Mark Latham Commodity Equity Intelligence Service

Friday 4th December 2015
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    BHP Billiton CEO bearish on commodities price outlook

    Top global miner BHP Billiton is bearish on the outlook for commodity prices in the long term, but remains bullish on demand growth based on the rise of Asian economies, its CE said on Thursday. 

    "The first thing I would say is we're relatively bearish about the long term projections for prices," CE Andrew Mackenzie said following a speech in Melbourne. 

    He said the only way to compete in a world where there was ample capacity to meet the needs of countries like China was to keep cutting costs, as BHP and its rivals are doing, which means prices will keep coming down. 

    "That is the spirit of competition that we play in," he said. "But, yes, I am optimistic about the long term growth in demand, because I know the kind of resources it requires to push three, four billion people into the middle classes, particularly in Asia, and the kind of consumption that will come from that.

    " While iron ore prices have slumped to decade lows as steel mills in China, the world's biggest producer and user of steel, battle a downturn, Mackenzie questioned forecasts by Chinese steel makers that production would stabilise around 500 or 600 million tonnes a year. 

    BHP and the world's other mega-producers of iron ore still expect Chinese steel production to peak around 1 billion tonnes in the next decade. "I think China will be producing a lot more steel than the 600 million tonnes a year that you're talking about, and some for a while," he said in response to a question after his speech at a University of Melbourne function. 

    "We shouldn't forget that China is turning out to be a much more effective exporter of its steel products than many people thought." China's steel consumption per head would need to roughly double to get to the typical point where an economy is self-sustaining in steel through recycling. 

    "If China really wants to get along a path towards full development, it does have to get on with further construction of a number of things, including machinery and cars, and that will require more steel to be produced," Mackenzie said. He said he would "nudge his bearishness up a bit" if China took a long time to push ahead with that construction.

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    Oil and Gas

    Ambrose on Oil


    They are at the mercy of opaque palace politics in Riyadh that few understand. Helima Croft, a former analyst for the US Central Intelligence Agency and now at RBC Capital Markets, says the only man who now matters is the deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

    The headstrong 30-year-old has amassed all the power as minister of defence, chairman of Aramco and head of the Kingdom's top economic council, much to the annoyance of the old guard. "He is running everything and it comes down to whether he thinks Saudi Arabia can take the pain for another year," she said.

    The pretence that all is well in the Kingdom is wearing thin. Austerity is becoming too visible. A leaked order from King Salman - marked "highly urgent" - freezes new hiring and halts public procurement, even down to cars and furniture.

    The question for Prince Mohammed is whether it is worth pushing his oil strategy to the limit, even to the point of rupturing Opec. "They want to prevent a horrible family feud breaking out into the open, but what will they do if countries threaten to revoke their Opec membership?" asked Dr Croft.

    Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro, says his country will lay out plans for a 5pc cut in Opec production, trimming global supply by 1.5m barrels a day (b/d).

    For months he has been in despair, protesting bitterly as the Gulf strategy cuts off half his funding and drives the Chavista revolution into its final agonies. Yet all of a sudden he is strangely cheerful.

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    Saudi Light in EU breaking to new lows.

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    Iran, Russia reject cuts Saudi floated

    Saudi Arabia appears to have floated the idea of a global deal to balance oil markets and lift prices from around the lowest levels in six years although fellow producers Iran and Russia on Thursday rejected its main idea of cutting output.

    A Saudi source said later the report was "baseless" but declined further comment and a source at Energy Intelligence said it stood by its story.

    Saudi Arabia has long insisted it would cut production only if fellow OPEC members and non-OPEC countries joined in. The report quoted a senior OPEC delegate as saying the Saudis would agree to cuts if Iraq freezes production rises and Iran and non-members such as Russia, Mexico, Oman and Kazakhstan contribute.

    Russia, along with important OPEC member Iran which wants to increase output after years of Western sanctions, looked unlikely to change position. OPEC will hold a policy meeting in Vienna on Friday with informal talks taking place on Thursday.

    "We do not accept any discussion about increases of Iran production after the lifting of sanctions. It is our right and anyone cannot limit us to do it. We will not accept anything in this regard," Iranian oil minister Bijan Zangeneh told reporters in Vienna.

    "And we do not expect out colleagues in OPEC to put pressure on us... It is not acceptable, it's not fair."

    Iran will raise production by up to 1 million barrels per day following years of forced curbs because of the sanctions over its atomic programme, he added.

    Russian oil minister Alexander Novak told local news agency RIA that he saw no need for Moscow to decrease oil production, adding that he did not expect OPEC to change output policies at its meeting on Friday.

    Saudi Arabia's proposal may also be seen as an attempt to head off calls for action from poorer OPEC members such as Venezuela, but the conditions are tough to implement.

    " It is very difficult to cut one million bpd collectively. The Saudis do not want to change their previous talk. No cut without cooperation," a Gulf OPEC source told Reuters.

    "We would see this (idea of a deal) as an effort to provide psychological support to the market with slim chances of realisation," JBC Energy said in a research note.

    Read more at Reuters
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    Tanker Rates Lifting Again

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    Platts report: China oil demand grew by 8% year on year in October

    China's apparent* oil demand rose 7.9% in October from a year earlier to 10.97 million barrels per day (b/d), according to the Platts China Oil Analytics report on the latest Chinese government data.

    Growth in China's apparent demand was driven by rising demand for gasoline, jet fuel/kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and fuel oil. Demand for gasoil declined by 3.4% year over year.

    China's refinery throughput in October averaged 10.46 million b/d, up 1.6% from a year earlier, data from the country's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed November 11.

    Meanwhile, China's net imports of oil products surged 51% year on year to 503,000 b/d in October, driven by strong inflows of LPG, fuel oil and naphtha, according to data from the General Administration of Customs.

    During the first ten months of this year, China's total apparent oil demand averaged 11.11 million b/d, an increase of 7.5% from the same period of 2014.

    Platts China's oil demand to rise by 585,000 b/d or 5.6% year over year in 2015.

    "We are maintaining our view that apparent demand growth in 2016 will ease to under 2% on the back of slowing economic growth momentum," said Platts China Oil Analytics senior analyst Yen Ling Song.
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    China expected to double strategic oil purchases next year

    China is likely to double its strategic crude oil purchases next year as one of the biggest ever price routs spurs a buying spree that would offer some support to battered markets for the commodity.

    Beijing will add 70-90 million barrels of crude to storage tanks in 2016 to build up its strategic petroleum reserves (SPR), according to most respondents in a poll of five analysts and data collected by Reuters analysts.

    That is the equivalent to almost a fortnight's worth of average Chinese imports and would help push the country's overall oil purchases to record levels, challenging the United States as the world's top importer.

    "Next year, stockpiling is going to play a bigger role (in China) than this year," said Wendy Yong at energy consultancy FGE.

    China's secretive SPR build-up, which the government wants to raise to OECD-standards of 90 days' worth of import demand, started in 2006 as part of a drive to become more energy independent. The government's National Development & Reform Commission did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

    Researchers at FGE, consultancy ICIS and bank Barclays estimated that China would double crude imports for SPR facilities to 70-80 million barrels next year, versus 30-40 million barrels in 2015, while other analysts said the volume could be higher still.

    "There is still significant spare capacity in China's SPR, which can take in another 12 million tonnes of crude (88 million barrels)," said Yaw Yan Chong, Asia director at Thomson Reuters Oil Research and Forecasts, which he said the government would try to fill provided prices remain relatively low.

    He added that this was equivalent to 66 percent of remaining capacity in SPR facilities based on an analysis of China's import trade data.

    SPR imports of around 90 million barrels would take the reserve's total to over 300 million barrels, more than halfway towards the government's target of reaching 550 million barrels by 2020.

    Six new SPR sites, including some commercial assets being used for the programme, with a total capacity of 146 million barrels are under construction and experts expect most of them to be filled next year.

    But some senior Chinese traders were more cautious, arguing that a clampdown on safety after the deadly Tianjin port blast this year could delay new depots, stifling imports.

    Read more at Reuters

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    Anadarko signs deal to develop Mozambique LNG resources

    Anadarko has signed an agreement for the development of the massive natural gas resources that straddle two offshore blocks.

    The US giant, along with its partners in Offshore Areas 1 and 4 has signed a Unitisation and Unit Operating Agreement (UUOA) which will allow the blocks to be developed until 24 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves (12 Tcf from each area) have been developed.

    Mitch Ingram, Anadarko executive vice president of global LNG, said: “We have already made tremendous progress advancing the natural gas resources in the Golfinho and Atum fields that are fully contained within our block, and with this UUOA, we can also expect to move the Prosperidade and Mamba straddling reservoirs forward more efficiently, while capitalising on greater economies of scale.”

    All subsequent development of the unit will be pursued jointly by the Area 1 and Area 4 concessionaires through a joint-venture operator (50:50 Anadarko and Eni). The UUOA is subject to final approval by the government of Mozambique.

    Anadarko has also reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government to provide natural gas from its Mozambique LNG development for domestic use.

    Under the terms of the MOU, Offshore Area 1 will provide initial volumes of approximately 50 million cubic feet of natural gas per day (MMcf/d) per train (100 MMcf/d) for domestic use in Mozambique.

    The natural gas will be provided at pricing that is fair to all parties and supports local natural gas development.

    Anadarko is the operator of the Offshore Area 1 Block with a 26.5% working interest. Co-venturers include the national oil company (ENH), Mitsui E&P and Beas Rovuma Energy.

    Eni operates Offshore Area 4 with a 50% indirect interest owned through Eni East Africa (EEA), which holds 70% of Area 4. The other partners are Galp Rovuma (10%), KOGAS Mozambique (%) and ENH (10%). CNODC owns a 20% indirect participation in Area 4 through Eni East Africa.

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    Japan set to get more LNG than it needs

    The nation is probably set to receive more LNG than it needs, potentially forcing some purchasers in the world’s biggest user of the fuel to resell cargoes and add to a glut.

    Liquefied natural gas volumes contracted by Japanese buyers may exceed their combined demand from 2017 to 2021, according to a report compiled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

    The report, obtained by reporters, was distributed at a closed meeting attended by officials of the government and 14 companies including Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Jera Co. and Tokyo Gas Co.

    Japan in August restarted the first of reactors idled for safety checks in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster and a second in October, helping the nation reduce consumption of LNG for power generation. With more reactors expected to be back online in the coming years, the Japanese government estimates LNG demand will fall about 30 percent to 62 million metric tons by 2030, the METI report shows.

    “Given some of the contracts don’t have so-called destination clauses, it should be noted not all of the contracted volume would be necessarily supplied to Japan and Asia,”
    Junzo Tamamizu, the managing partner of Clavis Energy Partners LLC, a Tokyo-based consulting and advisory firm, wrote in an emailed reply to Bloomberg News questions.

    As LNG buyers are aware of a potential decline in future LNG demand, they will seek to secure more efficient and flexible contracts and work on developing an LNG trading business, Tamamizu wrote.

    Annual long-term LNG contracted volumes will probably peak at about 95 million tons in 2017, according to data in the METI report, which cited sources, including the International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers, and press releases. The volumes are expected to fall to about 90 million tons in 2018 and about 80 million tons in 2019 and 2020, according to the report.

    The International Energy Agency estimates Japan’s LNG demand will decline to 72 million tons by 2020, according to the report. Of less than 90 million tons procured by Japan in 2014, spot and short-term deals accounted for about 30 percent, according to the report.

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    Turkey row leaves Gazprom stuck with abandoned gas pipes worth billions

    Gas pipes worth 1.8 billion euros ($1.95 billion) are to be left stranded on the shores of the Black Sea after Russia's decision to suspend work on the Turkish Stream pipeline, a potent symbol of Moscow's falling out with Ankara.

    Russia has set out to punish Turkey after it shot down a Russian warplane in Syria last week, imposing trade sanctions and releasing data it claims proves Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is involved in illegal oil deals with Islamic State.

    Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters on Thursday work on Turkish Stream, a pipeline intended to pump Russian gas into southeastern Europe via Turkey while bypassing Ukraine, had been suspended.

    Shortly afterwards, the head of Italian oil major Eni , slated as one of the main buyers for the pipeline's gas, said the project was dead in the water.

    The decision leaves Russian energy giant Gazprom with miles of pipes only useable in the Black Sea.

    It ordered pipes from as far afield as Japan and Germany for the 2,400-kilometre (1,491-mile) South Stream pipeline, originally slated to open in 2018, which were then reassigned to Turkish Stream after the project was axed.

    Industry sources said the pipes can only be used for projects in the Black Sea because of their specialised construction. Gazprom will now be forced to put the pipes in storage until tensions between Moscow and Turkey subside.

    "These pipes were calibrated for a specific environment, pressure and capacity," said one source in the pipe-making industry. "Accordingly, they are only suitable for underwater pipelines in the Black Sea."

    Read more at Reuters

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    The Liquefied Natural Gas share price is down 52% this year, is it a buy?

    The Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (ASX: LNG) (“LNGL”) share price has more than halved since the start of this year, although shares have risen 0.9% or 1 cent today to $1.19.

    The major factor playing havoc with the share price is the falling US WTI benchmark oil price, which slipped below US$40 a barrel overnight. Oil is in a state of massive global oversupply after thousands of shale oil and gas wells were brought online over the past few years, particularly in the US.

    The global LNG market is also expected to be in oversupply as 15 processing ‘trains’ have recently been completed in Australia and Papua New Guinea from the likes of

    Despite the soaring number of drilling rigs sidelined, oil prices continue to fall, with oil companies focusing on the most productive fields and lowering production costs substantially.

    For LNGL, all this has major consequences. On the up side, it’s likely to reduce their input costs (buying gas from US suppliers) for its under-development Magnolia LNG export processing plant, as well as its Canadian Bear head LNG project.

    The problem is that falling oil prices will impact on gas prices, which are usually linked to the underlying oil price. That could see forecast revenues plunge and make both LNG projects commercially unviable.

    Already oil and gas producers UK-listed BG Group, Brazil’s Petronas and US-based Excelerate Energy have all reportedly deferred plans for LNG projects, with Excelerate stating that its project no longer met its financial criteria necessary to move forward.

    AS international LNG prices fall, the economics of exporting North American gas into global markets worsens, and could eventually mean that US LNG exports are commercially unviable.

    LNGL has also failed to hit a number of milestones for its Magnolia LNG project, and a number of milestones have blown out. The US$4.35 billion engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract recently signed with KBR-SKE&C joint venture was originally targeted for the fourth quarter of 2014 according to fund manager, Totus Capital.

    LNGL still needs to sign legally binding tolling agreements for 75% of Magnolia’s 8 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) capacity, with just a 2 mtpa agreement with Meridian LNG so far.

    Foolish takeaway

    LNGL is looking increasingly less likely to get its flagship Magnolia project into development, let alone any of its other LNG projects. Unless the company can show some solid progress, the share price could slide ever lower.

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    The top 20 US NatGas traders and pipelines

    Capacity Center has released its 8th Top Twenty Capacity Traders Report. During 2015, a few notable facts and several changes among the Top 20 have emerged. 

    For the past six years straight Tenaska has held the #1 position; however, for 2015 Sequent has earned top trader honors. Sequent traded an average daily equivalent pipeline capacity volume of over 5.8 Bcf/d outpacing second place Tenaska at just under 5.5 Bcf/d of pipeline capacity traded. In total transacted quantity, Sequent at 4,348 Bcf total traded in 1,440 deals nearly doubled Tenaska’s 2,214 Bcf total traded in 308 deals. 

    For the balance of the Top 5, Direct Energy and BP both retained Top 5 status each dropping one place to 3rd and 4th respectively, although they increased their daily traded quantities by 1.1 Bcf/d (Direct) and 0.5 Bcf/d (BP). 

    New to the Top 5 is NRG, which wasn’t even in the Top 20 last year, moving up 22 places within the Top 100 to earn the #5 slot. 2015 experienced much jockeying as several companies dramatically increased capacity trading to move up in the ranks of the Top 100 to earn a spot in the Top 20. 

    Among the Top 20 climbers: • Koch Industries moved up 21 places to #8 • ConocoPhillips moved up 19 places to #12 • Noble Energy moved up 32 places to #13 • BNP Paribas moved up 46 places to #14 • EDF Trading moved up 9 places to #15 • Texla moved up 18 places to #16

    Full details:
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    House passes energy bill axing oil export ban, Obama veto looms

    The U.S. House of Representatives passed a wide-ranging bill on energy reforms on Thursday that includes a measure to repeal the 40-year-old oil export ban, but the legislation did not get enough votes to overturn a potential veto by President Barack Obama.

    The North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act passed 249 to 174, but did not get the 290 votes needed to overcome a veto. The bill would also speed the permitting of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and improve the aging power grid.

    The White House said late last month that Obama would veto the bill as it would reduce the government's ability to consider LNG projects. That veto threat came before the lawmakers added an amendment to repeal the oil export ban, which Obama also opposes.

    The Senate is seen as unlikely to pass a bill that includes lifting the trade restriction amid concerns that more domestic drilling would harm the environment, lead to more oil being carried by trains, and hurt jobs at refineries.
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    Pipeline operator Enbridge raises dividend

    Enbridge Inc, Canada's largest pipeline company, raised its quarterly dividend to 53 Canadian cents per share from 46.5 Canadian cents, payable on March 1.

    The company also announced a five-year strategic plan, which includes a C$38 billion ($28.52 billion) growth program, of which C$25 billion is commercially secured and in execution.

    Calgary-based Enbridge said it expects 2016 adjusted earnings before interest and taxes in the range of C$4.4 billion to C$4.8 billion enterprise-wide.

    The company sees 2016 average annual available cash flow from operations (ACFFO) to be in the range of C$3.80 to C$4.50, up from its 2015 estimate of C$3.30 to C$4.00 per share.

    The increase in cash flow range for 2016 reflects growth from existing businesses, including projects brought on stream this year such as the Mainline Expansion Program and the Edmonton-to-Hardisty Pipeline.

    Read more at Reuters
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    Seneca Res. Cuts Deal with IOG Capital to Fund Up to 80 PA Wells

    Yesterday National Fuel Gas Company, the utility giant headquartered in Buffalo, NY and parent of Marcellus driller Seneca Resources, announced that Seneca has partnered up with energy investor IOG Capital to essentially fund Seneca’s Marcellus drilling program in Elk, McKean and Cameron counties in north-central Pennsylvania.

    The outlines of the deal are thus: IOG will provide the cash and Seneca will do the drilling on up to 80 Marcellus wells on 10,500 acres in the Clermont/Rich Valley area of PA. IOG will get an 80% working interest in the wells. In addition to drilling the wells, National Fuel’s midstream subsidiary will connect the wells and get the gas to market. What this deal means is that Marcellus drilling activity in the Clermont/Rich Valley area will pick up over the few years.

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    Chesapeake Energy Corporation Announces Private Exchange Offers For Senior Notes

    Chesapeake Energy Corporation yesterday announced the commencement of private offers of up to $1.5 billion aggregate principal amount (the "Maximum Exchange Amount") of its new 8.00% Senior Secured Second Lien Notes due 2022 (the "Second Lien Notes") in exchange for certain outstanding senior unsecured notes of the Company, upon the terms and subject to the conditions set forth in the Company's confidential offering memorandum and related letter of transmittal, each dated December 2, 2015.

    The following table sets forth each series of outstanding senior unsecured notes subject to the exchange offers (the "Existing Notes") and indicates the acceptance priority level for such series and the applicable consideration offered for such series in the exchange offers for the Existing Notes (the "Exchange Offers").

    (in millions)

    Principal Amount of Second Lien Notes(1)

    Title of Series



    Early Tender

    Late Tender

    6.25% euro-denominated senior notes due 2017






    6.5% senior notes due 2017






    7.25% senior notes due 2018






    Floating rate senior notes due 2019






    6.625% senior notes due 2020






    6.875% senior notes due 2020






    6.125% senior notes due 2021






    5.375% senior notes due 2021






    4.875% senior notes due 2022






    5.75% senior notes due 2023






    The Exchange Offers are being made only to Eligible Holders Eligible Holders must validly tender (and not withdraw) their Existing Notes at or prior to 5:00 p.m., New York City time, on December 15, 2015 (the "Early Tender Date"), in order to be eligible to receive the applicable "Early Tender Exchange Consideration" shown in the table above. Existing Notes tendered after the Early Tender Date but prior to the Expiration Date will be eligible to receive only the applicable "Late Tender Exchange Consideration" set out in such table.
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    How Continental Could Have Made $1 Billion More by Doing Nothing

    Continental Resources Inc. could have made $1 billion more this year by doing nothing.

    Instead, the company’s executives were so bullish on oil a year ago that they cashed out the insurance they’d bought to protect the company from a crash. Then crude prices plummeted, meaning Continental is missing out on an average of $2.8 million a day this year, according to calculations by Bloomberg.

    The lost opportunity was calculated using the public disclosures Continental made about its trades, the average price when they liquidated the contracts in October 2014, and the price of crude so far in 2015. While there’s no doubt Continental is losing out on significant hedge gains, the exact amount may be higher or lower depending on the specific pricing and timing of its trades.

    "Folks saw it as a risky move, and the company’s position was that they felt oil was going to do better," said Jason Wangler, an energy analyst at Wunderlich Securities Inc. in Houston. "It was a calculated gamble and it didn’t pay off."

    While Continental still has an investment-grade credit rating, revenue has dropped 45 percent in the past year and the company is still spending more on drilling than it earns selling oil and gas, company records show.

    Kristin Thomas, a spokeswoman for Continental, declined to comment beyond the information available in Continental’s regulatory filings.

    "They definitely left money on the table," said Leo Mariani, an energy analyst with RBC Capital Markets.

    Hedge Gains

    Contracts locking in higher prices have helped many shale drillers weather the downturn. The 61 companies in the Bloomberg Intelligence North America Independent Explorers and Producers index reaped a combined $4.3 billion from their hedges in the third quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

    Devon Energy Corp. has realized almost $2 billion on its hedges in the past year through Sept. 30, and Chesapeake Energy Corp. has collected $1.1 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from financial records filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. For some companies, derivatives accounted for 40 percent or more of revenue.

    Like its competitors, Continental also bought insurance. At the end of September 2014, Continental had contracts pegged to London-traded Brent crude that guaranteed the company would get paid as much as $100.85 a barrel through 2015, SEC records show. The contracts constituted the bulk of Continental’s 2015 hedges, covering an average of 67,500 barrels a day. Including additional 2015 hedges, the company had price protection for 81,500 barrels a day, more than half of its output.

    When prices started falling last year, that insurance became increasingly valuable. In October 2014, London-traded Brent for 2015 delivery had dropped to an average of $91 a barrel, which meant the bulk of Continental’s hedges were worth about $10 a barrel.

    Liquidating Hedges

    Believing the downturn wouldn’t last, Continental’s executives decided to cash out, Harold Hamm, Continental’s founder and chief executive officer, said in a November 2014 statement. They liquidated all of the company’s oil hedges, including contracts locking in prices for 2014 and 2016 production, reaping a one-time gain of $433 million.

    "We feel like we’re at the bottom rung here on prices and we’ll see them recover pretty drastically, pretty quick," Hamm told investors during a November 2014 earnings call.
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    Vantage Drilling announces restructuring plan, files for Chapter 11 protection

    Deep-water contractor Vantage Drilling unveiled Thursday a restructuring plan the company said will sort out its finances and enable its affiliate Offshore Group Investment to weather the ongoing oil and gas bust.

    Vantage said it had reached an agreement with lenders and creditors holding more than $1.6 billion of its subsidiary Offshore Group Investment Limited’s debt.

    The larger company filed for Chapter 11 protection in a Delaware court on Thursday and said it will present the plan to the court in mid-January. Other branches of the drilling venture will go through similar proceedings in Cayman Islands.

    The restructuring plan includes a $75 million, second-lien financing and a swap that will have existing lenders and secured creditors convert their debt into equity and a share of $750 million in senior subordinated notes. The new notes will pay their interest in the form of another set of notes and won’t burden the company with an additional cash payment, according to a release.

    “The agreement we’ve reached with our lenders and noteholders will eliminate more than $152 million of annual cash interest expense and position us with a strong, deleveraged balance sheet expected to have more than $242 million of cash on hand,” said Paul Bragg, CEO of Vantage and OGIL, in a written statement.

    Houston-based Vantage is an offshore drilling contractor, with an owned fleet of three ultra deep-water drillships the Platinum Explorer, the Titanium Explorer and the Tungsten Explorer, as well as four jack-up drilling rigs.

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    USA: House passes bill bringing clarity to LNG export permitting process

    The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed the North American Security and Infrastructure Act, bringing regulatory certainty to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) permitting process for LNG exports.

    According to the new legislation, DOE is required to issue a final decision on any application to export LNG no later than 30 days after the conclusion of a project’s environmental review.

    The Center for liquefied natural gas welcomed the passage of H.R. 8 noting that the regulatory certainty will foster export capacity growth through efficient planning, scheduling, financing and construction of LNG projects.

    CLNG Spokesperson Casey O’Shea, commenting on the passage of the H.R. 8, urged the Senate to pass companion legislation that provides regulatory certainty for U.S. LNG exports.
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    Alternative Energy

    China says to start claiming compensation from polluters

    The Chinese government plans to begin claiming compensation from polluting companies and individuals, particularly those who damage state property, over the next two years, China's cabinet has said.

    The State Council said on its website late on Thursday it would trial the policy in a few provinces before rolling it out nationwide in 2018. The plan would cover air, water and soil pollution, as well as damage to plants and animals.

    China already allows government-registered environmental organizations that have been operating for at least five years to launch legal action against polluters.

    High pollution levels have sparked widespread social unrest and become a major concern for China's leadership. Environmentalists say China's big polluters routinely exceed government emission limits.

    China's capital Beijing suffered choking pollution this week, triggering an "orange" alert, the second-highest level, closing highways, halting or suspending construction and prompting a warning to residents to stay indoors.

    That coincided with a meeting of world leaders in Paris to address climate change. China said after the meeting on Wednesday it would cut emissions of major pollutants in its power sector by 2020.

    Read more at Reuters
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    Europe’s biggest solar farm opens in France, cheaper than nuclear

    It was a long time in the making, but this week Europe’s largest solar PV plant was finally brought online.

    The Cestas solar farm, which is 300MW and covers a 250-hectare site near to the French city of Bordeaux, was connected to the grid earlier this month and has already begun producing solar power at a price cheaper than that offered by new nuclear plants.

    Developed by Neoen for a cost of €360 million ($382 million), Cestas will see its solar energy for a price of €105/MWh ($111/MWh) for 20 years, which is on a par with wind power and cheaper than the cost of new nuclear energy, confirmed Neoen chief executive, Xavier Barbaro.

    France’s older nuclear plants, built in the 1970s and ‘80s, deliver nuclear energy for around €55/MWh, but newer nuclear plants – such as the controversial Hinkley Point development in the U.K., which is being built by French utility EDF – are set to deliver energy for a government-guaranteed price of around €130/MWh.

    Barbaro told reporters at the plant’s inauguration that its east-west orientation (solar farms at this latitude are usually oriented with a southern azimuth) means it can produce three-to-four times more power for the same surface area. This also means early morning and late-afternoon production is higher, mirroring more closely typical demand patterns from the French grid.
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    Food Prices Fall as Abundant Stockpiles Cut Grain, Dairy Costs

    Global food prices resumed their march lower last month as big stockpiles and the strengthening dollar led to declines in grains, dairy, meat and vegetable oils.

    An index of 73 food prices fell 1.6 percent in November, the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization wrote in a report Thursday. Prices had climbed in the previous two months, raising speculation that bad weather from El Nino was driving up costs for milk, sugar and palm oil.

    Food prices have fallen 18 percent in the past year as farmers harvested bumper crops worldwide and demand slowed for some meat and dairy products. Sugar was the only major commodity in the FAO’s index that saw higher prices last month, with costs climbing 4.6 percent, according to the report.

    All other sectors saw declines, led by a 3.1 percent drop for vegetable oils and a 2.9 percent slide in dairy.

    Grains also fell, even as the FAO lowered its outlook for production this season. Global output was pegged at 2.527 billion metric tons, slightly lower than last month’s forecast of 2.53 billion tons. Prospects have deteriorated for China’s corn crop because of dry weather, according to the report.
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    Precious Metals

    De Beers considering closing Canada's Snap Lake diamond mine

    De Beers Canada said on Thursday that it may consider closing its Snap Lake diamond mine in the Northwest Territories, alongside other options, as it grapples with falling prices and costly operations at the unprofitable Arctic mine.

    De Beers Canada, which employed 747 staff and contractors at Snap Lake last year, has not turned a profit at the underground mine since it began production in 2008. The company had planned for operations to continue until 2028.

    Groundwater problems at the mine, which extracts diamonds from beneath Snap Lake, have added to high costs at the site, which is accessible only by air and an ice road that operates for two months of the year. It produced 1.2 million carats last year.

    "Any time these scenarios come forward, where the cycle is challenging, everything's on the table and everything's looked at including the option of what would we do if we had to go into any kind of a care and maintenance or closure situation," said De Beers spokesman Tom Ormsby. "Nothing's off the table."

    Global diamond miners have cut output and lowered prices in the face of slowing demand growth in China and a glut of supply.

    Prices for rough stones are down 18 percent from last year, data from shows, while polished diamond prices are down 20 percent year-to-date, the Rapaport Group said.

    De Beers, which is 85 percent owned by Anglo American Plc and 15 percent owned by the government of Botswana, is the world's largest diamond producer. It has cut global production three times this year.

    De Beers Canada said in October that its new Chief Executive Kim Truter would relocate the company headquarters to Calgary as part of a restructuring to cut costs.

    The company, which also operates the Victor diamond mine in Ontario, continues to build the Gahcho Kue mine in the Northwest Territories, with 49 percent partner Mountain Province Diamonds Inc. Gahcho Kue is expected to start production in late 2016 and operate for 11 years.

    The company is also reviewing Victor and Gahcho Kue, Ormsby said, to determine if efficiency or operations could improve.

    Read more at Reuters
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    Base Metals

    New doubts about Freeport's Grasberg licence

    The deposit was first discovered in the 1930s and Freeport McMoRan has been mining copper, silver and gold at Grasberg in remote Indonesia since the 1970s. In terms of reserves, Grasberg is still the richest deposit on the planet

    Shares in copper and gold giant Freeport-McMoRan were trending lower on Thursday after reports that Indonesia is likely to delay a decision on extending the licence for its giant Grasberg mine beyond 2021.

    Luhut Panjaitan, co-ordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, and one of president Joko Widodo’s closest aides, told the Financial Times a decision would only be made in 2019 according to local regulations, seemingly contradicting promises made in October to extend “the same rights and the same level of legal and fiscal certainty provided under its contract of work." Those assurances from Jakarta came in the run-up to a visit by Widodo to Washington.

    Indonesia represents more than 8% of Freeport's revenue, but the company expects lower production this year due to the effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon

    The extension of the licence is also part of a requirement by Jakarta that Freeport sell more than 10% of its operating unit inside the country to the government of the South East Asian nation, which already owns 9.4%.

    That offer had a deadline of October 14, but the matter was further complicated by reports Indonesia has began investigating claims that senior officials extorted payments from the Arizona-based company in return for safeguards about its right to mine. It's alleged that the speaker of the parliament wanted a 20% stake in Freeport Indonesia to be sold to Widodo and the country's vice president.

    The company  said in January it planned to invest $17 billion to build a smelter following new laws banning the export of unprocessed ore and steep concentrate export taxes. Last year Freeport and Denver-based Newmont Mining's exports were halted for more than six months during negotiations over compliance with the new regulations. Indonesia, the region's second largest economy after China, represents more than 8% of Freeport's revenue, but the company expects lower production this year due to the effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon. Together the US mining companies account for more than 90% of the country's copper exports.

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    Steel, Iron Ore and Coal

    China Nov coal imports from Newcastle down 5.8pct on mth

    China’s coal imports from Port Waratah’s export terminals at Newcastle port in eastern Australia stood at 795,900 tonnes in November, 5.82% lower from the month before, the latest data from Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) showed.

    This was the sixth consecutive month below 1 million tonne after reaching 2.16 million tonnes in January.

    Over January-November, China imported a total 11.56 million tonnes of coal from Waratah’s export terminals, according to PWCS data.

    In November, the terminals exported 4.2 million tonnes of coal to Japan, down 16.19% on month; total export in the first eleven months was 48.96 million tonnes.

    South Korea imported 1.72 million tonnes of coal from Waratah’s export terminals at Newcastle port, up 14.79% from October; total imports reached 16.26 million tonnes over January-November.

    The PWCS data showed its 1# and2# terminals at Newcastle port exported 7.02 million tonnes and 958,000 tonnes of thermal coal and coking coal in November, respectively, accounting for 88% and 12% of the total exports.

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    Rio's secret weapon as $30s iron ore price nears

    Rio Tinto did not make a song and dance when it started mining at its Silvergrass project in Australia's Pilbara in August.

    After getting flak from politicians and competitors alike about its aggressive expansion strategy, the Melbourne-based giant probably thought it prudent not to.

    At the moment Silvergrass's high grade ore is being shipped to "retain the integrity and quality" of Rio's flagship Pilbara blend, CEO Sam Walsh told investors with the release of the company's half-year results.

    The project hasn't received board approval yet although CEO Sam Walsh sounded pretty confident that the go-ahead would come early in 2016.

    "We would expect them to be rational, and use it to replace higher-cost ore rather than add more product into an oversupplied market

    Silvergrass has a lot going for it. It's cheap to build and expected to be completed at the lower end – or below – its $700 million to $1 billion forecast costs (a steal compared to a Rinehart's Roy Hill or Anglo's Minas Rio).

    Capacity of over 20 million tonnes per year would easily plug into Rio's existing Pilbara infrastructure and the project could be completed in just nine months.

    Just in time for Rio to hit (or likely exceed) its  target of 360 million tonnes per year in 2017 and come very close to overtaking Vale, which is cutting production in Brazil.

    Thanks to breakeven costs of less than $30 a tonne, Rio Tinto (and BHP for that matter) could afford to add more tonnage.

    Or perhaps cooler heads will prevail. Michelle Lopez, senior investment manager Aberdeen Asset Management, told the Australian Financial Review  the miner "could look to use production from Silvergrass to replace some of its higher-cost iron ore, which it could shut down if market dynamics don't change":

    "We would expect them to be rational, and use it to replace higher-cost ore rather than add more product into an oversupplied market. Silvergrass is more marginal [as a growth option] but a premium product."
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    Desperate Chinese steel makers dump iron ore stocks

    Cash-strapped Chinese steel mills are dumping iron ore stocks, selling at a loss to shore up cash flow in the latest sign of the sector's worsening crisis, steel mill and trader sources said.

    The sale of port inventories is deepening a rout in iron ore prices which have already tumbled 25 percent over the past two months as the sector struggles with overcapacity, falling demand for steel from real estate to shipbuilding, and tight credit.

    This week, prices for the raw material hit their lowest in a decade at $40.30 a tonne .IO62-CNI=SI, while futures contracts <0#SZZF:> fell to record lows of $33 a tonne for 2016. Shanghai rebar steel prices also sank to all-time lows.

    "The market declines have been accelerated by steel mills who are selling iron ore at low prices because they are short of cash," said an iron ore trader in Beijing.

    Steel mills are facing a cash crunch after authorities urged banks to cut credit to oversupplied industries, with privately owned mills hardest hit. Tangshan Songting Iron & Steel, one of the country's big privately owned steel mills, last month closed its doors, but others are desperate to hang on.

    Mills with long-term supply contracts with big miners have already cut stockpiles of the steelmaking raw material at their factories to a minimum, preferring to buy hand to mouth due to shaky downstream demand and to minimize cash use.

    Now, loss-making mills are resorting to selling iron ore bought with letters of credit in a last-ditch effort to maintain cashflow for production as they seek to repay bank loans, many due at year-end, four traders and steel mill executives said.

    Mills that survive will try to get new credit facilities for next year, they said.

    In Tangshan, in China's top steel producing Hebei province, mills started offloading stock last month, an iron ore sales executive at a private steel mill there said.

    "More mills, in more regions, are doing the same now, only to collect cashflow to survive and they don't care much about prices," he said.

    Selling is also being spurred by the relentless fall in prices, as factories seek to reduce their exposure to further losses, he said.

    Di Wang, analyst at CRU in Beijing, cautioned the selling could last into the new year as steel producers prepare for another round of painful output cuts as the outlook for orders looks bleak.

    "Steelmakers will still sell their iron ore stocks before the February Chinese Spring Festival because there are also expectations of further production cuts," Wang said.

    There is no estimate of how much iron ore mills have sold, but port inventories have kept rising, implying that appetite is weakening as steel mills step up output cuts.

    Inventories at main Chinese ports swelled to above 90 million tonnes at the end of November, their highest since April, and up from this year's low of 77 million tonnes in June as steel mills curbed production, according to industry consultancy Umetal.

    Read more at Reuters

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    More China steel mills halt output on demand woes -consultancy

    More steel mills in the Chinese province of Shanxi have halted production due to shrinking demand and a shortage of cash, according to industry consultancy Custeel, a move that could further deepen a rout in prices for raw ingredient iron ore.

    Among the main 23 steel mills in the northern province, 10 including Linfen Iron & Steel, a unit of state-owned Taiyuan Iron & Steel Group, have shut down all blast furnaces, with a total annual capacity of 19.7 million tonnes, with the rest running at very low utilisation rates, Custeel said.

    The growing output cutbacks underscored that China's steel industry is grappling with declining demand, overcapacity and tight credit. The massive sector has an annual crude steel capacity of about 1.25 billion tonnes.

    "Driven by the continuous fall in steel prices and weakening steel demand, steel production is expected to fall further, so iron ore demand will keep weakening," the China Iron & Steel Association (CISA) said in a report on Friday.

    Declining steel production and rising iron ore port inventory drove down iron ore prices by 2.7 percent on Friday to a record low of 284 yuan ($44.43) a tonne. Shanghai rebar prices also sank to all-time lows this week.

    CISA members - about 100 big and large-sized steel mills, have made a loss of 38.64 billion yuan ($6 billion) for the first ten months of this year.

    "With huge losses and sluggish steel prices, steel mills will face more difficulties in production, and iron ore prices are unlikely to rise," CISA said.

    Read more at Reuters

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