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The Forgotten Conflict That Is Threatening Energy Markets

The Forgotten Conflict That Is Threatening Energy Markets

One of the world’s forgotten conflicts is now making headlines again. In the last week, the military conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia has reignited, with the two nations having already been engaged in a military confrontation for decades. Nagorno Karabach, an Armenian enclave inside of Azerbaijan, is one of the main underlying factors for the conflict, but the growing rivalry between Russia and Turkey is also playing a part. More than 16 soldiers have been killed in the most recent round of fighting. Both sides are accusing each other of aggression and military action. The use of full scale armed forces and drones have been involved, killing several soldiers on both sides and reportedly an Azerbaijani general. The current outbreak of fighting has been the deadliest since the “April War” of 2016. While most clashes normally occur in and around the Armenian controlled Nagorno-Karabakh region, the current clashes are on the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The international community is urging both sides to end the clashes.  The United States, European Union, and the OSCE Minsk Group are trying to defuse the situation. While it remains unclear what reignited the conflict, it seems that Armenia played a large role in increasing tensions. Armenia recently constructed a new military outpost, which could have given Armenian armed forces a tactical advantage and tempted Azerbaijan to strike. At the same time, Azerbaijan is being buoyed by strong support from Ankara and may have wanted to test Russia’s support for Armenia. Remarkably, Armenia has called upon the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which Armenia is a member, to intervene. The CSTO’s response, from Yerevan’s point of view, however, is lacking. As of July 14, the CSTO has only called for a normalization of the situation on the border, not implying that it would provide military support for Armenia.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Storm Is Brewing In The Southern Gas Corridor

A Storm Is Brewing In The Southern Gas Corridor

Pipeline

No fewer than Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci attended a gathering in Central Turkey on 12 June. The amount and variety of attendees of this meeting reveal a common interest in one field of geopolitical developments: energy and more specifically natural gas.

The opening ceremony of the 1.850 kilometers long Trans Anatolian Pipeline, TANAP, starting at the Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan and ending in Turkey, is the last step before connecting to the European grid in Greece and Italy. TANAP is part of the Southern Gas Corridor, which was the dream of many European leaders and officials to create an alternative to Russian gas.

The attendance of several high-level dignitaries shows the interest in the pipeline and the geopolitical developments of the region. More specifically, Russia’s dominant position in the natural gas market of southeast Europe has set leaders scrambling to find alternatives or at least competition of producers.

The fraught relations between Russia and Ukraine brought these countries on a collision course. However, due to historical reasons the energy industries of Moscow and Kiev have been closely intertwined. Russia has set itself an ambitious goal of circumventing Ukraine as its main transit country for gas exports. The Turk Stream and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, which are either planned or under construction, will carry much of the needed gas to Europe starting in 2019 when a new transit contract has to be signed with Kiev.

Ukraine intends to diversify away from and ultimately stop buying gas from Russia. The Southern Gas Corridor, therefore, is a highly anticipated alternative. The attending of Petro Poroshenko at the opening ceremony is a testament to this goal. Already Ukraine importing gas from neighbouring European countries with plans to increase domestic production of natural gas.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Pipeline Wars: Realpolitik meets Geography

The headlines are ablaze this month with news from all over about new pipeline projects coming into Europe.  Never one to miss an opportunity to do the U.S. State Department’s bidding in how it presents pipeline politics, Oilprice.com published a howler of a piece about the Southern Gas Corridor.

Titled, “Is This the World’s Most Critical Pipeline?” the piece is pure marketing fluff designed to make you think that Azerbaijani gas will change the face of European gas politics.

The beginning is the most telling, “Europe wants to become less dependent on Russian gas and use more clean energy…” This is a lie.

Europe doesn’t want this as a continent, the leaders of the European Union who are aligned with the United States who view Russia as the enemy want to become less dependent on Russian gas.

Most of Europe wants Russia to supply them with natural gas because it is 1) cheap and 2) plentiful.  For geopolitical reasons the U.S. doesn’t want an ascendant Russia.  The EU technocracy agrees because a strong Russia owning more than 40% of European gas sales is a Russia that can’t be destabilized through currency and proxy wars.

Southern Gas Boondoggle

The Southern Gas Corridor is a nearly 4000km (2500 mile) gas pipeline project to bring Caspian Sea natural gas into southern Europe.  It is slated, when completed with all the side projects tying into it, between 60 and 120 billion cubic meters of gas annually (bcma) starting with an unknown amount from Azerbaijan in 2019.

That number comes from an announcement in the Financial Times circa 2008.  A better number for it is closer to just 16 bcma.

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The Big-Oil Bailouts Begin

The Big-Oil Bailouts Begin

Despite a bounce this week, low oil prices continue to sow fear, uncertainty, and mayhem across the emerging market complex. On Wednesday, it was leaked that the IMF and World Bank would dispatch a team to oil and gas-dependent Azerbaijan to negotiatea possible $4 billion emergency loan package in what threatens to become the first of a series of global bailouts stemming from the tumbling oil price.

In Latin America’s largest economy, Brazil, the government has refused to rule out bailing out Petrobras, once the jewel of the nation’s crown but now a scandal-mired shadow of its former self, weighed down by $127 billion in debt, most of it denominated in dollars and euros.

If it is unable to sell the $15 billion in assets it has targeted by the end of this year – a big IF given how the prices of oil and gas assets have deteriorated – Petrobras might need some serious help from Brazil’s Treasury. According to Citi, that help could reach $21 billion – just enough to plug the company’s cash hole and fix the capital structure on a sustainable basis. That’s a big payment for a government that has on its hands a widening budget gap, a 4% economic contraction, and double-digit inflation.

Brazil is not the only Latin American economy entertaining a bailout of its national oil company. The government of Mexico just announced that it quietly injected 50 billion pesos ($2.7 billion) of public funds into the coffers of state-owned oil company Pemex.

The timing of the announcement could not have been more convenient, coming just a day before Pemex was due to launch a $5-billion bond issue, which was predictably gobbled up by investors. In all likelihood, it will be the first installment of what could end up being a very large, very costly bailout of Mexico’s oil sector. Pemex is the world’s second largest non-publicly listed company, with $416 billion in assets. But things are looking decidedly grim.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Azerbaijan Currency Crashes 50% As Crude Contagion Spreads

Azerbaijan Currency Crashes 50% As Crude Contagion Spreads

OPEC blowback continues to ripple around the world. With Russia’s Ruble pushing back towards record lows against the USD, and Kazakhstan’s Tenge having tumbled to record lows, the writing was on the wall for Azerbaijan. As Bloomberg reports, the third-biggest oil producer in the former Soviet Union moved to a free float on Monday and the manat crashed almost 50% instantly to its weakest on record with the second devaluation this year.

First the Russian Ruble…

Then Kazakhstan’s Tenge…

While Azerbaijan’s former Soviet allies Russia and Kazakhstan have moved to floating currency regimes in the past year,the Azeri central bank has questioned whether the country was prepared for a similar shift. Governor Elman Rustamov said there was no need for another devaluation of the manat, according to a televised interview broadcast on Sept. 25.

And now Azerbaijan’s Manat crashes 50%…

As Bloomberg reports, “It looks like Azerbaijan’s authorities are following Kazakhstan’s devaluation path,” said Oleg Kouzmin, a former Russian central bank adviser who works as an economist at Renaissance Capital in Moscow. “After devaluing the currency once, some time ago, they concluded that the first move was not enough to tackle all the challenges of a weaker oil price environment.”

Azerbaijan relies on hydrocarbons for more than 90 percent of its exports and the manat has lost almost half its value against the dollar this year, the worst performance of currencies globally.

The Azeri central bank’s reserves were at $6.2 billion at the end of November, down from more than $15 billion a year earlier.

The Russian ruble’s collapse and a 70 percent plunge in the crude price since June last year have ushered in a new era of volatility for Azerbaijan, which is also beset by challenges ranging from declining oil output to a festering conflict with neighboring Armenia.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Russia Is Going To Pass A Law Formally Dumping The U.S. Dollar

Russia Is Going To Pass A Law Formally Dumping The U.S. Dollar

Vladimir Putin 2015 - Public DomainRussian President Vladimir Putin has introduced legislation that would deal a tremendous blow to the U.S. dollar.  If Putin gets his way, and he almost certainly will, the U.S. dollar will be eliminated from trade between nations that belong to the Commonwealth of Independent States.  In addition to Russia, that list of countries includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  Obviously this would not mean “the death of the dollar”, but it would be a very significant step toward the end of the era of the absolute dominance of the U.S. dollar.  Most people don’t realize this, but more U.S. dollars are actually used outside of the United States than are used inside this country.  If the rest of the planet decides to stop accumulating dollars, using them to trade with one another, and loaning them back to us at ultra-low interest rates, we are going to be in for a world of hurt.  Unfortunately for us, it is only a matter of time until that happens.

When I first read the following excerpt from a recent RT article, I was absolutely stunned…

Russian President Vladimir Putin has drafted a bill that aims to eliminate the US dollar and the euro from trade between CIS countries.

This means the creation of a single financial market between Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

“This would help expand the use of national currencies in foreign trade payments and financial services and thus create preconditions for greater liquidity of domestic currency markets”, said a statement from Kremlin.

For a long time, tensions have been building between the United States and Russia over Syria, Ukraine, the price of oil and a whole host of other issues.  But I didn’t anticipate that things would get to this level quite yet.  It is expected that Putin’s new bill will become law, and this is only one element of a much larger trend that is now developing.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

Armenia warns Azeris over helicopter shooting – Europe – Al Jazeera English

Armenia warns Azeris over helicopter shooting – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry has threatend “grave consequences” after Azerbaijani forces shot down one of its military helicopters.

Wednesday’s development will fuel fears of a major escalation of the long-standing conflict over Nagorny Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan controlled by ethnic Armenians.

The downing is the most serious military incident along the Karabakh frontier since the 1994 ceasefire that ended a bloody war that cost 30,000 lives over the disputed region.

Armenian media reported that the helicopter’s three crew members were all killed.

“A MI-24 combat helicopter attempted to attack positions of the Azerbaijani army near [Karabakh’s] Agdam district,” Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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