Taxing oil companies will not solve global energy crisis: Aramco CEO

Taxing oil companies will not solve global energy crisis: Aramco CEO
Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser warned about the lack of investments in the sector. (AFP)
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Updated 20 September 2022

Taxing oil companies will not solve global energy crisis: Aramco CEO

Taxing oil companies will not solve global energy crisis: Aramco CEO

RIYADH: Taxing oil companies and capping energy bills are not long-term solutions to the global energy crisis, according to Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser, as he warned about the lack of investments in the sector.

Governments across Europe have plowed hundreds of billions of euros into tax cuts, handouts and subsidies to tackle an energy crisis that is driving up inflation, forcing industries to shut production and hiking bills ahead of winter.

Under EU plans announced last week, excessive profits from energy companies would be skimmed off and redistributed to ease the burden on consumers.

Nasser, who heads the world's largest exporter of oil, said continuing underinvestment in the hydrocarbons sector at a time when alternatives to fossil fuels were still not readily available was among the root causes of the problem.

“Freezing or capping energy bills might help consumers in the short term, but it does not address the real causes and is not the long-term solution,” Nasser told a forum in Switzerland.

“And taxing companies when you want them to increase production is clearly not helpful.”

He added: “Even if the conflict in Ukraine ended today, the energy crisis will not end. The real cause of energy insecurity is underinvestment in oil and gas.”

Aramco has been investing to raise Saudi Arabia’s oil capacity to 13 million barrels per day by 2027, but Nasser warned that globally investments in hydrocarbons were still, “too little, too late, too short term.”

The underinvestment comes at a time when spare capacity is thin and demand is “fairly healthy” despite strong economic headwinds.

“When the global economy recovers, we can expect demand to rebound further, eliminating the little spare oil production capacity out there,” Nasser said, adding: “That is why I am seriously concerned.”

Nasser, however, noted that capping energy bills might help consumers in the short term.

He added that global climate goals should not change because of this investment crisis.

“Investing in conventional sources does not mean that alternative energy sources and technologies should be ignored. But the world deserves a much better response to this crisis,” he said. 

Nasser further added: “We are working to lower our upstream carbon intensity, our gas flaring, and our methane intensity, which are already among the lowest in the world.” 

Last month, a report released by King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center revealed that a substantial rise in investments in the oil industry is necessary to guarantee energy security from 2025 and beyond, as the pandemic made the investment problem in the industry more evident. 

According to the KAPSARC report, investment projections for 2022 are not optimistic. 

The report estimated that global oil and gas investments, which include both midstream and downstream, will increase by just $26 billion this year, much lower than the $140 billion increase needed in upstream capex by 2025.

The report added that climate change “misconceptions” is one of the crucial factors that lead investors to turn away from the oil sector. 

“The oil and gas industry has suffered from external discreditation through climate and social misconceptions, generating stigmas that have affected its investment attractiveness,” said KAPSARC in the report. 

The report noted that the four key challenges that negatively impact investments in the sector are price volatility, uncertainties due to significantly diverging long-term forecasts, increasing climate change concerns, and the lack of regulation on environmental, social, and governance.


Who is Hindenburg, the firm targeting India’s Adani?

Who is Hindenburg, the firm targeting India’s Adani?
Updated 9 sec ago

Who is Hindenburg, the firm targeting India’s Adani?

Who is Hindenburg, the firm targeting India’s Adani?
  • Hindenburg is an investment research firm with a focus on activist short-selling. It looks for corruption or fraud in the business world, such as accounting irregularities and bad actors in management, and It can make money out of its work

NEW YORK: Hindenburg Research, the financial research firm with an explosive name and a track record of sending the stock prices of its targets tumbling, is taking on one of the world’s richest men.
Hindenburg is back in the headlines after last week accusing Indian conglomerate Adani Group of “a brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme.” It cited two years of research, including talks with former Adani senior executives and reviews of thousands of documents.
The Adani Group has blasted the accusations, calling them “a malicious combination of selective misinformation and stale, baseless and discredited allegations that have been tested and rejected by India’s highest courts.”
Nevertheless, Hindenburg’s scorching allegations have caused the fortune of Adani Group’s founder, Gautam Adani, to slide by nearly $47 billion in just over a week, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index. Here’s a look at the firm behind all the movement:
What is it?
Hindenburg says it specializes in “forensic financial research.” In layman’s terms, it looks for corruption or fraud in the business world, such as accounting irregularities and bad actors in management.
Hindenburg has even come to be known as Ponzi hunters in some circles, according to the Washington Post, which detailed how it helped bring down an alleged $500 million scheme that targeted Mormons.
Where did its name come from?
The firm says it sees the Hindenburg, the airship that famously caught fire in the 1930s to the cry of “Oh, the humanity,” as the “epitome of a totally man-made, totally avoidable disaster.” It says it looks for similar disasters in financial markets “before they lure in more unsuspecting victims.”
Who else has Hindenburg gone after?
It’s perhaps most famous for a 2020 report on Nikola, a company in the electric-vehicle industry whose founder Hindenburg said made misleading claims to ink partnerships with top auto companies hungry to catch up to Tesla.
Among its allegations, Hindenburg accused Nikola of staging a video to calm skepticism about its truck, one that showed the vehicle cruising on a road. Hindenburg said the video was actually just showing the truck rolling down a hill after getting towed to the top.
What has come of such accusations?
For Nikola, quick scrutiny from the government and investors.
The company and its founder, Trevor Milton, received grand jury subpoenas from the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York and the N.Y. County District Attorney’s Office shortly after Hindenburg released its report.
The Securities and Exchange Commission also soon issued subpoenas to Nikola’s directors.
Milton was convicted this past October of charges he deceived investors with exaggerated claims about his company’s progress in producing zero-emission 18-wheel trucks fueled by electricity or hydrogen.
And Nikola in late 2021 agreed to pay $125 million to settle SEC charges that it defrauded investors by misleading them about its products, technical advancements, and commercial prospects.
What does Hindenburg get out of this?
It can make money. In its Adani report, it said that it had taken a “short position in Adani Group Companies” through bonds that trade in the US and other investments that trade outside India.
It has made similar “short” bets against other companies it published unflattering reports on. A “short” trade is a way for someone to make money if an investment’s price falls. Afterward, if the price of a company’s stock or bonds falls because of the negative attention from the report, Hindenburg can profit.
Such short sellers have been criticized for unfairly pushing down prices of stocks with potentially unfounded allegations. But proponents also call them a healthy part of a stock market, keeping stock prices in check and preventing them from running too high.


Adani’s market losses top $100 billion as crisis shockwaves spread

Adani’s market losses top $100 billion as crisis shockwaves spread
Updated 18 min 10 sec ago

Adani’s market losses top $100 billion as crisis shockwaves spread

Adani’s market losses top $100 billion as crisis shockwaves spread
  • Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries is now Asia’s richest person as Adani Group chairman's net worth plunges
  • S&P Dow Jones Indices said it would remove Adani Enterprises from widely used sustainability indices

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Adani’s market losses swelled above $100 billion on Thursday, sparking worries about a potential systemic impact a day after the Indian group’s flagship firm abandoned its $2.5 billion stock offering.
Another challenge for Adani on Thursday came when S&P Dow Jones Indices said it would remove Adani Enterprises from widely used sustainability indices, effective Feb. 7, which would make the shares less appealing to sustainability-minded funds.
In addition, India’s National Stock Exchange said it has placed on additional surveillance shares of Adani Enterprises , Adani Ports and Ambuja Cements .
However, Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani is in talks with lenders to prepay and release pledged shares as he seeks to restore confidence in the financial health of his conglomerate, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday.
The shock withdrawal of Adani Enterprises’ share sale marks a dramatic setback for founder Adani, the school dropout-turned-billionaire whose fortunes rose rapidly in recent years but have plunged in just a week after a critical research report by US-based short-seller Hindenburg Research.
Aborting the share sale sent shockwaves across markets, politics and business. Adani stocks plunged, opposition lawmakers called for a wider probe and India’s central bank sprang into action to check on the exposure of banks to the group. Meanwhile, Citigroup’s wealth unit stopped making margin loans to clients against Adani Group securities.

The crisis marks an dramatic turn of fortune for Adani, who has in recent years forged partnerships with foreign giants such as France’s TotalEnergies and attracted investors such as Abu Dhabi’s International Holding Company as he pursues a global expansion stretching from ports to the power sector.
In a shock move late on Wednesday, Adani called off the share sale as a stocks rout sparked by Hindenburg’s criticisms intensified, despite it being fully subscribed a day earlier.
“Adani may have started a confidence crisis in Indian shares and that could have broader market implications,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior market analyst at Swissquote Bank.
Adani Enterprises shares tumbled 27 percent on Thursday, closing at their lowest level since March 2022.
Other group companies also lost further ground, with 10 percent losses at Adani Total Gas, Adani Green Energy and Adani Transmission, while Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone shed nearly 7 percent.
Since Hindenburg’s report on Jan. 24, group companies have lost nearly half their combined market value. Adani Enterprises — described as an incubator of Adani’s businesses — has lost $26 billion in market capitalization.
Adani is also no longer Asia’s richest person, having slid to 16th in the Forbes rankings of the world’s wealthiest people, with his net worth almost halved to $64.6 billion in a week.
The 60-year-old had been third on the list, behind billionaires Elon Musk and Bernard Arnault.
His rival Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries is now Asia’s richest person.

Mukesh Ambani, chairman oil-to-telecom conglomerate Reliance Industries, is now Asia''s richest person. (AFP) file)


Broader concerns
Adani’s plummeting stock and bond prices have raised concerns about the likelihood of a wider impact on India’s financial system.
India’s central bank has asked local banks for details of their exposure to the Adani Group, government and banking sources told Reuters on Thursday.
CLSA estimates that Indian banks were exposed to about 40 percent of the $24.5 billion of Adani Group debt in the fiscal year to March 2022.
Dollar bonds issued by entities of Adani Group extended losses on Thursday, with notes of Adani Green Energy crashing to a record low. Adani Group entities made scheduled coupon payments on outstanding US dollar-denominated bonds on Thursday, Reuters reported citing sources.
“We see the market is losing confidence on how to gauge where the bottom can be and although there will be short-covering rebounds, we expect more fundamental downside risks given more private banks (are) likely to cut or reduce margin,” said Monica Hsiao, chief investment officer of Hong Kong-based credit fund Triada Capital.
In New Delhi, opposition lawmakers submitted notices in parliament demanding discussion of the short-seller’s report.
The Congress Party called for a Joint Parliamentary Committee be set up or a Supreme Court monitored investigation, while some lawmakers shouted anti-Adani slogans inside parliament, which was adjourned for the day.
Adani vs Hindenburg
Adani made acquisitions worth $13.8 billion in 2022, Dealogic data showed, its highest ever and more than double the previous year.
The canceled fundraising was critical for Adani, which had said it would use $1.33 billion to fund green hydrogen projects, airports facilities and greenfield expressways, and $508 million to repay debt at some units.
Hindenburg’s report alleged an improper use of offshore tax havens and stock manipulation by the Adani Group. It also raised concerns about high debt and the valuations of seven listed Adani companies.
The Adani Group has denied the accusations, saying the allegation of stock manipulation had “no basis” and stemmed from an ignorance of Indian law. It said it has always made the necessary regulatory disclosures.
Adani had managed to secure share sale subscriptions on Tuesday even though the stock’s market price was below the issue’s offer price. Maybank Securities and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority had bid for the anchor portion of the issue, investments which will now be reimbursed by Adani.
Late on Wednesday, the group’s founder said he was withdrawing the sale given the share price fall, adding his board felt going ahead with it “will not be morally correct.”


Oil steady as Russian crude products ban looms

Oil steady as Russian crude products ban looms
Updated 02 February 2023

Oil steady as Russian crude products ban looms

Oil steady as Russian crude products ban looms
  • A EU ban on Russian refined products is set to take effect on Feb. 5, potentially dealing a blow to global supply

LONDON: Oil prices were steady on Thursday as looming sanctions on Russian oil products added uncertainty over supply but the dollar lost value in a boost to the oil trade.

Brent crude futures fell 18 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $82.66 a barrel by 1415 GMT while West Texas Intermediate US crude futures lost 3 cents to $76.38.

Both benchmarks plunged more than 3 percent overnight after US government data showed a large build in oil stocks. A EU ban on Russian refined products is set to take effect on Feb. 5, potentially dealing a blow to global supply.

EU countries will seek a deal on Friday on a European Commission proposal to set price caps on Russian oil products after postponing a decision on Wednesday because of divisions among member states, diplomats said. The European Commission proposed last week that from Feb. 5 the EU apply a price cap of $100 a barrel on premium Russian oil products such as diesel and a $45 per barrel cap on discounted products such as fuel oil.

Meanwhile an OPEC+ panel endorsed the producer group’s current output policy at a meeting on Wednesday, leaving production cuts agreed last year unchanged amid hopes of higher Chinese demand and uncertain prospects for Russian supply.

OPEC+ agreed to cut its production target by 2 million barrels per day — about 2 percent of global demand — from November last year until the end of 2023 to support the market.


Saudi Arabia and France sign cooperation MoU in the field of energy

Saudi Arabia and France sign cooperation MoU in the field of energy
Updated 02 February 2023

Saudi Arabia and France sign cooperation MoU in the field of energy

Saudi Arabia and France sign cooperation MoU in the field of energy
  • Agreement calls for increased focus on technologies which mitigate effects of climate change

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday with Catherine Colonna, French minister of Europe and foreign affairs, to establish a framework for cooperation in the energy sector, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The memorandum, which was signed in Riyadh, outlined cooperation between the countries in the fields of electricity, renewables, energy efficiency, storage, smart grids, oil and gas and their derivatives, refining, petrochemicals, and the distribution and marketing sector.

The agreement also calls for increased cooperation in technologies which mitigate the effects of climate change, such as carbon capture and hydrogen production.

The deal addresses areas of collaboration in digital transformation, localization of materials, products, and services related to the energy sectors, joint research, skill training, and cooperation between specialized companies.

Prince Abdulaziz and Colonna also discussed future opportunities in various fields of energy, as well as the prospects for cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

 


Green-certified utility projects on the rise in Saudi Arabia

 Green-certified utility projects on the rise in Saudi Arabia
Updated 02 February 2023

Green-certified utility projects on the rise in Saudi Arabia

 Green-certified utility projects on the rise in Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi Arabia’s National Water Strategy is reshaping the private sector with a focus on ESG principles

RIYADH: When a consortium of water infrastructure companies closed green loans worth $480 million for three independent sewage treatment plants in Saudi Arabia last March, it was a harbinger of the verdant opportunity that awaited the Kingdom’s sustainable projects.

It was a watershed moment for the consortium of Saudi companies Tawzea, Tamasuk, and Spanish firm Acciona when they secured the amount for three ISTPs — Madinah 3, Buraidah 2, and Tabuk 2 — in just six months of expressing their interest.

What made the project a prime beneficiary of green financing was its commitment to the sustainability goals envisaged by the Saudi Vision 2030 and the endeavors of Saudi Water Partnership Co., the state-run company which facilitates the commercialization of water and electricity in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is making headlines by taking measures to ensure a smooth transition to green energy and fight climate change. The Kingdom will host the 44th International Association for Energy Economics International Conference from Feb. 4-9 to discuss the path for a sustainable future.

“The construction and operation of the ISTPs will aid in optimizing the use of water resources in Saudi Arabia by providing treated and renewable water to be used for agricultural purposes, therefore reducing the consumption of freshwater,” said María Ortiz de Mendivil, primary analyst, S&P Global Ratings, in a second-party opinion note certifying the projects as green.

Once completed, Madinah 3 will serve up to 1.5 million inhabitants of existing and future residential areas near the city of Madinah. It will have an initial treatment capacity of 200,000 m³ per day, which can be expanded to 375,000 m³ per day.

Buraidah 2 will serve up to 600,000 people and have a capacity of 150,000 m³ per day. Tabuk 2, serving up to 350,000 people, will facilitate 90,000 m³ per day.

The treated water will replace freshwater resources for farming, saving this scarce resource and contributing directly to the nation’s water security. Daily water savings are expected to amount to 190,000 m³ per day at Madinah 3, 142,500 at Buraidah 2, and 85,500 at Tabuk 2.

HIGHLIGHTS

Madinah 3 will have an initial treatment capacity of 200,000 m³ per day, which can be expanded to 375,000 m³ per day.

Buraidah 2 will serve up to 600,000 people and have a capacity of 150,000 m³ per day.

Tabuk 2, serving up to 350,000 people, will facilitate 90,000 m³ per day.

“We have a zero-sludge-dispatch policy, meaning that all the sludge that we produce in these wastewater treatment plants is either used by farmers to replace other fertilizers or sent to cement factories for the production of cement,” said Julio De La Rosa, the Middle East business development director of Acciona Agua, while speaking at an International Desalination Association’s forum held two months ago.

Additionally, the photovoltaic solar panels installed at each plant will generate renewable power that will partially cover their daily energy consumption.

The green-certified project drew the attention of the bigwigs of the finance world, such as Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Alimna Bank, Riyad Bank, and Siemens Bank, which parked their investments at first blush.

Green loans for a greener planet

So, what exactly is a green loan? According to the World Bank, a green loan is a form of financing that enables borrowers to use the proceeds to exclusively fund projects that make a substantial contribution to an environmental objective.

It is similar to a bond. The only difference is that a loan is typically smaller than a bond and executed in private operations. Also, green loans and green bonds follow different but consistent principles: The Green Loan Principles and the Green Bond Principles of the International Capital Market Association.

This green financing assumes significance as investors worldwide are earmarking their funds into sustainable investment projects that neutralize greenhouse gases and run on renewable energy, making them attractive propositions in an environmentally conscious world.

Saudi Arabia, particularly, has been facing severe challenges due to the unsustainable use of water resources, and it has limited reserves of nonrenewable groundwater, which are depleting rapidly. In addition, high water demand in the agriculture sector has also exacerbated the water scarcity situation.

According to figures published by the Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture, between 1985 and 2020, the water level in the Kingdom almost dropped by 90 meters. That led to the National Water Strategy, inspired by the Vision 2030 blueprint, which identified levers and enablers to fix the problem.

“The National Water Strategy reshaped the private sector, which has started to think about how to be efficient and contribute to the water strategy, gain benefits as per their sustainability roadmap and accommodate the environment, social and governance in their strategies,” said Mohammed Al Halawani, CEO of Tawzea.

This public-private partnership has spawned many efficient independent water and power projects and desalination plants that are fast becoming textbook case studies for sustainable projects worldwide.

An excellent case study of the PPP is the Taif Independent Sewage Treatment Plant, which was developed by Cobra & Tawzea and had a treatment capacity of 1,00,000 m³ per day.

It is the first ISTP that reached commercial operation in Saudi Arabia from the private sector under the build-operate-transfer model.

The plant has less than 0.35 kilowatt-hour per m³ electricity consumption. About 30 percent of the electricity was recovered by biogas cogeneration. Even the residual output was 90 percent dry solids and beneficial class-A sludge.

“Over 210,000 sq. m of trees will be introduced as part of the project with the support of the Saudi Green Initiative, which is equivalent to approximately sequestering 136 tons of carbon dioxide per year,” said Al Halawani.

Sustainable to the core

Another example is the Shuaibah 3 Water Desalination Co., a special-purpose vehicle created to finance and develop the Shuaibah 3 Independent Water Project.

The company was launched by Saudi utility developer ACWA Power and Water & Electricity Holding Co., also known as Badeel, both owned in part or whole by the Public Investment Fund.

The project aims to replace a thermal desalination plant, the Shuaibah 3 IWPP, powered by fossil fuels. The use of reverse osmosis technology makes the proposed plant more energy efficient than the previous thermal desalination plant that will come offline.

The conventional thermal desalination process, multi-stage flash distillation, and multiple-effect distillation produced nearly 20 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per m³. However, the carbon footprint for the RO process could be anywhere from 0.4 to 6.7 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per m³.

According to ACWA Power, this technology shift could accrue savings of about 45 million tons of carbon dioxide yearly.

That’s not all. Green financing is greenlighting a host of projects worldwide, and for the first time, more money was raised in the debt markets in 2022 for climate-friendly projects than fossil-fuel companies.

According to a Bloomberg report, roughly $580 billion was arranged in 2022 for renewable energy and other environmentally responsible ventures, while the oil, gas, and coal industries turned to lenders and underwriters for closer to $530 billion. 

While it may not indicate that green financing is finally having an upper hand on oil lenders, the well-trodden bazaars of fossil fuel funding have become eerily cold after the global pushback on loss and damage during the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt last year.

Saudi Arabia, on its part, lives by the age-old adage: You never miss the water till the well runs dry. While going to press, Saudi power juggernaut ACWA Power announced that it added 2.4 million m³ day of water desalination capacity across four reverse osmosis megaprojects in 2022, the largest in a calendar year in the company’s history.

This achievement brings the company’s total water capacity under management to 6.4 million m³ across 16 projects in four countries, producing water at less than $0.50 per m³, which is up to three-quarters lower than the tariff of $2 per m³ just a few years ago.

Ergo, the message is loud and clear: The future of infrastructure financing is green, or there’s no future at all.