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Reuters: Shell on track to win key Sakhalin loan-EBRD sources

25 Mar 2006 18:13:44 GMT
Source: Reuters
YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, Russia, March 25 (Reuters) – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is likely to approve a key loan to the Royal Dutch Shell Plc-led Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project in East Russia, despite strong opposition from green groups, senior EBRD sources said.
After much scepticism, the bank's management has become much more supportive of the $20 billion project in recent months, partly due to the desire of key bank shareholders, including the United States and Japan, to secure new energy sources, and other strategic goals, the sources said.
“There has been a change of mood (in favour of the project),” one senior source told Reuters.
Sakhalin-2 will proceed even without the loan but it would be a big win for Shell's reputation. The bank's strict environmental rules mean the loan effectively endorses the project's ecological record.
The world's third largest publicly traded oil firm has taken a battering from green groups because of the risks the project poses to endangered whales, salmon spawning grounds, indigenous peoples' lifestyles and other aspects of the largely empty and undeveloped island's delicate ecology.
The bank insists it remains neutral on whether to approve the loan and environmental officials at the bank deny any pressure is being exerted on them to take a less critical view of the development.
Environmental officials said any warming toward Sakhalin-2 on their part reflected the fact they have forced Shell and its partners to make a number of key improvements to reduce the ecological impact.
“The gap between our expectations and reality on the ground have narrowed considerably,” Mark King, group head of the bank's environmental department, told Reuters at the sidelines of a public meeting in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk this week.
However, the sources said this was not the only reason the bank's management had become less sceptical about Sakhalin-2.
“There was political pressure from different sources, and undoubtedly some of that came from the U.S.,” a second senior bank insider said.
CONTROVERSIAL LOAN
Sakhalin-2, off the north coast of Sakhalin Island in Russia is one of the largest hydrocarbon developments in the world, with recoverable reserves of 4.5 billion barrels equivalent of oil and gas.
Shell and its partners, the Japanese firms Mitsui and Mitsubishi , have asked the EBRD for around $300 million to develop the fields and a $6-7 billion financing package including other government-backed lenders hinges on the bank's decision.
EBRD officials say it is the most controversial application they have ever had to consider.
The oil and gas fields off the north coast of the island are located near the feeding grounds of the critically endangered Western Grey whale.
A pipeline must be run across around 1,100 rivers and water courses to connect the fields to an export terminal in the south of the island. The island's economy is heavily reliant on fish which spawn in the rivers.
At a public meeting in Korsakov on Friday, locals expressed worries about the impact of the dumping of dredged material in their bay, the loss of a public beach to the gas export terminal and other concerns.
Shell, which has spent tens of millions of dollars to improve the project environmentally, had hoped to secure the EBRD loan last year but the bank delayed approval because it was unhappy with the way the rivers were being crossed.
Green groups accused the EBRD of giving into Shell by putting the project forward for public consultation — the final stage before approval — in December.
The senior bank sources said the EBRD did face heavy lobbying from Shell but was also being steered by the interests of its shareholders.
The United States and Japan, two of the largest customers for Sakhalin-2's production, are also two of the largest shareholders in the EBRD.
“Pressure is coming on . . . (from) governments who feel that anything away from the Persian Gulf is advisable,” the second senior bank source said.
Other shareholders — who have to vote on approval — will also be reluctant to antagonise Russia by refusing the loan, especially those like the UK and France, who have large oil firms who seek to do business in Russia.
Ian Craig, chief executive of the consortium running Sakhalin-2, agreed the project enjoyed wide support.
“It's a very strategic development and for that reason, it's broadly supported by the (United) States, by Europe and by the Far East countries,” he told Reuters this week. read more

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TheEdgeDaily.com (Malaysia): Shell Refining to name new chairman on May 17

By Alfean Hardy
Shell Refining Company (Federation of Malaya) Bhd (Shell Refining) is expected to name its new chairman on May 17, its outgoing chairman Datuk Jon Chadwick said.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of Invest Malaysia 2006 conference in Kuala Lumpur on March 24, Chadwick said: “May 18 is my last day as chairman of Shell Refining.”
Chadwick has taken on the role of executive vice president Asia for the Shell Group.
“The board will be deliberating on who my replacement is at a board meeting on the day before and we’ll be making an announcement, hopefully, to our shareholders on May 17,” he added.
Chadwick declined to say whether his replacement would come from within Shell Refining.
On the company’s record dividend payout of RM1 per share for FY05, Chadwick said: “We’ve made clear what our dividend policy is. Interim plus a final 50 sen. In addition, we will be paying 20 sen every quarter until we’ve used up our cash.”
“We predict that it will be any where from four to eight quarters. We’ve already paid two, so there’s two to six (quarters) to go. This means that we’ll be paying anywhere from 90 sen to 130 sen per share,” he added.
“Last year we paid a ringgit and, for a stock that’s trading at about RM10 today, that’s a 10% yield. We are predicting we’d be paying between 90 sen and 130 sen this year. It’s better than putting it in a bank,” said Chadwick. read more

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ZNet.org: Shell Shocked: People of the Niger Delta fight back against violence and corruption

By Hillary Bain Lindsay
“Nothing has changed,” says Patterson Ogon, founding director of the Ijaw Council for Human Rights in the Niger Delta. “Since 1995 when Ken Saro-Wiwa was hung, [Shell's] public relations and glossy reports seem to indicate that they're doing so much in the Niger Delta. But we are still waiting to see any practical change.”
Over a decade has passed since the Nigerian government killed Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists. Saro-Wiwa led a non-violent struggle against Royal Dutch Shell and other oil multinationals whose operations in the region were devastating the environment and livelihoods of local people. In a statement made to the court before his verdict, Saro-Wiwa predicted that the end of the struggle was near, but warned, “Whether the peaceful ways I have favoured will prevail depends on what the oppressor decides, what signals it sends out to the waiting public.”
Ten years later, the Niger Delta is once again making international headlines. The struggle remains the same but the tactics have changed. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is a well-armed, well-organized group of youth who aim to localize control of the Niger Delta's oil wealth and are demanding compensation for communities environmentally devastated by oil operations.
MEND is targeting the oil multinationals that export 2.5 million barrels of oil from the region each day, specifically Shell, which is responsible for nearly half of those exports. The group kidnapped four foreign oil workers on January 11th and nine more on February 18th. MEND is threatening to bring oil exports from Nigeria to a halt.
The group has already shut down nearly one fifth of the country's oil production; a significant feat considering Nigeria is the eighth largest oil exporter in the world. “Violent attacks by militants in the Niger Delta” are having an effect on oil prices, the New York Times noted on February 20th.
The “violent attacks” referred to in the article are the blowing up of oil infrastructure in the region, including pipelines and loading platforms. Not mentioned in the article are the Nigerian soldiers which have been killed during skirmishes between the military and MEND. According to MEND, they “deeply regret” the deaths. In an email sent on January 17th MEND states, “We understand and sympathize with soldiers being sent into this conflict, that they are there without choice. We do not wish to kill them unless absolutely necessary and urge them to be passive observers so they do not share the fate of their colleagues in Benisede [an attack which destroyed one oil flow station and two military house boats].”
Ten out of the thirteen hostages taken have been released unharmed and MEND has publicly stated that it has no intention of killing hostages. “The hostages are being treated as well as we possibly can,” read an email statement MEND released on January 20th, “But they must live under the same conditions we have been subjected to for the last 48 years.”
These conditions, argues Ogon, are a different kind of violence imposed daily on the people of the Niger Delta. The region's environment has been devastated by oil operations, “It has affected agricultural and fishing yields,” he says. “When people can no longer depend on fishing and farming, when they can no longer depend on the land, when they can no longer depend on the rivers and creeks that have fed them and their fathers and grandfathers… What do you expect them to do?” he asks. “We are talking about the security of the future.”
“People feel like they are pushed against a wall,” explains Annie Brisibe, founding Director of Niger Delta Women for Justice. Though she does not condone the hostage-taking, MEND's tactics do not surprise her. “It's come out of frustration, anger, and complete marginalization,” she says from her home in the United States where she is now living. “This has created a lot of anger in the young men and women of the Niger Delta… People are forced into doing things that they're not supposed to do because of poverty.”
Despite the region's oil wealth, seventy percent of people living in the Niger Delta survive on less than $1 US a day.
There have been many attempts to non-violently address the harsh inequality in the Niger Delta. Most recently, Ijaw communities took Shell to court. “They wanted to take a judicial path,” explains Ogon. Nigeria's public assembly had previously passed a resolution compelling Shell to pay 1.5 billion for ecological damage. The case went to court after Shell refused to pay.
One of MEND's central demands is that Shell pay the 1.5 billion. In an email statement released on January 20th, MEND stated, “This money is to be paid directly to the affected communities and we ask no part of it. Shell must pay this sum or in the alternative, provide a firm commitment of its desire to settle this claim immediately. ”
At the end of February, the federal high court in Nigeria ordered Shell to pay the 1.5 billion to communities in the Niger Delta for damage caused to their environment by Shell's activities. Shell is appealing the decision.
Although MEND's tactics have caught international attention, neither their demands nor the government's reaction to them are anything new, says Brisibe. “Retaliation is always the same,” she says. “Always with force.”
Two weeks after the first four hostages taken by MEND were released, Nigerian military helicopters attacked what the government says were barges used for smuggling oil. MEND accused the military's attack, dubbed”Operation Restore Hope,” of targeting civilians, however, and accused Shell of providing the airstrip as the staging post for the helicopter attack.
This does not surprise Brisibe, who notes that the Nigerian military provides Shell with security. “The government has a better relationship with the multinational corporations than it has with its own citizens,” she says. “Shell provides the guns and the helicopters and the pay and the government provides the military.”
Ogon reports that the government response to MEND has had a far graver impact on communities than the tactics of MEND itself. “It's worse when federal troops invade local communities and subject innocent people to all forms of harassment and extrajudicial killings. It has made it really difficult for local people who depend on fishing and farming to go about their normal business.”
According to a 2005 report released by Amnesty International, this kind of government response is not unusual . “Government security forces continue to kill people in the Niger Delta with impunity. Excessive force is used to protect the oil industry and restore law and order–and the human rights of communities are regularly violated.”
Effectively confronting the impacts of oil multinationals in the region is almost impossible with a corrupt government that is benefiting from the oil wealth, says Brisibe. “The international community needs to pressure the government,” she says. “All we're asking for is good governance. A government that respects human rights and eradicates corruption.” That said, she continues, the international community has not often been a positive force in ending corruption and oppression in Nigeria. “The truth is the international community has a double standard when it comes to Nigeria. If you put pressure on Shell it will have to conform to international standards, which will decrease their profits. Is the international community ready to do this?”
In the meantime says Ogon, Shell is doing everything it can to project a facade of corporate responsibility. A recent posting on Shell Nigeria's website says that the company “is concerned about the likely effects on the environment of the oil spills resulting from the recent attacks on its pipelines and manifolds… As soon as it is safe to do so, we will commence immediate assessment of the environmental impact of such attacks and take necessary steps to clean up the affected areas.”
Ogon is confident that Shell's glossy pamphlets and tokenistic “development” projects no longer fool the people of the Niger Delta. “The level of understanding and coordination in the communities gives me hope,” he says. “They are saying 'We cannot let this go on.' They're not sitting down and allowing it to go on.”
Hillary Lindsay Managing Editor The Dominion Canada's Grassroots Newspaper www.dominionpaper.ca read more

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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: China's Cnooc Says 2005 Net Rose 57% on High Oil Prices

Associated Press
HONG KONG — Cnooc Ltd., China's largest offshore oil producer by output, said Friday its 2005 net profit rose 57% on soaring oil prices and strong output growth. The company also said it had ended talks on buying natural gas from the Gorgon project in Australia and will instead seek supplies from Indonesia.
CNOOC's company secretary, Cao Yun Shi, told reporters on the sidelines of an earnings news conference that no price has been agreed for the Indonesian gas. “The Gorgon thing is over,” he said. Chevron Corp., the project operator, holds a 50% stake in the venture, while Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Exxon Mobil Corp. own 25% each.
China remains concerned over an increasing shortage of natural gas in the next five years, caused by sharply rising demand and limited production capacity, especially after the country's first liquefied natural gas terminal starts operating in mid-2006, analysts said.
Cnooc's net profit for 2005 was 25.32 billion yuan ($3.15 billion), compared with 16.14 billion yuan the year before. Revenue rose 29% to 69.46 billion yuan, largely lifted by higher oil prices. The company's average oil selling price rose 34% to US$47.31 per barrel.
Cnooc, which last summer gave up its $18.5 billion bid to acquire U.S. oil firm Unocal Corp. amid intense opposition in Washington, said it will keep hunting for overseas oil assets.
Last year, Cnooc said it had seven projects come on stream, and it made 14 new discoveries and eight appraisal successes in offshore China. It also expects several big domestic oil fields to start producing oil in the near future, the company added.
Cnooc, which disclosed a US$2.27 billion acquisition of a stake in a Nigerian oil field mid-January, said it proposes a special dividend of five Hong Kong cents on top of a final dividend of 10 HK cents. In 2004, each shareholder got a final dividend of three HK cents, plus a special dividend of five HK cents.
Offshore oil and gas production rose 14% to 141 million barrels of oil equivalent. Cnooc said late January it is targeting a 9% increase in oil and gas output this year.
Reserve replacement ratio, which measures how fast an oil company replaces the oil and gas it pumps with new findings, was 173% in 2004.
Capital spending in 2005 totaled US$2.20 billion, up from US$1.69 billion in 2004.
Copyright © 2006 Associated Press read more

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Daily Telegraph: Database: Energy

Energy
• BP, Europe's largest oil company, pulled out of a $3bn Indian oil-refining venture hailed by chief executive John Browne in October as “a major step forward'' in the country.
• Northern Petroleum, a UK oil and gas company, said it has found oil and natural-gas reserves in five fields in the Netherlands. The shares soared to their highest in more than eight years.
• Prime Minister Tony Blair led an attack on French and Spanish attempts to wall off the energy market, calling on Europe to follow Britain in scrapping utility monopolies.
• Centrica said its Rough natural-gas storage site, Britain's biggest, will not be able to inject gas until June 1 after a fire last month.
• Royal Dutch Shell's oil and gas venture in eastern Russia has agreed a payout to a second local fishing company for obstructing fishing nets. read more

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Philippine Daily Inquirer: Oil overflow revives talks on depot relocation

Tina G. Santos and Margaux C. Ortiz
Mar 25, 2006
THE GASOLINE OVERFLOW INCIDENT at the Pandacan oil depot in Manila on Thursday has strengthened the city governments stand that the oil facility should be shut down.
We never had any talk about the oil firms staying in Pandacan. The city governments stand remains that the oil firms would have to leave the area, especially after the Thursday incident, Mayor Lito Atienza told the Inquirer yesterday.
Gas overflowed from a storage tank of Caltex Philippines on Thursday morning, alarming residents living near the oil depot. The gasoline apparently came from a pipeline in a storage farm inside the depot.
Although depot officials said the problem was immediately contained, Atienza said he would immediately sign the ordinance changing the areas classification from industrial to commercial/residential.
The reclassification of the area under the Manila Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning Ordinance of 2005 would make it unsuitable for the depot to continue operating. The ordinance was supposed to take effect in April 2003 but the oil firms have taken the matter to court. As a compromise, the oil firms signed an agreement with the city government to scale down their operations in the depot and to provide a green buffer zone between the oil tanks and the residential area.
However, Atienza stressed that the agreement does not supersede the ordinance which called for the facilitys closure. Were urging the oil firms to accelerate the removal of all other structures, they must vacate the area, he added.
The depot on the southern bank of the Pasig River near the Nagtahan Bridge is maintained by the countrys three biggest oil firmsPetron, Caltex and Shell. It consists of large manufacturing and storage facilities for petrochemicals that are connected by pipelines to refineries in Batangas province.
Residents living near the depot appealed to the oil companies to conduct their social responsibility programs in the area to make up for the facilitys continued presence in the city.
The residents were alarmed at the overflowing incident on Thursday morning, but we know that it would be impossible for us to call for the immediate transfer of the depot, Domingo Seposo, chair of Barangay 836 in Pandacan, told the Inquirer. Apart from ensuring environmental safety, they should also conduct some of their medical missions here, he said.
Seposo said the residents acknowledged the importance of the oil depot, but stressed that they should also receive compensation for the looming dangers the facility posed like oil spills and explosions.
Seposo explained that they formed the Fence Line Community for Human Safety and Environmental Protection to conduct regular dialogues with officials of the oil companies to share their concerns. read more

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Irish Times: Cassells outlines rules for talks on Corrib gas

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent
Mar 25, 2006
The Government's mediator in the Corrib gas controversy, Peter Cassells, has published new ground rules for negotiations between Shell and the five north Mayo men jailed last year over opposition to the onshore pipeline.
The move is designed to try and kick start the negotiations, which have been stalled since a row over public comments made on the issue by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey.
Speaking to The Irish Times last night, Mr Cassells said both parties had contacted him to seek clarification on the ground rules, and he expected to hold separate meetings with the two groups in the next week or so.
Significantly, the proposed terms include a commitment by both parties that “all developments, concepts and all routes should be considered in the mediation and that the parties may set down core non-negotiable issues”. Shell has previously said it will not change the basic plan for an onshore terminal, linked to the Corrib gas field 70km offshore by a high-pressure pipeline. The five men and the Shell to Sea campaign have been calling for an offshore terminal for the project.
Mr Cassells has also promised that no other parties will be involved in the talks – contrary to a position taken two months ago by the Minister when he said he had never intended talks to be confined to Shell and the five men only. This contradicted earlier statements made by Mr Dempsey on RTE and in the Dail on the day of and shortly after the men's release on September 30th.
The proposed ground rules for the mediation provide for absolute confidentiality, no reporting to third parties, exclusion of all other parties, and state that the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources will be “a consultative partner as required and appropriate”.
Mr Cassells said he had also “given the Rossport Five and Shell a guarantee that the mediation will be carried out properly, professionally and in an independent manner in accordance with these ground rules”.
“The overall task of the mediation will be to reconcile the two interests of bringing the gas in the Corrib gasfield to market and ensuring safety,” he added.
A spokesman for the five men said that they would be meeting Mr Cassells on the issue of clarifying the ground rules.
A spokesman for Shell said that the company would “approach mediation positively and constructively with a view to achieving a negotiated solution”.
Shell said it had absolute confidence in water quality in Carrowmore lake, where abnormally high aluminium levels were reported recently.
Mayo County Council has attributed the results to “human error”. read more

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AP Worldstream: Iraq signs early deals to meter oil

Mar 25, 2006
Iraq has signed two deals for a metering system to track oil and gas flows, the Iraqi mission to the U.N. said, a step that could help get its economy back on track and reduce oil smuggling.
Iraq has signed a preliminary agreement by which the Royal Dutch/Shell Group will advise the Oil Ministry on setting up a system to measure oil and gas flow inside Iraq, as well as for imports and exports.
It has also signed a deal to rebuild the metering system at its Basra port. That agreement was reached with the U.S. Project and Contracting Office, which oversees infrastructure construction in Iraq.
The agreements were announced in a letter from Iraq's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi to the International Advisory and Monitoring Board, the U.N. office that monitors Iraq's oil revenue. The letter was dated March 22 but made public Friday.
The board, established in 2004, has urged Iraq to install metering equipment in accordance with standard oil industry practices.
Iraq's economy has been severely weakened by oil smuggling to neighboring countries, a problem that could be checked in part by the presence of a metering system. The smuggling has created a fuel crisis that leads to occasional shortages even though Iraq is one of the world's leading producers of oil.
Some experts believe that oil smuggling may be funding Iraq's insurgency. read more

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THE NEW YORK TIMES: Oil Touches 7 – Week High on Renewed Supply Woes

By REUTERS
LONDON (Reuters) – Oil held above $64 a barrel after hitting a near seven-week high on Friday as renewed supply woes in Nigeria increased expectations of prolonged outages in Africa's largest producer.
Oil in New York surged 3.5 percent on Thursday after Italian energy firm Eni said it could not honor crude oil export commitments from its Nigerian Brass River terminal, after a pipeline attack last week.
“I'd be expecting Nigerian outages to last for another couple of months,'' said Deborah White of SG CIB Commodities in Paris. “It's not particularly that the situation has deteriorated, but it is indeed quite serious.''
U.S. light crude for May delivery (CLc1) settled 35 cents higher at $64.26 a barrel. It hit a peak of $64.75 earlier Friday, the highest since February 7.
London Brent crude (LCOc1) settled 24 cents higher at $63.51 after a surge of $1.76 the previous day.
Eni's Brass River terminal loads around 200,000 barrels per day (bpd). The pipeline blast shut in 75,000 bpd of Eni's Nigerian output, but the company said on Thursday that if all went well, it could be repaired within a week.
Exports from Nigeria, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Africa's largest producer, have been cut back by attacks on oil installations there. Royal Dutch Shell and other companies already have shut down 630,000 bpd of production, 26 percent of the capacity in the world's eighth-largest crude exporter.
NIGERIA
On Wednesday, a senior global maritime analyst at the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, Charles Dragonette, told a conference that Nigeria was no longer able to ensure security in the delta region where it pumps most of its crude.
Oil production from the African country will “hang precariously in the balance'' for some time, he said.
Crude oil has traded in a range of $60-$64 this week as traders' focus shifted between ample U.S. crude inventories and concern about real or threatened supply disruptions, including tensions over Iran's nuclear program.
Despite a surprise decline last week, U.S. crude oil inventories stayed near seven-year highs, or 9 percent above those of a year earlier.
“A force majeure declaration by Eni on its Nigerian crude exports, strong technical support and some delayed reaction to yesterday's U.S. stocks data all pushed prices in the same direction,'' said David Thurtell of Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney, of Thursday's price jump.
Traders also appeared to be shifting focus to expected lower refinery production in the U.S., the world's largest gas guzzler, due to planned maintenance and unplanned outages.
Oil prices are sensitive to any disruption to gasoline supplies from U.S. plants ahead of summer, when demand usually peaks for the motor fuel.
Exxon Mobil Corp. will close for routine work in May a gasoline-producing unit at the largest refinery in the mainland U.S, according to traders. The one-month shutdown of the unit at the 564,000-bpd refinery in Baytown, Texas, is for planned work.
On Wednesday, Exxon shut down a crude unit and a coker at its refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for 32 days, the company confirmed. read more

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