The shock announcement that Shell had lost £16 billion last year, the first time in its history the oil company has posted a loss, sent shivers down the spines of pension fund managers who have always depended on dividend payments from big oil firms to pay UK pensions, writes James Wilson.
State oil company Rosneft is continuing to pump profits into the main global partner, BP.
Over the past eight years, since 2013, when BP acquired a stake in Rosneft, the Russian company has generated 65% of BP's net profit. BP's total net profit for this period was £12.7 billion, of which Rosneft accounted for £8.26bn.
In terms of BP’s contribution to British pension funds, Rosneft has contributed £573 million in dividend payouts to shareholders in 2019.
With 99 per cent of reporting out of Russia about Russian politics, it is easy to forget the high quality of Russian science and engineering, which has to battle against a hostile environment more difficult than Gulf or off-shore extraction as Russian scientific engineers keep investing in know-how and new techniques.
In February, BP's CEO Bernard Looney signed an extensive agreement with Rosneft on low-carbon strategic cooperation to support sustainability and reduce carbon emissions, including carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS). The worldwide race to turn the oil giants into low CO2 emitters is the next frontier for all energy companies. Among major oil and gas companies, Rosneft has lower CO2 emissions lower than most of the world's largest oil and gas companies, such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total, Petrobras, and Shell, according to the FTSE Russel rating, which is accepted as a world benchmark on global CO2 emissions by energy firms.
Rosneft is working on the important new Vostok Oil project with a carbon footprint that is 25% of similar new global projects. Located in Northern Russia, the low CO2 emitting Vostok field will produce 2 million barrels a day, more than the entire North Sea output.
The estimated emission intensity of the project will amount to about 12KG of CO2 per barrel. This is a major factor given that according to Wood Mackenzie, this figure for new fields globally is around 50kg of CO2 per barrel today. The project will use natural gas for energy supply. Besides, it is planned to use associated petroleum gas in a sustainable way and achieve zero flaring at an early stage. The project will also deploy year-round wind generation. Appropriate weather studies have been carried out, and where possible special wind fields will be constructed. The oil itself at Vostok Oil has low sulphur content of less than 0.05%, 24 times lower than the global average. Th intensity of methane emmissions will amount to less than 0.2%, which aligns with best practices.
To be sure climate change ultra purists will dismiss these efforts as green-washing but winding down dependence on fossil fuel energy requires skilful management. Rosneft says over the next 15 years. It plans to achieve:-
- The prevention of 20 million tonnes of CO2 eq. emissions;
- a 30% reduction in direct and indirect emissions intensity in oil and gas production;
- zero routine flaring of associated petroleum gas, and;
- reduction of methane emission intensity to below 0.25%.
Rosneft is already using solar power generation to power its filling stations and is exploring the possibility of using renewable energy sources within new projects in exploration and production. Unlike the Gulf Oil producers extracting oil from the desert and without few constraints from local public opinion in the tightly controlled small populations in the kingdoms and emirates in the Gulf region, environmental consciousness is high in Russia.
Moreover, Rosneft plans to increase gas production to more than 25% of total hydrocarbon output by the end of 2022, compared to 20% in 2020. The company is making a vast USD 5 billion of "green investments" in 5 years.
So Rosneft planted a record number of seedlings in 2020 and is developing a large-scale programme for forestation, increasing tree planting to create new forest ecosystems to increase the absorbing capacity of Russia's legendary forests.
As Shell slumps to its first-ever loss in its history, the alliance between BP and Rosneft signed precisely a decade ago is turning out to be one of the best strategic investments made by a UK oil major. Pension fund managers at least will be grateful.
The author, James Wilson, is a Brussels-based freelance journalist and regular contributor to EU Reporter.
Kazakhstan will continue to increase oil production under OPEC+ agreement
Kazakhstan will continue to increase oil production in May, June and July of 2021 following the 15th meeting of OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) and non-OPEC ministers meeting that took place virtually, the Kazakh Ministry of Energy press service reported, writes Abira Kuandyk in Business.
“On 1 April, a ministerial meeting of the countries participating in the OPEC+ agreement took place. Collectively countries decided to increase the current production level of OPEC+ countries by 350,000 barrels per day in May and June and by 450,000 barrels per day in July,” said the Kazakh Ministry of Energy in a press statement.
Kazakhstan’s obligation under the OPEC+ agreement states that oil production will amount to 1.46 million barrels per day for May and June and 1.47 million barrels per day for July.
The data on the trading platform illustrates that the cost of Brent crude oil has risen in price by almost 3.6 percent and rose to US$65 per barrel.
The Meeting welcomed the positive performance of participating countries. “Overall conformity reached 115 per cent in February 2021, reinforcing the trend of aggregate high conformity by participating countries,” said OPEC in a press statement.
On 4 March, Kazakh Energy Minister Nurlan Nogayev participated in the 14th meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC ministers after which Kazakhstan and Russia were allowed to increase oil production to 20,000 barrels per day and 130,000 barrels per day, respectively, in April.
Azerbaijan unearths first gas condensate in Shafag-Asiman
Azerbaijan’s SOCAR has made the first gas condensate discovery in Shafag-Asiman fields, the company reported.
According to the statement: “As we reached a depth of 7,189 metres in an exploration well drilled in the Shafag-Asiman block, part of the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea, the first gas condensate was found. That meant the successful completion of the drilling of the Fasila formation in the gas field. At the same time, to fully grasp the extent and size of the reserves, appropriate technical design will be needed to drill an extra lateral appraisal well towards the structure’s arch.”
Exploration at the Shafag-Asiman block is underway as part of the SOCAR-BP venture. In accordance with the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA), the well was drilled by BP at a depth of 623 meters, using the Heydar Aliyev semi-submersible rig operated by the Caspian Drilling Company (CDC). The drilling kicked off on January 11, 2020.
Shafag-Asiman, a complex of offshore geological structures that was discovered in 1961, lies 125km south-east of Baku and covers an area of 1,100 square meters. Here the water depth ranges from 650 to 800 meters. On October 7, 2010, SOCAR and BP entered into a 30-year agreement on exploration, development and production sharing of the Shafag-Asiman offshore block in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea. Under the contract, BP conducted a 3D seismic survey at the Shafag-Asiman block in 2012. Having examined the data, the two partners identified the location of the first exploration well and spudded it in 2020.
SOCAR is involved in exploring oil and gas fields, producing, processing, and transporting oil, gas, and gas condensate, marketing petroleum and petrochemical products in domestic and international markets, and supplying natural gas to the industry and the public in Azerbaijan.
The world still needs coal
In the Asia-Pacific region, coal consumption has been going up for many years now, and the Asia-Pacific countries plan to keep this trend going in the next decade. (Researchers at China’s Tsinghua University argue that coal is the prime source of energy production in East and South Asia, where the countries are building new coal-fired plants,) writes Fridrich Glasow, PhD, MMM and O&G expert
There is a great deal of discussion now going on in the world about the development of decarbonized energy. At the same time, Moscow is once again mulling the prospects of developing the coalmining industry, which looks somewhat paradoxical amid the rapidly "greening" European energy sector. On the other hand, it was interesting to compare the evolution of the coal industry in Europe and Russia. After all, pertinent reforms have been introduced in both of them.
However, looking closer at the subject one will realize that these reforms took place in completely different ways. First, the reform that took place in Europe can be called routine as it lasted for decades and was initiated by the state, concerned about the shrinking segment of the coal industry in the energy sector of the economy. Secondly, just tens of thousands of people were released from working in the most difficult conditions and reassigned to other sectors of the economy.
A closer analysis shows that the reform carried out in Russia was absolutely one of a kind. One should bear in mind the sad legacy that the young Russian Federation inherited from the Soviet Union: the collapse of all economic indicators (with an automatic drop in coal consumption), and mounting social tensions. The coal industry was falling apart across the board in terms of technology, labor safety, etc. Labor productivity and production efficiency were extremely low too.
In addition, coal was being “squeezed out” of the economy by natural gas (although back in the early 90s, even in Moscow there was a large segment of anthracite generation). The Russian coal industry (100% subsidized by the state) was no longer competitive on the world market.
To make things worse, the social crisis in Russia was nothing short of catastrophic with the living conditions in the mining towns and cities being extremely harsh. The number of people working in the coal sector stood at 900,000 and taking into account their family members, about 3 million people had found themselves in an incredibly difficult situation. The industry itself was in a real fix both when it comes to coal production, sale, underfunding and dim prospects for the future.
It was against this background that the reforms were launched with a program of restructuring the coal industry developed by the Ministry of Fuel and Energy, led by Yuri Shafranik. The program was three-pronged: closure of hazardous and unprofitable industries (with the withdrawal of all government subsidies, provision of social protection for laid-off workers and technical re-equipment of enterprises, along with measures to encourage new viable projects.
Results of the restructuring in figures
Due to increased labor productivity, the number of people employed in the coal industry fell from 900,000 in 1992 to 145,000 in 2018. The volume of production in 1990 was 395 million tons, and in 2019 - 439.2 million. Coal exports in 1990 stood at 52.1 million tons, while in 2019 they spiked to 217.5 million tons. Foreign currency earnings from exports increased fourfold, reaching $16 billion in 2019. This means that the Russian coal industry is now fully efficient, money earning and competitive. By the way, as a result of privatization, private companies now account for 100 percent of the total volume of coal mined in the country (the state has developed mechanisms of working with the private industry, regulating, helping and creating conditions for development).
However, just like in the case of the "gas problem," as soon as Russia entered foreign markets with more and higher quality coals (and cheaper too), it started facing complaints from Old and New World competitors that it was ignoring “green energy."
Well, in the first ten days of February 2021 alone, Germany increased the purchase of Russian gas by 47.8 percent compared to the same period in 2019. In January 2021, Italy had increased its purchases from Gazprom by 221.5 percent, Turkey - by 20.8 percent, France – by 77.3 percent, the Netherlands - by 21.2 percent, and Poland - by 89, 9 percent. Clearly, Europe does not want to freeze. The surprises that the process of global warming can hold for us can hardly be predicted by definition, so no one knows just how much natural gas the EU countries may need at the end of the day.
Coal remains very much in demand with low temperatures and rising gas prices putting Europe’s coal-fired power plants back to work and Russian coal exports going through the roof. And Europe is not the only one to face such problems. It is no coincidence that, speaking at a meeting dealing with the development of the coal industry, President Vladimir Putin said: “As for the long-term prospects of the global coal market beyond the current decade, I know that there are different forecasts to this effect. It is no secret that some of them imply a significant contraction of the market, including due to technological changes in the global fuel and energy complex and the extensive use of alternative fuels. What is happening we know all too well: Texas froze up during the cold season, and the windmills had to be heated in ways that are far from environment-friendly. Maybe this will also introduce its own adjustments."
P.S. - When I delved into this topic, I was surprised by how little I knew about it, and now I’m sure that 99 out of 100 European energy specialists were unaware of the fact that Russia had succeeded in effecting such a phenomenal reform with such incredible results. Therefore, I firmly believe that Russia will not just give up its share of the world coal market.
We are often guided by political and economic clichés, but we must never forget just how efficiently the Russian people managed to mobilize in the most difficult moments of their country's history - Fridrich Glasow, PhD, MMM and O&G expert.
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