Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Offshore Browse move hard to stop: EPA - The West Australian

Offshore Browse move hard to stop: EPA - The West Australian:

Mr Barnett, who has invested significant political capital in the James Price site, earlier this month vowed he had the power to stop any floating push.

However, he was vague on how he could achieve this, other than a veiled threat to strip the partners of their retention leases when they expire in the middle of this year - a move which would introduce significant risk for major investors in Australia's oil and gas industry.

Amanda Walsh photos

Now Dr Vogel has cast further doubts on the ability of WA to intervene in the commercial affairs of the global petroleum giants.

Although Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson supports the land-backed James Price site, some in industry have speculated that Mr Burke - who is yet to rule on the Browse project - could reject a land-backed solution to appease environmentalists fiercely opposed to the plan.



    Perth drivers spend an average three hours a week in traffic jams and it is beginning to affect their family life, stress levels and productivity.

    A survey of nearly 700 RAC members found nearly half got up earlier to avoid morning congestion and one in three arrived home later from work.

    An overwhelming seven out of eight said congestion and road delays were worse than a year ago.

    The survey results echo this month's Westpoll that identified Perth's transport woes as the biggest issue for voters for the State election on March 9.

    Nearly half of the survey respondents blamed congestion for spending less time with their families and 59 per cent said they had less time to do something they enjoyed.

    Sixty-eight per cent said congestion had caused increased stress, 61 per cent said it had made them late for work or to miss an appointment and 21 per cent said it reduced their productivity at work.

    "The congested traffic makes you exhausted and, when you're back home, you cannot have a good time with your family and your children because you are tired," one said.

    "Congestion diminishes lifestyle and causes anger and depression," another said.

    A WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry survey last year of members and RAC customers found two in five local companies turned down work because of congestion.

    Estimates on the cost of congestion to individual businesses ranged from $200 to more than $1 million, averaging about $20,000.
    Businesses reported increased stress and fatigue, a decline in punctuality, more counselling, poorer behaviour and more errors.


    Prime Minister Julia Gillard will today promise "substantial" new cuts to Government spending in the lead-up to this year's budget, to fund plans for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

    In a speech to be delivered later today, Ms Gillard will say Labor's record of cutting wasteful spending is already strong, but more will be done.

    "In the lead-up to and in the budget, we will announce substantial new structural savings that will maintain the sustainability of the budget and make room for key Labor priorities," Ms Gillard will say.

    According to excerpts of her speech provided to media outlets, Ms Gillard will describe the cuts as "tough" and "necessary" as the country adjusts to a low-revenue environment.


    QUEENSLAND coalminers have kicked off a pilot program to release stored mine water into the Fitzroy River system after the recent deluge provided fresh water to dilute contaminants.

    "All four mines participating in the pilot project -- Goonyella Riverside, Peak Downs, Norwich Park and Saraji -- have now commenced releases in accordance with the environmental authorities, with releases beginning at 5am this morning (yesterday)."

    The BMA mines still hold significant volumes of excess water stored as a result of the 2007-08 and 2011-12 wet seasons, and the water storage at BMA mines exceeds its planned water storage capacity



    Mining applications jump 21pc

    Last year the DMP finalised 82 per cent of its 7048 mining, petroleum and geothermal applications within its targeted deadlines.

    Despite lingering grumbles in the industry, the department is now sitting on less than 6000 tenure applications - the bulk of its work - which includes mining lease applications.

    ...the average mine in WA was now approved within 28 months.

  2. A US judge has approved a $A4.34 billion deal in which BP pleaded guilty to criminal charges from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill - but the British energy giant's legal woes are far from over.

    BP is set to return to the Louisiana courthouse on February 25 for a mammoth trial consolidating scores of remaining lawsuits stemming from the worst environmental disaster to strike the United States.

    It must also still resolve a civil case on environmental fines which could amount to as much as $US18 billion if gross negligence is found.

    It also remains on the hook for billions in economic damages, including the cost of environmental rehabilitation.


    BP pleaded guilty in November to 11 counts of manslaughter, one count of felony obstruction of Congress and two environmental violations.

    The guilty plea led the Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily bar the British energy giant from entering into any new government contracts, from supplying oil to the military to obtaining the right to explore new tracts of land and ocean.


    Judge Carl Barbier - an expert in maritime law charged with overseeing the bulk of the cases - has left the door open to some shared liability in key pre-trial rulings.

    Several government probes have already castigated BP, Transocean and Halliburton - which was responsible for the well's faulty cement job - for cutting corners and missing crucial warning signs.
    (that should read "ignoring" crucial warning signs )

    "It took 87 days to cap BP's runaway well located 1500 metres below the ocean surface and about 65km off the coast of Louisiana."

    ( and Ferguson wants them to drill in "the roaring 40's" in the Bight,in over 4000 metres of water,hundreds of miles from anywhere,thousands of miles from backup,some of it in a marine park - he needs to be put in the madhouse )

    1. Investors liked the deal. People whose lives were changed by the disaster did not.

      To put the settlement in financial perspective, some numbers are in order. First, the settlement is less than BP's third-quarter net profit of $4.7 billion, which was up from $3.7 billion in the previous quarter. And it comes after a strong financial performance in 2011. Fourth quarter results, as well as those for the full year, are due to come out soon; financial analysts who cover the company expect BP to show continued strength.

      After the court's decision to ratify the deal was announced, BP's share price surged more than 2 percent to $45.21. One shouldn't read too much into it, since energy stocks were up across the board because of rising oil prices. And markets are said to like certainty, so this deal puts potentially expensive litigation behind the oil company. But investors clearly do not consider the payout overly expensive or threatening on any level.

      "This is a miniscule settlement, " said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen's energy program. "It's a cost of doing business. If this were an individual, the keys would be thrown away. But we give enormous leniency to corporate defendants."

      Slocum cited another unhappy result of the settlement: The government went to huge expense gathering evidence in the course of preparing its criminal case, and typically in a result such as this one that information is sealed from the public.

      He thinks that in such cases there should be criminal penalties for high-level executives, not just mid-level managers, an argument like the one made about top level bank executives who caused the financial crisis. And, he said, such companies should be barred from getting government oil leases for at least five years.

      "There need to be real sanctions," he said.

      BP may face more financial penalties because of ongoing civil litigation over the Deepwater disaster.

      The Sierra Club favors a roughly $60 billion award to resolve those charges. That would include $20 billion in pollution fines related to the company's violation of the Clean Water Act and roughly $40 billion to pay for present and future restoration of areas damaged in the disaster. The figure is based on the maximum allowable penalty under the Clear Water Act of $4,300 per barrel, multiplied by the nearly 5 billion barrels of oil estimated to have gushed into the Gulf, said Devorah Ancel, an attorney with the environmental group.

      Ancel also expressed doubt that BP and the federal government have taken adequate steps to guard against future spills. "Regulations remain lax," she said, "and we don't think the government should be approving exploration and drilling permits without ensuring that companies have adequate control and response mechanisms in place. BP hasn't proved that they do have these controls or the technology to respond to disaster."


  3. Browse faces a Tsunami of competition.

    (a few of todays headlines)
    Jan 29 (LNGJ) – The 153,000 capacity LNG carrier "STX Frontier" has left the Peru LNG plant at Pampa Melchorita with a cargo for the Higashi-Niigata terminal in Japan operated by Tohoku Electric, the third Japanese shipment this month.


    Oil Search, the Australian-listed upstream energy company and participant in the Papua New Guinea LNG project, said the US$19-billion venture led by ExxonMobil was over 70 percent complete and on track for first shipments next year.


    LNG Ltd., the Australian-based project developer, said it signed a site option with Lake Charles port authorities for its planned Magnolia US export project in Louisiana, the first in the US with possible CHINESE participation.


    AltaGas, the Canadian utility operator and natural gas pipeline and storage owner, has formed a joint venture with Japanese oil refiner Idemitsu Kosan to develop a Canadian LNG project and export cargoes to Asia.


    Sonatrach, the Algerian energy company and LNG producer, said the new liquefaction Train being constructed at its Arzew plant will enter production in November, more than a year behind schedule.


    Many analysts forecast that LNG exports could account for as much as 10 percent of US natural gas production by 2025. An expected range of daily LNG exports is around 6 billion cubic feet. It is not as if the US does not have enough natural gas


    Despite winter storm warnings from Montana to New Mexico, natural gas prices “fell off a cliff following a warmer winter forecast for the eastern US,” said analysts in the Houston office of Raymond James & Associates Inc.


    Novatek of Russia and Total of France pushed back the start of liquefied natural gas production at the $20 billion Yamal LNG project in Russia’s Arctic to 2017 after delays reaching an investment decision.


    Royal Dutch Shell is interested in buying several liquefied natural gas assets from Repsol of Spain, Cinco Dias newspaper reported on Tuesday.


    Russia’s activation in the LNG sector is a response to increased competition for markets among gas manufacturers and exporters (such as the Middle Eastern states, especially Qatar; Australia, Canada and the United States). The limited progress observed so far in implementing Russian LNG projects has been caused by the Russian gas sector’s main problem, which is the dominant position of Gazprom in the internal market and its export monopoly, which is guaranteed by law.


  4. Shell verdict will determine whether other firms could be tried for oil spills

    People affected in the Niger delta have come to Europe to ask for justice as multinationals dismiss their claims with impunity

    There's not much left of Goi, an Ogoni village on the Niger delta.

    When I went there two years ago large parts of it and the surrounding land still hadn't recovered from a series of spills of Shell oil that had taken place in 2004. Most Goi people had been farmers and fishermen, but they had mostly moved out because the water, the houses, the mud in the creeks all still reeked of crude.

    I had met Eric Dooh whose family comes from Goi, and who has spent years fighting Shell for compensation. This week he's in Amsterdam representing his father and on Wednesday, he and three other farmers from other parts of the polluted Niger delta will hear the verdict of a Dutch court on the case.

    Dooh and his colleagues have come to Europe because they say they cannot get justice in Nigeria. At stake is not just whether they get compensation from the Anglo-Dutch giant that made £19bn profit last year, but whether Shell – and other multinationals – can be sued for pollution in the Netherlands. Behind Dooh stand possibly a long line of litigants and lawyers.


    Iran believes BP-operated Azeri oil platforms have polluted the Caspian Sea and may sue the UK oil group if it continues, Iran's deputy environment minister has been reported as saying by Iranian media.

    Iranian officials have complained that Azeri oil has washed up on Iranian beaches over the last year, with Iran's Press TV reporting on Sunday that Tehran may sue Azerbaijan.

    Mehr news reported on Tuesday that deputy minister Abdolreza Karbasi had accused BP of dumping oil waste into the Caspian Sea and that Iran might target BP in court if it continued.

    "Last year, southern coasts of the Caspian Sea were covered with oily patches, and in the last such case, four months ago, 25 tonnes were cleared from Iranian coasts," Karbasi was quoted by Mehr as saying.

    He did not say which court Iran might try to sue BP in.

    A spokesman for BP said the company had committed to officially report any leaks in the Caspian and had not had to for years.

    "We are a responsible operator in the Caspian and as such we have rigorous [health, safety and environment] processes and procedures in place in line with international standards," BP said in an emailed statement.

    Last October, the Azeri president, Ilham Aliyev, attacked BP - the biggest foreign investor in Azerbaijan - over declining output from the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) fields in the last few years.

    BP's partners on the AGC project include Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Statoil.

  5. Hydro dams could jeopardise 'Grand Canyon of the east', say green groups

    Dams on China's last free-flowing river could harm ecosystems, displace people, and cause catastrophic seismic events

    Chinese environmental groups warn that government plans for a slew of hydroelectric dams on the pristine Salween (Nu) river – often called the Grand Canyon of the east for its deep valleys and sweeping views – could jeopardise biodiverse ecosystems and indigenous cultures, and lead to potentially catastrophic seismic events.

    China's state council released a notice last week revealing plans to proceed with over 60 new hydroelectric projects on three major rivers under the government's 12th five-year plan, from 2011 to 2015. Four of the projects lie on the upper reaches of the Salween.

    Plans to build a cascade of 13 dams on the Salween – China's last free-flowing river – stalled nearly a decade ago under opposition from environmental groups and outgoing premier Wen Jiabao, an ostensible populist and trained geologist.

    Five projects are being developed by the state-owned Huadian Group, according to the California-based NGO International Rivers. The company produces about 10% of China's power and is directly administered by a state council commission. Chinese environmental authorities have long considered hydropower an antidote to the country's overwhelming reliance on coal.

    The river, also known as the Thanlwin, begins on the Tibetan plateau and winds through Thailand before ending in a Burmese estuary. Its headwaters support 5 million people from 13 ethnic groups, many of whom are subsistence farmers. Entire groups may have to be resettled, dealing a significant blow to their traditional way of life.

    The government notice approves similar projects on the Jinsha river, a major headstream of the Yangtze, and the Mekong river, which is already heavily dammed. Two proposed projects border protected areas which contain 7,000 types of plants and up to 25% of the world's animal species, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.