Pakistan to begin exporting surplus fuel

Karachi (Reuters) - Pakistan is expected to begin exporting surplus petrol in the next quarter this year, in trade that could earn the country $100 million annually, the official APP news agency reported yesterday. "Eventually there will be 0.5 million (500,000) tonnes of petrol available for the export and through it the government will earn $100 million annually," said APP, quoting unnamed official sources.

Officials from neighbouring Iran visited Pakistan late last year and showed an interest in purchasing petrol that will be surplus to Pakistani needs. State oil officials were not immediately available for comment, although they have previously said Pakistan would issue a tender this year for the export of petrol. Pakistan's refining capacity has almost doubled with the commissioning of the new mid-country, 4.5 million-tonne Pak-Arab Refinery (PARCO), which came fully onstream in January.

APP said Iran and some other countries were keen to import the fuel and deals would be finalised soon. Most of the petrol for export is expected to come from refinery operations in the southern port city of Karachi, industry sources have said. Petrol demand in Pakistan for 2001 has been put at 1.3 million tonnes, while total production is expected to reach 1.493 million tonnes. Demand for petrol in Pakistan has been falling as people switch to cheaper compressed gas for cars.

Talisman gets approval for two North Sea fields

London (Reuters) - The UK government said yesterday it had granted Canada's Talisman Energy Inc approval for a new seven million barrel North Sea oilfield development and waved royalties on plans to prolong another aging field. The new Hannay development, to be developed with a single hoirzontal well, should come on stream in November with a plateau production rate of 12,000 barrels per day (bpd).

It will be a subsea satellite tie-back to the Talisman-operated Buchan-Alpha platform, officials said. The UK government also launched the Beatrice Redevelopment Project, meant to extend the life of the 20-year-old oil Beatrice field, shut in since August 2000. "Talisman has adopted an ambitious project to maximise the recovery of
Beatrice's remaining oil reserves," Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Stephen Byers said in a statement.

He said the royalties normally due on such a development had been waived for the first time ever in order to make the marginal project more economically viable. The field has an estimated nine million barrels of remaining reserves after producing 150 million barrels to day. The Beatrice project should safeguard 60 long-term jobs and employ up to 650 people during the investment phase, it said.

The Buchan-Alpha platform began production in 1981 and was running at under 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) at the end of last year. The new tie-in is expected to prolong production from the field for up to 10 more years. The UK is keen to entice oil companies to explore new ways of exploiting marginally viable wells as the North Sea shelf rapidly enters maturity.

Caribbean tanker backlog cleared

London (Reuters) - A Caribbean tanker backlog that pushed freight rates to their highest levels yet this year, has been cleared, brokers said yesterday, and the market is now under assault by smaller ships. "That (the backlog) has pretty much been cleared out, but we've seen a high of W320 ($2.4 per barrel) for a pretty prompt fixture by Fina," said a U.S. tanker broker. On Monday he had estimated the backlog at five to seven days.

Rates for Caribbean upcoast trades started the year at W290, but fell to W175 in the first week of February, before rising again and surging in the last two weeks, because fog delays were affecting loading and lightering schedules in the U.S. Gulf. Brokers said the true market rate stood at W310 yesterday, as illustrated by
another Fina fixture: the 70,000 tonner Nordlight from Covenas to the U.S. Gulf.

One broker said the market could be undermined by a weak market for Panamaxes (50,000 tonners). "Panamaxes really fell off this week," he said. "So they (brokers) found a big Panamax and got charterers permission to load a small cargo: 440,000 barrels, when they're usually doing 500,000 plus (on an Aframax)."

Oslo brokers said Panamaxes had traded as low as W220 during the week for upcoast cargoes of fuel oil. A U.S. government meteorologist said Monday that the fog that caused the tanker backlog could remain an intermittent threat to shipping and crude oil imports through April. In mid February, Gulf Coast imports of oil were at one point down from six million barrels per day to two million barrels per day, the U.S. Department of Energy said.

Suspicions that fog-related supply problems were pinching Gulf coast refiners were confirmed last Friday, when the U.S. Department of Energy said it had rejected tentative requests from several refiners for oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Japanese firms in Indonesia LNG plant venture

Tokyo (Reuters) - Trading company Mitsubishi Corp and another Japanese firm have taken a five per cent stake in a Malaysian venture to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Indonesia, industry sources said ywsterday. Malaysia LNG Tiga - a joint venture set up by Malaysian national oil company Petronas, Nippon Mitsubishi Oil Corp and the Royal Dutch/Shell group - plans to construct the LNG plant in Bintulu on Borneo island.

Most of the five per cent stake would be bought by Mitsubishi, while the name of the other Japanese company was not immediately available, the sources said. The value of the stake was not known. The company intends to begin LNG production by the end of 2002, producing 6.8 million tonnes a year.

The joint venture signed a confirmation of intent to supply up to 1.6 million tonnes of LNG to three Japanese end users for 20 years beginning in 2004. The deal was signed with Tokyo Gas Co Ltd, Toho Gas Co Ltd and Osaka Gas Co Ltd. Japan is the world's largest importer of LNG.