Mark Latham Commodity Equity Intelligence Service

Friday 26th February 2016
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    Iranians start voting for new parliament, Assembly of Experts

    Iranians went to the polls on Friday in parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections, seen as a contest between hardliners entrenched in power and allies of pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani seeking to expand their influence.

    "Voting has started in Iran. Millions of Iranians will vote all around the country," state TV said.

    The 290-seat parliament vote will have scant impact on Iran's foreign policy, in which Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say, but could strengthen Rouhani's hand before next year's presidential vote. The 88-member Assembly will select Khamenei's successor.

    Both bodies are currently in the hands of hardliners.

    The contest pits supporters of Rouhani, who championed last year's nuclear deal with world powers and is likely to seek a second presidential term next year, against conservatives deeply opposed to detente with Western powers.

    Both sides have called for a strong turnout. Most reformist candidates have been barred by a hardline clerical vetting body, along with many moderates, but their supporters have called on voters to back Rouhani's allies and keep the conservatives out.

    Results are hard to predict, with conservatives traditionally doing well in rural areas and young urbanites favouring more reformist candidates.
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    14 shopping apps! China digital boom.

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    Carbon Concrete: Hard shell – lightweight core

    With over 100 million cubic meters used each year, steel-reinforced concrete is the most important construction material in Germany – for now. There’s a modern alternative on the horizon: Instead of steel, reinforcement is provided by carbon fibers, which are four times lighter than steel, offer six times the load capacity and don’t rust.

    C3 (Carbon Concrete Composite) is the name of the carbon fiber-reinforced concrete project which is now slowly moving out of its infancy. It is the biggest construction research project in Germany and has received government funding of around 45 million euros. The project team includes specialists from our TechCenter Carbon Composites. Christoph Klotzbach, head of the TechCenter, says: “Initial applications show we’re on the right track.”

    But why does concrete need to be reinforced in the first place? Isn’t it rock hard as it is? That’s true – but only for so-called compressive loads. Under tensile loading the material breaks relatively quickly. That’s why concrete needs to be reinforced, achieved to date by casting it around a steel mesh.

    The principle has been known since the 19th century, and since then steel-reinforced concrete has been used to construct roads, bridges, tunnels, buildings, masts, retaining walls, drains and much more besides. The problem is that steel rusts and needs to be encased in several centimeters of concrete just to prevent corrosion.

    Non-rusting materials such as carbon don’t need this protection, so components can be made much thinner and require far less concrete. Carbon fiber-reinforced concrete thus offers advantages in terms of resource and energy consumption and carbon footprint that are virtually unrivaled by any other material in any other sector.

    Building with carbon fiber-reinforced concrete not only extends the lifetime of the structures, it also allows more intricate architectural designs. This could significantly extend the range of applications for concrete. Lightweight building with concrete is no longer a contradiction in terms, it is the concept of the future.
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    G20 Sherpa talks messy?

    G20 sherpas are gathered here in Shanghai at the Shangri la hotel. Mood is sour. Gossip has finger pointing. Hosts China are not happy at the agenda. 
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    China allocates 100 bln yuan to deal with job losses from capacity cuts - ministry

    China will allocate 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) over two years to relocate workers during China's industrial restructuring, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said on Thursday.

    Relocating workers was the main problem that needed to be solved in restructuring Chinese industry, vice-minister Feng Fei told a news conference in Beijing.

    China was currently focused on tackling unemployment in the steel and coal industries where overcapacity was most pronounced, he added.
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    G20 meeting. The real meeting!

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    Just in case we forget..

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    Here we go.. Bears beware!

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    Shanghai, Wednesday.

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    Economic Watch: No need for panic about China's economy

    Despite slower growth and market volatility, China has plenty of good news to offer.

    Skyscanner, a global travel search site headquartered in the United Kingdom, is a case in point to question the fears about China.

    The company announced last week it saw a 67-percent jump in Chinese visitors to the site in 2015, helping boost its revenue by 28 percent to 183 million U.S. dollars.

    "We have to understand China better," Shane Corstorphine, chief financial officer of Skyscanner, said in an interview with CNBC on Friday, calling increasing outbound travel from China "a major opportunity."

    Concerns over China are natural, given the country's economy is in its most protracted downshift since the late 1970s, which has been accompanied by recent stock market fluctuations and a weakening currency.

    However, a broader long-term perspective will help companies such as Skyscanner make more sensible strategies for China.

    The sources of pressure are undeniable: soft property investment, bloated industries and slumping trade. But sound fundamentals justify a positive outlook for China's future growth.

    That judgment led U.S. computer chip giant Intel to invest 5.5 billion U.S. dollars in its plant in northeast China's Dalian City last October to produce the company's most advanced memory chips.

    Intel cares more about China's market demand five to 10 years from now than its GDP growth for one year, said Richard Howarth, vice president of Intel's Technology and Manufacturing Group and general manager of Intel Semiconductor (Dalian) Ltd.

    For the moment, even though China recorded its slowest expansion in 25 years in 2015, employment and consumption remain resilient.

    The registered unemployment rate in China's cities was 4.05 percent at the end of 2015, better than official targets. Consumption contributed 66.4 percent to economic growth, up 15.4 percentage points from 2014.

    China also has enough ammunition to stop further deceleration, with the world's largest foreign exchange reserves, a huge trade surplus, room for monetary and fiscal maneuvering, and a certain degree of capital control.

    Those conditions make the possibility of a crisis in China much smaller than in other economies, economist Marie Owens Thomsen of the French bank Credit Agricole wrote on the Chinese website of the South China Morning Post during the weekend.

    Chinese vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao asserted on Saturday that China's economy "will surely continue to grow."

    "China's fundamentals remain strong, with high resilience, ample leeway and huge potential," said Zhu at a forum. "None of those has changed."

    There's a big distance between a slowdown and a crisis, and the former does not necessarily entail the latter.

    To avoid misunderstanding, observers who simply base their reasoning on Western experiences need to think out of the box.

    In developed economies, new investment opportunities are rare once there is excess capacity, but China is still in the process of industrial upgrading and urbanization, with strong need for investment in urban infrastructure and environmental protection, said Justin Yifu Lin, former chief economist of the World Bank.

    Unlike other developing economies, which have investment opportunities but face fiscal constraints, China has plenty of resources, with lower government debt and high household savings, Lin explained.

    Reform is another promising hedge against the downturn. China is cutting administrative red tape, overhauling state-owned enterprises, and removing barriers to let the market play a decisive role in resource allocation.

    Those measures, along with efforts to reduce corporate burdens, improve financial efficiency and stimulate innovation, will help China increase productivity and overcome difficulties, said Xu Hongcai, an economist at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

    "Reform remains China's biggest bonus," he said.

    Thanks to streamlined bureaucracy, 12,000 companies were registered in China daily on average last year, up from 10,000 in 2014 and 6,900 before the reform.

    Thriving entrepreneurship attests to market vitality, which is a key force shaping China's economic trend, said Zhang Mao, head of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, at a press briefing on Monday.

    Jin Keyu, professor of economics at the London School of Economics, saw significant opportunities for China to achieve stable growth based on efficiency and productivity gains from deepening reform, rather than merely consumption.

    While acknowledging government reform will be difficult to deliver, Jin believes action will become unavoidable if economic conditions worsen.

    "Good times may breed crises in the West," Jin wrote in an article on news site Project Syndicate. "In China, it is crises that bring better times."
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    Brazil police probe possible Odebrecht bribes to Peru president

    Brazilian police are investigating potential bribes of $3 million from Latin America's largest engineering conglomerate Odebrecht to Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, court documents showed.

    Documents seized from Marcelo Odebrecht, the former CEO of the family-run company, cite "Program OH," which police said in the documents they interpreted as referring to the initials of the Peruvian president. They noted the funds were not allocated for any specific purpose.

    Humala in a statement on Tuesday denied taking bribes and said he summoned Brazil's ambassador to his offices late on Monday to request official information about the inquiry following initial news reports on the Brazilian court documents.

    Peru's attorney general's office said that because of presidential immunity prosecutors would not be able to investigate Humala until after his term ends in late July.

    Odebrecht has won contracts worth several billions in Peru in the past decade, including a $5 billion natural gas pipeline during Humala's term after its sole bidding competitor was disqualified from a public auction at the last minute.

    The inquiry comes amid political campaigning for Humala's successor and will likely drag further on his already-low approval ratings during his last five months in office. Presidents in Peru cannot hold two consecutive terms and the ruling party candidate is trailing far behind in polls.

    Presidential hopeful Julio Guzman, second in the race to April elections, said on Twitter Humala should be banned from leaving Peru until the bribe allegations were cleared up.

    Brazilian federal prosecutor Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima said at a press conference on Monday investigators had evidence Odebrecht had bribed officials abroad, including a former transportation secretary in Argentina.

    The largest-ever corruption investigation in Brazil has revealed an elaborate scheme of price-fixing among engineering firms, allegedly led by Odebrecht, to overcharge state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA and use the access funds to bribe officials, many in President Dilma Rousseff's coalition.

    Marcelo Odebrecht was jailed in June and is on trial for corruption and money laundering, charges he denies.

    Police noted in documents filed with the federal court in Curitiba, Brazil, that Brazil's investment in Peru jumped from $50 million per year to $900 million annually when Rousseff's predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva became president. Many of the Brazilian investment projects were hydro-electric dams built by Odebrecht.
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    What Could Go Wrong? Saudis Want To Give Surface-To-Air Missiles To Syrian Rebels

    What Could Go Wrong? Saudis Want To Give Surface-To-Air Missiles To Syrian Rebels

    So far, the Turks and the Saudis haven’t invaded, although Ankara is now shelling the YPG in the Azaz corridor in an effort to roll back Kurdish efforts to consolidate border gains. According to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Riyadh’s next move may be to introduce surface-to-air missiles so that the rebels will be able to defend themselves against the Russian air attack.

    “Is Saudi Arabia in favour of supplying anti-aircraft missiles to the rebels?,” Der Spiegel asked al-Jubeir on Friday. Here was the minister’s response:

    Yes. We believe that introducing surface-to-air missiles in Syria is going to change the balance of power on the ground. It will allow the moderate opposition to be able to neutralize the helicopters and aircraft that are dropping chemicals and have been carpet-bombing them, just like surface-to-air missiles in Afghanistan were able to change the balance of power there. This has to be studied very carefully, however, because you don't want such weapons to fall into the wrong hands.

    Now obviously, the whole “dropping chemicals” line is a ruse. The only thing introducing advanced surface-to-air missiles would do is allow the opposition to shoot at Russian air power and that’s completely at odds with the following response al-Jubeir gave when asked about the kingdom’s relationship with the Russians:

    Other than our disagreement over Syria, I would say our relationship with Russia is very good and we are seeking to broaden and deepen it. Twenty million Russians are Muslims. Like Russia, we have an interest in fighting radicalism and extremism. We both have an interest in stable energy markets. Even the disagreement over Syria is more of a tactical one than a strategic one. We both want a unified Syria that is stable in which all Syrians enjoy equal rights.

    No, no you both do not want that. Syria was already a state where citizens enjoyed equal rights, loosely speaking. That’s not to say that Assad tolerated much in the way of dissent when it came to his grip on power, but when it came to Mid-East states where different sects and religions could live alongside one another, things were going ok in Syria before Riyadh, Washington, Doha, and Ankara decided to play on fears of Iranian influence to whip impoverished Sunnis into a sectarian frenzy.
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    Noble Group flags first loss in two decades, blames coal price slide

    Commodity trader Noble Group warned of its first full-year loss in nearly two decades, blaming $1.2 billion of writedowns on a slide in coal prices - a move seen by analysts as a response to pressure to be more conservative in its accounting practices.

    The Singapore-listed company, which has sought to reassure investors after an accounting dispute and as tumbling commodity markets battered its stocks and bonds, set its 2020 and beyond estimate for thermal coal contracts at $55 per tonne - a level that it said was 14 percent below the average market consensus.

    Australian spot cargo prices for thermal coal are currently trading around $53.70 per tonne.

    A bleak outlook for coal and many other commodities means that firms like Noble or Glencore not only face falling demand for many of the goods they trade, but also declining values for many assets they own, such as storage facilities or vessels.

    "What's driving this is their decision to be more prudent in terms of fair value prices. One potential outcome is that it cleans up the balance sheet from the banks' perspective," said Conrad Werner, an analyst at Macquarie Equity Research.

    Shares in the company have lost nearly 70 percent of their value over the past year after Iceberg Research alleged it was inflating its assets by billions of dollars. Noble rejected the claims and board-appointed consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers found it had complied with international accounting rules.

    Iceberg Research on Tuesday criticized Noble's reasons for the impairments, saying it was absurd for the company to say that their forward curves were too aggressive 48 hours before it was due to post annual results.

    Noble reports detailed earnings on Thursday. Prior to Wednesday's announcement, analysts had forecast the trader would make a net profit although projections had varied widely.

    But Noble, one of the world's biggest traders of commodities from coal to iron ore to oil, stressed that it generated positive cash flow in the fourth quarter and that it expects to have $1 billion in further liquidity by the end of March including proceeds from its sale of its stake in Noble Agri.

    It also said that its cash balance stood at a record $1.95 billion as of end December.

    Noble's stock and bond investors have been concerned about the company's ability to refinance its debt. Both Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service have cut their credit ratings for the company to junk.

    It has about $2.5 billion worth of debt due this year, according to Thomson Reuters LPC data. Noble's bonds and credit default swaps are trading at depressed levels, but Noble has blamed this on illiquid markets.
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    World's Biggest Miner Adds $10 Billion in Boost to M&A War Chest

    BHP Billiton Ltd. gave notice Tuesday that it’s on the hunt for assets after tipping an estimated $10 billion extra cash into its coffers by cutting its dividend and capital spending.

    The world’s biggest mining company bowed to pressure from investors and credit ratings agencies by lowering its dividend payout for the first time in 15 years after the rout in commodities saw first-half profit tumble 92 percent. A new dividend policy will also give BHP more M&A firepower, with oil and copper the main targets for any acquisitions, Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mackenzie told reporters on a call from Melbourne.

    “Investors for months have been telling the company not to pay the dividend and instead to focus on growth, to go out and buy something and be counter-cyclical,” Peter O’Connor, a Sydney-based analyst at Shaw and Partners Ltd. said by phone. “That said, M&A is fraught with difficulty. It’s not often that you buy well.”

    BHP will face stiff competition. Distress from the commodity-price rout may soon spread from small mine operators to industry majors, forcing desirable assets on to the market and spurring deals, Rio Tinto Group CEO Sam Walsh told Bloomberg Television earlier this month. Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. last week paid $1 billion to boost its stake in a Freeport-McMoRan Inc. copper project in Arizona, signaling there’s plenty of buyers.
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    BHP Billiton slashes dividend, posts $5.67 billion net loss

    Top global miner BHP Billiton  slashed its interim dividend by 75 percent on Tuesday, abandoning a long-held policy of steady or higher payouts as it braces for a longer-than-expected commodities downturn.

    The end to BHP's so-called progressive dividend policy came as the world's biggest diversified miner slumped to a net loss of $5.67 billion for the six months to Dec. 31, its first loss in more than 16 years.

    "We need to recognize we are in a new era, a new world and we need a different dividend policy to handle that," Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie said on a media call, warning of a prolonged period of weaker prices and higher volatility.

    The dividend cut to 16 cents was more severe than market expectations for a payout as high as 35 cents. BHP pledged a minimum 50 percent payout of underlying profit going forward.

    "Given months of anguish and market debate regarding the dividend, we expect that 16 cents while disappointing, is a cash flow positive and therefore will likely be absorbed by the market," said Shaw and Partners analyst Peter O'Connor.

    Mackenzie said the shift was part of a broader strategy to help BHP Billiton manage volatility.

    "The financial flexibility we will gain as a company from this move ... will allow us to invest counter cyclically," he said. "It will allow us to look at tier one assets in distress."

    Standard & Poor's cut BHP's credit rating to 'A' from 'A+' this month and warned it might downgrade again if the company failed to take more steps to preserve cash and review its dividend policy.

    "I can't see (the ratings agencies) downgrading. They probably would have if the commodity outlook was still poor, but I think the outlook is starting to turn in BHP's favor," said Fat Prophets mining analyst David Lennox.

    Mackenzie also announced a revamp of BHP's corporate structure in a bid to simplify operations, creating U.S. and Australian mineral divisions in a move that will see its iron ore chief Jimmy Wilson and petroleum head Tim Cutt depart.

    BHP shares rose 2.5 percent to $17.62 by early afternoon in a slightly weaker overall market.

    Australian Shareholders Association director Geoffrey Bowd said the dividend cut was "very prudent" in light of the commodities outlook.

    Shares in close peer Rio Tinto have risen some 9 percent since it swapped its progressive dividend policy for a payout ratio on Feb. 11.


    Underlying attributable profit plunged to $412 million from $4.89 billion a year earlier, missing analysts' forecasts for around $585 million, as commodities prices plummeted to multi-year lows.

    "While the miss looks big in percentage terms, the numbers are quite frankly disappointingly low anyway," said Shaw's O'Connor, pointing to BHP's $100 billion asset base.

    Despite the tough outlook, Mackenzie said BHP was still generating EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) margins of 40 percent, which is ahead of the reported figure of around 34 percent for Rio Tinto.

    At today's spot prices, the company would expect to generate $10 billion in operating cash flow for the year, he said.

    BHP's results included an after tax charge of $858 million following a dam disaster in Brazil at its Samarco joint venture with Vale (VALE5.SA), which killed 17 people in that country's worst environmental disaster.

    A total of $6.1 billion of exceptional items included an impairment charge of $4.9 billion against the carrying value of its U.S. onshore oil and gas assets and $390 million for global taxation matters

    Mackenzie said there were no immediate plans to expand shale operations in the United States, but BHP remained committed to the business.
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    Chinese leadership vows stable macro economic policies to sustain growth

    China's top leadership on Monday pledged that it would stabilize and improve macro policies to create an amicable environment for economic growth and ongoing structural reforms.

    In a meeting convened to discuss the draft of the annual government work report andproposals for the 13th Five-Year Plan, the Political Bureau of the Communist Party ofChina's (CPC) Central Committee said enhancing growth quality and efficiency will be thefocus of the 2016-2020 period.

    China will continue to implement proactive fiscal policies and prudent monetary policies,while stepping up supply-side structural reforms to power growth, according to astatement released after the meeting, chaired by President Xi Jinping.

    More should be done to make the most out of domestic demand potentials, the statementsaid.

    The leadership also pledged it would speed up the development of modern agriculture andpush forward a new round of high-level opening-up. Green development will also be madea priority, they added.

    Eyeing 2016 as a critical year for China to deliver the country's social and economic targets,the leadership listed the cutting of industrial capacity, destocking, de-leveraging, loweringcorporate costs and identifying weak links as major tasks for the year.

    China's economy grew by 6.9 percent year on year in 2015, its lowest annual expansion ina quarter of a century, but well in line with government target of around 7 percent.

    Reviewing China's economic performance for the 2010-2015 period, the meeting saidChina had achieved "landmark progress" in economic restructuring.

    Consumption contributed 66.4 percent of China's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015,up 15.4 percentage points from 2014.

    The meeting came ahead of China's annual two sessions in March, during which lawmakersand political advisors will gather in Beijing to discuss the social and economic policies for theyear.
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    Anything but reality please.

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    CIBC, Scotiabank Hardest Hit in Severe Oil Slump, Moody's Says

    Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Bank of Nova Scotia would be nation’s hardest hit lenders if the oil slump became sharply worse, while Toronto-Dominion Bank would best be able weather a worsening rout, Moody’s Investors Service said.

    “The prolonged slump in oil prices will increase the financial stress on oil producers and the drillers and service companies that support them, as well as on consumers in oil-producing provinces," the New York-based ratings company said in a report released Monday. “Correspondingly, the Canadian banks’ losses in related corporate and consumer portfolios will increase, and their capital markets income is likely to decline."

    Canadian bank profits would fall though capital levels wouldn’t be hurt in a moderate stress scenario, Moody’s said, while a severe stress scenario could force lenders to cut dividends, sell shares or take measures to preserve capital. The six biggest banks would see losses of C$5.56 billion ($4 billion) in a moderate scenario, while losses in a severe scenario would reach C$12.9 billion, or about 1.5 times the lenders’ combined quarterly profits.

    “There is some moderate expectation that we could see the moderate stress scenario," David Beattie, Moody’s senior vice president, said in a telephone interview. “Even if that happens, it’s pretty addressable in terms of the earnings power of the Canadian banks. They could absorb this over a couple of quarters and move on."
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    Brazil police sweep targets Rousseff's campaigner, Globo says

    Brazilian police on Monday launched a new round of arrests and seizures targeting both the manager of President Dilma Rousseff's successful election campaigns and the country's largest engineering group in the latest stage of nation's worst corruption probe, Globo TV reported.

    More than 300 officers are conducting searches and arrests in the cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, the police said in a statement, without elaborating. The police were carrying out two preventive and six temporary prison warrants in the so-called 23rd phase of "Operation Car Wash" probe.

    Globo TV's news morning program said Monday's raids included an arrest warrant for Jõao Santana, Rousseff's campaign manager and who was currently out of the country. Nicknamed the "maker of presidents", Santana, 63, also advised Rousseff's predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in his re-election bid in 2012.

    According to TV Globo, some of the raids were also aimed at Grupo Odebrecht, an engineering conglomerate linked to the Car Wash investigation. The police will hold a news conference at 10:00 a.m. local time (13:00 GMT) to detail the operation.

    Immediate efforts to reach Santana and Odebrecht's officials for comment were unsuccessful.

    The nationwide Car Wash operation began uncovering kickbacks and influence-peddling in state companies nearly two years ago. Dozens of executives and politicians have been arrested or are under investigation on suspicion of overcharging state-controlled Petróleo Brasileiro SA and other state firms on contracts and using part of the proceeds to bribe members of Rousseff's ruling coalition.
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    Shopping in Beijjng

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    Oil and Gas

    Canada: Douglas Channel LNG project shelved

    The Douglas Channel LNG Consortium, led by Canadian AltaGas, said on Thursday it will halt further development of its floating LNG export project in British Columbia due to unfavourable market conditions.

    The consortium, which includes Japan’s Idemitsu, EDF Trading of France and Exmar of Belgium, had planned to achieve a final investment decision on the small-scale LNG project by the end of 2015.

    However, the “worsening global energy price levels and a challenging market environment have caused the consortium to withdraw from the project,” Douglas Channel LNG said in a statement.

    Canadian National Energy Board issued a licence in January to Douglas Channel LNG project to export up to 10.3 billion cubic metres of natural gas per annum for a period of 25 years.

    The plans for the LNG project included a barge-based 0.55 mtpa LNG facility with natural gas sourced from Western Canada and transported to the project site at District Lot 99, near Kitimat, British Columbia for liquefaction.
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    NRDC: China's Natural Gas Consumption Up Nearly 18% In Jan

    China's natural gas consumption rose 17.6 percent in January from the same month last year, reaching 22.3 billion cubic metres, China's central state planning commission said on Friday.

    Production was up 4.1 percent on the year to 13.1 bcm, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a statement on its website.

    Refinery runs of crude oil fell 1.8 percent on the year in January to 38.66 million tonnes, or 9.1 million barrels per day. Crude output dropped 2.1 percent to 17.69 million tonnes, or 4.17 million bpd.

    The country's National Bureau of Statistics does not release standalone production figures for January.

    Its production figures generally differ from those released by the NDRC.
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    Exxon's Downgrade Threats Mount as Oil Rebound Prospects Dim

    Exxon Mobil Corp. may lose its top-notch credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service as the oil-market collapse imperils cash flow needed to cover debt payments and investment in new discoveries.

    Seven of the other largest U.S. energy explorers also were put on notice or downgraded by Moody’s Thursday after the rating company concluded crude prices will remain weak for years. The Moody’s review featured a Who’s Who of American oil and gas heavyweights, from Chevron Corp. to Marathon Oil Corp. to ConocoPhillips.

    The outlook for Exxon, which has held Moody’s top Aaa rating for more than 90 years, dropped to negative from stable, the rating company said in a statement on Thursday. The move followed a warning earlier this month from Standard & Poor’s that its own rating on Exxon’s debt may be in jeopardy.

    "The negative outlook reflects our expectations of negative free cash flow and weak cash flow based leverage metrics,” Moody’s said. "While the company is cutting its capital spending and operating costs in response to lower commodity prices, this diminished level of capital reinvestment could adversely affect Exxon Mobil’s reserve replacement and production profile in the latter part of this decade."

    Triple-A Edge

    Exxon, which traces its roots to the 1800s when kerosene began competing with whale oil as household lamp fuel, has annual revenues that dwarf the economies of most of the nations in which it operates. The Irving, Texas-based company’s platinum credit rating gives it an edge in competing with rival drillers when negotiating exploration concessions with oil-rich nations, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson has said.

    “Exxon Mobil places a high value on its strong credit position and continues to be focused on creating long-term shareholder value despite near-term market volatility,” Scott Silvestri, an Exxon spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday.

    Credit rating firms have been downgrading drillers, explorers and even entire nations as the oil-price crash erases revenue relied upon to pay debts and fund day-to-day operations. The downgrades have spanned from U.S. shale fields to offshore Brazil. Deep cuts to headcounts and exploration spending haven’t been enough to shield balance sheets from the impact of slumping prices.
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    OPEC and non OPEC producers set to meet in March

    Oil futures closed higher Thursday following an afternoon surge on reports of a March meeting between OPEC members and Russia to discuss production.

    Venezuela's Oil Minister Eulogio Del Pino said a meeting was scheduled for March that includes Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Qatar, several media outlets reported.

    Russia's Energy Minister Alexander Novak also referred Thursday to a producers' meeting in March.

    "As far as we understand, OPEC countries are planning a meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC ministers in mid-March," Novak was quoted by the Prime news agency as saying.

    Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Qatar and Russia -- agreed to freeze production at January levels, if other key producers did the same.

    Oman, which is not an OPEC member, is willing to cut output by 10% if a deal is reached between major OPEC and non-OPEC producers, Oil and Gas Minister Mohammed al-Rumhy said, according to the Oman Observer.

    Oman's crude and condensate output averaged more than 1 million b/d in January, so a 10% cut would remove 100,000 b/d from the global market.
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    Kurdish oil exports suspended after pipeline sabotaged in Turkey

    Oil exports from the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq have been suspended for a second week after pipelines were sabotaged in conflict-hit southeastern Turkey, Reuters reported.

    Halting the oil exports - Iraqi Kurdistan's main source of income - will deprive the region of much-needed revenue, already reeling from record-low oil prices and an oversaturated market.

    The pipeline, which carries about 600,000 barrels of crude per day from the fields in Iraq to Turkey's Ceyhan port, is set to remain closed until Feb. 29, meaning an outage of nearly two weeks since pumping stopped on Feb. 17.

    Industry sources have indicated the pipeline was sabotaged. Violence has flared in Turkey's mostly Kurdish southeast, as skirmishes between the Turkish military and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants have led to a deteriorating security situation.

    The pipeline has been sabotaged several times inside Turkey, with the Kurdish government in Iraq accusing the PKK of targeting it. Although both the KRG and PKK are Kurdish, the PKK opposes the KRG's economic relations with Turkey.

    As a result of the outage, Iraq's state-run North Oil Company (NOC) which operates the fields in Kirkuk, has reduced its production from 200,000 barrels per day to about 120,000.
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    Brazil senate passes pre-salt rule change bill

    Petrobras’ dominant position in the highly-productive pre-salt province off Brazil could be challenged after the country’s Senate passed a bill that could pave the way for other players to become operators of acreage there.
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    Petrobras may get $6 billion in sale of natgas pipeline unit: paper

    Brazil's state-led oil company Petrobras is expected to fetch as much as $6 billion from the sale of a natural gas pipeline unit in Brazil's industrialized southeast, the Valor Economico daily newspaper reported on Thursday.

    Bids of between $5 billion and $6 billion for Nova Transportadora do Sudeste are expected by a Tuesday deadline from Canadian, French and Chinese companies, the paper said, without citing the source for its information.

    Potential bidders include Canada's Brookfield Asset Management Inc (BAMa.TO), China National Petroleum Corp [CNPET.UL], and a joint venture between the CanadianPension Plan Investment Board [CPPIBC.UL] and France's Engie SA (ENGIE.PA), Valor reported.

    Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the oil company is formally known, has plans to sell about $14 billion of assets this year in an attempt to cut its debt and maintain cash amid a plunge in world oil prices and a corruption scandal at the company.

    Petrobras' estimated $130 billion of debt is the largest in the oil industry and one of the largest of any industrial company in the world.

    A Brookfield press spokesman in Toronto declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. Engie's press office in Rio de Janeiro declined to comment. A Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board press official in Toronto declined to comment. CNPC officials did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
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    Data shows further Cushing builds

    U.S. crude futures were down 2 percent on Thursday, extending losses from earlier in the session, after data showing stockpiles at the Cushing, Oklahoma hub for U.S. crude deliveries having reached new record highs.

    The front-month in U.S. crude futures was down 63 cents at $31.52 a barrel by 10:08 a.m. EST (1508 GMT).

    It hit a session bottom of $31.32 after market intelligence provider Genscape said inventories at Cushing rose by more than 503,000 barrels to reach above 67.5 million barrels between Feb 19 and Feb 24, traders who saw the data said.
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    Sanchez Energy announces fourth quarter and full year 2015 results

    Sanchez Energy Corporation, today announced the Company's operating and financial results for the fourth quarter and full-year 2015, which included the following highlights:


    - Record production of 5.3 million barrels of oil equivalent ('MMBoe')
    - Record quarterly average daily production of 58,115 barrels of oil equivalent per day ('Boe/d')
    - Better than expected production results were driven by Catarina production of 46,030 Boe/d, the highest quarterly production level recorded to date from the asset, as well as strong performance from new wells in the Cotulla area
    - Average quarterly well costs at Catarina of $3.5 million per well and wells are 40 percent more productive since first acquired
    $435 million cash balance at year-end 2015 and $735 million in total liquidity
    - Closed the Western Catarina Midstream Divestiture for approximately $345 million in cash
    - Entered a joint venture with Targa Resources Partners LP ('Targa') to construct a cryogenic processing plant and high pressure gathering pipeline near Catarina, which is expected to provide a path to improved yields, lower processing fees, and significant marketing benefits


    - Record annual production of 19.2 MMBoe for an average annual production rate of 52,560 Boe/d, an increase of 72% over 2014 production
    - Record oil production averaging 19,629 barrels per day ('Bbl/d')
    - Upstream capital expenditures including accruals of $545 million in 2015 compared to $867 million in 2014, a reduction of approximately 37% over 2014
    - $155 million mark-to-market value of hedging position at year-end 2015 corresponding to hedge contracts covering approximately 82% of expected 2016 revenues, and $189 million current mark-to-market value of hedge position as of February 24, 2016
    - Completed the 50-well annual drilling commitment at Catarina for the period July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016, which provides the Company with significant operational and financial flexibility in 2016 and 2017, as up to 30 wells drilled in excess of the minimum commitment can be carried forward to the next annual period
    - 2015 year-end proved reserves are approximately 128 MMBoe, with a PV-10, a non-GAAP measure defined below, of $594 million


    2015 was a strong year for Sanchez Energy despite the most challenging commodity environment we have faced as a Company,' said Tony Sanchez, III, Chief Executive Officer of Sanchez Energy. 'Our achievements in 2015 include ending the year with a strong cash position of $435 million. The Company's cash position was aided by several key divestitures with Sanchez Production Partners which generated approximately $430 million in cash proceeds without needing to issue additional equity or debt. Our balance sheet remains strong and we are well prepared to weather a prolonged down cycle.'
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    How Many Gas Tankers Would It Take to Wipe out a U.S. Glut?

    At least 163 tankers.

    That’s how many cargoes of natural gas it’d take to wipe out the ever-expanding glut of the heating and power-plant fuel in the U.S. A mild winter and production still flowing out of America’s shale formations have inventories swelling compared with previous years, dragging down U.S. gas prices even as the first export of shale gas prepares to leave from Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana today.

    “Production keeps going and right now we are pricing in a natural gas-ageddon,” said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. “How many tankers do we need to to get rid of the glut?”

    In a testament to how massive America’s natural gas supplies have become (they’re near a seasonal record), it’d take at least 163 tankers the size of the Asia Vision, the vessel at Cheniere’s docks, to bring U.S. gas inventories back to the five-year average. If you lined them up end to end, they would stretch about 30 miles (48 kilometers), just long enough to ring the perimeter of Manhattan.

    And the chances of this fleet suddenly showing up to whisk U.S. gas away are slim. Initial exports will be too small to make a dent in the U.S. supply surplus anytime soon, said Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics LLC in Austin, Texas.

    “It’s hard to find much of a bullish story,” Schenker said. “We see low natural gas prices for the balance of this year.”
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    Iran Seeks Oil Barter Deals as European Buyers Face Bank Hurdles

    Iran is offering to swap exports of crude oil for imports of refined fuel as some European customers are unable to find banks to process payments, a sign the Middle Eastern nation is still struggling to regain markets since the removal of sanctions.

    The National Iranian Oil Co. is resorting to barter because financial restrictions still impede trade, said three officials who asked not to be named citing company policy. Hellenic Petroleum SA, the Greek refiner that got as much as quarter of its crude from Iran before the European Union embargo, can’t secure deliveries because banks won’t process payments, said two people familiar with the matter.

    Iran is seeking to regain lost European markets and boost exports to Asia after sanctions were removed last month upon completion of an agreement limiting its nuclear program. It loaded its first cargo of oil to Europe since 2012 this month onto a tanker chartered to French oil company Total SA. The Persian state plans to increase exports by 1 million barrels a day this year, according to Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh.

    Cautious Banks

    Banks are being “super cautious because they do want to have access to the U.S. markets and the U.S. rules as to what they can do aren’t particularly clear,” said Ross Denton, a partner at Baker & McKenzie LLP specializing in sanctions. “Iran is open for trade” only for entities with no direct connection to the U.S., he said.

    Several European banks approached by Hellenic have refused to handle transactions linked to Iran, the two people said, asking not to be identified because the matter was private. This has stymied the company’s Jan. 22 agreement to resume purchases of Iranian crude.

    Barter deals avoid the need to access bank finance for as long as many lenders remain unwilling to issue letters of credit for Iran-linked trades, the three NIOC officials said. The company is asking for at least partial cash payment for most refined-product trades and accepting transactions in Euros and other currencies, they said. It is offering products such as fuel oil in exchange for imports of gasoline and is also willing to swap crude for fuel, they said.

    Even after the successful nuclear deal, some U.S. sanctions on Iran remain in place. In 2014, the nation’s regulators imposed fines on some European banks including BNP Paribas SA for processing transactions to nations under U.S. sanctions like Iran, Cuba and Sudan.
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    Gazprom cuts gas supplies to Turkey by 10 pct - sources

    Russian energy giant Gazprom has reduced natural gas supplies to private sector companies in Turkey by 10 percent due to a price dispute, officials at Turkey's energy ministry told Reuters on Thursday.

    The cut came after Turkish companies refused to pay a fresh bill sent by Gazprom with higher prices after an initial deal between Ankara and Moscow envisaging a 10.25 percent reduction in prices was cancelled.

    Russia's Interfax news agency said the cut came into effect on Feb. 10. Six private Turkish companies buy a total of 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia annually.

    Turkey is dependent on Russia for more than half of its natural gas imports but the two countries have been at loggerheads since November when Ankara downed a Russian warplane along the Turkey-Syria border saying it violated its air space.

    Turkey has not asked for additional supplies from elsewhere, an industry source said, as demand at the moment remained low due to warm weather. "At the moment there are no problems in terms of meeting the gas demand," he said.

    Turkey said last year it had struck a deal giving it a 10.25 percent price discount on gas from Gazprom, but a final signing was delayed, prompting state pipeline operator Botas to appeal to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

    Russia is Turkey's largest gas supplier with sales of 28-30 billion cubic metres annually worth around $6.5 billion. Turkey imports 60 percent of its gas and 35 percent of its oil from Russia.
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    Sunoco May Ship First U.S. Waterborne Ethane Export Within Days

    Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, which operates pipelines and terminals, is poised to export the first U.S. waterborne ethane cargo “within a week,” according to Genscape Inc.

    The company’s Mariner East 1 pipeline, which stretches from the Marcellus shale deposit in western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook terminal on the Delaware River near Philadelphia, boosted ethane deliveries on Feb. 22, said Amanda Townsley, senior adviser of petrochemicals and LNG for Genscape, which is monitoring the line.  The jump in flows coincides with the arrival of the terminal’s first tanker, the JS Ineos Intrepid, at the ethane dock, she said.

    This ethane is contracted to go to Norway as feedstock at processing plants owned by Ineos Europe AG, and will ultimately be used to make products such as plastic. U.S. producers have seen prices for natural gas and liquids tumble as output from shale deposits outpaces demand.

    “The first ship at the ethane dock is exciting; this would be the first waterborne export from the U.S. period,” Townsley, based in Houston, said in a telephone interview. “It’s not a massive volume so it’s not a game changer for the supply and demand balance, but it’s a big deal for the producers in the area.”

    Range Resources Corp. is contracted to ship 20,000 barrels of ethane on the pipeline to the Philadelphia area terminal, according to its website. Ineos previously announced it also has a long-term contract to purchase ethane from Consol Energy Inc.

    Sunoco Logistics spokesman Jeffrey Shields declined to provide updates and said to listen to the company’s earnings call early Thursday for any developments, according to an e-mail Tuesday. He didn’t respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
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    China asks for urban ban on high-sulphur diesel in clean fuel push

    China has asked local governments in 11 provinces to ban in urban areas the selling of high-sulphur diesel that is used for industrial and farming purposes rather than in automobiles, Beijing said in a policy document released on Thursday.

    The request comes after China rolled out "national five" standards for gasoline and diesel on Jan. 1 in the 11 provinces in the more economically developed eastern part of the country. The standards are equivalent to Euro V specifications that allow a maximum sulphur content of 10 parts per million (ppm).

    Due to lax supervision, however, "general diesel" or diesel with a high-sulphur content is still being sold at urban petrol stations in the provinces that come under the new policy, said the National Development & Reform Commission (NDRC) on Thursday in thedocument posted on its website

    Only kiosks in rural areas or along the rivers should be allowed to sell high-sulphur diesel, the NDRC said.

    The tighter fuel standards are an attempt to tackle air pollution. Emissions from automobiles, especially from diesel-burning trucks, are one of the main contributors to the choking smog that plagues many Chinese cities.

    "Along with China's accelerating fuel upgrades, the problem of having the lower-grade fuel quit the market has become increasingly prominent," the agency said.

    "Especially as general diesel is being sold to automobiles illegally, marketing of (higher quality) automotive diesel has been adversely affected."

    The agency requires all service stations to mark clearly the names and quality of their fuels to help motorists select the grades they want and to allow authorities to supervise fuel quality, the NDRC said.

    By January 2017, "national five" will cover the whole country, it said, in line with an announcement last April that moved the roll-out up by one year.

    Refiners have started boosting output of cleaner fuels, and also raised imports of diesel to 145,000 tonnes in January as recorded by customs data, despite an overall domestic surplus that has turned China into a leading exporter of the fuel.

    Traders said the rare imports, which were about 20 percent of the diesel China exported last month, were driven in part by the need to meet the cleaner fuel standards.

    China, the world's largest fuel user after the United States, has more than 90,000 petrol stations. Nearly 60 percent of them are owned or run by dominant state refiners Sinopec Corp and PetroChina, the rest by smaller state oil companies like Sinochem Corp [SASADA.UL] and independents.

    The big state refiners say they have spent billions of dollars upgrading facilities to make the cleaner fuels.
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    Kremlin aide suggests selling 19 pct in Rosneft to strategic investor: agencies

    The best option for privatizing top Russian oil producer Rosneft is to sell the state's 19 percent stake to a strategic investor "to receive a maximum premium", Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin aide Andrei Belousov as saying on Thursday.
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    Technip shares leap as market applauds resilience amid oil rout

    Technip's shares jumped by more than 15 percent on Thursday as markets applauded its fourth-quarter results and it said that its 2016 dividend was well covered thanks to a strong backlog of projects while cash flow helped it to resist the worst of the oil price rout.

    Although the French oil services company expects business to dip in 2016 as oil and gas companies hold off on new investments, it said it expects to some rebound in momentum from late in the year going into 2017.

    Kepler Cheuvreux analysts, who have a "hold" rating on Technip, wrote that the results were in line with forecasts and that they expect the company to announce a multibillion-euro contract in Mozambique in the coming weeks.

    Italy's Eni said on Wednesday that it had won approval from the Mozambique government to build its planned Coral floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant. Technip is expected to take part, but a company spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

    One London-based analyst described Technip's outlook as reassuring, while Jefferies, which has a "buy" rating on the stock, said the results were above consensus and 2016 guidance was positive.


    Sector suppliers have been squeezed along with oil and gas companies that have cut spending and jobs, while placing projects on hold, in response to a 70 percent drop in oil prices since mid-2014 because of a global crude glut.

    Technip's Italian rival Saipem said on Wednesday that it may have to cut costs further to meet a commitment to stick to profit forecasts for 2016 after it posted a 2015 net loss of 806 million euros and wrote off assets.

    The Technip CEO, Thierry Pilenko, told reporters that a strong backlog of work, solid cash flow and cost cuts had enabled the firm to remain resilient.

    "We have a very robust balance sheet, which is supported by a strong cash generation and a solid backlog that allows us to set very clear objectives for 2016," Pilenko said.

    Technip said its business backlog was 17 billion euros ($18.7 billion) at the end of 2015, compared with more than 20 billion euros the previous year, and that it ended the year with 1.9 billion euros of net cash.

    The company's cost savings target has been increased to 1 billion euros by 2017, from the 830 million euros announced last July, but it said no further job cuts are planned.

    Pilenko said the company might consider small acquisitions and alliances to strengthen its position in technological developments.

    The company's chief finance officer told analysts that the dividend for 2016 is well covered.
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    Repsol Cuts Dividend as Crude Slump Casts Doubt on Talisman Deal

    Repsol SA, the worst-performing major European oil stock over the past year, cut its dividend for the first time since 2009 as its acquisition of Talisman Energy Inc. turned sour amid the crude-market rout.

    Repsol’s board proposed cutting the final 2015 payout to 0.3 euros per share from 0.5 euros as the Madrid-based producer followed Eni SpA and ConocoPhillips in paring its dividend. The company booked an impairment charge of 2.96 billion euros ($3.26 billion) for the collapse in prices.

    Repsol has lost half its market value over the past year, the most among Europe’s six largest oil companies, as it struggles to convince investors of its ability to weather the slump in crude while integrating Talisman. The assets of the Canadian company it acquired for $13 billion last May suffered operating losses in Norway, Colombia and North America.

    The company reported a net loss of 2.06 billion euros in the fourth quarter. Talisman assets posted a 208 million-euro operating loss, even as Repsol’s production unit showed an operating profit of 11 million euros. Adjusted net income rose 25 percent to 461 million euros from a year earlier, beating the average 451.1 million-euro estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

    Repsol’s shares rose 1.9 percent in Madrid trading as the 22 member STOXX Europe 600 Oil & Gas Index gained 1.8 percent.

    The company plans to sell 6.2 billion euros of assets by 2020 to cut its debt load from the highest in at least 27 years. Net debt rose sixfold to 11.9 billion euros as of Dec. 31 from a year earlier following the Talisman acquisition.

    Repsol cut its dividend for the first time since reducing the payout on its 2009 earnings as it struggles to avert credit rating downgrades and seeks to avoid selling down its 30 percent stake in Gas Natural SDG SA. Repsol last month doubled its annual target for synergies from the Talisman acquisition to $400 million.

    The company reported that refining margins, a gauge of profitability, rose to $7.3 per barrel in the fourth quarter from $5.5 per barrel a year ago. Repsol pumped about 697,500 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the three months through Dec. 31, compared with 371,000 a year earlier, before the takeover of Talisman.

    Repsol announced the sale of its U.K. offshore wind production unit to SDIC Power Holdings Co. for 238 million euros, giving an after tax capital gain of 109 million euros.
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    Leviathan partners raise annual natgas production forecast

    Leviathan partners raise annual natgas production forecast

    The partners developing Israel's massive Leviathan offshore natural gas field increased their annual production forecast on Thursday and said they expect to bring the project online by the end of 2019.

    The group led by Texas-based Noble Energy and Israeli conglomerate Delek Group presented a new development plan that calls for 21 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas production each year, up from 16 bcm in their initial plan.

    They also lowered the estimated cost of the project to $5-$6 billion from a previous $6-$7 billion.

    Leviathan was discovered in 2010 in the eastern Mediterranean and has estimated reserves of 622 bcm, making it one of the world's largest finds of the past decade. But development has been held up due to regulatory uncertainty in Israel.

    The government recently agreed to a framework deal with Noble and Delek to speed up development of Leviathan, though the Supreme Court needs to give a final approval because some opponents have claimed it is unlawful.

    The development plan presented on Thursday includes drilling eight wells to be connected by a subsea pipeline to an offshore platform, producing a total of 21 bcm a year.

    One exit point capable of handling up to 12 bcm a year will be for Israel, as well as bringing supplies to neighbouring markets in the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Egypt. A second exit point to handle up to 12 bcm is solely for export.

    "We are moving forward as fast as possible to bring gas to market by the end of 2019," Yossi Abu, chief executive of Delek subsidiaries Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration , told Reuters.
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    Anadarko selling majority stake in a pipeline system

    Western Gas Partners LP has agreed to buy a majority stake in Anadarko Petroleum Corp.’s south Texas oil and gas pipeline system for $750 million.

    The deal is for Springfield Pipeline LLC, which owns a 50.1 percent share in the overall gathering system in the Eagle Ford shale basin. The system serves Anadarko and its partners’ production there, Western Gas said in a fourth-quarter earning statement after the close of New York trading Wednesday.

    “With the support of Anadarko and the strength of our portfolio, we believe we can continue to deliver meaningful distribution growth even in this commodity price environment,” Western’s chief executive officer, Don Sinclair, said in the statement.

    The Springfield system includes 548 miles of gas-gathering lines with a capacity of 795 million cubic feet a day; 241 miles of oil-gathering lines with a capacity of 130 million barrels a day; 24 compressor stations; 260,000 barrels of oil storage; and 75,000 barrels a day of “stabilization capacity.”

    Western plans to finance the deal with $449 million of 8.5 percent perpetual convertible preferred units to First Reserve Advisors LLC and Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors LP at a price of $32 per unit. It also will issue 1.25 million Western units to Anadarko and almost 836,000 units to Western Gas Equity Partners LP at $29.91 per common unit. It’s borrowing $247.5 million on its credit line, the company said.

    The transaction is expected to close by March 15, Western Gas said.
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    Continental Resources Stops Bakken Fracking; Upbeat On New Play

    Continental Resources, a top producer in the Bakken shale formation, said Wednesday it has ceased fracking operations there amid the continued slump in oil prices.

    The bellwether shale company had already planned to defer most Bakken completions in 2016. It has four operated drilling rigs in the North Dakota Bakken with plans to maintain that level through the year.

    But Continental said it currently has “no stimulation crews deployed in the Bakken.”

    Continental posted an adjusted net loss of 23 cents per share in Q4, down from a profit of $1.14 per share a year ago. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting a loss of 21 cents per share. Revenue sank 55.6% to $575.5 million, above views for $568.2 million.

    But Continental was bullish on acreage in its STACK play in Oklahoma, and expects an average estimated ultimate recovery of 1.7 million barrels of oil equivalent per well.

    “Our overpressured Meramec wells in STACK are delivering some of the highest returns in the Company,” said COO Jack Stark in a statement. “We clearly have another high impact, long-term platform for growth underlying our 155,000 net acres of leasehold in STACK.”

    The company plans to average four-to-five operated drilling rigs in the STACK play in 2016.

    Last month, Continental guided 2016 capital spending to $920 million, down 66% from 2015. It also sees production falling during the year on lower drilling and well completion activity.
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    Enbridge Plans to Raise About $1.5 Billion in Equity Sale

    Enbridge Inc. plans to raise C$2 billion ($1.5 billion) in a share sale to shore up its finances in the midst of an oil price rout.

    The Canadian pipeline company agreed with a group of lenders to issue 49.14 million common shares from treasury in a so-called bought deal, according to a statement. The funds will be used to pay short-term debt, the company said.

    Canadian energy companies face a wave of debt maturities over the next five years that could make it challenging for them to access financing as investors drive up borrowing costs and shun commodities-related debt. Oil has plunged about 70 percent since mid-2014, sapping revenue.

    Enbridge’s sale follows two other bought deals in the past week.Whitecap Resources Inc. and Raging River Exploration Inc. both raised C$95 million in the past week through equity raises of their own to pay down debt and fund capital expenditures.

    Enbridge’s profit rose in the fourth quarter as record oil shipments on its main system have so far shielded the pipeline operator from the oil rout. While oil and gas producers have been reeling from the collapse of energy prices, firing workers and cutting costs, pipeline fees have provided a steadier source of income. Lines such as Enbridge’s Flanagan South and Seaway Twin have expanded Canadian crude shipments to the U.S. Gulf Coast, and the company also plans to expand in Colombia and Australia.
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    Shell to shutter key unit after U.S. boss steps down

    Marvin Odum is stepping down as head of Royal Dutch Shell's U.S. operations by mutual agreement, said the Anglo-Dutch oil company, which also announced plans to scrap a major division after abandoning two big North American projects.

    Following Odum's departure at the end of March, Shell will abolish its unconventional resources division, which he also headed, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

    The decision to shutter the division marks a rapid change within Shell's organization. In November, it announced a major restructuring of its oil and gas production, or upstream, business starting this past January as part of the integration of BG Group, which Shell acquired earlier this month. Under the new structure, unconventional resources was set to be one of three upstream divisions.

    Shell's unconventional Athabasca Oil Sands Project and the Scotford Upgrader in Canada will now join the global downstream organization under John Abbott. The U.S. Shale Resources business will join the global upstream organization under Andy Brown.

    The company said the decision would simplify its structure.

    Bruce Culpepper, executive vice president HR for unconventional resources and regional coordination, will replace Odum as chairman of U.S. operations.

    Odum, who was born in 1958, plans to pursue other opportunities after 34 years with Shell, a company spokesman said.

    Odum's departure comes months after Shell ceased its controversial exploration in Alaska's Arctic Sea and suspended the 80,000-barrel-per-day Carmon Creek thermal oil sands project in Alberta, Canada.

    "Marvin has had a long and distinguished Shell career, and I'm grateful to him for the central role he's played in the company's success," Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden said.
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    Eni secures approval for Coral FLNG project in Mozambique

    Italian energy giant Eni said on Wednesday that the Mozambique government had approved the plan of development for the company’s Coral FLNG project.

    The approval relates to the first phase of development of 5 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Coral discovery, located in the Area 4 permit.

    The giant discovery, located approximately 80 kilometers offshore of the Palma bay in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, is estimated to contain around 16 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas in place.

    The plan of development, the very first one to be approved in the Rovuma Basin, foresees the drilling and completion of 6 subsea wells and the construction and installation of a floating LNG facility, with the capacity of around 3.4 MTPA, Eni said in a statement.

    “Today’s approval of the Coral plan of development is a historical milestone for the development of our discovery of 85 TCF of gas in the Rovuma Basin. It is a fundamental step to progress toward the final investment decision of our project which envisages the installation of the first newly built floating LNG facility in Africa and one of the first in the world,“ Eni’s CEO, Claudio Descalzi said.

    Eni is the operator of Area 4 with a 50% indirect interest, owned through Eni East Africa (EEA), which holds a 70% stake of Area 4.

    The other partners are Galp Energia, Kogas and Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos (ENH) with a 10% stake each. CNPC owns a 20% indirect interest in Area 4 through Eni East Africa.
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    Chesapeake terminates earnings call early

    Chesapeake Energy terminated 4Q call 30 mins in, many key topics left uncovered

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    Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending February 19, 2016

    U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 15.7 million barrels per day during the week ending February 19, 2016, 163,000 barrels per day less than the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 87.3% of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production increased last week, averaging 10.0 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production decreased last week, averaging over 4.4 million barrels per day.

    U.S. crude oil imports averaged 7.8 million barrels per day last week, down by 117,000 barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports averaged about 7.8 million barrels per day, 7.0% above the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 566,000 barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 242,000 barrels per day last week.

    U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 3.5 million barrels from the previous week. At 507.6 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are at historically high levels for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 2.2 million barrels last week, but are well above the upper limit of the average range. Finished gasoline inventories increased while blending components inventories decreased last week. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 1.7 million barrels last week but are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories fell 3.7 million barrels last week but are well above the upper limit of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories decreased by 5.0 million barrels last week.

    Total products supplied over the last four-week period averaged over 19.6 million barrels per day, up by 0.2% from the same period last year. Over the last four weeks, motor gasoline product supplied averaged about 9.1 million barrels per day, up by 5.2% from the same period last year. Distillate fuel product supplied averaged about 3.5 million barrels per day over the last four weeks, down by 16.0% from the same period last year. Jet fuel product supplied is up 5.3% compared to the same four-week period last year.

    Cushing +333K, Exp. -100K
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    US Oil production shows a small fall in the last week

                                                            Last Week   Week Before   Last Year

    Domestic Production '000.....   9,102             9,135           9,285

    Attached Files
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    Schork: Why oil won't rebound into the $40s this year

    Oil prices are likely to remain under pressure this year as Saudi Arabia and Iran compete for market share in weak or slowing Asian economies, the editor of The Schork Report said Wednesday.

    Stephen Schork said he does not necessarily agree with forecasts that oil will rebound into the $40s in the next 12 months, citing Saudi oil minister Ali Al-Naimi's comments on Tuesday that OPEC and non-OPEC members will not cut production.

    "If you are long oil, get it through your head. Saudi Arabia is not going to throw you a life preserver," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

    Al-Naimi's remarks at IHS CERAWeek in Houston sent oil prices spiraling on Tuesday after futures had risen in previous sessions, bolstered by a plan put forward by Saudi Arabia and Russia to cap output at January levels. That plan would be contingent on participation from OPEC and non-OPEC members.

    Saudi Arabia in November 2014 led OPEC's policy of letting the market determine the oil price, rather than cutting production to boost prices.

    Schork said it is simply unlikely that Saudi Arabia, the Middle East's dominant Sunni Muslim power, would take measures that would bolster its Shiite rival, Iran.

    Iran recently ramped up crude exports after sanctions related to its nuclear program were lifted. The two countries also support opposing combatants in conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

    "We are looking at the largest chasm between the Sunnis and the Shias within OPEC ever. Why would Saudi Arabia throw Iran a lifeline at this point?" he said.

    Schork said he arrived at his conclusion by juxtaposing geopolitics with economics. Saudi Arabia and Iran are competing for available market share in Asia at a time when China is exporting deflation and Japan appears to be on the cusp of recession, he said.

    In the more immediate term, Schork said he believes oil will test the $25 threshold once again as refineries enter their maintenance season and demand for crude falls.

    Saudi Arabia can sustain the current policy for a long time because its break-even cost of producing the majority of its oil is likely below $10 a barrel, said Nansen Saleri, Quantum Reservoir Impact president and CEO.

    However, he acknowledged that the Saudi economy, which is dependent on oil revenues, is suffering and the country has fallen into budgetary deficit.

    "The pain threshold depends not only on the lifting cost but the total cost to the economy," he told "Squawk Box" on Wednesday.

    Ultimately, the current low-price environment could last anywhere from six to 18 months, Saleri said. At some point, OPEC and non-OPEC producers must find a way to achieve a reasonable oil price.
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    CPC pipeline to boost oil exports by 20 pct in 2016 - CEO

    The Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), which brings oil from Kazakhstan to the Black Sea, plans to increase exports of CPC Blend oil by 20 percent year-on-year to 51.2 million tonnes in 2016, its head Nikolai Brunich said in an interview with Reuters.

    The pipeline connects the giant Tengiz onshore field in Kazakhstan, and a number of other fields, to the sea terminal near Novorossiisk in Russia.

    Despite weak global oil prices, CPC is still on track to increase the pipeline's capacity to 67 million tonnes in 2016, finishing its five-year expansion programme, according to Brunich.

    The CEO hopes some of the new resources to help and fill the pipeline's expanded capacity will come from its largest supplier, Chevron-led Tengizchevroil, which is developing the Tengiz field.

    Tengizchevroil plans to increase supplies via CPC by 4 million tonnes to 30 million tonnes in 2016, Brunich said.

    He also believes new volumes will come this year from Kazakhstan's giant Kashagan project and from an offshore project by Russia's second-largest oil producer Lukoil.

    CPC plans to receive this year 2.5 million tonnes of oil from Kashagan and 1 million tonnes from Lukoil's Filanovsky offshore oilfield in the Caspian Sea, the chief executive added.

    Kazakh Deputy Energy Minister Magzum Mirzagaliyev said in December the restart of commercial production at Kashagan was not expected until the end of 2016 and by 2020 output will reach 13 million tonnes,

    Brunich added he expected CPC to export 45 million tonnes of Kazakh oil and about 6 million tonnes of Russian oil in total in 2016. Russia owns 31 percent of CPC, while Kazakhstan holds a 21-percent stake and Chevron has a 15-percent stake.
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    Warburg Pincus to Invest Up to $500 Million in RimRock Oil & Gas

    Private equity firm Warburg Pincus agreed to invest as much as $500 million in an oil and gas producer after commodities prices plummeted.

    Warburg Pincus will give RimRock Oil & Gas a line of equity to help the startup company acquire and develop energy assets in North America, the companies said in a statement Wednesday. The money is coming from New York-based Warburg Pincus’s $12 billion private equity fundand its $4 billion energy fund.

    While private equity firms have collected more than $20 billion for energy deals in the past two years, the money has largely remained on the sidelines, in part because oil producers have been unwilling to sell. That may quickly change, according to Deloitte LLP, which last week said more than one-third of listed producers worldwide are at high risk of bankruptcy, as their collective debt surged to about $150 billion and cash flows dwindled.

    A global oil glut has caused a collapse in prices and led producers worldwide to reduce drilling, fire workers and cut dividend payments. West Texas Intermediate crude has slumped 70 percent since its mid-2014 peak and hit a 13-year low of $26.21 a barrel earlier this month.

    “In light of the current commodity price environment, we believe there is a compelling opportunity to acquire and develop large-scale assets,” Jim Fraser, RimRock’s chief executive officer, said in the statement.

    The sentiment was shared this week at the SuperReturn International conference in Berlin, where dealmakers from firms including Carlyle Group LP and Blackstone Group LP said they expect private equity firms to increase investments in oil and gas as producers become forced sellers.

    Speaking at the conference Wednesday, Warburg Pincus Co-Chief Executive Officer Joe Landy said he expects oil producers and the banks that lent to them to take a hit as hedges continue to expire. Landy said oil and gas companies in which his firm has invested are “doing well.”

    Among Warburg Pincus’s largest oil and gas holdings are Kosmos Energy Ltd., Antero Resources Corp. and Laredo Petroleum Inc., whose stocks have each fallen by more than half in the past two years, with Laredo slumping 84 percent.
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    Encana to cut capex, production, jobs

    Canada's Encana Corp cut its capital budget and production target for 2016 and said it would slash more jobs as the company struggles to cope with a steep fall in oil prices.

    Encana lowered the upper end of its production target for this year to 360,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) from 370,000 boepd, maintaining the lower end at 340,000 boepd.

    The oil and natural gas producer also slashed its capital spending target to $900 million-$1 billion from $1.5 billion-$1.7 billion it forecast earlier.

    Encana, which cut 200 jobs in July last year, said on Wednesday it would lay off 20 percent of its workforce this year.

    The company reported a net loss of $612 million attributable to common shareholders for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31. Encana had a profit of $198 million in the year-earlier quarter.

    Excluding items, the company reported an operating profit of 13 cents per share, handily beating the analyst average estimate of 1 cent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
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    Chesapeake cuts annual capex by 57 pct, plans more asset sales

    U.S. natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy Corp more than halved its annual capital budget and said it would sell more assets this year.

    The company's shares fell nearly 6.5 percent in premarket trading on Wednesday.

    Chesapeake said it planned to spend $1.3 billion-$1.8 billion this year, down 57 percent from 2015 levels, and sell assets worth $500 million-$1 billion.

    It said production could fall by as much as 5 percent this year due to the asset sales.

    Chesapeake has struck deals to sell assets worth about $700 million this year so far, it said.

    "We are also renegotiating gathering, transportation and processing contracts to better align with our current development plans and market conditions ..." Chief Executive Doug Lawler said in a statement.

    Chesapeake reported a net loss of $2.23 billion, or $3.36 per share, attributable to shareholders for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31. The company had a profit of $586 million, or 81 cents per share, a year earlier.

    Excluding impairment charges of $2.83 billion and other items, Chesapeake reported a loss 16 cents per share, below the average analyst estimate of 17 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
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    Brent crude price drop takes toll on Yanchang Petroleum

    Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum (Group) Co, China's fourth-biggest oil producer by output, may cease production in some oilfields and stop drilling both old and new wells in some areas in response to the sharp plunge in crude oil prices, a media report said on Monday.

    The Yan'an-based company faces huge pressure over soaring cost in terms of oil exploitation, personnel and operation. The cost for oil production at Yanchang stands at about $70 per barrel, against a national average of $40, according to sources quoted by Securities Daily.

    In order to remain profitable, the State-run company also plans to cut capital spending by a total of 3.1 billion yuan ($480 million) this year and merge at least three oil drilling facilities, the report said.

    Yanchang Petroleum lowered its oil output target to 12.2 million metric tons for this year, about 200,000 tons lower than a year earlier, according to a statement on the company's website.

    The more than 50 percent slump in global crude oil prices since June has badly hit producer's earnings. Brent crude oil is currently below $30 a barrel, for the first time since May 2009.

    Yanchang Petroleum is not the first firm to respond to the price dive by cutting spending or suspending production.

    Shengli Oilfield, owned by China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, the nation's second-largest oil major, plans to shut down four oilfields in the country's eastern Shandong province to stay afloat.

    The company, also known as Sinopec, said the four oilfields are the least profitable projects in the region with only a few tens of thousands tons of production, and the shutdown could save at least 200 million yuan.

    At the same time, Daqing Oilfield, the largest oilfield explored by China's major oil and gas producer China National Petroleum Corp, reduced crude oil production in 2015 for the first time in seven years.

    Though it is a painful process to make cuts or even suspend production, it is better to act early than leave it, experts.

    "It is a normal practice when oil prices plunge. It is an adaption that oil companies have to make to meet market requirements," said Han Xiaoping, chief executive officer of online energy information portal

    He said the cost for oil exploitation has been rising as some wells are getting old, but oil prices have been plummeting even faster, putting huge pressure on many large oil producers.

    "Oil companies need to bring costs down in line with the current lower oil prices. Many foreign companies have also made plans to sell off part of their assets or even start drilling fewer wells," he said.
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    Silver Run raises $450 million in IPO to buy energy companies

    Silver Run Acquisition Corp, a new U.S. investment vehicle, raised a greater-than-expected $450 million in an initial public offering on Tuesday aimed at funding the acquisition of energy companies, indicating investors see bargains amid the oil price rout.

    The shares of many energy companies have been battered in the last 18 months as an oil supply glut has weighed on their prospects. Silver Run's IPO shows that some investors believe the sector's corporate valuations have reached bottom.

    In the largest IPO so far this year in the United States, Silver Run said it had priced 45 million shares at $10 each, selling 5 million more shares than it originally planned.

    Silver Run is a blank-check acquisition company sponsored by energy-focused private equity firm Riverstone Holdings LLC. Such so-called special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) fund the equity portion of their acquisitions through stock issuance.

    Silver Run will look for companies that are "fundamentally sound" but underperforming due to current commodity prices, according to its IPO prospectus.

    So-called secondary market investors are already placing bets that mergers and acquisitions will pick up in the oil patch by snapping up shares sold by publicly listed energy companies that could use the money to acquire assets at a discount. Silver Run's offering illustrates that SPACs can successfully make a similar pitch to IPO investors.

    "(Secondary market) investors are participating in follow-on financings that make already strong companies stronger, enabling them to withstand even lower commodity prices or potentially even allowing them to play offense," said Americas equity capital markets head at Bank of Montreal Michael Cippoletti.

    Silver Run's chief executive officer, Mark Papa, is an oil and gas veteran and Riverstone partner. He has worked for 45 years in the space, 15 of which were as CEO of EOG Resources Inc, once a division of Enron. Papa shifted EOG's focus from gas to oil, and is credited with transforming EOG into one of America's biggest oil companies.

    Shares in Silver Run are expected to start trading on Wednesday and list on NASDAQ under the symbol "SRAQU".
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    Asia's oil markets in upheaval as China, India change the game

    Asia's oil markets are being upended as India's and China's refiners overtake once-dominant buyers like Japan and challenge the United States as the world's biggest consumer.

    The shifts are not only establishing new trade routes but are also challenging the way oil is priced in the region as the new players push for more cash cargoes and fewer long-term deals.

    China and India's combined share of world oil consumption has tripled since 1990 to over 16 percent, nearing the U.S. share of roughly 20 percent, cementing their status as the main center of global demand growth.

    "Asian oil markets are in a tremendous period of flux," said Owain Johnson, managingdirector of Dubai Mercantile Exchange (DME).

    By 2040, China and India could double their share again to a third, analysts say.

    One of Asia's rising traders is Indian Oil Corp, which operates 11 refineries with a combined capacity of 80.7 million tonnes a year (1.9 million barrels per day), a third of India's capacity and roughly the same size as Exxon's U.S. refining base.

    "Spot crude (trading) gives more flexibility and more variety is available. Last year we raised spot purchases and for this year we are working out a strategy," said its head of finance A. K. Sharma.

    The changes come at the expense of western majors, with Shell complaining in December that aggressive trading, conducted by Chinese companies, meant Asian crude prices didn't properly reflect the market.

    "Chinese oil companies have become the new power houses in oil trading," said Oystein Berentsen, managing director of crude at Strong Petroleum in Singapore.


    Previously, Asia's largest oil buyers from Japan - which once accounted for about 10 percent of global demand - stuck with long-term contracts.

    Now, as China and India take the lead, a growing share of trading is done on a spot basis as buyers prioritize cost and delivery flexibility over fixed shipment schedules.

    Moreover, thanks to the hefty volumes, the new buyers are able to extract favourable prices. China and India's combined daily net crude imports exceed 10 million barrels, or some 3 million bpd more than top importer the United States.

    The new buyers are also bringing new characteristics to the marketplace.

    "Indians are more flexible than many of their Asian peers, buying up distressed or stranded cargoes when there's a profitable opportunity," said Ivan Szpakowski, head of Asia commodity research at Citigroup.

    "India will become the biggest source of oil consumption growth. Its geography also changes trade flows. If you look at a map, the Middle East is much closer to India than to Japan or China and such shipments are effectively short-haul."

    In China, state-owned oil giants have been joined by nearly 20 independent refiners which have been granted import licenses and exclusively buy spot supplies.

    Their arrival is changing trade flows through their preference for cheaply-delivered Russian crudes which has helped Russia challenge the Middle East as China's biggest supplier.


    Not all is smooth sailing. Richard Gorry, director of JBC Energy Asia, said the rise of these traders is causing "teething problems" as they make their first deals with highly regulated international companies.

    In January, a crude cargo sold to an independent Chinese refiner by western merchants Vitol and Mercuria had to be resold after the firm failed to secure financing, while this month another private Chinese company walked away from a deal to buy $680 million of Russian oil, citing "changes in the market" as a reason.
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    Petrobras Said to Buy Cheniere's First U.S. Shale Gas Export

    Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil’s state-owned energy company, is scheduled to receive the first cargo of shale gas to be shipped from the U.S., according to a person familiar with the deal.

    The shipment of liquefied natural gas was agreed to on Monday, said the person who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. Cheniere Energy Inc.began loading the first tanker at its Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana, U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Dustin Williams said in an e-mail Tuesday.

    “The biggest buyer of LNG outside of the winter is Brazil first and Argentina second in the Atlantic Basin," said Ted Michael, an analyst for energy data provider Genscape Inc.“They buy LNG for gas-powered, air-conditioned power."

    Fuel Glut

    America’s first LNG export will hit the water just as a glut of the fuel emerges in the global market, weighing on prices. Other gas-export projects are expected to come under pressure to secure financing and long-term contracts amid the global commodity rout and shifts in demand overseas, Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of the energy consulting group IHS Inc., said in an interview Feb. 17.

    Demand is forecast to be higher in South America during the spring, in part due to a drought that has increased Brazil’s dependence on the power-plant fuel. Brazil has increased LNG imports in the past few years after an agreement to buy gas via a pipeline from Bolivia reached its limits.

    Loading the Asia Vision, the LNG tanker that moored at the Sabine Pass on Feb. 21, may take a few days and the timing of its departure is unclear, Williams said. Genscape, which has cameras pointed at the terminal, said the vessel began unloading ballast water shortly after it arrived and has continued to do so, which is “consistent with taking on more weight from LNG loading onto the ship,” analyst Jason Lord said in an e-mail Tuesday. He estimated it may take closer to 36 hours to load the Asia Vision.
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    Stone Energy Misses Q4 EPS by 4c

    Stone Energy (NYSE: SGY) reported Q4 EPS of $0.04, $0.04 worse than the analyst estimate of $0.08.


    Our estimated proved reserves as of December 31, 2015 were 57 MMBoe (million barrels of oil equivalent) or 342 Bcfe (billion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent), compared to 153 MMBoe (915 Bcfe) at year-end 2014. The decrease in estimated proved reserves is primarily attributable to the downward revision of 95 MMBoe (570 Bcfe) to contingent resources due to depressed commodity prices. Substantially all of Stone's proved reserves in Appalachia were reclassified to contingent resources during 2015. From drilling additions, extensions, well performance, and the acquisition of Appalachia working interests, Stone replaced approximately 104% of 2015 production.

    The year-end 2015 estimated proved reserves were 53% oil, 11% natural gas liquids (NGLs) and 36% gas on an equivalent basis. The changes from year-end 2014 estimated proved reserves to year-end 2015 estimated proved reserves included production of approximately 14 MMBoe (85 Bcfe), divestitures of 1 MMBoe (6 Bcfe), drilling additions/extensions of 1 MMBoe (7 Bcfe), acquisition of working interest in Appalachia of 6 MMBoe (34 Bcfe), positive performance revisions of 8 MMBoe (47 Bcfe) and net downward price revisions of 95 MMBoe or 570 Bcfe.

    The standardized measure of discounted future net cash flows from our estimated proved reserves at December 31, 2015, using a 10% discount rate and 12-month average prices (after differentials) of $51.16 per barrel of oil, $16.40 per barrel of NGLs and $2.19 per Mcf of gas, was approximately $604 million. Estimated future income taxes had no effect on the standardized measure as of December 31, 2015. If current pricing was used to determine the estimated proved reserves or the standardized measure at December 31, 2015, the reserve volumes and values would be reduced.

    The year-end 2015 estimated proved reserves included proved developed (PD) reserves of 42 MMBoe or 249 Bcfe (52% oil, 12% NGLs, 36% gas) and proved undeveloped (PUD) reserves of 15 MMBoe or 93 Bcfe (55% oil, 11% NGLs, 34% gas). In addition, there were 23 MMBoe or 139 Bcfe of estimated probable reserves and 59 MMBoe or 356 Bcfe of estimated possible reserves at year-end 2015.

    All of Stone's estimated proved, probable and possible reserves and contingent resources were independently engineered by Netherland Sewell & Associates.
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    Al-Naimi Warns Producers "Cut Costs Or Liquidate"

    It appears oil traders are disappointed with Al-Naimi's comments. Suggesting hopefully (for some) that the 'freeze' is the start of a process, al-Naimi then dropped the tape-bomb:


    He then added that "not all the countries will freeze; The ones that count will freeze."  "We met with non-OPEC, we asked them what are you going to do, they said nothing

    Oil futures lost more ground on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said he has no concerns about oil demand and that he welcomes additional supplies, including shale oil. He emphasized in his speech at IHS CERAWeek that "we have not delcared war on shale" or on production from any country or company. "Our purpose is not market share." Al-Naimi said oil is in a "painful downturn" but the market will be balanced and demand will pick up.
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    Alberta NatGas storage withdrawal lowest in 25 years

    NatGas taken from Alberta storage since Nov 1 is now a miserly 31 bcf, the smallest cumulative storage withdrawal in past 25 years

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    Iran Slams OPEC Production 'Freeze' Proposal As "Ridiculous"

    Despite OPEC's El-Badri proclaiming that Iran and iraq "didn't refuse to join the production freeze," oil prices are tumbling this morning on comments from Iran's oil minister that OPEC's call for a production freeze is "ridiculous."

    Proposal by Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela, Qatar for oil producers to freeze output puts “unrealistic demands” on Iran, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh says, according to ministry’s news agency Shana.

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    Japan may not load March Iran oil as insurance to expire

    Japan will likely refrain from loading oil at Iranian ports in March because of the impending expiry at the end of next month of special shipping insurance cover provided by the government, industry and government officials said.

    The potential restriction from one of Tehran's biggest oil customers highlights Iran's difficulties in boosting exports after U.S. sanctions were lifted in January. The problem stems from confusion about whether U.S. companies can offer insurance coverage for tankers with Iranian crude.

    The U.S. removed the sanctions after confirming a deal on Iran's disputed nuclear programme, including prohibitions on non-American companies selling insurance to and trading with Iranian entities.

    But the Treasury Department left in place other sanctions limiting the amount of reinsurance U.S. companies can provide for Iranian ships, a crucial element in providing tanker cover.

    The insurance ban was the most effective way of limiting Iranian oil exports, which were more than 3 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2011, but fell to a little more than 1 million bpd after the sanctions were imposed in 2012.

    Japan has kept the oil trade with Iran going through a special government insurance programme that gives about $8 billion in coverage and the government plans to renew it with a parliamentary vote, a government source said.

    But, given the lack of a timetable on the vote, shippers are erring on the side of caution and will likely hold back from any loadings next month, the government source and industry sources, who requested anonymity, said.

    International insurers are trying to put together limited coverage to complement the lack of U.S. cover, but it is uncertain whether the Washington will approve the plans, officials at Japan's main insurer, the Japan P&I Club, said.

    European nations have resumed loading Iranian oil despite the international P&I club only providing coverage for about 85 percent of the roughly $8 billion per ship normal liability coverage, but Japanese shippers are still holding back, said the officials.

    Japan is set to load 202,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude in February, down 8 percent from a nine-month high in January, said an industry source familiar with the matter.

    Japan's Iranian crude imports last year halved from 2011 levels to about 156,000 bpd amid the sanctions.
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    Azerbaijan's Socar seeks to grow trading, restart Iran deals

    Azeri state oil firm Socar's trading division is looking to reactivate deals with Iran, as well as expanding into new markets ranging from North American crude to natural gas in Europe, its chief executive told Reuters.

    Neighbours Azerbaijan and Iran have been strengthening ties since the removal of sanctions against Tehran in January and on Tuesday Iran's national oil company NIOC and Socar signed a memorandum of understanding as part of a visit by Azeri President Ilham Aliyev to the Islamic Republic.

    "We have been actively trading with NIOC in the Caspian Sea region, until international sanctions forced us to discontinue such deliveries. There is a great potential to explore," Arzu Azimov, the chief executive of Socar Trading, said.

    Other possibilities include trading refined products with Iran in the Gulf, where Socar has storage facilities in the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah. One option was to supply Iran with gasoline and to buy naphtha and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), Azimov said.

    Geneva-based Socar Trading was set up in 2007 as the trading arm of Socar to market Azeri volumes. It expanded into crude processing and paper trading for hedging purposes before gradually trading third part crude and products.

    Azimov said Socar Trading, which currently employs less than 200 people globally sees its role as somewhat different from the trading arms of many national oil companies.

    "Where the market is oriented towards direct deals between producers and consumers, there is no space for trading houses. We need to be customer oriented. I see us as a services provider," Azimov told Reuters.

    He said about 90 percent of its profit was from outside trading of its parent company's oil or products and it was expanding in new markets beyond oil, such as LNG.

    "We decided that buying and selling LNG wasn't terribly attractive. So we started looking at other options. We looked at Malta, an interesting case as it is not connected to an EU gas grid and has been burning fuel oil for heating needs," he said.

    Socar Trading won a tender with a consortium including Germany's Siemens to supply LNG and build a re-gasification facility for the Mediterranean island, with supplies due to begin next year.

    Socar Trading plans to open an office in Houston to trade and arbitrage oil and products in and out of the United States. It already has a business unit in Calgary, where it is actively exploring trading opportunities between the U.S. and Canada.
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    Carizzo Oil & Gas announces 2015 fourth quarter and year-end results, 2016 guidance

    Carrizo Oil & Gas, Inc.  today announced the Company's financial results for the fourth quarter of 2015 and provided an operational update, which includes the following highlights:

    - Record Oil Production of 24,942 Bbls/d, 13% above the fourth quarter of 2014
    - Record Total Production of 40,159 Boe/d, 7% above the fourth quarter of 2014
    - Loss From Continuing Operations of $380.7 million, or ($6.73) per diluted share, and Adjusted Net Income (as defined below) of $18.5 million, or $0.32 per diluted share
    - Adjusted EBITDA (as defined below) of $112.1 million
    - Delivered 246% reserve replacement from all sources with a drill-bit F&D cost of $15.40 per Boe
    - Announcing 2016 drilling and completion capital expenditure plan of $270-$290 million
    - Announcing 2016 crude oil production growth target of 8%

    Carrizo reported a fourth quarter of 2015 loss from continuing operations of $380.7 million, or $6.73 per basic and diluted share compared to income from continuing operations of $129.5 million, or $2.84 and $2.79 per basic and diluted share, respectively, in the fourth quarter of 2014. The loss from continuing operations for the fourth quarter of 2015 includes certain items typically excluded from published estimates by the investment community, including the full cost ceiling test impairment recognized this quarter. Adjusted net income, which excludes the impact of these items as described in the statements of operations included below, for the fourth quarter of 2015 was $18.5 million, or $0.33 and $0.32 per basic and diluted share, respectively, compared to $14.8 million, or $0.32 per basic and diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2014.

    For the fourth quarter of 2015, adjusted earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation, depletion, and amortization, as described in the statements of operations included below ('Adjusted EBITDA'), was $112.1 million, a decrease of 13% from the prior year quarter as the impact of lower commodity prices more than offset the impact of higher production volumes.

    More information and prices

    Production volumes during the fourth quarter of 2015 were 3,695 MBoe, or 40,159 Boe/d, an increase of 7% versus the fourth quarter of 2014. The year-over-year production growth was driven by strong results from the Company's Eagle Ford assets. Oil production during the fourth quarter of 2015 averaged 24,942 Bbls/d, an increase of 13% versus the fourth quarter of 2014 and 6% versus the prior quarter; natural gas and NGL production averaged 67,110 Mcf/d and 4,032 Bbls/d, respectively, during the fourth quarter of 2015. Fourth quarter of 2015 production exceeded the high end of Company guidance due primarily to strong performance from the Company's Eagle Ford assets.

    Drilling and completion capital expenditures for the fourth quarter of 2015 were $104.5 million. More than 75% of the fourth quarter drilling and completion spending was in the Eagle Ford. Land and seismic expenditures during the quarter were $9.5 million.

    Given the decline in commodity prices, Carrizo is reducing its planned capital spending in 2016 vs. 2015. Carrizo's initial 2016 drilling and completion plan is $270-$290 million, a decrease of nearly 45% from the 2015 level. This level of spending should allow the Company to run one to two rigs in the Eagle Ford during the year as well as continue to test its acreage in the Delaware Basin. The Company's initial land and seismic capital expenditure plan is $15 million.

    Based on this level of activity, Carrizo is providing initial 2016 oil production guidance of 24,700-25,300 Bbls/d. Using the midpoint of this range, the Company's 2016 oil production growth guidance is 8%. For natural gas and NGLs, Carrizo is providing initial 2016 guidance of 45-60 MMcf/d and 3,700-4,000 Bbls/d, respectively. For the first quarter of 2016, Carrizo expects oil production to be 24,800-25,200 Bbls/d, and natural gas and NGL production to be 60-64 MMcf/d and 3,800-4,000 Bbls/d, respectively. Additionally, Carrizo currently expects crude oil production in the fourth quarter of 2016 to exceed crude oil production in the fourth quarter of 2015. A summary of Carrizo's production, commodity price realization, and cost guidance is provided in the attached tables.
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    Tepco’s January LNG imports slide

    Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) revealed its LNG imports in January stood at 1.8 million mt, 21 percent down from 2.28 million mt during the same month 2015.

    Tepco’s consumption of LNG also dropped to 1.99 million mt in December 2015, 15.1 percent lower compared to January 2015, fuel data released by the Japanese utility reveals.

    In the period spanning from April to January, Tepco imported 18.66 million mt and consumed 17.91 million mt of liquefied natural gas.

    Tepco is Japan’s first importer of LNG and it imports the fuel from projects located in Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Qatar, Darwin, Oman, Russia and Papua New Guinea.
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    Oil Search to push LNG ties to offset oil price slump

    Oil Search chief executive Peter Botten says the time is ripe for much closer ties between the company's two liquefied natural gas projects in Papua New Guinea, to help counter the collapse in oil prices that has clouded the prospects for even the most competitive of petroleum ventures.

    "It is a high priority in 2016 to discover how these things can be brought together," Mr Botten said after announcing Oil Search's swing to a $US39.4 million ($54.8 million) loss for the full year.

    "The focus of every board and management is on driving every single dollar further and getting the best possible value out of that investment. There could not be a better environment to discuss co-operation."

    The drop in oil prices has cut revenue for the Papua New Guinea LNG project. 

    Oil Search, which in 2015 rebuffed an $11.6 billion takeover approach from Woodside Petroleum, is ExxonMobil's biggest partner in the successful PNG LNG venture, which began production in 2014 and is working towards adding a third production unit. It also has a stake in the Papua LNG venture with French oil major Total and US-listed InterOil, which is seeking to develop a separate project using gas from the large Elk-Antelope field using the same processing site near Port Moresby.

    Mr Botten said the base case for the projects still involved separate production units, with the expansion of PNG LNG running ahead of plans for an initial LNG train at Papua LNG.

    At Papua LNG, the results of an independent assessment to determine how much gas Elk-Antelope holds is expected by mid-year, driving whether the project could involve one or two LNG trains.

    LNG projects still viable

    The two LNG projects, widely seen as the most competitive in Asia, were still viable on probable oil and LNG price scenarios, Mr Botten said, while admitting that any large project would need prices higher than today's of just more than $US30 to proceed.

    Still, oil prices should have stabilised and be on a path to recovery by the time of the final go-ahead decisions on both projects, which were due in only "maybe two years' time", he said.

    Oil Search's full-year loss was forced by a $US399.3 million write-down on the Taza exploration venture in Kurdistan, which the company is looking to sell.

    Oil Search was also expecting to be active as an acquirer, and was eyeing potential assets in PNG, Mr Botten said.

    "I do see a range of potential opportunities in Papua New Guinea that would support the strategy we have to commercialise our gas resources," he said.

    The interim loss compared with a profit of $US353.2 million a year earlier. Revenue fell 2 per cent to $1.58 billion.

    Core net profit for 2015 fell 25 per cent to $US359.9 million, about in line with consensus.

    Oil Search declared a final dividend of US4¢ a share, taking the full-year payout to US10¢, down from US14¢ for 2014.

    Cost-cutting is still in full swing at the company, with Mr Botten targeting a further 25 per cent reduction in production costs in 2016, and capex to be slashed 34 per cent.

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    Diesel dogfight: Huge China exports dent Asia margins

    China's emergence as a major oil product exporter is depressing oil refining margins across Asia as favorable domestic fuel policies encourage Chinese refiners to keep output high and flood regional markets with surplus supplies.

    The surge in Chinese shipments has been felt the most in the diesel market, where benchmark Asian margins recently slumped to 6-year lows following an almost 80 percent jump in Chinese exports in 2015.

    The world's No.2 diesel producer had until last year been only a modest exporter of the fuel, as the country's large mining, power generation and trucking industries used up most of its diesel output.

    But as China's industrial engine slowed, refinery run rates remained high to meet still strong demand for gasoline and jet fuel, used for transport. That led to a surplus of diesel that was steered on to regional markets with increased aggression over the course of 2015.

    Average monthly exports over the second half of 2015 were 865,000 tonnes, compared to 329,000 tonnes a month over the first half.

    "As independent refineries in China have increased access to crude, this positively affects their run rates. In turn every additional barrel in the already oversupplied middle-distillates market has a negative effect on the gasoil margins," said David Wech, managing director of research institute JBC Energy.

    Additional export quotas for independent refineries along with export-linked incentives for refineries owned by state-owned oil giant Sinopec Corp are expected to lead to higher shipments in 2016. January exports eased back from December levels, but were more than 10 times higher than the same month in 2015.

    China's net surplus of diesel could more than double to 220,000 barrels per day or about 10.8 million tonnes in 2018 from 100,000 bpd in 2015, Wech said.

    "The sizable diesel supply glut created by an upsurge in Chinese exports of diesel ...(will) remain intact, leading diesel prices in Asia to underperform diesel prices in Europe and North America over 2016 to 2020," said BMI Research's Asia oil analyst Peter Lee.

    While China's increased exports have slashed Asian diesel margins - from roughly $16 a barrel a year ago to around $10 now - the impact has been partly offset by tumbling oil prices, which have kept other refiners profitable.

    Chinese refiners have also been protected by a domestic floor price that is above international rates and provides a buffer for competitively priced exports.

    On a monthly basis, China has already overtaken Japan and Taiwan to become Asia's fourth-largest diesel exporter after South Korea, Singapore and India.

    China accounted for 12 percent of Asian diesel exports in the month of December, 2015, up from just four percent nine months earlier, according to trade data and a Reuters analysis of ship loadings in the region.

    New refineries in China are also able to meet more stringent specifications required by developed countries such as Australia, where the closure of aging refineries has boosted import demand.

    "I think the immediate attraction for them is Australia and maybe to some extent Africa, but I'm sure they will want to expand their reach to Europe and the United States," said a source with a Japanese refiner.
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    OPEC sees further action if output 'freeze' deal holds

    The world's biggest oil producers may consider "other steps" to eliminate a persistent global oversupply if a recent deal to freeze current output holds firm for several months, the top official of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said on Monday.

    OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri reiterated the group's readiness to work with non-OPEC producers to tackle a supply glut that has knocked prices to their lowest in over a decade. He told the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston that the tentative pact to freeze output reached last week between Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and Qatar was just a start.

    Al-Badri admitted the oil cartel had not expected prices to fall so sharply since the group decided in late 2014 not to cut output in the face of rising global supplies, fueled in large part by the fast growth of the U.S. shale production.

    "This cycle is very nasty," Badri said.

    He said OPEC had also held talks with other key producers including Brazil, China, Oman and Mexico on a possible freeze.

    Other steps could include a production cut.

    "Let us freeze production... If this is successful we can take other steps in the future," Badri said. Parties must first manage to cap output levels for three to four months, he added.

    He nevertheless cautioned that when oil prices recover from their current levels in the mid-$30 per barrel to around $60 per barrel, shale producers would quickly start drilling again, capping any gains.

    Global production exceeded demand by as much as 2 million barrels per day last year. A gradual decline in output due to lower investment is expected to balance the market in early 2017, according to the International Energy Agency.

    However, a huge build in global oil inventories, which Badri said has reached 350 million barrels, means it will take longer for prices to recover.

    He underlined that understanding between OPEC and non-OPEC producers is increasingly necessary to balance the market.

    Addressing a room filled with hundreds of global oil executives, Badri said he was willing to speak with U.S. officials about the collapse in oil prices.

    The rout in prices of more than 70 percent in 20 months, is not the same as oil's previous boom-bust cycles, he said.

    "I don't know how we are going to live together," Badri said of the once booming shale oil sector. "If prices will go up in 2017 or 2018, the price rally will be capped by U.S. shale oil. That's what is different this time."

    Any deal on a production freeze would be tough to implement. Iran, which has pledged to increase output sharply since sanctions were lifted last month, has yet to formally sign on to the agreement, leaving its implementation uncertain.
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    Oil rigs dive, but well productivity soars

    Drilling activity has crashed, but efficiencies and American ingenuity have helped make each well far more productive.

    The number of oil rigs fell by 26 last week to 413, Baker Hughes (BHI) reported Friday. That’s down 19% over the last four weeks and 59.5% vs. a year earlier.

    But U.S. oil output, though off peak levels, has held up remarkably well. That’s in large part because Continental Resources, Concho Resources and other shale producers are becoming, well, more productive with every well. They focused on the best wells, kept the best crews, while employing new technical advances and practices. They’ve also been able to squeeze suppliers and services firms such as Baker Hughes, Schlumberger  and Halliburton.

    • Bakken Shale new wells should produce 737 barrels per day in March, up from 558 bpd in March 2015. That’s a 32% increase — 88.5% vs. March 2014.

    • Eagle Ford new wells are expected to generate 812 barrels per day in March, up from 665 bpd a year earlier. That’s a 22% jump.

    • Niobrara new wells should produce 741 barrels per day, up 39% from 533 bpd in March 2015.

    • Permian Basin new wells should produce a 423 barrels per day, a 49% spike from 284 bpd a year earlier.

    • Utica new wells should generate 309 barrels per day, a whopping 83% increase from 168 bpd in March 2015.

    Continental Resources, Concho Resources and other shale firms have been able to concentrate efforts, slashing capital spending and operating costs without a big blow to production. But with oil down to $30 a barrel or lower, these companies are under heavy  strain. Continental and Concho earnings reports are due this week, with the former expected to post a loss and the latter a 96% EPS dive.

    As for suppliers such as Halliburton, Schlumberger and Baker Hughes, they’ve cut tens of thousands of jobs.  But those oil services giants should emerge stronger after the oil bust, D.A. Davidson said in research reports last week.
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    Global excess refining capacity to grow 1.1 Million B/D BY 2021: IEA

    Global surplus refining capacity is expected to rise by more 1 million b/d to 5.3 million b/d in 2021 creating "significant pressure" on refining margins in the medium term, the International Energy Agency said Monday.

    In addition to nearly 8 million b/d of new global refining capacity due to come on stream over the next five years, growing volumes of non-refining fuels mean the gap between capacity expansions and demand will rise to about 2 million b/d, according to the IEA's latest medium-term report.

    Global crude distillation capacity is expected to rise by 7.7 million b/d from 2016 to 105 million b/d in 2021, the IEA said.

    Regionally, nearly two-thirds of global spare capacity will be found in non-OECD countries, where many refineries are under-utilized for various reasons, the IEA said.

    It cautioned, however, that the oil price downturn has raised the likelihood of delays for many new refining projects as oil companies seek to conserve their dwindling cash flows.

    Annual capacity additions are estimated to average 1.3 million b/d through 2021, despite some 1.7 million b/d of projects deferred beyond 2021, the IEA said.

    The IEA said it sees low capacity additions this year -- about half of the expected annual demand growth -- potentially tightening the oil product market. But a massive overhang of oil product stocks means a resulting margin boost "may not materialise".

    The IEA estimates that almost one-sixth of global oil demand will be met by fuels by-passing the refining sector such as biofuels and NGL's in 2021, which will exacerbate the surplus capacity issue.

    Global biofuels production is estimated to rise to 2.7 million b/d in 2021, up from 2.3 million b/d in 2015.
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    Halliburton Deal Deadline Suspended as EU Seeks More Data

    The European Union suspended the deadline for its review of Halliburton Co.’s acquisition of Baker Hughes regulators said the companies failed to supply “important information.”

    The EU regulator “stopped the clock in its in-depth investigation into the Baker Hughes -- Halliburton deal,” EU spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said in an e-mailed response to questions. The move could mean the EU delays its decision on the merger of the two oil services rivals past the existing deadline of June 23.

    “This is a standard procedure on merger investigations which is activated if the notifying parties do not provide an important piece of information,” he said. “The clock is then stopped until such missing information is supplied the deadline for the decision date will be adjusted accordingly.”

    The EU review of the deal was previously held up last year by four months after regulators rejected the companies’ initial filing as incomplete.

    Halliburton agreed to buy Baker Hughes in November 2014 in a cash-and-stock deal that at the time was valued at about $35 billion. The transaction was scheduled to close last year, but has been delayed as the companies seek to resolve antitrust concerns in the U.S. and Europe.

    Emily Mir, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, did not immediately reply to a request for comment outside Houston working hours.

    Halliburton has been adding yet more assets to the list of businesses it plans to sell to gain antitrust approval. The company plans to divest Baker’s offshore drilling-and-completions fluids division and the bulk of Baker’s completion systems, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month.

    The EU merger authority opened an in-depth probe into the deal on Jan. 12, citing concerns that combining the the second- and third-largest suppliers to oil exploration companies may impede competition and increase prices.
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    IEA sees oil market rebalancing in 2017; US production at record high by 2021

    Oil markets will begin to rebalance in 2017 thanks to falling U.S. production but that decline will prove short-lived as efficiency gains will push U.S. output to new records by the beginning of the next decade, the International Energy Agency said on Monday.

    "Only in 2017 will we finally see oil supply and demand aligned but the enormous stocksbeing accumulated will act as a dampener on the pace of recovery in oil prices when the market, having balanced, then starts to draw down those stocks," the IEA said in its medium-term outlook.

    "Today's oil market conditions do not suggest that prices can recover sharply in the immediate future," it added.

    Over the course of 2015 to 2021, U.S. output is expected to reach a record high of 14.2 million barrels per day (bpd), after dipping initially this year and next, the IEA said in its report.

    Production of U.S. shale oil, known as light, tight oil (LTO), is expected to drop by 600,000 bpd this year, and a further 200,000 bpd next year before gradually recovering.

    "Anybody who believes that we have seen the last of rising LTO production in the United States should think again; by the end of our forecast in 2021, total U.S. liquids production will have increased by a net 1.3 million bpd compared to 2015," the IEA said.

    Overall, global oil supply is expected to rise by 4.1 million bpd between 2015 and 2021, compared with growth of 11 million bpd between 2009 and 2015, the IEA said.

    The report forecast OPEC crude oil production capacity would rise by 800,000 bpd by 2021 as lower oil prices force the re-consideration of development projects in the early period of the forecast.

    "Iran, now free of nuclear sanctions, emerges as the biggest source of growth within OPEC over the six-year forecast period. The higher capacity will not, however, allow Iran to reclaim its rank as OPEC's second-biggest crude oil producer after Saudi Arabia. That position is maintained by Iraq through 2021 despite a marked slowdown in its capacity building," the IEA said.
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    Panama Canal expansion to transmit suesmaxes from Q2

    The Panama Canal is set to open the Third Set of Locks expansion project in the second quarter of 2016, which will allow Suezmax tankers, carrying cargoes of up to 130,000 mt or 1 million barrels of petroleum liquids, to transit the waterway, a source said Friday. The current cargo limit is 55,000-60,000 mt.

    Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC), the consortium responsible for the design and construction of the expansion, successfully completed testing of the reinforcements in sill number three of the expanded Pacific locks earlier this week and less than 4% of the overall project work remains to be completed, according to the canal operator, the Panama Canal Authority. The canal expansion is expected to be inaugurated later this year, it said.

    Repairs to a large crack at the third set of locks, which first appeared in August 2015 at the concrete sill between the lower and middle chamber of the Cocoli locks, have been fixed, it said. "We expect to be operational in the second quarter of 2016," a PCA source told Platts Friday.

    Once the expansion is completed, the draft for vessels transiting the canal will increase from the current 39.05 feet in the old locks to 50 feet in the new locks. While the PCA does not limit deadweight tonnage, the expanded locks can accommodate larger size vessels, as maximum beam increases from 106 feet to 140 feet and overall length (LOA) from 965 feet to 1,200 feet, according to the PCA source.
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    Asia spot LNG: April Platts JKM ends week at $4.65/MMBTU on limited demand

    Platts JKM for LNG cargoes delivered in April, the new front month, ended the Asian trading week at $4.65/MMBtu Friday, down 5 cents/MMBtu from Tuesday when the assessment for April JKM started.

    Platts JKM for March cargoes finished its assessment period Monday at $5.30/MMBtu.

    Offers for April cargoes were heard to be in the high $4s/MMBtu by the end of the week while bids were heard to be in the low to mid-$4s/MMBtu.

    Expectations that new supply will emerge with new projects such as Australia's Gorgon coming online also weighed on the market.

    Throughout the week trade was thin and market participants waited for the results of buy tenders issued by Thailand's PTT and India's Gail.

    Thailand's PTT awarded its tender to buy a cargo delivery March 20-28 at slightly below $5/MMBtu to Qatar Gas, according to market sources.

    Another tender which drew attention was India's Gail tender, which was awarded at $4.70/MMBtu for one April delivery cargo and at low $5s/MMBtu for two March cargoes.

    Another Indian buyer IOC was reportedly awarded an earlier tender that closed on February 2, though details remained scarce.

    Meanwhile, Pakistan State Oil cancel led its LNG buy tender for five DES cargoes while Argentina was expected to issue a tender next month for cargoes to meet its summer demand.

    In Russia, Sakhalin Energy again postponed the deadline of a sell tender offering one to two cargoes a month over April 2016-March 2017 to March 1. The tender was issued in the week of January 24, with the initial deadline of February 2 postponed to February 24 after a force majeure was declared at the plant in late January.

    Sakhalin Energy also moved up the completion data for its repair work to March 4 from the earlier deadline of March 11, sources said.

    In other production news, 4.45 million mt/year Peru LNG export plant has resumed normal operations after a month-long unplanned shutdown, a spokesman with US-based Hunt Oil, the plant's operator, said late Wednesday.

    And the 3.7 million mt/year Equatorial Guinea LNG plant in West Africa also restarted normal operations after one month of scheduled maintenance, a source close to the facility said Tuesday.
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    US Oil rig count plummets yet again

    The number of rigs drilling for oil in the U.S. dropped by 26 this week, leaving just 413 rigs still seeking crude, according to Baker Hughes data.

    Including gas rigs, the overall rig count of 514 rigs is at its lowest point since the last century, specifically 1999.

    The total count is rapidly approaching the 1999 low of 488 rigs, which was the lowest point in Baker Hughes’ recorded history. Another drop of 26 rigs would tie the all-time record low.

    Analysts expect the rig count to continue falling through much of the first half of the year. The U.S. benchmark for oil continues to hover at about $30 a barrel.

    In the first two months of 2016 alone, drillers have mothballed 123 oil rigs. The natural gas rig count dropped by just one this week down to 101 rigs, which already is at a historic low.

    Texas is still home to 46 percent of the nation’s operating rigs, but the biggest losses this week came from the Lone Star State. Seven rigs went dark in the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford shale lost another four rigs. The Permian and Eagle Ford, in that order, are still the most active plays in the country.

    The oil rig count is now down nearly 75 percent from its peak of 1,609 in October 2014 before oil prices began plummeting.
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    CERAWEEK-Veterans of 1980s oil glut say this price slump, too, will last

    Feb 22 When Sheikh Ali Khalifa al-Sabah of Kuwait thinks about today's plunging oil prices, his mind drifts back to the mid-1980s, when he was forced to sell some of his country's crude for as little as $5 a barrel.

    As Kuwait's oil minister at the time, Sheikh Ali had to sell a cargo or two at that price just to keep up cash flow to a country that depended upon oil revenues. "It wasn't because I wanted to; it was because it was the market price," he recalls.

    "We really had no alternative."

    For oil industry players active during the 1980s bust, the current drop in prices carries echoes of those desperate days. Interviews with some of those involved in that period reveal that while there is little consensus on how long prices will stay depressed, experience suggests the current market glut will not evaporate soon.

    Representatives from all aspects of the energy industry will be mulling current low oil prices and the supply glut this week during the IHS CERAWeek gathering in Houston.

    Kuwait's struggles in the 1980s are instructive for anyone wondering whether producing countries can tinker their way out of trouble now. In the face of weak prices in the early years of the decade the OPEC production group introduced output cuts in an attempt to mop up oversupply. Kuwait slashed production from nearly 2 million barrels per day to about 600,000 bpd. The top producer Saudi Arabia made even costlier cuts.

    Three factors dashed the plan: fellow OPEC members cheated on their own cuts; global thirst for oil had dried up after price spikes in the 1970s pushed consumers to buy efficient cars; and new supplies, particularly from non-OPEC Mexico, Norway, and Alaska threatened to squash gains from any cuts.

    By late 1986, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members opened the taps again to regain market share, and prices did not recover for 20 years.

    The memory leaves Sheikh Ali, now 71, feeling grim about a price recovery this time.

    "Tomorrow if the price of oil goes down to $20 I would not be surprised," he said. "You don't take excess oil away very quickly. It was true in the 1980s, now it's even worse."

    Adrian Lajous was head of crude exports trading for Pemex, Mexico's state oil company in the mid-1980s. He says major oil producers are powerless to tackle the current oversupply by making production cuts, despite an agreement this month between Saudi Arabia and Russia to freeze supply.

    Today's bust is driven by uncertainty about demand - mostly China's - and by the threat of a resilient non-OPEC supply, mostly from U.S. shale oil.
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    As U.S. shale sinks, pipeline fight sends woes downstream

    Within weeks, two low-profile legal disputes may determine whether an unprecedented wave of bankruptcies expected to hit U.S. oil and gas producers this year will imperil the $500 billion pipeline sector as well.

    In the two court fights, U.S. energy producers are trying to use Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to shed long-term contracts with the pipeline operators that gather and process shale gas before it is delivered to consumer markets.

    The attempts to shed the contracts by Sabine Oil & Gas (SOGCQ.PK) and Quicksilver Resources (KWKAQ.PK) are viewed by executives and lawyers as a litmus test for deals worth billions of dollars annually for the so-called midstream sector.

    Pipeline operators have argued the contracts are secure, but restructuring experts say that if the two producers manage to tear up or renegotiate their deals, others will follow. That could add a new element of risk for already hard-hit investors in midstream companies, which have plowed up to $30 billion a year into infrastructure to serve the U.S. fracking boom.

    "It's a hellacious problem," said Hugh Ray, a bankruptcy lawyer with McKool Smith in Houston. "It will end with even more bankruptcies."

    A judge on New York's influential bankruptcy court said on Feb. 2 she was inclined to allow Houston-based Sabine to end its pipeline contract, which guaranteed it would ship a minimum volume of gas through a system built by a Cheniere Energy (LNG.A) subsidiary until 2024. Sabine's lawyers argued they could save $35 million by ending the Cheniere contract, and then save millions more by building an entirely new system.

    Fort Worth, Texas-based Quicksilver's request to shed a contract with another midstream operator, Crestwood Equity Partners (CEQP.N), is set for Feb. 26.

    The concerns have grown more evident in recent days, raised in law firms' client memos and investment bank research notes.

    Last week, executives from Williams Companies Inc (WMB.N) and Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO), two of the world's largest pipeline operators, sought to allay growing investor fears, saying they were reviewing contracts or securing additional credit guarantees to minimize the impact of the biggest oil bust in a generation.

    So far, relatively few oil and gas producers have entered bankruptcy, and most were smaller firms. But with oil prices down 70 percent since mid-2014 and natural gas prices in a prolonged slump, up to a third of them are at risk of bankruptcy this year, consultancy Deloitte said in a Feb. 16 report.
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    Pacific Exploration Misses Debt Payment, Says Some Investors Grant Extension

    Pacific Exploration & Production Corp. said holders of a minority of its bonds agreed to hold off on demanding immediate repayment after the driller missed interest payments due last month.

    Holders of 42 percent of the 2025 bonds agreed to the extension after a 30-day grace period expire d on a missed January interest payment, according to the statement published Friday. Holders of 34 percent of the 2019 bonds, the grace period on which ends next week, also agreed to the extension. Remaining investors would need the support of 25 percent of a series of notes in order to accelerate the securities, according to the prospectus.

    The Bogota-based driller, which trades in Canada and Colombia, is one of the largest independent oil and gas explorers in Latin America. Founded a decade ago by veterans of Venezuela’s oil industry, the company is struggling after crude prices sank to a 12-year low and the contract at its biggest field wasn’t extended past June.

    “The extension should allow the company additional time to continue working with the independent committee of the Board of Directors, the company’s financial and legal advisors as well as its lenders and the noteholders to come to a consensual and comprehensive restructuring of the company’s balance sheet,” Chief Executive Officer Ronald Pantin said, according to the statement.

    A 30-day grace period after a missed January payment on the 2025 bonds expired Thursday.

    Pacific said it’s also in the process of entering into forbearance agreements with its bank lenders. The company’s benchmark $1.3 billion of bonds due 2019 are trading at about 13 cents on the dollar.

    Buyout firm EIG Global Energy Partners is offering to buy Pacific’s distressed bonds for 16 cents on the dollar with no accrued interest. While that’s less than a previous bid in January of 17.5 cents plus interest that failed to get much support, EIG says investors would be wise to take the offer as Pacific’s finances will deteriorate further.

    Standard & Poor’s lowered the company’s rating to D last month, saying it considered a default to have occurred because it didn’t see the interest being paid within the grace period. S&P said it expected Pacific “to enter into a general default and that it will fail to pay all or substantially all of its obligations as they come due.”
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    Cheniere: Sabine Pass Train 1 starts producing LNG

    Cheniere Energy said it has started producing LNG from the first liquefaction train at its Sabine Pass LNG export terminal in Louisiana.

    “Train 1 has begun producing LNG, and the first LNG commissioning cargo is expected to be exported late February or March,” Cheniere said in its fourth-quarter results report on Friday.

    The first commissioning cargo from the liquefaction and export facility in Cameron Parish, Louisiana was initially expected to occur by late January. The cargo was delayed due to instrumentation issues that were discovered during the final phases of plant commissioning.

    Commissioning for Train 2 at the Sabine Pass plant is expected to commence in the upcoming months, according to Cheniere.

    Cheniere is building liquefaction and export facilities at its existing import terminal located along the Sabine Pass River on the border between Texas and Louisiana.

    The company plans to construct over time up to six liquefaction trains, which are in various stages of development. Each train is expected to have a nominal production capacity of about 4.5 mtpa of LNG.

    Cheniere’s Sabine Pass liquefaction facility will be the first of its kind to export cheap and abundant U.S. shale gas to overseas markets.

    Net loss widens

    Cheniere reported a net loss of $291 million for the fourth quarter of 2015, compared to a net loss of $159 million for the comparable 2014 period.

    For the full- year 2015, the company posted a net loss of $975 million, compared to a net loss of $548 million a year before.
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    Drillers Leaving Wet Gas Areas of Marcellus/Utica for Dry Gas

    An excellent article appearing on the World Oil Magazine website explores an interesting phenomenon at work in the Marcellus/Utica. The article is wide-ranging and provides an update on the activities and strategies for many of our region’s top producers. But the beginning of the article is what really caught our attention.

    The author states that there is a shift happening away from drilling in the liquids-rich (i.e. areas with a higher concentration of natural gas liquids, like ethane, propane and others) to the “core” dry gas areas of the Marcellus/Utica. He quotes Rice Energy CEO Dan Rice in saying, “…there has been a noticeable shift in producer activity away from liquids-rich and non-core dry gas Marcellus and Utica areas, and into the Marcellus and Utica’s dry gas cores.”

    We have to confess that’s the first time we’d heard that. We thought it was the reverse–that there was more drilling headed to the wet gas areas. Huh.
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    These Numbers Show How High Oil Must Go-and Fast

    What did Chevron accomplish in 2015 by outspending cash flow by $19 billion?

    Increase production a paltry 2%. Barely replace reserves-107% of production.

    That is what Chevron managed to achieve in 2015 by spending $31 billion while generating just $19 billion of cash flow. And that is actually incredibly bullish, despite the fact that the oil price has come down hard already in 2016.

    Investor sentiment-from both the shareholders and the lenders-is forcing ALL producing companies to move closer to spending within cash flow.

    What would Chevron's production and reserve growth look like if they do that? I'm guessing it would be MUCH less.

    Their capex in 2016 is going down 22% $26.6 billion, but the savior for the company in 2015-its downstream refinery business-is getting crushed right now.

    Refinery margins were huge through most of 2015-they contributed $7.6 billion in profits to Chevron in 2015-but crack spreads have recently fallen a lot. And with a glut of some 160 million barrels of refined products in the USA, that won't change much this year. (I got short refineries in January.)

    This all reads like bad news, but it's actually very bullish. These numbers say how far the oil price must go up for western companies to make money. And now asset sales are slow, and lowly priced (everyone is a seller), debt is being reined in and equity is a non-starter for all but the best companies.

    If That Was 2015 What Is 2016 Going To Look Like?

    If you want the truth you have to look directly at the numbers.

    Chevron's Q4 and full year 2015 numbers speak volumes. They tell us that something has to give. And as I show you at the bottom here, that may be happening now. In Q4, they generated $4.6 billion in cash flow, and spent $9.4 billion on capital and dividends.

    Here is how the full year 2015 cash inflows and outflows look for Chevron:

    In Billions                                         2015                   2014
    Cash Generated By Operations     $19.5                  $31.5
    Capital Expenditures                     ($30.6)               ($36.8)
    Dividends Paid                                ($8.0)                 ($7.9)
    Share Repurchases                         $0.0                   ($4.4)
    Net Cash Outflow                          ($19.1)                ($17.6)

    It isn't a pretty picture.

    Course summary This module is designed for people interested in the exploration and production of oil and gas who do not have a subsurface technical background. It provides a brief introduction to geology and geophysics for non-ge...

    When you include both capex spending and cash required for its dividends, Chevron spent $38.6 billion while generating only $19.5 billion from operations.

    That is a net cash outflow of $19.1 billion!

    Talk about living beyond your means. The obvious question is how did Chevron finance all of this outspending?

    Well, they did it like anyone who lives beyond their means would.

    First they dipped into their savings.

    Chevron's cash and net working capital balances decreased by $2.6 billion in 2015.

    Then they borrowed.

    In 2015 Chevron's long term debt increased by $10.8 billion. That is an increase from $27.8 billion to $38.6 billion in total debt.

    And then they started selling off some of their belongings.

    Proceeds from asset sales in 2015 totaled $5.7 billion.

    By massively outspending cash flow, running up debt on its balance sheet and selling assets Chevron managed to maintain its dividend and keep its production basically flat. (At least they didn't spend any money on share buybacks, like the $4.4 billion they did in 2014. Watching these companies buy back stock during the good times when the stock prices are high and then buy back none now must be irksome to more than a few shareholders.)

    If Chevron had lived within cash flow, you have to wonder what the dividend might have been and what production and reserve growth would have looked like.

    It is not a pretty picture. 2016 is shaping up to be significantly worse considering that oil prices in 2015 were on average $20 per barrel higher than where they sit today.

    Last year would have been much worse for Chevron if the company didn't have its own refineries. Chevron's downstream operation (refineries=downstream, pipelines=midstream, producers=upstream) actually benefits from low oil prices and that helped significantly cushion the blow.

    Chevron's downstream operations recorded a profit of $7.6 billion in 2015. Without that this company would be in far worse shape.

    The Real Battle Is The Fed (Not The Shale Producers) Vs The Saudis

    This is what life looks like for Chevron. A company with a very mature low decline production base and the benefit of a profitable downstream operation.

    No wonder the shale guys are feeling so much pain. They have young, very high decline production and no diversifying downstream business segment.

    Seeing how Chevron allowed its balance sheet to deteriorate in 2015 once again underscores the point....

    The biggest threat to the Saudis is not from the shale producers, it is from the Federal Reserve and its ZIRP (zero interest rate policy). Can you imagine Chevron allowing its long term debt to increase by nearly 40% in just one year if interest rates were at 8%?

    Chevron's massive outspending in 2015 is how the shale boom was built right from the start. The shale producers had access to billions and billions of dollars of low cost funding.

    Low oil prices have ended that party. Reasonable interest rates would have done the same.

    What is abundantly clear is that 2016 is going to be a year of very hard decisions for a lot of people in this industry. For Russia and OPEC it is about cutting production.

    For Chevron, that hard decision could involve its dividend. If Chevron completely eliminated its dividend in 2015 it would still have outspent cash flow in by $11 billion. That was with considerably higher oil prices.
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    US Producing oil wells tick down as price begins to bite

    The total number of active, producing oil wells in the U.S. dropped slightly during 2015, a trend that looks set to sharpen this year, as the oil price decline begins to exact its toll on the industry. According to World Oil’s forecast data, the total number of active oil wells declined to 594,436 from 597,281, a 0.5% decline.
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    Half of global oil glut may disappear if output deal works, says Russia

    The global oil market is over-supplied by around 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd), but that glut could be halved if a deal to freeze oil production at last month's levels takes effect, a top Russian energy official said on Friday.

    Leading OPEC member Saudi Arabia, non-OPEC member Russia, Qatar and Venezuela this week agreed to freeze output at January levels if others joined in. Iran welcomed the move but stopped short of pledging to act itself and it is unclear whether the freeze will actually happen.

    "If the agreement is properly fulfilled and it definitively enters into force then around half of that excess supply may be removed from the market," Alexey Texler, Russia's first deputy energy minister, told reporters in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.

    "Even without Iran there will be an effect from the agreement. But Iran ... might also be interested in such a deal," he said, noting Tehran had a choice of increasing output at a time of falling prices, or joining the production freeze and potentially getting a higher price for current volumes.

    "We are optimistic," he added.

    Russia and OPEC were both pumping oil at near record volumes last month, with Russia reaching another post-Soviet high of 10.88 million bpd.

    "We are talking about freezing January production levels. It would be higher than the annual average for 2015 by around 1.5 percent," Texler said. Oil production in Russia last year averaged 10.72 million bpd.

    The first mooted global oil pact in 15 years will depend on other producers, but it remains unclear which other countries need to sign up for the deal to be implemented.

    Asked if Russia will talk to the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Norway, Texler said: "Any country may join. But we are realists and, in general, we understand which countries it will be. Many of those you named, obviously, will not do that."

    He added that some producers, still, were uniting round the idea. Texler did not name them.

    "We consider such an agreement useful and necessary. It will allow us to forecast the output volumes of key market players, and such an agreement will allow to continue the market process of influencing expensive projects."

    The Russian oil industry would "move forward" at a price of $35-40 per barrel this year, Texler said. Earlier on Friday, he said that investment in the Russian energy sector was likely to be lower this year than in 2015.
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    Putin discusses global oil markets with Security Council - Interfax

    Russian President Vladimir Putin and members of his Security Council exchanged views on the situation on global oil markets as Russia's Energy Ministry holds contacts with foreign partners, Interfax quoted the Kremlin's spokesman as saying on Friday.

    Russia and Saudi Arabia, along with two other countries, agreed this week to freeze oil output at January levels if other countries joined in.

    Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, told reporters earlier there was no link between Syria and oil production in Russia's dialogue with Saudi Arabia.
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    Alternative Energy

    Unsubsidised solar PV price hits record low in Peru auction

    Peru recently awarded 185 megawatts (MW) of new solar photovoltaic (PV) contracts in a renewable energy solicitation, at record-low prices for a nation not offering any tax breaks for such development.

    Of the 185 MW of new project capacity, 144 MW relates to a bid from Enel Green Power at $47.98/MWh (megawatt-hours); and 40 MW relates to a bid from Enersur at $48.50/MWh.

    Notably, the projects aren’t expected to be built until 2017 — when solar PV prices are expected to be notably lower, hence the lower bids and contracts.

    According to the press release from Peru’s Supervisory Agency for Energy and Mines (Osinergmin), the Enel Green Power contract is for the provision of 415 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity a year from the company’s planned Rubí solar PV project at the aforementioned price of $47.98/MWh. The Enersur contract is for the provision of 108 GWh of electricity a year from the planned Intipampa solar PV project at $48.50/MWh.

    Delivery of electricity from the projects is currently set to begin by the end of 2018 — if the terms of the contracts are to be met.

    Along with the above-mentioned solar energy projects, 3 wind energy projects were awarded contracts following the recent solicitation. Contract prices for these projects ranges from $36.84–37.83/MWh. In addition, a number of hydroelectric and biomass projects were awarded contracts as well.

    Attached Files
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    Rival emerges for Swansea's tidal energy plans

    A competitor has emerged to challenge Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) as the first to develop tidal energy in the UK.

    TLP's £1bn project aims to pioneer the technology with Swansea becoming the first of six lagoons around Britain.

    But now Ecotricity, one of the first green energy companies in the UK, said it is working on proposals to generate electricity through tidal energy.

    It claims it will be at a lower price and financed over a shorter time than TLP.

    Ecotricity, based in Stroud in Gloucestershire, told BBC Wales it wrote to the UK government before it announced a review two weeks ago into the sector.

    It believes tidal power can work at a lower price than the £168 per megawatt hour (MWh) across 35 years that is being discussed for Swansea Bay.

    Image copyrightAlistair Heap/EcotricityImage captionDale Vince is the founder of Ecotricity

    Founder Dale Vince said: "We were concerned that the UK government was being pushed into paying too high a price for tidal energy through the Swansea Bay scheme.

    "That would be bad for renewable energy generally because it would reinforce the myth that green energy is expensive, and bad for tidal power specifically because it may never get off the ground."

    Tidal Lagoon Power is now talking with the UK government about a lower price for their electricity generation over a longer, 90 year time frame, for Swansea.

    But Ecotricity said it believes that price is too still too high.

    The company will not say which sites it is looking at - including whether they would include Swansea - but acknowledges that the tidal range of the Severn Estuary is very attractive.

    It will make a further announcement in the summer.

    The review by the UK government - which is seeking "clarity" about the potential of tidal - is due to start in the spring and report in the autumn.

    Ectotricity currently operates nearly 70 wind turbines, has 175,000 customers and powers the equivalent of more than 40,000 homes.

    TLB - which last week said it welcomed the idea of competition - envisages Swansea as a first project to trial the technology with work starting next year.

    Cardiff and Newport would be among future locations for larger lagoons which would be able to produce power even more cheaply.

    A spokesman said: "The emergence of a competitive marketplace for the future is another clear sign that Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is fulfilling its role as a pathfinder".
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    Xinjiang new energy generating capacity to double to 43 GW in 2020

    Total installed electricity generating capacity of new energy, including wind and solar power, in China's far western Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is expected to nearly double to 43 GW by 2020, Xinjiang Grid said on February 22.

    By the end of 2015, Xinjiang had 16.9 GW of wind generating capacity and 5.3 GW of solar. Its total power generating capacity was 65.8 GW.

    Xinjiang Grid bought 19.4 TWh of electricity generated by new energy last year, 10.3% of its total purchase.

    It exported some new energy-generated power to meet growth in local demand.

    It transmitted 1.5 TWh of wind-generated electricity, up 19% year on year, to other regions, reducing coal burning by 521,600 tonnes.
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    Abengoa unit files for U.S. bankruptcy with up to $10 billion in debt

    Abengoa SA put its U.S. bioenergy unit into Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday with up to $10 billion in liabilities, the latest twist in the multinational parent's race to avoid becoming Spain's largest corporate failure.

    The U.S. filing came as the Spanish company faced a March 28 deadline to agree on a wide-ranging restructuring plan with its banks and bondholders, without which it could be forced to declare bankruptcy.

    The filing by Abengoa Bioenergy US Holding LLC was prompted by involuntary bankruptcy petitions against two subsidiaries earlier this month by grain suppliers, including Gavilon Grain LLC, the Farmers Cooperative Association, The Andersons Inc and Central Valley Ag.

    The suppliers, which claim to be owed more than $4 million, said they were told that Abengoa Bioenergy, whose Spanish parent controls the "central treasury," had run out of cash, court documents showed.

    They cited concerns that the U.S. business was transferring cash and loan proceeds to Abengoa SA.

    Abengoa Bioenergy listed a $1.45 billion syndicated loan and $3.85 billion in bonds as unsecured debt in its filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Louis. It did not list secured debt, but said total liabilities could be as much as $10 billion.

    The filing appeared to include debt issued by Abengoa SA, whose global businesses include energy, telecommunications, transportation, and the environment, the documents showed.

    Abengoa declined to comment on the group debt being included in the U.S. bankruptcy filing. In a statement, Abengoa said it was negotiating a viability plan for the global organization of the company and aims to maintain business activity in all areas.

    Abengoa Bioenergy of Nebraska LLC, a subsidiary of the U.S. company in the bankruptcy filing, is listed as a guarantor of billions of dollars of debt securities and a syndicated loan in Abengoa SA's annual report.

    Abengoa SA said last week it needed 826 million euros ($908 million) of cash to make it through 2016 and another 304 million in 2017.

    Abengoa Bioenergy said the bankruptcy would allow for a reorganization or sale of the company.
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    China to boost government purchases of new energy vehicles

    China will increase to more than half the ratio of purchases of new energy vehicles by some government departments, the State Council said on Wednesday, the latest move to boost green development in a country battling to rein in pollution.

    The government has been pushing electric vehicles as a way of reducing the smog that frequently blankets Chinese cities, helping sales to quadruple last year.

    "The annual purchase ratio of new energy vehicles for central government bureaus, city government departments with new energy vehicle promotions, and public institutions will be raised above 50 percent," the State Council, or cabinet, said in a statement on a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang.

    But the statement on the meeting, posted on the government's website, gave no details of when the policy would take effect.

    Automakers' latest projections for rapid growth of China's green car market have added to concerns of worsening smog as the uptake of electric vehicles powered by coal-fired grids races ahead of a switch to cleaner energy.

    China plans to convert the grid to renewable fuel or clean-coal technology as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2020.
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    Vestas in $1.2B deal to build huge wind power farm in Norway

    Danish company Vestas Wind Systems A/S says it has been awarded a 1.1 billion euro ($1.2 billion) deal to supply 278 wind turbines for Norwegian power company Statkraft and its partners for a wind power project in central Norway.

    Vestas said Tuesday that the turbines will have a combined capacity of over 1,000 megawatts and will be built on six wind farms on land around the Trondheim fjord. Statkraft described it as Europe's largest wind power project to date.

    The wind farms are estimated to generate 3.4 terawatt hours of power annually once completed and commissioned in 2020.

    Statkraft said the coastal area surrounding the Trondheim fjord provides "some of the best conditions forrenewable energy production from wind in Europe."

    Read more at:
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    SunPower Launches Its Most Powerful Solar Panel Available to Homeowners

    A new solar power system is installed in the United States every 1.6 minutes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). With the number of residential solar installations expected to increase this year by 35 percent according to GTM Research, more consumers will have an opportunity to choose the best solar solution for their home, saving on electricity bills while generating clean energy. Offering a record-setting, proven solar power solution, SunPower reminds homeowners that better solar technology exists and is accessible today.

    “Solar technology differs widely from brand to brand, so it’s important for consumers to consider that not all panels deliver the same amount of energy, look elegant on a roof, or are guaranteed to last as long as promised,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, business units. “SunPower® panels are the most efficient that homeowners can buy, and we stand behind them for a quarter century. We’re proud to hold the world-record title for efficiency.”

    The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a federal laboratory that rigorously evaluates renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, recently tested and verified that a SunPower® X-Series solar panel reached 22.8 percent efficiency – a new world record. SunPower’s newest X-Series solar panel, the X22, offers efficiencies of more than 22 percent. The high efficiency solar panels generate more energy in the same amount of space as conventional solar panels, which can reduce the number of panels needed to meet consumers’ energy needs. Compared to conventional solar panels with efficiencies that range from 15 to 18 percent, a SunPower X-Series solar panel produces over 70 percent more energy in the same space over the first 25 years.
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    Areva gets 1.1 bln euro bridge loan, delays earnings release

    French state-controlled nuclear firm Areva postponed the publication of its results on Thursday after securing a 1.1 billion euro ($1.2 billion) bridging loan to help finance a drastic restructuring plan.

    Areva is expected to book an annual net loss for a fifth year in a row, in particular due to provisions for a restructuring plan announced in May and ballooning costs for its long-delayed nuclear reactor project in Finland.

    Areva said in a statement on Thursday its board had decided to delay the closing of its financial accounts for 2015 for 24 hours to finalise the technical documentation of the bridging loan from six banks.

    "There is no negative consequence in our view," a spokeswoman for Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said.

    "It's one more step on the path to recovery for the company, which is making progress quickly and methodically."

    Once the jewel in France's nuclear crown, Areva said in January it planned a 5 billion euro capital increase to restore its finances and expected the takeover of its reactor division by fellow state utility EDF to be finalised in 2017.

    Shares in Areva were suspended before the stock market opened in Paris following the announcement about the loan and the postponement of the results publication.

    Debt traders said Areva's short-dated debt was helped by the loan news as it had reassured the market about the company's ability to cover repayments this year, but they were keen to know whether the bridge financing was secured or not.

    They said Areva's 975 million euro 3.875 percent 2016 note rose a full point to 99.30 but its 1 billion euro 4.875 percent 2024 note slumped from 79 to 76.60.

    EDF is buying between 51 and 75 percent of Areva's reactor business and will make a binding offer once arrangements have been made to immunise EDF against costs and risks related to Areva's Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) reactor project in Finland.

    The EPR reactor Areva is building there is billions over budget and years behind schedule and the subject of an arbitration suit in which Areva and its Finnish client TVO are claiming billions from one another.

    Areva plans to focus on uranium mining and nuclear fuel following the sale.
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    Precious Metals

    Goldcorp cuts dividend, lowers production guidance for next three years

    Goldcorp Inc. slashed its dividend and lowered its production guidance for the next three years on Thursday as the company tries to maintain a strong balance sheet and faces unexpected problems at an Ontario project.

    The Vancouver-based mining giant moved from a monthly dividend of US2 cents a share to a quarterly dividend at the same level, effectively reducing the annual payout by two thirds. Goldcorp said this lowered dividend still offers a “competitive” yield, while allowing the company to invest in its growth projects. One of those growth projects is already facing major challenges. Goldcorp removed the Cochenour project from its production guidance for the next three years and said the project is re-entering the “advanced exploration” phase.

    With Cochenour out of production guidance, it was not surprising that the overall forecast dropped. Goldcorp said it expects to produce between 2.8 and 3.1 million ounces of gold a year in each of the next three years. Previously, the company forecast up to 3.6 million ounces in 2016, up to 3.7 million in 2017, and up to 3.4 million in 2018.
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    South Africa's Sibanye Gold could raise dividend payout

    South Africa-focused bullion producer Sibanye Gold said on Thursday it plans to raise its dividend payout as its mines generate more cash, sending its shares to all-time highs.

    Already paying one of the highest dividends in the sector at 25 to 35 percent of normalisedearnings, the bullion producer said that "after due consideration of future requirements the dividend may be increased beyond these levels."

    Normalised earnings, a measure which excludes certain non-trading items, surged to 976 million rand in the second half of the year from 243 million rand in the previous half.

    Chief Executive Neal Froneman also told Reuters that Sibanye planned to buy a major platinum or gold asset this year.

    Sibanye last year bought mines owned by Anglo American Platinum and Aquarius Platinum in South Africa's platinum belt. Froneman has previously said any acquisition would not jeopardise payouts to shareholders.

    Gold production for 2015 dipped 3 percent to 1.54 million ounces from the previous year partly due to power cuts. Sibanye plans to mine 1.61 million ounces in 2016, saying the previous year's operational issues were unlikely to be repeated.

    "I'd be surprised if we didn't do at least one material transaction in either gold or platinum this year," Froneman said after the company announced its annual results.

    Sibanye is a young company buying everything from coal mines to platinum mines at the bottom of the commodity cycle, unlike the big miners which are saddled with debt and struggling to cut costs and reduce capital expenditure.

    Shares had jumped 8.5 percent to 56.40 rand by 0858 GMT, the highest level since Sibanye was spun off from Gold Fields three years ago.

    Sibanye said it would pay a final dividend of 90 cents per share, bringing the total payout for 2015 to 100 cents.

    Sibanye's headline earnings per share, the main profit gauge in South Africa that strips out certain one-off items, came in at 74 cents for the year ended December.

    The company posted a 59 percent fall in full-year earnings, hit by power cuts and a dilution in value after the average number of shares rose by 9 percent following an acquisition.

    Sibanye has said it was considering using its dollar holdings to buy bullion mines abroad as a weaker rand raises the cost of domestic acquisitions.

    South African gold mining companies pay their costs in the local currency, but earn their profit in dollars. The rand price for gold is at near record highs cushioning local producers.

    "South African gold stocks have been re-rated because of the rand gold price. I would not say distressed assets but there are some value opportunities in the gold sector outside of South Africa," Froneman said.
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    Zimbabwe tells diamond mining companies to cease operations

    Diamond mining companies in Zimbabwe’s Marange fields are to stop their operations immediately because their licences have expired, the country’s mines minister said on Monday.

    The diamond fields, located in the eastern part of the country close to the Mozambican border, are mined by nine joint-venture companies, each with a 50% stake while the government holds the other half.

    “Since they no longer hold any titles, these companies were notified this morning to cease all mining activities with immediate effect,” Walter Chidhakwa told reporters and executives from the affected mines.

    The new state-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company will now hold all the diamond claims in the country, Chidhakwa said, adding that the move was an imperative of national economic development.
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    Base Metals

    Rio Tinto offers Q2 Aluminium at $130/MT plus LME CIF Japan up 18% from Q1

    Rio Tinto Alcan has offered Japanese aluminum buyers a second quarter contract premium of $130/mt plus London Metal Exchange cash CIF Japan, up 18% from the Q1 premium of $110/mt, buyer sources said Friday.

    The producer in an email to Japanese trading houses and consumers Friday said it saw $130/mt plus LME cash CIF Japan as the market level for Q2 shipments of primary aluminum ingot as well as those of billet, foundry alloys and slabs.

    Two other producers, South32 and Alcoa, which are also negotiating Q2 premiums with Japanese buyers, have yet to announce offers, the buyers said.

    Japanese buyers said they would wait for the other offers before submitting their bids.

    At least two Europe-headquartered traders have expressed interest in supplying P1020/P1020A ingot to Japanese buyers in Q2 at a discount to the producer premiums, Japanese traders said.

    Two Japanese buyers said there was a gap to fill between their expectations and Rio Tinto's offer, as they were not prepared to pay $130/mt plus LME cash CIF Japan for Q2 shipments.
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    Tin defies commodity slump on back of Indonesian export cuts

    Tin is defying the downdraft sweeping commodity markets, with prices for the metal used to solder electronics surging this year thanks to reduced production in major exporter Indonesia.

    Prices of many commodities, ranging from base metals to oil, have been hammered by oversupply and concerns about weakening demand in top raw materials consumer China.

    But tin has bucked the trend, buoyed by the Indonesian cuts, which have countered slowing demand in the electronics sector and helped push down exchange stockpiles of the metal to their lowest levels since 2008.

    It has been the best performer on the London Metal Exchange (LME) this year, rising about 10 percent to around $16,000 a tonne, against a largely flat index of six industrial metals and a drop in the Thomson Reuters/Core Commodity CRB Index of 10 percent.

    "The fact that (Indonesia) has reduced their yearly exports, stocks are below 4,000 tonnes ... has attracted funds again," said a tin trader at a global trading house in Europe. "I won't be surprised to see the price rallying to $18,000."

    Many industry experts say the rally could run out of steam in the coming weeks or months, however, partly due to surging tin output from Myanmar - though they expect prices to resume their uptrend towards the end of the year.

    Caroline Bain, senior commodity economic at consultancy Capital Economics, predicted prices would reach $17,000 by the end of 2016, helped by a pick-up in demand from the electronics sector - which accounts for around half of global consumption of tin, used as solder to fuse together circuitry components.

    Global semiconductor sales - a barometer for electronics demand - dropped 5.2 percent year-on-year in December, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.

    "The demand side is quite subdued, although there are some early indications that the electronic sector could be picking up," said Bain.


    It has been a sharp turnaround for tin. Prices were languishing at 6-1/2 year lows in January before Indonesian exports fell by 63 percent after authorities tightened export rules and launched new audits of smelters, helping to trigger the rally.

    They hit a peak of $16,200 a tonne on Tuesday, their strongest level since October, following news that major Indonesian tin smelter PT Refined Bangka Tin (RBT) would be scrapped. Smelters process ore into refined metal.

    LME tin inventories MSNSTX-TOTAL have fallen to 3,850 tonnes, their lowest since November 2008, indicating shortages on the market.

    Industry group ITRI said flooding in a major tin-producing region on Indonesia was expected to further reduce exports from the country in February.

    "Recently we've been surveying the individual tin producing companies on their output and pretty much everybody is reporting lower production," said Peter Kettle, markets manager at ITRI.

    Global refined tin output is forecast to fall 3 percent this year after a decline of 8 percent in 2015, resulting in a global deficit of 10,000-15,000 tonnes, he added.


    However tin prices are likely to be pressured in the coming weeks and months, partly from the rising production in Myanmar. Chinese imports from the nation jumped 240 percent in January, although analysts said it was uncertain that such high levels could be sustained.

    "We saw the run-up in prices on that tin smelter shutting down, but then we got the data showing huge imports from Myanmar, which seemed to compensate for any loss out of Indonesia," said Robin Bhar, head of metals research at Societe Generale in London.

    The LME stocks picture is also not the whole story on inventories, warned Capital Economics' Bain.

    "If you look at the exchange stocks alone, you would wonder why the price isn't double what it is now, but certainly there are anecdotal reports that producer stocks of tin in Indonesia are high."

    A plea by Chinese tin producers to the government to stockpile tin also implied excess stocks there, she added.

    "We do expect tin prices to pick up by the end of this year, but people are right to be cautious about how tight the tin market really is."
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    Miner Kaz Minerals sees 2016 output up at least 60 pct

    Copper mining company Kaz Minerals Plc said it expected its 2016 copper output to increase by at least 60 percent as its Bozshakol and Aktogay projects come online.

    The company said it expected to produce 130,000 to 155,000 tonnes of copper cathode equivalent in 2016, up from 81,100 tonnes in 2015.

    Kaz added that its full-year earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) excluding special items fell to $202 million from $355 million a year earlier.
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    Alumina swings back to a profit

    The restructuring of the Alcoa World Alumina & Chemicals (AWAC) joint venture between ASX-listed Alumina and US major Alcoa has seen Alumina swing back into black during the full 2015 financial year. The company reported on Thursday a statutory net profit after tax of $88-million for the full year, compared with a net loss of $98-million in the previous financial year. 

    “Our financial results improved significantly, reflecting in part the benefits of restructuring the AWAC portfolio. While the alumina price experienced weakness later in the year, we have nonetheless delivered our best financial results and highest dividends since 2008,” said Alumina CEO Peter Wasow. 

    The JV partners have taken the decision to curtail some one-million tonnes of refining capacity from the AWAC operations, in the hopes of improving the JV’s cost position and ensuring its continued competitiveness in the prevailing market conditions. “Prices fell sharply in the second half, but whatever markets have in store, Alumina is well prepared. 

    The AWAC asset portfolio is stronger than ever and the company’s borrowings are at very low levels. Together, this means that we can withstand even the very low prices that we saw at the start of 2016,” said Wasow. Alumina reported that cash from operations increased by $333-million to $809-million, which cash costs of production decreased by $33/t.
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    Copper prices halves Sandfire profits

    ASX-listed Sandfire Resources has seen its interim profits after tax halved during the six months to December, compared with the previous corresponding period, as lower copper prices impacted earnings. Profits after tax for the interim period declined from the A$30.6-million reported in the first half of 2015 to A$15.7-million, as sales revenue declined from A$261.8-million toA$228.3-million during the same period. 

    Some 30 454 t of copper and 14 467 oz of gold was sold during the six months under review, which was down from the 32 500 t of copper and 18 330 oz of gold in the previous corresponding period. Sandfire told shareholders on Thursday that the fall in sales revenue reflected a higher year-end concentrate holding and the lower US dollar copper price, which fell by some 18% during the half-year, and which was only partially offset by the lower US/Australian dollar exchange rate. 

    Sandfire MD Karl Simich noted that the DeGrussa project, in Western Australia, had delivered a stand-out performance in the first half of the financial year, either achieving or exceeding all of its key production and cost targets. “DeGrussa continues to deliver strong cash flows despite a challenging business environment, and this is testament to both the grade and quality of the deposit and the continued focus of our team on controlling costs, delivering on targets and continually improving our performance.”

    Looking ahead, Sandfire noted that it was on track to reach its full production guidance of between 65 000 t to 68 000 t of copper, with C1 cash costs expected to be at the lower end of the $0.95/lb to $1.05/lb guidance.
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    China alumina prices firm as stock levels dip, metal prices rise

    Chinese spot alumina prices firmed further Monday on the back of stronger domestic aluminum prices and reduced alumina reserves following refinery cutbacks in recent months.

    Platts ex-works Shanxi alumina spot price stood at Yuan 1,710/mt ($262/mt) full cash payment terms Monday, rising Yuan 15 from Friday, and up Yuan 65 on the week. The current price also reflected an increase of Yuan 85 from a month ago.

    The front-month aluminum contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange closed at Yuan 11,145 mt Monday, up from Yuan 10,780/mt a week ago, and also from Yuan 10,830/mt a month ago.

    Spot alumina offers in Shanxi were heard at Yuan 1,730-1,750/mt cash Monday, up from Yuan 1,720-1,730/mt on Friday, and mostly around Yuan 1,700/mt at the start of last week. Tradeable prices were pegged at Yuan 1,700-1,720/mt, buyers and sellers agreed.

    "Available stocks are very limited in Shanxi and Henan now, so that's the main support for alumina," a Henan smelter source said. "Domestic ingot prices are also higher, so there's more confidence overall as well."

    In Henan province, tradeable ex-works alumina prices were indicated at Yuan 1,750-1,800/mt cash to partial credit terms Monday, up from Yuan 1,700-1,750/mt last week.

    "Offers are high, trades are few, and general expectation is that prices will still test higher," a Beijing trader said. "But the economy is still weak, so not sure if the higher prices can sustain. We must wait and see."

    In Guangxi in the south, spot alumina offers were pegged around Yuan 1,650/mt cash, with tradeable prices indicated around Yuan 1,600/mt, though no trades have been reported.

    Chinese alumina prices in Shanxi and Henan are expected to rise further to Yuan 1,800-1,850/mt cash in March-April, sources said. But the levels may fall back in the second quarter on the back of increased supply as many refiners who had idled capacity earlier are expected to resume production, sources said.
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    Chinese driven aluminium overhang to foil price bulls

    A massive overhang of aluminium stocks, mostly due to rising Chinese production, is set to cap a tentative price recovery triggered by large output cuts.

    Last year plummeting prices and squeezed margins led to production cuts of around 5.5 million tonnes with the bulk, about 4 million tonnes, in China.

    Benchmark aluminium on the London Metal Exchange hit $1,432.50 a tonne last November, the lowest since May 2009.

    Prices of the metal used in transport and packaging have since recovered to around $1,500 a tonne, but a stronger rally may only encourage producers to restart idled output capacity.

    Large surpluses are due to a ramp-up in China, which accounted for nearly 55 percent of global supplies of around 57 million tonnes last year.

    "We think prices will stay around the $1,400/$1,500 level, that's low enough to force more supply cuts in China," said CRU's head of aluminium Marco Georgiou.

    "For a price rally we need to see exports from China falling and for inventories to come down, a process which could take many years," Georgiou said.

    With total reported and unreported stocks of about 15 million tonnes, chances of a price rally are thin, particularly given higher supplies from China.

    Part of the reason is investment in low-cost capacity. Analysts in China estimate total costs of new smelters in the remote region of Xinjiang to be below 10,000 yuan, possibly the lowest in China.

    Chinese producers have also been able to negotiate better deals for power supplies.

    Up to 40 percent of aluminium smelting costs globally are accounted for by power. In China it is said to vary between 25 and 35 percent.

    Production costs around the world are generally estimated at between $1,000 and $1,600.

    The China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association in late 2015 estimated total aluminium production costs in China at an average around 12,000 yuan ($1,841) per tonne. Aluminium on the Shanghai Futures Exchange is around 11,000 yuan.

    The latest Reuters survey showed the aluminium market in surplus by 392,000 tonnes this year.

    "Aluminium has started moving towards balance...but it will need to be in deficit for a long time before the mountain of inventory is exhausted," a commodity trader said, adding that the process could be impeded by slower demand growth.

    Norsk Hydro, one of the world's largest aluminium producers, cut its 2016 forecast for global demand growth to 3-4 percent from 4-5 percent, its chief executive Svein Richard Brandtzaeg told Reuters last week.

    "Global aluminum production increased by 9 percent last year, compared to 4 percent growth in demand," JPMorgan said.

    "Chinese aluminum production is expected to increase by 1.4 million tonnes this year, as projects in the West of China continue to ramp up."
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    Major Indonesian tin smelter stops refining operations -shareholder

    Major Indonesian tin smelter PT Refined Bangka Tin (RBT) has stopped refining operations and its plant will be scrapped due to environmental concerns, a companyshareholder told Reuters.

    The exit of privately-owned RBT from the market could provide some support to global tin prices as falling shipments from Indonesia, the world's largest exporter of the soldering material, take a further hit.

    Benchmark tin on the London Metal Exchange rose 0.9 percent to $15,910 a tonne, up from $15,880 before the news.

    "All Indonesian shareholders and Singaporean partners have agreed to cease operation," Artha Graha Group founder Tomy Winata told Reuters.

    "The area will be made a conservation area. The refinery won't be sold, but will be scrapped."

    Winata said the decision was made after the company failed to meet "environmentally friendly" expectations.

    RBT officials were not immediately available for comment.

    The company slashed output last year due to rock bottom prices, producing as little as 200 tonnes a month compared with an average of around 1,000 tonnes previously.

    Established in 2007, RBT had shipped refined tin to major markets such as the United States, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Pakistan, according to the company's website.

    This is the latest hit to Indonesian tin exports, which have been declining for several years due to tightening government regulations on miners and smelters operating on the islands of Bangka and Belitung.

    In January, the country's shipments were just 2,486 tonnes, a 63 percent year-on-year drop.

    The Southeast Asian country is concerned about the scale of illegal tin mining and smuggling, while green groups and electronics firms have expressed worries about environmental damage.
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    'Short interest' in Rio and Antofagasta hit multi-year highs

    "Short interest" in miners Rio Tinto and Antofagasta have surged to multi-year highs, suggesting that some investors are not convinced about the sustainability of their recent share price rally, analysts said.

    According to Markit data, short interest - which measures the number of shares lent to speculators betting on a fall in the stock - in Rio Tinto has climbed to 1.6 percent of the shares out on loan, the highest since June 2009 and up from 0.8 percent on Jan. 20, when its shares slumped to a seven-year low.

    Short interest in Antofagasta has also surged to 6.8 percent from 4.8 percent during the same period, during which the shares of Rio and Antofagasta rose more than 20 percent and 40 percent respectively.

    Short interest in miners Anglo American and Glencore has also gone up this year, although their shares have spiked by around 100 percent and nearly 70 percent respectively during the period, Thomson Reuters data showed.

    "There is a lot of short selling going on as credit spreads on the metals and mining companies have blown out so much recently," said Lex Van Dam, hedge fund manager at Hampstead Capital.

    "The whole sector has got some support from some stability in mining prices, but the share price rally doesn't look sustainable unless we see major cuts on the supply side."

    In order to profit from a stock falling, short sellers borrow the stock and sell it, expecting it to drop in value so they can buy it back at a lower price and pocket the difference.

    Analysts and fund managers said that the sector's outlook still remained bearish as concerns about the pace of global economic growth, especially in top consumer China, could continue to put pressure on prices of industrial metals.

    "The global macro picture hasn't changed and we are still seeing a supply glut and a weak demand environment," said Lorne Baring, managing director of B CapitalWealth Management.

    "I believe the recent spike in share prices is a short-term phenomenon. Do not chase commodities-related companies."
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    Zambia mines say new price-based royalty to boost investment

    The Zambia Chamber of Mines said on Friday the new price-based copper royalty approved by the government would boost investment in new projects in Africa's second-biggest copper producer.

    Zambia will next month start implementing its new royalty system that varies depending on the copper price as it seeks to keep struggling mines open and limit job losses.

    The royalty would be 4 percent when the price of copper was below $4,500 a tonne, 5 percent when it was between $4,500 and $6,000 and 6 percent when above $6,000, presidential spokesman Amos Chanda said on Friday.

    "This shows that the government is striving to collect revenue from the industry in the way that does not discourage mines from investing in new mining projects and new employment," Chamber of Mines spokesman Talent Ng'andwe said.

    "The gesture by the government is a good life-line," Ng'andwe added, saying the prevailing low copper prices posed a serious challenge to mining operations.

    Mining companies operating in Zambia including Vedanta Resources and Glencore have cut thousands of jobs and closed copper shafts in recent months with prices near six-year lows.

    Zambia in June last year cut mineral royalties for underground mines to 6 percent from 9 percent and those of open cast mines to 9 percent from 20 percent following an outcry by mining firms.

    Mining lobbies had asked for a price-based royalty structure to ease the tax burden during a period of depressed prices.
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    Steel, Iron Ore and Coal

    Brazil's Vale looks to sell $10 billion of assets after massive loss

    Brazilian miner Vale SA put its prime assets on the block on Thursday after taking the biggest loss in decades, but analysts said the target to make $10 billion in 18 months was unrealistic and expressed concern a fire sale could destroy equity value.

    Chief Executive Murilo Ferreira said on a conference call there were "no restrictions" on what the company would consider selling in order to reduce net debt to $15 billion as it looks to protect itself against a possible further deterioration in iron ore and nickel prices.

    The move is a sharp departure for the troubled miner and is a reflection of how vulnerable the world's largest iron ore producer has become to volatile commodity prices.

    Vale reported a fourth-quarter net loss Thursday of $8.57 billion, its worst ever as a private company, amid weak commodity prices and hefty writedowns. Analysts in a Reuters poll had predicted a loss of just $56 million.

    Previously, Vale had looked to make up cash shortfalls by selling its so-called "non-core" assets like fertilizer plants and ships, confident that lucrative profits will return when its new S11D iron ore mine in the Amazon hits full capacity in 2018.

    Now, with analysts forecasting that iron ore may stay around $45 per ton until then, that date looks a long way off.

    "I can understand Vale's strategy because if iron ore slips to $35 per ton, all of a sudden you have an issue," said Andreas Bokkenheuser, analyst at UBS.

    "But the question is what valuations can they get for these assets?" adding that Vale had to be careful not to sacrifice future cash potential.

    The company did not say how much it was looking to get for certain assets, or how close it was to doing a sale.

    Paul Gait, analyst at Bernstein, said the speed and quantity of asset sales did not seem feasible and he thought the strategy was flawed.

    "It really is irrelevant what they sell. This is not the issue. If they want to de-gear, they should reduce sales of iron ore and stop spending CAPEX. As simple as that," he said.

    Gait criticized the strategy of the so-called "big three" iron ore miners of Rio Tinto (RIO.L), BHP Billiton (BLT.L) and Vale to keep increasing production despite an oversupplied market and falling prices.

    Of the three, Vale has been worst hit because it was at a later stage of its investment cycle, building major mines in Brazil and Mozambique, when prices began to slide, forcing it to spend more cash while earning less.
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    Police raid Brazil steelmaker Gerdau, issue CEO arrest warrant

    Federal police said they raided the offices of Brazilian steelmaker Gerdau SA on Thursday and issued an arrest warrant for its chief executive on suspicion the company evaded hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.

    Federal police said Gerdau, Brazil's largest steelmaker, is suspected of evading 1.5 billion reais ($380 million) in back taxes.

    A police spokesman said they had a warrant for the arrest of André Gerdau Johannpeter, the company's chief executive, for questioning. The executive had agreed to appear voluntarily later on Thursday, the spokesman added.

    Search and seizure warrants were being carried out at Gerdau offices in the cities of Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Recife and the company's headquarters in the southern city of Porto Alegre, police said.

    The raids are part of an inquiry, known as "Operation Zealots," into kickbacks by companies through lobbyists to tax officials in return for waiving tax debts and fines.

    Gerdau said the company was cooperating with police and had no further information to provide.

    The raids on Gerdau, a family company that has made steel for generations, comes as Brazilian prosecutors grow increasingly aggressive in efforts to crack down on corruption by some of the country's most powerful firms.

    Andre Gerdau's father, Jorge Gerdau Johannpeter, was CEO of the steelmaker from 1983 to 2006 and has been a close advisor to President Dilma Rousseff on industrial policy.

    In addition to Operation Zealots, which is probing suspected kickbacks at dozens of companies, Brazil for the past two years has been gripped by the far-reaching corruption probe around state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

    Dozens of executives at Brazil's biggest construction firms have been arrested or charged with corruption in that investigation.

    On Monday, police again searched offices of Odebrecht, Brazil's largest engineering and construction conglomerate. Marcelo Odebrecht, the company's chief executive, was jailed in July in connection with the Petrobras scandal.

    On Tuesday, police arrested Rousseff's main political campaign strategist Joao Santana, on the suspicion that he had been paid off-shore by Odebrecht with funds siphoned from the Petrobras graft scheme.
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    Vale earnings fall less than estimated

    Vale, the world’s biggest iron-ore miner, reported a smaller-than-estimated decline in quarterly earnings as efforts to lower costs and focus on higher-quality deposits blunted the impact of slumping commodity prices.

    Fourth-quarter adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation fell to $1.39 billion from $2.19 billion a year ago, the Rio de Janeiro-based company said on Thursday. That compared with the $1.37 billion average of 12 dollar-based estimates compiled by Bloomberg. On a net basis, Vale had a loss of $8.57 billion.

    While Vale is reducing iron-ore output from lower-quality facilities and replacing it with more productive projects, it continues to produce at near record levels with global supply still outstripping demand. The three dominant iron-ore players — Vale, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Group — have opted to plow on with expansions to displace less efficient producers. Morgan Stanley projects the ensuing glut will endure to at least 2020.

    The benchmark iron ore price have been trading below $60 a metric ton since mid last year and are down more than 70 percent from a 2011 peak. It was little changed at $51.64 on Wednesday, up for a low of $38.30 in December.

    The iron-ore outlook in the coming years is grim as Chinese steel demand continues to weaken, according to David Wang, a Chicago-based analyst with Morningstar Investment Services Inc. Vale is poised to weather low prices better than most as it prepares to start producing at its giant S11D project in Carajas, Brazil. It’s also selling non-core assets and has opened the door to halting dividends.

    “What we really see across the mining space is cost cutting by everybody,” Wang said. “Vale’s in somewhat of a special situation because its new project should be lower in average cost than its existing capacity, which would help bring costs down more than average.”

    Vale shares slumped 4.4% percent to 8.60 reais at the close in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, extending a decline this year to 16%. Last year, the stock tumbled 47%.

    Output from the Brazilian company’s mines missed estimates in the fourth quarter on seasonal factors and an outage at its Samarco joint venture with BHP after a November 5 tailings dam rupture. Including third-party purchases and its share of Samarco, fourth quarter iron-ore production reached 88.4 million tons.

    Vale is also the top nickel producer and a sizable copper miner. Total quarterly production of nickel reached a record 82 700 tons. Copper output rose to 112 500 tons, also a record.
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    China key steel mills daily output up 3.7pct in early-Feb

    Key steel mills in China saw their average daily Crude Steel output post a 3.68% ten-day rise to 1.56 million tonnes in early-February, according to the latest data released by the China Iron and Steel Association (CISA).

    It was a favorable rebound after hitting a record low since early-October 2012 in late-January.

    China’s daily crude steel output in early-February was estimated at 2.06 million tonnes, edging up 0.98% from the average level in January.

    By February 10, stocks in key steel mills stood at 13.85 million tonnes, jumping 15.23% from end-January.

    As of February 20, social stocks of steel products across the country reached 12.05 million tonnes, climbing 39.80% from end-2015 and surging 32.27% from end-January, which indicated a stronger expectation in steel market.

    Meanwhile, steel prices witnessed a robust rebound after the Chinese Lunar New Year due to the government’s easy credit policy, and the lower-than-expected stock level as many steel mills haven’t yet resumed production completely.

    Domestic prices of the five major steel products except seamless steel tube increased in mid-February, with rebar price averaging 1,934.1 yuan/t, up 1.9% from early-February, showed data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

    However, the rise in steel prices, which mainly caused by China’s loose credit policy combined with seasonal restocking in real estate industry, was expected to be limited and could only support the sector temporarily, analysts said.

    Steel prices will fluctuate at a low level due to the severe situation of steel overcapacity, which may need a long time to be consistent with the demand, according to the CISA.
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    Hebei to control coal mines within 100 in 3 years

    North China’s Hebei province planned to cut the number of coal mines in operation and under construction to below 100 in the next three years, said the provincial Administration of Coal Mine Safety.

    It also planned to shut 70 more coal mines in 2016, the administration said.

    The move was expected to deepen industry consolidation, which would ease the current supply glut and boost the local coal industry.

    Coal producers should make efforts to achieve closure goals, under supervision of local governments.
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    Iron ore price holds $50 despite steel shocker

    The surprise rally in the price of iron ore continued on Tuesday with the Northern China benchmark import price advancing to a four-month high.

    Building on a 7% jump on Monday the steelmaking raw material exchanged hands for $50.50 a tonne on Tuesday according to data supplied by The SteelIndex. Iron ore is now up a stunning 36% from near decade lows hit December 11.

    Chinese steel prices pulled back on Tuesday after hitting the highest levels since September yesterday thanks to a seasonal pick-up in demand and on hopes Beijing will do more to stimulate the slowing economy.

    Iron ore is dependent on the health of the world’s second largest economy more than any other commodity. China last year consumed nearly three-quarters of the seaborne iron ore supply and its steelmakers forged nearly half of the global total.

    China’s steelmakers are trying to export their way out of trouble, but calls rising protectionism in North America, Europe and other parts of Asia will close this opportunity too

    World Steel Association data released showed a sharper-than-expected drop in global steel output of 7.1% in January compared to last year.

    Output fell in all major producing regions for the second month in a row – including in India, a country which many iron ore producers had hoped could take up some of China’s slack.

    China’s steel production came as a real shocker, plunging 7.8% year on year. January’s contraction also comes on the heels of 5.2% decline in December. The China Iron and Steel Association recently reported that more than half its members didn’t turn a profit in 2015 so output cuts after years of overproduction was certainly inevitable.

    Colin Richardson, senior steel price specialist for Platts, says the rise in steel prices in China since the Lunar New Year can be explained by the output decline and is unlikely to continue:
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    China Jan coking coal imports down 16.1pct on year

    China’s coking coal imports fell 16.1% on year and slumped 24.27% on month to 3.37 million tonnes in January, showed the latest data from the General Administration of Customs (GAC).

    The value of the imports saw a yearly plummet of 38.1% and a monthly drop of 18.55% to $223.52 million, the GAC said.

    The average price of imported coking coal was $66.33/t in January, rising 4.66$/t or 7.56% from last month, but down $23.32/t or 26.01% from the same month in 2015.

    In January, China exported 150,000 tonnes of coking coal, a year-on-year surge of 277.4% and a monthly rise of 25%, data showed.

    The value of the exports in the same period was $14.07 million, surging 191.4% on year and up 27.01% on month.
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    China Jan thermal coal imports at 5.84 mln T

    China’s imports of thermal coal—including bituminous and sub-bituminous coals– stood at 5.84 million tonnes in January, according to the latest data released by the General Administration of Customs.

    That was 21.4% lower from December last year and down 25% from the same month last year.

    Total value of thermal coal imports during the same period stood at $272.14 million, down 45.5% on year but up 12.8% on month.

    Lignite imports in January stood at 4.14 million tonnes, up 16.6% from December last year and rising 28.8% on year.

    In addition, China exported 30,000 tonnes of thermal coal in January, down 63.9% year on year and down from 39,467 tonnes in December last year.

    Total exports value during the same period stood at $3.51 million, down 61.6% on year but up 14.2% on month.

    China didn’t export any lignite in January, compared with 533 tonnes in December last year.
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    Vale union suspends strike over bonus payments for talks

    Workers who disrupted production at mine and transportation units of Brazilian mining company Vale SA in Brazil's Minas Gerais state suspended their strike late on Tuesday to engage in talks with the company, a union official said.

    The workers, who went on strike at nine sites earlier in the day over unpaid annual profit-sharing bonuses, plan to maintain "a strike posture" during the talks, said Braz Abreu, director of the Metabase Belo Horizonte union.

    Earlier on Tuesday, Vale confirmed the strike and said it was negotiating with the union.

    The world's largest producer of iron ore said that 2015 is the first year since the company was privatized by the Brazilian government in 1997 in which it has not paid a performance bonus to employees.

    The company has been hit hard by a dramatic fall in the price of iron ore, and analysts expect it to report a loss when it publishes full year results on Thursday.

    Vale also said that under its contract with the union the bonuses are not obligatory.
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    Brazil police accuse seven of murder over Samarco dam burst

    Brazil police accuse seven of murder over Samarco dam burst

    Brazilian police in the state of Minas Gerais on Tuesday accused six Samarco executives and one contractor of murder in connection with the deaths of 19 people caused by a burst tailings dam at a mine in November.

    The Samarco chief executive at the time of the incident, Ricardo Vescovi, was among those accused.

    In Brazil only prosecutors, and not police, can formally bring criminal charges but public accusations often anticipate charges being filed.

    The police, in a statement, accused the mine executives of "qualified homicide," the murder charge that carries the heaviest sentence in Brazil of 12 to 30 years in prison.

    They said the rupture had been caused by over filling the dam, combined with a lack of monitoring and faulty equipment.

    Samarco, a joint venture of Vale SA and BHP Billiton, said in a statement it considers the accusations "misguided" and will wait for a court decision before taking appropriate action.

    The company is still investigating what caused the breach.

    The deadly dam burst is considered Brazil's worst environmental disaster, polluting a major river with thick red sludge which reached the Atlantic Ocean.

    It also destroyed the village of Bento Rodrigues, forcing hundreds to flee their homes and killing 17 people. Two people are still missing but the police said they are now considered fatalities.
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    Fortescue attacks iron ore costs as profit slips

    Australia's Fortescue Metals Group reported a four percent fall in half-year profit, as faster-than-expected cost cutting helped it largely offset a slump in iron ore prices amid a global supply glut.

    Fortescue, Australia's third-biggest producer behind Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton , posted a net profit of $319 million, down from $331 million a year ago.

    Chief Executive Nev Power said the company had cut its production costs by 47 percent from the prior year and forecast a further reduction to a target of $13 a tonne by the end of 2016.

    The performance provided "a solid foundation for continued debt repayment and a modest increase in our dividend," Power said in a statement.

    Fortescue forecast a delivered cost to China of $18.30 a tonne and a breakeven cost of $28.80 a tonne, narrowing the gap to within a few dollars of its larger and lower costrivals in Australia.

    Spot iron ore has jumped more than 17 percent so far in 2016 to around $50 a tonne .IO62-CNI=SI which could help miners in coming months despite concerns the rally may be short-lived.

    Revenue fell to $3.34 billion from $4.86 billion a year ago, underscoring a 38 percent drop in benchmark iron ore prices .IO62-CNI=SI over the period to an average $50.68 a tonne, Power said.

    Fortescue only realised $43.85 a tonne in the first half as its iron ore grade falls below the benchmark 62 percent level.

    The company is closely leveraged to iron ore price swings due to its reliance on the commodity for revenue and hefty debt load, amassed as the company expanded to maximum production levels.

    During the half, Fortescue said it repaid $1.1 billion of debt, reducing its net debt to $6.1 billion.

    "Fortescue remains committed to reducing debt towards the initial targeted gearing ratio of 40 percent," Power said. The ratio as of Feb. 16 stood at just under 49 percent, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine data.

    Iron ore markets have been hit hard by a rapid increase in supply from major producers at a time when growth has slowed in top consumer China.

    Andrew Mackenzie, chief executive of fellow Australian miner BHP Billiton , warned on Tuesday of an ongoing period of new iron ore supply being added at a faster rate than the growth in demand.
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    BHP sees iron ore, met coal costs declines but warns of low prices

    Miner BHP Billiton reported lower iron ore and coal production costs in Australia for July-December 2015, as it warned of persistent low prices on cost trends and supply pressures for the time being.

    BHP cut by 4% iron ore production guidance for its 2016 financial year to 237 million mt owing to losses from Samrco unit, with an update pending for Australia following weather disruption in January. Metallurgical coal production guidance was unchanged at 40 million mt.

    Western Australia Iron Ore unit cash costs declined by 25% to $15/mt and Queensland Coal by 17% to $59/mt, during the company's fiscal first half ended December 31 from the corresponding period, it said in an earnings statement.

    BHP also mines thermal coal in New South Wales and from Cerrejon in Colombia.

    BHP reported first metallurgical coal production from the Haju mine in Indonesia over the period.

    BHP continues to expect full-year costs to remain at $15/mt for iron ore and cut to $59/mt its full-year projection for Queensland Coal, which produces a majority of coking coal.

    Sales over July-December of iron ore averaged at $43/wet mt FOB basis, with coking coal at $82/mt FOB and weak coking coal at $67/mt FOB.

    BHP's global coal business unit swung to a H1 EBIT loss of $342 million, while iron ore's profitability shrunk to less than a fifth of to a H1 EBIT of $747 million.

    Iron ore prices will "likely remain low," due to weak demand and what BHP called abundant seaborne iron ore supply.

    "Over time, additional low-cost seaborne supply will continue to displace higher-cost supply, and we expect productivity gains will continue to be an industry feature. These factors point to a prolonged period of market rebalancing," it said.

    BHP holds its view that Chinese crude steel production to peak between 935-985 million mt around 2025. However, the country may show weaker immediate trends, with crude steel output at 803.8 million mt, and forecast by Platts to drop by 2.5% in 2016.

    "In the short term, Chinese steel demand is expected to remain soft, with modest potential improvement if construction and infrastructure activity ramp-up in the first half of the 2016 calendar year," BHP said. "In metallurgical coal, industry-wide supplier cost compression is expected to persist through the 2016 calendar year, with recent devaluations in China's currency highlighting a key uncertainty for seaborne demand as imports become relatively more expensive." BHP added it expects "further growth in low-cost, premium hard coking coal supply to offset production cuts and constrain potential for near-term price recovery."

    "In the long term, we expect emerging markets such as India to support seaborne demand growth, while high-quality metallurgical coals will continue to offer steel makers value-in-use benefits to their operations."
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    UK's Drax says may mothball coal plant amid weak energy markets

    British power producer Drax may decide to mothball its coal-fired power generation units, the company said on Tuesday, as part of a strategy review triggered by competition from cheap gas and renewables.

    Drax, which owns one of Europe's largest coal-fired power plants, was echoing comments made by other owners of coal-fired power stations such as SSE and Engie, who have announced earlier-than-expected closures of loss-making plants.

    A surge in intermittent renewable energy production and cheap gas prices have effectively priced coal-fired plants out of the market in Britain, whose government has anyway said it plans to shut all coal-fired stations by 2025 in a bid to lower carbon emissions.

    "We may choose to mothball them, but what we are keen to is to work with government and find the right solution," Drax Chief Executive Dorothy Thompson told Reuters.

    Drax, which on Tuesday also reported a 26 percent fall in full-year core earnings to 169 million pounds ($239 million), has already converted two of its coal units to run on biomass, or wood pellets, instead.

    It is awaiting a decision by the European Commission on whether it will allow state aid to Drax's project to convert a third unit to biomass.

    Thompson said Drax wants to continue investing in biomass conversions and hopes to eventually run its entire power plant on renewable energy.

    "Now that we have become the leading biomass expert that's the core focus of where we're looking to see future strategic options," she told Reuters.

    Drax maintained its dividend policy of paying out 50 percent of underlying earnings, rewarding shareholders with a full-year dividend of 5.7 pence per share, down 52 percent year on year.

    The power producer said it expects conditions this year to remain challenging as power prices have dropped close to 15-year lows.

    "We remain optimistic about Drax's prospects ... but the ride is likely to continue to be volatile, driven by sentiment rather than precise figures," said Angelos Anastasiou, utilities analyst at Whitman Howard.
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    Yancoal Australia to raise $950 mln through asset securitization

    Yancoal Australia, a unit of China's Yanzhou Coal Mining Co., Ltd, will raise $950 million (A$1.32 billion) in new debt funding through an issue of nine year secured debt bonds for continued investment within the Australian resources sector, it said on February 17.

    The value translates to 6.175 billion yuan with the exchange rate of yuan against US dollar at 6.5, Yancoal said.

    The issue will be made to a consortium of financiers comprising Industrial Bank Co. Ltd, BOCI Financial Products and United NSW Energy.

    The bonds will be issued by a newly established wholly owned subsidiary of Yancoal -- SPV. Yancoal's interest in the New South Wales mining assets of Ashton, Austar and Donaldson will be transferred to and held by the issuer SPV.

    The move is expected to increase Yancoal’s liquidity and thus improve its financial situation.

    Of the total $950-million funds to be collected through asset securitization, $550 million will be invested by Yancoal in its flagship expansion project of Moolarben coal mine Phase Two, which is projected to go into operation in the third quarter of this year.

    Moolarben Coal Mine is among just a few profitable mines in Australia, and its profitability is forecast to see a clear improvement on completion of the expansion project, Yancoal said.

    Established in 2014, Yancoal has evolved into the No. 1 independent listed coal company in Australia. It owns a total nine mines in the state including Moolarben Coal Mine, and 27% stake in Newcastle Infrastructure Group together with 5.6% stake in Wiggins Island Wharf.
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    China Coal Jan coal sales climb 27.3pct on year, China Shenhua up 16.9pct

    China Coal Jan coal sales climb 27.3pct on year, China Shenhua up 16.9pct

    China coal energy Co., Ltd, the second largest coal producer in China, sold 9.65 million tonnes of commercial coal in January, a year-on-year climb of 27.3% but a slump of 34.58% month on month, the company announced in a statement on February 22.

    Of this, self-produced commercial coal accounted for 7.52 million tonnes or 77.93% of the total in January, rising 37.7% on year but down 26.27% on month.

    Meanwhile, the company’s commercial coal output in January also witnessed a yearly increase of 7.0% to 7.32 million tonnes, which however dropped 7.11% from the month prior.

    The yearly rises were mainly due to the relatively low levels from the same period last year, caused by high coal stocks in downstream industries and a slower progress in annual contract negotiation, industry insiders said.

    However, in January, power enterprises showed little buying interest amid surplus coal stocks, which to some extent contributed to the marked monthly slumps.

    China Shenhua Energy Co., Ltd., the listed arm of coal giant Shenhua Group, saw its coal sales increase 16.9% on year to 20.7 million tonnes in January 2016, the company announced on February 23.
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    CIL to set up India’s largest coal washing plant

    South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL), a subsidiary of the Coal India Limited (CIL), would be setting up country’s largest coal washing plantwith a capacity of 25 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) in Korba district of Chhattisgarh, Business Standard reported on February 16.

    The project would be known as Kusmunda coal washery. It would be an integral part of Kusmunda Open Cast coal mine, one of the three mines operated by the SECL in Korba coalfields having an estimated reserve of 10,074.77 million tonnes.

    “The total capital cost of the project would be about Rs 942 crore,” SECL spokesperson told Business Standard. The life of the coal washery that would feed different thermal power plants across the country would be 17 years, he said, adding that the project would be implemented on a turn-key basis.

    The Kusmunda coal washery would be the largest in the country. The existing largest coal washery is also located in Korba district. The ACB (India) Limited had set up a coal washery at Dipka area in 1999. The Initial capacity of the plant was 1 Mtpa that had been gradually upgraded to capacity of 12 Mtpa, the reported largest coal washery in the country.

    The project is reported to be part of CIL plan to achieve production of 1 billion tonnes by 2019-20. Presently, the world's largest coal miner has 15 washeries that include 12 in coking and three in non-coking coal segments. The cumulative capacity of these washeries stands at 36.8 Mtpa every year. The coking coal washeries handle 23.30 Mtpa while the non-coking washeries are able to wash 13.50 Mtpa of coal.

    The CIL had planned to set up 15 new coal washeries in next three years. Of the 15 new coal washeries, 9 are non-coking of a capacity of 94 Mtpa and six are coking washeries of capacity of 18.6 Mtpa.
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    16 steel makers suspend production in Hebei by end-2015

    16 steel makers suspend production in Hebei by end-2015

    By the end of December last year, 16 steel enterprises in China’s largest steel maker Hebei province suspended production completely, according to the Hebei Metallurgical Industry Association (HMIA).

    The combined iron-making and steel-making capacity in those enterprises stood at 23.65 million and 23.18 million tonnes, respectively, data showed.

    Additionally, there were another 24 steel enterprises in the province under half-suspension in the same period, with their total iron-making and steel-making capacity at 26.87 million and 22.63 million tonnes, respectively.

    In 2015, Hebei produced 185.93 million tonnes of crude steel, 239.27 million tonnes of steel products and 169.39 million tonnes of pig iron, rising 1.29%, 5.51% and 2.62% on year separately, which were 3.59, 4.91 and 6.12 percentage points higher than the country’s average growth rate, respectively.

    During the past year, Hebei exported 36.99 million tonnes of steel products, climbing 36.12% on year and accounting for 32.91% of China’s total steel exports, which was 3.98% higher than the year-ago level; while its exports value decreased 1.15% year on year to $15.32 billion.

    In the same period, Hebei imported 147,500 tonnes of steel products, slumping 41.22% on year, with total imports value down 46.71% to $161.27 million.

    Steel industry in Hebei may remain severe in the first quarter of 2016, said the HMIA.

    The traditional slack season for steel-selling and difficulties in production amid the cold weather in northern China, as well as the official holidays for the New Year’s Day and Chinese Lunar New Year during the period may all negatively impacted the industry.
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    Iron ore price closing in on $50

    Iron ore gained for the fourth week in five, as the embattled steelmaking commodity made a push for $50 a tonne, the highest level it's been since mid-November.

    Iron ore has been firmly in the grip of the bears for months, and on December 11 it sunk to a record low of $38.30 a tonne. A flood of cheap new supply from the top producers has put pressure on prices since late 2013.

    However the commodity has been on something of a rebound of late, last Tuesday climbing to its highest level in three months amid seasonal restocking by China’s steel mills following the lunar New Year holiday and signs of decreased supply. Iron ore with 62% iron content for delivery to China at the port of Qinqdao on Tuesday rose to $46.78 a ton, putting it firmly back in a bull market, generally defined as a more than 20% move from a low.

    The gains continued for the rest of the week, as firmer Chinese steel prices spurred producers to restock.

    “There’s been restocking going on in the Chinese steel market,” Daniel Hynes, commodity strategist at ANZ Bank, told Hellenic Shipping News. “We’ve seen a bit of tightening in that market as well which has certainly allowed steel prices to inch higher and that has given steel mills more room to purchase some iron ore.”

    According to Business Insider Australia, the price surged 11.2 percent for the week, its largest five-day rally since last July. Metal Bulletin had the spot price for benchmark 62% fines rising by 2.93%, or $1.38, to $48.52 a tonne on Friday – the highest level seen since November 11. BI Australianotes that iron ore is now up 26.7 percent since its December 11 low and has gained 11.5 percent year to date.
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    Arrium in recapitalisation deal

    Arrium has agreed to a deal with a Blackstone-backed alternative asset manager that would help the junior miner stay afloat as it struggles with a heavy debt load and a falling iron ore price.

    GSO Capital Partners, a credit-focused alternative asset manager, will provide up to $US927 million in funding to Arrium, allowing it to pay down debt and restructure its mining business to make it more sustainable.

    The funds include a six-year senior secured loan of approximately $US665m and a renounceable pro-rata rights issue to Arrium’s shareholders to raise $US262m, underwritten by GSO or a professional underwriter.

    In return, GSO would take two board seats and Arrium would issue GSO warrants equivalent to 15 per cent of its shares.

    The deal allows Arrium to keep its prized mining consumables business, which had earlier been up for sale.

    The agreement is subject to GSO completing due diligence and approval from Arrium’s banks.

    At the 4.15pm (AEDT) official market close, Arrium shares were up 46.67 per cent to 2.2c against a benchmark lift of 0.98 per cent.
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    Tokyo Steel cuts March prices as much as 14 pct to fight imports

    Tokyo Steel Manufacturing , Japan's top electric arc furnace steelmaker, said it will cut prices for March delivery, by as much as 14 percent for one product, to compete against imports amid a firm yen and on slow domestic demand.

    The company will cut prices by between 3,000 yen to 7,000 yen ($27 to $62) a tonne, it said in a press briefing on Monday. That is between 4 percent and 14 percent, Reuters calculations show.

    This is Toyko Steel's first price cut in five months and is the latest in a series of weak signals for Japan's economy that have raised doubts about government efforts to reignite growth and end decades of deflation.

    Tokyo Steel's pricing strategy is closely watched by Asian rivals such as Posco, Hyundai Steel Co and Baosteel, which export to Japan.

    Prices for the company's main product, H-shaped beams, which are used in construction, will fall by 3,000 yen, or 4 percent, to 67,000 yen ($593.97) per tonne in March. Prices for steel bars, including rebar, will drop by 14 percent to 42,000 yen a tonne.

    "The price cut is to prevent cheap imports from flowing into the local market in the face of the recent jump in the yen against the U.S. dollar," Tokyo Steel's Managing Director Kiyoshi Imamura told reporters.

    The yen has climbed more than 6 percent against the dollar so far this year as it continues to benefit from its safe haven status amid a rout in global equity markets.

    "Domestic demand has also languished as a lack of workers and processing facilities has delayed construction projects," said Imamura.

    The company expected construction demand to improve by the end of 2015 when it last cut prices for October delivery.

    However, the delay in construction of Japan's new national stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games until 2017 has crimped steel demand, said Imamura.

    "The delay in new national stadium project has also slowed other Olympic-related works by about a half year, dragging on overall local construction demand," he said.

    "But we expect to see a pick up in and after summer as the stadium project is set to start next year," he said.

    Japan's January crude steel output fell 2.8 percent from a year ago, marking 17 straight months of decline, the longest streak since the 1997 Asia financial crisis.
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