Showing posts with label Carson Oil refinery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carson Oil refinery. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On another BP sale, another Chavez term & more

A not so surprising news flash arrived this week that BP has finally announced the sale of its Texas City refinery and allied assets to Marathon Petroleum for US$2.5 billion. A spokesperson revealed that the deal included US$600 million in cash, US$1.2 billion for distillate inventories and another US$700 million depending on future production and refining margins.
 
Following the Carson oil refinery sale in California, the latest deal ratchets BP’s asset divestment programme up to US$35 billion with a target of US$38 billion within reach. It is time for the Oilholic to sound like a broken record and state yet again that – Macondo or no Macondo – the oil major would have still divested some of its refining and marketing assets regardless.
 
However, for fans of the integrated model – of which there are quite a few including ratings agencies who generally rate integrated players above R&M only companies – the head of BP's global R&M business Iain Conn said, "Together with the sale of our Carson, California refinery, announced in August, the Texas City divestment will allow us to focus BP's US fuel investments on our three northern refineries."
 
Things have also picked-up pace on the TNK-BP front. On Tuesday, Reuters reported that BP’s Russian partners in the venture Alfa Access Renova (AAR) would rather sell their stake than end-up in a ‘devalued’ partnership with Kremlin-backed rival Rosneft. On Wednesday, the Russian press cited sources claiming a sale of BP’s stake to Rosneft has the full backing of none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin himself. Now that is crucial.

On a visit to Moscow and Novosibirsk back in 2004, the Oilholic made a quick realisation based on interaction with those in the know locally – that when it comes to natural resources assets the Kremlin likes to be in control. So if BP and the Russian government have reached some sort of an understanding behind the scene, AAR would be best advised not to scream too loudly.
 
Another hypothesis gaining traction, in wake of AAR’s intention to sell, is that instead of being the seller of its stake in TNK-BP, the British oil major could now turn buyer. BP could then re-attempt a fresh partnership with Rosneft; something which it attempted last year only for it to be scuppered by AAR.
 
There can be any amount of speculation or any number of theories but here again a nod from the Kremlin is crucial. Away from ‘British Petroleum’ (as Sarah Palin and President Obama lovingly refer to it in times of political need) to the British Government which reiterated its support for shale exploration earlier this week.
 
On Monday, Minister Edward Davey of UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) expressed hopes of lifting a suspension on new shale gas exploration. It was imposed in 2011 following environmental concerns about fracking and a series of minor earthquakes in Lancashire triggered by trial fracking which spooked the nation. In near sync with Davey, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne told the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham that he was considering a 'generous new tax regime' to encourage investment in shale gas.
 
In case you haven’t heard by now, Hugo Chavez is back as president of Venezuela for another six year stint. This means it will be another rendezvous in Vienna for the Oilholic at the OPEC meeting of ministers in December with Rafael Ramirez, the crude Chavista likely to be hawkish Venezuela’s man at the table. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles believed in change, but sadly for the Venezuelan economy grappling with mismanagement of its ‘crude’ resources and 20% inflation, he fell short.
 
On January 10, 2012 when Chavez will be inaugurated for another term as Venezuela's president, he will be acutely aware that oil accounts for 50% of his government’s revenue and increasingly one dimensional economy. Bloomberg puts Chinese lending to Venezuela between 2006 and 2011 at US$42.5 billion. In a staggering bout of frankness, Ramirez admitted in September that of the 640,000 barrels per day (bpd) that Venezuela exported to China, 200,000 bpd went towards servicing government debt to Beijing.
 
The country's oil production is hardly rising. Just as Chavez’s health took a toll from cancer, national oil company PDVSA has not been in good health either. Its cancer is mismanagement and underinvestment. Most would point to an explosion in August when 42 people perished at the Amuay refinery – Venezuela’s largest distillate processing facility as an example. However, PDVSA has rarely been in good health since 2003 when it fired 40% of its workforce in the aftermath of a general strike aimed at forcing Chavez from power.
 
Staying with Latin America, the US Supreme Court has said it will not block a February 2011 judgement from an Ecuadorean court that Chevron must pay US$19 billion in damages for allegedly polluting the Amazonian landscape of the Lago Agrio region. The court’s announcement is the latest salvo in a decade-long legal tussle between Texaco, acquired by Chevron in 2001, and the people of the Lago Agrio.
 
The Ecuadorians and Daryl Hannah (who is not Ecuadorian) wont rejoice as Chevron it is not quite done yet. Far from it, the oil major has always branded the Ecuadorian court’s judgement as fraudulent and not enforceable under New York law. It has also challenged it under an international trade agreement between the US and Ecuador.
 
The latter case will be heard next month – so expect some more ‘crude’ exchanges and perhaps some stunts from Ms. Hannah. That’s unless she is under arrest for protesting about Keystone XL! That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’ or Elle Driver might come after you!
 
© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: East Plant of the Texas City Refinery, Texas, USA © BP Plc

Monday, September 10, 2012

BP’s sale, South Africa’s move & the North Sea

BP continues to catch the Oilholic’s eye via its ongoing strategic asset sale programme aimed at mitigating the financial fallout from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill. Not only that, a continual push to get rid of refining and marketing (R&M) assets should also be seen as positive for its share price.
 
This afternoon, the oil giant inked a deal to sell five of its oil & gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico for US$5.6 billion to Plains Exploration and Production; an American independent firm. However, BP Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley reiterated that the oil giant remains committed to the region.
 
"While these assets no longer fit our business strategy, the Gulf of Mexico remains a key part of BP's global exploration and production portfolio and we intend to continue investing at least US$4 billion there annually over the next decade," he said in statement following the announcement.
 
Last month BP agreed to sell the Carson oil refinery in California to Tesoro for US$2.5 billion. As a footnote, the agreement holds the potential to make Tesoro the largest refiner on the West Coast and a substantial coastal R&M player alongside the oil majors. While regulatory scrutiny is expected, anecdotal evidence from California suggests the deal is likely to be approved. Back in June, BP announced its intention to sell its stake in TNK-BP, the company's lucrative but acrimony fraught Russian venture.
 
One can draw a straight logic behind the asset sales which BP would not contest. A recent civil case filed by the US Department of Justice against BP does not mince its words accusing the oil giant of “gross negligence” over the Gulf of Mexico spill which followed an explosion that led to the death of 11 workers. Around 4.9 million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf according to some estimates.
 
The charges, if upheld by the court, could see BP fined by as much as US$21 billion. The trial starts in January and BP, which denies the claim, says it would provide evidence contesting the charges. The company aims to raise US$38 billion via asset sales by Q4 2012. However, the Oilholic is not alone is his belief that the sale programme, while triggered by the spill of 2010, has a much wider objective of portfolio trimming and a pretext to get rid of burdensome R&M assets.
 
Meanwhile in Russia, the Kremlin is rather miffed about the European Commission’s anti-trust probe into Gazprom. According to the country’s media, the Russian government said the probe “was being driven by political factors.” Separately, Gazprom confirmed it would no longer be developing the Shtokman Arctic gas field citing escalating costs. Since, US was the target export market for the gas extracted, Gazprom has probably concluded that shale exploration stateside has all but ended hopes making the project profitable.
 
Sticking with Shale, reports over the weekend suggest that South Africa has ended its moratorium on shale gas extraction. A series of public consultations and environmental studies which could last for up to two years are presently underway. It follows a similar decision in the UK back in April.
 
Sticking with the UK, the country’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) says output of domestic mining & quarrying industries fell 2.4% in July 2012 on an annualised basis; the 22nd consecutive monthly fall. More worryingly, the biggest contributor to the decrease came from oil & gas extraction which fell 4.3% in year over year terms.
 
The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has reacted to declining output. After addressing taxation of new UKCS prospection earlier this year, Osborne switched tack to brownfield sites right after the ONS released the latest production data last week.
 
Announcing new measures, the UK Treasury said an allowance for "brownfield" exploration will now shield portions of income from the supplementary charge on their profits. It added that the allowance would give companies the incentive to "get the most out of" older fields. Speaking on BBC News 24, Osborne added that the long-term tax revenues generated by the change would significantly outweigh the initial cost of the allowance.
 
According to the small print, income of up to £250 million in qualifying brownfield projects, or £500 million for projects paying Petroleum Revenue Tax (PRT), would be protected from a 32% supplementary charge rate applied by the UK Treasury to such sites.
 
Roman Webber, tax partner at Deloitte, believes the allowance should stimulate investment in older fields in the North Sea where it was previously deemed uneconomical. Such investment is vital in preserving and extending the life of existing North Sea infrastructure, holding off decommissioning and maximising the recovery of the UK’s oil & gas resources.
 
“Enabling legislation for the introduction of this allowance was already included in the UK Finance Act 2012, announced earlier this year. The allowance will work by reducing the profits subject to the 32% Supplementary Charge. The level of the allowances available will depend on the expected project costs and incremental reserves, but will be worth up to a maximum of £160 million net for projects subject to PRT and £80 million for those that are not subject to the tax,” Webber notes.
 
Finally on the crude pricing front, Brent's doing US$114-plus when last checked. It has largely been a slow start to oil futures trading week either side of the pond as traders reflect on what came out of Europe last week and is likely to come out of the US this week. Jack Pollard of Sucden Financial adds that Chinese data for August showed a deteriorating fundamental backdrop for crude with net imports at 18.2 million metric tonnes; a 13% fall on an annualised basis.
 
Broadly speaking, the Oilholic sees a consensus in the City that Brent’s trading range of US$90 to US$115 per barrel will continue well into 2013. However for the remaining futures contracts of the year, a range of US$100 to US$106 is more realistic as macroeconomics and geopolitical risks seesaw around with a relatively stronger US dollar providing the backdrop. It is prudent to point out that going short on the current contract is based Iran not flaring up. It hasn't so far, but is factored in to the current contract's price. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!
 
© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: Oil Rig © Cairn Energy

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