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Trump Sanctions Rosneft, Russia’s Largest Oil Company, For Helping Maduro In Venezuela

Trump Sanctions Rosneft, Russia’s Largest Oil Company, For Helping Maduro In Venezuela 

The Trump administration announced significant new sanctions on Tuesday targeting Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company, for helping Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro circumvent U.S. sanctions. Specifically, the sanction targets Rosneft Trading SA, a unit of Russia’s state-owned oil giant Rosneft, as well as company’s executive Didier Casimiro, over the company’s actions in Venezuela, senior administration official said in call with reporters.

The US accused Rosneft of propping up Venezuela’s oil sector, the admin official said, characterizing the company as the “primary culprit” of a campaign to evade Washington’s pressure campaign on the Maduro regime.

As the US further details, the network of deception sometimes involves transferring oil to new ship before sale, typically to Asia. Occasionally, ships will also change their names, or lie about source of oil. As McClatchy details, “the administration has accused Rosneft of sending tankers to Venezuelan ports without their tracking systems on — a violation of international law and a lifeline from sanctions on Venezuela’s own state-run oil company, PDVSA, that has allowed Maduro to indirectly sell oil to China and India. Officials also said that Rosneft was orchestrating a strategy of transferring Venezuelan oil in international waters for shipment to Asia and West Africa.”

US officials said that sanctions would hit Rosneft unit, as well as Casimiro’s U.S. assets but stand as worldwide prohibition, and warned that the new U.S. sanctions will affect “anyone engaging in activity” with Rosneft Trading S.A.

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

The Race For Arctic Oil Is Heating Up

The Race For Arctic Oil Is Heating Up

Arctic LNG

Despite climate concerns and environmentalist backlash against exploration for oil and gas in pristine sensitive regions of the Arctic, companies continue to explore for hydrocarbon resources in the Arctic Circle, in Russia and Norway in particular.

The largest Russian energy companies are looking to explore more Arctic oil and gas resources on and offshore Russia, while Norwegian and other Western oil firms are digging exploration wells in Norway’s Barents Sea.

Those companies lead the development efforts to tap more Arctic oil and gas resources as legacy oil and gas fields both offshore Norway and onshore Russia mature.  

Russia’s biggest energy firms Gazprom, Rosneft, Novatek, and Lukoil, and Norway’s oil and gas giant Equinor, as well as Aker BP and ConocoPhillips, are the top oil and gas producers in the Artic region, data and analytics company GlobalData said in a new report. Gazprom is the undisputed leader in Arctic oil and gas production, followed, at a long distance, by two other Russian firms, Rosneft and Novatek, GlobalData’s estimates show.

Russian firms are ramping up exploration in Russia’s Arctic, while Equinor and other Western companies drill exploration wells in Norway’s Barents Sea, hoping for a significant discovery that could add to the Johan Castberg oilfield—a massive discovery which was made in 2011, but which hasn’t been replicated in the Barents Sea so far.  

Yet, both Russia and Norway face specific challenges in getting the most out of their respective Arctic oil and gas resources. 

In Russia, the government has made Arctic oil and gas development a key priority and offers tax breaks for firms exploring in the area.

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

This Russian Oil Giant Is Driving Putin Toward Showdown With Trump In Venezuela

This Russian Oil Giant Is Driving Putin Toward Showdown With Trump In Venezuela

“Russia is now so deeply invested in the Maduro regime that the only realistic option is to double down,” writes senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center Alexander Gabuev.

He details in a Financial Times op-ed that Moscow-based state oil giant Rosneft owns two offshore gas fields in Venezuela and further has “stakes in assets boasting more than 20m tonnes of crude.” But as embattled President Nicolas Maduro faces US-led efforts to oust him in favor of opposition leader Juan Guaido, billions are on the line for Moscow making its interest in preserving the regime run deep.

in 2017 Caracas awarded licenses to Russian oil giant Rosneft for the development of two offshore gas fields, via Reuters.

In total Caracas owes Rosneft $3 billion, according to Gabuev, which could lead to “a new sort of proxy conflict in America’s backyard,” which is at once economic, political, and could increasingly turn to proxy military intervention. Indeed the Kremlin has already accused the US of “meddling” in the affairs of a sovereign country in order to foster a “slow motion coup”.

“Any solution to the internal political crisis in Venezuela is possible only by Venezuelans themselves,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday. “Imposing any solutions or efforts aimed at legitimizing the attempt of usurping power is, in our view, just direct and indirect meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs,” Peskov said.

“This does not contribute in any way to the peaceful, effective and vital settlement to the crisis, which Venezuelans are enduring and who should, as we believe, pull through it on their own,” the Kremlin spokesman noted.

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

Moscow Will Do “Whatever It Takes” To Defend Its Interests In Venezuela

Moscow Will Do “Whatever It Takes” To Defend Its Interests In Venezuela

After decrying US sanctions against Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA as “illegal” and enforcing “unfair competition”, a Kremlin spokesman has reiterated that Russia is prepared to use “all mechanisms available to us” to defend its economic interests in Venezuela – interests that are closely tied to the Maduro regime.

Russia

According to RT, Russia has extended billions of dollars of loans to PDVSA, mostly via oil firm Rosneft. The company has extended $6 billion of loans which must be repaid in crude by the end of the year. Data from S&P Global Platts shows that as of November 2018, Venezuela had a $3.1 billion outstanding loan to repay to Rosneft.

Rosneft also has five joint upstream projects with PDVSA in Venezuela. Peskov said that Russia is still assessing the potential impact of the PDVSA sanctions for Moscow.

According to analysts briefed by Platts, whatever becomes of Maduro, Rosneft likely won’t be cut off from Venezuelan oil because the country has abundant reserves, and oil is practically the only ‘hard currency’ it can access. An analyst at a Western bank estimated that Rosneft assets in Venezuela are equivalent to some $2.5 billion, plus another $2.5 billion in crude supplies owed for the loans.

“The worst-case scenario – which is unlikely to materialize – under which Rosneft loses all the money it invested in Venezuela, would be biting but not critical for the company, with quarterly free cash flow at over $4 billion,” the analyst told Platts.

Meanwhile, the US has warned that the “path to relief” for PDVSA is via the “expeditious transfer of control” to opposition leader Juan Guaido, which the US insists should be followed by Democratic elections.

Though the Kremlin has denied the reports, rumors about the presence of 400 Kremlin affiliated mercenaries in Venezuela make more sense given how much money is at stake.

The Biggest Threat To Dollar Dominance

The Biggest Threat To Dollar Dominance

Russian oil exporters are pressuring Western commodity traders to pay for Russian crude in euros and not dollars as Washington prepares more sanctions for the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Moscow, Reuters reported last week, citing as many as seven industry sources.

While it may have come as a surprise to the traders, who, Reuters said, were not too happy about it, the Russian companies’ move was to be expected as the Trump administration pursues a foreign policy where sanctions feature prominently. This approach, however, could undermine the dominance of the U.S. dollar as the global oil trade currency.

Early indications of this undermining became evident this spring, when Russia and Iran launched an oil-for-goods exchange program seeking to eliminate bilateral payments in U.S. dollars and plan to keep it going for five years. The sanction buddies discussed this sort of agreement earlier, back in 2014, when Iran was still under Western sanctions. Even after the notorious nuclear deal was reached, the two countries decided to go ahead with their barter deal, and the preliminary agreement was reached last year. According to it, Russia would receive 100,000 bpd of Iranian crude in exchange for US$45 billion worth of Russian goods.

In March, Iran banned purchase orders denominated in U.S. dollars and said that any merchant using dollars in their orders will not be allowed to conduct the import trade. A month later, Tehran announced that it will publish all its official financial reports in euros instead of dollars in a bid to encourage a switch to euros from dollars among state agencies and businesses.

Now, Russia’s biggest oil producers are renegotiating oil delivery contracts with commodity traders, and three of them, Rosneft, Gazprom Neft and Surgutneftegaz, have raised traders’ hackles by insisting they, the traders, commit to paying penalties beginning next year if U.S. sanctions disrupt sales and as a result the buyers fail to make payments.

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

Russia And China Continue To Boost Oil Ties

Russia And China Continue To Boost Oil Ties

Oil

Even before the OPEC/non-OPEC production cuts took effect in January 2017, Russia had already beaten Saudi Arabia to become China’s single largest oil supplier for 2016. Since then, Saudi Arabia has sacrificed still more of its market share in the prized Chinese market, while Russia has dominated Beijing’s top suppliers’ list for most of this year.

Now Russia’s oil giant, Rosneft—whose chief executive Igor Sechin is a close ally of Vladimir Putin—is reportedly aiming to further increase its crude oil deliveries to China, as Russia looks to boost energy ties with the world’s biggest crude oil importer and top driver of global oil demand growth.

Since the OPEC/Russia oil production deal began, the U.S. has stepped up sanctions on Russia, which made Western banks and companies even more cautious in dealing with Russian firms. Considering this, it’s not a huge surprise that Rosneft and Russia want to boost ties with Chinese firms, refiners, and banks.

Rosneft now aims to almost double its crude oil exports to China through Kazakhstan, Reuters reported last week, citing industry sources.

Although it’s not immediately clear when that increase will take place, this plan is only the latest in a series of projects that boost Russian oil supplies to Chinese refiners. Chinese firms, on the other hand, recently made big investments in Russian energy projects and firms, including in a large stake in Rosneft.

Chinese industrial conglomerate CEFC recently agreed to buy 14.16 percent in Rosneft for approximately $9 billion. The deal didn’t come as a surprise, coming on the heels of a Rosneft announcement regarding the sealing of a strategic partnership deal with CEFC, but it’s clearly indicative of a continuing warming between Moscow and Beijing that gave the former the upper hand in the race for market share with Saudi Arabia.

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

Saudis Planning For A War Of Attrition In Europe With Russia’s Oil Industry

Saudis Planning For A War Of Attrition In Europe With Russia’s Oil Industry

Russia’s central bank recently warned about the growing financial risks to the Russian economy from Saudi Arabia encroaching upon its traditional export market for crude oil. Russia sends 70 percent of its oil to Europe, but Saudi Arabia has been making inroads in the European market amid the oil price downturn.

The result is a heavier discount for Russia’s crude oil, the so-called Urals blend. Bloomberg reported that the Urals typically lands in Rotterdam, a major European destination, at a discount to Brent of around $2 or less. But the discount has widened to $3.50 lately due to increased competition from Saudi Arabia. “Oil supplies to Europe from Saudi Arabia are probably adversely affecting Urals prices,” the Russian central bank warned in a recent report.

Russian officials have accused Saudi Arabia of “dumping” its oil in Europe, a move that Rosneft chief Igor Sechin said would “backfire.”

Russia’s economy has been battered by the collapse in crude prices, compounded by the screws of western sanctions. The Russian economy could shrink by 3.2 percent this year.

Related: U.S. Oil Production Holding Its Own, Which Can Only Mean One Thing…

Oil exports account for around half of the revenue taken in by the Russian government. And for an economy so dependent on oil, it is no surprise that the plummeting crude oil price has led to a dramatic depreciation of the ruble, although over the past month the currency regained some lost ground. The weakening currency has pushed up inflation, which creates a conundrum for the Russian central bank.

To stop the ruble from plunging further and to keep inflation from spiraling ever upwards, the Russian central bank took aggressive action by hiking interest ratesto as high as 17 percent at the beginning of 2015.

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

Russian Gas: There Is No Alternative For Europe

Russian Gas: There Is No Alternative For Europe

The sanctions are now in their second year; the ruble is still not quite itself; and national champions Gazprom and Rosneft are both bracing for what can generously be called a down year. Still, while Russia’s political relationship with the west continues to be redefined, the broader element of codependence remains relatively unchanged – though its worth is hotly disputed. Nowhere is that dispute more pronounced than in the energy sector.

To be sure, Gazprom is in trouble. Last year, the gas giant saw its profits fall 70 percent to $3.3 billion. Through the first three quarters of 2014, Gazpromdeliveries fell 3 percent, 13 percent, and 8 percent to Europe, former Soviet republics, and domestic consumers respectively. Its debt burden is up and opportunities for long-term credit are few. Moreover, its legal woes are growing by the day. Recent antitrust filings from Poland and Ukraine join the European Commission’s (EC) April charges that could cost the company up to 10 percent of its global turnover.

For its part, Europe – more specifically, the European Union – is still attempting to define the terms of its own energy security. Plans for the 28-member bloc to unite in an energy union are still a go, though only marginally more clear than when they emerged. In a recent statement at the European Economic and Social Committee’s Plenary Session, Energy Union commissioner Maros Sefcovicdescribed the goals of the union as follows: a fully integrated energy market; energy efficiency above all else; decarbonization; a commitment to R&D; and securing supply through solidarity and trust.

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

 

CEO Of Rosneft Compares Oil Market Manipulation Which “Doesn’t Reflect Reality” To Gold Price Rigging

CEO Of Rosneft Compares Oil Market Manipulation Which “Doesn’t Reflect Reality” To Gold Price Rigging

It was a little under two years ago when, when oil and gas prices were both surging, Obama decided to punish the evil speculators whose fault the rise of oil was when he announced he would “give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission authority to increase the amount of money that a trader must put up to back a trading position. The administration officials said such authority could help limit disruptions in energy markets.” Needless to say, Obama did not punish the world’s central banks for flooding the globe with excess liquidity, which by definition would end up in less than “productive” ventures such as barrels of oil.

Over the weekend, it was the opposite, when instead of blaming speculators for soaring prices, none other than the CEO of Russia’s largest publicly-traded oil company, Rosneft, in not so many words, accused speculators of sending the price of oil plunging. Which is actually a narrow read of what he said, and one we don’t agree with.

What we most certainly do agree with, is his broader message, namely that financial speculation has made a mockery of physical supply and demand and “distorted oil markets, prices do not reflect reality. They are driven instead by financial speculation, which outweighs the real-life factors of supply and demand. Financial markets tend to produce economic bubbles, and those bubbles tend to burst. Remember the dotcom bust and the subprime mortgage crisis? Furthermore, they are prone to manipulation. We have not forgotten the rigging of the Libor interest rate benchmark and the gold price.”

Yes indeed, the CEO of an oil major just used gold rigging as an example of the same commodity manipulation that gold longs have been complaining about for years if not decades.

Here is Igor Sechin full Op-Ed in the FT:

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

Russia’s Complicated Relationship With OPEC

Russia’s Complicated Relationship With OPEC

Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States are the world’s most important oil producers. While there has been a lot of discussion about Saudi Arabia’s move to crush U.S. shale by flooding international markets with oil, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Russia is much less understood.

Saudi Arabia and Russia have a lot in common. Both depend on oil exports for an overwhelming portion of their budget revenues. Both put energy issues at the heart of their foreign policy and use oil (and in Russia’s case, natural gas) as tools to achieve political objectives.

But Russia is not a member of OPEC, and has suffered enormously as a result of Saudi Arabia’s decision to seek contractions in oil production from abroad. The head of Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned oil company, harangued OPEC (and by implication, the Saudi kingdom) at a London Conference on February 10. Rosneft’s Igor Sechin, who has been personally targeted by western sanctions, said that OPEC “has lost its teeth” as a result of its decision to keep oil production at elevated levels, a move that has led to market “destabilization.”

The verbal barrage suggests that Russia, more so than OPEC (or at least Saudi Arabia), is the one that is suffering under Saudi Arabia’s decision.

OPEC has sought Russian cooperation on oil output levels in the past, offers that Russia has thus far declined.

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

 

Arctic Oil On Life Support

Arctic Oil On Life Support

Oil companies have eyed the Arctic for years. With an estimated 90 billion barrels of oil lying north of the Arctic Circle, the circumpolar north is arguably the last corner of the globe that is still almost entirely unexplored.

As drilling technology advances, conventional oil reserves become harder to find, and climate change contributes to melting sea ice, the Arctic has moved up on the list of priorities in oil company board rooms.

That had companies moving north – Royal Dutch Shell off the coast of Alaska, Statoil in the Norwegian Arctic, and ExxonMobil in conjunction with Russia’s Rosneft in the Russian far north.

But achieving the goals of tapping the extensive oil reserves in the Arctic has been much harder than previously thought. Shell’s mishaps have been well-documented. The Anglo-Dutch company failed to achieve permits on time, had its drill ships run aground, and saw its oil spill containment dome “crushed like a beer can” during testing. That delayed drilling for several consecutive years.

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

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