UPI Energy Watch

By ANDREA R. MIHAILESCU, UPI Energy Correspondent  |  Aug. 26, 2005 at 1:09 PM
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UPI market update: Storm bullies prices

Oil prices rose Thursday, a day after hitting another record of $68 per barrel in New York as tropical storm Katrina threatened U.S. Gulf Coast oil rigs.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange's options market, Light sweet crude delivery in October rose by 5 cents to settle at $67.37 per barrel. It reach $68 in after-hours trading late Wednesday, the highest point since it was first traded in 1983.

In London, the International Petroleum Exchange price of Brent North Sea crude oil for delivery in October rose Thursday by 4 cents to end at $66.05 per barrel, not far from its historic record of $66.85 set Aug. 14.

The price "seems to be related to the threat of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico," Simon Wardell, analyst at research group Global Insight, said. "It looks like it is another concerted push towards $70 -- the market seems to be intent on testing this new level at the moment. It's a psychological thing."

Analysts say they expect tropical storm Katrina to cross southern Florida Friday and later strengthen to hurricane status in the U.S. oil-producing region of the Gulf of Mexico by Monday.

Katrina is the 11th storm of the June-November 2005 Atlantic hurricane season.

"The market is reacting to the tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico which could affect platforms and refineries," Victor Shum, a partner with U.S. energy consultancy Purvin and Gertz in Singapore, said. "Coupled with the weather news is the inventory report showing a continuing gasoline drawdown, which was larger than expected."

Tunisia to boost energy sector amid decline

A top Tunisian energy official said Wednesday he expects to grant more than 12 oil and gas exploration licenses in 2005 to boost production.

Afif Chelbi, Tunisian minister of Industry, Energy, Small and Medium Size Enterprises, said he approved six gas and oil exploration licenses during the first half of 2005, noting Tunisia usually issues no more than three licenses per year.

Chelbi said Tunisia's new policy is to grant more drilling licenses to boost production, after output declined with exhausted oil fields such as Burma and Ashtar.

The Tunisian Adam oil field, which started pumping last June, has been producing 190,500 barrels per day, which amounts to 8 percent of Tunisia's oil production. Chelbi said he hopes the new oil field will produce 820 tons of oil during 2005.

Turkey to tender refinery

Turkey said it will open up bids for its only refinery to companies around the globe as it aims to move to a more open market, a Turkish official said.

Saudi and Gulf investors expect to hold talks with companies short-listed for a 51 percent stake in Tupras, the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Refinery.

"We are working with potential GCC investors and/or operators to join one of the Turkish Consortia, including Cukurova, Petrol Ofisi and Oyak groups," BMG Financial Advisors Group Chief Executive Officer Basil M. Al-Ghalayini said Wednesday.

Rounding up the bidding contenders for a 51-percent stake in the oil refinery has been extended to Aug. 29 with a bidding deadline scheduled for Sept. 2.

The pre-qualified bidders include Italy's ENI refining and market division, Austria's OMV Aktiengesellschaft, Royal Dutch/Shell, Spain's Repsol YPF, Poland's PKN ORLEN, Indian Oil Corp., Hungary's MOL, Turkey's Zorlu Group, Petrol Ofisi, Anadolu Tasm, Energy Group and Oyak.

"Tupras had a high geopolitical significance since the winning consortium will have the opportunity to access Caspian oil, as well as heading for the European market," Al-Ghalayini said.

"Furthermore, Turkey is a country offering significant opportunities for foreign investors with its geographically perfect position to function as a gateway between Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia."

Tupras has a combined capacity of 27.6 million tons annually and represents all of Turkey's refining capacity. Tupras also operates five units in the 153,000 ton capacity Korfez Petrochemical Complex.

"The Turkish market is among the top ten most attractive of all the developing countries," Al-Ghalayini added. "Deregulation and privatization of major state-owned enterprises is promising a more dynamic market."

Chinese oil firm reports net record profits

PetroChina subsidiary China National Petroleum Corp. reported a record net profit of $7.6 billion in the first half of 2005, Xinhua reported.

The figure is up 36.1 percent year on year. With the help of high crude prices, PetroChina earned a record turnover of $31.2 billion in the first six months, a 41.5 percent increase over the same period of last year.

PetroChina's oil and gas output amounted to 481 million barrels of oil equivalent in the first six months, a 5.3 percent increase over the same period of last year.

The company produced 397 million barrels of crude, up 2.1 percent year on year; PetroChina produced 663 billion cubic yards natural gas, a 23.4 percent increase from the same period last year.

PetroChina's refining business maintained steady growth with a processing capacity of 379 million barrels of crude oil, 7.4 percent more than a year ago.

PetroChina's refining and marketing sector meanwhile recorded an operating loss of $735 million due to a lower increase in refined products output price than that of the crude oil price.

By the end of June, PetroChina reported 17,215 service stations, up 3.2 percent year on year.

PetroChina said that it would acquire certain overseas assets from its parent CNPC, China's largest oil producers. The acquisition agreement and transfer agreement were duly passed by the independent shareholders at the extraordinary general meeting of the Company held last Tuesday.


Closing oil prices, August 25, 3 p.m. London

Brent crude oil: $65.97

West Texas intermediate crude oil: $67.50


(Please send comments to AMihailescu@upi.com)

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