Showing posts with label Northern Ireland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Northern Ireland. Show all posts

Monday, June 24, 2013

Notes on Northern Ireland’s own ‘crude’ boom

Walk past Belfast’s Titanic Quarter and look left towards the loading docks of the harbour bordering the River Lagan and you’ll see a number of ships unloading coal. Nothing unusual, except that the usage of this age-old, but now unfashionable, fossil fuel is fast becoming uneconomical in the US courtesy of the country’s shale bonanza. So some of it is landing up on European shores and on harbours such as Belfast’s.
 
The coal [pictured above left] is heading to AES's Kilroot Power Station, according to a local harbour official. Recent investments in deep-water facilities by Belfast Harbour have enabled it to handle coal imports in increasing numbers. But for how long one wonders, as the province’s own oil & gas boom and a mini shale gas bonanza might be on the cards.
 
Being in Northern Ireland for the G8 2013 Summit, gave the Oilholic a pretext to examine local 'crude' moves on an up close and personal basis. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this blogger found that hydrocarbon prospection in this part of the world has its own set of promoters and worriers, akin to any other jurisdiction.
 
So what’s the story so far? Dublin-based Providence Resources is here, a firm that has already demonstrated the true of luck of the Irish by making a convincing case for oil & gas prospection in the Republic of Ireland. The company reckons, and with good reason, that there may be 500 million to 530 million barrels of oil under Rathlin Sound, off the north Antrim coast.
 
A spokesperson for the company told the Oilholic that it intends to drill an exploration well in 2014 to examine the site which it calls the Polaris Prospect. It has been eyeing the area - of roughly around 31 square kilometres - since last year. Surveys carried by Providence Resources under an exploration licence found "encouraging results."

The Rathlin Basin has always been considered prospective due to the presence of a rich oil prone source rock. However, the company adds that poor seismic imaging has historically rendered it difficult to determine the basin's "true hydrocarbon entrapment potential." Nonetheless, subject to regulatory approval, Providence Resources will embark on a drilling programme in 2014.
 
Additionally, Northern Ireland could have its own shale bonanza too. The village of Belcoo, near the border with the South, has plans for fracking. One has to be careful when speaking in a plural sense, as not everyone is in favour, with many having serious misgivings about shale exploration and its potential impact on the regional environment and the water table.
 
However, armed with the words – “Shale gas is part of the future and we will make it happen” – from UK Chancellor George Osborne’s 2013 budget speech, independent upstart Tamboran is banking on shale in Belcoo. Furthermore, the Treasury will give it a tax allowance for developing gas fields, and, for the next 10 years, leeway to offset its exploration spending against tax.
 
Tamboran and Providence Resources are not alone in making crude forays in Northern Ireland. Brigantes Energy, Cairn Energy, Infrastrata, Rathlin Energy and Terrain Energy are here too, armed with prospection licences granted by the regional Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) under the Petroleum Production Act of Northern Ireland of 1964. For the moment there is room for cautious optimism and nothing more.
 
You can bet on thing for sure, if the current shale and oil & gas exploration yields results then Belfast Harbour would see much less imported coal. That’s all from a memorable and wonderful visit to Northern Ireland folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!
 
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© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo: Coal being unloaded on Belfast Harbour, Northern Ireland, UK © Gaurav Sharma, June 2013.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sights & sounds from the G8 in Enniskillen

As the G8 circus prepares to leave town, with the Lough Erne Declaration firmly signed, it is time to reflect on the town and the folks who played host to the leaders of the eight leading industrialised nations. Wherever this blogger went, asked for directions, picked-up something in a shop, had a meal or a beer, you name it – he was greeted by helpful people with welcoming smiles.

The leaders’ motorcades were met with much gusto, especially by local school children “Welcoming the G8” even when there wasn’t a leader inside the cars zipping by! Bless them! On Monday, the townsfolk got a pleasant surprise to see President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron waving to them from a vehicle in the same motorcade.

Later, the two leaders also visited Enniskillen Integrated Primary School, attended by both Catholic and Protestant children, on the outskirts of Enniskillen. It was established, as a place of reconciliation and peace, in wake of the 1987 IRA Poppy Day bombing which resulted in 12 local fatalities. The bomb may have killed and maimed but didn’t break the community here, says one resident. The town itself got a complete makeover with every building spruced-up, primed and painted, according to locals and as is apparent.

However, like any other High Street in the British Isles, Enniskillen is no exception from the economic downturn, with retailers either going under or vacating premises. Yet, instead of boarding these shops up, their glass panes had a fa├žade of wallpaper showing people and products inside, perhaps to convey a positive illusion for cars zipping past.

The protestors were here in numbers too, and in spirit as far away as Belfast and London. Everyone from anti-poverty campaigners to food scarcity examiners, from rights and environmental groups to fair trade advocates were here in numbers. Amnesty International’s protest ‘display’ on the arms-supplying shenanigans by G8 nations was the most eye-catching one for the Oilholic.

There is one mute point though. It seems the militant element largely stayed away and most of the protesters, barring few nutcases, engaged and sent their message out peacefully. That the Lough Erne Resort is surrounded by water supplemented by miles of metal fences, multiple security checkpoints and around 8,000 security personnel, certainly ensured the G8 2013 Summit saw far fewer protestors relative to the norm in recent years.

Swimming, sailing, paddling and canoeing in the waters around Lough Erne Resort were banned for the duration of the summit, but not fishing! That’s all from Enniskillen folks which is getting back to normalcy. Before his departure back to London via Belfast, the Oilholic leaves you with some views from the G8 summit through the lens of his non-professional but supremely effective automatic camera. Click on images(s) to enlarge. Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!
 
A 'wallpapered' shop in Enniskillen
Enniskillen Castle

Waters 'off limits' says PSNI

Police comb River Erne
 
Amnesty Intl makes its point on Syria
Police personnel from around UK make their way back home from Belfast City airport
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




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© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photos: As captioned, images from the G8 2013 summit in Northern Ireland © Gaurav Sharma, June 16-19, 2013.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Crude bits of the ‘Lough Erne Declaration'

As predicted, Russia and the West's differing positions for and against supporting the Assad regime in Syria threatened to overshadow everything else at the G8 Summit here in Lough Erne Resort, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland but mercifully didn’t.

The leaders of the group of eight leading industrialised nations, meant to promote trade and dialogue at this forum, did make some progress and provided lots of hot air…er sorry…soundbites. The outcome of talks was grandiosely dubbed the 'The Lough Erne Declaration'. But before that, the European Union and the US finally agreed to 'start talks' on a new trade pact while not losing sight (or to the detriment) of ongoing negotiations with Canada.

The trade talks had been under threat from a potential French veto, but EU ministers agreed to their demand "or exclusion of the film and television industry from the talks". On to crude notes, the leaders thankfully did not indulge in silly talk of doing something to 'bring down the price of oil' (and leave it to market forces) just because the Brent contract is at US$100-plus levels.
 
There were also no wide-ranging discussions about price levels of crude benchmarks, apart from individual non-Russian grumbling that they should be lower. More importantly, the G8 thinks the state of their respective economies would hopefully act as a correcting mechanism on prices in any case. The leaders agreed that global economic prospects "remain weak".
 
Ironically, just as US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was issuing soundings stateside about easing-up on quantitative easing, they noted that downside risks have reduced thanks in part to "significant policy actions taken in the US, euro area and Japan, and to the resilience of major developing and emerging market economies".
 
The leaders said most financial markets had seen marked gains as a result. "However, this optimism is yet to be translated fully into broader improvements in economic activity and employment in most advanced economies. In fact, prospects for growth in some regions have weakened since the Camp David summit." You bet they have!
 
The Lough Erne declaration had one very significant facet with implications for the oil and gas industry along with mining. The G8 leaders said developing countries should have corporate identification data and the capacity to collect the taxes owed to them and other countries had "a duty to help them".
 
The move specifically targets extractive industries. It follows revelations that many mining companies use complex ownership structures in the Netherlands and Switzerland to avoid paying taxes on the natural resources they extract in developing countries. Hence, the G8 agreed that mining companies should disclose all the payments they make, and that "minerals should not be plundered from conflict zones".
 
Speaking after the declaration was signed, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said, "We agreed that oil, gas and mining companies should report what they pay to governments, and that governments should publish what they receive, so that natural resources are a blessing and not a curse." Good luck with that Sir!
 
And that dear reader is that! Here are the links to this blogger's reports for CFO World on tax, trade, economy and US President Barack Obama’s soundbites (to students in Belfast), should they interest you. Also on a lighter note, here is a report from The Sun about Obama's idiotic gaffe of calling UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne – "Jeffery" Osborne on more than one occasion and his bizarre explanation for it.
 
So the leaders' motorcades have left, the ministerial delegations are out and the police – who did a great job – are packing it in. Out of the eight leaders and EU officials in Lough Erne, the Oilholic felt Canadian PM Stephen Harper looked the most relaxed while German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked least cranky among her European peers. Guess they would be, as both economies are the only ones in the G8 still rated as AAA by all three ratings agencies.
 
That's all from Enniskillen folks! Should you wish to read the so called Lough Erne Declaration in full, it can be downloaded here. Despite the pressures of reporting, the buzz of a G8 Summit and the hectic schedule, yours truly could not have left without visiting Enniskillen Castle (above right) in this lovely town full of welcoming, helpful people with big smiles.

The location's serenity is a marked contrast from the Russians versus West goings-on at Lough Erne. It's a contrasting memory worth holding on to. And on Syria, both sides agreed to disagree, but expressed the urgency to hold a 'peace summit.' Sigh! Not another summit? Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!
 
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© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo 1: Lough Erne Resort, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland © Invest NI. Photo 2: Enniskillen Castle, Northern Ireland © Gaurav Sharma, June 18, 2013.

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