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Finland OKs $168 million in funding for LNG capacity expansion
by Staff Writers
Helsinki, Finland (UPI) Oct 19, 2013

Romanians protest Chevron fracking plans
Pungesti, Romania (AFP) Oct 19, 2013 - Around 1,000 protesters rallied Saturday in the northeastern Romanian village of Pungesti against plans by US energy giant Chevron to drill for shale gas.

The protesters, including villagers in national dress, chanted "Chevron, go home" and "We say no to shale gas."

Chevron on Thursday suspended activities in the region after three days of protests.

But villagers have continued to occupy the site where the company plans to drill its first exploration well.

"We have won a battle but not the final victory. I want my seven great-grand-children to grow up in a safe environment," Emil Dobarteanu, 88, told AFP.

The protesters are afraid of the environmental and health impact of the highly controversial drilling method used to unlock shale gas, called hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking'.

The technique consists of pumping water and chemicals at high pressure into deep rock formations to free oil and gas, with environmentalists warning the process may contaminate ground water and even cause small earthquakes.

Film-maker Lech Kowalski, author of "Drill Baby Drill", a documentary about a Polish village fighting against Chevron's shale gas drilling plans, was among the participants.

Several hundred people also protested in the eastern city of Barlad, forming a human chain around the town hall.

They called for Prime Minister Victor Ponta's resignation, blaming him for reneging on his campaign promise to ban shale gas drilling.

Chevron has permits to explore for shale gas in three villages in this impoverished part of northeastern Romania as well as on Romania's Black Sea coast.

Shell lifts force majeure on Nigerian oil exports
Lagos (AFP) Oct 18, 2013 - Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell on Friday lifted a force majeure on crude oil exports from Nigeria after repairing a supply pipeline that has been repeatedly sabotaged in the country's oil region.

Shell's subsidiary in Nigeria (SPDC) said it "lifted the force majeure on Bonny Light exports effective noon today...following repair of recent spill points on the Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP)."

Force majeure is a legal term releasing a company from contractual obligations due to circumstances beyond its control. Bonny Light is one of the main grades of crude produced in Nigeria.

The force majeure was declared on October 10 as a result of spills recorded on the pipeline in the volatile oil-rich Ogoniland.

Shell has since restored production of 150,000 barrels per day of crude shut in as a result of the incident.

"Joint investigation of the spills has now been completed and the various reports signed off by all participants," the company said.

Shell said it regretted the spills, adding that a detailed investigation of the root cause of the pipeline failure was underway.

It also promised to compensate the affected communities.

"Arrangements for payment of compensation are being made in conjunction with people in Bunu-Tai and Nonwa-Tai, the two communities which the joint investigation confirmed were impacted by the spill," it said.

The TNP has been repeatedly attacked by vandals and oil thieves, with Shell claiming the pipeline has been closed down at least five times since early July.

Shell has blamed repeated oil thefts and sabotage of key pipelines as the major cause of spills and pollution in the oil-producing region.

Crude oil theft is a major problem in Nigeria, with estimates that the country loses some $6 billion in revenue per year.

Nigeria is Africa's largest producer, accounting for more than two million barrels per day.

Finland has announced it will finance expansion of its liquefied natural gas capacity as Brussels remains undecided on whether to locate major new LNG terminal there.

The Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy announced Wednesday it is setting aside $168 million over two years to help finance several planned smaller-sized LNG terminals along the coastline, each with a capacity of between 50,000-70,000 cubic meters each.

The facilities are considered essential infrastructure for the conversion of Finland's commercial and passenger vessel fleet to LNG-powered engines in the wake of new EU rules demanding reductions of sulfur emissions on the Baltic Sea, which enters into force at the beginning of 2015.

The economy ministry said in a statement the building of the smaller LNG terminals will enable Finland's seagoing vessels to remain afloat with cleaner-burning LNG fuel, and facilitate imports of natural gas to areas of the country outside its existing gas network.

Establishing new sources of LNG, it said, "increases energy supply diversity and delivery reliability while reducing emissions, especially in industries in which other fossil fuels are used as energy sources."

Also, it creates a competing supply of gas in Finland, "which will make the gas market function better while making gas prices more competitive."

One project that could benefit has been proposed in the Tornio region, 575 miles north of Helsinki at the northern tip of the Gulf of Bothnia, where steel manufacturer Outokumpu is seeking to build a $150 million LNG terminal.

Basic engineering on the project has been completed with an environmental assessment under way.

The government is working on a "national action plan" to cope with a stringent new EU directive calling for big reductions in sulfur emissions from Baltic Sea shipping beginning in 2015, which Helsinki says will cost Finnish industry as much as $750 million per year to comply with.

Under the new directive, after 2015 the fuel sulfur content for any ship plying the Baltic Sea must not exceed 0.10 percent or its exhaust gas must be cleaned to that same level.

Health officials have estimated maritime emissions cause 50,000 premature deaths in the European Union each year.

Meanwhile, the fate of Finland's bid for a $680 million LNG import terminal and Balticconnector undersea pipeline was still undecided after the European Commission included both it and a competing Estonian and Latvian efforts on a list for possible funding released this week.

The country is seeking EU funding for the Finngulf LNG import terminal proposed by the Finnish energy company Gasum, which is coupled with plans for the Balticonnector pipeline under the Gulf of Finland to Estonia.

Backers were hoping it would be the sole survivor among competing proposals when the EU released a list Tuesday of 250 possible energy projects worth billions of dollars in the running for EU funding -- but Estonian and Latvian LNG projects were also included, Estonian Television reported.

The EU has said only one will ultimately receiving funding, meaning a decision among them likely won't be made until spring.

"We must decide which LNG terminal is most suitable," EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger told ETV. "We are in contact with the ministers and we will make a decision next year."


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Rosneft cedes East Siberian oil fields to China
Moscow (AFP) Oct 18, 2013
Russia's top oil producer Rosneft signed a memorandum on Friday giving the world's largest crude importer China its first direct access to energy-rich East Siberian fields. The preliminary agreement with China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) aims to help Rosneft meet the terms of a $270-billion deal signed in June that doubles Russia's oil exports to its giant neighbour over 25 years. It ... read more

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