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OPEC March oil output sinks to 11-month low – Reuters survey

Comments (0) Actualites, Middle East, Oil

LONDON (Reuters) – OPEC oil output fell in March to an 11-month low due to declining Angolan exports, Libyan outages and a further slide in Venezuelan output, a Reuters survey found, sending compliance with a supply-cutting deal to another record.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries pumped 32.19 million barrels per day last month, the survey found, down 90,000 bpd from February. The March total is the lowest since April 2017, according to Reuters surveys.

OPEC is reducing output by about 1.2 million bpd as part of a deal with Russia and other non-OPEC producers to get rid of excess supply. The pact started in January 2017 and runs until the end of 2018.

Adherence by producers in the deal rose to 159 percent of agreed cuts from 154 percent in February, the survey found. There was no sign that other producers had boosted output to cash in on higher prices or to compensate for the Venezuelan decline.

Oil has topped $71 a barrel this year for the first time since 2014, and was trading above $67 on Wednesday. Still, OPEC says supply restraints should be maintained to ensure the end of a glut that had built up since 2014.

In March, the biggest decrease in supply came from Angola, which exported 48 cargoes, two fewer than in the same month of 2017. Natural declines at some fields are weighing on output.

Production in Libya, which remains unstable due to unrest, slipped because of stoppages at two fields, El Feel and El Sharara, setting back 2018’s partial recovery in output.

And production fell further in Venezuela, where the oil industry is starved of funds because of an economic crisis. Output dropped to 1.56 million bpd in March, the survey found, a new long-term low.

Output in OPEC’s largest producer, Saudi Arabia, dropped by 40,000 bpd from February’s revised level, even further below the kingdom’s target.

OPEC’s No. 2 producer, Iraq, pumped more. Exports from the south, the outlet for most of the country’s crude, rose despite maintenance at a loading terminal. Exports declined from the north but domestic crude use increased.

Among others with higher output, the biggest rise came from the United Arab Emirates, where production had dropped in February due to maintenance. Even so, the UAE is still pumping below its OPEC target and showing higher compliance than in 2017.

Output climbed in Qatar, after a dip in February that sources attributed to maintenance. Nigeria also pumped at a higher level, extending a run of more stable supply from Africa’s top exporter.

Nigeria and Libya were originally exempt from cutting supply because their output had been curbed by conflict and unrest. For 2018, both told OPEC that output would not exceed 2017 levels.

OPEC has an implied production target for 2018 of 32.73 million bpd, based on cutbacks detailed in late 2016 and taking into account changes of membership since, plus Nigeria and Libya’s expectations of 2018 output.

According to the survey, OPEC pumped about 540,000 bpd below this implied target in March, not least because of the involuntary decline in Venezuela.

The Reuters survey is based on shipping data provided by external sources, Thomson Reuters flows data and information provided by sources at oil companies, OPEC and consulting firms.

 

(By Alex Lawler; Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal in Dubai; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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Shell, Eni preempt any U.S. probe over Nigeria with filings

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Europe, Leaders, Oil, US

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil giants Royal Dutch Shell and Eni have voluntarily filed to U.S. authorities internal probes into how they acquired a giant field in Nigeria as the companies seek to fight corruption allegations in Europe and Africa.

The filings, to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), do not mean U.S. authorities are investigating Shell or Eni.  The move shows the companies are trying to preempt questions from the United States as they face one of the oil industry’s biggest-ever graft trials in Italy, to begin in May in Milan, a pending trial in Nigeria and an investigation in the Netherlands.

The case revolves around the purchase of a huge block off oil-rich Nigeria, known as OPL 245, which holds an estimated 9 billion barrels in reserves.

Italian prosecutors allege that bribes were paid in an effort to secure rights to the block in 2011. A number of top executives from both companies – including Eni Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi and former Shell Foundation Chairman Malcolm Brinded – will face trial.

Under Italian law a company can be held responsible if it is deemed to have failed to prevent, or attempt to prevent, a crime by an employee that benefited the company.

Both companies’ shares are traded on U.S. stock exchanges, putting their foreign dealings in the scope of U.S. authorities.

Shell and Eni, on behalf of subsidiaries, in 2010 entered deferred prosecution agreements with the DOJ over separate Nigerian corruption allegations.

Those pacts dismissed charges after a certain period in exchange for fines and an agreement to fulfil a number of requirements. They concluded in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

“A company’s disclosure of alleged foreign corruption to both the SEC and the DOJ in the U.S. typically means the company believed U.S. authorities needed to be made aware of this, and both agencies have the authority to prosecute under the (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA),” said Pablo Quiñones, executive director of the New York University School of Law program on corporate compliance and enforcement.

Quiñones previously worked as chief of strategy, policy and training at the DOJ’s criminal fraud section, a role that included helping to develop FCPA enforcement policy.

The SEC and the DOJ declined to comment on the company disclosures or whether they were looking into any allegations surrounding the block.

Eni noted its disclosure in an SEC filing, in which it said “no evidence of wrongdoing on Eni side were detected”. Shell has said publicly that it submitted the investigation to U.S. authorities and to Britain’s Serious Fraud Office.

Shell and Eni deny any wrongdoing. They say their payments for the block, a total of $1.3 billion, were transparent, legal and went directly into an escrow account controlled by the Nigerian government.

The companies and legal experts say the trial will last more than a year, with potential appeals stretching several years beyond that.

“The risk for companies is of a prolonged period of exposure to open court allegations from a state prosecutor of impropriety,” Anthony Goldman of Nigeria-focused PM Consulting said. “That will be painful and damaging.”

The Milan prosecutor charges that roughly $1 billion of the payments were funnelled to a Nigerian company called Malabu Oil and Gas, which had a disputed claim on the block, and former oil minister Dan Etete, who British and U.S. courts have said controlled Malabu. Reuters has been unable to reach Etete or Malabu for comment.

Shell has since said it knew some of the money would go to Malabu to settle its claim, though its own due diligence could not confirm who controlled the company. Eni said it never dealt with Etete or knew he controlled the company, but that the government promised to settle all other claims on the block as part of their deal.

“If the evidence ultimately proves that improper payments were made by Malabu or others to then current government officials in exchange for improper conduct relating to the 2011 settlement of the long standing legal disputes, it is Shell’s position that none of those payments were made with its knowledge, authorisation or on its behalf,” Shell said in a statement.

 

CONTROL AT RISK

The proceedings have also brought together investigators in several countries, with authorities in Nigeria and the Netherlands sending information to Milan.

A Dutch anti-fraud team in 2016 raided Shell offices as part of the investigation, and a Dutch law firm has asked prosecutors to consider launching a criminal case in the Netherlands.

“I’m not aware of many cases where this many jurisdictions have been at work for so long helping each other out. The amount of cooperation is very unusual,” said Aaron Sayne of the Natural Resource Governance Institute, a non-profit group that advises countries on how to manage oil, gas and mineral resources.

A case by Nigeria’s financial watchdog, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, against defendants including the former attorney general, ex-ministers of justice and oil and various senior managers, current and former, from Shell and Eni, will continue in June.

There has also been at least one effort to take away the asset. Experts say it is worth billions, and Shell has spent millions developing it. Eni intends to make a final investment decision this year on developing the block and said in corporate filings that the asset has a book value of 1.2 billion euros ($1.5 billion).

The Italian court does not have the ability to rescind rights to the block, and Nigerian oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu has said the companies should continue to develop it.

But in a lawsuit filed by the Nigerian government against JPMorgan in London for the U.S. bank’s role in transferring money from the deal, it called the agreement that facilitated Shell and Eni’s purchase “unlawful and void”.

A JPMorgan spokeswoman previously said the firm “considers the allegations made in the claim to be unsubstantiated and without merit”.

Additionally, a Nigerian court last year briefly ordered the seizure of the block.

That decision was later overturned, and Shell and Eni say they are not worried about losing the asset. But the ruling and the language in the government’s suit against JPMorgan underscore the risk.

“It’s a nice, stable asset that could produce a lot of oil for a long time,” Sayne said.

($1 = 0.8127 euros)

 

(Reporting by Libby George; Additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Emilio Parodi in Milan and Ron Bousso in London; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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Angola oil production declines slightly in 2017, profits rise

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Oil

LUANDA (Reuters) – Oil production for Angola, Africa’s No. 2 crude producer, averaged 1.632 million barrels per day in 2017, down from 1.72 million barrels the previous year, the chairman of the state-run oil company Sonangol said on Wednesday.

Angola has been grappling with the effects of generally depressed oil prices on its government finances but is constrained from lifting production because it is committed to OPEC-mandated cuts.

Angola is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and it must limit output in line with OPEC’s commitment to cut output by about 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) as part of a deal with Russia and others.

Sonagol chairman Carlos Saturnino also told a media briefing that the net profit for Sonangol, which regulates Angola’s oil sector, was $224 million in 2017 versus $81 million the previous year when oil prices were lower.

It was his first briefing since Angola President João Lourenço fired Isabel dos Santos, daughter of his presidential predecessor, from the helm of Sonangol.

Lourenço took power in September and is seeking to win credibility with international investors and shed Angola’s image as an opaque oil economy with rampant corruption.

 

(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by James Macharia)

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Nigerian state oil firm spent $5.8 bln on fuel imports since late 2017

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Oil, Politics

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s state oil firm said on Tuesday it had spent $5.8 billion on fuel imports since late 2017, as it combats a fuel shortage that has left people queuing for hours at filling stations and hobbled an already-struggling economy.

“The corporation’s intervention became necessary following the inability of the major and independent marketers to import the product because of the high landing cost which made cost recovery and profitability difficult,” the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said in a statement.

The price of gasoline is a highly charged subject in Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil exporter. President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016 raised the top gasoline price to 145 naira ($0.4603) per litre, a 67 percent hike, but did not remove a cap for fear of hurting people on low incomes.

The price cap makes it tough for many importers to profit from gasoline and NNPC has imported as much as 90 percent of the nation’s gasoline needs over the past year. Fuel shortages have gripped much of the country in the last few months.

An economic body that advises Nigeria’s government has been in discussion with the state oil company to determine whether gasoline is appropriately priced in the country, a state governor said last week.

The relatively cheaper cost of Nigerian fuel combined with crude oil price rises in the last few months mean smugglers can make more money selling fuel intended for the Nigerian market across borders, creating shortages in the West African giant.

Nigeria’s refining system means it is almost wholly reliant on imports for the 40 million litres per day of gasoline it consumes.

Efforts by Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, to end expensive subsidies in 2012 led to riots in the streets because the move would have doubled gasoline prices, angering citizens who see cheap pump prices as the only benefit from living in an oil-rich country

(Reporting by Paul Carsten, editing by David Evans)

 

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