At the Wellhead: China struggles to open its energy sector to more non-state entities

China is shifting its focus on state-owned enterprise reform, but it still remains to be seen if the SOEs will make significant changes to the roles non-state entities can play. Song Yen Ling discusses China’s energy sector reform goals in this week’s At the Wellhead column from Oilgram News, and also takes a look at whether internal turmoil within China’s dominant upstream player is a hurdle to advancing projects.

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Australian Wolf stalks Mongolian oil opportunities

Mongolia might not be the first place that springs to mind as a potential investment destination for oil and gas players, but one small Australian company is hoping the recent passing of a new petroleum law will open up opportunities in the landlocked nation between Russia and China.

Wolf Petroleum is the only Australia-listed oil and gas company operating in Mongolia. But the industry minnow, capitalized at just A$5.5 million ($5.2 million), claims a position as Mongolia’s largest petroleum acreage holder, with one production block and two exploration areas covering more than 74,400 sq km (18,000 million acres).

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The last contango? ICE Brent futures curve breaks from backwardation

In early July, there was a shift in the ICE Brent crude futures market — the backwardation that market players had become accustomed to flipped into contango. Some even said the market “collapsed” into a “supercontango” in a way not seen since 2008.

A contango market suggests ample supply in the prompt market, as the futures price of a commodity is above the expected future spot price. The contango in the Brent curve seems to suggest fatigue in oil demand, some say.

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EIA analysis: a big drop in crude oil inventories

Our analysis of this week’s EIA oil data can be found here.

A small Maine city may have set off a big fight over oil movements

The next big fight in the war over oil and gas development in the US — or at least one of the next big fights – will be over local control. That issue ramped up this week and appears to raise a significant question of federalism.

The city council in South Portland, Maine, voted this week to approve a package of zoning restrictions that would affect the handling of crude oil in the city. But the laws were drawn to impact the handling of oil being put on to tankers. It doesn’t affect oil being taken off tankers.

Why this is significant is because South Portland is the eastern terminus of the Portland-Montreal Pipeline, which takes crude oil imported into Maine and brings it to Montreal near the St. Lawrence Seaway. It can be refined in Montreal, or moved down Line 9 to Canadian refineries in Ontario.

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The political calculations of ethanol in Iowa and in Washington

Conventional political wisdom has held that given Iowa’s importance in US presidential contests as host of the first-in-the-nation nominating caucuses, the Renewable Fuel Standard is pretty much unassailable.

The federal biofuels mandate enjoys immense bipartisan support in the state, where corn is king.

Candidates hoping to curry favor with state voters would need to wholeheartedly endorse the RFS or at least pay lip service to the law while campaigning there. Iowa, after all, leads the nation in biofuels production, with 41 ethanol plants in the state, along with 18 biodiesel facilities.

But, if RFS opponents are to be believed, the political landscape could be changing.

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Petrodollars: The Western Canadian LNG business attempts to launch

 Exports of LNG from the US aren’t the only potential growth story for North America. LNG shipments out of Western Canada are also on tap. Ashok Dutta, in this week’s Oilgram News column Petrodollars, reviews the start-and-go status of the various projects.

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East Africa must avoid LNG delays to compete with rivals

Mozambique and Tanzania are locked in a race to be first to export gas from East Africa, so much so that the region may emerge as a strong competitor to Qatar and Australia in the battle to capture key export markets in Asia.

Geographically, East Africa is ideally placed to supply LNG to Japan, China, India and South-East Asia all of whom rely heavily on LNG imports.

LNG from East Africa should be cheaper than from Australia but such an advantage may be wiped out if Mozambique and Tanzania are unable to develop their potential before a glut of other new supplies depress prices.

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Did the US Commerce condensate export rulings mean nothing?

Two US Commerce Department rulings giving a pair of Eagle Ford players legal backing to export processed condensate have been viewed as a dramatic loosening of America’s 40-year ban on crude exports, or at least a sign that long-awaited export policy changes were near.

But what if these private letter rulings really only impact the companies that received them and nothing more?

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Kurdistan Regional Government pushes independence; what’s the oil angle?

Survivors for centuries in one of the Middle East’s roughest neighborhoods, Iraq’s Kurds have learned to keep their options open. However, any lingering doubt that they might be aiming for independence sooner rather than later vanished this month with the sudden appearance of a Kurdish “national anthem” on the Kurdistan Regional Government website.

“Ey Reqib”, or “Hey, Enemy”, was written in 1938 by Yunis Reuf, a Kurdish poet and anti-Ottoman political activist also known as Dildar, who was born 20 years earlier in the town of Koi Sanjaq in what is now the Erbil governorate of Iraqi Kurdistan. Before dying at age 31 of heart problems, Dildar saw his poem adopted as the national anthem of the Kurdistan republic in Mahabad (currently part of Iran), which was founded in 1946 and lasted for only a year.

Now the KRG has proclaimed it the official anthem of South Kurdistan, an alternative name for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. It’s a name that tips its hat to the long-held Kurdish ambition of establishing a Greater Kurdistan state encompassing parts of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran.

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