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Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Inches Forward, But Opposition Intensifies

Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Inches Forward, But Opposition Intensifies

Tiny House Warriors rally near Blue River, BC

Late one night this past April, four people on off-road vehicles drove into a small, Indigenous village near the town of Blue River in British Columbia, Canada. It was dark and the vehicles drove through deep snow, smashing through wooden signs and barriers that guarded the village of tiny houses, erected in the path of a long-distance oil pipeline that runs from Alberta to the Pacific Coast.

The attackers punched and kicked a man, shouting profanity and racial slurs. One of them stole a truck and used it to mow down a display of red dresses, hung as a memorial to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, who are disproportionally affected by violence. The driver then crashed the truck into one of the houses.

The small houses were built by Secwepemc and Ktunaxa people, who built them to assert their rights over unceded Indigenous land, through which an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is slated to carry diluted tar sands oil. Members of the village believe the attack was related to their opposition to the pipeline.

Confrontation between the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and a variety of Indigenous and environmental groups is heating up, precisely because the new pipeline is now moving forward with construction after years of legal battles.

The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau purchased the Trans Mountain system from Kinder Morgan in 2018 in order to keep the expansion alive. Texas-based Kinder Morgan was about to scrap the project, but Canada bought it for C$4.5 billion and vowed to see a second, “twin,” pipeline built alongside the existing line. The expansion would triple the system’s capacity to 890,000 barrels of oil per day, allowing Alberta’s tar sands to expand to overseas markets.

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Natural Gas Price Plunge Could Soon Lead To Shut-Ins

Natural Gas Price Plunge Could Soon Lead To Shut-Ins

Natural gas prices plunged to new lows this week, falling below $1.50/MMBtu, a catastrophically low price for U.S. gas drillers.  The factors afflicting the gas market are multiple. Prices had already fallen below $2/MMBtu at the start of 2020, weighed down by oversupply. But it wasn’t a problem confined to the U.S. There was also a global glut of LNG due to a wave of capacity additions in 2019.  

That was the situation heading into 2020. But just as the Covid-19 pandemic tore apart the oil market, natural gas also went into a tailspin. Global gas demand is expected to fall by 4 percent this year, “largest recorded demand shock” in history, according to the International Energy Agency. 

Buyers of U.S. LNG are now cancelling shipments at a rapid clip. U.S. LNG exports have declined by more than half compared to pre-pandemic levels.

“There would have been too much LNG in the world even without Covid-19,” Ben Chu, a director at Wood Mackenzie’s Genscape service, said in a statement. “Covid-19 has made it worse.”

Buyers abroad are willing to pay a cancellation fee instead of receiving shipment from U.S. exporters, a sign of how badly the market has deteriorated. For August delivery, between 40 and 45 cargoes have been cancelled, nearly double the rate of cancellation in June. 

Typically, cheaper gas can stimulate demand, particularly in the electric power sector. But that outlet is not as large as it may have been in the past, not least because gas has already been cheap for quite some time. Thus, the coal-to-gas option is limited. Without an export route, and without larger uptake from utilities, the gas glut has deepened. 

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Is EIA Data Disguising A Disastrous Decline In U.S. Shale?

Is EIA Data Disguising A Disastrous Decline In U.S. Shale?

The Trump administration claims that the U.S. is “transitioning to greatness,” and that energy companies are going to see “massive gains.” U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette says there is “stability” in the oil market, and that economic activity will “explode” on the other side of the pandemic.


Dan Brouillette✔@SecBrouillette

Thanks to the leadership of President @realDonaldTrump, the transition to greatness is well underway, and our economy along with our U.S. energy companies are going to see massive gains on the other side of this pandemic.

Embedded video

Meanwhile, back in reality, U.S. oil production continues to decline as drillers shut in wells and cut back spending. Output has already declined by 1.1 million barrels per day (mb/d), and more losses are likely. New data from Rystad Energy predicts U.S. oil production declines of roughly 2 mb/d by the end of June.

“Actual production cuts are probably larger and occur not only as a result of shut-ins, but also due to a natural decline from existing wells when new wells and drilling decline,” Rystad said in a statement.

Energy expert Philip Verleger, in an article for Energy Intelligence reports that the magnitude of output declines is much larger. His latest research shows that production as of May 10 is down by almost 4 million bpd from its peak as the below chart shows.

Source: PK Verleger LLC

To be sure, the U.S. government is doing quite a bit to try to bailout the oil industry. A new report finds that some 90 oil and gas companies will benefit from the Federal Reserve’s corporate bond buying program. The Trump administration is also quietly reversing environmental protections on the oil and gas industry.

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The LNG Market Is “Imploding”

The LNG Market Is “Imploding”

LNG tanker

While everyone is understandably watching the meltdown in the crude oil market, the global market for natural gas is also cratering.

At least 20 cargoes of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) have been cancelled by buyers in Asia and Europe, according to Reuters. The global pandemic and the unfolding economic crisis have slashed demand for gas worldwide. Cheniere Energy, one of the main exporters of U.S. LNG, has seen an estimated 10 cargoes cancelled by buyers halfway around the world, Reuters said.

The price for LNG in Asia was already crashing before the pandemic, owing to a substantial increase in supply last year. Prices for LNG in Asia for June delivery have recently traded at $2/MMBtu, only slightly higher than Henry Hub prices in the U.S.

As recently as October, LNG prices in Asia traded at just under $7/MMBtu.

The problem for American gas exporters is that after factoring in the cost of liquefaction and transportation, gas breakeven prices for delivering to Asia are around $5.56/MMBtu, according to Reuters. But prices are trading at less than half of those levels.

Gas exports tend to be conducted under rigid contracts, but cargoes are now facing cancellation.

“The financial prospects for [LNG] ? once one of the globe’s hottest energy commodities – seem to be imploding before our eyes,” Clark Williams-Derry wrote in a new report for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). He noted that LNG prices in the fall of 2018 were at around $12/MMBtu.

The oil majors have made large bets on LNG in recent years. Royal Dutch Shell spent more than $50 billion to buy BG Group in 2015. The move back then was made with an eye on surging demand for natural gas. “We will now be able to shape a simpler, leaner, more competitive company, focusing on our core expertise in deep water and LNG,” Shell’s CEO Ben van Beurden said after closing on the acquisition of BG Group more than four years ago.

The deal remade Shell into one of the largest traders of LNG on the planet. Several other oil majors – Total SA, ExxonMobil and Chevron, for instance – have also made massive bets on LNG.

U.S. Oil Drilling Grinds To A Halt At Key Shale Hotspots

U.S. Oil Drilling Grinds To A Halt At Key Shale Hotspots

Shale rig

Oil and gas production in the United States has peaked and is already in decline. 

The latest data from the EIA’s Drilling Productivity Report sees widespread production declines across all major shale basins in the country. The Permian is set to lose 76,000 bpd between April and May, with declines also evident in the Eagle Ford (-35,000 bpd), the Bakken (-28,000 bpd), the Anadarko (-21,000 bpd) and the Niobrara (-20,000 bpd). 

Natural gas production is also in decline, a reality that occurred prior to the global pandemic but is set to accelerate. The Appalachian basin (Marcellus and Utica shales) are expected to lose 326 million cubic feet per day (mcf/d) in May, a loss of 1 percent of supply. In percentage terms, the Anadarko basin in Oklahoma is expected to see an even larger drop off – 216 mcf/d in May, or a 3 percent decline in production. 

The sudden declines in production illustrates the fatal flaw in the shale business model. Once drilling slows down, production can immediately go negative due to steep decline rates. Shale E&Ps have to keep running fast on the drilling treadmill in order to keep production aloft. But the meltdown in prices has forced the industry to idle 179 rigs since mid-March. 

With drilling grinding to a halt, output has slumped as “legacy” production declines take hold. That is, without new wells coming online to offset the declines from existing wells, overall production falls. 

In specific terms, the Permian, for example, will lose 356,000 bpd from “legacy” wells in May, more than overwhelming the 280,000 bpd in new output from new wells. On a net basis, the Permian is set to lose 76,000 bpd in May. 

That legacy decline rate has deepened with each passing year, requiring more aggressive drilling each month to keep production on an upward trend. But the treadmill has finally caught up to the industry. 

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

“Gasmaggedon” Sweeps Over Global Gas Market

“Gasmaggedon” Sweeps Over Global Gas Market

CNOOC LNG

China’s state-owned gas importers are considering declaring force majeure on LNG imports, which would amplify the turmoil in global gas markets.

LNG prices have already plunged to their lowest levels in a decade in Asia as the ramp up of supply in 2019 came at a time when demand has slowed. That was true before the outbreak of the coronavirus. But the quarantine of around 50 million people and the shutdown of huge swathes of the Chinese economy has sent shockwaves through commodity markets.

Shipments of oil and gas are backing up at Chinese ports, which is creating ripple effects across the world. Now, Chinese state-owned CNOOC is considering declaring force majeure on its LNG import commitments, according to the FT. Sinopec and CNPC are also apparently considering the move.

Prices were already in the dumps. JKM prices recently fell to 10-year lows. But they have continued to decline, approaching $3/MMBtu for the first time in history. Just a few weeks ago, JKM prices were trading at around $5/MMBtu, itself an incredibly low price for this time of year.

LNG exports from the U.S. are uneconomical at these price levels. Many exporters have contracts at fixed, higher prices. But shipments can be cancelled for a fee. And any spot trade would be hit hard. The question now is whether shipments will come to halt. “Forward prices for summer are now at levels where U.S. LNG shut-ins begin to seem viable,” Edmund Siau, a Singapore-based analyst with energy consultant FGE, told Bloomberg. “There is usually a lead time before a cargo can be canceled, and we expect actual supply curtailments to start happening in summer.”

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The Oil Industry’s Radioactive Secret

The Oil Industry’s Radioactive Secret

shale operation

“All oil-field workers are radiation workers.”

That quote comes from a blockbuster investigation by Justin Nobel writing in Rolling Stone, who has spent more than a year and a half researching and reporting on radioactivity in fracking waste.

When a well is drilled, it produces a ton of brine, a salty substance that comes out of the ground. Shale wells can produce as much as ten times more brine than they do oil and gas. While hydrocarbons prove to be useful, the brine needs to be hauled somewhere for disposal. Often it is reinjected into disposal wells, or, in some cases it is sent to water treatment plants.

The problem is that the brine can be radioactive. As Nobel writes in Rolling Stone, radioactive brine may be dramatically increasing the cancer risk for people who come in contact with it. The workers who handle the waste are most obviously at risk. But there are plenty of others. The brine is used for de-icing roads, so municipalities are essentially spreading radioactivity all over roads in various parts of the country.

Old oilfield equipment is also repurposed. Rolling Stone spoke with a Louisiana inspector who saw a child sitting on a fence that was so radioactive that someone might receive a full year’s radiation dose in a single hour. Related: Hydrogen Costs Could Be Set To Plunge By 50%

The oil and gas industry dismisses the risk of radioactivity in the brine, which is naturally occurring, as not something that anybody should be worrying about. However, some of the experts that Nobel interviewed argue otherwise. First of all, the notion that just because something exists naturally in the world somehow makes it benign, is odd. “Arsenic is completely natural, but you probably wouldn’t let me put arsenic in your school lunch,” one nuclear-forensics scientist told Rolling Stone.

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The “Twin Threats” Facing Big Oil

The “Twin Threats” Facing Big Oil

Wolfcamp rig

The global oil and gas industry is facing the “twin threats” of the loss of profitability and the loss of social acceptability as the climate crisis continues to worsen. The industry is not adequately responding to either of those threats, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“Oil and gas companies have been proficient at delivering the fuels that form the bedrock of today’s   energy system; the question that they now face is whether they can help deliver climate solutions,” the IEA said.

The report, whose publication was timed to coincide with the World Economic Forum in Davos, critiques the oil industry for not doing enough to plan for the transition. The IEA said that companies are spending only about 1 percent of their capex on anything outside of their core oil and gas strategy. Even the companies doing the most are only spending about 5 percent of their budgets on non-oil and gas investments.

There are some investments here and there into solar, or electric vehicle recharging infrastructure, but by and large the oil majors are doing very little to overhaul their businesses. The top companies only spent about $2 billion on solar, wind, biofuels and carbon capture last year.

Before even getting to the transition risk due to climate change, the oil industry was already facing questions about profitability. Over the past decade the free cash flow from operations at the five largest oil majors trailed the total sent to shareholders by about $200 billion. In other words, they cannot afford to finance their operations and also keep up obligations to shareholders. Something will have to change. 

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2020 Will Be A Crucial Year For Oil

2020 Will Be A Crucial Year For Oil

Oil

It’s the start of a new year and a new decade, and the oil market is as unpredictable as ever.

Will OPEC+ extend its cuts? Will U.S. shale finally grind to a halt? Is this the “year of the electric vehicle”? Here are 10 stories to watch in 2020.

Shale debt, shale slowdown. The debt-fueled shale drilling boom is facing a reckoning. Around 200 North American oil and gas companies have declared bankruptcy since 2015, but the mountain of debt taken out a few years ago is finally coming due. Roughly $41 billion in debt matures in 2020, which ensures more bankruptcies will be announced this year. The wave of debt may also force the industry to slam on the breaks as companies scramble to come up with cash to pay off creditors.

Year of the EV. Some analysts say that 2020 will be the “year of the EV” because of the dozens of new EV models set to hit the market. In Europe, available EV models will rise from 100 to 175. The pace of sales slowed at the end of last year, but the entire global auto market contracted. EVs may struggle to keep the pace of growth going, but EVs are capturing a growing portion of a shrinking pie.

Climate change. 2020 starts off with hellish images from the out-of-control Australian bushfires. 2019 was one of the warmest years on record and the 2010s was the warmest decade on record. As temperatures rise and disasters multiply, pressure will continue to mount on the oil and gas industry. As Bloomberg Opinion points out, climate change has surged as a point of concern for publicly-listed companies. Oil executives are betting against climate action, but they are surely aware of the rising investment risk. In the past two months, the European Investment Bank is ending financing for oil, gas and coal, and Goldman Sachs cut out financing for coal and Arctic oil. More announcements like this are inevitable.

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Argentina Wants a Fracking Boom. The US Offers a Cautionary Tale

Argentina Wants a Fracking Boom. The US Offers a Cautionary Tale 

YPF shale

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez takes office in the midst of an economic crisis. Like his predecessor, he has made fracking a centerpiece of the country’s economic revival.

Argentina has some of the largest natural gas and oil reserves in the world and “possibly the most prospective outside of North America,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. If some other country is going to successfully replicate the U.S. shale revolution, most experts put Argentina pretty high on that list. While the U.S. shale industry is showing its age, Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale is in its early stages, with only 4 percent of the acreage developed thus far.

The country feels a sense of urgency. Declining conventional production from older oil and gas fields has meant that Argentina has become a net importer of fuels over the past decade. Meanwhile, Argentina’s economy has deteriorated badly due to a toxic cocktail of debt, austerity, inflation, and an unstable currency.

For these reasons — a growing energy deficit, a worsening economic situation, and large oil and gas reserves trapped underground — there is enormous political support for kick-starting an American-style fracking boom in Argentina.

It has taken on a level of political significance that outstrips its immediate economic potential. In Argentina, Vaca Muerta is treated as the country’s chance at salvation, with fracking seen as doing everything at once — creating jobs, reducing the debt burden, plugging the energy deficit and turning Argentina into a major player on the global oil and gas stage.

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IEA: An Oil Glut Is Inevitable In 2020

IEA: An Oil Glut Is Inevitable In 2020

Sohar oil tanks

Despite the OPEC+ cuts, the oil market is still facing a supply surplus in 2020, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

OPEC+ announced additional cuts of 500,000 bpd, which sounds more impressive than it is because the group was already producing under its limit. In November, for instance, OPEC was producing 440,000 bpd below the agreed upon ceiling.

Saudi Arabia agreed to shoulder an additional 400,000 bpd of voluntary cuts. But the deal also exempts 1.5 million barrels per day (mb/d) of Russia’s condensate production, allowing Russia to actually increase condensate output by 0.8 mb/d.

Still, the deal should take supply off the market. “If all the countries comply with their new allocations and Saudi Arabia delivers the rest of its voluntary cut of 0.4 mb/d, the fall in production volume versus today will be about 0.5 mb/d,” the IEA said.

OPEC said in its own report that the oil market would be largely in balance in 2020, albeit with a temporary glut in the early part of the year. The IEA sees inventories building at a rate of 0.7 mb/d in the first quarter.

The IEA cut its forecast for non-OPEC supply growth from 2.3 mb/d to 2.1 mb/d, due to weaker growth from Brazil, Ghana and the United States. The U.S. typically gets all of the attention, but disappointing news from Brazil and Ghana also led the IEA to revise forecasts lower.

Notably, Tullow Oil revealed a major disappointment from its Ghana operations, causing a complete meltdown in its share price this week. Its stock fell nearly 70 percent in a single day as investors overhauled their valuation of the company. Tullow admitted that its production from Ghana would decline in the years ahead.

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Shale’s Debt-Fueled Drilling Boom Is Coming To An End

Shale’s Debt-Fueled Drilling Boom Is Coming To An End

Marcellus shale

The financial struggles of the U.S. shale industry are becoming increasingly hard to ignore, but drillers in Appalachia are in particularly bad shape.

The Permian has recently seen job losses, and for the first time since 2016, the hottest shale basin in the world has seen job growth lag the broader Texas economy. The industry is cutting back amid heightened financial scrutiny from investors, as debt-fueled drilling has become increasingly hard to justify.

But E&P companies focused almost exclusively on gas, such as those in the Marcellus and Utica shales, are in even worse shape. An IEEFA analysis found that seven of the largest producers in Appalachia burned through about a half billion dollars in the third quarter.

Gas production continues to rise, but profits remain elusive. “Despite booming gas output, Appalachian oil and gas companies consistently failed to produce positive cash flow over the past five quarters,” the authors of the IEEFA report said.

Of the seven companies analyzed, five had negative cash flow, including Antero Resources, Chesapeake Energy, EQT, Range Resources, and Southwestern Energy. Only Cabot Oil & Gas and Gulfport Energy had positive cash flow in the third quarter.

The sector was weighed down but a sharp drop in natural gas prices, with Henry Hub off by 18 percent compared to a year earlier. But the losses are highly problematic. After all, we are more than a decade into the shale revolution and the industry is still not really able to post positive cash flow. Worse, these are not the laggards; these are the largest producers in the region.

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IEA Sees $90 Crude Ahead Of Oil’s Downfall

IEA Sees $90 Crude Ahead Of Oil’s Downfall

Petchem

Global oil demand will plateau around 2030, according to a major new report, but the decline in demand is way too slow to head off the worsening effects of climate change.

Oil demand begins to flatten out in the 2030s “under pressure from rising fuel efficiency and the electrification of mobility,” The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its widely-anticipated annual World Energy Outlook.

However, the agency does not see a peak in CO2 emissions through 2040, even in a scenario that incorporates some intended policy targets. The IEA says that an expanding economy and growing global population outweigh efforts to cut emissions. Reducing emissions will require “significantly more ambitious policy.”

“The dissonance between the rising trend for CO2 and the commitment of countries to reach an early peak in emissions was especially striking in the light of the latest scientific findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” the IEA said, referring to the rather dire conclusions from the IPCC report in 2018, which found that the world is running out of time to make deep and far-reaching cuts to emissions.

As Reuters reports, some groups criticize the IEA for consistently predicting strong oil demand growth. “The IEA is effectively creating its own reality. They project ever-increasing demand for fossil fuels, which in turn justifies greater investments in supply, making it harder for the energy system to change,” Andrew Logan, senior director of oil and gas at Ceres, told Reuters.

With that said, renewable energy is growing fast and taking a growing slice of all new investment. The IEA sees solar becoming the single largest source of installed electricity capacity by 2040, surpassing coal in the 2030s.

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The Drilling Frenzy Is Over For U.S. Shale

The Drilling Frenzy Is Over For U.S. Shale

Shale Boom

A few high-profile shale executives say the glory days of shale drilling are over.

In a round of earnings calls, the financial results were mixed. A few companies beat earnings estimates, while others fell dramatically short.

But aside from the individual performances, there were some more newsworthy comments from executives on the state of the industry. A common theme emerged from several notable shale executives: the growth frenzy is coming to an end.

The chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources, Scott Sheffield, said that the Permian basin is “going to slow down significantly over the next several years,” and he noted on the company’s latest earnings call that the company is also acting with more restraint because of pressure from shareholders not to pursue unprofitable growth. “I’ve lowered my targets and my annual targets, a lot of it has to do with…to start with the free cash flow model that public independents are adopting,” Sheffield said.

But there are also operational problems that have become impossible to ignore for the industry. He listed several factors that explain the Permian slowdown: “the strained balance sheets lot of the companies have, the parent-child relationships that companies are having, people drilling a lot of Tier 2 acreage,” Sheffield said. “So I’m probably getting much more optimistic about 2021 to 2025 now in regard to oil price.” In other words, U.S. shale is slamming on the brakes, which may yet engineer a rebound in global oil prices.

He said that this would be good news for OPEC. “I don’t think OPEC has to worry that much more about U.S. shale growth long-term,” Sheffield said. “And all that is very beneficial. So we are probably going to be more careful in the years 2021 to 2025 because there’s not much coming on after the three big countries that are bringing on discoveries over the next 12 months Norway, Brazil and Guyana.”

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

OPEC Braces For Drastic Drop In Oil Demand

OPEC Braces For Drastic Drop In Oil Demand

OPEC Climate Demand

OPEC admitted that demand for its oil over the next few years could be drastically weaker than it previously thought, due to a combination of a weakening economy, rising supply elsewhere, and pressure from climate activists.

In its World Oil Outlook, OPEC said that demand for its oil may only reach 32.8 million barrels per day (mb/d) by 2024, a figure that is substantially lower than the 35 mb/d from last year’s estimate. Demand is still expected to grow in non-OECD countries going forward, but OPEC admitted that demand may peak in the OECD in 2020.

Slower economic growth also factored into the lower medium- and long-term estimates. “Given recent signs of stress in the global economy, and the outlook for global growth, at least in the short- and medium-term, the outlook for global oil demand has been lowered slightly this year to 110.6 mb/d by 2040,” OPEC’s Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said in the report.

OPEC said that non-OPEC production continues to rise, particularly from U.S. shale, although not exclusively. The cartel has had to restrain production for several years to keep prices from crashing, even in the face of relentless shale growth. U.S. shale is growing, but is now slowing dramatically. At the same time, countries such as Norway, Brazil, Canada and Guyana are expected to continue to add supplies in the next few years. Steady supply increases puts OPEC in a bind.

Meanwhile, the attention paid to the risks of demand destruction in the OPEC report is notable. The phrase “climate change” appears nearly 50 times in the report and the cartel acknowledged that electric vehicles are “gaining momentum.”

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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