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Iraq’s OPEC revolt shows Saudi-Iran oil deal fragility

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Iraq’s OPEC revolt shows Saudi-Iran oil deal fragility

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By Rania El Gamal and Alex Lawler | ALGIERS

For years, debates in the OPEC conference room were dominated by clashes between top producer Saudi Arabia and arch-rival Iran.

But as the two managed to find a rare compromise on Wednesday – with Riyadh softening its stance towards Tehran – a third OPEC superpower emerged.

Iraq overtook Iran as the group’s second-largest producer several years ago but kept its OPEC agenda fairly low-profile. On Wednesday, Baghdad finally made its presence felt.

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Saudi Arabia Injects $5.3 Billion in Bank System Amid Crunch

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The plunge in oil prices over the past two years forced the government to draw down on its deposits in the banking system…

By Alaa Shahine and Stefania Bianchi: 25 Sept 2016

Saudi Arabia’s central bank stepped up efforts to support lenders in the Arab world’s biggest economy as they grapple with the effects of low oil prices.

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, as the central bank is known, said it decided to give banks about 20 billion riyals ($5.3 billion) in the form of time deposits “on behalf of government entities.” It’s also introducing seven-day and 28-day repurchase agreements, as part of its “supportive monetary policy.”

The plunge in oil prices over the past two years forced the government to draw down on its deposits in the banking system, squeezing domestic liquidity. That’s pushed up the three-month Saudi Interbank Offered Rate, a key benchmark used for pricing loans, to the highest level since 2009. The central bank was said to have offered lenders 15 billion riyals in short-term loans in June to help ease liquidity constraints.

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Shell and BP have lost billions – now the low price of crude is hurting other firms too

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By LAURA CHESTERS FOR THE DAILY MAIL19 September 2016

Oil is slowly climbing back to $50 a barrel as a deal between Saudi Arabia and Russia and an agreement on production in Venezuela helped to stabilise prices.

The production agreements could finally give some assurances to dozens of companies who have suffered since crude slumped from $114 a barrel in 2014 to $28 early this year.

Oil supermajors such as BP and Shell have been high-profile casualties, losing billions in profits.

They’ve written off billions of pounds and have had to slash tens of thousands of jobs as they change their businesses to cope with the reduced profits.

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SHELL: STRICTLY PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL?

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EMAIL FROM JOHN DONOVAN TO SHELL: 15 SEPT 2016

From: John Donovan <[email protected]>

Subject: STRICTLY PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL?

Date: 15 September 2016 at 12:51:41 BST

To: [email protected]

Cc: Michiel Brandjes <[email protected]>

To Mr. Gary P. Thomson SI-LSC/KCompany Secretarial Advisor 

Corporate Secretariat 

London 

Dear Mr. Thomson

Thank you for your email dated 26 July 2016 and your subsequent letter dated 30 August 2016, the content of both stated by you to be “Strictly private and confidential”.

An attachment was marked as being “Confidential”.

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Will Saudi Aramco Be Able To Lay Its Hands On Houston Refinery?

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By Tsvetana Paraskova – Sep 14, 2016, 3:52 PM CDT

At a time when U.S. and Saudi relations are strained, the Saudi Arabian Oil Company is reportedly leading in a race to buy a large refinery in Houston.

Certainly, politics and geopolitics cannot stay out of such move by the Saudi company, but it seems that Aramco has solid business reasons, as well as political ones, to bid for the Houston Refinery, which Dutch chemicals company LyondellBasell Industries NV (NYSE:LYB) is reportedly putting up for sale.

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No oil freeze yet

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Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 08.25.29By Ed Crooks: September 9, 2016

“Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet,” St Augustine wrote in his Confessions, remembering his prayer as an adolescent. Opec members are taking much the same attitude to restraining their oil production.

Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s two largest crude producers, said on Monday they would co-operate on ways to stabilise oil prices, but stopped short of agreeing to freeze production. There will be a working group to study ways to curb price volatility, and co-operation on production curbs was held out as a possibility. But Khalid al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, was clearly in no hurry to make any commitments.

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Saudi Aramco-Motiva in lead to buy Lyondell’s Houston refinery: sources

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By Erwin Seba and Jessica Resnick-Ault | HOUSTON/NEW YORK

Saudi Aramco and its U.S. refining joint-venture Motiva Enterprises [MOTIV.UL] lead the race to buy LyondellBasell Industries Houston refinery, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

An announcement of the sale by Lyondell is expected this week, the sources said.

Lyondell spokesman Michael Waldron declined on Monday to discuss a sale of the refinery.

Reuters reported on Aug. 25 that Dutch chemical company Lyondell had retained Bank of America Merrill Lynch to help with a sale of the refinery.

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Why I’m expecting Royal Dutch Shell plc and BP plc to plummet!

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By Royston WildThe Motley Fool: Friday, 2 September, 2016

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Investor appetite for the oil segment has taken a knock in recent weeks as fears of a prolonged supply glut have weighed.

British majors Royal Dutch Shell(LSE: RDSB) and BP(LSE: BP) have seen their share prices slip 10% and 7% respectively during the past six weeks, for example. And I believe a sharper retracement could be just around the corner.

Stocks keep surging

Broker predictions that the oil market is set to balance later this year are being put under increased scrutiny as already-plentiful stockpiles continue to build.

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Speculation rises over Opec output freeze

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By Ed Crooks: September 2, 2016

Over the past month, the big stories in the oil market have been speculation about a possible production freeze from Opec, and the reality of rising activity in the US shale industry.

The rumours of Opec action have followed the pattern that has become wearingly familiar over the past couple of years, since the landmark meeting in November 2014 confirming that Saudi Arabia was not prepared to cut production to try to stabilise prices.

As the meeting – in this case, a gathering on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum in Algiers on September 26-28 – grows nearer, suggestions that a freeze will be discussed grow louder. Venezuela, which has the most urgent need for a higher oil price, sounds the most enthusiastic about curbing production. Other countries make supportive statements and agree to meet, without promising any action themselves.

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Motiva says Shell, Saudi Aramco to split assets on April 1, 2017

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By Erwin Seba | HOUSTON: Wed Aug 31, 2016

Motiva Enterprises LLC [MOTIV.UL] said on Tuesday the division of its U.S. refining assets between Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSa.L) and Saudi Aramco IPO-ARMO.SE would take place on April 1, 2017, months later than originally expected.

The two Motiva partners announced last March they would divide their 20-year-old joint venture. The split, according to sources, had been expected to take place this October after completion of negotiations between Shell and Saudi Aramco over the division of assets and compensation due the partners.

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Idemitsu founding family crosses a line with the Saudis

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HIROFUMI MATSUO, Nikkei senior staff writer

TOKYO — Idemitsu Kosan‘s founding family is treading on treacherous ground as it attempts to block a planned merger with Showa Shell Sekiyu.

The family’s opposition to the deal, struck last November, has baffled the rest of the Japanese oil industry and apparently riled Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter. The future of Japan’s second-largest oil distributor hangs in the balance. 

Speculation about Saudi anger has swirled in the Japanese oil sector since the family’s stance came to light in late June. Saudi Arabian Oil Co., better known as Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s state oil company, is Showa Shell’s No. 2 shareholder, after Royal Dutch Shell. The Saudi company intends to retain a stake in the new entity created through the Idemitsu-Showa Shell merger. Under the proposal, Idemitsu would buy Showa Shell shares held by Royal Dutch Shell.

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Reuters: Partial restart of Motiva Convent hydrocracker seen by year-end

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Aug 22 2016, 14:58 ET | By: Carl Surran, SA News Editor

Motiva Enterprises’ 235K bbl/day Convent, La., refinery plans a partial restart of the heavy oil hydrocracking unit by year-end, but full production is not expected to return before fall 2017 as repairs are made from the Aug. 11 fire, Reuters reports, citing Gulf Coast market sources.

In addition to extensive repairs required to return the 45K bbl/day hydrocracker, Motiva will revamp the unit during the shutdown for the planned linking of the Convent refinery with the company’s refinery in Norco, La., sometime next year, according to the report.

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Exxon, Motiva refineries continue reduced operations amid floods

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Thu Aug 18, 2016 5:18pm EDT

Exxon Mobil Corp and Motiva Enterprises refineries continued to operate at reduced levels amidst flood waters in southern Louisiana, sources familiar with operations at each refinery said on Thursday.

An Exxon spokeswoman said the Baton Rouge Complex, which includes a 502,500 bpd refinery, continued to operate on Thursday, but declined to discuss the level of production or the status of specific units. The Baton Rouge refinery is the fourth largest in the United States.

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Motiva Convent refinery fire out, HCU heavily damaged -sources

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Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 22.04.57By Erwin Seba and Liz Hampton | HOUSTON: Thu Aug 11, 2016 6:41pm EDT

A blaze broke out on Thursday at Motiva Enterprises [MOTIV.UL] 235,000 barrel per day (bpd) Convent, Louisiana refinery, heavily damaging the structure of the heavy oil hydrocracker before being extinguished in the afternoon, sources familiar with plant operations said.

Motiva confirmed that the fire was extinguished and said there were no injuries.

Initial assessments by Motiva indicated that repairs to 45,000 bpd HCU, called the H-Oil unit, are expected to take between one and four months, the sources said. Little damage was seen to the unit’s reactors, they said.

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Exclusive: Iraq, oil companies agree to restart investment, boost output

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Exclusive: Iraq, oil companies agree to restart investment, boost output

BAGHDAD/BASRA – | BY AHMED RASHEED AND AREF MOHAMMED: Business | Thu Aug 11, 2016 7:05am EDT

Iraq has reached agreement with BP, Shell and Lukoil to restart stalled investment in oil fields the firms are developing, allowing projects that were halted this year to resume and crude production to increase in 2017, Iraqi oil officials said.

The agreements, reached in July and August, effectively delay to the second half of the year projects that the three companies had planned to carry out in the first half, which had been suspended because of low oil prices.

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European energy groups press on with multibillion-dollar disposals

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Andrew Ward, Energy Editor: August 7, 2016

Extracts relating to Shell…

Royal Dutch Shell says it is working on 17 potential disposals as it seeks to reassure investors that its target for $30bn of asset sales by 2018 is achievable.

This balancing act is especially tricky for Shell as disposals are crucial to reduce debts after its £35bn takeover of BG Group, completed in February.

“Shell is going to have to be flexible on price if it is to move forward with some of these deals,” said one energy banker. “They cannot just sit back and wait for oil prices to come back.”

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Idemitsu Family Buys Showa Shell Stake in Bid to Stop Merger

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By Tsuyoshi Inajima, Stephen Stapczynski and Shigeru Sato: August 3, 2016 — 7:09 AM BST Updated on August 3, 2016 — 8:37 AM BST

Idemitsu Kosan Co. founding family descendant Shosuke Idemitsu has begun buying up shares in rival Japanese oil refiner Showa Shell Sekiyu KK in a bid to block a proposed merger between the two companies.

The Idemitsu founder’s son purchased 400,000 Showa Shell shares and may buy more until his namesake company gives up on the deal, according to a statement distributed to reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday. Showa Shell rose as much as 12 percent to 1,014 yen, the biggest intraday gain in more than a year, and closed 3.8 percent higher. Idemitsu fell 3.9 percent to 1,984 yen.

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Oil Is Facing The Perfect Storm

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By Cassandra Legacy – Jul 14, 2016, 3:27 PM CDT

Since at least the end of 2014 there has been increasing uncertainty over oil prices, from whether so-called “Peak Oil” has already happened, to matters of EROI (or EROEI) values for current energy sources and for alternatives, to climate change and the phantasmatic 2oC warming limit, and the feasibility of shifting rapidly to renewables or sustainable sources of energy supply. Overall, it matters a great deal whether a reasonable time horizon to act is say 50 years, i.e. in the main the troubles that we are contemplating are taking place way past 2050, or if we are already in deep trouble and the timeframe to try and extricate ourselves is some 10 years. Answering this kind of question requires close attention to system boundary definitions and scrutinizing carefully any assumptions.

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US oil leadership questioned

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By Ed Crooks: 8 July 2016

The most eye-catching story of the week was the estimate from Rystad Energy that the US holds the world’s largest oil reserves. As the table in Rystad’s press release shows, that calculation relies heavily on “undiscovered fields” in the US that have yet be found. In terms of proved reserves in existing fields, Saudi Arabia still has more than twice as much oil as the US, according to Rystad’s estimates. John Kemp of Reuters discussed the meaning of the varying figures for Saudi Arabia’s reserves, concluding: “No-one really knows how much more oil can be recovered from beneath the Saudi desert and adjoining areas in the Gulf.”

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How the Breakup of Motiva Will Help Royal Dutch Shell plc (ADR) and Saudi Aramco

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By Staff Writer on Jul 5, 2016 at 9:04 am EST

Earlier in March, Saudi Aramco’s subsidiary, Saudi Refining, Inc (SRI) and Royal Dutch Shell plc (ADR) (NYSE:RDS.A), announced to dissolve their fuel partnership, Motiva Enterprise. Due to contradictory interests, both the entities signed a letter of intent (LOI), showing the division of assets held under joint venture (JV).

However, the disbanded venture has stuck another blow as Shell is seeking up to $2 billion as a part of breakup from its giant refining enterprise. The hefty compensation is due to Saudi Aramco’s retention of a larger stake in the venture for almost two decades.

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US oil reserves surpass those of Saudi Arabia and Russia

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Anjli Raval, Oil and Gas Correspondent: July 4, 2016

The US holds more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, the first time it has surpassed those held by the world’s biggest exporting nations, according to a new study.

The US shale boom was a factor behind the recent oil price collapse that toppled the Brent crude benchmark from a mid-2014 high of $115 a barrel to below $30 earlier this year.

FULL FT ARTICLE

Shell seeks $2 billion from Aramco in Motiva joint venture breakup

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LONDON/HOUSTON | BY RON BOUSSO AND ERWIN SEBA: Mon Jul 4, 2016 3:25pm BST

Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) has asked Saudi Aramco for up to $2 billion (£1.5 billion) as part of the breakup of their giant Motiva Enterprises refining joint venture in the United States, the latest stumbling point in a partnership fraught with tension.

The payment would be compensation for the Saudi company retaining a larger share of the nearly two decade-old JV. Its split was announced in March and is expected to be completed in October but disagreements over the payment could postpone the final date, sources close to the talks told Reuters.

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Oil Is Still Heading to $10 a Barrel

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By A. Gary Shilling:JUNE 28, 2016 12:00 PM EDT

Back in February 2015, the price of West Texas Intermediate stood at about $52 per barrel, half of its 2014 peak. I argued then that a renewed decline was coming that could drive it below $20, a scenario regarded by oil bulls as unthinkable. But prices did fall further, dropping all the way to a low of $26 in February. Since then, crude rallied to spend several weeks flirting with $50 per barrel, a level not seen since last year. But it won’t last; I’m sticking to my call for prices to decline anew to $10 to $20 per barrel.

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Saudi-Iran Conflict ‘Minefield’ for Japan Oil Refiner Merger

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By Tsuyoshi Inajima,  Emi Urabe and Shigeru Sato: Updated on July 1, 2016 

  • Idemitsu founding family says shouldn’t hold stake in rival

  • Co. agreed to buy share of Japanese refiner Showa Shell

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 18.15.43The conflict between Middle East oil suppliers Iran and Saudi Arabia is playing out between the founding family of one of Japan’s largest refiners and its board.

Idemitsu Kosan Co. agreed last July to buy a stake with 33.3 percent voting rights in Showa Shell Sekiyu KK from Royal Dutch Shell Plc for 169 billion yen ($1.64 billion). Idemitsu has close ties with Iran and shouldn’t be associated with Showa Shell, in which state-run Saudi Arabian Oil Co. owns a stake, said a lawyer for Idemitsu’s founding family, which “wants the company to let go of the stake.”

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Saudi-Iran tensions threaten $5.4bn Japanese refinery merger

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  • MAYUMI NEGISHI
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • 12:00AM July 1, 2016

The battle for hegemony in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran threatens to up-end a $US4 billion ($5.4bn) merger in Japan.

The family of the late founder of Idemitsu Kosan is opposing a planned merger between the oil refiner — Japan’s second-largest behind JX — and Showa Shell Sekiyu, its smaller rival. Idemitsu has maintained close ties with Iran since the 1950s while Showa Shell is 15 per cent owned by Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co, known as Aramco.

The Idemitsu family said a merger would be “inappropriate” given the growing tensions between the two countries. The two Persian Gulf nations, which belong to rival sects of Islam, are jockeying for political influence in the region and have recently clashed over the question of a cap on crude output.

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The death of Opec?

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By Ed Crooks: 27 May 2016

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” That widely-misattributed line, first published by the novelist Rita Mae Brown, has apparently been taken to heart in the oil market at last.

After a succession of Opec meetings that were preceded by fevered speculation about action to support crude prices – mostly recently the much-discussed plan for a production “freeze” that fell apart in Doha in April – no-one has any great expectations for the ministerial gathering in Vienna next week. “The freeze is finished,” one Opec delegate said.

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Shell’s Saudi Aramco Option

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Cheap oil crimping your spending plans? Sitting on a bunch of valuable upstream oil assets that could be monetized? How about a mammoth IPO? No, not Saudi Arabia. I’m talking about Royal Dutch Shell.

Shell is Europe’s third-biggest company by market value. But after the $54 billion acquisition of BG Group, its net debt is by far the largest: an eye-watering $70 billion.

Big Borrowers

Shell’s net debt is the largest of any company in western Europe

CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE

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The Anglo-Dutch company says debt is likely “to go up before it goes down” and its reduction is “priority number one”. With credit-rating agencies on its case, Shell has to deliver on a pledge to divest $30 billion of non-core assets within three years.

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Oil rivals cooperate to slash equipment costs: Shell

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LONDON | BY RON BOUSSOThu May 5, 2016

Ten oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), Chevron (CVX.N) and BP (BP.L) are working together to develop standard production equipment, a rare cooperation among rivals to save money as low oil prices put pressure on budgets.

Bespoke valves, paints and underwater equipment are among the items that could be mass-produced at a cheaper cost, Harry Brekelmans, Shell’s Projects and Technology Director told Reuters.

The companies also want to set up institutions to find future savings after the past two years’ industry downturn led to a near standstill in new project approvals.

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FT Energy Source: Saudi Reform

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By Ed Crooks: April 29, 2016

When Saudi Arabia’s oil minister raises an eyebrow, the world pays attention. So when the kingdom launched a hugely ambitious economic reform programme this week, it naturally attracted enormous interest.

The FT in an editorial praised what it described as “a bold bid to transform Saudi Arabia’s economy”, but highlighted the challenges Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would face in making his vision a reality. Simeon Kerr and Anjli Raval described the plans as “highly ambitious – some would say unrealistic”.

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The new oil order

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Apr 23rd 2016

FOR generations, oil and stability have gone hand in hand in Saudi Arabia. The puritanically conservative kingdom has used its oil wealth to buy loyalty at home and friends abroad. But since King Salman came to the throne last year, his 30-year-old son, Muhammad, has injected unpredictability into the Middle East.

Critics consider the deputy crown prince a hothead, whose dangerous obsession with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s rival, is feeding sectarianism and fraying relations with America. At home, though, the impetuousness of Muhammad bin Salman may be just what Saudi Arabia needs to start weaning itself off oil, the price of which has fallen sharply over the past 18 months. A big test comes on April 25th, when the prince is due to unveil the kingdom’s long-delayed “Vision” reform plan.

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Oil washout

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 21.42.31Ed Crooks: 22 April 2016

They wanted a freeze, but all they got was a wash-out. The 18 oil-producing countries that met in Doha on Sunday were supposed to finalise an agreement to hold production at January’s levels, but instead the meeting broke up in acrimony and recriminations. John Kemp at Reuters suggested Saudi Arabia was turning the “oil weapon” on its rival Iran.

The FT’s Roula Khalaf wrote that the failure of the talks highlighted the rise of Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s 30 year-old deputy crown prince. His growing influence and the waning authority of veteran oil minister Ali al-Naimi add a new element of unpredictability to Saudi policy.  Bloomberg Business Week had a long and fascinating interview with Prince Mohammed. As President Barack Obama visited Saudi Arabia, David Gardner wrote that the kingdom’s 70-year bargain with the US, promising security in return for a steady flow of oil, was becoming frayed.

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Botched Doha deal undermines OPEC credibility, oil prices tumble

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By REUTERSPUBLISHED: 18 April 2016

By Henning Gloystein

SINGAPORE, April 18 (Reuters) – Oil prices tumbled on Monday after a meeting by major exporters in Qatar collapsed without an agreement to freeze output, leaving the credibility of the OPEC producer cartel in tatters and the world awash with unwanted fuel.

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran were blamed for the failure, which revived industry fears that major government-controlled producers will increase their battle for market share by offering ever-steeper discounts.

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Major Oil Exporters Fail to Agree on Production Freeze

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By STANLEY REED and ANDREW E. KRAMERA version of this article appears in print on April 18, 2016, on page B1 of the New York edition

DOHA, Qatar — Officials from 18 oil-producing nations failed on Sunday to reach a deal to freeze oil production at current levels.

The meeting of officials, representing most of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as well as Russia, had been intended to calm the markets and convince them that the two leading oil exporters, Russia and Saudi Arabia, were cooperating. But with officials coming up short on Sunday, the meeting may end up being a blow to confidence that could send oil prices tumbling.

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Largest U.S. refinery now belongs to Saudi Arabia

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Reuters reported that the relationship started to fray after Motiva announced a $10 billion expansion of the Port Arthur refinery, doubling its capacity to 603,000 barrels per day, making it America’s largest refinery. It produced gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. A leak shortly after the expansion was completed in 2012 led to ballooning costs, exacerbating tension between Shell and Aramco. A 2015 workers strike also sparked anger between the two companies.

The two companies signed a nonbinding letter of intent, a plan that would divide up Motiva’s refineries between them. The refineries have a combined capacity of 1.1 million barrels per day and are all located close to each other. The breakup will allow Saudi Aramco to take over the Port Arthur refinery and 26 distribution terminals, and Aramco will also hold onto the Motiva brand name. Shell will take over the other two refineries, Convent and Norco, both located in Louisiana. Shell said that it would operate the two refineries as one plant with a combined throughput of 500,000 barrels per day.

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Shell celebrates 75 years of partnership with Saudi Arabia

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Mar 20, 2016

RIYADH – Shell in Saudi Arabia commemorated its 75th anniversary at an event hosted on Wednesday in the presence of Prince Sultan Bin Salman, President and Chairman of the Board Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) as the guest of honor and Shell’s CEO Ben van Beurden. In attendance were Prince Mohammed K.A. Al-Faisal, CEO of Faisaliah Group; Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, Khalid Al-Falih, Minister of Health and Chairman of the Board of Saudi Aramco; Amin Nasser, CEO of Saudi Aramco, and Sheikh Mohammed Al Jomaih.

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Exclusive: After Motiva split, Saudi Aramco aims to buy more U.S. refineries – sources

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 21.04.31Ending an often rocky nearly 20-year relationship, Shell (RDSa.L) and Saudi Aramco [SDABO.UL] announced on Wednesday plans to break up Motiva Enterprises LLC [MOTIV.UL] after almost two decades, dividing its assets and leaving Aramco with one plant, the nation’s largest crude oil refinery, in Port Arthur, Texas.

Officials from Saudi Refining, the downstream arm of Aramco, told employees following the announcement that the state-owned firm was intent on buying more assets once the Motiva break-up is finished, according to five people who attended the briefing and asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

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Better news for oil

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Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 22.36.32By Ed Crooks: Friday 18 March 2016

Oil continued to creep up this week with Brent going past $42 per barrel, its highest level since early December. Crude was a beneficiary of the wider upturn in markets, which pushed the S&P 500 index briefly back up above its level at the start of the year. The positive correlation between share prices and oil prices seems to be alive and well.

Suggestions that the US Federal Reserve is in no hurry to raise interest rates gave a boost to crude and other markets. Oil was also helped by reports that Opec ministers had at last agreed to hold a meeting with leading non-Opec producers such as Russia, in an attempt to make some progress with their much-discussed, little-implemented production freeze.

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Is Royal Dutch Shell Plc In Danger Of A Colossal Correction?

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Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 08.47.47By Royston Wild – Thursday, 17 March, 2016

Shares across the mining and energy sectors have leapt broadly higher in recent weeks thanks to a robust recovery in commodity prices.

Fossil fuel leviathan Shell (LSE: RDSB) has been one of these beneficiaries. Since striking a 12-year trough of 1,277p per share back in January, the stock has leapt 33% to claw back above the 1,700p marker just this week.

Shell’s resurgence has been underpinned by a bounceback in the oil price. The Brent benchmark reclaimed the $40 per barrel marker earlier this month,  up from the multi-year lows of $27.67 hit at the start of 2016.

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Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Aramco unwind US joint venture

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Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 22.36.32Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Aramco are unwinding their US refining and marketing joint venture as they pursue separate strategies for their operations. The deal will give the state-owned Saudi group full ownership of the largest refinery in North America.

The Motiva joint venture, which is owned 50/50 by the two companies and operates three refineries and a distribution and marketing business in the US, will be broken up and the assets distributed between them.

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FACTBOX-Motiva: How Saudi Aramco, Shell plan to divide up the assets

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 08.54.11Under the terms of a non-binding letter of intent, distribution terminals, retail assets, branded and commercial customer agreements will be divided by geography to ensure each partner has “an integrated and robust business,” a statement said.

Below are how the companies have split up the assets:

SHELL:

* 230,000 barrel-per-day Convent refinery located in St. James Parish, Louisiana;

* 235,000 bpd Norco refinery located in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, where Shell already operates a chemicals plant;

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Saudi Aramco, Shell plan to break up Motiva, divide up assets

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“However, it is now time for the partners to pursue their independent downstream goals.”

Under the terms of a non-binding letter of intent, the Saudi state oil giant will take over the Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, the biggest in the United States, retain 26 distribution terminals as well as the Motiva name, according to a statement.

It will also have an exclusive license to use the Shell brand for gasoline and diesel sales in Texas, the majority of the Mississippi Valley, the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic markets, it said.

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Saudi Refining, Inc. and Shell sign letter of intent to separate Motiva assets

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In the proposed division of assets, SRI will retain the Motiva name, assume sole ownership of the Port Arthur, Texas refinery, retain 26 distribution terminals, and have an exclusive license to use the Shell brand for gasoline and diesel sales in Texas, the majority of the Mississippi Valley, the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic markets.  Shell will assume sole ownership of the Norco, Louisiana refinery (where Shell operates a chemicals plant), the Convent, Louisiana refinery, nine distribution terminals, and Shell branded markets in Florida, Louisiana and the Northeastern region. 

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How Saudi Arabia Turned Its Greatest Weapon on Itself

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By ANDREW SCOTT COOPER: A version of this op-ed appears in print on March 13, 2016

FOR the past half-century, the world economy has been held hostage by just one country: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Vast petroleum reserves and untapped production allowed the kingdom to play an outsize role as swing producer, filling or draining the global system at will.

The 1973-74 oil embargo was the first demonstration that the House of Saud was willing to weaponize the oil markets. In October 1973, a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia abruptly halted oil shipments in retaliation for America’s support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War. The price of a barrel of oil quickly quadrupled; the resulting shock to the oil-dependent economies of the West led to a sharp rise in the cost of living, mass unemployment and growing social discontent.

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Scant hope of an imminent rebound in prices

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The Davos of energy

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By Ed Crooks: February 26, 2016

This week many of the biggest names in the worlds of oil, gas and power were gathered at IHS CeraWeek in Houston, the annual conference that is regularly  – and accurately – described as “the Davos of energy” or  – more questionably – as “the Burning Man of energy”. It should come as no surprise that it was this event that generated most of the week’s big stories.

The star of the show was Ali al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s formidable oil minister, who was making his first appearance at the conference since 2009. It might have been expected to be a case of Daniel in the lions’ den. Saudi Arabia is seen by many in the industry as the architect of their troubles, because of Mr Naimi’s refusal to cut production to attempt to support prices. As it turned out, though, he won over the crowd very quickly, delivering a speech that included both a convincing explanation of his strategy, and a few pretty decent jokes.

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OPEC’s Freeze Backfires

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The punchline? The joke’s on OPEC.

There are several glaring problems inherent to the freeze, whereby members of OPEC and other large producers such as Russia are supposed to not raise their oil output from current levels, not least that they are already producing too much oil for the market to absorb.

But there is a more subtle effect that actually works against the likes of Saudi Arabia: The freeze raises hope. In particular, it raises hope in the otherwise largely despondent world of energy financing.

Monday night, before those oil ministers iced the freeze, Cabot Oil & Gas, a U.S. exploration and production company, announced it had sold an upsized offering of new shares that should ultimately raise roughly $1 billion.

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Russia Saudi pact

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By Ed Crooks: February 19, 2016

This week the story of the oil price crash took a genuinely unexpected turn with the conditional agreement from Saudi Arabia and Russia that they would not increase their production, provided other countries made the same commitment. It was the first real co-operation between Opec and non-Opec countries for 15 years, and although its true significance is probably rather less than that makes it sound, the pact nevertheless provided grist for extensive interpretation.

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Opinion: Will oil be so cheap that it won’t pay to pump it out of the ground?

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By Paul Spedding: Published: Feb 9, 2016

The conventional wisdom regarding the recent plunge in the price of oil CLH6, -0.50%   is that we are seeing a repeat of the 1985-1986 collapse, when Saudi Arabia ramped up production as part of a dispute with other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cartel. This time, the thinking goes, Saudi Arabia is doing the same in response to its loss of market share to shale-oil production in the United States.

But there is another parallel that is even more relevant — with important implications for the long-term price of oil. The recent collapse is reminiscent of a similar dive in the price of coal — which crashed from a brief high of $140 a ton in 2008 to about $40 a ton today — which led some deposits to become “financially stranded,” meaning that the cost of developing them outweighs potential returns.

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Corporate earthquakes

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By Ed Crooks: February 5, 2016

Earnings reports from the largest listed oil companies have this week given a series of seismograph readings on the upheaval in the crude market. The implications for investors, employees and suppliers are grim. Worse, those earnings were all recorded in a period when oil and gas prices were significantly higher than they are now.

In a run of generally grim reports, BP’s was perhaps the worst: in 2015 it made a $5.2bn loss, the largest in its history. ConocoPhillips of the US, which after spinning off its refining business in 2012 became the world’s largest pure exploration and production company, was another standout, cutting its dividend by 66 per cent just two months after promising that the payout would be its “highest priority”.

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What goes down

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By Ed Crooks: January 29, 2016

The week has been a reminder that oil prices can go up as well as down. By Thursday night, Brent crude was 25 per cent higher than its low point eight days earlier. At a little under $34 per barrel, though, oil is still at a level that makes the great majority of US shale developments uneconomic. As I wrote in the FT on Saturday, it is pointing towards a radical shake-out in the shale industry.

Concerns about the huge financial strain that $30 crude imposes on oil producers and oilfield services companies has driven the value of junk-rated US energy debt down to its lowest level for more than two decades, at an average of just 56 cents on the dollar.  Markets have also become increasingly concerned about the domino effect from weak oil prices hitting other sectors, such as manufacturing. On balance, however, David Sheppard and Neil Hume argued in the FT, cheap oil is still better for the world economy than expensive oil.

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Oil prices in reverse amid Opec call

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Oil prices tumbled again on Monday, eroding last week’s gains, as Opec called for co-operation from oil-producing nations outside the cartel.

Brent crude fell 4.1% to $30.86 a barrel following a 10% rise on Friday, while US oil shed 4.7% to $30.68.

The slide came as the head of Opec called for all oil-producing nations to work together.

Abdullah al-Badri said both Opec and non-Opec oil producers needed to tackle oversupply to help prices rise.

“It is vital the market addresses the issue of the stock overhang. As you can see from previous cycles, once this overhang starts falling then prices start to rise,” he told a conference in London.

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