Category Archives: Energy

Iran Sanctions Fallout: China Takes Over French Share In Giant Iran Gas Project, by Tyler Durden

It’s a close call as to whether Trump’s sanctions will force Iran to the negotiating table, or if Iran will give Trump the middle finger and ride it out with help from its friends. Stay tuned. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

When it comes to the Middle East, China has not been shy about its recent ambitions to expand its geopolitical influence in the Gulf region: Just last week we reported that the Chinese Ambassador to Syria, Qi Qianjin, shocked Middle East pundits and observers by indicating the Chinese military may fill the void left in the wake of the collapse of ISIS – and most regional armies – and directly assist the Syrian Army in an upcoming major offensive on jihadist-held Idlib province.

The “[Chinese] military is willing to participate in some way alongside the Syrian army that is fighting the terrorists in Idlib and in any other part of Syria,” the ambassador said in an interview with the pro-government daily newspaper Al-Watan, subsequently translated by The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

And having staked a military claim in Syria, China was next set to expand its national interest in that other key regional nation which has been the source of so much consternation to its neighbors and world powers in recent months and which has emerged as a key source of crude oil exports to Beijing: Iran.

It did so today when China’s state-owned energy giant, CNPC – the world’s third largest oil and gas company by revenue behind Saudi Aramco and the National Iranian Oil Company – finally took over the share in Iran’s multi-billion dollar South Pars gas project held by France’s Total, Iran’s official news agency Shana reported on Saturday.

To many the move had been expected, with only the details set to be ironed out. Recall that back in May we wrote that CNPC – the world’s third largest oil and gas company by revenue behind Saudi Aramco and the National Iranian Oil Company – was set to take over a leading role held by Total in a huge gas project in Iran should the French energy giant decide to quit amid US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

That finally happened when the Chinese energy giant took advantage of Trump’s sanctions to step in the void left by the French major. As a reminder, Total signed a contract in 2017 to develop Phase II of South Pars field with an initial investment of $1 billion, marking the first major Western energy investment in the country after sanctions were lifted in 2016. South Pars has the world’s biggest natural gas reserves ever found in one place.

To continue reading: Iran Sanctions Fallout: China Takes Over French Share In Giant Iran Gas Project

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Russia’s High Risk Global Oil Strategy, by Vanand Meliksetian

Russian oil companies are rushing in where western oil companies fear to tread. From Vanand Meliksetian at oilprice.com:

The energy industry is highly sensitive to U.S. sanctions due to the petrodollar being the single most important currency in global trade. Washington is able to exert significant influence by limiting access to the dollar through its financial institutions. Russia is especially exposed to Washington’s ire as a significant part of its governments’ coffers are filled by revenues from its oil and gas sector. In recent years, Russian companies have been increasing their activities in several unstable countries where the U.S. has imposed sanctions. This tactic from Russia comes with huge opportunities but also a significant amount of risk.

The level of this risk is illustrated by the absence of western oil companies in these areas as they are accountable to their shareholders. Privately held companies also struggle to operate in these areas due to their reliance on international financial markets and the difficulty with carrying out due diligence. Venezuela and Iran are prime examples of oil rich areas that are struggling under U.S. sanctions.

At the same time, absence of many major western oil companies in unstable regions is one of the reasons why Russian companies, both majority state-owned and privately held organizations, have got involved. Limited competition strengthens the position of Russian firms during negotiations. The host countries face a predicament in many cases as they have to choose between a bad deal or no deal at all.

A prime example of this is Moscow’s involvement in Iran, which has been ongoing for years. Even during the years of sanctions due to Tehran’s nuclear program, Russia was able to strike a barter deal where Iranian oil was exchanged for other products. This deal bypassed the international financial system and sanctions. Even now when the U.S. has unilaterally withdrawn from the Iran Nuclear Deal and is about to reinstate sanctions, Moscow and Iran are intensifying cooperation.

Days before the Helsinki summit and the meeting of Presidents Putin and Trump, Iranian officials struck a deal in Moscow for an investment of $50 billion in the oil and gas sector. While western firms are reluctant to continue doing business in Iran, let alone increase cooperation, Russian firms are seizing the opportunity to boost their portfolio with even more Middle Eastern assets.

To continue reading: Russia’s High Risk Global Oil Strategy

Republican Senators Introduce Bill to Snuff out Europe’s Independence, by Alex Gorka

Europe cannot be allowed to go against the dictates of its US masters, especially if it involves buying natural gas from Russia. So what if Europe will have to pay more for US gas? From Alex Gorka at strategic-culture.org:

In a meeting with Russia’s ambassadors and permanent representatives on July 19, President Vladimir Putin said that “the principles of competition and openness in global trade are increasingly being replaced by protectionism, while economic gain and expediency are being swapped for partisan agendas and political pressure. Economic ties and entrepreneurial freedom are being politicized.” He feels that Russia must counter this trend. There is ample evidence to prove his point.

There is a large group of US lawmakers chomping at the bit to support anything that would bring Europe to heel and hurt Russia. Their target is the Nord Stream 2 gas project that has a pipeline running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany with an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters. That joint venture between Russian energy giant Gazprom and the French company Engie, Austria’s OMV AG, the British-Danish Royal Dutch Shell, and Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall is expected to be operational by the end of 2019. The US president has the authority to impose sanctions on the project under the CAATSA sanctions law, but there is a risk that he will not. And so some US lawmakers believe that should be rectified by making those punitive measures mandatory.

On July 18, Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), to allow NATO member states to — in his words — “escape from Russia’s political coercion and manipulation.” That’s too much of a good thing, but then nobody in Europe asked for such “help.”  The senator’s website claims “the Energy Security Cooperation with Allied Partners in Europe Act, or the ‘ESCAPE Act,’ enhances the energy security of NATO members by providing those countries with reliable and dependable American energy. It also mandates sanctions on the Nord Stream II pipeline that would carry natural gas from Russia to Germany, along with other Russian energy export pipelines.”

To continue reading: Republican Senators Introduce Bill to Snuff out Europe’s Independence 

Iran Warns Trump Not To Cut Off Oil Exports, Threatens “Mother Of All Wars”, by Tyler Durden

Iran is issuing dire threats if the US blocks its oil exports. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani warned the US not to threaten the nation’s oil exports, called for improved relations with its neighbors including arch-nemesis Saudi Arabia, and cautioned the US that a conflict with Iran would be “the mother of all wars.”

Don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret,” Iran’s leader said during a speech with Iranian diplomats on Sunday, the semi-official Iranian Students’ News agency reported. “The Americans must understand well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars” he said, adding that Iranians will only be united by further threats from the US, and that the Islamic Republic “will certainly defeat America.”

Iran military drill in the Strait of Hormuz, photo credit: AFP

The latest attack against president Trump by Rouhani came one day after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backed the idea of blocking all oil exports from the region by closing the Strait of Hormuz in the event of Iran’s exports being banned. He also said that “U.S. govt.’s words or even signatures cannot be relied on; thus negotiations with the U.S. are useless. The assumption that negotiations or establishing ties with the U.S. would solve country’s problems is an obvious error.”

While Iran’s belligerence toward the US (and vice versa) is nothing new, there was a surprising twist when Rouhani said that Iran would seek improved relations with its Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, according to Bloomberg. But he also said Saudi Arabia still needs to “change its actions, let go of obstinacy and be willing to have relations.”

Iran’s anger is the result of Trump’s recent decision to withdraw from Obama’s landmark nuclear deal, and Trump’s subsequent pressure on US allies to completely cut imports of Iranian crude in response to Tehran’s alleged malign activities. Those who fail to comply with America’s request would be targeted by secondary US sanctions. Following Trump’s withdrawal, Iran has been working with the EU to salvage the 2015 the accord.

To continue reading: Iran Warns Trump Not To Cut Off Oil Exports, Threatens “Mother Of All Wars”

Why Trump’s Iran Isolation Plan May Backfire, by Ron Paul

Here is another take on Iran’s situation. From Ron Paul at ronpaulinstitute.org:

In May, President Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal despite Iran living up to its obligations and the deal working as planned. While the US kept in place most sanctions against Tehran, China and Russia – along with many European countries – had begun reaping the benefits of trade with an Iran eager to do business with the world.

Now, President Trump is threatening sanctions against any country that continues to do business with Iran. But will his attempt to restore the status quo before the Iran deal really work?

Even if the Europeans cave in to US demands, the world has changed a great deal since the pre-Iran deal era.

President Trump is finding that his threats and heated rhetoric do not always have the effect he wishes. As his Administration warns countries to stop buying Iranian oil by November or risk punishment by the United States, a nervous international oil market is pushing prices ever higher, threatening the economic prosperity he claims credit for. President Trump’s response has been to demand that OPEC boost its oil production by two million barrels per day to calm markets and bring prices down.

Perhaps no one told him that Iran was a founding member of OPEC?

When President Trump Tweeted last week that Saudi Arabia agreed to begin pumping additional oil to make up for the removal of Iran from the international markets, the Saudis very quickly corrected him, saying that while they could increase capacity if needed, no promise to do so had been made.

The truth is, if the rest of the world followed Trump’s demands and returned to sanctions and boycotting Iranian oil, some 2.7 million barrels per day currently supplied by Iran would be very difficult to make up elsewhere. Venezuela, which has enormous reserves but is also suffering under, among other problems, crippling US sanctions, is shrinking out of the world oil market.

Iraq has not recovered its oil production capacity since its “liberation” by the US in 2003 and the al-Qaeda and ISIS insurgencies that followed it.

Last week, Bloomberg reported that “a complete shutdown of Iranian sales could push oil prices above $120 a barrel if Saudi Arabia can’t keep up.” Would that crash the US economy? Perhaps. Is Trump willing to risk it?

To continue reading: Why Trump’s Iran Isolation Plan May Backfire

How Bad Is Iran’s Oil Situation? by Nick Cunningham

Trump may be able to meaningfully curtail Iran’s oil exports. From Nick Cunningham at oilprice.com via wolfstreet.com:

“There’s a really big gap between what foreign governments are saying and what companies are saying.”

The U.S. government has continued its attempts to shut down Iran’s oil exports, and in recent days Iranian officials responded by threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz. Such an outcome is highly unlikely, but the war of words demonstrates how quickly the confrontation is escalating.

Oil prices spiked in late June when a U.S. State Department official said that countries would be expected to cut their imports of oil from Iran down to “zero.” The official also suggested that it would be unlikely that the Trump administration would grant any waivers.

This hard line stance fueled a rally in oil prices as the oil market was quickly forced to recalibrate expected losses from Iran, with a general consensus changing from a loss of around 500,000 bpd by the end of the year, to something more like 1 million barrels per day (mb/d), or even as high as 2.0 to 2.5 mb/d in a worst-case scenario in which all countries comply.

A loss of that magnitude would be hard to offset, even if Saudi Arabia decides to burn through all of its spare capacity.

That led to a dialing back of the rhetoric from the Trump administration, or so it seemed. A follow-up statement from the State Department suggested that the U.S. government would work with countries on a “case-by-case basis” to lower Iranian oil imports. High oil prices seemed to put pressure on Washington.

But for now, there is no policy shift. “I think there’s going to be very few waivers. That’s what we’re hearing all the time from officials across the administration. I think it’s a very strong policy decision,” Brenda Shaffer, an adjunct professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, told Oilprice.com.

Time will tell, but early evidence suggests that the Trump administration is having success convincing top buyers of Iranian crude to curtail their purchases.

South Korea reportedly plans on zeroing out its imports of oil from Iran in August, according to Reuters. Sources told Reuters that Japan plans on buying oil from Iran for the next few months, but will likely come under pressure to cut imports as the November deadline approaches.

To continue reading: How Bad Is Iran’s Oil Situation?

 

The New Oil Cartel Threatening OPEC, by Irina Slav

Oil producers aren’t the only group that can band together in the world’s oil markets. From Irina Slav at oilprice.com:

When reports emerged that India and China are in talks about forming an oil buyers’ club, OPEC was probably too busy with its upcoming June 22 meeting to concern itself with that dangerous alliance. Now, it may be time for it to start worrying.

“The timing is right. The boom in U.S. oil and gas production gives us greater leverage against OPEC,” the Times of India quoted an Indian official as saying last month after the formal start of said talks. The two countries, after all, account for a combined 17 percent of global oil consumption and they are the ones that would be the hardest hit if prices rise as a result of OPEC’s actions.

What’s more, they might not be alone in this attempt to curb OPEC’s clout on the global oil market. According to Bloomberg’s Carl Pope, Europe and Japan, previously reluctant to take part in any anti-OPEC projects, may now join in. The reason they are likely to join in is that unlike in previous oil price cycles, now there are alternatives to fossil fuels. Electrification is where OPEC may have to face off with a future oil buyers’ cartel.

India, China, and Europe are all very big on EV adoption. Japan is a leader in battery manufacturing. If they set their minds to it, these four players could upend the oil market and effectively cripple OPEC. Of course, this is a best-case scenario of the kind that rarely unfolds in reality. Related: Why Oil Prices Are Surging

Let’s take India, for example. A recent survey suggested that as many as 90 percent of Indian drivers were willing to switch to EVs if the government built the necessary charging infrastructure, reduced road taxes, and increased subsidies. Another survey identified price and range as additional roadblocks towards the mass adoption of EVs in India. Because of these challenges, New Delhi recently amended its ambitious goal of having an all-EV fleet on the roads of the country by 2030 to having 30 percent of the fleet electric.

China, for its part, is the undisputed leader in global EV adoption: the country accounted for more than 50 percent of global EV sales last year in case you were thinking, “Wait, wasn’t that Norway?” However, this was in large part made possible by generous government subsidies for EV manufacturing. These subsidies are due to be wound downto 0 by 2020, and carmakers are already beginning to brace for a future without the support of the state. It’s safe to say it remains uncertain if the EV boom will continue after 2020.

To continue reading: The New Oil Cartel Threatening OPEC