets and fallout from the sweeping corruption scandal that accelerated Rousseff's fall.

    The company sold $5 billion in five-year notes at 8.625 percent and $1.75 billion in 10-year notes at 9 percent. Petrobras had last sold similar debt in March 2014, bearing interest of 4.875 percent and 6.256 percent, respectively.

    "It may turn out to be a costly deal, even if the market response turns out to be very positive," Vieira said.

    Yields on Petrobras' shorter-termed bonds had surged in recent months on concern the company could have trouble refinancing $18 billion in notes maturing between next year and 2019, one of the sources said.

    Last week, Chief Financial Officer Ivan Monteiro said on a conference call to discuss Petrobras' first-quarter results that an eventual market reopening could help the company pay down debts coming within the next five years.

    Petrobras has $33 billion of bonds coming due within the next five years, or about 60 percent of outstanding bond debt.

    "We need to adjust to the fact that we are no longer an investment-grade company," Monteiro said last week. "The cost has risen."

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-petrobras-bonds-idUSKCN0Y82NG
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    Brazil Regulator Renews Two Petrobras Offshore Leases For 27 years


    Brazilian petroleum regulator ANP said on Tuesday that it extended state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA's concessions to explore and produce oil from the Marlim and Voador offshore fields for 27 years, to 2052.

    The extensions were made to help facilitate new investment in the fields, which require new wells, production equipment and other capital spending to help maintain their declining output, the ANP said in a statement.

    Petrobras is struggling with low oil prices, nearly $130 billion of debt and stagnant output.

    The ANP, though, has pressured the company to use more of its shrinking investment budget to improve output in Marlim and other Campos Basin offshore fields near Rio de Janeiro.

    These fields have been declining nearly as fast as Petrobras can add new output. Their decline has also deprived the state of royalties and other taxes in the midst of a recession.

    To cut debt and increase its investment budget, Petrobras is seeking to sell $14 billion of asset this year, including stakes in existing fields or prospects. Extending the rights to the fields and their oil and gas could make selling them, or raising debt to finance improvements, easier for Petrobras.

    Marlim, Brazil's fifth-most-productive field in March, has output of about 150,000 barrels of oil a day and about 2 million cubic meters (70.8 million cubic feet) a day of natural gas, the ANP said.

    Voador, which will soon reconnect its wells to a new floating production platform in Marlim, produces about 1,520 barrels a day of oil and 38,000 cubic meters of gas.

    - See more at: http://www.rigzone.com/news/oil_gas/a/144568/Brazil_Regulator_Renews_Two_Petrobras_Offshore_Leases_For_27_years#sthash.o8BIPaoT.dpuf
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    Chevron close to restarting Gorgon LNG’s Train 1


    Chevron has reportedly started work in order to begin the pipe cooling and pre-start activities in order to resume production at its $54 billion Gorgon LNG plant on Barrow Island in Australia.

    The facility halted production soon after the first cargo was shipped in March due to a mechanical issue in the propane refrigerant circuit on Train 1.

    Chevron’s spokeswoman told The West Australian, the start-up activities on Train 1 are under way with the production set to resume in the coming weeks.

    Additionally, the spokeswoman noted construction activities on the second and third production train continued without effects on the timing.

    Chevron did say, following the refrigerant circuit failure, the repairs would last 30 to 60 days, and Joe Geagea, the company’s executive vice president for technology, projects and services, at the end of April said the restart could be expected in May.

    Prior to the mechanical failure, Train 1 production peaked at nearly 90,000 barrels of oil equivalent and Chevron still expects the ramp-up to full capacity over the next six to eight months, despite the issue.

    Chevron did not comment on the costs of the repair works tipped to be up to $200 million.

    According to the report by The West Australian, the project’s second LNG cargo, destined for LNG giant Shell, is expected to leave Barrow Island by the end of this month.

    At full capacity, the plant on Barrow Island will have the capacity to produce 15.6 mtpa of LNG using feed gas from the Gorgon and Jansz-Io gas fields, located within the Greater Gorgon area, between 80 miles (130 km) and 136 miles (220 km) off the northwest coast of Western Australia.

    http://www.lngworldnews.com/report-chevron-close-to-restarting-gorgon-lngs-train-1/
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    Rockhopper vs the Shales.



    An independent audit showed that the best estimate of contingent resources -- also known as 2C resources -- at the Sea Lion complex came in at 517 million barrels, of which London-based Rockhopper’s share is 258 million barrels, it said Tuesday in a statement.

    Today’s announcement is higher than the 482 million barrels Bank of Montreal was expecting.

    “It adds to confidence on the prospectivity of the region,” David Round, an analyst at BMO, said by e-mail. “But there remain a number of hurdles, namely the oil price, before the resources can be commercialized.”

    Shares in Rockhopper gained as much as 6.2 percent to trade at 38.75 pence a share in London, the highest in two weeks. They were 3.4 percent higher as of 9:17 a.m. Premier Oil Plc, a London-based explorer with a 60 percent stake in Sea Lion, gained 2.9 percent to 79.75 pence a share.

    “The current size of Sea Lion at over 500 million barrels is good to see, helping confirm a significant second phase beyond the current development,” Daniel Slater, research director at Arden Partners Plc, said in a note.

    The 2010 Sea Lion oil discovery was the first off the Falklands, the south Atlantic archipelago which Margaret Thatcher fought to keep British in 1982. No discovery there has yet been commercially productive.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-17/rockhopper-confirms-potential-of-falklands-basin-oil-discovery

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    Greece, partners sign off Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to widen gas supply


    Five countries in south-east Europe formally signed off on the construction of a pipeline which will transport Caspian gas to European markets in an attempt to ease their reliance on Russia.

    The 870-km (540-mile) Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is part of the so-called "Southern Corridor" that will link Azerbaijan's giant Shah Deniz II field with Italy, crossing through Georgia, Turkey, Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea. It is the largest endeavour to bring new supply sources to European consumers.

    "The energy map of south-east Europe is being redefined and this turns Greece into an energy hub of the region," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said at an inauguration ceremony in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Tuesday.

    The 5-billion-euro project will cross through Georgia, Turkey, Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea. European regulators cleared the project in March as part of Europe's drive to secure energy supplies.

    Around 10 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year of Azeri gas should reach Europe by 2020 through TAP as well as the South Caucasus Pipeline through Georgia and the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) through Turkey.

    "We are inaugurating an important part of one of the largest and most complex projects in the history of energy industry," said Georgian Prime Minister Georgy Kvirikashvili.

    "Georgia, as a transit country, reiterates its commitment to the diversification of energy supplies to Europe."

    TAP is owned by BP, Azeri state energy firm SOCAR, Italy's Snam, Belgian company Fluxys, Spain's Enagas and Axpo. Construction is expected to begin this summer.

    The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is considering financing of up to 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for TAP, which would be the largest loan it has granted.

    Total project costs - which include drilling, offshore platforms and terminals as well as pipelines - are $45 billion and the entire pipeline route will span 3,500 km, with TAP the final link into Europe.

    Cash-strapped Greece has been seeking to boost its role as a regional energy hub and has said that TAP fitted well with another gas pipeline scheme, Interconnnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB), and a planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) project off the northern Greek city of Alexandroupolis.

    Government officials say the project is expected to create some 8,000 direct jobs in country with a record unemployment of 24 percent and will mean hundreds of millions of euros in contracts for Greek firms which will take part in construction works.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/azerbaijan-pipeline-greece-idUSL5N18D1HW
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    Williams Announces Open Season for Northeast Supply Enhancement


    Williams has pre-filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the the Northeast Supply Enhancement project–a project to expand the Transco pipeline to increase pipeline capacity and flows heading into northeastern markets.

    Yesterday Williams announced an official, “binding” open season for the project–to sign customers to long-term contracts to use the expanded capacity…

    http://marcellusdrilling.com/2016/05/williams-announces-open-season-for-northeast-supply-enhancement/
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    Alternative Energy

    UNSW solar team achieves huge leap in solar cell efficiency


    Australia’s leading solar research scientists have achieved another significant milestone, reporting a huge leap in solar cell efficiency that could in time lead to a quantum reduction in solar power costs.

    A University of NSW team led by the renowned Professor Martin Green and Dr Mark Keevers (pictured above) has reported a new world efficiency record for solar cells using unfocussed sunlight, the sort of light that falls on the rooftop solar modules on homes and businesses.

    The striking part of the new record is that it is so far ahead of previous achievements – 34.5 per cent instead of 24 per cent – and is edging closer to the theoretical limits of sunlight to electricity conversion – and more than three decades before recent predictions.

    It also sets the scene for another step change in the cost of solar – which is already falling below 3c/kWh in recent contracts, and is set to become unbeatable in terms of levellised cost of energy across all energy sources. Future modules will be smaller, more powerful, and will provide cheaper power.

    More from UNSW on the technology details of their breakthrough:

    “The record-setting UNSW mini-module combines a silicon cell on one face of a glass prism, with a triple-junction solar cell on the other.

    “The triple-junction cell targets discrete bands of the incoming sunlight, using a combination of three layers: indium-gallium-phosphide; indium-gallium-arsenide; and germanium.

    “As sunlight passes through each layer, energy is extracted by each junction at its most efficient wavelength, while the unused part of the light passes through to the next layer, and so on.

    “Some of the infrared band of incoming sunlight, unused by the triple-junction cell, is filtered out and bounced onto the silicon cell, thereby extracting just about all of the energy from each beam of sunlight hitting the mini-module.

    “The 34.5% result with the 28 cm2 mini-module is already a world record, but scaling it up to a larger 800-cm2 – thereby leaping beyond Alta Devices’ 24% – is well within reach.

    “There’ll be some marginal loss from interconnection in the scale-up, but we are so far ahead that it’s entirely feasible,” Keevers said. The theoretical limit for such a four-junction device is thought to be 53%, which puts the UNSW result two-thirds of the way there.

    “Multi-junction solar cells of this type are unlikely to find their way onto the rooftops of homes and offices soon, as they require more effort to manufacture and therefore cost more than standard crystalline silicon cells with a single junction. But the UNSW team is working on new techniques to reduce the manufacturing complexity, and create cheaper multi-junction cells.

    http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/unsw-solar-team-achieves-huge-leap-in-solar-cell-efficiency-29541
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    Shell to create new green energy division


    Oil giant Shell is to create a separate division focused on renewable energy and low carbon projects.

    Dubbed ‘New Energies’, it will bring together hydrogen, biofuels and green projects such as wind and solar.

    According to Shell’s CEO Ben van Beurden, the firm has invested $1.7 billion (£1.1bn) in the new division and are currently spending around $200m (£138m) a year to explore and develop new energy opportunities.

    He added: “Shell has invested in renewables, such as wind, solar and biofuels for many years but New Energies is more than traditional renewables. The theme spans the digital revolution, more electrification, especially in transport, more customers with more choice on energy mix.

    “It’s an exciting and fast moving landscape. We’ve made the decision that Shell will build on its existing foundations in renewables and put a lot more emphasis on New Energies going forward.”

    The announcement follows a report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative which stated big oil and gas companies could be collectively worth $100 billion (£69bn) more if they align their investment plans with the 2˚C target.

    Last month, Shell unveiled a new car which it claims could help deliver material reductions in energy use in the road transport sector.

    http://www.energylivenews.com/2016/05/17/shell-to-create-new-green-energy-division/
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    TerraForm Global delays first-quarter report


    TerraForm Global Inc, a unit of bankrupt U.S. solar energy company SunEdison Inc, said it could not file its report for the quarter ended March 31.

    TerraForm Global, one of SunEdison's "yieldcos", said it has not yet filed its financial report for 2015. The company said in April its lenders had agreed to give it another month to file its annual report after it missed the March 30 deadline.

    The company said on Tuesday it was continuing to see if SunEdison's delay in filing its annual report could affect TerraForm Global's reports.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-terraformglobal-results-idUSKCN0Y81R9
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    Agriculture

    Syngenta offer deadline extended as regulators probe deal



    The deadline for shareholders in Swiss pesticides maker Syngenta to accept a $43 billion takeover bid from state-owned ChemChina has been extended to allow for some outstanding regulatory approvals, the company said on Tuesday.

    Syngenta said the offer will now run from May 24 to July 18.

    "We don't have all the regulatory approvals yet," a Syngenta spokesman said, adding the company still expected the deal to close by year end.

    ChemChina has previously said that the offer period, which initially would have expired on May 23, could be renewed several times for subsequent periods of up to 40 trading days.

    People familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has agreed to join the U.S. government panel that is reviewing the deal.

    The move will subject the transaction to additional U.S. government scrutiny and comes after lawmakers called for the USDA be involved in the review so that the impact of the transaction on domestic food security could be better assessed.

    Shares in Syngenta, which have traded at a discount to ChemChina's offer of $465 (455 Swiss francs) per share plus a special dividend of 5 francs, were 0.7 percent lower at 390.7 francs at 1355 GMT while the broader Swiss market slipped 0.4 percent.

    Switzerland-based traders said the discount would likely persist for now, given the delay.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-syngenta-offerperiod-idUSKCN0Y80NN
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    Monsanto suspends new soybean technologies in Argentina


    The dispute blew up after Monsanto asked Argentine exporters to inspect soybean shipments to ensure growers had paid royalties for using the company's products. The Argentine government told the world's largest seed company that such inspections must first be approved by the government.

    The U.S. company issued a statement saying it was "disappointed" that talks with the Argentine government had not yielded an agreement on the inspection issue.

    "The company plans to take measures to protect its current assets and will suspend launching any future soybean technologies in the country," Monsanto said in the statement.

    Argentina, the world's No. 1 exporter of soymeal livestock feed, relies heavily on Monsanto's genetic technology to produce soybeans.

    A spokeswoman for Argentina's agriculture ministry said the country's rules regarding soybean inspections were designed "to guarantee free trade and property rights."

    "If they (Monsanto) feel threatened, that's their prerogative," said the ministry spokeswoman.

    Soy farming has spread rapidly across Argentina's Pampas agricultural belt over the last 20 years, thanks in large part to the country's embrace of genetically modified seeds. The technology makes soy plants resistant to glyphosate herbicide, which kills most of the weeds that grow in Argentina.

    The pullout by Monsanto leaves Argentine growers without the company's new "Xtend" technology, aimed at increasing soy yields and controlling glyphosate-resistant broad leaf weeds. Pedro Vigneau, who farms 1,500 hectares in the bread basket province of Buenos Aires, said no other company offered the same technology that Xtend would provide.

    "This is not good news for us," said Vigneau. "We need the company and the government to reach an agreement in order to obtain the best technology we can get."

    Argentina last month issued a decree saying the government must authorize any grain inspection, dealing a blow to Monsanto's push for exporters to check cargoes.

    Monsanto has pressured shipping companies to notify it when crops grown with its technology are slated for export without documentation showing royalties had been paid.

    Argentina, the world's third biggest exporter of raw soybeans, is expected by the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange to harvest a 56-million-tonne crop this year. The estimate was cut from a previous forecast of 60 million tonnes due to floods that hit key farm areas in April.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/monsanto-argentina-idUSL2N18E1ON
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    Precious Metals

    De Beers and Namibia sign 10-year sales agreement


    De Beers and the Namibian government have signed a 10 year sales agreement, the resources group said.

    The agreement gives Namdeb — in which De Beers and the Namibian government are equal partners — the right to sort, value and sell diamonds for the next 10 years. Namdeb is one of Namibia’s largest taxpayers and the country’s biggest foreign exchange generator, contributing more than a fifth of Namibia’s foreign earnings.

    "This sales agreement — the longest ever between Namibia and De Beers — not only secures long-term supply for De Beers, but also ensures that Namibia’s diamonds will continue to play a key role in national socioeconomic development long into the future," De Beers CEO Philippe Mellier said.

    Anglo said there would be a significant increase in rough diamonds made available for beneficiation as a result of the agreement, with $430m of rough diamonds being offered annually to Namibia Diamond Trading Company customers. As part of the agreement, all Namdeb’s special stones will be made available for sale in Namibia.

    In addition, the agreement provides for 15% of Namdeb’s run-of-mine production a year to be made available to a government-owned independent sales company called Namib Desert Diamonds.

    "Diamonds can have a powerful and transformative effect on a country’s prospects when effectively managed and I commend our partners in government for their vision regarding the role of diamonds in national development," Mellier said.

    "This new agreement cements Namibia’s position as an important international diamond player and will provide further stimulus to advance our downstream industry. De Beers and Namibia have a longstanding and successful partnership and I am pleased we will continue working together for the benefit of Namibia and the diamond industry," Namibian Minister of Mines and Energy Obeth Kandjoze said.

    http://www.bdlive.co.za/business/mining/2016/05/17/de-beers-and-namibia-sign-10-year-sales-agreement
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    Base Metals

    Copper purification system to cut shipping costs


    New technology to improve the purification process of minerals will allow a major Australian miner to significantly reduce shipping costs.

    South Australian company OZ Minerals has designed a refining process that allows it to increase the quality of its copper concentrate and exponentially reduce export costs.

    OZ Minerals’ hydromet technology improves the leaching process and purifies copper concentrate by reducing the amount of iron.

    Project Director at the company’s Carrapateena mine Brett Triffett said hydromet’s unique ability allowed it to significantly reduce the shipping weight, which would save the company tens of millions of dollars in export fees.

    “We were planning on producing a product that was about 40 per cent copper and that product would be shipped to our customers in Asia and Europe and they would make that into something that was 100 per cent copper,” he said.

    “It’s a leeching process. We take that 40 per cent product and use a combination of reagents to dissolve the iron out of the concentrate. It then upgrades it to the targeted 60 per cent.”

    The majority of mines around the world produce copper concentrations between 24 to 40 per cent.

    Trifett said having a higher concentrate percentage not only increases its monetary value but also simplifies the smelting process.

    “We have the potential to take this technology and apply it to our other operations in Australia and also other mines overseas as well,” he said.

    “We hope it will give us a competitive advantage to develop projects that would not otherwise have been able to be developed at the moment because of the quality of their copper concentrate.

    “This process is unique to us. We’ve done it to suit our concentrate and there is no one else in the world that’s doing anything like this.”

    The company is currently engineering a plant and finalising costs to demonstrate the feasibility of the process.

    http://www.mining.com/web/copper-purification-system-to-cut-shipping-costs/
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    Steel, Iron Ore and Coal

    Global coal consumption to increase 15pct by 2040, EIA


    The global coal consumption is expected to increase only 15% on year by 2040, instead of 18%, if the Clean Power Plan (CPP), unveiled by US President Barack Obama in August 2015, really takes effect, sources learned from a report released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

    According to the report, the current coal use has reduced dramatically form the level ten years ago. In the future, coal-fired power generation will increase at an annual rate of only 0.6%, and it may account for only 28-29% of the total electricity output by 2040, compared with 40% in 2012.

    Meanwhile, power generation from natural gas and renewable energies—including hydropower—is expected to rise to 28-29% by 2040. Other power supply will mainly come from nuclear power generation.

    The declining coal burns and increasing renewable energies utilization in power generation are the trend for most countries across the globe, and carbon dioxide emissions will be greatly reduced, said Sieminski, head of EIA.

    If CPP really takes effect, renewable energies will have more room to thrive while coal consumption is dipping. It may exert much influence on US coal industry, though little impact on global coal consumption situations, he added.

    A report released by EIA at the end of 2014 has already forecasted a 15% growth of global coal consumption by 2040, yet nearly 67% of the increase will occur in next ten years. And China’s coal demand accounts for 50% of the world, which will decline by 2030.

    http://en.sxcoal.com/0/146255/DataShow.html
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    U.S. sets steep duties on imports of Chinese cold-rolled steel


    The United States slapped Chinese steelmakers with final import duties of 522 percent on cold-rolled flat steel on Tuesday after finding that their products were being sold in the U.S. market below cost and with unfair subsidies.

    The U.S. Commerce Department said the duties effectively will increase by more than five-fold the import prices on Chinese-made cold-rolled flat steel products, which totaled $272.3 million in 2015.

    Cold-rolled steel is primarily used in automotive body panels, appliances, shipping containers and construction.

    The rulings by the Commerce Department come amid escalating U.S.-China trade tensions, especially in the steel sector, where both U.S. and European producers claim China has distorted world pricing by dumping its excess output abroad as demand at home slows.

    The original complaint was filed in July 2015 by major U.S. producers United States Steel, AK Steel Corp, ArcelorMittal USA [ARCMTR.UL], Nucor Corp and Steel Dynamics Inc. U.S. steel producers say they have laid off some 12,000 U.S. workers in the past year.

    Commerce also levied final anti-dumping duties against Japanese-made cold-rolled steel of 71.35 percent, upholding preliminary findings. About $138.6 million of these products were imported from Japan last year.

    Chinese companies affected by the duties include Baosteel Group, Angang Group Hong Kong Holdings Ltd, and Benxi Iron and Steel (Group) Special Steel Co Ltd. Among Japanese producers affected are Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp and JFE Steel Corp.

    For Chinese cold-rolled steel imports, Commerce upheld its preliminary anti-dumping duties of 265.79 percent, but increased its preliminary anti-subsidy duties to 256.44 percent from 227.29 percent.

    In a separate case, U.S. Steel is seeking to halt all imports from China's top steelmakers.

    In a complaint to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), the U.S. steelmaker called on regulators to investigate dozens of Chinese producers and their distributors for allegedly conspiring to fix prices, stealing trade secrets and circumventing trade duties by false labeling.

    Beijing has defended itself against the allegations, saying it has done enough to reduce steel capacity and blaming global excess and weak demand for the industry's woes.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-steel-idUSKCN0Y82ER

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    China says to support steel exports as U.S. imposes hefty tariffs


    China said it would persist with controversial tax rebates to steel exporters to support the sector's painful restructuring programme, defying a United States move to impose punitive import duties on Chinese steel products.

    A worldwide steel glut has become a major trade irritant, with China under fire from global rivals who say it is dumping cheap exports after a slowdown in demand at home.

    In a marked escalation of the spat, the United States on Tuesday said it would impose duties of more than 500 percent on Chinese cold-rolled flat steel, which is widely used for cars body panels, appliances and construction.

    However, China's Ministry of Finance, said it would "continue to implement a tax rebate policy on steel exports" as it tries to finance a costly capacity closure plan.

    China, by far the world's largest steel producer, plans to eliminate 100-150 million tonnes of annual production - more than U.S. produces per year - over the next five years.

    The ministry said China was making special funds available to curb overcapacity in both the steel and the coal sectors, and would reward local authorities for exceeding their targets and meeting them early.

    The policy document, though dated May 10, was published just hours after the U.S. tariffs were announced. It is the latest policy announced by different departments including the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security to push forward the overcapacity cut.

    The U.S. Commerce Department said on Tuesday the new duties effectively will increase by more than five-fold the import prices on Chinese-made cold-rolled flat steel products, which totaled $272.3 million in 2015. It found that products were being sold in the U.S. market below cost and with unfair subsidies.

    China's commerce ministry expressed its "strong dissatisfaction" with ruling and said the United States should rectify its mistakes as soon as possible.

    "The United States adopted many unfair methods during the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese products, including the refusal to grant Chinese state-owned firms a differentiated tax rate," the ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

    The Group of Seven rich nations plans to address the steel glut when it meets in Japan later this month, in a move seen likely to add to pressure on China.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/usa-china-steel-idUSL2N18F049

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