WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) -- Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey said no outside forces will be involved in guarding the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, according to Abid Sharifov, Azeri deputy prime minister, before a meeting Tuesday of the intergovernmental commission on the BTC pipeline project in Baku. Assa Irada quoted Steven Mann, senior U.S. official responsible for Caspian pipelines, stating: "The pipeline is to be guarded by regional countries. But if their governments appeal to us, we are ready to provide counsel, hold the needed training for these countries and support them." Sharifov emphasized that BTC construction is close to completion; the BTC consortium expects to load its first shipment of oil from the Turkish Ceyhan port in several months.
Oil companies in Nigeria have called upon the government to provide adequate security to the country's oil infrastructure and facilities to prevent ongoing oil smuggling. Leading the group of oil producers, John Chaplin, managing director of ExxonMobil's Nigeria branch, stated on Tuesday: "The function of security is beyond the purview of the producers. We expect the government to play its role in terms of ensuring that the environment is safe for personnel and facilities." Oil thieves in the Niger Delta have caused oil companies tremendous losses in 2003 and 2004. While seeking control of illegal crude oil export routes, bloody clashes have emerged between rival groups whose feuds escalated from the mangrove swamp pipeline network to the streets of Port Harcorut, Rivers State. Alhaji Asari Dokubo, a leader of one of the militant groups, admitted to stealing some 50,000 barrels of crude from Shell facilities to fund his opposition to the government; Dokubo accused the Nigerian government of manipulating 2003 electoral results. Politicians are reportedly backing militant oil smugglers to utilize revenue from illegal exports to fund political campaigns and other activities. Shell's 2003 annual report noted that crude smuggling from the company's facilities increased to alarming levels, which influenced the company's production figures, profitability and escalating costs associated with repair of vandalized facilities, environment clean up and other activities. Oil companies continue to fear that crude oil smuggling may escalate again during the 2007 elections.
Royal/Dutch Shell Group received the world's most ethical oil company award, Spanish ethics management company, Management & Excellence (M&E) said. ExxonMobil and British Petroleum follow. Despite the controversy surrounding the company's serious mismanagement of its oil reserves and the reshuffle of its executives, Shell has excelled above other oil companies. Shell's oil spills decreased to 6,100 tons in 2004, down from 18,700 in 1999. While increasing the number of women in supervisory or professional positions from 17.1 percent in 2000 to 19.5 percent in 2003, Shell also reduced fatalities among employees and contractors. Shell has also pledged $5 million to the Tsunami victims three days after the disaster. Following ExxonMobil and BP, Total, Repsol and ChevronTexaco received the next highest scores in total ethical performance. ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, however, rated highest as the most socially responsible companies. ExxonMobil invested some $48 million to train 31,000 employees in 500 programs while ChevronTexaco publishes its business principles in 11 different languages and even appoints a "President for Health and Safety." BP and ExxonMobil meanwhile hold the strongest environmental programs. ExxonMobil invested $2.5 billion alone on environmental projects in 2004.
Kuwait's National Assembly's Financial and Economic Subcommittee approved a plan Tuesday to utilize expertise from foreign companies to develop the country's Northern Oil fields. Abdel-Wahab Al-Haroun, chairman of the subcommittee, announced that participants in the meeting have agreed that it is necessary to request assistance from foreign experts in developing such fields. Al-Haroun stressed that such expertise was "not available in Kuwait." The Northern Oil Fields were "difficult to develop and require equipment and expertise that only multinational companies have," said Al-Haroun. Any agreement signed with foreign experts should be "clear and should safeguard Kuwait's rights," added Al-Haroun. The proportion of water to oil in the fields continues to become increasingly prevalent. Al-Haroun denied that any members of parliament opposed the plan to request foreign assistance.
South Korea and Yemen signed a production sharing agreement on Tuesday. South Korea's Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy Lee Hee-bum and Yemeni Minister for Petroleum and Minerals Rasheed Baraba have discussed a variety of ways to establish bilateral energy cooperation. Under the agreement, South Korea will obtain the right to exploit an oil field with an estimated reserve capacity of 50-200 million barrels in Yemen. South Korea's state-owned Korea National Oil Corp. and two other private firms are poised to take part in the petroleum development project.
Venezuelan oil company PDVSA and Brazilian federal energy company Petrobras plan to construct a $3 billion refinery in Brazil's northeastern Pernambuco state, according to Gilberto Prado, president of engineering firm, Renor, developing the project. Prado said on Tuesday: "The final decision will be made by the partners in the project, but I am very optimistic that Pernambuco will be chosen. We have worked for this and all our studies are based on Pernambuco as a location." PDVSA and Petrobras look to secure a location for the refinery by the end of 2005 so the two companies can begin commercial operations by 2010. Petrobras and PDVSA signed a memorandum of understanding on February 14 to carry out feasibility studies for the refinery, which is expected to have processing capacity of 150,000-200,000 barrels of oil daily.
Closing oil prices, Apr. 28, 3 p.m. London
Brent crude oil: $51.00
West Texas intermediate crude oil: $51.17
(Please send comments to AMihailescu@upi.com)