First Suezmax Tanker Transits Expanded Panama Canal
The first Suezmax crude oil tanker that was slated to go through the newly expanded Panama Canal began its transit on Thursday, a public relations official told Reuters. The Aegean Unity, a Greece-flagged Suezmax vessel coming from the U.S. West Coast, entered the Canal Thursday morning, according to Reuters' vessel tracking data. Suezmax-sized vessels, which can carry some 1 million barrels of oil, were unable to pass through the canal prior its expansion. The new canal may help open new trade routes for oil.
First Alaskan North Slope Cude Export Planned for Nicaragua
Alaskan North Slope (ANS) crude will be shipped to Nicaragua for the first time in July, two trade sources said on Friday, underscoring a shift in oil flows to and from the U.S. West Coast. A parcel of the medium grade crude is on its way to the Pacific Area Lightering (PAL) near southern California on Exxon Mobil Corp's Liberty Bay, a U.S. flagged vessel, according to the sources and Reuters vessel tracking data. From there, it will transfer to the Liberian-flagged Panamax tanker Chantal for delivery to Nicaragua, where Swiss commodities trader Trafigura Trading LLC will take the crude, said the sources who were not authorized to speak to the media about the matter. Representatives for Trafigura and Exxon declined to comment.
BP Receives its First Venezuelan Crude Cargo under Swap Deal
Britain's BP Plc this month received a Venezuelan crude cargo from state-run PDVSA, according to Thomson Reuters trade flows data, the first since the companies agreed on a swap arrangement to settle pending payments for U.S. oil shipments. BP and China Oil won a tender launched by PDVSA in March to be supplied with U.S. and African light oil during the second quarter of this year. The light oil is needed to dilute Venezuela's extra heavy output and for processing at Caribbean refineries. After cash-strapped PDVSA did not make payments on time, BP in May halted further discharges of cargoes of U.S. crude at the port of Curacao. Then a swap agreement was reached involving deliveries of Venezuelan oil to BP as payment for the U.S. crude, a source close to the talks said earlier in June.
Gas Plant Fire Halts US Gulf Coast Platforms
At least two offshore oil platforms halted operations on Tuesday in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico after a fire at a natural gas processing plant in Mississippi shut a crucial pipeline that brings output onshore, several companies said. The fire at Enterprise Products Partners plant in Pascagoula was brought under control, but officials were still forced to close the 225-mile Destin gas pipeline system that can carry 1.2 billion cubic feet per day from offshore fields to Pascagoula. Destin, majority-owned by BP with Enbridge Inc a minority partner, said it was declaring force majeure, a legal clause that allows it to scrap commitments, as a result of the fire.
New Colombian Crude Whets Appetite of US Refiners
The United States has started to import small batches of Colombia's Puerto Bahia heavy crude, an unusual development that underscores at least a temporary shift in the type of heavy oil flowing into U.S. refineries. Typically, U.S. refineries have received their heavy oil from Canada, Venezuela and Mexico. But shipments of those grades have been limited by Canada wildfires, and slipping output in Mexico and Venezuela. The first shipment of the Colombian heavy crude arrived at Lake Charles, Louisiana in February co-loaded with Vasconia crude for refiner Phillips 66, followed by a 260,000-barrel cargo in March for the same customer, according to sources and data available from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
US Judge Approves BP Civil Settlement with US Government over 2010 Spill
U.S. Judge Carl Barbier granted final approval on Monday to BP Plc's civil settlement over its 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill after it reached a deal in July 2015 to pay up to $18.7 billion in penalties to the U.S. government and five states. The company at the time said its total pre-tax charges from the spill set aside for criminal and civil penalties and cleanup costs were around $53.8 billion. Under the terms of the original agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Gulf Coast states…
Crude Tanker Backlog in US Gulf Eases on Robust Imports
A backlog of tankers off the shores of the U.S. Gulf Coast that swelled in the final quarter of 2015 is easing, with the volume of crude waiting to discharge declining by more than half in just a month's time. There currently are 27 vessels offshore in the U.S. Gulf Coast waiting to discharge an estimated 15 million barrels of crude, compared to 36 million barrels at the start of December, ClipperData said on Tuesday. There are typically 10 million to 12 million barrels of oil waiting to discharge at any one time, Clipper said. The decline comes as December crude imports are on track to hit their highest weekly average since September 2013, so far averaging roughly 7.9 million barrels per day, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.
Heavy Iraq Crude Has Limited Appeal for US Gulf Coast Buyers
Sellers of a new grade of Iraqi oil are competing fiercely to win market share on the U.S. Gulf Coast, though high sulfur content has limited appeal for refiners of the crude, known as Basra Heavy. Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) began selling the crude with an API gravity of about 23 degrees in May after separating it from the Basra Light stream to resolve quality and consistency issues and reach new customers. The first shipments of Basra Heavy to the U.S. Gulf Coast were modest. They peaked in October at nearly 2.5 million barrels, then plunged 80 percent in November. December arrivals have also been low, according to Reuters vessel tracking data.
Baker Hughes Deal Likely to Close in 2016 -Halliburton Exec
Oilfield services company Halliburton's proposed $35 billion acquisition of rival Baker Hughes Inc will likely close in 2016 instead of this year as talks with U.S. regulators continue, a Halliburton executive said on Wednesday. The companies have already agreed to divest $5.2 billion in overlapping businesses to quell concerns the merger would lead to higher prices and less innovation. "Currently we are having substantive discussions with the (Department of Justice)," Christian Garcia, Halliburton's acting chief financial officer told Wells Fargo's Energy Symposium. Garcia said the companies were confident that the deal would be approved. Halliburton is "finalizing negotiations" with buyers for the drilling businesses it first announced it would divest, Garcia said.
Explosion Hits Anadarko Gas Plant in Texas, Two Injured
An explosion and fire rocked the Ramsey natural gas plant in West Texas on Thursday, injuring at least two people and prompting evacuations, according to a company official and media reports. Natural gas feeds were shut off at the facility in Orla, Texas, owned by Western Gas Partners LP, a unit of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (Reporting By Anna Driver and Terry Wade)
Update: Statoil Follows Shell out of Alaska
Norwegian oil major Statoil said on Tuesday it will pull out of Alaska's Chukchi Sea, just weeks after Royal Dutch Shell abandoned the treacherous waters there after spending billions on oil exploration work. The latest pullback comes as oil companies slash spending on expensive offshore projects during the worst price crash in six years. Businesses, politicians and environmental groups have squared off over drilling in the Arctic, which is widely believed to have large undiscovered oil resources. Statoil said it will exit 16 leases it operates and its stake in 50 leases operated by ConocoPhillips. "Since 2008, we have worked to progress our options in Alaska.
Peaker Energy Building Texas Condensate-export Terminal
The first company to get U.S. government approval to ship minimally processed super-light oil to international markets is building its own export terminal on the Texas Gulf Coast aimed at topping off massive tankers to keep them full. Matthew Goitia, chief executive of privately held Peaker Energy, received the first U.S. government approval to export ultra-light oil known as condensate in September 2013, months before other companies followed suit to exploit the first cracks in the decades-old domestic crude export ban. But Goitia's efforts to put that approval into action faltered, as potential customers listened and then bypassed Peaker to connect their marketing teams directly with shippers. "We weren't big enough to really move the needle on them.
Colombia Reshuffles Crude Exports to Weather Low Prices
Colombia, Latin America's No. 4 oil producer, is changing the slate of crudes it exports in a bid to offset the falling prices that are crimping the revenues of its top oil companies. The country has started to deemphasize exports of several heavier crudes, mainly Castilla, and increase offerings of Vasconia, a medium blend that fetches about $3.50, or 8 percent, more per barrel. But to lift output of Vasconia, Colombia must increase imports of products such as naphtha and natural gasoline, which are used as diluents to lighten the barrels for export. State-run Ecopetrol has already started to make the shift and has pushed independent producers in Colombia, including Pacific Rubiales, to do the same, brokers and industry sources said.
Shell Green Lights GoM Field After Cost Cuts
Royal Dutch Shell has given the green light for the development of its largest platform in the Gulf of Mexico after making steep cost cuts which made the deep water project economical despite low oil prices. The decision to pour billions of dollars into the Appomattox project comes as companies have scrapped around $200 billion of mega-projects in the wake of the sharp decline in oil prices over the past year. Shell has operated in the Gulf of Mexico for over 60 years. The region contributes about 17 percent of total U.S. crude oil production according to the Energy Information Administration and was the location in 2010 of the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, involving BP's Deepwater Horizon well.
Tropical Storm Bill Pelts Texas Coast
Tropical Storm Bill punched the Texas coast with heavy rains and strong winds on Tuesday, the National Weather Service said, just three weeks after floods killed about 30 people in the state. The second named tropical storm of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season made landfall near Matagorda, a sportfishing town near the South Texas Nuclear Generating Station in Bay City, a coastal nuclear power plant. Spokesman Buddy Eller said the plant had prepared for the storm and operations were normal with full staffing. Companies said output from oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, which pumps about a fifth of all domestic crude, was unaffected. But BP Plc shut its Mad Dog and Atlantis fields early on Tuesday after a pipeline outage that was expected to be fixed soon, a source said.
Chevron: No Production Impact from US Gulf Storm
Chevron Corp has evacuated some workers not essential to oil production from its Gulf of Mexico operations as a low-pressure storm system moves through the basin, but output has not been affected, the company said on Monday. Royal Dutch Shell on Monday said it was still evacuating so-called non-essential workers ahead of the storm, such as cooks and maids, with no production impact from the weather. Chevron is the No. 3 oil producer in the U.S. Gulf, and Shell is No. 1. No. 2 BP Plc said it was monitoring the storm, but operations continued as normal. Other operators, including Hess Corp and Exxon Mobil Corp also said they were watching the weather. (Reporting By Kristen Hays; Editing by Terry Wade)
Occidental's Chiang Quits After New CEO picked
Occidental Petroleum Corp told regulators on Friday that a top executive, Willie Chiang, has suddenly quit - a month after Vicki Hollub was picked to eventually replace Chief Executive Steve Chazen. Hollub, a longtime Occidental employee, will become the first woman to head a major U.S. oil company. That is expected to occur next year. Chiang was the company's executive vice president, operations, and had reported directly to Chazen. An Occidental spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. (Reporting By Terry Wade and Anna Driver; Editing by Bernard Orr)
Pipeline Spill Could Hamper California Oil Projects
Hundreds of barrels of oil that gushed from a ruptured coastal pipeline in scenic California this week could stiffen opposition to large oil projects that companies want to build in the state, notably those to deliver cheap U.S. crude on trains. Several proposed oil-by-rail offloading terminals in California were already being contested in light of several fiery crude train derailments since 2013 that have stoked safety concerns about spills and explosions. Now, the sight of oil washing up on the shores of Santa Barbara could further galvanize rail opponents after up to 2…
Oil CEO Hamm Sought Ouster of Scientists Looking at Quakes
Oilman Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources Inc., told a University of Oklahoma dean last year that scientists studying links between oil drilling and earthquakes should be dismissed, Bloomberg News reported on Friday. Bloomberg, citing emails obtained through a public records request, said Hamm indicated he wanted to see some scientists at the Oklahoma Geological Survey, which is based at the university, let go. Scientists have said the reinjection of drilling and fracking wastewater into disposal walls could be tied to earthquakes.
Transocean Swings to Loss on Falling Revenue
Transocean Ltd., one of the world's top offshore drilling companies, reported a first-quarter loss on Wednesday as oil exploration and production companies rent out fewer of its rigs because of tumbling crude prices. The net loss was $483 million, or $1.33 per diluted share, down from a profit of $456 million, or $1.25 a diluted share in the same period a year ago, before oil prices plunged 50 percent. First quarter 2015 results included $881 million of one-time items that hurt the company's bottom line as it puts some older equipment up for sale or scraps parts of its fleet in a market widely seen as oversupplied. (Reporting By Terry Wade)
BP Denied $700M in Insurance from Gulf Spill
The Texas Supreme Court on Friday ruled that BP Plc cannot claim about $700 million in insurance that was carried by offshore driller Transocean Ltd to cover the blowout of BP's Macondo well in 2010, the biggest offshore spill in U.S. history. The state's highest court, upholding the views of lower courts, ruled BP was covered by Transocean's insurance for pollution on the water's surface, but not under it. BP operated the well, while Transocean owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon rig that burned and sank when Macondo erupted, killing 11 men. BP is awaiting a separate ruling from a New Orleans federal judge, expected some time this year, over its fines under the U.S. Clean Water Act.
Union, Shell in Prolonged Refinery Labor Talks
Royal Dutch Shell Plc and the United Steelworkers union (USW) negotiated for hours on Tuesday over a new labor contract for U.S. refinery workers, the company said on day 10 of the biggest refinery walkout since 1980. They have been unable to agree since this year's talks started on Jan. 21 on the size of wage increases and how to monitor worker fatigue, which is tied to accidents and can be handled through overtime pay or adding workers. Shell is the lead representative for oil companies at the negotiations for a three-year pact that would cover 30,000 workers at 63 plants. The union wants wage increases, a tighter safety policy, and reductions in non-union contractors working in refineries.
Venezuelan Sales of New Crude Blends to US Double in Jan
Sales to the United States of new Venezuelan crude blends made with imported oil nearly doubled in January to 176,000 barrels per day (bpd), but the rise was not enough to offset a decline in total oil shipments, according to Reuters trade data. Venezuela's state-run company PDVSA started buying Algerian light crude in October from Sonatrach to use it as diluent for its own extra heavy oil output. China and the United States have been receiving cargoes of the new blends since then, but disagreements over terms of the Algerian oil sales have caused PDVSA to halt the purchases, according to industry sources. PDVSA and its joint venture partners sent 736,000 bpd of crude to the United States last month, down 10.5 percent from December.