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Posts from ‘March, 2006’

YubaNet.com: Boxer Corrects Oil Industry's Inaccurate Statements for the Record

By: Boxer office
Published: Mar 31, 2006 at 07:54
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today sent a letter to the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association correcting inaccuracies in the document they submitted to the Environment and Public Works Committee regarding the oil industry's use of MTBE.
Following is the text of Senator Boxer's letter to Bob Slaughter, President of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association:
Dear Mr. Slaughter:
I write regarding your March 28, 2006 letter to Chairman Inhofe expressing the views of your members with respect to the oversight hearing on the impact of the elimination of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) held by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. This letter was entered into the hearing record by the Chairman.
I supported the Chairman in his efforts to make NPRA's views known to the Committee. However, I disagree strongly with several statements in the letter related to whether the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 mandated the use of MTBE. The letter is not supported by the facts.
The Clean Air Act never required the use of MTBE, and courts have upheld that view. Moreover, in response to direct questioning today, Robert Meyers, Associate Assistant Administrator in the Office of Air and Radiation at the United States Environmental Protection Agency again affirmed that MTBE use was not required by the Clean Air Act. He held this view in 1995 as Counsel to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, when he wrote with respect to the legislative history of the 1990 Clean Air Act:
“A major aspect of the debate on the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments was the issue of 'fuel neutrality.” In essence, since various fuels and fuel constituents compete for the RFG and alternative fuels market, an effort was made to avoid dictating any particular fuel choice.”
In addition, a jury in the Tahoe case found Lyondell, Shell, Texaco, Equilon, and Tosco guilty of irresponsibly manufacturing and distributing a product they knew would contaminate water. The jury found by “clear and convincing evidence” that both Shell Oil Company and Lyondell Chemical Company acted with “malice” by failing to warn customers of the almost certain environmental dangers of MTBE water contamination.
The repeal of the oxygenate standard should not be used as justification for the resurrection of MTBE safe-harbor legislation. I oppose such legislation now, just as I did during the consideration of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and will be actively engaged in opposing its passage should it be reintroduced this session.
Sincerely,
Barbara Boxer
United States Senator read more

Forbes/AFX News Limited: Nigerian troops clash with militants in restive oil region

03.31.2006
LAGOS (AFX) – Nigerian troops engaged separatist militants in a fierce gun duel in the swamps of the Niger Delta, leaving some fighters dead, an army spokesman said.
'Our men were attacked during a patrol operation in the area. We fought back and some of the aggressors were killed. The army recorded no casualties,' army spokesman Colonel Mohammed Yussuf said.
The gunfight on Thursday erupted near Shell's Benisede oil flow station, which was destroyed in January by militants from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in a battle that left 14 soldiers dead.
The fighting around Benisede in Bayelsa State was the latest between ethnic Ijaw militants and soldiers of the Joint Task Force set up to protect oil facilities in the troubled region.
Last week, three soldiers died when their boat capsized during a patrol of oil and gas plants in the region, according to a navy spokesman.
Since the start of the year, attacks by militants have forced Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell and other foreign oil majors to cut Nigerian production by a total of 533,000 barrels per day.
A total of 13 foreign oil workers have been kidnapped and later released after weeks of negotiations with the militants.
newsdesk@afxnews.com
afp/har read more

MarketWatch: India government says 72 cos attend Houston oil, gas block roadshow

Last Update: 11:43 AM ET Mar 31, 2006
NEW DELHI (MarketWatch) — As many as 72 international companies, including global energy majors – ExxonMobil Corp. (XOM), Chevron Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC participated in a roadshow at Houston showcasing India's latest oil and natural gas exploration blocks, the Indian government said in a statement Friday.
“Response to the roadshow was upbeat and positive as many companies have already booked data at the Houston data center,” the statement said.
Some 55 oil and gas blocks are being offered by the Indian government for exploration under the sixth round of the government's New Exploration Licensing Policy, or NELP-VI.
The government is offering 24 deepwater blocks, six shallow-water blocks and 25 onshore blocks under NELP-VI. The bidding for NELP-VI blocks will close Sept. 15.
India has awarded 110 blocks through an international competitive bidding process under five previous rounds of NELP, to boost the country's oil and gas production.
India currently imports 76% of the crude oil it processes, as current domestic crude output is stagnating around 33 million metric tons a year.
Natural gas sold in the country is around 90 million cubic meters a day, which only meets around 60% of the local demand.
-Contact: 201-938-5400 read more

Xinhua, China: CNOOC-Shell petrochemical project goes into production

www.chinaview.cn 2006-03-31 20:30:39
HUIZHOU, Guangdong, March 31 (Xinhua) — China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) announced on Friday that its huge petrochemical project, a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell, off the South China Sea has begun formal production.
Located in Huizhou city of souch China's Guangdong Province, the project is one of the largest petrochemical projects launched in China in recent years.
CNOOC, Royal Dutch Shell and the Guangdong provincial government invested in the 4.2 billion U.S. dollar project, which is the largest joint venture in China. Royal Dutch Shell owns 50 percent, CNOOC, 45 percent and the Guangdong government, 5 percent.
The project adopted 13 patent technologies through international public bidding, including Shell's world-leading PO/SM technology, said Zhai Hongxing, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of CNOOC and Shell Petrochemicals Company Limited.
According to Zhai, as the largest PO/SM facility in the world, it could produce 550,000 tons of styrene monomer and 250,000 tons of propylene oxide each year.
It will feed the hunger for petrochemical products such as styrene monomer and proplene oxide of China's market, he said.
The core of the project is a set of ethylene cracking facilities.
With an annual production capability of 800,000 tons of ethylene and 430,000 tons of propylene, the facilities could refine not only naphtha, but heavier condensate oil as well as hydrogenation unconverted oil and depression diesel, both by products of petroleum refineries, said Simon Lam, CEO of CNOOC and Shell Petrochemicals Company Limited.
The diversity of raw materials has greatly improved the competitiveness of the project, said Lam.
According to Zhai, after being put into production, the joint venture could produce more than 2.3 million tons of petro chemicals each year mainly for the South and Southeast China markets, the most prosperous regions in the country.
Having focused on oil and natural gas exploration and production offshore, CNOOC has been trying to expand its business in oil industry over recent years and plans to establish an integrated energy company which boasts not only an upper stream business including exploration and production, but also middle and downstream businesses such as oil refining and petrochemicals by 2008.
The launching of the production of the CNOOC-Shell joint venture is another significant step for CNOOC to achieve this goal, said Zhai.
CNOOC announced the establishment of its refining subsidiary last Nov. and laid the cornerstone for its wholly invested oil refining project of an annual oil refining capacity of 12 million tons in Huizhou city, near the CNOOC-Shell project.
The project will also be a great force in enhancing the innovation ability and development level of China's petrochemical industry, said Zhai.
China's rapid economic growth has lead to a huge demand for petrochemical materials. As a result, a series of large-scale ethylene projects was launched in recent years.
Zhai said the production capability of ethylene is an important barometer of the growth of a country's petrochemical industry. But he said the development of China's ethylene industry should be keep in pace with the growth of domestic demand. Enditem
Editor: Ling Zhu read more

Seattle Post Intelligencer: Wash. Website owner wins free speech case

By DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
SEATTLE — The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday a trial judge overreached his authority when he restricted a man from posting information on a Web site. Paul Trummel was jailed for more than three months in 2002 in his free-speech standoff with the judge over the Web site he used as a forum for attacking the Council House, a federally subsidized retirement home where he once lived.
Trummel posted the phone numbers and addresses of Council House staff, directors and residents – something that King County Superior Court Judge James Doerty characterized as harassment.
Trummel removed the information after his release from jail, but appealed his case.
His attorney, William Crittenden, called the high court's unanimous ruling a victory for free speech.
In siding with Trummel in the online aspect of the case, the justices added that there was clear evidence of Trummel's predatory behavior toward Council House residents, staff and directors.
That behavior indicated the need to bar him from contacting them in person, by telephone, by writing or through a third person, the court said.
Trummel currently faces six charges of violating the anti-harassment order, said his criminal attorney, Brad Meryhew. Meryhew said he did not know how the justices' ruling would affect those charges.
He said all the charges concern information on Trummel's Web site or communications with relatives of Council House residents or staff.
Trummel was evicted from the home in April 2001, and Crittenden said he did not know his client's location at this time. read more

Itar-Tass: Russian shipbuilders receive order for Sakhalin shelf work vessels

RUSSIA
31.03.2006, 10.09
YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, March 31 (Itar-Tass) — Russian shipbuilders have received an order for the first time to build vessels for work on the Sakhalin shelf.
Two moorage boats will be built at the Zvezda plant in the Primorsky Territory and two reinforced icebreaking port tugboats at the Admiralteiskiye Verfi shipyard in St. Petersburg, the press service of the Sakhalin Energy company, the Sakhalin-2 project operator, said on Friday.
All the four vessels will work in the south of Sakhalin in the Aniva bay, where the world's biggest gas liquefying plant is being built on the coast. The boats will lead giant tankers to the moorages.
The construction of four vessels in Russia is one of the terms of the 15-year contract concluded by Sakhalin Energy to charter six such boats. Russian crews will work aboard all the six vessels flying the Russian flag.
The cost of the construction contract is about 140 million dollars. The vessels will begin to work in 2007. read more

AP Worldstream: Dutch economics minister to visit Libya for oil and gas talks

Mar 30, 2006
Economics Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst will go to Libya next week to negotiate gas and oil agreements, in the first high-level visit by a Dutch official since Colonel Moammar Gadhafi took power in 1969, the ministry said Thursday.
During the April 5-6 trip, Brinkhorst hopes to “intensify business and political relations with Libya,” and to lay the groundwork for a long-term energy deal to be signed later, spokesman Jan van Diepen said.
The Dutch determination to diversify gas sources deepened after Russia suspended supplies to Ukraine in January, Van Diepen said. The Netherlands also has its own gas fields, with reserves sufficient for domestic needs through 2030.
Brinkhorst also will visit a trade fair in Tripoli that will be attended by officials from Royal Dutch Shell and from the Dutch air carrier KLM.
Shell announced last year it had concluded a deal to explore and develop areas in Libya's Sirte Basin and expected to start drilling in 2007. Shell was active in Libya from the 1950s until 1974, and it conducted explorations there in the late 1980s.
Libya's relations with the West improved following its agreement in December 2003 to dismantle its chemical, nuclear and biological programs.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press read more

Business News Americas: Shell to decide BS-4 fate by year-end – Brazil

(BNamericas.com) – Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell (NYSE: RDS-B) will have to decide this year whether to announce commercial feasibility or hand back to Brazilian authorities the BS-4 offshore block in the Santos basin where it is operator, the company's Brazilian operations E&P VP John Haney told reporters during the Latin Upstream seminar in Rio de Janeiro.
Shell has a 40% interest in the block, Brazil's federal energy company Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) has 40% and US oil company Chevron (NYSE: CVX) the remaining 20%.
The partners have been exploring the block since 1998, when Brazil's oil sector was opened up to private investment. The block is located in water depths of 1,500 meters and estimated to contain total reserves of 1.6 million barrels (Mb) of 14-degree API heavy crude, Haney said.
“We consider this a frontier block,” he said. “We want to improve recovery levels there.” Shell also has interests in the BC-10 block in the Campos basin and in 11 exploratory blocks in Brazil.
The company plans to continue development of the BC-10 block, which it operates with a 35% stake. Its partners there are Petrobras with 35% and US oil company Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) with 30%.
“We should file the development plans for the block at the hydrocarbons regulator by the end of the first half,” Haney said.
The company expects to recover as much as 400Mb of heavy crude there by 2010, he said.
At the same time Shell should drill new appraisal wells this year in the existing productive fields of Bijupira and Salema, where the company is producing some 35,000-40,000 barrels of oil a day.
Shell invested US$200mn in 2005 in its Brazilian operations, of which US$150mn went into E&P. Haney declined to say how much the company would invest in Brazil this year.
Shell also has downstream operations in the country, including interests in natural gas distribution and transport. – (BNamericas.com) read more

AP Worldstream: Crude futures fall below US$67 a barrel on slight profit-taking

Mar 31, 2006
Crude oil prices retreated Friday as traders took profits following continuous gains over the last three sessions due to strong demand for fuel and falling U.S. gasoline inventories.
Light, sweet crude for May delivery fell 27 cents to US$66.88 a barrel in Asian electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange midmorning in Singapore. The contract on Thursday gained 70 cents to settle at US$67.15 a barrel _ a two-month high.
Gasoline lost 2.57 cents to US$1.9700 a gallon (3.8 liters) while heating oil fell 0.73 cent to US$1.8770 a gallon. Natural gas declined 8.7 cents to US$7.400 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Analysts said concerns over falling U.S. gasoline stocks would continue to keep a firm floor under prices.
“Oil prices have been moving up so quickly in the past few days, so traders are just taking a slight profit now ahead of the weekend,” said Tetsu Emori, chief commodities strategist at Mitsui Bussan Futures in Tokyo. “But gasoline demand is strong and inventories have gone down, so I think prices will keep moving strongly up.”
Gasoline futures on Thursday jumped more than 4 cents a gallon on top of a gain of nearly 7 cents in the previous session after midweek data showed U.S. gasoline stocks fell by a surprisingly large draw of 5.4 million barrels last week, their biggest weekly draw since August 2003.
After climbing to their highest level in seven years last month, U.S. gasoline stocks have fallen nearly 10 million barrels in just the past four weeks, a trend analysts expect to continue for several more weeks as refiners undergo heavy seasonal maintenance work.
Prices also were supported by persistent supply disruptions in the Gulf of Mexico and Nigeria, and a U.N. standoff with Iran over its nuclear program.
On Thursday, top officials of the five permanent U.N. Security Council nations plus Germany urged Tehran to freeze uranium enrichment, but a senior Iranian envoy defiantly rejected the call, saying his country's activities were “not reversible.”
Iran, the No. 2 oil producer in OPEC, has been referred to the U.N. Security Council over fears it may want to misuse its nuclear program to make weapons.
In the Gulf of Mexico, oil output is still down by 343,000 barrels per day because of damage that occurred during last summer's hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That is roughly 23 percent below pre-storm output levels.
Nigerian oil output also remains a concern. Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the largest foreign oil company operating in the country, has shut in nearly half of its Nigerian production and says it won't resume operations until the country is safe enough for its workers. Some 550,000 barrels per day of Nigerian production has been shut in, analysts said.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press read more

AP Worldstream: Venezuela takes on Exxon Mobil as it squeezes oil industry

NATALIE OBIKO PEARSON
Mar 31, 2006
Venezuela had a blunt message this week for Exxon Mobil Corp., one of the world's most powerful oil companies: get off my crude-rich turf.
Venezuela is tightening its squeeze on the oil industry, telling oil companies to give the state a greater share of profits – or get out.
Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez on Wednesday said Exxon Mobil was one of the companies that would “prefer to leave … rather than adjust” to recent policy changes.
“We said we don't want them to be here then,” Ramirez told the state TV broadcaster Venezolana de Television, adding if “we need them, we'll call them.”
Exxon Mobil indicated Thursday it had no plans to pull out.
“Exxon Mobil de Venezuela continues to have a long-term perspective of its activities in Venezuela,” it said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
The flap helped push the price of oil above US$67 (A55.39) a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Thursday as the market reacted to the latest sign of tighter state-control of energy around the globe.
Venezuela is taking on Big Oil at a time when rising oil prices, political instability in the Mideast and Nigeria and new buyers in Asia have put the world's fifth-largest oil exporter in a winning position.
After snubbing Exxon Mobil, Ramirez said Venezuela has other eager partners, including state companies from Russia, Iran, China, India, as well as traditional oil companies.
Speaking to supporters about the nation's oil industry on Thursday, President Hugo Chavez said his leftist government was “recovering sovereignty in the management of our oil business.”
Without specifically referring to Exxon Mobil, Chavez added, “Whoever doesn't like this business, then go somewhere else. They didn't like it? Go somewhere else.”
The new climate in the oil market has given Venezuela the flexibility to diversify “away from Western investors and incorporate state-owned companies from allied countries … more willing to abide by new, tighter terms,” said Patrick Esteruelas, analyst at the Washington-based Eurasia Group.
The government has increasingly sought projects with state-controlled oil companies in friendly countries. Last year, Venezuela granted exclusive licensing rights to certify and quantify reserves in blocks in the Orinoco tar belt to seven companies, including China's CNPC, India's ONGC and Iran's Petropars. The only western oil major included was Spanish-Argentine company Repsol YPF.
The trend is driven by Chavez's distaste for corporate multinationals, which he accuses of looting his country's oil wealth over the years. He enjoys strong support for his efforts to take more industry profits for use in social programs for the nation's poor.
Since taking office in 1999, his government has passed legislation requiring a majority government stake in all oil production projects, hiked taxes and royalties on oil companies, and begun to collect millions of dollars (euros) in what it claims are unpaid taxes from them.
On Thursday, Congress approved new guidelines to turn 32 privately run oil fields over to state-controlled joint ventures.
Among the terms faced by companies like Royal Dutch Shell PLC and France's Total SA: a minimum 60 percent stake for the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) in each field, PDVSA controlling the boards of the new joint ventures and a jump in income tax rates from 34 percent to 50 percent and royalties from 16.6 percent to 33.3 percent. They will also see their potential drilling acreage slashed by almost two-thirds.
Experts say, however, that fears that Chavez, a close ally of Cuba's Fidel Castro, is seeking to drive out private investment are exaggerated because Venezuela needs the technological expertise of Western oil majors to develop its vast deposits in the Orinoco belt.
Few state oil companies have the expertise to upgrade the extra-heavy oil and tar-like bitumen found in the Orinoco into lighter, marketable oils.
Notably, Exxon Mobil continues to hold a 41.7 percent stake in the 120,000-barrel-day Cerro Negro heavy oil upgrading project in the Orinoco along with partners British Petroleum PLC and PDVSA.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press read more

AFX Europe (Focus): Australia's Woodside resolves dispute with Mauritanian govt

Mar 31, 2006
SYDNEY (AFX) – Woodside Petroleum Ltd said it has resolved a dispute with the Mauritanian government over amendments to four offshore production contracts operated by the company's wholly-owned subsidiary Woodside Mauritania Pty Ltd.
The company, 34 pct owned by the Royal Dutch Shell group, said an agreement in principle to settle the dispute has been reached without the need for formal arbitration.
Woodside chief executive Don Voelte said in a statement that the agreement laid the foundation for good relations between the company and the Mauritanian government.
“The Mauritanian government has worked constructively with Woodside to resolve differences between the parties,” he said.
“We are happy with this agreement and look forward to building a productive and cooperative relationship with the Mauritanian government.”
bruce.hextall@xfn.com
blh/tr
null read more

Financial Times: Nokia raises outlook for global sales

By Päivi Munter in Stockholm and Mark Odell in London
Published: March 31 2006 03:00 | Last updated: March 31 2006 03:00
Nokia yesterday significantly raised its outlook for the global mobile market, saying it would grow by 15 per cent or more this year, which would mean shipments of about 914m handsets.
The Finnish market leader's previous forecast was for growth of 10 per cent or more from about 795m handsets in 2005. Motorola, the world's number two handset maker, does not produce overall forecasts but was thought to be in line with Nokia's original numbers.
Speaking at his last annual general meeting as Nokia's chief executive yesterday, Jorma Ollila said about 80 per cent of the world's next 1bn mobile subscribers would come from emerging market countries.
In Chongqing, China, Nokia yesterday launched three new entry-level phones, aimed at customers in developing countries. First shipments of the N1112, N2310 and N2610 models are expected in the second quarter. Soren Petersen, senior vice-president, said at the launch in China: “In 2008, Nokia expects that 3bn people will be owning a mobile phone, with much of this growth coming from markets like China, India, south-east Asia and Africa, where penetration levels are still relatively low.”
Nokia has this month highlighted the growing importance of emerging markets. Yesterday's launch of the new models, all priced at below €100 ($120), followed the opening of Nokia's new plant in Chennai, India, this month, which will produce both handsets and networks.
Nokia shares surged 4.8 per cent to €17.49 in Helsinki as Mr Ollila's upgrade of Nokia's market outlook raised hopes of strong first-quarter earnings.
The acceleration of growth in the global handset market was seen to mainly benefit Nokia, the world's biggest mobile supplier.
“Nokia is the main beneficiary as it has the greatest share of the segment that is growing fastest,” said Richard Windsor, analyst at Nomura.
“It also makes a far higher return on every handset sold compared with competitors.” Confidence in Nokia's ability to tap the growth yesterday outweighed concerns about the pressure the increasing emphasis on emerging markets puts on the company's profit margins.
In the fourth quarter of last year, the average price of Nokia's handsets fell below €100 for the first time. Mr Windsor said Nokia was “clearly brimming with confidence”.
Mr Ollila's comments came as he prepares to step down as chief executive, a position he has held since 1992, when Nokia was alittle-known Finnish industrial company. Mr Ollila, who will become chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, is set to be replaced in June by Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, currently Nokia's chief operating officer. read more

Inner City Press: Iraq's Oil to be Metered by Shell, While Basrah Project Remains Less than Clear

BYLINE: Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, March 30 — From Iraq's Mission to the UN, there's finally an answer to the months-old oil metering mystery. Shell has been given the contract, and it will take from one to two years to implement. How the accountability of oil flows and sales until then will be tracked has not yet been addressed, nor has why it will take two years. For an oil port in Basrah, the process will be faster, but it remains unclear which company has been awarded the work. This follows a December 2005 statement by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for the Development Fund for Iraq that the oil metering contract had been awarded to an American firm, followed by a January 2006 IAMB statement that nothing was being done. Now named are a Dutch-based company and a “project” agreed to by the U.S. Pentagon's Project and Contracting Office, recently in the news for its dealing with Halliburton. Inner City Press has put written questions to both IAMB and Iraq's Mission to the United Nations and will report results on this site.
— Jean-Pierre Halbwachs briefing reporters on 12/28/05
In a March 22 letter provided to Inner City Press on March 30, the UN's Jean-Pierre Halbwachs was informed that – “the Iraqi Ministry of Oil has concluded an agreement with the American Project and Contracting Office (PCO) to include a project for rebuilding the metering system in the Basrah oil port of the Southern Oil State Company, as part of the other projects that are funded by the American grant to the Iraqi Ministry of Oil. This project is in progress now and is expected to be finalized by 2006. Furthermore, a preliminary agreement was reached with the Shell Group to act as a consultant to the Iraqi Ministry of Oil on matters related to metering and calibrating which would include the establishment of a measuring system for the flow of oil, gas and related products within Iraq, as well as the export and import operations. This long-term development project will be implemented in stages that may be fulfilled in one or two years.”
The term in the letter, “Southern Oil State Company,” does not result in any hits either via the Google search engine nor (Academic) Lexis. The letter is signed by Iraq's Alternate Permanent Representative to the UN Feisal Amin Al-Istrabadi, described as “an American lawyer of Iraqi origin.” Click here for his curriculum vitae, via Depaul's law school — his legal practice has been in Indiana, although the c.v. refers to hazardous chemical spills and Petroleum Marketing Marketing Act cases. Inner City Press has put written questions — for the second time — to the Iraqi mission's listed press attaché, including:
“For this [Basrah] project, to be completed by the end of this year, has a contractor been designated? PCO was in the news earlier this week with regard to their audits of Halliburton's performance (as well as Foster-Wheeler). Direct question: does the above quoted mean that Halliburton has gotten or could get this 'included' project? Secondarily, why does the nationwide oil metering contract described in the second paragraph of the letter need to take two years? And what will be done in the interim?”
The same questions have been put to the chair of IAMB, the UN's Jean-Pierre Halbwachs. Watch this space.
UN Round-up: upstairs at the UN headquarters on Thursday, Secretary-General Annan met at noon with the chairman of Turkey's Koc Holdings which holds, among other things, a joint venture with Shell and 87,000 employees, on the occasion of Koc Holdings joining the UN Global Compact. At the noon briefing, it was asked how it is decided which of the Global Compact's signatories get to meet with the Secretary-General, and whether these companies — including Koc Holdings — might take questions from the press on their adherence to the Compact's principles, including human rights, perhaps at a new Corporate Stake-Out. These questions were answered in far less than three months:
From: [ ]@un.org>
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com
Sent: Thu, 30 Mar 2006 14:13:44 -0500
Subject: your questions on the Global Compact
Hardly ever does the SG meet with CEOs when they sign up. Mr. Koc was one of the rare exceptions because of the significance of the company's commitment to the country as a whole (Turkey) and the broader region. Also, Koc has deep partnership relations with UN agencies in the areas of health and education. Regarding your suggestion that the CEOs signing on to the Global Compact (GC) be made available to the press… the GC’s media guy, wrote the following to me: 'I like the suggestion, but as always in these cases, I guess this is ultimately up to the CEO. I would be very open to suggest it in advance of future CEO-SG meetings. However, our experience is that these CEOs are very tightly guarded by an army of PR staff who would probably advise against it. Nevertheless, I will be more than happy to connect interested journalists with the public affairs people of the CEO prior to future meetings of this type.' If you’re still interested in talking to Mr. Koc, it's Ms. Ayse Tuba Kadiraga, Public Relations Specialist, Koç Holding A.S…. Tuba will be traveling back to Istanbul this afternoon, but can be reached tomorrow.”
To tie it all together for now, including Shell getting the oil metering contract in Iraq, Koc Holdings' oil refinery joint venture with Shell is being challenged to the EU Court of Human Rights by the union Petrol-Is. What is Koc Holdings (and Shell's and even the SG's and Global Compact's) positions on this? Questions, questions… read more

THE NEW YORK TIMES: Price of Oil Trades Near $67 Per Barrel

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: March 30, 2006
Filed at 2:06 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) — The price of oil traded near $67 a barrel Thursday amid persistent supply disruptions in the Gulf of Mexico and Nigeria, a U.N. standoff with Iran over its nuclear program and growing demand in the U.S. despite rising energy costs.
The market was also rattled by an announcement late Wednesday from Venezuela's oil minister that Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, was no longer welcome in his country — the latest sign of tighter state-control of energy around the globe.
''All of these things are adding up,'' said Antoine Halff, director of global energy at Fimat USA in New York.
Light sweet crude for May delivery rose 50 cents to $66.95 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude for May gained 50 cents to $66.05 a barrel on London's ICE Futures exchange.
Gasoline prices rose 2.68 cents to $1.981 a gallon (3.8 liters), while heating oil futures gained 1.8 cent to $1.87 gallon. Natural gas futures climbed more than 6 cents to $7.520 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Tensions between Exxon Mobil and Venezuela boiled over because the Texas-based company resisted tax increases and contract changes that are part of a policy by President Hugo Chavez's government to ''re-nationalize'' the oil industry. Rather than submit to new terms that will turn 32 privately run oil fields over to state control, the company sold its stake in a 150,000 barrel-a-day field to its partner, Spanish-Argentine major Repsol YPF.
''Exxon Mobil … preferred to sell to Repsol, its partner in the agreement, rather than adjust,'' Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said in an interview with the state-run TV broadcaster. ''We said we don't want them to be here then,'' Ramirez added.
On Thursday, top officials of the five permanent Security Council nations plus Germany urged Tehran to freeze uranium enrichment, but a senior Iranian envoy defiantly rejected the call, saying his country's activities were ''not reversible.''
Iran, the No. 2 oil producer in OPEC, has been referred to the U.N. Security Council over fears it may want to misuse its nuclear program to make weapons.
In the Gulf of Mexico, oil output is still down by 343,000 barrels per day because of damage that occurred during last summer's hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That is roughly 23 percent below pre-storm output levels.
Nigerian oil output also remains a concern. Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the largest foreign oil company operating in the country, has shut in nearly half of its Nigerian production and says it won't resume operations until the country is safe enough for its workers. Some 600,000 barrels per day of Nigerian production has been shut in, according to IFR Energy Services in New York.
Concern about gasoline was also affecting the market.
In its weekly petroleum report, the U.S. Energy Department said Wednesday that gasoline inventories fell by 5.4 million barrels last week to 216.2 million barrels, about even with year ago levels. The decline came as refiners conducted maintenance on their facilities ahead of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, when fuel demand peaks.
The U.S. agency also said that motor gasoline demand averaged 9.1 million barrels a day over the last four weeks, which is up 1.3 percent from a year ago. The average U.S. retail price of gasoline is $2.50 a gallon, up 34.5 cents from the year before.
Associated Press Writers Natalie Obiko Pearson in Caracas, Venezuela, and George Jahn in Vienna, Austria, contributed to this report. read more

Financial Times: All-round gain offered

By Ross Tieman
Compliance with legislation, regulations, directives and codes has never been more challenging. Though business conduct has always been constrained by law, today the volume of legislation and rules, and the pace of change, have increased so much that meeting the requirements has turned compliance into a corporate discipline in its own right.
Some company chairmen complain that compliance is distracting them from strategic management. Others shrill about the mounting costs.
This has come about because, in Europe and the US especially, legislators have taken companies to task over their behaviour. In the US the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, designed to prevent corporate scandals, has established tough new standards for company directors, while in the UK and continental Europe companies must comply with voluntary governance codes, or explain their failure to do so.
Companies operating within the European Union must also comply with a tidal wave of new pan-European directives.
All this change coincides with corporate globalisation. National industrial or services champions have been spurred by market opening into global rivalry. Today they must comply with the rules in more jurisdictions than ever before at a time when the rules almost everywhere are changing by the month.
Yet every cloud has a silver lining – for the bold. The challenge of compliance has become so great that mastering compliance has become a tool to achieve competitive advantage.
Compliance requires leadership from the top. The Combined Code on Corporate Governance, effective in the UK since 2003, gives board directors new responsibilities. The code encourages quoted companies to separate the roles of chairman and chief executive, ensure that more than half the directors are independent, and calls for committees to oversee the key functions of audit, appointments and remuneration. Its effect, increasingly, is to create a single board that combines the functions of the supervisory board and the management board common in continental Europe, obliging the freewheeling chief executive to work within a collegiate framework.
US governance laws, codified and backed by tough penalties, leave the executive chairman in charge but require the chairman and the finance director to certify a rigorous paper-trail of evidence that the company is meeting its obligations.
Can such measures deliver better corporate governance? Investors see a link between high standards of governance and corporate longevity. Think of Cadbury Schweppes, the UK chocolate and fizzy drinks company whose former chairman, Sir Adrian Cadbury, was one of the pioneers of corporate governance reform.
Shares in Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil group, plummeted last year after it understated its oil reserves and incurred a record £17m fine from Britain’s financial and securities regulator, the Financial Services Authority. But its corporate governance reforms that followed prompted a significant re-rating by the markets.
Anthony Carey, a partner at accountant and adviser RSM Robson Rhodes responsible for board evaluation, was project director for Britain’s Turnbull working party on risk management. He says: “A strengthened selection process and improved definition by the Combined Code on Corporate Governance of the role of the non-executive director makes it easier for non-executives to constructively challenge management and also to contribute on strategic issues.”
He says boards should focus on the value that reform can deliver, and check there are key performance indicators to ensure it is achieved.
Overhauling the boards of companies takes time. Last October, the Association of British Insurers, representing many of the country’s biggest investors, analysed the annual reports of 477 UK quoted companies and found that only 46 per cent of FTSE 100 companies stated that they were fully compliant with the code.
But Peter Montagnon, the ABI’s investment director, is encouraged by that. “If companies still don’t have the right balance on the board, that doesn’t mean they aren’t seeking it,” he says.
Achieving good governance with compliance is “about strategic decision-making and management risk,” he says. “It has little to do with the mechanical implementation of a rule book.”
Directors alert to corporate governance obligations have become focused on compliance throughout their organisations.
Perhaps the biggest compliance challenge today for companies operating in Europe is to comply with the stream of directives from Brussels designed to create a single European market in financial services. The regulatory landscape has become increasingly codified and complex.
Abesh Choudhury, an associate in the London office of US law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, says: “The thrust of a lot of new regulations is to focus ultimate responsibility on senior management.”
Paul Nelson, head of the financial markets practice at law firm Linklaters, concurs. “We have seen over the past 15 years a real professionalisation of the compliance industry,” he says.
A company’s compliance director for Europe will typically be a member of its European board. And a typical European financial institution will employ 100-200 in its compliance department.
One specialist recruitment agency reckons that 2 per cent of opportunities advertised in the UK financial services industry are now in compliance. Graduates with just three years’ compliance experience are earning more than £40,000 a year, and for top posts salaries are well into six figures.
Because skilled compliance officers are in short supply, salaries soared 17 per cent last year.
No wonder that universities, working with industry, are now offering courses to fill the gap. read more

Financial Times: Penalties: FSA flexes its muscles with tougher action

By Phil Manchester
The Financial Services Authority, the UK regulator, is flexing its muscles. Since 2001, when it assumed new powers under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, the FSA’s Enforcement Division has handed out increasingly high penalties.
In 2001-02, its first full year of operation under the new regulations, the FSA imposed fines of just over £10m. Fines rose slightly in 2002-03 and reached £12.5m in 2003-04. In 2004-05 – the latest complete year – total fines hit £22.2m and by February 2006, with two months still to go, fines for the current year stand at £16.2m.
Although the 2004-05 total was skewed by the £17m fine on oil company Shell for mis-stating its oil reserves, the trend in penalties is definitely upwards.
The increased level of fines is not, however, reflected in the number of cases the FSA has pursued.
The FSA has completed only 13 cases so far in the current year. In 2004-05, it completed 31, while in its first two years the FSA’s caseload was more than 70.
The change is the result of a deliberate policy by the FSA to pursue fewer cases – but impose higher fines. Margaret Cole, director of enforcement at the FSA, re-emphasised the change in a speech to the Securities and Investment Institute Compliance Forum in January this year.
“We will focus our enforcement activities on those areas which pose the greatest risk to our statutory objectives. We will be working very closely with the business units to ensure that our enforcement resources are deployed strategically to address cases and issues which are priorities for the FSA,” she said.
She added that this does not exclude investigation of transgressions that might lie outside the “priority strategic areas”.
The FSA has a wide brief to supervise financial dealings of companies operating in the UK, from high street financial advisers to giant corporations. Enforcement is only part of its activities, employing about 8 per cent of its 2,600 total headcount.
It is generally acknowledged that the FSA’s approach to enforcement has been successful. Headline-catching high-profile cases over the past two years such as Shell, Citigroup, Lloyds TSB and Credit Suisse First Boston International have shown the FSA to be tough on those that misbehave.
“It is certainly working – as those regulated firms and individuals who have broken the rules have found out,” says Gary Dixon, group chief executive of specialist Compliance Solutions. He goes on to say that the FSA’s broad approach to compliance means that penalties are often a last resort: “The FSA has a number of different ways of achieving its goals. If the first one does not work, then it can move on to the next one.”
Peter Bevan, a partner in the financial markets group at law firm Linklaters, says the FSA’s increased enforcement activity has led to quantifiable improvements in corporate governance:
“We have done a lot of work reviewing risk management controls and we have seen a huge amount of movement towards best practice. It is incorporating enforcement as part of its broader activities.
“Increasingly, the FSA sends in an enforcement officer as part of the team in its regular visiting programme.”
The relatively small number of penalties is, says Mr Bevan, a reflection of the industry’s positive response to compliance:
“When the FSA started in 2001, it began with a strong enforcement regime and it was assumed that it would take a lot of scalps. Although there have been some high profile cases, there have not been as many as expected.”
He goes on to say that the FSA has a unique relationship with those it supervises:
“ It is not like normal litigation because there is a continuing relationship between the FSA and the companies it supervises.”
Tim Kendal, a fraud and regulatory specialist at 2 Bedford Row, a London barristers’ chambers, agrees: “In these sort of investigations where the FSA is prosecutor and judge, they would rather deal with it administratively,” he says.
“They want to avoid legal action because, if they don’t win, the costs and the negative publicity would be destructive. There are, of course, exceptions where there could be a public interest in bringing it to court.”
Mr Kendal suggests the penalties for non-compliance could be higher – although the bad publicity is likely to be more effective in the long term.
“Although the Shell fine, for example, seems large, it’s piffling compared to those handed out in the US. Its effect on Shell is not going to amount to much. But what large corporations don’t like is the bad publicity that they are not compliant or that they may be abusing market rules.”
After only five years in its enhanced role as a “super regulator”, the FSA has shown that it can be tough on villains – whether corporate or individual.
The continued expansion of the financial sector and the prospect of further innovation in financial instruments means the FSA will face yet more challenges – and may well have to get tougher. read more

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