Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Caspian: Shah Deniz budget set to rise

The budget for the second phase of the Shah Deniz project is expected to climb, according to Socar president Rovnag Abdullaev at the end of December. Formerly put at $25 billion, itself an increase on the earlier budget of $16 billion, the new cost for Phase Two is estimated at between $28 billion and $30 billion.

The budget was confirmed by Shah Deniz consortium members (BP, Statoil, Total, Socar, TPAO and National Iranian Oil Company) on 9 January, although a final investment decision is not expected until the second half of the year. In the meantime an initial budget of $6 billion has been allocated for work on infrastructure and platform construction in 2013.

No reason was given for the budget increase beyond the usual inevitabilities of cost overruns. Although some members of the consortium are reportedly weary with the rising cost, there is hope that this year's FID will finally draw a line under the budget.

For more news and expert analysis about the Caspian region, please see Caspian Focus.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Jeremy Kennan on 5Live Radio

Our Algeria expert Jeremy Kennan speaks to Shelagh Fogarty about the kidnapping of BP oil workers. Please follow the link to hear the interview:

From 1:26 minutes onward.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Algeria: Trouble with the Senate

The Council of the Nation, or Senate as it is usually known, reconvened this week and re-elected the 71-year-old out-going speaker, Abdelkader Bensalah, for a third term of office. Bensalah, a senior RND official, was the sole candidate and was re-elected by 132 in favour with two abstentions. According to the Constitution the speaker of the Council of the Nation is the second top post after the president. In case the post of president is vacant then the speaker would be called to act as interim president until elections are held, Bensalah expressed his faith that the council would “play a more dynamic role in the future as part of the launched reforms.” That is something that has rarely ever been done in the past and is unlikely to do in the future.

In fact, the Senate has come under considerable public criticism in much of the Algerian press when it was revealed that the one third of the seats appointed directly by the President had largely been allocated to those ministers and other 'dead wood' that had been removed from government following last year's elections. The revelation merely confirmed that the Senate was even more decrepit, antiquated, and politically irrelevant than the lower house.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security. 

© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Libya: Al-Magarief claims assassination attempt

In an interview with the Al-Wataniya television channel on 5 January, GNC head Mohamed Al-Magarief revealed that he had been the victim of an assassination attempt which had taken place during his recent visit to Sebha. Al-Magarief had been in the southern city to meet with local officials about the deteriorating security situation in the area.

In the interview, he claimed that on 4 January the hotel he was staying at in Sebha was attacked by gunmen and that his bodyguards engaged in a three hour gun battle with the armed assailants. He asserted that three of his bodyguards were injured and two Special Forces soldiers were killed in the shoot-out.

The Congress head also announced that a special investigation had been launched into the incident but that it had proved inconclusive. He put this failure down to “the sensitivity of the tribal structure and the security situation in the south”.

Yet for all Al-Magarief's claims, there is a strong degree of scepticism inside Libya about whether he was actually the target of an attack or whether he was simply caught up in crossfire. Some of this scepticism has been fuelled by comments made by officials such as Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Adel Al-Barasi, who told Libyan TV that the gunfire was not aimed at Al-Magarief but rather that there had been a tribal clash in the town while he was present.

Likewise, the head of the Sebha local council, Ayoub Zarouq, told the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper, “I don't think there was a direct assassination attempt against Al-Magarief. There are, however, major tensions in Sebha as a result of the availability of weapons and there is arbitrary firing and tribal tensions in the town. I don't believe the news of this assassination attempt is true.

Zarouq went on to explain that it would have been extremely difficult for anyone to target the head of the Congress because of the huge security apparatus he brought with him as protection. Al-Magarief reportedly left Sebha airport with a convoy of at least ten cars and each was carrying two or more security personnel.

As such, there is a lot of talk that the incident was little more than 'hot air' drummed up by Al-Magarief. It certainly appears as though the incident was more a manifestation of the chronic instability and violence that has been blighting the town. Indeed, there were major clashes underway between the Qadhadhfah and the Awlad Suleiman tribes at the time of Al-Magarief's visit. As Zarouq explained, those who were killed in the incident were simply caught up in the arbitrary firing that has become an all too common feature of Sebha since the toppling of the former Qadhafi regime.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Egypt: BG and Petronas halts ninth phase of development

BG and Petronas have announced that they have decided to halt the ninth phase of development at their Borollos project as they have not received payments from the government amounting to US$2 billion, according to a report in local Al-Mal newspaper. BG's stake of the receivables is US$1.2 billion, with the remaining US$800 million owed to Petronas, according to the report. The decision is a blow for the Egyptian authorities who are struggling to secure gas to meet the inexorably rising demand for power generation. The companies are reluctant to invest further until they are paid for gas already produced. The two firms were expected to invest around US$1.5 billion in the ninth phase starting January 2013 toeventually achieve a production target of 400 million cubic feet of LNG per day. The report also mentions that the companies have threatened to withhold payments to employees to recover their losses if the government persists in not making the due payments.

Foreign investors are still prepared to enter the energy sector in Egypt, however: RWE Dea AG announced that it had reached an agreement with INA-INDUSTRIJA NAFTE d.d. on the sale of its 50% interest of the East Yidma Concession and with Apache Mediterranean Corporation of its 35% interest in the West Mediterranean Area (Block 1) Concession.

Electricity and Energy Minister Saad Mahmoud Balbaa said that his ministry had completed the preparation of a Request for Proposals and other specifications concerning the establishment of Egypt's first nuclear power plant, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. This is a clear sign that going nuclear, which had stop-start support under the Mubarak regime, enjoys support from theMuslim Brotherhood.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

UN Security Council authorises military action in Mali

As reported in Algeria Politics & Security - 21.12.12, theUnited Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2085 (2012) under Chapter VII of the UN Charter authorising the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) “for an initial period of one year”. The resolution enables military action to wrest northern Mali from the control of al-Qa'ida-linked extremists.
As we emphasised, however, the resolution contains a number of critical benchmarks which must be adhered to before military intervention can proceed. These are that there must first be progress on political reconciliation, elections and the training of the African troops and police involved. Equally important is that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon must “confirm in advance the council's satisfaction with the planned military offensive operation”. In effect, this is almost the same as saying that a further resolution must be obtained before actual military intervention can proceed. And, if all those benchmarks are followed, a military operation cannot be expected to begin until September or October 2013.
Algeria is strongly opposed to any such military intervention but the wording of UN Resolution, 2085 (2012) with all its conditionalities, does provide Algeria with the time and backing to try and manage a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus andAlgeria Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates