As we noted in September (when the price had just dipped below $100 a barrel), after an initial price shock when ISIS seized northern Iraq, the world oil price has since slumped. It now stands at around $60 a barrel. Recall that way back in late 2001, when the US was invading Afghanistan, it stood at a lowly $11. At that time, we predicted an imminent price shock to jump-start the planned industry expansion—both in the Caspian Basin and here at home, overcoming environmental concerns. Boy, were we right. The price of a barrel first broke the $100 mark in 2008, and has frequently crossed it in the years since then, although it never quite hit the much-feared $200-a-barrel. But now the petro-oligarchs are talking like $100 may be the new $200. Saudi Arabia's oil minister Ali al-Naimi last month answered "we may not" when asked if markets would ever lift prices to $100 again. (CNN, Dec. 23) How much of this are we to believe, and what is really behind the slump?
More than 100 Colombian farmers on Oct. 15 filed a lawsuit with the UK high court against British company Equion Energia, previously known as BP Exploration Colombia (BPXC), for alleged negligence when it built the Ocensa oil pipeline. The farmers are seeking around USD $29 million in compensation for environmental damage caused by the pipeline, including severe soil erosion, reduced vegetation coverage and damaged water resources. The farmers' lawyers said that the farmers did not understand the agreements they signed with BPXC and said that they were not provided full and fair compensation for environmental damage caused by the pipeline. The trial is BP's first in Britain for its overseas business.
The president of Colombia's Ecopetrol, Javier Genaro Gutiérrez, announced Sept. 24 that the state oil company will process licenses for the use of fracking technology. Gutiérrez upheld Texas as an example of successful fracking, saying, "I invite you to see the fracking tower next to a hospital for the elderly" in the US state. In the Ronda Colombia 2014, the country's latest round of auctioning oil leases on public lands, 19 of the 98 bids sold were for the development of fracking sites. In March, a law was passed to expedite the process for allowing "non-conventional" drilling sites. Ecopetrol in a partnership with Canadian-based Talisman Energy acquired the country's two largest natural gas fields from BP in 2010.
Well, natural gas has stopped flowing from a stricken rig off the Louisiana coast, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement informs us. The rig is owned by Hercules Offshore and operating for the Walter Oil and Gas Corp, about 42 miles southwest of Grand Isle. Hercules admits Mother Nature came to the rescue, saying the well became plugged with sand and sediment, basically snuffing itself out The leak started on the morning of July 23, and the fire burned for some 14 hours. It still isn't quite out yet, by most recent reports. (CNN, AP, Times-Picayune, July 25; ENS, AP, Hercules Offshore press release, July 24)
Trial began Feb. 25 in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana between individuals affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and British Petroleum (BP). The other corporations involved are the rig owner Transocean and well cement services provider Halliburton. The parties bringing suit against BP include the US Department of Justice (DoJ), states bordering the Gulf Coast, and individuals who did not agree to an earlier settlement agreement. The trial is to be conducted in phases with the first part focusing on determining what caused the blowout of the well and assign percentage blame on the companies involved. Other issues that are to be resolved are BP's level of negligence in conjunction with the incident and the amount of oil that escaped into the Gulf of Mexico, both elements are critical to determine BP's penalties under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
Algerian military forces on Jan. 17 launched an assault on the Amenas gas complex in the interior Sahara, where Islamists were holding dozens of hostages. Nearly 50 were killed in the raid, including 35 hostages, according to the spokesman of the militant group—variously named as "Battalion of the Masked" or "Signatories for Blood"—in a call to the Mauritanian news agency ANI. An Algerian government official called the number "exaggerated." Veteran jihadist fighter Mokhtar Belmokhtar AKA "Laaouar" or "Lawar" (the One-Eyed) claimed responsibility for attacking the complex, jointly operated by BP, Norway's Statoil and Algerian parastatal Sonatrach. Belmokhtar was until recently a leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), but was pushed out of the group late last year in a factional split. He has been blamed for previous abductions and the killings of both Algerians and foreigners.
Amid sketchy and conflicting reports of how much territory the jihadists have gained in their southern thrust and to what extent last week's French air-strikes have halted it, BBC News tells us Jan. 16 that French ground forces are now engaged in the battle for the town of Diabaly, just 220 miles north of Mali's capital, Bamako. A convoy of 50 armored vehicles left Bamako overnight for Diabaly, seemingly a joint force of French and Malian troops. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said: "Today, the ground forces are being deployed. Until now, we had made sure there were a few ground forces in Bamako to keep our people safe... Now French ground forces are heading up north."
US Attorney General Eric Holder announced Nov. 15 that British Petroleum (BP) has agreed to pay a record $4.5 billion in penalties and plead guilty to felony misconduct for its role in the devastation caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Holder emphasized that the settlement includes a roughly $1.25 billion criminal fine, and announced that two BP supervisors aboard the Deepwater Horizon during the spill have been charged with 23 criminal counts—including manslaughter, a result of the 11 workers killed in the April 2010 explosion. As part of the agreement, BP has agreed to plead guilty to 11 of the felonies related to the workers' deaths, a charge of obstruction of Congress and two misdemeanors.