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The Wall Street Journal: Oil News Roundup: November 2, 2006 4:47 p.m.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE

Crude-oil futures fell to a two-week settlement low of less than $58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Thursday as traders eyed forecasts for warm U.S. November weather and questioned OPEC’s ability to deliver on planned production cuts. Here’s Thursday’s roundup of oil and energy news:

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CNPC SEEKS AFRICAN PIPELINES: China’s thirst for foreign crude is driving China National Petroleum Corp., its biggest oil company, to examine several pipeline projects in northern and western Africa. A strategy of soft loans and aid to poor nations has enabled China to muscle past Western rivals in the race for some of Africa’s energy assets, but China has yet to move some of its newfound oil back home.

WATCHDOG INVESTIGATES INTERIOR DEPARTMENT: The Government Accountability Office is launching a review of how the Interior Department collects oil-company royalties, the New York Times reports, reflecting bipartisan frustration in Congress with the agency’s inability to keep track of billions of dollars in uncollected royalties.

Russia Pressures Georgia: Russia’s state-controlled natural gas monopoly OAO Gazprom said it would more than double the gas price for neighboring Georgia. The announcement signals Moscow’s continuing recalcitrant stance in its conflict with its small ex-Soviet neighbor even as Georgia’s foreign minister is visiting Moscow in the hope of easing spiraling tensions.

•Norwegian Safety Woes May Continue: Workplace-safety woes in the Norwegian oil industry involving problems with lifeboats have caused closures and reduced production from some of Norway’s biggest oil fields, roiling global markets. They may continue to do so in the months ahead.

•Trust Tax Could Spark Consolidation: Canada’s plans to levy a tax on income trusts — popular investment vehicles that for a long time paid no corporate taxes — triggered a brutal selloff in Canadian stocks yesterday. Its next trick may be to spark consolidation in Canada’s energy industry, Bloomberg reports.

•China, Iraq to Examine Saddam-Era Deal: Iraq’s oil minister said China and Iraq had formed a committee to study changes to an oilfield-development deal awarded to China during the reign of Saddam Hussein. The oil minister announced his intention to renew the deal last month.

•Exxon to Hold Talks With Indonesia: Exxon Mobil has agreed to hold talks with the Indonesian government to resolve a dispute about the validity of the U.S. oil giant’s contractual right to develop the Natuna D-Alpha gas block.

•Shell to Spend More on Oil Sands: Royal Dutch Shell gave formal approval Wednesday to a plan to boost its spending on Canadian oil sands by $12.8 billion.

•Attack in Nigeria: Gunmen in speedboats raided a Norwegian vessel conducting seismic surveys off Nigeria’s oil-rich southern coastline, seizing an American and a Briton in the latest unrest to hit Africa’s leading crude producer.

•Farmers Won’t Deal With Wall Street: Though many live on the edge of financial ruin, few Midwestern farmers involved in ethanol production are biting at lucrative buyout offers from Wall Street, the New York Times reports.

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