eNergy STOCKS: Soothing comments from the Fed and the White House aimed at calming jittery financial markets and a 1 por 100, jump in crude-oil prices

... gave a boost to oil and gas stocks Friday.

Broad market gains, storm watch lift energy stocks . By mid-afternoon, the Amex Oil Index was much 1.8% higher at 1,371 points, backing down slightly from a 2% jump in opening trades. The move puts the index on track for a gain this month of just under one percent.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index charged ahead 2.3% to 274.5 points and the Amex Natural Gas Index was up 1.5% at 478, with both indexes down slightly from early session highs.

Behind Friday's upswing an enthusiastic response by Wall Street to separate speeches by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and President George W. Bush that assured investors the government is prepared to take steps to stem the growing number of mortgage defaults and bring some relief to the hard-pressed credit market.

Energy stocks, like the rest of the equities market, were also reacting to tame July inflation data, which is seen by many analysts as increasing the likelihood of another rate cut by the Federal Reserve when it meets on Sept. 18.

Meanwhile, crude for October delivery was up 55 cents at $73.91 a barrel, backing off an earlier high of $74.44. The upward bias stemmed in part from reports from the National Hurricane Center that a tropical storm could be gathering in the Atlantic.

While still too early to know if the weather system poses any threat to offshore fields, traders were already adding a storm premium to energy futures on the possibility it could intensify over the long Labor Day weekend.

Apart from Dean, which swept through the Caribbean well south of U.S. oil and gas rigs, the 2007 hurricane season has been relatively calm. But the season is far from over, and September tends to be the busiest month for named tropical storms. Oil service companies were among the stocks showing the steepest gains Friday, led by a 3.6% leap by National Oilwell Varco Inc. to $127.87 a share. The stock hit a 52-week high of $131.73 earlier in the session.

Amex Natural Gas Index, Philadelphia Oil Service Index, Baker Hughes, Ben Bernanke, energy stocks, FED, Canada, National Oilwell Varco, Verasun Energy, Aventine Renewable Energy, US Bioenergy, Baker Hughes , in its weekly rig activity report, said the number of rigs drilling for oil and gas in North America fell by one to 2,134. While that was 97 more than were working in the U.S. a year ago, the total fell a whopping 200 in Canada.

In the alternative fuel sector, UBS cut target prices and earnings estimates on ethanol producers
Verasun Energy Corp., US Bioenergy Corp. and Aventine Renewable Energy , citing concerns about oversupply. UBS trimmed its 2008 ethanol price forecast to $1.87 a gallon from $1.99, erasing what the broker earlier had predicted would be a 30-cent per-gallon premium over gasoline.

Via: Market Watch
by Jim Jelter

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MIDDLE EAST: Iran Delegation in Pakistan for Pipeline Talks

Tehran has sent a nine-member delegation led by National Iranian Gas Export Co. Managing Director Hossein Nawab to Islamabad for talks on the struggling 'peace pipeline' project.

Iranian Press TV reports the two sides will discuss technical issues for the two days of meetings.

The pipeline, which includes India, has hit numerous snags over the price of gas and transit fees, as well as U.S. concerns over dealings between allies and Iran.

The pipeline`s estimated cost is $7.4 billion. It would run 1,700 miles from Iran, through Pakistan, to India, funneling 3.2 billion cubic feet of Iranian natural gas to Pakistan and 2.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas to India each day.

Iran makes play for Caspian oil
Iran`s acting oil minister is touting a planned pipeline for Caspian Sea oil to be directed to the Gulf of Oman.

Gholam-Hossein Nozari said the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Co. will make a final pitch next week on the Neka-Jask pipeline, Iranian Press TV reports.

He also is playing up the importance of increasing the Bandar Abbas-Isfahan pipeline capacity. He said it would increase safety and decrease costs to move more oil and oil products via pipeline instead of trucks.

'The pipeline will free more than 400 trucks that are now used for transfer of oil and its products and they can be used for other purposes,' he said, mehrnews.com reports.

Via: Mosnter & Critics
by Ben Lando
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MIDDLE EAST: 1m bpd of Caspian crude to be transferred to Gulf of Oman

One million barrels per day of crude oil will be transferred from Caspian Sea to the Gulf of Oman once the Neka-Jask pipeline is operational, it was announced here Monday.

Bandar Imam Petrochemical Complex,Caspian Sea , Gholam-Hossein Nozari , Middle East,  Gulf of Oman, Bandar Abbas refinery, Iran, Caretaker of Ministry of Petroleum Gholam-Hossein Nozari told reporters that this is an strategic decision for the country, which will increase the capacity for oil swap from the current figure of 150,000 to one million barrels per day.

Speaking on the sidelines of inauguration of the plan to increase the capacity of Bandar Abbas to Isfahan pipeline, Nozari stated that Neka -Jask cross-country pipeline will allow littoral countries of Caspian Sea to take their oil at a lower cost to free seas.

Bandar Imam Petrochemical Complex,Caspian Sea , Gholam-Hossein Nozari , Middle East,  Gulf of Oman, Bandar Abbas refinery, Iran, Asked about the plan to increase the capacity of Bandar Abbas-Isfahan pipeline, he noted that the plan will change transfer system of oil and oil products from trucks to pipeline, both less costly and safer.

He said Bandar Imam Petrochemical Complex is a major hub for petrochemical industries while Assaluyeh is the hub of gas industry.

According to current plans, Bandar Abbas refinery which is capable of treating about one million barrels of crude oil, will become a hub for oil refining industry, he said adding that negotiations on peace pipeline are going on in a satisfactory manner and the project will certainly be carried out.

Bandar Imam Petrochemical Complex,Caspian Sea , Gholam-Hossein Nozari , Middle East,  Gulf of Oman, Bandar Abbas refinery, Iran,
Via: Islamic Republic News Agency
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NORTH AMERICA: Stormcat Energy and Fox Petroleum

Fox Petroleum, Alaska, StormCat Energy, Sometimes the stock market is completely irrational. I will illustrate this with two wildcat oil companies (or junior exploration companies as similar companies often prefer to be called). Both companies are highly risky and may never make a profit. They are both highly speculative. Given the risks, however, one seems cheap while the other seems priced for perfection in this world and in the next.

ASIA: Tajikistan vs RUSAL

Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov chaired a governmental session, during which a decision was taken to rescind a cooperation treaty with RUSAL Company (Russia) signed in 2004.

As a REGNUM correspondent was told at the presidential press office, by another resolution, the government established a joint-stock company, Rogun Hydroelectric Power Station, that will take up construction of the Rogun hydroelectric power station.



Viktor Dubovitsky, Tajikistan, RUSAL,Rogun Hydroelectric Power Station,Union of Russian Compatriots,   Russia, Emomali Rakhmonov , Tajik expert: Annulment of the treaty with RUSAL will not contribute to improving economic cooperation between Russia and Tajikist

“I can only say I'm sorry,” said the head of the Union of Russian Compatriots in Tajikistan, Deputy Director of the Tajik Institute for History, Archaeology and Ethnography Viktor Dubovitsky commenting to a REGNUM correspondent on a decision of the Tajik government to rescind the cooperation treaty with RUSAL Company (Russia) signed in 2004. In accordance with the agreement, RUSAL was supposed to construct the Rogun Hydroelectric Power Station and a new aluminium plant.

The expert believes that the project was one of the most scaled and large elecments of the economic cooperation between Tajikistan and Russia. “Whatever the reasons for the annulment are, one can only be sorry about the decision. This will not contribute to improving the economic cooperation between the two countries,” Dubovitsky believes.

Speaking on how easy it would be for Tajikistan to find a new investor to complete construction of the Rogun Hydroelectric Power Station, the expert noted that if a contract with one company is canceled, it is always more difficult to find other investors.

Viktor Dubovitsky, Tajikistan, RUSAL,Rogun Hydroelectric Power Station,Union of Russian Compatriots,   Russia, Emomali Rakhmonov , “However, I think, Tajikistan will finally find investors. Because, economic profit from the energy production promised by finishing constrcution of the Rogun Hydroelectric Power Station will make it possible finding several potential investors at once that together will be able to invest needed money in implementation of the project,” the expert believes.



At the same time, Dubovitsky is confident that the Tajikistan leadership's decision to rescind the contract with RUSAL will affect the Russian-Tajik economic ties.

“If the initial contract authorized by the reputation of the two presidents in 2004 is breached, it will not contribute to improving the relations between the two countries. As for the political aspect of the decision, it is hard to say anything about it. But, speaking in the terms of Marxism and Leninism, I can say: politics is continuation of economy,” concluded Viktor Dubovitsky.

Viktor Dubovitsky, Tajikistan, RUSAL,Rogun Hydroelectric Power Station,Union of Russian Compatriots,   Russia, Emomali Rakhmonov ,

Via: Regnum
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AFRICA: Roc Oil updates Massambala oil discovery, Onshore Angola

Roc Oil (Cabinda) Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of ROC, advises that the Massambala-1CH2 sidetrack hole has reached a prognosed total depth of 491 metres and wireline and coring programmes have been completed. The sidetrack hole was drilled to evaluate a shallow oil zone intersected by Massambala-1, ROC’s first exploration well in Angola.

On 27 August 2007, Massambala-1CH2 was suspended for possible re-entry in order to determine the commercial merit of the discovery. Laboratory analyses have been initiated with regard to the fluid and core samples obtained from the sidetrack well and results are expected during the next several weeks. In the meantime, a preliminary interpretation of currently available data provides the following insights:

  • The oil is mobile, not residual.
  • Visually, the oil appears to be heavy and viscous, but definitive comment must await laboratory analysis. In any event, the oil seems to bear comparison to many crudes that are currently being routinely produced in other parts of the world via standard heavy oil industry production techniques.
  • Although there appears to be a 1 to 2 metre oil sand higher in the section, the sidetrack confirmed that the main zone of interest is a 16 metre gross oil column with approximately 15 metres (94%) of net oil saturated sand with good to excellent reservoir qualities and an associated wireline log anomaly.

At the depth of the shallow oil accumulation, approximately 400 metres, the Massambala feature is currently mapped on 3D seismic data as a gentle four-way dip structure with a vertical relief in the order of 16 metres at the well which is located a few metres below the structure’s high point. As currently mapped, the area of structural closure is approximately 26 sq km/6,400 acres and based on an apparent oil-water contact identified in the well, it would seem that the shallow Massambala structure is filled to spill.

It is far too early to comment specifically on potential recoverable reserves at Massambala but volumetric calculations, based on the most recent 3D seismic mapping and available well data, suggest the in-place oil resource potential could be in the order of 170 MMBO. In a more generic sense and subject to specific field details, heavy oil recovery techniques can recover a minimum of 10% of the oil in-place, often about 20% and sometimes considerably more.

Commenting on the Massambala results, ROC’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr John Doran, stated, "After drilling the original Massambala well last month, there were two main concerns about the shallow oil accumulation: is it residual and, if not, is the oil too heavy to be produced via conventional heavy oil industry techniques? The sidetrack tells us that the oil is not residual and, even if it is heavy, it may still be producible.


Heavy oil production techniques are an established and increasingly important, subset of the upstream petroleum business, particularly in countries such as Canada and Venezuela. Therefore, although ROC’s primary exploration target in Cabinda continues to be the more mobile and lighter crudes typical of the region, we have had enough exposure to crudes with less amenable flow properties, through our Cliff Head, Zhao Dong and Beibu Gulf operatorships, to realise the potential importance of the oil discovery at Massambala.

Roc Oil, Cabinda, onshore, Beibu Gulf operatorships, Massambala, Zhao Dong, Cliff Head, Massambala-1CH2, John Doran, Angola, Africa, On this basis, Massambala becomes the most recent addition to ROC’s "conveyor belt" of projects which merit more thorough appraisal. In Massambala’s case, the thought that it might be possible to produce 20% or more of the in-place oil using standard heavy oil industry production techniques, provides plenty of reason for ROC and its co-venturers to take a very close look at the discovery.

Finally, from a purely statistical point of view, Massambala-1 was not only ROC’s first well in Angola and its first well onshore Africa, but also the Company’s fifth exploration success out of nine exploration wells drilled in three different countries during the last 16 months."


Via: Scandinavian OiL & Gas



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eNergy STOCKS: Oil stocks clung to slim gains Thursday while natural-gas and oil service stocks turned negative

Oil stocks cling to slim gains, gas falls. Oil stocks clung to slim gains Thursday while natural-gas and oil service stocks turned negative, hit by a bout of profit-taking on the previous session's strong advance.

None of the moves was major, however, with the market jostling within a narrow trading band as the market awaits FED Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech Friday at Jackson Hole, Wyo., which investors are hoping will shed some light on interest rate policy and the tightening credit market.

By mid-afternoon, the Amex Oil Index (XOI: 1,348.33, +1.94, +0.1%) was ahead 0.3% at 1,350 points, led by refiner Sunoco Inc.'s ( SUN:72.25, +0.95, +1.3%) 1.3% rise to $72.27 a share in relatively light volume. Among the top integrated U.S. oil companies in the index, Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM:85.40, +0.17, +0.2%) was up 0.8% at $85.88 a share, Chevron Corp. (CVX:87.19, +0.49, +0.6%) was up 0.7% at $87.31, and ConocoPhillips (COP:81.29, -0.48, -0.6%) was off 0.5% at $81.37.

Chevron, still struggling to restore a fire-damaged crude processing unit at its Pascagoula, Miss., refinery, issued a statement saying that the plant continues to run at reduced capacity, but that it expects to fully meet delivery commitments to customers.


Amex Oil Index, U.S. oil companies, Energy equities , ExxonMobil, SUNOCO, Venezuela, ConocoPhillips, energy stocks, Chevron, Jackson Hole,  Noble EnergyThe company also said it may need to cancel or divert crude shipments to its other refineries until it corrects the problem. It reportedly declared force majeure on a shipment of Venezuelan crude to the refinery earlier this week.

The Amex Natural Gas Index (XNG:471.24, -3.31, -0.7%) was off 0.6% at 471.5 points and the Philadelphia Oil Service Index ($OSX:268.45, -0.86, -0.3%) was down 0.6% at 267.7 points, both backing down from strong gains Wednesday.

Energy equities were getting little support from the commodities market, where October crude-oil futures were heading for a lower close but still managing to keep their head above the $73-a-barrel mark.

Natural-gas for October delivery was up 1.2% at $5.65 per million British thermal units following the latest Energy Department supply report, but the same data also showed gas inventories are already a potentially bearish 11.9% above the 5-year average for this time of year, well before the onslaught of the winter heating season.

Noble Energy Inc. (NBL:59.22, -1.87, -3.1%) was the hardest hit of the natural-gas stocks, down 3% at $59.22 a share.

Via: Market Watch
by Jim Jelter

ASIA: Kazakhs halt Shell oil project

Shell has run into trouble over another big oil project in the former Soviet Union with the government of Kazakhstan halting development of the Kashagan field alleging environmental violations and cost over-runs in a move with ominous similarities to the Sakhalin-2 row.

Shell is one of a number of western partners in the Agip Kazakhstan North Caspian Operating Company along with ENI of Italy and ExxonMobil of America in the Kashagan field - one of the biggest oil discoveries ever with commercial reserves of up to 16bn barrels of oil. A spokesman for Shell said the company could not comment. He added: "It's a matter for the operator ENI."

Kazakh officials have been ramping up the war of words with Shell and its partners alleging that production may not come on stream until 2010, five years later than expected, while costs are claimed to have soared from $57bn to $136bn.

ENI was unable to talk last night but its boss, Paolo Scaroni, said last week that it had 60 days to come up with a plan to allay the government's fears over alleged breaches of the operating licence.

Nurlan Iskakov, the ecology minister. did not specify the nature of the environmental problems. Ministry officials said concerns were over the death of baby seals and fish in the Caspian Sea.

Shell was harassed before over its environmental record until it handed over a stake in the Sakhalin-2 project to Russia's state-owned Gazprom.







Via: Guardian by Terry Macalister Tags: ,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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ASIA: Hidden Dragon, Crouching Tiger ?

For India, China has always been the formidable, bigger brother. Losing at war may have crushed Nehru; but that apart, the mighty Himalayas have traditionally acted as a natural barrier.

Besides, the sheer size and redoubtable strength of its economy has deterred many an Indian company from dropping anchor in China. There seems to be an innate Indian fear of being overpowered by aggressive Chinese entrepreneurship.

The recent example of Chinese state oil companies -- armed with superior diplomatic and financial muscle power -- piping India, sometimes unfairly, to lucrative crude acreages in Sudan, Angola and Kazakhstan is just one instance of the ingenuity displayed by the Red Dragon. In this context, GAIL chairman Prashanto Banerjee's attempt at forging an equity partnership with China City Natural Gas Holding Company (CCNGH) -- a subsidiary of the
giant China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) -- is a commendable first step. Both sides have had preliminary discussions and a confidentiality agreement is to be signed shortly as a prelude to a possible financial partnership.



To be pragmatic, no Indian petroleum company is better equipped than GAIL to work in China. GAIL has some well-earned kudos to its credit:its success at converting what was arguably one of the world's most polluted fleet of city buses to CNG in Delhi, as well as its efficiently-run city gas networks have impressed even its staunchest critics.

The company is now pursuing similar projects in Egypt, the Philippines, Iran and Turkey. But doing business in China -- in the midst of shifting regulatory policies and frenetic competition -- requires grit and staying power. While it is difficult to predict whether GAIL can stay the course and make the mark, the gas major's foray will hopefully open up larger vistas of cooperation in the oil sector between the two wary neighbours.




Petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar is expected to argue for cooperation in place of antagonism between Chinese and Indian companies for exploration acreages abroad when Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visits New Delhi next January.


If you can't fight the enemy, sleep with it. Trite as that may sound, what is likely to clinch the overture is whether or not the Chinese are willing bedfellows ?

Via: IndianPetro
by Santanu Saikia
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IRAN: Oil industry in south Iran to be developed soon, Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh




New activities for developing oil industry and implementing major projects in south Iran will be launched in the near future, it was announced here on Monday.

Managing Director of National Oil Refining and Distribution Company, Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh made the remark while talking to reporters on the sidelines of inauguration of the plan to increase capacity of Bandar Abbas to Isfahan pipeline in this southern port city.

New activities for developing oil industry and implementing major projects in south Iran will be launched in the near future, he added.

He further noted that two new refineries with total capacity of 660,000 barrels per day are to be built in Bandar Abbas.

Persian Gulf Star refinery for treating gas condensate will handle 360,000 barrels per day condensate while super heavy crude oil refinery of the city will be capable of treating 300,000 barrels per day super heavy crude, Nematzadeh said.

He noted that the contract for construction of Persian Gulf Star gas condensate refinery has been signed and engineering operations have begun and the project is to begin before the end of the current Iranian calendar year (started March 21, 2007).

He further announced that super heavy crude oil refinery of Hormuz is going through tender bid formalities and the contractor will be chosen in a month.

"The crude oil treatment capacity of Bandar Abbas refinery will increase from 232,000 to 300,000 barrels per day and an oil dock is being designed to be constructed in the near future," he said.

Nematzadeh further stated that to decentralize activities in Bandar Abbas, an undersea pipeline will be constructed between Bandar Abbas and Qeshm Island to facilitate transfer of crude oil in the near future.

He also noted that the plan for increasing capacity of Bandar Abbas-Isfahan pipeline was very important.

"The plan will be implemented through investing rls 2,000 billion to develop existing pump stations and will play a major role in transfer and distribution of various types of oil products," he added.









Via: Islamic Republic News Agency
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SOUTH AMERICA: Argentina volverá a producir uranio en mayo 2008, tras 12 años

Manuel Torres LaveagaWoaw, Kirchner pensando en reactivar el negocio del Uranium. Un mercado poco mas que complejo, en el que se conforma de una cadena de negocio con distintos actores para que se cierre su operatividad.

Se supone que hoy en día, los reactores nucleares de nueva generación carecen del uso del enriquecimiento de uranium, al menos es así como se venden de cara a la sociedad para propiciar su viabilidad de instalaciones en ciertos puntos geográficos. Los tradicionales reactores nucleares, Hoy dia solo son demandados o por Irán , o lo mas curiosos por el Presidente Hugo Chávez ¿ habrá este tenido algo que ver, en motivar que los argentinos re abran el negocio? La verdad. No lo creo, ya por si mismo los argentinos son listos para hacer negocio. En cambio, podría ser esta la oportunidad para que encontraran alguna sinergia con los venezolanos y explotar sus propias reservas de uranio. Woaw, esto huele cada vez a mas azufre ¨ palabras de Hugo Chávez, en su ultima intervención en Naciones Unidas.

También es cierto que el sector se esta reorganizando, una de las principales empresas a nivel internacional son de Australia y Canadá, entre las que tenemos si recuerdan a Energy Resources , BHP Billiton y a Rio Tinto.

El negocio fuera excelente si jugaran en llave, brasileños-venezolanos-argentinos, en lo personal poco probables. Llamémosle exceso de soberbia o falta de humildad, lo que impiden los grandes proyectos de asociación, aquí solo se mueven proyectos cuando una de las partes inyecta enormes cantidades de dólares, como consecuencia secuestrado un proyecto por el que la otra parte poco empeño le pondrá al No sentirlo propio. Veremos como evoluciona este proyecto, ya que las politicas que le rodeen al relanzamiento de programas de producción de Uranium, tienden a ser algo delicadas. Sobretodo en la actualidad internacional.
|by Manuel Torres Laveaga|



Argentina volverá a producir uranio en mayo 2008, tras 12 años
Argentina reactivará la extracción de uranio, luego de 12 años de inactividad en las minas, en el marco de la creciente demanda mundial y un déficit local de energía que este año golpeó duramente a su industria, dijo el miércoles el secretario de Minería.

El Gobierno está poniendo en marcha un proyecto que contempla la activación de nuevas explotaciones y la reapertura de otras. La primera será "Don Otto," en la norteña provincia de Salta.

"Mayo es una buena fecha de compromiso de extracción de mineral de uranio en la mina Don Otto en Salta," dijo a Reuters el secretario de Minería, Jorge Mayoral.

La mina, que estuvo inactiva durante 26 años, producirá alrededor de 30 toneladas anuales de mineral de uranio.

"Va a significar sustituir la importación de mineral de uranio en el orden del 25 al 30 por ciento de la demanda actual que requieren las plantas nucleo-eléctricas en Argentina (de alrededor de 120 toneladas)," precisó el funcionario.

Argentina es miembro del selecto club de naciones que dominan la tecnología del enriquecimiento de uranio y que producen combustible para alimentar reactores nucleares. Pero el país dejó de producir uranio en 1995 en medio de una caída de los precios internacionales y pasó a depender de las importaciones.

En los últimos años los precios del metal se dispararon a alrededor de 90 dólares por libra y desataron una fiebre por su explotación, y con los problemas del calentamiento global como telón de fondo, la energía atómica volvió a los primeros planos.

Argentina decidió enfrentar su crisis, que durante el invierno le redujo la producción industrial a la mitad, con un ambicioso plan que incluye la finalización de su tercera central nuclear y la construcción de una cuarta.

Actualmente, junto a Brasil es el único país de la región que tiene en marcha un programa de este tipo.

OFERTA Y DEMANDA
En las últimas dos décadas, la producción mundial de uranio logró seguir el ritmo de la demanda, y las necesidades globales fueron satisfechas con inventarios de gobiernos atesorados tras el fin de la Guerra Fría.

Pero ahora, al mismo tiempo que crece la demanda, las reservas se están reduciendo, por lo que las empresas pusieron a Sudamérica en la mira. Hasta el momento, Brasil es el único productor del metal de la región.

"Argentina despierta un gran interés para el desarrollo de exploración de muchos metales, y el uranio no le va en zaga," dijo Mayoral.

Los mayores productores mundiales de uranio son Canadá y Australia. El proyecto de la mina Don Otto, que está a cargo en su totalidad de la estatal Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómica (CNEA), generaría unos 100 empleos en forma directa y unos 300 en forma indirecta en una población de unos 5.000 habitantes, según el funcionario.

Via: Reuters

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OiL World: Energy futures jump on inventory report

Gas prices rose at the pump for the first time in weeks and energy futures jumped today after the government reported unexpected declines in refinery activity and inventories of gasoline and oil.

The price hikes and inventory declines suggest the refining industry is easing back from what had been a scramble to produce more gasoline to supply the peak summer driving season, which ends this weekend.

"It drives home the ... continued tightness in gasoline inventories," said Antoine Halff, head of energy research at Fimat USA LLC.

Prices at the pump rose 1.3 cents today to a national average of $2.758 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Retail prices, which typically lag the futures market, peaked at $3.227 a gallon in late May. At the time, gasoline futures rallied as the refining industry experienced an unprecedented number of unexpected maintenance and operational outages.

But as the summer progressed, refiners boosted output and gasoline inventories rose. That led to a steep sell-off in gasoline futures, and retail prices followed.

Now, Halff said, "it looks like we might have hit the top of refinery runs for the season."

The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration reported that refinery utilization rates fell 1.3 percentage points to 90.3 percent of capacity in the week ended Aug. 24. Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires, on average, had expected no change.

The decline in activity helped cut gasoline inventories by 3.6 million barrels. Analysts had expected a 1.8 million barrel decline. The combination could mean gasoline supplies will continue falling, pushing prices higher, Halff said.

Light, sweet crude for October delivery rose $1.78 to settle at $73.51 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while September gasoline rose 8.54 cents to settle at $2.1008 a gallon.

In London, October Brent crude rose $1.58 to settle at $72.13 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.

The EIA also reported that crude oil inventories fell 3.5 million barrels, much more than the 800,000 barrel decrease analysts expected. Distillate stocks, which include diesel and heating oil, increased 900,000 barrels, more than the 600,000 barrel increase analysts forecast.

Gasoline imports rose 66,000 barrels to 993,000 barrels a day on average, and crude oil imports fell 993,000 barrels to an average of 9.8 million barrels a day.

Gasoline demand averaged more than 9.6 million barrels a day over the last 4 weeks, 0.5 percent above the same period last year, the EIA said.

Jason Schenker, an energy economist at Wachovia Corp., thinks the decline in crude inventories "may have been a transitory phenomenon resulting from Hurricane Dean."

Dean passed through the southern Gulf last week, disrupting some oil supply routes.

Despite the declines in refinery activity and gasoline inventories, Schenker maintains his view that the gas and oil markets have peaked for the year. Concerns about economic growth continue to weigh on energy markets, and it should come as no surprise that refiners are reacting to the approach of fall by cutting production, he said.

"Gasoline inventories are trending down at the end of the driving season," Schenker said.

In other Nymex trading, September heating oil rose 4.56 cents to settle at $2.0419 a gallon. Heating oil inventories are below year-ago levels, and prices are higher, which could mean high heating bills this winter for heating oil customers.

The expiring September natural gas contract fell 16.3 cents to settle at $5.43 per 1,000 cubic feet on expectations that inventories will rise in a government report on Thursday and on new forecasts suggesting that tropical storm systems in the Atlantic are not developing as fast as expected. October natural gas, which now becomes the front-month contract, fell 18 cents to settle at $5.581 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Natural gas inventories are already at record levels, and prices are lower than they were a year ago, which could be good news this winter for people who rely on natural gas for heating.

Via: Chron
by JOHN WILEN (AP)

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