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Canada to review PetroChina's shale gas bid

Pirates fire at chemical vessel off Nigeria: agency
Lagos (AFP) Feb 11, 2011 - Pirates in a fishing boat opened fire on a chemical vessel in a suspected robbery attempt off the coast of Nigeria, an international maritime agency said on Friday. The International Maritime Bureau said the sailors of the vessel spotted a fishing boat with about eight "armed robbers" making "suspicious movements" on Thursday. "Robbers opened fire while (they) attempted to board the tanker," forcing the crew to increase speed, said the agency, adding the pirates chased the tanker for one hour before they gave up.

The attack took place around 50 miles (80 kilometres) off Nigeria's largest city of Lagos. The country's navy later confirmed the attack adding its helicopters were searching for the tanker. "I can confirm the attack was launched on a tanker," Navy spokesman Aliyu Kabir said. Neither the maritime agency nor the Nigerian navy could identify the vessel or provide its country of origin.

A maritime risk analyst agency last month forecast that cash-driven piracy and militant attacks against oil installations were likely to increase this year in Nigeria's waters especially after the April elections. The IMB lists Nigerian waters among the most piracy prone in Africa along with other Gulf of Guinea countries such as Cameroon, in addition to Somalia. Most of the Nigerian attacks are aimed at kidnapping for ransom. The Greek coastguard said on Friday that two Greek freighter officers seized last month by an armed gang in the oil-producing Niger Delta region have been released unharmed.
by Staff Writers
Ottawa (AFP) Feb 11, 2011
Canada's industry minister said Friday he will review Chinese oil giant PetroChina's $5.4-billion investment in a Canadian shale gas project developed by North America's top gas producer Encana.

"I can confirm that this transaction is subject to review under the Investment Canada Act," Industry Minister Tony Clement said, noting that PetroChina "must obtain my approval prior to implementing the investment."

"I only approve an application where an investment demonstrates it is likely to be of net benefit to Canada."

If the deal goes through, PetroChina would acquire a 50-percent stake in the Cutbank Ridge fields in British Columbia and Alberta.

Under the terms of the deal, PetroChina and Encana would jointly develop the 635,000-acre (256,975-hectare) spread with current daily production of 255 million cubic feet (7.22 million cubic meters) of natural gas equivalent.

Encana said the fields have proven reserves of about one trillion cubic feet (28.3 billion cubic meters) of natural gas equivalent.

The deal, announced Wednesday by Encana, is the latest investment by China's top oil producer in Canada as the energy-guzzling nation scours the world for natural resources needed to fuel its fast-growing economy.

The deal has to be approved by Chinese regulatory authorities, and aspects of the agreement still have to be negotiated, Encana said.

Canada last year rejected a $39-billion takeover of Potash Corp by Australia's BHP Billiton on grounds that the Canadian company was a strategic interest to Canada and its sale was unlikely to benefit the country.

But that was a hostile takeover bid, and as a joint venture the deal with China may be less controversial.

earlier related report
Egypt concerns spur Israeli gas drive
Tel Aviv, Israel (UPI) Feb 11, 2011 - Israel's concerns that the downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could end the countries' 1979 peace treaty and halt supplies of natural gas from the Arab nation has spurred efforts to develop the Jewish state's offshore gas fields as soon as possible.

But the January decision by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition government to double the state's share of oil and natural gas revenues has caused dismay among the energy companies involved in the offshore fields.

They include Houston's Noble Energy, which discovered the fields with an Israeli consortium led by Delek Energy, the oil and gas arm of Israel's Delek Group headed by billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva.

That ruling, overturning regulations dating from the 1950s when finding energy sources in Israel was considered a pipe dream, could impede developing the fields which contain an estimated 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Israeli officials fear the collapse of the 30-year Mubarak regime in neighboring Egypt after weeks of massive street protests will mean the end of the peace treaty that has been the cornerstone of Israel's regional policies and domestic economic policies for three decades.

Scrapping the treaty could entail cutting off supplies of Egyptian gas that began in 2008 and which amount to 40 percent of Israel's consumption, largely by power electricity generating plants.

Losing those supplies would heighten the strategic importance of Israel's own gas reserves.

The Egyptian riots were driven largely by economic grievances and demands for democratic reform but few Egyptians support the historic peace treaty Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat, signed with Israel March 26, 1979.

The events in Egypt may work in the companies' favor.

Israeli fears were heightened Feb. 5 when the gas pipeline from Egypt, which also runs to Jordan, was shut down after a bombing at a gas terminal at El Arish in Egypt's Sinai Desert that set off a massive fire.

Egypt has gas reserves of 77 trillion cubic feet of gas, three times the amount found off Israel.

Under a 15-year agreement signed in February 2008, Egypt sells Israel 60 billion cubic feet of gas a year. That costs Israel $2 billion a year.

There were protests in Egypt at the time of the deal that the gas was being sold at below-market prices. Egypt's high court upheld a legal challenge to halt the sale in February 2010 but the regime ignored it.

The gas flows through an underwater pipeline from Port Said, on Egypt's Mediterranean coast and reaches shore near Ashdod in southern Israel.

"We have to do everything to improve Israel's energy security," Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau declared, stressing the need to push ahead with developing the new deep-water gas fields as soon as possible.

The Tamar field off northern Israel, discovered in 2009, is set to be the first to start producing, possibly as early as 2012 but more likely 2013. It contains 8.4 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Landau wants the government to back loans so financing can be found to develop Tamar. He supports exempting the field's developers from the tax hikes.

"It's Israel's obligation to remove as soon as possible every obstacle" to developing Tamar, Landau said, although he gave no hint that the hiked taxes would be reduced.

The Leviathan field, discovered in 2010, is much larger than Tamar, with an estimated 16 trillion cubic meters of gas and 1.4 billion barrels of oil. It is unlikely to start producing gas until 2013.

Between them the fields could provide all Israel's energy needs for the next two decades and transform the economy by turning the country into a gas exporter.

Self-sufficiency in gas production could mean savings of $4 billion a year.

The energy companies are fighting tooth and nail to reverse the government hikes in energy taxes that will slash the profits the firms had anticipated under the old regulations.

The threat of a cut in Egyptian gas supplies could give a major boost to their complaints Netanyahu's government was getting too greedy by boosting state profits from energy production from around 30 percent to 54-62 percent.

The government's action, the companies warned, will endanger development of the fields and scare off potential foreign investment.

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Oil turns higher on Chinese economic surge
Singapore (AFP) Jan 21, 2011
Oil prices turned higher in Asian trade Friday as market sentiment was buoyed by strong Chinese economic growth last year, analysts said. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for March delivery, gained 24 cents to 89.83 dollars per barrel. Brent North Sea crude for March advanced 18 cents to 96.76 dollars. Stellar Chinese economic numbers fuelled the crude price rally, said Ja ... read more

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