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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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South Sudan says oil production at 130,000 bpd

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CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Sudan is producing around 130,000 barrels of oil a day and wants to increase its refinery capacity to supply fuel to neighbouring countries, the petroleum minister said on Monday.

“We are focusing on four or five refineries so we can finally be able to sell to Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya and Uganda,” Minister Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth told an African oil conference in Cape Town.

East Africa’s only mature oil producer, South Sudan is aiming to double oil output to 290,000 bpd in 2017/18 the finance minister said in January.

 

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Joe Brock)

 

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Kenyan shilling inclined toward depreciation as oil demand weighs

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

NAIROBI (Reuters) – The Kenyan shilling was broadly stable against the dollar on Monday, but some demand from oil and merchandise importers was seen giving the local currency a depreciation bias, traders said.

At 0757 GMT, commercial banks quoted the shilling 103.30/40 per dollar, compared with 103.25/45 at

 

(Reporting by John Ndiso; editing by Elias Biryabarema)

 

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Three-week South African fuel strike ends as union signs new pay offer

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa’s petroleum industry and striking workers agreed to a new two-year wage deal on Wednesday, ending a three-week strike that caused limited supply disruptions, an official representing employers said.

Around 15,000 striking workers affiliated to Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers union (CEPPWAWU) agreed a 7 percent wage increase this year and an April CPI plus 1.5 percent hike in the second year, said Zimisele Majamane, the deputy chairman of the National Petroleum Employer’s Association.

 

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia)

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Uganda says to grant oil production licences to France’s Total

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

KAMPALA (Reuters) – Uganda’s cabinet agreed on Wednesday to allow the energy ministry to grant three oil production licences to France’s Total, the presidency said.

Commercial crude reserves were discovered in the east African country a decade ago but production has been repeatedly delayed amid wrangling over taxation and field development strategy.

The absence of key infrastructure, such as a crude export pipeline, has also slowed progress to production.

According to a statement issued by the president’s office, the cabinet approved a request from the minister of energy to allow the issue of three petroleum production licences to Total E&P.

The licences cover the Ngiri, Jobi-Rii and Gunya fields in the Albertine rift basin, the area along the country’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The licenses will be valid for 25 years and can be renewed for an additional 5 years, the presidency said in the statement.

Total is the second oil firm to be offered a production license after one of its partners, China’s CNOOC.

Tullow Oil, which also co-owns fields with Total and CNOOC, has also applied for production licences and has been waiting for approval for years.

In April, Uganda agreed with Tanzania to jointly develop a pipeline to the Indian Ocean port of Tanga to help export Uganda’s crude reserves, which are estimated at 6.5 billion barrels.

 

 

(By Elias Biryabarema. Editing by Louise Heavens)

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Nigerian oil executive to lead OPEC

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Mohammed Sanussi Barkindo

The oil cartel appoints Mohammed Sanussi Barkindo to a three-year term as secretary-general beginning Aug. 1.

A Nigerian oil executive who helped develop key global climate change initiatives is the new-secretary general of OPEC.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries named Mohammed Sanussi Barkindo to a three-year term as secretary-general beginning Aug. 1. Barkindo replaces Abdallah Salem e-Bardri of Libya in the cartel’s top job.

Barkindo is an experienced oil executive who has worked for the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation for more than two decades and was its director in 2009-10.

He also has deep experience with the oil cartel, including service as its acting secretary-general in 2006 and 15 years on OPEC’s Economic Committee.

Climate change work cited

According to Francis Perrin, Chairman of Energy Strategies and Policies, Barkindo’s work on climate change was also a decisive factor in his appointment.

Barkindo helped produce the United Nations Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto protocol as the leader of Nigeria’s technical delegation to UN climate change talks.

Perrin said the appointment reflects growing recognition among cartel members of the importance of initiatives to stall climate change as OPEC struggles to find its footing on a shifting global energy landscape.

Barkindo is also seen as a neutral party in simmering regional political tensions between OPEC members Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as disagreements about oil production limits.

Long career as oil executive

Barkindo earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, a post-graduate diploma in the economics of petroleum from the College of Petroleum Studies at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, and a graduate degree in business administration from Southeastern University in Washington, D.C.

He has also been deputy managing director and chief executive of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas and managing director and chief executive of the international trading division of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation as well as general manager of the corporation’s London office.

El-Badri had been set to retire in 2013, but stayed another three years because cartel members were unable to agree on a replacement amidst Middle East political tensions and discord within OPEC about whether to limit oil production as prices dropped.

Venezuela, hard hit economically by the oil slump, put forth a candidate, Ali Rodriguez, its long-serving OPEC representative. Indonesia also considered fielding a candidate.

Neutral candidate

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf members said they supported Barkindo for his experience and because Nigeria doesn’t take sides in Middle East power struggles.

While the secretary-general does not have executive power in OPEC, the official often plays the role of a neutral mediator when there are differences within the group.

It likely will fall to Barkindo to mediate ongoing conflict in the oil cartel over whether to limit production to prop up oil prices.

OPEC has seen its influence on global oil prices waning amidst an oil glut coupled with the growth of production outside the cartel, including in the United States and Russia.

OPEC member countries produce almost 37 million barrels a day compared to non-OPEC production of 57 million barrels daily, according to Global Risk Insights.

Disunity amid oil slump

Despite waning influence, OPEC’s unwillingness to set production limits has played a major role in creating an oil surplus, which has precipitated a two-year crisis. The price of oil plummeted to a low of $26 per barrel earlier this year. The current price is about $45 a barrel, less than half price of $110 per barrel in 2014, when the crisis began.

Richer OPEC nations, led by Saudi Arabia, have been willing to take financial hits of low oil prices in order to preserve market share. OPEC has rebuffed calls to limit production by poorer members including Algeria and Venezuela, which have been hard hit by the slump.

After OPEC members again failed to agree on limits in June, experts said the discord underscored the cartel’s waning ability to influence oil prices.

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ExxonMobil declares force majeure on Nigeria’s Qua Iboe crude oil: spokesman

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – ExxonMobil subsidiary Mobil Producing Nigeria has declared force majeure on exports of Nigeria’s Qua Iboe crude oil, the country’s largest export stream, a spokesman said on Friday.

The declaration came after the company observed a “system anomaly” during a routine check of its loading facility on July 14.

“We are working to ensure loading activities at the facility return to normal. We cannot speculate on any timeline for repairs,” the spokesman said. “Qua Iboe Terminal is operating and production activities continue.”

Nigeria has struggled to maintain its crude oil production following a spate of militant attacks and technical problems that in May pushed production briefly to 30-year lows. While the cause of the latest issue was not immediately clear, traders said it would take least two to four weeks to repair.

Earlier this week, Exxon denied claims from militant group the Niger Delta Avengers to have blown up the Qua Iboe 48″ crude oil export pipeline operated by the company.

Spokesman Todd Spitler said on Friday there was no connection between the force majeure and militant attacks.

Exxon has struggled to bring production of Qua Iboe back to normal after an accident in May on a drilling rig that damaged a pipeline, after which the company also declared force majeure.

Since lifting that declaration in early June, there have been roughly three revisions to loading schedules, attributed to a slower-than-expected resumption of flows, with loading delays of at least five days.

 

(Reporting by Libby George; editing by David Clarke and David Evans)

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Angola’s Sonangol halts all asset sale talks

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – New Sonangol chief executive Isabel dos Santos has suspended all talks relating to the sale of assets belonging to the Angolan state oil firm and stripped its internal legal department of most of its powers, a statement said.

Dos Santos, the billionaire daughter of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was appointed to the Sonangol helm last month with orders to improve the efficiency of the sprawling 40-year-old firm, the central pillar of Angola’s economy.

The statement posted on Sonangol’s website after a board meeting at the end of last month said “all processes of evaluation, negotiation and sale of any assets” had been suspended with immediate effect.

It gave no further details.

Separately, it said the board had removed the legal department’s mandate to handle anything other than disciplinary matters. Again, the statement provided no more clarity.

Isabel dos Santos told Reuters last month she planned to hive off Sonangol’s non-core assets, such as its banking, real estate and airline interests, into separate holding companies to bring the company’s focus back exclusively to oil.

Boston Consulting Group and PriceWaterhouseCoopers have been hired as external advisers to the shake-up, which has won approval from the foreign oil firms operating in Africa’s top crude producer.

Isabel dos Santos also said she intended to improve transparency at Sonangol, long been regarded as one of the most opaque institutions in Africa.

In 2011, Sonangol was accused of misplacing $32 billion in oil revenues owed to the government.

The International Monetary Fund later said it had managed to track down the missing cash, attributing the accounting discrepancy to “quasi-fiscal operations” conducted on behalf of the government.

 

(Reporting by Ed Cropley and Herculano Coroado; Editing by James Macharia)

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