|TOPIC OF THE ISSUE|
|THE DISCREET CHARM OF A REGIONAL PARTNER|
FOR HIGH RETURNS, INVESTORS SHOULD TURN TO RUSSIA'S HINTERLANDS
Russia undoubtedly puzzles prospective investors today more than ever before. The Yukos case and the resulting swings in investors' mood have largely changed the perception of security in Russia's investment market and its appeal. On top of this, Russian authorities try to control foreign investment, however attractive it may be, and increasingly rely on 'apparatchik' methods of management.
|PERSON OF THE ISSUE|
|PRESTIGE OF THE MINISTER|
The name of Kazakhstan's minister of energy and mineral resources Vladimir Shkolnik goes hand in hand with the achievements of the country's oil&gas sector. At the same time, the minister is increasingly seen as a person able to strike a fine balance between influence of Western investors and the need to sustain close relations with Moscow. Thus, in March Vladimir Shkolnik not only was involved in signing an agreement with Russian companies on development of Khvalynskoe and Central fields in Kazakhstan's Caspian sector (for details see p. 24), but also visited the talks on expansion of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium. Kazakhstan oil industry professionals have long since recognised in Vladimir Shkolnik a highly experienced and professionally competent official — a kind of industry figure that Russia inherently lacks.
|PHOTO OF THE ISSUE|
|BP’s refinery in Texas City.|
|CPC: DIRECTIONS OF GROWTH|
The CPC shareholders have agreed to expand the pipeline capacity up to 68mn tpa and to increase the tariff up to $29.5/t, but the Russian side doubts the expediency of this step.
|TAXMAN'S NEW TARGET|
Russia's 200,000 b/d Moscow refinery faces yet another, now $100mn back-tax claim. On 10 March 2005, the company's shareholder Sibir Energy informed that a total of $135mn of taxes is being claimed. According to the tax administration, the new claim is similar to that of $35mn issued to the company this January, and is associated with the tax optimization schemes employed by the company in 2000–2002. The company, in turn, says it is negotiating the issue with tax authorities.
|NOVOPOLOTSK MARATHON: THE NEXT STAGE|
The launch of hydrocracking facility spurred off the all-new modernisation programme for Novopolotsk refinery
For 151,000 b/d Belarus-based Novopolotsk refinery, the start of the year was marked by the launch of hydrocracking facility. The new process effectively finalises the five-year programme of refinery modernisation. To the date, the programme has enabled the refinery to boost oil products quality — currently the unit exports some 70% of its output. Still, the managers of the refinery want to move on: the next stage of upgrading will increase crude refining depth to 95%.
|ON DOORSTEP OF LONDON-TOWN|
OilMarket was inpressed with technological advances of BP coryton refinery
На фоне состоявшегося в середине февраля в Лондоне нефтяного форума IP Week, проходившая 17–18 марта в британской столице международная конференция, посвященная технологиям и экономике нефтепереработки в странах СНГ, безусловно, теряется как по представительности, так и по числу участников. Кроме этого, как отметил в финале мероприятия генеральный директор международного консорциума Refin Леонид Злотников, организаторам конференции — компании Global Business Forums Ltd. — впредь необходимо более внимательно относится к формированию сессий. Тем не менее, конференция состоялась, а присутствие на мероприятии, хоть и немногочисленных, авторитетных отраслевых специалистов сделало отдельные темы весьма интересными и насыщенными.
|BP TEXAS BLAST|
At least 14 casualties and over 100 injured, such was the grim result of a powerful blast on BP's 480,000 b/d refinery in Texas on 23 March. The accident that rocked the refinery left a massive crater, wiping out many industrial blocks around.
|CLEANING THE BALTIC MARKET|
Polish oil trader J&S Group has outgrown its European format — the company expands shipments of Russia's Urals to China and US markets.
|STEPPING ON THE SAME RAKE|
Gazprom aims to regulate prices but the state suppresses the gas monopoly aspirations to launch untimely «liberalisation»
After protracted negotiations with the authorities, Gazprom's head Aleksey Miller proposed the state to «outsource» gas sector price regulation powers to Russia's gas giant. The suggestion has even found support of Russia's PM and the head of anti-monopoly service. At the same time, Viktor Khristenko, minister of industry and energy, opposes the idea outright. Miller is talking about setting up a gas exchange in the country, but the experts doubt its value for market liberalisation if company keeps its monopoly status.
|LIKE FATHER LIKE SON?|
REPRIVATISATION, THE BASHKORTOSTAN WAY
Bashkortostan's President Murtaza Rakhimov has initiated the reprivatisation of autonomy energy industry companies. The programme aims at recalling state property which shouldn't have been privatised in the first place.
|Come on in…|
On 14 March Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko met with top management of Russia's largest companies operating in Ukraine. Russia's oil sector included Lukoil President Vagit Alekperov, president of Grupa Alliance Musa Bazhaev, Tatneft Director Shafagat Takhautdinov, TNK-BP Ukraina President Aleksandr Gorodetsiy and Transneft President Semyon Vainshtock.
|EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION|
|Working under the news rules:|
Lukoil strengthens foot in kazakh sector of Caspian
Persistence paid off for Lukoil on 14 March when it signed two upstream agreements on the Khvalynskoye and Tsentralnoye fields in Kazakhstan's sector of Caspian Sea. The deals were the first since the Kazakh government in early 2004 introduced new regulations for foreign companies seeking access to the country's natural resources. It is worth noting that the last deals under the old regulations were also struck by Lukoil, and covered the Tyub-Karagan and Atash offshore fields.
|EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION|
|FOREIGN INVESTORS FEEL KAZAKH HEAT|
The Kazakh oil industry is known as a magnet for foreign investors, although the way the authorities treat foreign business seems to be changing for the worse. These days, a spotless record by an outside investor provides no guarantee of being left in peace. No foreign company has faced more pressure recently than PetroKazakhstan Inc. — the company has survived repeated manoeuvres against it by the authorities and NGO's alike, while keeping its focus on the acquisition of additional assets.
|EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION|
|OPEC TRIES TO CURB THE HIKE|
OPEC oil ministers have agreed to lift the production ceiling by 2% (500,000 b/d) to 27.5mn b/d on 16 March extraordinary meeting of the cartel in Isfahan, Iran. The ministers held out the possibility of a further 500,000 b/d rise in short-term.