Carola Hoyos

For a long time, Total, the French oil company, has been one of the boldest of its peers when it comes to venturing to politically troublesome countries. Burma, Sudan and Nigeria are all on the list of countries in which it has investments.

The stock line has been that unless United Nations sanctions prohibit investment, Total will consider the country fair game.

Carola Hoyos

Three themes have emerged from the gas exporters meeting in Algeria.

  1. The developing courtship of Qatar and Russia
  2. Disquiet about Algeria’s idea of forming a gas cartel and gas exporters reaffirming their love of the oil/gas price link
  3. New countries seeking membership

It is still early days, but here is a collection of interesting quotes – arranged along theme lines – from news wires covering the meeting.

Carola Hoyos

US Geological SurveyVenezuela under president Hugo Chavez has become the poster child of how to maim a burgeoning oil sector. But Caracas’s latest deal — the Juno 6 field, to be developed by Pdvsa and several Russian partners — has some heavy political firepower behind it and may yet lead to new oil production from Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt.

However, there are some rumblings of discontent: sources tell FT Energy Source that Russia’s decision to invest in Junin 6 was made by Vladimir Putin, and handed as a fait accompli to the less-than-thrilled chief executives of Russia’s biggest oil and gas companies.

Carola Hoyos

Behind closed doors at the International Energy Forum in Cancun, Mexico, delegates of the world’s biggest energy consuming and producing nations are discussing how to avoid the massive price volatility of 2008.

The Opec oil cartel already has a very clear view on this issue. The US is not so sure about market intervention – on oil, at least.

Carola Hoyos

PetroChina, the Chinese state-owned  energy group, is building new liquefied natural gas import terminals even though it has yet to secure the long-term supply for them, writes World Gas Intelligence today . This relatively new development illustrates the company’s confidence that supplies will be there when it needs them and its unwillingness to pay today’s high prices for long-term contracts when spot prices are at $4.30 per million British thermal units (mbtu) in the US, the most liquid spot gas market.

Carola Hoyos

Updated: Opec oil ministers have agreed to maintain the status quo and keep the group’s production quota unchanged. The decision was widely expected, but moved oil prices slightly higher.

The agreement has now been confirmed by Opec’s secretary-general Abdalla Salem El-Badri and Ali Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister and the group’s de-facto leader.

Oil prices moved slightly higher on the news. April West Texas Intermediate crude, the US benchmark futures contract, was up 61c at $82.31 a barrel, approaching a level it has not seen – other than once this January – since October 2008. The European benchmark Brent price was up 68c to $81.21.

Opec agreed to next meet in in Vienna in October, a month later than had been expected, because several ministers have other prior commitments in September.

As a rush of journalists entered the domed meeting room in Opec’s new headquarters building this morning, ministers from Libya to Saudi Arabia said they saw no reason to change tac. The oil price – at around $80 a barrel – is where they want it to be and the economy is showing good signs of recovery, they reasoned.

The most definitive quote came from Ali Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s powerful oil minister, who told a gaggle of journalists, including AFP, which had the quote up on line within seconds:

“There is no question: there is agreement, yes,” he said. When asked what Opec would decide at its meeting, he said: “To keep things as they are. We are very happy with the situation as it is.”

So unless ministers have been telling bald-faced lies, this meeting is over even before it has officially begun.

Carola Hoyos

Every time the topic of a gas cartel comes up, so does the question: Could they really do it? With more and more gas traded on the spot market, rather than tied up in long-term supply contracts, the answer is increasingly yes. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, or likely to be a quick success.

Nevertheless, three big things have changed in the past year to make it worth a closer look:

- The gas price has collapsed under the weight of over-supply

- More gas is being traded on the spot market

- Spot gas price-linked agreements are nibbling into the dominance of long-term contracts linked purely to oil prices

Carola Hoyos

It’s not easy to hide a French man in the (formerly Belgian) Democratic Republic of Congo. At least that has been the recent experience of Total, the French oil company.

Phillippe Hergaux, who is in charge of Total’s new ventures in that part of the world, was tracked down by local television crews and then by Reuters.

“What are you doing here, pray tell?” was the thrust of the questions.

It turns out Hergaux was scouting out new oil fields on the Democratic Republic of Congo’s side of Lake Alberta, where Total has just formed a partnership with UK-lised Tullow Oil and Cnooc, the Chinese state oil company.

Carola Hoyos

Opec oil ministers appear pretty much in agreement not to rock the boat by changing their production quotas at tomorrow’s meeting. Oil prices are where they want them to be, and demand seems to be recovering. No-one is really willing to make much fuss about the group’s lack of compliance to the cuts announced in Algeria in December 2008.

Carola Hoyos

Iran’s energy minister on Monday advocated the Opec oil cartel keep its production targets unchanged at Wednesday’s meeting here in Vienna. Though many fellow oil ministers agree, coming from Iran, the statement is rather ironic. The country is among Opec’s biggest ‘quota cheats’, having raised its oil production well above the Opec ceiling it pledged to adhere to.

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