Eni

On the geopolitical front, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich’s relationships with Russia to the east and Europe to the west are currently going through a testy period. Which is putting it mildly. The struggle for Ukraine’s future between Brussels and Moscow is one of the most tense and high-stakes geopolitical stand-offs between the two sides in recent years.

Russian pressure, domestic politics and Yanukovich’s attempts to play east and west against each other – offering to sign with whichever side provides the bigger bailout for his ailing economy – may all have factored in on his government’s stunning decision last week to back out of historic EU integration agreements

A big day for big oil and an even bigger one for Kazakhstan. After twelve years work and $49bn of investment, an international group led by Eni has finally turned on the tap at Kashagan, launching test production at the giant Caspian Sea field.

The Eni-led North Caspian Operating Company began test production at Kashagan on Wednesday, marking the end of more than a decade of delays and cost overruns at Kazakhstan’s flagship oil field. 

When KazMunaiGas muscled into the Karachaganak oil and gas field in 2011, international oil majors had no choice but to dilute their shares in the hugely profitable project to make way for Kazakhstan’s state oil company. At the time it was understood that KMG’s participation would clear the way for Kazakhstan to sanction the third phase of Karachaganak’s development and allow production to surge at the field. That now appears to be have been optimistic: in a surprise move this week, KMG said the expansion plan had been put on ice. 

Italian oil giant Eni SpA has confirmed a discovery of around 450m barrels at its Sankofa East field 50km off the coast of Ghana, boosting the west African nation’s overall oil reserves.

About 150m barrels of Eni’s find will be immediately recoverable, according to the company, which says the result “confirms the commercial standing” of its Ghanaian prospects. Plans for exploitation of the reserves are now underway. It’s small beans (relatively) for a company of Eni’s size, but big news for the budding Ghanaian oil industry. 

Mozambique’s are the gas fields that just keep giving. Eni, the Italian state-controlled energy group, said on Wednesday it had made a significant find of gas in the Mamba offshore exploration block – an extra 10tn cubic feet to its previous finds.

The discovery confirms Mozambique as one of the key areas for LNG in Africa and one of the most exciting prospects for the world’s major energy companies. 

Unlike many European leaders, Vladimir Putin has remained on amicable terms with Silvio Berlusconi even after the former Italian prime minister’s ignominious exit from power late last year.

But Putin is not going to let personal loyalties interfere with the strategic partnership Russia and Italy built during the time that his friend dominated Italian politics. A flurry of deals signed on Monday as Mario Monti, Italy’s new premier paid his first working visit to Russia since taking office are testimony to that. 

These are early days, but interest from energy majors in Bulgaria’s offshore gas potential is raising hopes that the country can reduce its dependency on Russian imports.

ExxonMobil of the US, Total of France and Melrose Resources of the UK have submitted bids for the 15,000 sq km Khan Asparuh field in the Black Sea near the maritime border with Romania. A five-year exploration permit should be awarded in coming days and, if deposits are found, extraction could start in three to four years. 

It’s an edgy time on global markets, as the sharp moves in Russian equities showed on Wednesday. The RTS index was down a vertiginous 4.4 per cent in afternoon trading. Analysts said investors had been spooked by news late on Tuesday that looks bad for privatisation, and by the falling oil price – never a good thing for Russian stocks.

Maybe investors should hang onto their hats. We’re not saying the outlook for privatisation isn’t bad – just that it’s too soon to know. 

The old adage that oil or gas always adds fuel to an international dispute is being revived on the divided island of Cyprus.

The discovery last year by US-based Noble Energy of a major gas field in an area of the Mediterranean in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone has predictably prompted a wave of interest from big oil and gas groups.

And, equally predictably, it has brought warnings from Turkey about possible reprisals against those who do business with the internationally-recognised Republic of Cyprus, which is licensing new offshore acreage. 

Another big foreign oil deal in Russia. State-controlled Rosneft and Italy’s Eni announced on Wednesday a pact for offshore exploration in the Russian Arctic and the Black Sea.

Prime minister Vladimir Putin blessed the deal – Rosneft’s second big partnership this month, following last week’s accord with ExxonMobil. At the same time, Moscow has relaxed the tax regime governing the huge projects critical to its future as an energy producer. After many false starts, could it be that Russia is finally serious about working with foreign investors? 

Five international energy groups have placed bids for the first multi-billion-dollar hydrocarbon exploration and production licences offered by Ukraine under a plan to reduce dependence on Russian fuel imports.

In a big confidence-boost for the country’s efforts to win more foreign investment, Kiev has secured bids from Chevron and ExxonMobil of the US,  Italy’s Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Dutch group, and TNK-BP, the British-Russian joint venture. 

It’s ramping up to be the biggest government tender Ukraine has ever held and a potential game-changer for an economy struggling to break its dependency on increasingly expensive imports of Russian natural gas.

People in Ukraine’s government say companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, Russian-British TNK-BP, America’s ExxonMobil and Italy’s Eni are considering participating in  tenders for production sharing agreements for shale gas and other unconventional deposits.