The 3 Week Diet System

Friday, February 28, 2014

Switched energy firm in the past six years? You may be owed a share of £200m

Feb. 28

If you've switched energy provider in the last six years, you could be owed a slice of £200 million after energy regulator Ofgem found the big six suppliers guilty of failing to return money to millions of former customers.

Ofgem says British Gas, EDF, E.on, Npower, Scottish Power and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) are holding onto at least £202 million from around 3.5 million former customers, who overpaid on their bills before switching elsewhere (join our free Cheap Energy Club to see if you can save by switching).
In addition, 300,000 business customers are owed £204 million.
The regulator says these amounts are "unacceptably large" and "expects suppliers to do more" to return the money.
It adds suppliers must also give "crystal-clear communication" to consumers about what to do when closing an account to ensure they don't lose out.
Where it isn't possible to repay a balance, suppliers should find ways to use the money to benefit consumers – such as donating it to the Government's Warm Home Discount scheme.

The news comes after five of the big six changed their policies this month so more customers will have overpayments returned to them (see the Millions to get energy bill credit refunds MSE News story).
Ofgem says it is continuing to look at whether suppliers' current policies and practices comply with its rules, including those which tell firms to treat customers fairly.
'Don't take it lying down'
MoneySavingExpert.com energy analyst Archna Luthra says: "This is yet another way misbehaving energy firms are punishing consumers – it's outrageous they have got away with holding onto cash that doesn't belong to them for this long.
"Don't take it lying down – if you've switched in the last six years, contact your old supplier and demand your cash back.  
"Ofgem needs to crack down on this even harder and force firms to automatically refund credits when people switch – or risk undermining the whole switching process in an already apathetic market."
I think I'm owed money. What can I do?
If you've switched to another energy supplier or moved address in the last six years, Ofgem says you should get in touch with your former supplier, preferably with a previous bill handy, to check whether or not you're owed any money back.
This process applies to all customers who were in credit when they switched, except those on prepayment meters.
If you switched supplier or moved address longer than six years ago, you can still try to claim your money back by speaking to your then supplier. But it will be difficult if you haven't kept records and old bills.
If you think a deceased relative may have been an account holder and are pursuing a closed account, you need to prove you're entitled to the proceeds of their estate.
If you're about to move home, make sure you take a final meter reading and give your new address to the company you're leaving. That way, you've made it easy for the firm to contact you and give you the refund you're due.
Source: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/utilities/2014/02/switched-energy-firm-in-the-past-six-years-you-may-be-owed-a-share-of-200m?

Chief of Oman Oil Company and South Korea exec jailed for corruption

Feb. 28

Chief of Oman Oil Company and South Korea exec jailed for corruption
CEO of state-owned Oman Oil Company, Ahmad al-Wahaibi

A court in Oman sentenced the CEO of state-owned Oman Oil Company, Ahmad al-Wahaibi, to 23 years in jail  Thursday for taking bribes, abusing his office, and money laundering.
The Court of First Instance in Muscat handed down the sentence.
A former aide to the minister of the now-dissolved economy ministry was also convicted for organizing a bribe that was offered to al-Wahaibi by a senior official from  South Korea-based LGI.
The former aide, Adel al-Raisi, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The senior official at LGI, Myung Jao Yoo, was found guilty of paying an $8 million bribe to a Caribbean-registered company owned by al-Wahaibi to secure a large-scale petrochemical project in Oman.
He was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Al-Wahaibi admitted receiving money from Myung, but he pleaded not guilty to the charge of taking bribes, saying he did not know why LGI transferred $8 million into his company. He admitted depositing the money into the accounts of his company and then giving the two other defendants their shares.
Raisi pleaded not guilty, saying he was coerced to confess during interrogations, and only admitted brokering the deal and receiving the money under pressure.
Myung admitted receiving money from al-Wahaibi, but said in court that he did not remember why, and “maybe it was a birthday gift.”
Oman’s Sultan Qaboos has waged an anti-graft campaign to defuse mass protests in several Omani cities that began in 2011.
Earlier this month, Oman’s National Gas Company’s chief executive, Goutam Sen, was detained by the public prosecutor over suspected bribery.
In November, the head of the tenders committee at Oman’s state-run Petroleum Development Oman went on trial for taking a bribe from two local executives.
Oman Oil Company is a national oil investment company and arm of the government of Oman.
Source: http://oilpatchasia.com/2014/02/chief-of-oman-oil-company-and-south-korea-exec-jailed-for-corruption/

Gas prices finally rise towards record heights

Feb. 28



Statoil has long-struggled with low gas prices in Europe. But things are looking brighter now.

Market expert Trond Omdal at Arctic Securities is optimistic about the situation.
Statoil and Eni have now agreed to negotiate a new agreement on gas sales.
This follows allegations of overcharging and a NOK 60bn compensation claim.
The oil companies are to examine both price and volume.
The price dispute's backdrop is that Statoil's gas sales to Eni have been linked to oil prices.
Oil prices have risen sharply since the agreement was signed, however.
Meanwhile, US shale gas extraction has revolutionised the gas market.
Eni believes the consequence to be that they lose money on selling Norwegian gas.
A change in the Eni contract need not be negative at all, though, says Arctic Securities analyst Trond Omdal.
He expects that Statoil will now sell more gas at spot price in Northern Europe.
"In a fair number of contracts Statoil have renegotiated, we see that they have increased the degree of spot pricing. This while concurrently having become less flexible on delivery to the customer. Statoil can exploit this either by selling additional gas volumes when demand and prices are seasonably high, or due to a temporary drop in supply from other major exporters such as Russia, Algeria, and Qatar," says Mr Omdal.

Good prices elsewhere

The market expert points out that the European gas market is good - and that Norwegian gas is now being sold at near record-high prices.
The current price for one standard cubic metre of gas is 2.50 kroner.
Moreover, Statoil is now running gas production at full capacity, Mr Omdal mentions.
"So an amendment to the contract with Eni is not dramatic. Statoil will get good prices by selling gas elsewhere," says Mr Omdal.
Thus, American shale gas will not have dramatic consequences for Norwegian gas.
The reason is high demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Asia, at 50 per cent higher rates than those of Europe's.
"Coal imports from the US put a cap on European prices. But at the same time, the situation in Asia means that there is also a bottom threshold for how low prices will go," Mr Omdal explains.
Source: http://www.aftenbladet.no/energi/aenergy/Gas-prices-finally-rise-towards-record-heights-3366709.html?#.UxCiavl5MrU

Kuok-owned offshore firm in talks for $400m Singapore IPO

Feb. 28

Kuok-owned offshore firm in talks for $400m Singapore IPO
Singapore-based PACC Offshore Services Holdings (POSH) has started pre-IPO talks with investors.
According to sources, POSH will list on the Singapore Stock Exchange, hoping to raise $400 million.
The company is part of Robert Kuok’s business empire.
POSH primarily operates offshore supply vessels and provides offhshore accommodations. It also provides emergency response support.
Kuok is currently Malaysia’s richest person, with an estimated net worth of $12.5 billion.
“The investor education for PACC Offshore Services has started,” said one source.
Pre-marketing is expected to last a couple of weeks, with the company yet to announce a formal launch date.
POSH is hoping to double the size of its current fleet of 50 within the next three years.
Source: http://oilpatchasia.com/2014/02/kuok-owned-offshore-firm-in-talks-for-400m-singapore-ipo/

Iran Issues Ultimatum to Pakistan on IP Gas Pipeline

Feb. 28

Iran Issues Ultimatum to Pakistan on IP Gas Pipeline

TEHRAN (FNA)- Tehran cautioned Islamabad over falling behind schedule in fulfilling its obligations with regard to a multi-billion-dollar pipeline project that would take natural gas from Iran to Pakistan.
“Unfortunately, the Pakistani side has not taken any serious measures to deliver its commitments under the contract between Tehran and Islamabad,” Iranian Deputy Oil Minister for International and Trade Affairs Ali Majedi said.
The Iranian deputy oil minister’s remarks came after Pakistan Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that it was not possible to work on the pipeline due to sanctions against Iran.
“The Iranian side has completed more than 75 percent of the gas pipeline on Iranian soil so far,” Majedi said.
Iran has already built 900 kilometers of the pipeline on its own soil and is waiting for the 700-kilometer Pakistani side of the pipeline to be constructed.
The IP pipeline is designed to help Pakistan overcome its growing energy needs at a time when the country of over 180 million people is grappling with serious energy shortages.

Source: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13921209000700

Citigroup results hit by Mexico oil-services fraud

Feb. 28

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Citigroup Inc.C -0.99% has adjusted its 2013 results, saying it was defrauded by Oceanografia, an oil-services company in Mexico. The bank said Friday that its Mexican subsidiary, known as Banamex, was lending money to the company. But according to Citigroup, Oceanografia was lying about the amount of money it was owed by Mexico's state-owned oil company, known as Pemex. The bank got suspicious on Feb. 11, when it learned that Oceanografia had been suspended from receiving new contracts from the Mexican government. Pemex soon confirmed that Oceanografia was lying about the amount of money owed to it by Pemex, according to Citigroup's filing. The fraud will hurt Citigroup's 2013 net income by $235 million after tax, the bank said, cutting results to $13.7 billion from the $13.9 billion that the bank reported in January. Citigroup also said it is working with Pemex and Mexico's attorney general to pursue "criminal actions." Citigroup CEO Mike Corbat said in a statement there would be "accountability for those who perpetrated this despicable crime and any employee who enabled it." 

Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/citigroup-results-hit-by-mexico-oil-services-fraud-2014-02-28?

UPDATE 1-Total in talks to sell its 10 pct stake in Azeri Shah Deniz gas field-sources

Feb. 28

LONDON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - France's Total plans to sell its 10 percent stake in Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz II gas field development, making it the second energy major to reduce its exposure to a project promoted to help Europe diversify its supplies.
"Total's strategy is to divest from projects where it has a minority stake and favour those where it is the operator," a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Friday.
A spokesman for Total declined to comment.
Another source with knowledge of the matter said that Turkey's state pipeline firm Botas, which is already developing the pipeline section to pump Azeri gas into Turkey and onward towards the European Union, was in talks to buy Total's sake in the project.
Analysts said that Total's move was likely a result of lower Russian gas prices which made investments in expensive new gas sources less attractive.
"Facing weak demand and high (Russian) supply, prices have gone down 15 percent in the last two months. This will make alternative supplies more difficult to arrange when hub prices are below 60 pence per therm," said Thierry Bros, senior gas analyst at French Bank Societe General.
Total's sale would follow Norway's Statoil, which cut its stake in the project from 25.5 percent to 15.5 percent last December, selling to partners BP and Azeri state energy firm SOCAR for $1.45 billion.

From around 2019, the estimated $28 billion Shah Deniz II project plans to feed 16 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas per year to Europe, with 10 bcm earmarked for Europe and 6 bcm for Turkey.
Source: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/02/28/gas-azerbaijan-total-idUKL6N0LX2U820140228?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=mergersNews&rpc=401

Rosneft sees crude output from E Siberia, Russian Far East hitting 1.1 mil b/d by 2025

Feb. 28

Rosneft estimates that crude production from its East Siberian and Russian Far Eastern projects will amount to 55 million mt/year, or 1.1 million b/d, by 2025, a spokesman at Rosneft said Friday.

To achieve this, the company plans to invest around Rb3 trillion ($83.6 billion) in upstream projects in those regions from now till 2025, the spokesman said, confirming comments made earlier Friday by Rosneft Vice President Svyatoslav Slavinsky at a conference in the East Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.

Rosneft's projects in East Siberia, including the major Vankor cluster of fields, are seen as a key resource base for the planned increase in crude production, with a significant portion likely targeted at China.

Late last year, Rosneft revised its production plans for the Vankor cluster -- which comprises the Vankor, Suzun, Tagul and Lodochnoye fields -- and said it expected output from the group of fields to peak at 25 million mt/year (500,000 b/d) by 2019, six years later than initially planned.

Rosneft said then that the new development plan for the cluster would allow it to extend the period of peak production significantly and cut costs, by using transport infrastructure more effectively among other things.

The company also said last year that the Vankor field, a major source of crude that is exported eastward via the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline, failed to meet expectations. Rosneft initially expected crude production at the Vankor field, which began in 2009, to peak at 25 million mt/year in 2013, but in February last year, the company said that Vankor output would rise to only about 21.5 million mt in 2013.

Rosneft now expects crude production at Vankor to grow slightly to 22 million mt in 2014 and further to 23 million mt in 2016, according to media reports in late 2013 that cited the Krasnoyarsk region's draft budget for 2014-2016.

Apart from the Vankor cluster, Rosneft owns several other greenfield projects in East Siberia, including the Verkhnechonsk field which is already producing. Rosneft in mid-2013 said crude production from Verkhnechonsk was expected at 7.8 million mt/year in 2014. 

The company is also expected to launch other greenfield projects in the region after 2016, when new pipeline infrastructure is built to link those fields to the ESPO pipeline.

Source: http://www.platts.com/latest-news/oil/moscow/rosneft-sees-crude-output-from-e-siberia-russian-26744596?

Decc to review RHI for biomethane

Feb. 28

A review of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) biomethane injection tariff will be conducted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc).



The reassessment will take place to address concerns within the industry that there is a risk that large biomethane to grid plants are over compensated under the current regime.
Decc said that because the larger scale plants benefit from the economies of scale, making them more efficient generators or renewable energy and that their costs “may not justify support at current levels”.
A consultation on the RHI regime is set to take place in the summer if the government conclude any changes are needed.
The review was welcomed by the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) and said the early announcement of the review “should help to provide certainty for the industry, allowing early sight of forthcoming changes”.
Charlotte Morton, chief executive of ADBA, said: “The industry needs tariffs which will fairly incentivise all scales of biomethane injection, and biomethane support needs to be on a long term footing to give certainty to developers and investors.”
Source: http://www.utilityweek.co.uk/news/decc-to-review-rhi-for-biomethane/983152?#.UxCb2_l5MrU

Repsol pens final compensation deal with Argentina over YPF expropriation

Feb. 28

Spain and Argentina put an end to nearly two years of a heated dispute late Thursday when the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed a formal agreement to pay 5 billion dollars to Repsol in compensation for the 2012 expropriation of the Spanish oil giant’s shares in YPF. The agreement, which will now go to the Argentinean Congress and Repsol’s stockholders for approval, is the final chapter of a bitter diplomatic standoff, in which both sides had taken to international forums. While initial reports had stated that the $5 billion was to be paid in full, the money will be in installments in the form of dollar-denominated sovereign bonds. The document was signed on behalf of Repsol by Nemesio Fernández-Cuesta, the firm’s general director, and Luis Suárez de Lezo, one of the 16 board members of the oil company’s board and head of the legal team. Economy Minister Axel Kicillof signed on the Argentinean government’s behalf. Compared with 2012, when thousands of Fernández de Kirchner’s supporters rallied around her after she announced her populist move, Thursday’s session at the Finance Ministry in Buenos Aires was very low key. The Spanish officials left the country soon after the document was penned. In April 2012, Fernández de Kirchner announced that the government would expropriate a 51-percent stake in YPF held by Repsol after accusing the Spanish oil company of refusing to boost production and make major investments in the country’s energy sector.
Repsol, which acquired the stake in 1999, accused the Argentinean government of taking over YPF just months after Repsol announced a large oil find known as the Vaca Muerta field under a rocky formation stretching across Neuquén and Mendoza provinces. Repsol officials have estimated the Vaca Muerta discovery could yield as much as four billion barrels of crude and help Argentina meet its energy supplies for many years to come. Repsol had demanded 10 billion dollars in compensation and filed international judicial and trade complaints against Argentina. As part of agreement, both sides will drop litigation proceedings. Newspapers critical of the government reported that Argentina may actually end up paying some 8 billion dollars to Repsol when interest paid on the bonds to be issued is included. However, Kicillof said the interest rates paid by the bonds are reasonable. “We spoke with Repsol and we are going to pay in installments until 2033, which of course is not what Repsol wanted," he said during an interview on Radio Continental, a station belonging to Grupo PRISA, which publishes EL PAÍS. Because Repsol could not convince Argentina to pay the entire amount upfront, the company included clauses in the agreement with legal and financial ramifications for the Argentinean government if it defaults on its payments. Buenos Aires had offered Repsol a minority participation in the exploration of the Vaca Muerta field but the Spanish oil company wanted to avoid any more alliances with the Argentinean government.

Source: http://elpais.com/elpais/2014/02/28/inenglish/1393595897_904753.html?

Fmr BP Engineer, Kurt Mix, Seeks Acquittal After Guilty Verdict

Feb. 28

In December, former BP BP -0.02% drilling engineer was acquitted of one count of obstruction of justice and found guilty on another.  His alleged sin, as I have written about here before, was his deletion of innocuous text messages in his role as an engineer tasked with stopping the flow of oil from the Macondo well, which resulted from of the Deep Water Horizon rig explosion (April-July 2010).  Almost two months after that guilty verdict, Mix is asking U.S. District Judge Sandwood Duval, Jr. to toss the decision and, at the least, give him a new trial.
Mix was scheduled to be sentenced to prison on March 26th, but that has now been pushed off to April 23rd while Judge Duval considers Mix’s motion to have the jury’s decision tossed (Rule 29 Motion) and demand a new trial (Rule 33 Motion).  Duval recently ruled on a motion filed by Mix’s lead attorney, Joan McPhee of Ropes & Gray, to have the good judge removed because he had filed a claim against BP for damages sustained to his Grand Isle, LA fishing camp during the BP spill.  While it would seem like a conflict that should be questioned, a judge presiding over the first case of a former BP employee associated with the spill while having a stated bias/case against BP, Duval was outraged.  In denying the motion for his recusal, Duval wrote of McPhee’s motion as being,  “naive at best and disingenuous at its worst.”  Another person in Duval’s courtroom was also a part of requesting damages for property damage done by BP … his law clerk, Janet Daley …. who is also Judge Duval’s wife.
Before moving on, I wanted to add that James Varney wrote for the Times-Picayune about a number of other relationships that Judge Duval has associated with to the BP spill.  Varney wrote:
“… the judge’s son, David Duval, told members of court-appointed investigator Louis Freeh’s staff that he got a job with the Deepwater Horizon claims office after Judge Duval recommended him over lunch with Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau, according to court documents. Juneau recalled the circumstances differently, but in any event David Duval was employed by the claims office until his resignation last October.
 Meanwhile, Judge Duval’s brother, C. Berwick Duval II, and his wife, Judge Duval’s sister-in-law Alexis Duval, are also closely tied to BP lawsuits. Duval, Funderburk, the law firm that also employs Judge Duval’s nephew, Stanwood R. Duval, had filed 29 lawsuits against BP as of last November. The firm also represents Terrebonne Parish and other public entities in BP litigation.
 Alexis Duval became a principal in the Bourgeois Bennettaccounting firm last year. That firm has actively solicited BP work, as CPA reports are a critical piece of showing reduced income in the year following the spill.”
If the judge has so many ties to the BP spill, what ties were there related to members of the jury?  I digress.
Moving on with justice, Mix still is fighting to have his conviction tossed.  In a filing this week, Mix asked for acquittal based on the position that the jury was wrong and could not have used “reasonable doubt” as a basis for finding guilt.  The fact is that there was no evidence, none, presented during the trial that states Mix acted in a way that obstructed justice.  While Mix’s attorneys acknowledge a deletion of text message strings, the strings contained nothing of value related to the oil spill and, further, Mix provided vast amounts of information related to the spill during the crisis.  There was nobody to testify that Mix acted nervous, sought to tell anyone ‘don’t let the government see this’, destroyed electronic devices, shredded anything … NOTHING.  He deleted a text message string that mostly contained messages about lunch plans, yoga lessons and back pains to a friend.  That is the government’s case and a jury’s verdict against an engineer who has no prior record, a long list of great character witnesses and who worked countless hours in midst of the worst man-made disaster to hit the U.S.
The evidence does not match the verdict reached in this case.  Mix’s is not a complicated case but it is one people should be watching.
While Judge Duval has ruled that he would not recuse himself from the case, he has the ability to throw this case out when he rules in March, hopefully, on McPhee’s motion for tossing the case against Mix.  Otherwise, Mix moves to the sentencing phase and faces years in prison.
Beyond this case, Judge Duval has a busy schedule ahead of him.  He is presiding over the case of Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, BP’s top two supervisors who were on the Deepwater Horizon rig at the time of the blowout. Each faces 11 counts of involuntary manslaughter, along with violating the federal Clean Water Act.  Good luck with that one.
 Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/walterpavlo/2014/02/28/fmr-bp-engineer-kurt-mix-seeks-acquittal-after-guilty-verdict/?

ARPA-E Projects Attract More Than $625 Million In Private Funding

Feb. 28

National Harbor, MD –The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) [this week] announced that the Agency’s innovative projects are making great strides towards transforming the way Americans use and produce energy.
To date, 22 ARPA-E projects have attracted more than $625 million in private-sector follow-on funding after ARPA-E’s investment of approximately $95 million. In addition, at least 24 ARPA-E project teams have formed new companies to advance their technologies, and more than 16 ARPA-E projects have partnered with other government agencies for further development.
Over the past five years, ARPA-E has played a critical role in answering the President’s call to develop a domestic, all-of-the-above approach to produce, store, and use energy.  To date, ARPA-E has invested over $900 million across 362 projects through 18 focused programs and two open funding solicitations (OPEN 2009 and OPEN 2012). In the past year alone, ARPA-E has launched focused programs to improve techniques to manufacture light-weight metals, develop robust battery chemistries and architectures for electric vehicles, biologically convert natural gas to liquids, create innovative semiconductor materials for improved power conversion, and use solar concentration techniques for hybrid solar converters.
“As ARPA-E approaches its 5th anniversary, our projects are demonstrating tangible technical and market progress in transforming America’s energy future,” said ARPA-E Acting Director Cheryl Martin. “The ARPA-E Summit provides project teams with an opportunity to showcase their accomplishments and to collaborate with other energy innovators to help reach the next stage of development through private-sector funding, new company formation, and strategic partnerships.”
At 4:30 PM ET today, Martin will discuss the progress with former U.S. Representative Bart Gordon, one of the legislators who established ARPA-E, on the main stage at the Agency’s fifth annual Energy Innovation Summit.
Four project videos debuting at this year’s Summit highlight these recent achievements, as well as ARPA-E’s catalytic role in convening energy technology communities. The new videos feature project teams from Harvard University, General Electric, Boston University, University of Florida, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Georgia Technical Institute of Technology, Primus Power, Oregon State University, and REL. The videos are available on ARPA-E’s YouTube channel. The Technology Showcase is a major Summit attraction, featuring over 250 energy technologies. Many of these Showcase technologies are funded by ARPA-E and displayed publicly for the first time at the Summit.
The full list of ARPA-E projects that have secured private-sector funding, formed start-up companies and fostered public partnerships is available HERE.
The annual ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit brings together over 2,000 leaders from academic, business, and government to discuss cutting-edge energy issues, share knowledge, network, and cultivate relationships that can help advance innovative energy technologies into the marketplace. Summit keynote speeches and panel presentations span the course of three days and range from high-level policy overviews to focused discussions on developing and deploying specific technologies. For more information about the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, please visit http://www.arpae-summit.com.
Source: http://cleantechnica.com/2014/02/28/arpa-e-projects-attract-625-million-private-funding/?

Energy firms 'hold £400m in credit'

Feb. 28



Ofgem has called on energy suppliers to return money to former customers after finding that the companies hold more than £400 million in credit from closed accounts.

The regulator found large companies hold at least £202 million from around 3.5 million former domestic customers and £204 million from 300,000 business accounts, saying it "expects suppliers to do more" to return the money.
It follows recent commitments by most major suppliers to automatically refund surpluses to current direct debit customers.
Ofgem said it had been inquiring into the balances held by energy suppliers, and into the companies' policies and practices, concerning customers who had closed accounts.
It found "an unacceptably large amount of money being retained rather than returned to consumers" and a wide variation in company practices.
The regulator said consumers needed to be confident that they would not lose out if they closed an account with their present supplier.
It expected suppliers to do all they could to return money to individual consumers, and to tell consumers clearly what to do when closing an account.
Where it was not possible to repay a balance, it said suppliers should find ways to use the money to benefit consumers more widely and be clear in communicating their plans.
It said suppliers' policies and processes must prevent such large sums being retained by them, with "crystal-clear communication" to consumers about what to do when closing an account.
And Ofgem added: "We are looking at whether suppliers' current policies and practices relating to giving money to individual customers are fully compliant with existing rules including those requiring companies to treat consumers fairly.
"Our advice to consumers who believe they may still be owed money by a previous supplier is to contact the company directly and ask for it back."
Ofgem interim chief executive Andrew Wright said: "When many people are struggling to make ends meet, it is vital that energy companies do the right thing and do all they can to return this money and restore consumer trust.
"We want to see decisive action by suppliers, individually and collectively, to address this issue and, wherever possible, to ensure that the balances they currently hold are returned to consumers.
"Where this can't be done, any remaining sums should be used to benefit consumers more generally, and suppliers need to be very clear with consumers about what they will be doing with this money."
Source: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/uk/energy-firms-hold-400m-in-credit-30049499.html

Norway's $840 billion oil fund boosts bond exposure in Q4

Feb. 28

(Reuters) - Norway's $840 billion sovereign wealth fund sharply increased its bond exposure in the world's most advanced economies in the fourth quarter as it ditched stocks in favour of government debt, it said on Friday.
The fund, one of the world's biggest investors, returned 4.66 percent in the fourth quarter and 15.9 percent in all of 2013, its second best year since it was set up and its best since 2009.
The fund increased its bond holdings to 37.3 percent of its portfolio from 35.5 percent three months earlier and cut its equity holdings to 61.7 percent of the fund from 63.6 percent.
Among the biggest changes in its portfolio, it boosted its U.S. government bond holdings by a quarter, or $15 billion to $72 billion and also sharply raised its holding of German, and British government bonds.

The fund's investments totaled 5.08 billion Norwegian crowns on Friday corresponding to about $165,000 for each man, woman and child in Norway.
Source: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/02/28/uk-norway-oil-fund-idUKLNEA1R00V20140228?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=fundsNews&rpc=401

ExxonMobil chief, neighbors sue over fracking concerns near their property

Feb. 28

exxonceo_afp

ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson has been a zealous advocate of the US shale boom and the controversial use of “fracking,” but not when it hits too close to home.
Tillerson and his neighbors are suing to block the construction of a 160-foot-tall (78.8-meter-) water tower, to be used in part for hydraulic fracturing, near his $5 million ranch in Bartonville, outside Dallas, according to a complaint filed in a Texas court.
The tower, which now is partially built, “will create a constant and unbearable nuisance to those that live next to it,” according to the suit.
Some of the water will be used in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” for shale oil and gas, resulting in truck use that will cause “noise nuisance and traffic hazards,” said the complaint.
The suit seeks a permanent injunction against the tower’s construction rather than financial damages.
“Even though the damages might compensate them for their diminished property values, damages cannot compensate fully for the substantial interference with Plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of their land.”
“These are luxury properties worth multiple millions of dollars,” said the complaint.
“Each of the homeowners built or purchased their homes in Bartonville to live in an upscale community free of industrial properties, tall buildings and other structures that might devalue their properties and adversely impact the rural lifestyle they sought to enjoy.”
Tillerson, who is also is chairman and president of the largest US oil company, is one of six plaintiffs in the case. The first plaintiff listed is former Republican House Majority Leader Richard Armey, whose property is worth in excess of $2 million.
The suit comes as Exxon and other leading energy companies press on with campaigns to promote fracking around the US in spite of opposition from critics who cite environmental damage and health concerns.
Jim Leggieri, general manager of Bartonville Water, told AFP not all of the water will be used for fracking, which drives pressurized liquids into rocks to create fissures that release gas and oil.
“We are building a new elevator tower to serve citizens in the area,” Leggieri said, with some of the water intended to go to 6,000 homes in the area as well as to farms.
The suit exaggerates the impact of the trucks, which are “not as loud as they say,” he added.
Tillerson and the other plaintiffs have appealed a lower court’s ruling in favor of the water tower project. A decision on the appeal is expected in June or July.
Source: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/02/28/exxonmobil-chief-neighbors-sue-over-fracking-concerns-near-their-property/?

Energy companies owe businesses more than £200m

Feb. 28

Energy companies owe 300,000 businesses £204m in credit from closed accounts, energy regulator Ofgem said today.
Andrew Wright, Ofgem's interim chief exec, said that he wanted to see this money returned to businesses.
He said: “Where this can’t be done any remaining sums should be used to benefit consumers more generally, and suppliers need to be very clear with consumers about what they will be doing with this money.”
John Allan, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “With small firms struggling with increasing energy prices it is wrong that the big six are holding on to money that should rightfully be in the pockets of both their business and domestic customers.
“The energy companies must quickly repay those who have been overcharged and lay out a plan to ensure this activity won’t be repeated.”
Ofgem also found that £3.5m domestic customers are owed £202m.

Source: http://realbusiness.co.uk/article/25795-energy-companies-owe-businesses-more-than-200m?

Carrizo Oil & Gas COO Sells $709,950 in Stock (CRZO)

Feb. 28

Carrizo Oil & Gas (NASDAQ:CRZO) COO John Bradley Fisher sold 15,000 shares of the stock in a transaction dated Tuesday, February 25th. The shares were sold at an average price of $47.33, for a total transaction of $709,950.00. Following the completion of the sale, the chief operating officer now directly owns 42,529 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $2,012,898. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which can be accessed through this link.
Shares of Carrizo Oil & Gas (NASDAQ:CRZO) opened at 49.05 on Friday. Carrizo Oil & Gas has a 1-year low of $22.34 and a 1-year high of $50.37. The stock has a 50-day moving average of $43.30 and a 200-day moving average of $40.71. The company has a market cap of $2.007 billion and a P/E ratio of 22.88.
Carrizo Oil & Gas (NASDAQ:CRZO) last posted its quarterly earnings results on Tuesday, February 25th. The company reported $0.39 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating the consensus estimate of $0.37 by $0.02. The company had revenue of $131.94 million for the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $136.33 million. Analysts expect that Carrizo Oil & Gas will post $2.43 EPS for the current fiscal year.
A number of research firms have recently commented on CRZO. Analysts at SunTrust raised their price target on shares of Carrizo Oil & Gas from $52.00 to $57.00 in a research note on Wednesday. Separately, analysts at MLV Capital raised their price target on shares of Carrizo Oil & Gas from $62.00 to $67.00 in a research note on Wednesday. They now have a “buy” rating on the stock. Finally, analysts at MLV Capital raised their price target on shares of Carrizo Oil & Gas from $60.00 to $62.00 in a research note on Thursday, January 30th. They now have a “buy” rating on the stock. Five equities research analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and nine have issued a buy rating to the company. Carrizo Oil & Gas currently has a consensus rating of “Buy” and a consensus price target of $47.12.
Carrizo Oil & Gas, Inc (NASDAQ:CRZO) is an independent energy company.
Source: http://tickerreport.com/banking-finance/149001/carrizo-oil-gas-coo-sells-709950-in-stock-crzo/?

Big Step for Next Generation Fuel Cells

Feb. 28

Big Step for Next Generation Fuel Cells
TEHRAN (FNA)- A team of researchers took a big step in the development of next-generation fuel cells and water-alkali electrolyzers with the discovery of a new class of bimetallic nanocatalysts that are an order of magnitude higher in activity than the target set by the US Department of Energy (DOE) for 2017.
The new catalysts, hollow polyhedral nanoframes of platinum and nickel, feature a three-dimensional catalytic surface activity that makes them significantly more efficient and far less expensive than the best platinum catalysts used in today's fuel cells and alkaline electrolyzers.
This research was a collaborative effort between DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL).
"We report the synthesis of a highly active and durable class of electrocatalysts by exploiting the structural evolution of platinum/nickel bimetallic nanocrystals," said Peidong Yang, a chemist with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division, who led the discovery of these new catalysts.
"Our catalysts feature a unique hollow nanoframe structure with three-dimensional platinum-rich surfaces accessible for catalytic reactions. By greatly reducing the amount of platinum needed for oxygen reduction and hydrogen evolution reactions, our new class of nanocatalysts should lead to the design of next-generation catalysts with greatly reduced cost but significantly enhanced activities."
Yang, who also holds appointments with the University of California (UC) Berkeley and the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute at Berkeley, is one of the corresponding authors of a paper in Science that describes this research.
The paper is titled "Highly Crystalline Multimetallic Nanoframes with Three-Dimensional Electrocatalytic Surfaces." The other corresponding author is Vojislav Stamenkovic, a chemist with ANL's Materials Science Division, who led the testing of this new class of electrocatalysts.
Fuel cells and electrolyzers can help meet the ever-increasing demands for electrical power while substantially reducing the emission of carbon and other atmospheric pollutants. These technologies are based on either the oxygen reduction reaction (fuel cells), or the hydrogen evolution reaction (electrolyzers). Currently, the best electrocatalyst for both reactions consists of platinum nanoparticles dispersed on carbon. Though quite effective, the high cost and limited availability of platinum makes large-scale use of this approach a major challenge for both stationary and portable electrochemical applications.
"Intense research efforts have been focused on developing high-performance electrocatalysts with minimal precious metal content and cost," Yang said.
"In an earlier study, the ANL scientists showed that forming a nano-segregated platinum skin over a bulk single-crystal platinum/nickel alloy enhances catalytic activity but the materials cannot be easily integrated into electrochemical devices. We needed to be able to reproduce the outstanding catalytic performance of these materials in nanoparticulates that offered high surface areas."
Yang and his colleagues at Berkeley accomplished this by transforming solid polyhedral bimetallic nanoparticles of platinum and nickel into hollow nanoframes.
The solid polyhedral nanoparticles are synthesized in the reagent oleylamine, then soaked in a solvent, such as hexane or chloroform, for either two weeks at room temperature, or for 12 hours at 120 degrees Celsius.
The solvent, with its dissolved oxygen, causes a natural interior erosion to take place that results in a hollow dodecahedron nanoframe. Annealing these dodecahedron nanoframes in argon gas creates a platinum skin on the nanoframe surfaces.
"In contrast to other synthesis procedures for hollow nanostructures that involve corrosion induced by harsh oxidizing agents or applied potential, our method proceeds spontaneously in air," Yang said.
"The open structure of our platinum/nickel nanoframes addresses some of the major design criteria for advanced nanoscale electrocatalysts, including, high surface-to-volume ratio, 3-D surface molecular accessibility, and significantly reduced precious metal utilization."
In electrocatalytic performance tests at ANL, the platinum/nickel nanoframes when encapsulated in an ionic liquid exhibited a 36-fold enhancement in mass activity and 22-fold enhancement in specific activity compared with platinum nanoparticles dispersed on carbon for the oxygen reduction reaction.
These nanoframe electrocatalysts, modified by electrochemically deposited nickel hydroxide, were also tested for the hydrogen evolution reaction and showed that catalytic activity was enhanced by an order-of-magnitude over platinum/carbon catalysts.
"Our results demonstrate the beneficial effects of the hollow nanoframe's open architecture and surface compositional profile," Yang said.
"Our technique for making these hollow nanoframes can be readily applied to other multimetallic electrocatalysts or gas phase catalysts. I am quite optimistic about its commercial viability."

Source: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13921209000332

UK regulator launches third offshore transmission owner tender round

Feb. 28

British electricity and gas markets regulator Ofgem has launched the third offshore transmission owner (OFTO) tender round worth almost £400m for the high voltage transmission links of Westermost Rough and Humber Gateway offshore wind farms.
Called Tender Round 3 (TR3), the third OFTO includes new features designed to yield further savings for consumers.
After the completion of TR3 process, an OFTO will be appointed for each wind farm with a licence granted to own and operate the transmission assets. In return both OFTOs that are situated in the North Sea off the coast of Yorkshire will receive a guaranteed revenue stream for 20 years.
Ofgem has decided to merge the pre-qualification and qualification to tender stages into one enhanced pre-qualification stage to make the tendering process simpler.
Ofgem E-Serve managing director Robert Hull said that the offshore transmission regime has already delivered £1.4bn of new investment into the UK transmission sector.
"Billions of pounds of further investment in offshore transmission will be needed to connect the 8-15GW pipeline of offshore wind power forecast by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)," Hull added.

Source: http://wind.energy-business-review.com/news/ofgem-launches-third-offshore-transmission-owner-tender-round-280214-4186963?

Subsea 7 wins construction services contract from ExxonMobil

Feb. 28

Subsea 7 has been awarded a subsea construction services contract by ExxonMobil Canada, which is valued at $75m.
As part of the deal, Subsea 7 will support the development of Hebron heavy oil field, situated in the Jeanne d'Arc basin, 350km southeast of St. John's in Canada.

The scope of the contract comprises project management, engineering and installation of two offshore loading systems in a water depth of 92m.

Subsea 7 will carry out engineering and project management from its offices in St John's.

Subsea 7 Canada managing director Stephen Henley said, "This contract award further enhances our construction capability across offshore Canada, building on the successes of our subsea engineering and construction work for our clients in the region."

Source: http://explorationanddevelopment.energy-business-review.com/news/subsea-7-secures-construction-services-contract-from-exxonmobil-280214-4186975?

Nuclear dump leak raises questions about cleanup

Feb. 28


CARLSBAD, N.M. — For 15 years the trucks have barreled past southeastern New Mexico’s potash mines and seemingly endless fields of oil rigs, hauling decades worth of plutonium-contaminated waste to what is supposed to be a safe and final resting place a half mile underground in the salt beds of the Permian Basin.
But back-to-back accidents and a never-supposed-to-happen above-ground radiation release have shuttered the federal government’s only deep underground nuclear waste dump indefinitely, raising questions about a cornerstone of the Department of Energy’s $5-billion-a-year program for cleaning up legacy waste scattered across the country from decades of nuclear bomb making.
It also highlights a lack of alternatives for disposing of tainted materials like tools, gloves, glasses and protective suits from national labs in Idaho, Illinois, South Carolina and New Mexico.
With operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant on hold, so are all shipments, including the last of nearly 4,000 barrels of toxic waste that Los Alamos National Laboratories has been ordered to remove from its campus by the end of June. The presence of that waste, some of which was dug up from decades-old, unsealed dumps in the northern New Mexico mountains and is now stored outside with little protection, came to the public’s attention three years ago as a massive wildfire lapped at the edges of the sprawling lab property.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., says getting the rest of the waste off the mesa before wildfire season begins is “paramount,” but that it is too soon to know if a temporary alternative site for storing the waste needs to be found.
Also on hold are tests to see if the dump can expand its mission to take more than so-called lower level transuranic waste from the nation’s research facilities, including hopes by DOE that it can ship hotter, liquid waste from leaking tanks at Washington state’s Hanford nuclear waste site.
New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn said the state will be looking closely at what caused the leak that exposed at least 13 workers and sent radiation into the air around the plant before deciding whether to back plans to allow the repository to bring in waste from new sources.
“Events like this should never occur,” he said at a news conference last week where officials confirmed the leak. “From the state’s perspective, one event is far too many.”
Government officials, politicians, the contractors that run the mine and local officials all say it is too soon to speculate on what the short- or long-term impacts of the of the shutdown might be, or where else the toxic waste would go. And they emphasize that all the safety systems designed to react to worst-case scenarios like a ceiling collapse or forklift puncturing one of the huge waste canisters worked.
“A lot of people are just jumping up and down and wanting us to shut down,” said Farok Sharif, president of the Nuclear Waste Partnership that runs WIPP. “But that’s not the case here. We’ve designed this facility to look at these types of accidents and we’ve planned on making sure that we continue to protect our employees and we protect the environment. And our system worked as designed.”
Still, no one yet knows what caused the first-known radiation release from the massive rooms that have been dug out of the 2,000-foot thick ancient Permian Sea bed. Eventually, they will be covered in concrete, with the intent of safely sealing the casks of mostly solid waste 2,150 feet underground and preventing any future release into the environment.
But watchdog Don Hancock of the Southwest Research and Information Center says WIPP has now failed in its long-stated mission “to start clean, stay clean.”
On Feb. 5, the mine was shut and six workers sent to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation after a truck hauling salt caught fire. Nine days later, a radiation alert activated in the area where newly arrived waste was being stored. Preliminary tests show 13 workers suffered some radiation exposure, and monitors as far as half a mile away have since detected elevated levels of plutonium and americium in the air. Ground and water samples are being analyzed.
Officials said they’re confident the incidents are unrelated. And while they emphasize that the levels detected off-site are no more harmful than a dental X-ray, they have not been able to go underground, and have not directly answered questions about how contaminated the tunnels might be.
“There’s a whole lot of stuff that we don’t know,” said Hancock. “A lot more sampling that needs to be done. Then there is going to have to be public discussion what needs to be done.”
WIPP is the nation’s only deep underground geological repository for anything contaminated by more than the lowest levels of radiation. And opponents will certainly use the case to fight against any expansion of WIPP’s mission, which is to take only transuranic waste from federal nuclear sites.
“I’d say the push for expansion is part of the declining safety culture that has resulted in the fire and the radiation release,” Hancock said.
“I’ve been talking to (DOE Carlsbad filed office manager) Joe Franco and other people for a while about my concern that we all can get a little complacent when we think we know what we’re doing and everything is just fine. ... Distracted nuclear waste disposal is a bad thing because bad things are going to happen.”
Sharif said Hancock’s assertions that safety was lax are “absolutely not true.’”
He said he believes the accidents “will demonstrate how robust the facility is,” and that the lessons learned will make it safer.
Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway concedes, however, the accident could have long-term effects.
“I am worried about the impact,” he said. “I’m not worried about the (radiation) levels,
And even after the leak, the project, which employs about 650 people, has strong support in this blue-collar mining town of about 30,000.
“It is important not only for the community, but it’s also extraordinarily important for the country,” said John Heaton, a former state senator and chairman of the Carlsbad Nuclear Task Force. “Being able to clean up the complex is important for all of us. It is a defense program. All of us in the country have an obligation to deal with the defense issues, whether it’s clean up, whether it’s fighting wars or preparing for fighting wars.”
Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/energy-environment/nuclear-dump-leak-raises-questions-about-cleanup/2014/02/28/11091436-a043-11e3-878c-65222df220eb_story.html?