Kazakhstan update: Key oil field hit by protests; uranium output unaffected

Update Kazakhstan update: Key oil field hit by protests; uranium output unaffected
Protests erupt after fuel price rise in Almaty (REUTERS/Mariya Gordeyeva)
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Updated 06 January 2022

Kazakhstan update: Key oil field hit by protests; uranium output unaffected

Kazakhstan update: Key oil field hit by protests; uranium output unaffected
  • Kazakhstan is experiencing the worst street protests the country has seen since gaining independence three decades ago. 
  • Protests triggered by a spike in the price of fuel, but have now expanded

Kazatomprom, the world's biggest uranium producer, said on Thursday it was operating normally with no impact on output or exports despite unrest in Kazakhstan.

Uranium prices have risen after violent demonstrations in the central Asian country, initially spurred by protests against fuel price hikes, as Kazakhstan is responsible for about 40 percent of global supplies of the metal.

Spot prices hit $45.5 per pound on Wednesday, the highest since Nov. 30, according to a Platts assessment.

But the country's political turmoil does not seem to have so far affected key industries.

"Uranium mining is going according to plan there have been no stoppages. The company is fulfulling its export contracts," a Kazatomprom spokesperson said.

Oil 

Oil production at Kazakhstan's top field Tengiz was reduced on Thursday, its operator Chevron said, as some contractors disrupted train lines in support of protests taking place across the central Asian country.

Demonstrations in the west of the country against a New Year's Day fuel price hike have quickly grown into deadly anti-government riots with Russia sending in paratroopers to put down the countrywide uprising. read more

Kazakhstan is a major oil producer with an output of about 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in recent months and has rarely seen production disrupted by unrest or natural disaster.

“TCO production operations continue, however, there has been a temporary adjustment to output due to logistics,” Chevron, the largest foreign oil producer in Kazakhstan with a 50 percent stake in the Tengizchevroil (TCO) joint venture, said in a statement.

Protestors at the field have disrupted train activity which is used to export oil, sources told Reuters.

TCO produces around 700,000 bpd. It was not clear by how much output has been reduced. Other top fields in Kazakhstan are onshore Karachaganak and offshore Kashagan.

Besides Chevron, the three key projects involve most top foreign companies including Exxon Mobil, Lukoil, Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), Eni, TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA), CNPC and Inpex.

A Shell spokesperson said production at the Karachaganak and Kashagan ventures was continuing.

“We are following developments in Kazakhstan closely. We are focusing on keeping our people and operations safe, working closely with our venture partners... We are keeping the situation under constant review.”

Despite the turmoil, which has seen Russia send paratroopers into the country to quell a violent uprising, there are no indications that oil production has been affected so far, Reuters reported.

Kazakhstan is a member of OPEC+, a group that includes the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers,

"The political situation in Kazakhstan is becoming increasingly tense," Commerzbank said, adiding: "And this is a country that is currently producing 1.6 million barrels of oil per day."

The global benchmark Brent crude futures rose $1.09, or 1.4 percent, to $81.89 a barrel, by 1054 GMT.

US West Texas Intermediate crude futures gained $1.17, or 1.5 percent, to $79.02 a barrel.

Banks

Commercial banks in Kazakhstan have suspended work, official representative of the National Bank of the Republic Olzhas Ramazanov said on Thursday.

According to Russia's Interfax news agency, Ramazanov said the decision was taken "to protect the health and life of employees of financial organizations and consumers of financial services" after "taking into account the conduct of counter-terrorism operations by law enforcement agencies and taking into account temporary interruptions in the Internet."

Telegram channel Sputnik Kazakhstan quoted Ramazanov as saying that "from Jan. 6 the work of all second-tier banks as well as the Kazakhstan stock exchange has been suspended."

All Kazakhstan's banks except for the National Bank of Kazakhstan, fall under the definition of "second-tier banks" according to the country's banking law.

Airlines

Airlines in the Middle East cancelled flights to Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, as civil unrest continues to grow in the Central Asian country.

Air Arabia and flydubai have both grounded flights to the city, with Reuters quoting a spokesperson for the latter saying the two return Dubai-Almaty services scheduled for Thursday had been halted due to the “situation on the ground” there.

The website for Air Arabia showed its return Sharjah-Almaty flights scheduled for Thursday as cancelled.

Other reported developments include:

  • Internet access has been blocked in Almaty, as well as in some parts of the capital Nur-Sultan.
  • WhatsApp and Telegram messengers have been down since Tuesday Jan. 4.
  • Workers of oil fields in the natural-resource rich state have joined the protesters.
  • Almaty’s public health department said 190 people needed medical aid because of the protests — 137 police officers and 53 civilians. Seven of those — including four police officers — are in intensive care.
  • There have been restrictions imposed on travel as part of the state of emergency.
  • The EU Commission, asked whether it would suspent the EU's trade agreement with Kazakhstan, said it was premature to comment, according to Reuters.

Kazakhstan is experiencing the worst street protests the country has seen since gaining independence three decades ago. 

Government buildings have been set ablaze and at least eight law enforcement officers have been killed.

Almaty airport was reportedly overrun by anti-government protesters on Wednesday, forcing flights to be cancelled, before it was later retaken by government security forces.

The violent anti-government protests have led Kazakhstan's leaders to declare a two-week nationwide state of emergency.

The protests were triggered by a spike in the price of fuel, with prices for the liquified petroleum gas most people in western oil town of Zhanaozen use to power their cars doubling overnight on Saturday.

Demonstrations quickly expanded to a more general frustration with the Kazakhstan government, and on Wednesday President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sought to placate the crowds by dismissing the entire government.

Later that day he adopted a tougher line against the protesters, accusing them of being in the service of international terrorist gangs.

A Russia-led military alliance agreed on Thursday to send peacekeepers to the country.  


Oil prices up 2 percent on supply outages

Oil prices up 2 percent on supply outages
Updated 01 July 2022

Oil prices up 2 percent on supply outages

Oil prices up 2 percent on supply outages

LONDON: Oil prices rose about 2 percent on Friday, recouping most of the previous session’s declines, as supply outages in Libya and expected shutdowns in Norway outweighed expectations that an economic slowdown could dent demand, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures were up $2.20, or 2 percent, at $111.23 a barrel by 1348 GMT, having dropped to $108.03 a barrel earlier in the session.

WTI crude futures gained $2.25, or 2.1 percent, to $108.01 a barrel, after retreating to $104.56 a barrel earlier.

Both contracts fell around 3 percent on Thursday, ending the month lower for the first time since November.

We “still see risks to prices as skewed to the upside on tight inventories, limited spare capacity and muted non-OPEC+ supply response,” Barclays said in a note.

Libya’s National Oil Corporation declared force majeure on Thursday at the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf ports as well as the El Feel oilfield. Force majeure is still in effect at the ports of Brega and Zueitina, NOC said.

Production has seen a sharp decline, with daily exports ranging between 365,000 and 409,000 bpd, a decrease of 865,000 bpd compared to production in “normal circumstances,” NOC said.

Elsewhere, 74 Norwegian offshore oil workers at Equinor’s Gudrun, Oseberg South and Oseberg East platforms will go on strike from July 5, the Lederne trade union said on Thursday, likely halting about 4 percent of Norway’s oil production.

Ecuador’s government and indigenous groups’ leaders on Thursday reached an agreement to end more than two weeks of protests which had led to the shut-in of more than half of the country’s pre-crisis 500,000 bpd oil output.

On Thursday, the OPEC+ group of producers, including Russia, agreed to stick to its output strategy after two days of meetings. However, the producer club avoided discussing policy from September onwards.

Previously, OPEC+ decided to increase output each month by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August, up from a previous plan to add 432,000 bpd per month.

US President Joe Biden will make a three-stop trip to the Middle East in mid-July that includes a visit to Saudi Arabia, pushing energy policy into the spotlight as the United States and other countries face soaring fuel prices that are driving up inflation.

Biden said on Thursday he would not directly press Saudi Arabia to increase oil output to curb soaring prices when he sees the Saudi king and crown prince during a visit this month.

A Reuters survey found that OPEC pumped 28.52 million bpd in June, down 100,000 bpd from May’s revised total.

Oil prices are expected to stay above $100 a barrel this year as Europe and other regions struggle to wean themselves off Russian supply, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday, though economic risks could slow the climb.

India introduced export duties on gasoil, gasoline and jet fuel on Friday to help maintain domestic supplies, while also imposing a windfall tax on oil producers who have benefited from higher global crude oil prices. 


Russia seizes control of partly foreign-owned energy project

Russia seizes control of partly foreign-owned energy project
Updated 01 July 2022

Russia seizes control of partly foreign-owned energy project

Russia seizes control of partly foreign-owned energy project

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin has handed full control over a major oil and natural gas project partly owned by Shell and two Japanese companies to a newly created Russian firm, a bold move amid spiraling tensions with the West over Moscow’s military action in Ukraine, according to Associated Press.

Putin’s decree late Thursday orders the creation of a new company that would take over ownership of Sakhalin Energy Investment Co., which is nearly 50 percent controlled by British energy giant Shell and Japan-based Mitsui and Mitsubishi.

Putin’s order named “threats to Russia’s national interests and its economic security” as the reason for the move at Sakhalin-2, one of the world’s largest export-oriented oil and natural gas projects.

The presidential order gives the foreign firms a month to decide if they want to retain the same shares in the new company.

Russian state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom had a controlling stake in Sakhalin-2, the country’s first offshore gas project that accounts for about 4 percent of the world’s market for liquefied natural gas, or LNG. Japan, South Korea and China are the main customers for the project’s oil and LNG exports.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that there is no reason to expect a shutdown of supplies following Putin’s order.

Shell held a 27.5 percent stake in the project. After the start of the Russian military action in Ukraine, Shell announced its decision to pull out of all of its Russian investments, a move that it said has cost at least $5 billion. The company also holds 50 percent stakes in two other joint ventures with Gazprom to develop oil fields.

Shell said Friday that it’s studying Putin’s order, which has thrown its investment in the joint venture into doubt.

“As a shareholder, Shell has always acted in the best interests of Sakhalin-2 and in accordance with all applicable legal requirements,” the company said in a statement. “We are aware of the decree and are assessing its implications.”

Seiji Kihara, deputy chief secretary of the Japanese cabinet, said the government was aware of Putin’s decree and was reviewing its impact. Japan-based Mitsui owns 12.5 percent of the project, and Mitsubishi holds 10 percent.

Kihara emphasized that the project should not be undermined because it “is pertinent to Japan’s energy security,” adding that “anything that harms our resource rights is unacceptable.”

“We are scrutinizing Russia’s intentions and the background behind this,” he told reporters Friday at a twice-daily news briefing. “We are looking into the details, and for future steps, I don’t have any prediction for you at this point.”

Asked during a conference call with reporters if Putin’s move with Sakhalin-2 could herald a similar action against other joint ventures involving foreign shareholders, Peskov said, “There can’t be any general rule here.”

He added that “each case will be considered separately.”

Sakhalin-2 includes three offshore platforms, an onshore processing facility, 300 kilometers of offshore pipelines, 1,600 kilometers of onshore pipelines, an oil export terminal and an LNG plant.
 

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Riyadh no longer one of the 100 most expensive cities for expats: Mercer

Riyadh no longer one of the 100 most expensive cities for expats: Mercer
Updated 01 July 2022

Riyadh no longer one of the 100 most expensive cities for expats: Mercer

Riyadh no longer one of the 100 most expensive cities for expats: Mercer

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, has dropped 72 places in a ranking of the world’s most expensive cities for expats as it tumbled out of the top 100, according to a report issued by Mercer.

Riyadh was positioned at 103 in Mercer's Cost of Living Index 2022, falling from 29 in the previous year’s list. 

Commenting on Riyadh’s fall, Khaled Al-Mobayed, CEO of Menassat Reality Co., a Riyadh-based real estate developer, said: “The results came in contrary to the expectations, due to the pandemic’s ongoing consequences and the rising cost of logistics and supply chain.”

“Being out of the 100 top expensive cities is a good sign despite the challenges that the economy has gone through,” he added.

UAE's Dubai took over Lebanon's capital, Beirut, as the most expensive city among Arab countries in the region, ranking 31.

Despite being placed third in 2021, Beirut was not even on this year’s list of 227 cities due to the country’s economic turmoil.

The city’s fall reflects the severe drop in value of the Lebanese pound, according to Lebanese economic analyst Bassel Al-Khatib, who pointed out the minimum wage is now worth $20, while it was $450 before the economic crisis gripping the country. 

“Lebanon is extremely expensive to those who get paid in Lebanese pounds yet very cheap for those who get pain in US dollars,” he told Arab News, adding: “Lebanon was expensive for both citizens and foreigners, and with the currency dropping 95 percent and the dollar reaching record levels, the situation changed.”

“Everything has become expensive but not for foreigners who have dollars. All services by the government such as water, electricity fees, or internet are still the same but food prices skyrocketed,” he added.

Abu Dhabi was the second highest Arab city from the region, ranked at 61, while Jeddah came in at 111 this year compared to 94 in 2021.

Jordan's capital Amman ranked 115, followed by Bahrain's Manama at 117, Oman's Muscat at 119 and Kuwait city at 131.

Egypt's capital, Cairo, was placed at 154 while Rabat, Algiers and Tunis came as the least expensive in the region, ranking 162, 218 and 220 respectively.

Hong Kong topped the list as the most expensive city in the world in 2022, moving from second rank last year and taking the top spot from Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat.

Switzerland’s Zurikh and Geneva followed as second and third most expensive cities, replacing Hong Kong and Beirut respectively.

Turkey’s capital, Ankara, came in as the least expensive city, ranking 227, taking the spot from Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek.


France eyes ‘good investment opportunities’ in Saudi Arabia: Official

France eyes ‘good investment opportunities’ in Saudi Arabia: Official
Updated 01 July 2022

France eyes ‘good investment opportunities’ in Saudi Arabia: Official

France eyes ‘good investment opportunities’ in Saudi Arabia: Official

RIYADH: France is intensifying efforts to take advantage of Saudi investment opportunities in all sectors, mostly energy, technology, water and other industrial services, the country's Ambassador in Saudi Arabia said.

Saudi Arabia is an attractive region and a suitable environment for investments in all its vital sectors, Ludovic Pouille told a press conference.

The French government and the private sector are working to expand the number of companies operating in the Kingdom, which currently stands at about 135, Aleqtisadiah reported citing Pouille.

The aim is to gain large investment spaces, and to benefit from the reforms and economic developments undertaken by Saudi Arabia, which constitute a good opportunity for French companies, he said. 

The French ambassador said France will take the model of agreements between the Al-Ula Authority and his country’s institutions in the fields of infrastructure and culture, as a starting point for expanding the map of investments in the future.


New Saudi smart city AlNama to be zero-carbon

New Saudi smart city AlNama to be zero-carbon
Updated 01 July 2022

New Saudi smart city AlNama to be zero-carbon

New Saudi smart city AlNama to be zero-carbon

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s new AlNama smart city will be a zero-carbon community, according to the company charged with designing the development.

The hospitality hub, located on a 10 sq. km area in Riyadh, will create 10,000 jobs in various sectors, including green-tech industries to create a ‘green circular economy’, Construction Week reported. 

The project is planned to provide 11,000 residential units and an eventual population of 44,000 people.

ALNAMA will be designed by Dubai's URB, and the firm’s CEO Baharash Bagherian said: “AlNama aims to be the next generation of self-sufficient city, producing all the city’s renewable energy needs, as well as the resident’s caloric food intake on site.

“Biosaline agriculture, productive gardens, wadis, and carbon-rich habitats are key features of the development’s innovative and resilient landscape design.

“The city was planned through the design of its landscape, rather than its buildings. This creates an urbanism that is more socially inclusive, more economically valuable, and more sensitive to the environment.”

AlNama will consist of eco-friendly glamping lodges, eco resorts and a nature conservation center to promote ecotourism, while an autism village, wellness center and clinics within the medical hub will help promote medical tourism.

The green-tech hub will provide an innovative ecosystem for urban-tech companies related to food, energy, water, waste, mobility, and building materials