Friday, August 22, 2014

Inaccuracies in Historical Movies

Ridley Scott’s famous Gladiator movie, starring Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix relates the historical events surrounding Emperor Commodus but did you know that the movie does not portray the Emperor based on reality? In fact, he was not the creep we see in the movie, he might have been alcoholic, but he was able to rule decently for over a decade. One of the major inaccuracies is that he did not kill Marcus Aurelius, his father, and did not die in the arena, but in his own bathtub. Not so exciting after all, right?

When it comes to Ancient history most of the movies that try to portray it fail miserably and Apocalypto is no exception. The Maya civilization was badly portrayed and their human sacrifices were not exactly as shown in the movie.

BP hires head of U.S. shale unit before spin-off

(Reuters) - Oil major BP (BP.L) has appointed a chief executive to look after its U.S. onshore oil and gas assets, months ahead of its plan to spin off the business to boost the profitability of its shale gas portfolio in the country.
SandRidge Energy Inc's (SD.N) former Chief Operating Officer David Lawler will take on the Houston-based role on Sept. 15. He will head the new business - called U.S. Lower 48 Onshore - which includes unconventional resources of around 7.6 billion barrels of oil equivalent across 20,000 wells.
Lawler has decades of experience in the U.S. energy market after working at Shell (RDSa.L), ConocoPhillips (COP.N) and Burlington Resources in a variety of roles ranging from drilling engineering to exploration and production business development.
The U.S. unconventional oil and gas market is highly competitive and a number of other big oil companies, including rival European producers Shell and BG (BG.L), have struggled to cope with depressed gas prices after making big investments.
BP announced in March it would create a separate U.S. onshore oil and gas unit early next year to allow faster decision-making and shorter cycle times to move from shale drilling to production.
Lawler's unit will start publishing separate financial information to the rest of BP from next year and operate under a different governance management, but BP will continue to own it.
Separately, the oil major also announced on Wednesday it was the highest bidder on 27 new leases in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, the basin where its Macondo well explosion killed 11 workers and caused a devastating oil spillage in 2010.

"We hope to continue building on ... the recent momentum that has returned to BP's operations in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico," the company said in a statement.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Once Asia’s Top Buyer, Indonesia Faces Weak Diesel Imports for Years to Come

Singapore. Previously ranked as Asia’s top diesel importer, now number three Indonesia is expected to take a third less of the fuel this year as demand from mining falters and biodiesel use in transport and industry grows with a mandate implemented in January.

With the government also aiming for another hike in the country’s heavily subsidized fuel prices to help cap a widening current account deficit, a recovery in demand is unlikely for at least the next couple of years by most estimates.

The drop in Indonesia’s imports — which cover about a third of demand — will feed a growing Asian surplus and could pull diesel margins below a more than 3-1/2-year low hit in June. That’s going to hurt suppliers in Singapore and South Korea, who are also seeing a similar drop from buyers across the region.

Asian economies are slowing and regional diesel demand has slumped, just as new refining capacity and upgrades swell supply of the fuel. China this year is set to post its first decline in diesel demand in more than a decade.

“We see a decline in diesel demand due to several factors — a slowdown in the mining sector, higher use of biodiesel and the [Indonesian] retail price hike made in 2013,” said Suresh Sivanandam, an analyst at oil consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

In Indonesia, with elections over and a new president taking office in October, the incumbent government is trying to raise fuel prices again, a move that is expected to further reduce consumption.

Indonesia hiked its diesel prices by more than 20 percent in the middle of last year, bringing growth in domestic consumption of the fuel to a standstill for 2013, according to Woodmac and Vienna-based oil consultant JBC Energy.

Indonesia’s diesel demand is expected to drop to 455,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year, from 497,000 bpd last year, before recovering slightly in 2015, Woodmac says.

With state-run Pertamina’s oil refineries having the capacity to cover only about two-thirds of domestic demand, the slump in use will be felt mostly in imports.

Indonesia’s imports of diesel have already slowed on average to a range of 3 million to 4 million barrels a month, down from a range of 5 million to 6 million barrels a month last year, according to diesel traders dealing with shipments of the fuel into the country.

That represents a fall of about 65,000 bpd, keeping Indonesia as the third largest among Asia’s diesel importers.

Diesel is Asia’s most widely consumed fuel, used in power generators, factories, trains and trucks. Given its broad applications, the product is often seen as a gauge of a country’s industrial activity and economic health.

Miners and margins

Prior to new mining rules that forced many miners to cut or halt output this year, diesel demand from the sector had already been fading since 2012 due to a drop in coal prices that curtailed mining activity.

Diesel is used in machines and for hauling ores, and when mining activity dwindles, demand falls.

Indonesia’s mineral exports were down 27 percent in the first half of the year compared with a year ago, primarily due to the change in the mining laws.

“I don’t think diesel demand is going to recover anytime soon,” said a trader who supplies diesel to mining companies and does not expect an improvement in diesel use until 2017.
Asia’s diesel margin — the profit made turning crude into the fuel — hit its lowest since late 2010 at $12.99 a barrel above Dubai crude at the end of June, Reuters data showed.

The margin was $15 a barrel on Tuesday, still below values seen over most of the past 3-1/2 years.

Even if the ore export issues are resolved, low prices for commodities such as coal and copper mean diesel demand from the sector is not likely to get much of a boost, said the trader dealing with the mining companies.

Diesel demand to drop further

JBC Energy has Indonesia’s diesel demand higher this year than Woodmac — at 482,000 bpd — but sees demand dropping off slowly before eking out a recovery in 2019-20.
It will take that long for consumption patterns to adapt to a higher price environment, JBC said in an e-mail to Reuters.

“The substitution away from using diesel for power generation and industrial purposes will weigh down on demand,” the consultancy also said.

Indonesia’s new biodiesel mandate that went into effect this year is expected to pull down use of conventional diesel, even though the country is not likely to hit the ambitious biofuel targets set for 2014.

Southeast Asia’s biggest producer of palm oil introduced in August a year ago the regulation boosting the use of palm-based biodiesel, in a move to cut its oil import bill. The regulation took effect at the beginning of this year.

“That will definitely cut down on import volumes as they won’t need as much diesel,” said a middle distillates trader who supplies diesel to the Indonesian market.


China Coal Port Seen as Economic Barometer Set for Record Supply

Qinhuangdao, home to China’s largest coal port that’s been called an indicator of Asia’s biggest economy, is set for record commodity deliveries over the next three years as urbanization boosts demand for the fuel.

Shipments of mainly coal and ores via the port, also a popular resort where the late Chairman Mao Zedong holidayed, may rise by 20 million to 30 million metric tons by 2017, Xing Luzhen, the chairman of Qinhuangdao Port, said on Aug. 14. Supplies hit a record high of 279 million tons in 2011.

Power demand in China, the world’s largest energy consumer, is accelerating as a growing rural population uses more household appliances and as urban residents buy more electric cars, according to Xing. The country depends on coal for 66 percent of its energy, data from the National Energy Administration show.

“Qinhuangdao port’s coal business will keep rising together with China’s coal consumption, a trend that may last for at least the next 20 years,” Xing said in the northern city, where the Great Wall meets the Bohai Bay.

The port, the delivery point for about 40 percent of China’s seaborne coal, is a barometer of the nation’s economy, former Premier Wen Jiabao said in 2008. Gross domestic product rose 7.5 percent in the April-June period from a year earlier, the first acceleration in three quarters.
Qinhuangdao Port, listed in Hong Kong, also operates two other facilities in northern China’s Bohai Rim and had a record total throughput of 365 million tons in 2013. Its new terminal in Caofeidian, with an annual capacity of 50 million tons, may begin trial operations as early as this year, Xing said.

Coal contracts

The company currently offers integrated services in container cargo, crude and oil products as well as liquid chemicals. It began as an independent dry-bulk facility that relied on coal for 90 percent of its business until 2002. The fuel’s share of total volumes handled declined to about 70 percent last year, mainly displaced by container cargoes and metal ores, according to Xing.
Qinhuangdao Port will benefit from having stable contracts of as long as 10 years that cover about 70 percent of throughput, according to Xing. Its long-term customers include Shenhua Group, China National Coal Group, China Datang Corp. and China Guodian, he said.

The company, which made one of the six largest Hong Kong initial public offerings last year, will report first-half earnings on Aug. 22.

“Every year we’re looking at buying overseas ore and coal ports,” Xing said, adding that Qinhuangdao Port has studied facilities in European countries and Canada.


Australia Review Chills $20 Billion Clean-Energy Industry

Australia is frightening developers away from renewable energy even before the government decides whether to overhaul targets for the industry’s growth.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s decision to take advice on renewable energy targets from a skeptic about the causes of global warming prompted at least two developers to reconsider plans for wind and solar farms. Earlier this week, the company planning a giant solar plant in Mildura pulled out of the project citing the risk the government will rework its policy.
Concern that Australia will dismantle the target is unsettling an industry that has brought in A$20 billion ($19 billion) since the country first set goals for clean energy in 2001. Abbott’s administration is working to limit electricity bills and has tilted Australia away from wind and solar power and toward the fossil fuels blamed for global warming.
“The reported intentions of Mr. Abbott amount to economic vandalism, pandering to the climate skeptic minority and represents a total misread of community aspirations,” said Miles George, managing director of Sydney-based Infigen Energy, which has stakes in 24 wind farms in Australia and the U.S.
Abbott named Dick Warburton in February to lead a review of the renewable energy policy and answer whether the nation should maintain targets for the technology. The former board member of the Reserve Bank of Australia told the Australian newspaper when he was appointed that he is a “skeptic that man-made carbon dioxide is creating global warming.”

Renewables Spending

Australia’s spending on large-scale renewable energy projects fell to A$58 million in the six months through June from almost A$1.3 billion a year earlier, said Kobad Bhavnagri, head of research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Sydney.
Scrapping or significantly cutting Australia’s renewable energy target would be “catastrophic” for the industry, Chris Judd, chief executive officer of Suzlon Energy Ltd. (SUEL)’s Senvion SE unit in Australia, said yesterday in a phone interview.
“If the government headed down that path and changed what is meant to be a stable, bipartisan supported policy platform, it creates red flags everywhere, not just for this sector,” Judd said.
Suzlon said yesterday it will reconsider investment in the A$1.5 billion Ceres wind farm in Australia if the policy is pared back. The day before, Solar Systems Pty suspended plans for a 100-megawatt photovoltaic plant in the state of Victoria. It would have used mirrors to focus the sun’s power on solar cells, one of the biggest projects of its kind in the world.

On Hold

Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS), the world’s biggest wind-turbine maker, isn’t expecting many new order in Australia until the country resolves its renewable target. The Aaarhus, Denmark-based company provided turbines for AGL’s A$1 billion Macarthur wind farm in Victoria state.
“We don’t see much activity in Australia until this is clarified,” Chief Executive Officer Anders Runevad said today in an interview on Bloomberg Television.
At Infigen, about 1,000 megawatts of projects won’t go ahead if the government scraps its target, George said in a phone interview from Sydney. Investors are troubled that Abbott would even attempt to roll back a bipartisan agreement, he said.

Sovereign Risk

“There’s a lack of appreciation at the government level of the sovereign risk and investment value implications of a dramatic cut in the target,” George said. “It’s reckless.”
Warburton hasn’t made public statements about the policy he’ll recommend, and he couldn’t be reached for comment. Asked whether the government intends to scrap the renewable energy target, Treasurer Joe Hockey said yesterday that it will review Warburton’s report before deciding. Abbott’s office didn’t return calls seeking comment.
Keeping the renewables target would shrink coal’s share as the fuel for Australia’s power market from about 74 percent to 64 percent by 2020, according to the Climate Institute. Repealing it would add about $8 billion in profit to coal plant operators including Origin Energy Ltd. (ORG),AGL Energy Ltd. (AGK) and EnergyAustralia Holdings Ltd.
“If the government changes the scheme and reduces the target, the consequences of that are obviously beneficial to those who own fossil-fuel assets,” AGL Managing Director Michael Fraser said today by phone. As the nation’s largest renewable energy developer, AGL could also be hurt, he said.

Policy Rethink

Fraser, whose company agreed earlier this year to buy two state-owned coal-fired power plants in New South Wales for A$1.51 billion, said the government needs to “rethink” the policy to spur significant investment in the industry.
EnergyAustralia, the Melbourne-based unit of CLP Holdings Ltd. (2), may take in about $2 billion more profit in the future on a present-value basis, the Climate Institute, an environmental research group, said in a report on Aug. 18.
EnergyAustralia and other large utilities oppose the current requirement that Australia get 41,000 gigawatt hours of electricity from large-scale renewable projects by 2020. While the policy was originally designed to set Australia’s renewable share at 20 percent, lower electricity demand means clean energy is poised to have an even larger share.
“EnergyAustralia does not support abolishing or closing the renewable energy target,” it said in a government submission in May. “Recalibration of the RET to equate to the original 20 percent by 2020 policy commitment is the most balanced approach.” The company declined further comment.

20,000 Jobs

The clean energy industry employs about 20,000 people and has brought in A$20 billion of investment since the government first approved a renewable energy target 13 years ago, according to the Clean Energy Council, which represents about 550 renewable developers.
Abbott already won approval from parliament to scrap a levy that 300 companies paid since 2012 for their emissions. That left Australia, the largest polluter per capita among industrial nations, without a system to cut greenhouse gases.
The prime minister has also sought to eliminate the Climate Change Authority, a government adviser, as well as the Clean Energy Finance Corp. and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which provide funding for projects.
He would need support from lawmakers to scale back the target. Clive Palmer, the mining magnate who controls three critical seats in the upper house and helped Abbott repeal the carbon price, has said he’ll oppose abolishing the clean energy target. Even so, renewable developers are on the defensive.
“There’s been a lot of speculation whether the government will shut down the scheme altogether or cut the target substantially,” said Kane Thornton, acting CEO of the Clean Energy Council. “Investments have been made on the basis of the government’s policy remaining until 2030. If there are major changes, those investments will be damaged.”

Exclusive: Iraqi Kurdistan oil pipeline export capacity to double

(Reuters) - The capacity of Iraqi Kurdistan's independent oil pipeline will almost double to at least 200,000 barrels per day by the end of this month, helping the semi-autonomous region increase exports and revenue, industry sources and officials said.
Oil revenues are a lifeline for the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, whose peshmerga forces are being supported by U.S. air strikes in their battle against the radical Sunni militants of Islamic State.
"Work to increase the capacity will probably be completed by the end of this month. Once it is completed, pumping can increase to up to 220,000 barrels per day (bpd)," one Turkish official told Reuters.
Industry sources also said the capacity of the pipeline to Turkey, which began operating at the start of this year, was set to rise to around 200,000-220,000 bpd from 100,000-120,000 bpd before the flow stopped for upgrade work.
One of the sources said capacity could climb to 250,000 bpd in two to three months' time.
"The crude flow is set to restart when the upgrade work is finished, but the 200,000 bpd to 220,0000 bpd of crude flow will be dependent on the rising oil production in northern Iraq," one official said.
A joint venture of Anglo-Turkish company Genel Energy and Sinopec's Addax Petroleum is working to ramp up production in the Taq Taq oilfield, Iraqi Kurdistan's largest, to 140,000 bpd by the end of this month.
After months of fruitless talks with Iraq's central government, the KRG in May started to export crude on its own independent pipeline to the Turkish Mediterranean export terminal of Ceyhan.
The KRG pipeline is located at a distance from the areas controlled by Islamic militants.
The move has infuriated Baghdad, which claims the sole authority to manage Iraqi oil. It has cut allocations to the KRG in the budget and has tried to block KRG's oil sales by taking legal action. [ID:nL6N0QL31Q]
So far, 7.8 million barrels of Kurdish oil have flowed through the independent pipeline, of which 6.5 million have been loaded onto tankers for export.
The Kurds have managed to load seven export cargoes from Ceyhan, according to Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz.
The tricky part for Iraqi Kurdistan has so far been to find buyers to export the oil. Baghdad's persistent efforts to block sales initially deterred some customers.
Iraqi Kurdistan delivered its third major cargo of crude oil out of Ceyhan and a fourth was sailing to Croatia on Friday.
Around $350 million in oil sales have been completed or are under way from shipments sent via the KRG pipeline, a Reuters analysis of satellite tracking data shows.
One cargo of Kurdish crude aboard the United Kalavrvta tanker has been sitting off the Texas coast since late July after Baghdad asked a court to seize the vessel. The ship remains in international waters, unable to unload, while the KRG has appealed the case.
The KRG has said it plans to increase oil sales to around 1 million bpd by the end of 2015, which could give it enough economic clout to speed a move to independence.
Meanwhile, a drive earlier this month by Islamic State militants through northern Iraq to the border with the Kurdish region has alarmed Baghdad, drawn the first U.S. air strikes since the end of American occupation in 2001 and sent tens of thousands of Yazidis and Christians fleeing for their lives.
"We provide a lifeline to this region; we boost the economy. Our machines have not stopped; all our staff both expats and locals are at work. Our target is to improve production," Onder Tekeli, general manager of Taq Taq Operating Company (TTOPCO), told Reuters during a short ride inside the facility.
On Tuesday, Iraqi forces launched an offensive to drive Islamic State fighters out of Tikrit, but they halted their advance after facing fierce resistance, officers in the operations room told Reuters.
The Sunni militants' advance towards Arbil, which followed a shockingly fast seizure of Iraq's third-biggest city Mosul in June, have stunned the international community and prompted Western oil companies including ExxonMobil and Chevron to evacuate staff.
The fall in oil output from the region has been negligible, however.

BHP announces spin-off plan, no share buyback for now

(Reuters) - The world's biggest mining company, BHP Billiton, announced plans to spin off businesses worth an estimated $16 billion, most of them acquired in a 2001 merger, to focus on its most profitable activities.
But it held off on a share buyback, disappointing investors who had hoped to receive around $5 billion. BHP's London-listed shares fell 4.5 percent on Tuesday.
Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie said the widely expected move to simplify BHP around the "four pillars" of iron ore, copper, coal and petroleum - with potash as a potential fifth pillar - would spur cashflow growth and boost returns.
These assets generated 96 percent of the group's underlying core profit in the 2014 financial year.
"A demerger is a logical next step for other high quality assets also in our portfolio that don't have a scale of those in our major business," Mackenzie said in a call with investors.
The spin-off company, dubbed NewCo for now, will bundle BHP's aluminum, manganese, Cerro Matoso nickel in Colombia, South African energy coal, some Australian metallurgical coal assets and the Cannington silver, lead and zinc mine.
It will not include Nickel West in Australia, for which a separate sale process was continuing, Mackenzie said.
"It's probably a better asset mix than we thought it would be beforehand. BHP has added Cerro Matoso, which is a better nickel asset than its Nickel West division, and Illawara Coal," said David Radclyffe, an analyst with CLSA in Sydney.
Christopher Moore, portfolio manager of Fidelity Global Industrials Fund, which owns shares in BHP Billiton, said he hoped more focused management and investment would make the hived-off assets perform better.
"Shareholders could benefit from a potential acquisition of all of them by a larger mining company, or part of them, to crystallize value," said Moore, who plans to hold on to the new company's shares.
BHP confirmed the spin-off as it reported an 8 percent rise in second-half underlying attributable profit to $5.69 billion due to higher output volume and cost cuts. The figure was just below a consensus analyst forecast of $5.94 billion, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine's SmartEstimate.
The company said it had cuts costs in the 2014 financial year by $2.9 billion and expected to achieve a further $3.5 billion over the next three years.
Some analysts and investors saw the fall in BHP shares on Tuesday as an over-reaction.
"Some people may be disappointed because nothing was announced on a special dividend or buyback," said Albert Minassian, an analyst with Investec in London.
"But if you already have big news about a spin-off there is no point announcing the two together. You keep something for the next time. The money is still there," he said.
BHP had been targeting net debt of around $25 billion before it would consider returning capital to shareholders. But on reaching that goal, it said it would only go ahead when it could return capital in a predictable and sustainable way.
"We are planning ahead prudently, but we will not be excessively conservative. We will continue to look at ways of shifting excess cash in a timely way to our shareholders," Mackenzie told reporters.
Some shareholders were hopeful that proceeds from the planned sale of Nickel West may bring a buyback forward.
BHP Billiton was formed in 2001 from the merger of London-based Billiton with Australia's BHP, fusing two of the world's top producers of iron ore, aluminum, coal, copper, nickel and oil.
The company is still listed in Australia and the UK. NewCo will be headquartered in Perth and listed in Australia, with a secondary listing in South Africa.
Shareholders in BHP Billiton Ltd and BHP Billiton Plc would receive shares in the new company on a pro-rata basis.
Some holders of BHP shares in London had hoped the company would offer options such as a cash payment or buyback for those who can't or don't want to hold stakes in foreign-listed firms.
But BHP said all shareholders would be treated equally.
This raised concern that some funds with no mandate to hold shares in companies outside the UK might sell NewCo shares immediately and put pressure on its share price.
"We haven’t made a decision yet on what to do with the spun-off company. We will make it when we have more detail available, but some others may be forced to sell," said Dimitri Willems, a senior portfolio manager at Kempen Capital Management based in the Netherlands.
He said Kempen would look at the new company's longer-term outlook when deciding whether to keep its shares, and was positive about the spin-off overall.
Three analysts estimated the new company could be worth between $15 billion and $17 billion.
BHP said only that NewCo's businesses, which generated more than $1.4 billion in operating cash flow and had achieved an underlying core profit margin of 21 percent in the 2014 financial year, would carry "minimal debt" and it was targeting an investment grade credit rating.
"It looks like quite an interesting company, and given the size and diversification it'll be pretty well received," said Brenton Saunders, a Sydney-based portfolio manager at BT Investment Management, which owns shares in BHP.
The company would be headed by BHP Billiton Chief Financial Officer Graham Kerr, while Brendan Harris, BHP Billiton's head of investor relations, would be chief financial officer.