Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lots of guey black stuff-related news

China is reducing fuel subsidies. This is huge. State-owned companies own the refineries and China sets the fuel prices. Recently, there have been spot shortages of fuel (especially diesel) all over the country. It's also costing the Chinese government a boatload of money and while they can afford it now, thanks to their booming economy, they couldn't keep up the pace for too much longer. Everyone was expecting it to happen after the Olympics, so it's shocking to see it this early. It's only an 8% hike, though, so don't expect to see relief just yet.

Oil Majors reentering Iraq. Exxon-Mobil, BP, Total, and Shell take the first step towards taking their holdings that were nationalized 50+ years ago back. Chevron also gets in on the action. The NY Times also had an article along these lines, too, quoting an unnamed Exxon-Mobil official saying something along the lines of, "Now things are back to the natural order." Just to throw tidbit out there: there are a few geologists that think Iraq might have more oil in place than Saudi Arabia.

Shell Bonga attacked, shut in. In what appears to be a somewhat organized attack, Shell Bonga FPSO was shot up on a raid by MEND. It's horrifying to hear that a platform got shot up. Like the Sean Connery said in the Hunt for Red October, "Ryan, be careful what you shoot at. Most things in here don't react too well to bullets. " There's flammable gases, high voltage lines, explosive liquids, and (this from a friend who worked at the Jade Platform) the plaforms are surrounded by hundreds of sharks! My friend watched a hammerhead attack and eat a barracuda once. Oh yeah, and a subcontractor for Chevron (US Ex-Pat) was abducted on the way out.

On a side note, Bonga has an interesting history. The hull was built in South Korea and the outfitting was done in the U.K. Normally hulls are outfitted in Norway, Louisiana/Texas or a few other select locales. I forget the guy's name, but someone convinced Shell to do the topsides in a smallish port in England. Well, the port wasn't big enough and the workers were constantly on strike or working 4 hour days. Shell got a minimum amount of work done in England and then completed the FPSO on site by flying workers for the from various countries. As a sidenote, the industry terminology for Western workers overseas is Ex-Pats, while Filipino welders and pipe fitters and the like (they tend to be very good and willing to work all over the world) are referred to as TCN's (Third Country Nationals). The platform got finished for triple the initial estimate and Shell lucked out with the rising oil prices and Bonga didn't end up as "Shell's Thunderhorse." Oh yeah, and the guy who fleeced Shell got knighthood.

UPDATE- The Oil Drum has more analysis of the Bonga attack. It's a very big deal. Here's a report from a summary investigation by the Nigerian government. Sounds like it could have had serious inside help from the Nigerian military. And now Bonga has restarted.

Speaking of Thunderhorse, BP Thunderhorse produces first oil. Three years and at least a billion dollars over budget, the first well comes online. They're bringing the wells on relatively slowly, but they'll eventually hit the nameplate capacity of 250,000 barrels a day. At the current price of oil, they should be able to pay off the construction in a matter of months.

Thunderhorse had problems with subsea infrastructure, high pressure, and a design flaw that was revealed by Hurricane Dennis:

Photo taken by a Coastie helping BP. The ship on the left is a giant drillship. The little boat on the right is a crew boat that's probably 120 feet long or so.

The platform came within half a degree or so of capsizing. It had to be towed back to shore to complete the repairs after that incident.

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