Tuesday, August 27, 2013

On Bukha’s oil & the beauty of Khasab

The Oilholic finds himself roughly 27 km west of Khasab, here in Oman in the wilayat (district) of Bukha on the Musandam peninsula. This area has its own 'crude' place in the history of Omani oil & gas production.

Not far off its coastline is what the government has designated as offshore exploration Block 8 – a unique prospection zone in a country whose main production hubs are largely onshore.

What's more, according to a roughneck based here, both are 'beautiful' fields. Split into Bukha and West Bukha, in 1994 Block 8 apparently yielded gas condensate that was so high in quality (64°API), according to a Petroleum Directorate of Oman (PDO) spokesperson, that you can pretty much use it to run a car without refining (a sample is pictured above left)! No exaggeration, if you get the 'purity' standpoint.

Norway’s DNO International, under a remit from Muscat, is a major player here with two production fields. Its data indicates that production from West Bukha 2 and 3 fields currently averages 8,000 oil barrels per day as well as 27 million cubic feet of dry gas. All of this is sent via a 34 km pipeline for onshore processing at a plant located in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. Furthermore, two additional wells – West Bukha 4 and 5 are in the pipeline, no pun intended.

Exciting times indeed for the Musandam Governorate (split from the rest of Oman by the UAE), which has of late started enjoying the prosperity seen in the rest of the country. Recent prosperity aside, this peninsula oozes history from ancient to modern when it comes to global trade. Market analysts should find it quite gripping – at least yours truly did!

Musandam juts out into the Strait of Hormuz, with the Persian Gulf on one side and the Sea of Oman on the other. Turn the clock or sundial back 5,000 years and you would have seen ships from ancient Oman (then known as Magan) sail between Mesopotamia and India. Magan’s traders knew about (and traded with) India well before the British, French and Portuguese traders ‘discovered’ the country. A museum exhibit offers a model of the vessels and charts the route (above right).

Local historians even suggest that interaction via sea routes took place with the Indus Valley Civilization on one side and modern day Egypt on the other. Fast forward to 2013, and you can easily spot oil tankers from any high vantage point – of which the peninsula provides several. Views of the Strait of Hormuz include tankers carrying their crude cargo out to the world as it is a crossing point for 90% of the Gulf's oil due to be shipped overseas (see below left).

As if by divine convenience – the most navigable bit lies in Omani territorial waters. To say that Musandam bears silent testimony to the history of global trade routes would be an understatement – it has actually shaped them. Roman Empire’s logs from the 2nd century mention the Cape of Musandam, as do Marco Polo’s from the 13th century.

The Portuguese occupied Musandam between 1515 and 1622 and the imposing Khasab Castle (see below) was built during the occupation. For just over four centuries, it has overlooked regional territorial waters and formed the focal point of the modern city of Khasab. After the defeat and expulsion of the Portuguese in the 17th century, the locals modified the castle to suit their defensive needs. Today, it is a modern day museum featuring several exhibits depicting the way of life in this enchanting part of Oman (see below right).

Targeted reinvestment of regional oil wealth by the administration of Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said has improved links between Khasab and the rest of Oman via air and sea. A local ferry service links Khasab to Muscat, as does a daily Oman Air flight. Sand, sun and sea on one side and mountains on the other, leave everything from hiking to snorkelling as a leisure option. And should you wish to spot dolphins, get a local tour guide to take you out to the sea!

There are a few local hotels, but the Golden Tulip Resort (now Atana), Khasab is the most impressive one in the area with great views of the waterfront from a poolside balcony and most of its rooms. It is also only a few minutes away from the Bassa Beach. There is a huge supermarket right next to Khasab Castle, with the sea-port terminal for a ferry to Muscat and Khasab airport for a flight close by! Right, that’s that for travel tips and observations. (Click below left for the sights minus the sound)

One tiny and somewhat darkly funny footnote though! A different kind of trade is also flourishing here which speaks volumes about the prosperity in Oman and the lack of it in sanction-squeezed Iran, whose coastline is barely 45 km across the Strait.

Using a decent pair of binoculars, the Oilholic spent a good few hours this evening noting how Iranian smugglers dock off the Port of Khasab (see below right for an aerial view) and conduct a 'cash and carry' trade. First off, differentiating a decidedly tacky Iranian boat from an Omani Dhow or a local motorboat is quite easy. The smugglers' communication method is rather rudimentary including a signalling system involving a combination of torchlights and car headlights. As for the cargo, do not be alarmed – it includes things as non-sinister as western branded biscuits, stimulants such as tea, coffee and cigarettes and of course dodgy satellite TV recorders.

By playing the dumb tourist card, the Oilholic got a local boatman to reveal that the trade route used here is a 50 minute motor-boat ride between Khasab and Qeshm Island, Iran and then on to the Iranian mainland. Most of the activity takes place from sunset onwards. But this desperate activity, which is lucrative for some, is also mighty dangerous.

Cross-crossing one of the busiest shipping lanes in the dark with no lights to avoid detection is fraught with danger. Storms often claim lives, as do unreported collisions with tankers and containers ships. Yet, driven by the desire to make a quick buck out of the cravings of a sanction squeezed Iran, the smugglers keep coming. Warehouses hoard until the price of a particular commodity is high enough in Iran and lo and behold a buyer usually arrives in the dark of the night.

Surprisingly, some of the smugglers or "shooties" (as they would be called were you to translate literally from Farsi), happen to be women! The Oilholic can personally vouch for it with a fair bit of disbelief! One is all for gender equality - but this is something else. Don't know about the Iranian side, but not many on the Omani side seem to mind the shooties plying their trade. If caught offshore by the Omani authorities the pretext of "fishing" usually gets the shooties away!

The traders of Musandam have been a very resourceful lot for centuries. In the 21st century, legal or not, sanctions have driven Iranians to a different, dangerous kind of resourcefulness. While illegal, it certainly is tenacious. Speaking of a more formal dialogue between Iran and Oman, Sultan Qaboos has become among the first world leaders to interact with Iran’s new president – Dr Hassan Rouhani. The Sultan, who is often seen as a bridge between the West and the Islamic Republic, oversaw the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Tehran and Muscat, which would see the latter export natural gas to Oman in a 25-year deal with a US$60 billion valuation.

While further details are yet to be formally announced, the transportation of natural gas would involve pulling a pipeline from Iran to Oman under the Sea of Oman, east of the Strait of Hormuz. Local media reports suggest that the deal would be the largest (by valuation) between the two nations. Sadly that’s all from Khasab folks as the Oilholic packs his bags for a short overnight stay in Muscat before the flight home to London. More from Oman later, in the meantime keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo 1: Bukha oil on display in Khasab, Oman. Photo 2: Model of Mesopotamian ships. Photo 3: Oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Photo 4: Khasab Castle. Photo 5: Collage of sights in Khasab. Photo 6: Port of Khasab as seen from Oman Air flight 917 © Gaurav Sharma, August 2013.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Strait of Hormuz & Omani moves

The view of the Strait of Hormuz (pictured left) from the Musandam Peninsula is amazing. Let's face it - it's easier for the Oilholic to check it out here from the Omani side, rather than the Iranian side as the latter is not the most welcoming place for bloggers in general 'crude' or 'refined'. Not that yours truly has as of yet requested the Islamic Republic to issue him a visa.

As the world frets about Egyptian problems affecting oil tanker (and other) traffic from the Suez Canal, the Omanis are doing their utmost to mitigate one other potential threat – the one from Iran to close the Strait to oil traffic, should it be provoked by the West. The country is investing heavily in improvements and new build of its ports infrastructure.

The idea is to challenge nearby Dubai's dominance as a port hub and that too on the 'wrong' side of the Strait and prone to the Iran effect. Were you to look at a regional map, you'd find that all four of Oman's sea-port hubs/developments currently seeing investment (Muscat, Sohar, Salalah and lately Duqm) won't be affected in the highly unlikely event of the Strait becoming strife and blockade marred.

Of the four ports named above - Duqm, an erstwhile fishing village rather than a port, starts afresh complete with a new refinery, petrochemical plant, beachfront hotels and well, housing too. Billions are being invested in Duqm, with a figure nearing US$2 billion-plus being touted around.

Mitigating the Iranian threat is not foremost on Omani minds. This country has always maintained a balance between the West and Iran. In fact, the Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said Al Said is currently on a private visit to Iran and has announced fresh oil & gas sector co-operation between the two countries. However, diversifying Oman's economy away from oil & gas most certainly is on the nation's policy planning cards.

Aside from sea-ports, the government also wants Muscat International airport to rival Abu Dhabi and Dubai as an air transit point and aviation hub. The government's airport operator, Oman Airports Management, plans to award a dozen contracts this year and in 2014 to upgrade airport facilities in the capital city of Muscat (See above, click image to enlarge - for the current Muscat Airport terminal, ongoing construction work for the new one and an artist's impression of what it would look like in the future) along with Salalah. Additionally, the flag carrier Oman Air has ordered $2.5 billion worth of swanky new planes, according to a spokesperson.

However, the Oman government has made it abundantly clear that it wants to maintain the country's rustic charm, charcter and its points of differentiation from regional neighbours. So there won't be a mad Dubai-styled commercial rush. Afterall, standing out from the crowd is a unique selling point - so why ditch it? The Oilholic is certainly sold, blown away by the beauty of Musandam Peninsula and his first evening in Khasab before heading back to Muscat.

It's been an amazing experience from spotting oil tankers to mountain goats, soaking the sunshine to enjoying the mountainous views and beaches that are natural and not made of imported sand as is the case with Dubai. Even the Emiratis are suitably impressed, vindicated by the fact that UAE nationals are the biggest overseas buyers of Omani residential real estate, according to locals here. Officially speaking, Oman's Ministry of Housing said that of the 3,376 property sale deeds distributed to GCC nationals last year, Emirati buyers accounted for 1,694 titles.

Speaking of Emiratis buying things, Etihad Airways' sudden acquisition of a 49% stake in Serbia’s JAT and the latter's subsequent rebranding into Air Serbia has a strange ring to it. It's not that Etihad can’t make acquisitions and buy stakes! In fact, far from it – the airline already has stakes in Virgin Australia, Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, Air Seychelles and Jet Airways.

It's just that Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan has of late been professing his love for the Balkan country. The Emirate's investment vehicle Mubadala is also actively sniffing around all things Serbian from agricultural assets to hotels. However, its the timing the Oilholic is puzzled about and nothing else! For the record, Eithad denies any political pressure and or that either forays by His Majesty or the airline are related. That's all from the Musandam Peninsula for the moment folks. Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo 1: Straight of Hormuz, Khasab, Musandam Peninsula, Oman. Photo 2: Muscat airport collage (Left to right – Muscat Airport Terminal, Ongoing construction work at Muscat Airport, Artist’s impression of new Muscat airport) © Gaurav Sharma, August, 2013.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saudi’s ‘crude’ range, Fitch on Abu Dhabi & more

Petroleum economists are wondering if we have crossed a gateway to crude chaos? The magnificent one pictured (left) here in Abu Dhabi's Capital Garden is certainly no metaphor for the situation. Egypt is burning, Libya is protesting and US/UK/NATO are threatening [almost direct] action against Syria.

Add the US Federal Reserve's current stance on QE to the geopolitical mix and you get a bullish Brent price. Yes, yes, that's all very predictable. But when bulls run amok, all attention usually turns to Aramco's response. It is a well known fact that the Saudis like the crude oil price to remain within what economists prefer to describe as the "middle" ground. (You want your principal export to be priced high enough to keep you ticking, but not so high as to drive importers towards either consuming less or seeking alternatives).

Investment house Jadwa's research often puts such a Saudi comfort zone in US$80-90 per barrel price range. The Oilholic has been banging on about the same range too, though towards the conservative lower end (in the region of $78-80). The Emiratis would also be pretty happy with that too; it's a price range most here say they’ve based their budget on as well.

A scheduled (or "ordinary") OPEC meeting is not due until December and in any case the Saudis care precious little about the cartel's quota. Hints about Saudi sentiment only emerge when one gets to nab oil minister Ali Al-Naimi and that too if he actually wants to say a thing or two. As both Saudi Arabia and UAE have spare capacity, suspicions about a joint move on working towards a "price band" have lurked around since the turn of 1990s and Gulf War I.

Aramco's response to spikes and dives in the past, for instance the highs and lows of 2007-08 and a spike during the Libyan crisis, bears testimony to the so called middle approach. Recent empirical evidence suggests that if the Brent price spikes above $120 per barrel, Aramco usually raises its output to cool the market.

Conversely, if it falls rapidly (or is perceived to be heading below three digits), Aramco stunts output to prop-up the price. The current one is a high-ish price band. Smart money would be on ADNOC and Aramco raising their output, however much the Iranians and Venezuelans squeal. For the record, this blogger feels it is prudent to mention that Aramco denies it has any such price band.

Away from pricing matters, Fitch Ratings has affirmed Abu Dhabi's long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) at 'AA' with a Stable Outlook. Additionally, the UAE's country ceiling is affirmed at 'AA+' (This ceiling, the agency says, also applies to Ras al-Khaimah).

In a statement, the agency said, oil rich Abu Dhabi has a strong sovereign balance sheet, both in absolute terms and compared to most 'AA' category peers. To put things into perspective, its sovereign external debt at end of Q4 2012 was just 1% of GDP, compared to Fitch's estimate of sovereign foreign assets of 153% of GDP. Only Kuwait has a stronger sovereign net foreign asset position within the GCC.

With estimated current account surpluses of around double digits forecast each year, sovereign net foreign assets of Abu Dhabi are forecast to rise further by end-2015. Fitch also estimates that the fiscal surplus, including ADNOC dividends and ADIA investment income, returned to double digits in 2012 and will remain of this order of magnitude for each year to 2015.

Furthermore, non-oil growth in the Emirate accelerated to 7.7%. This parameter also compares favourably to other regional oil-rich peers. Help provided by Abu Dhabi to other Emirates is likely to be discretionary. Overall, Fitch notes that Abu Dhabi has the highest GDP per capita of any Fitch-rated sovereign.

However, the Abu Dhabi economy is still highly dependent on oil, which accounted for around 90% of fiscal and external revenues and around half of GDP in 2012. As proven reserves are large, this blogger is not alone in thinking that there should be no immediate concerns for Abu Dhabi. Furthermore, Fitch's conjecture is based on the supposition of a Brent price in the region of $105 per barrel this year and $100 in 2014. No concerns there either!

Just a couple of footnotes before bidding farewell to Abu Dhabi – first off, and following on from what the Oilholic blogged about earlier, The National columnist Ebrahim Hashem eloquently explains here why UAE's reserves are so attractive for IOCs. The same newspaper also noted on Friday that regional/GCC inflation is here to stay and that the MENA region is going to face a North-South divide akin to the EU. The troubled "NA" bit is likely to rely on the resource rich "ME" bit.

Inflation certainly hasn’t dampened the UAE auto market for sure – one of the first to see the latest models arrive in town. To this effect, the Oilholic gives you two quirky glimpses of some choice autos on the streets of Abu Dhabi. The first (pictured above left) is the latest glammed-up Mini Cooper model outside National Bank of Abu Dhabi's offices, the second is proof that an Emirati sandstorm can make the prettiest automobile look rather off colour.

Finally, a Bloomberg report noting that Oil-rich Norway had gone from a European leader to laggard in terms of consumer spending made yours truly chuckle. Maybe they should reduce the monstrous price of their beer, water and food, which the Oilholic found to his cost in Oslo recently. That's all from Abu Dhabi, its time to bid the Emirate good-bye for destination Oman! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo 1: Entrance to Capital Garden, Abu Dhabi, UAE Photo 2: Cars parked around Abu Dhabi, UAE © Gaurav Sharma, August, 2013.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

On Abu Dhabi’s ‘spot’ chaps, ADNOC & INR

It's good to spot a traditional dhow on millionaire's yacht row at the marina here in Abu Dhabi. Though a millionaire or some tour company probably owns the thing! Switching tack from spot photography to spot crude oil trading – the community here in the UAE is in bullish mood, as is the national oil company – ADNOC.

With the spot Brent price in three figures, and above the US$110-level last time this blogger checked, few here (including the administration), have anything to worry about. The Oilholic has always maintained that a $80 per barrel plus price keeps most in OPEC, excluding Venezuela and Iran and including the Saudis and UAE happy. Short-term trend is bullish and Egyptian troubles, Libyan protests plus the US Federal Reserve's chatter will probably keep Brent there with the regional (DME Oman) benchmark following in its wake, a mere few dollars behind.

Furthermore, of the three traders the Oilholic has spoken to since arriving in the UAE, American shale oil is not much of a worry in this part of the world. "Has it dented the (futures) price?? An American bonanza remains…well an American bonanza. The output will be diverted eastwards to importing jurisdictions; they have in any case been major importers of ADNOC’s crude. What we are seeing at the moment are seasonal lows with refiners in India and China typically buying less as summer demand for distillate falls," says one.

In fact, on Wednesday, Oil Movements – a tanker traffic monitor and research firm – said just that. It estimates that OPEC members, with the exception of Angola and Ecuador, will curtail exports by 320k barrels per day or 1.3% of daily output, in the four weeks from August 10 to September 7.

Meanwhile, ADNOC is investing [and partnering] heavily as usual. Recently, it invited several IOCs to bid for the renewal of a shared licence to operate some of the Emirate's largest onshore oilfields. The concession (on Bu Hasa, Bab, Asab, Sahil and Shah oilfields), in which ADNOC holds a 60% stake, is operated by Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (or ADCO) subsidiary.

Existing partners for the remaining stake include BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Total and Partex O&G. All partners, except Partex have been invited to apply again, according to a source. Additionally, ADNOC has also issued an invitation to seek new partners. Anecdotal evidence here suggests Chevron is definitely among the interested parties.

The existing 75-year old concessions expire in January 2014, so ADNOC will have to move quickly to decide on the new line-up of IOCs. For once, its hand was forced as the UAE's Supreme Petroleum Council rejected an application for a one-year extension of the existing arrangement. Doubtless, Chinese, Korean and Indian NOCs are also lurking around. A chat with an Indian contact confirmed the same.

Whichever way you look at it – its probably one of the few new opportunities, not just in the UAE but the wider Middle East as well. Abu Dhabi is among the few places in the region where international companies would still be allowed to hold an equity interest; mostly a no-no elsewhere in the region. But in the UAE's defence, ever since the first concession was signed by this oil exporting jurisdiction in 1939 – it has always been open to foreign direct investment, albeit with caveats attached. ADNOC is also midway through a five-year $40 billion investment plan aimed at boosting oil and gas production and expanding/upgrading its petrochemical and refining facilities.

Meanwhile, the slump of Indian Rupee (INR) is headline news in the UAE, given its ties to the subcontinent and a huge Indian expat community here in Abu Dhabi. The slump could stoke inflation, according to the Reserve Bank of India, which is already struggling to curtail it. The central bank has tried everything from capital controls to trying to stabilise the INR for a good few months by hiking short-term interest rates. Not much seems to have gone its way (so far).

Furthermore, the INR's troubles have exposed indebtedness of the country's leading natural resources firms (and others) – most notably – Reliance, Vedanta and Essar. Last week, research conducted by Credit Suisse Securities noted that debt levels of top ten Indian business houses in the current fiscal year have gone up by 15% on an annualised basis.

With the currency in near freefall, the report specifically said Reliance ADA Group's gross debt was the highest, with Vedanta in second place among top 10 Indian groups. Draw your own conclusions. On a personal level, Mukesh Ambani (Chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd, the man who holds right to the world largest refinery complex and India's richest tycoon), has lost close to $5.6 billion of his wealth as the INR's plunge has continued, according to various published sources.

Few corporate jets less for him then but a much bigger headache for India Inc, one supposes. If the worried lot fancy a pipe or two, then the "Smokers Centre" (pictured right) on the City's Hamdan Street is a quirky old place to pick up a few. More generally, should one fancy a puff of any description shape, size or type then Abu Dhabi is the city for you. What's more, the stuff is half the price compared to EU markets! For the sake of balance, this humble blogger is officially a non-smoker and has not been asked to flag this up by the tobacco lobby!

Just one more footnote to the INR business, Moody's says the credit quality of state-owned oil marketing and upstream oil companies in India will likely weaken for the rest of the fiscal year (April 2013 to March 2014), if the Indian government continues to ask them, as it did in April-June, to share a higher burden of the country's fuel subsidies.

To put this into context - the INR has depreciated by about 10% and the crude oil prices have increased by about 6% since the beginning of June, as of August 20. Moody's projections for the subsidy total assumes that there will be no material changes in either the INR exchange rate or the crude oil price for the rest of the fiscal year (both are already out of the window). That's all from Abu Dhabi for the moment folks. Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo 1: A dhow on the Abu Dhabi marina, UAE. Photo 2: Smokers Centre, Hamdan Street, Abu Dhabi, UAE © Gaurav Sharma, August, 2013.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Statoil’s move & a crude view from Oslo

The Oilholic finds himself in Oslo, Norway for the briefest of visits at a rather interesting time. For starters, back home in London town, recent outages at Norway's Statoil-operated Heimdal Riser platform are still causing jitters and firming up spot natural gas prices despite the low demand. Although it’s a lot calmer than last Wednesday as order has been restored. The UK is also soaking in news that Norway's US$760 billion oil fund (the world's biggest investor), has cut its British government debt holdings by a whopping 26% to NKr42.9 billion (£4.51 billion, $7.26 billion) and increased its Japanese government bond holdings by 30% to NKr129.5 billion.

However, the biggest story in Oslo is Statoil’s decision to sell minority stakes in several key offshore fields in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea and far north to Austria's OMV. To digest all of that, the Oilholic truly needed a pint of beer – but alas that hurts here! No, not the alcohol – but the price! On average, a pint of beer at a bar on Karl Johans Gate with a view of the Royal Palace (pictured above left) is likely to set you back by NKr74 (£8.20 yes you read that right £8.20). Monstrous one says! Anyways, this blog is called Oilholics Synonymous not Alcoholics Anonymous – so back to 'crude' matters.

Chatter here is dominated by the Statoil decision to sell offshore stakes for which OMV forked-up US$2.65 billion (£1.7 billion). The Norwegian oil giant said the move freed up much needed funds for capex. Giving details, the company announced it had reduced its ownership in the Gullfaks field to 51% from 70% and in Gudrun field to 51% from 75%.

The production impact for Statoil from the transaction is estimated to be around 40,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day in 2014, based on equity and 60 boe per day in 2016, according to a company release. However, Chief Executive Helge Lund told Reuters that the company will still have the capacity to deliver on its 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) ambition in 2020.

"But we will of course evaluate it as we go along, whether that is the best way of creating value.It will impact the short-term production...but we are not making any changes to our guiding at this stage," he added.

For OMV, the move will raise its proven and probable reserves by about 320 million boe or nearly a fifth. What is price positive for Austrian consumers is the fact that it will also boost OMV’s production by about 40,000 bpd as early as 2014.

Statoil’s consideration might be one of capex; for the wider world the importance of the deal is in the detail. First of all, it puts another boot into the North Sea naysayers (who have gone a bit quiet of late). There is very valid conjecture that the North Sea is in decline - hardly anyone disputes that, but investment is rising and has shot up of late. The Statoil-OMV deal lends more weight that there's still 'crude' life in the North Sea.

Secondly, $2.65 billion is no small change, even in terms relative to the oil & gas business. Finally, OMV is a unique needs-based partner for Statoil. The Oilholic is not implying it’s a strange choice. In fact, both parties need to be applauded for their boldness. Furthermore, OMV will also cover Statoil's capex between January 1 and the closing of the deal, which could potentially raise the final valuation to $3.2 billion in total, according to a source.

And, for both oil firms it does not end here. OMV and Statoil have also agreed to cooperate, contingent upon situation and options, on Statoil's 11 exploration licences in the North Sea, West of Shetland and Faroe Islands.

Continuing the all around positive feel, Statoil also announced a gas and condensate discovery near the Smørbukk field in the Norwegian Sea. However, talking to the local media outlets, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate played down the size of the discovery estimating it to be between 4 and 7.5 million cubic metres of recoverable oil equivalents. Nonetheless, every little helps.

Right that’s about enough of crude chatter for the moment. There’s a Jazz festival on here in Oslo (see above right) which the Oilholic has well and truly enjoyed and so has Oslo which is basking in the sunshine in more ways than one. But this blogger also feels inclined to share a few other of his amateur photos from this beautiful city – (clockwise below from left to right, click image to enlarge) – views of the Oslofjord from Bygdøy museums, sculptures at Frogner Park and the Edvard Munch Museum, which is currently celebrating 150 years since the birth of the Norwegian great in 1863.

Away from the sights, just one final crude point – data from ICE Futures Europe suggests that hedge funds (and other money managers) raised bullish bets on Brent to their highest level in more than two years in the week ended August 13.

In its weekly Commitments of Traders report, ICE noted – speculative bets that prices will rise, in futures and options combined, outnumbered short positions by 193,527 lots; up 2.5% from the previous week and is the highest since January 2011. Could be higher but that’s the date ICE started the current data series – so there’s no way of knowing.

In the backdrop are the troubles in Egypt. As a sound Norwegian seaman might tell you – it’s not about what Egypt contributes to the global crude pool in boe equivalent (not much), but rather about disruption to oil tankers and shipping traffic via the Suez Canal. That’s all from Oslo folks. Next stop – Abu Dhabi, UAE! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo 1: View of the Royal Palace from Karl Johans Gate, Oslo, Norway. Photo collage: Various views of Oslo, Norway © Gaurav Sharma, August, 2013.

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