BHP Billiton Names Big Three Drilling Targets

By MarEx 2015-09-14 02:05:24

Tim Cutt, President Petroleum, BHP Billiton spoke at the 2015 Barclays CEO Energy-Power Conference in New York last week where he cited the company’s intention to conduct exploratory drilling in three major basins over the next three years.

The Caribbean

In the Caribbean, the company has a leading “first mover” acreage position totalling approximately 17,000 km2 across two plays (the Oligocene and Miocene) in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. This is four times the size of BHP Billiton’s entire Gulf of Mexico portfolio.

“We have completed the largest proprietary 3D seismic survey acquired by a non-national oil company at 21,000 km2. Our work continues to provide positive evidence of prospectivity in this area,” he said.

“The Pegleg prospect is one of the structures that meets our exploration criteria in the Miocene play. The footprint of this lead is around two-three times the size of our major Gulf of Mexico fields. The first well of an eight well program is planned for the 2016 calendar year, representing an industry-leading three-year timeframe from access to drilling the first well.”


In Western Australia, the company has accessed a leading position (totalling approximately 25,000 km2) over the largely untested Beagle sub-basin off the north-western Australian coast.

“Our mega-regional evaluation of Western Australia highlighted the potential for a largely untested Tier 1 liquids play in the Beagle sub-basin. The play is on trend with the Barrow sub-basin and we have identified four leads that each have the potential of over 400 Mmbbl recoverable.”

The Gulf of Mexico

In the Gulf of Mexico, the company is targeting relatively immature Paleogene and Cretaceous plays with a focus on the western Gulf of Mexico. Over the past 12 months, it has acquired 50 blocks including a recent sale that is still subject to customary approval.

“Our integrated basin analysis of the entire Gulf of Mexico, including the U.S. and Mexico, indicates Tier 1 oil potential in the Paleogene and Cretaceous plays with the potential to access more than 40 untested, greater than 300 MMbbl, opportunities,” said Cutt.

He said the company’s petroleum portfolio is focused in areas where it is familiar with the geology, has excellent operational capabilities and understands the political environment. It is therefore dominated by the U.S. and Australia, with their stable fiscal regimes and where the company has a long history of production. Approximately 94 per cent of its 700 kboe/d comes from these two regions.


Cutt was positive about the current low oil prices. “As part of a larger resource company with a strong balance sheet, we can be very flexible in our development programs. We will always choose value over volume and have responded decisively in the low price environment.

“We are well positioned on the cost curve and continue to drive costs out through our productivity agenda.

“We are confident that margins will improve in the future and we will continue to hold and pursue opportunities that will add significant value for our shareholders over the long-term,” he said.

“Our total resource position – in excess of 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent – remains relatively unchanged and we remain committed to increasing our exposure to oil.”


Oil Search Rejects Woodside Takeover

By MarEx 2015-09-13 20:02:53

Oil Search on Monday rebuffed an $8 billion takeover proposal from Woodside Petroleum, saying the all-share proposal was far too cheap, but left the door open to a higher offer.

Woodside, Australia’s biggest energy company, last week sought exclusive talks with the Papua New Guinea-focused oil and gas producer on a one-for-four share offer, conditional on support from key stakeholders, including the PNG government.

Oil Search said it was in a strong financial position and highlighted its low-cost operations in PNG, where its output could double in the early 2020s working with giants ExxonMobil Corp and France’s Total on two LNG projects.

“Following a detailed evaluation of the proposal, the board has concluded that the proposal is highly opportunistic and grossly undervalues the company,” Oil Search said in a statement to the Australian stock exchange.

It said shareholders had overwhelmingly found the proposal unattractive.

“If any proposals are tabled in the future that reflect compelling value for Oil Search shareholders, we will engage on them,” Oil Search Chairman Rick Lee said in a statement to the Australian securities exchange.

“Clearly this proposal falls well short of that test.”

Oil Search’s shares last traded at A$7.45, which was 4.9 percent above the implied value of the proposed offer, suggesting investors expected Woodside would need to pay more to succeed.

Woodside has issued a statement indicating the company is surprised and disappointed that the board of Oil Search has rejected the proposal without meeting with Woodside to understand the benefits of the opportunity or to negotiate the terms of a possible merger.

“Under the proposal, Oil Search shareholders would receive all scrip consideration of 0.25 Woodside shares for every Oil Search share and represent a 31.7 percent shareholding in the combined entity. This compares favorably to Oil Search’s relative contribution to the merged group on a range of measures including production, reserves and free cashflow.

“Woodside believes the proposal would create the regional oil and gas champion for both Papua New Guinea and Australia with a global portfolio of world class assets and development opportunities which would deliver significant benefits to both companies’ shareholders.”


Taking Autonomy One Step at a Time

By Wendy Laursen 2015-09-13 19:20:33

U.S.-based Sea Machines is developing unmanned work boats for the maritime and offshore industries which it says will take the future of autonomous shipping forward one step at a time.

Currently a 24-foot boat is being fitted with the company’s system, ahead of making a commercial product available in the first half of 2017.

CEO Michael Gordon Johnson envisages a number of applications including oil spill response.

“Very early on, we were approached by people in the oil spill response industry and talking with Finland’s Lamor. They saw value in being able to tow an oil spill skimming boom using an unmanned vessel like ours,” he says.

“The challenge in oil spill operations is that you never know where the spill is going to occur, and to react in enough time to collect the oil, with crew that have been trained in the methods, is a huge challenge. Typically, what happens is that boats of convenience and crews of convenience are used. This is not necessarily the most efficient outcome.”

The Sea Machines V1 is designed for J-towing of booms for Oil Spill Response. In this application the V1 runs in a Supervised Autonomy mode, following the main vessel and standing off at pre determined distances set by the operator.

Johnson cites the case of the Deepwater Horizon spill when local fishermen were called on to help with towing booms. “Working surrounded by crude oil is absolutely miserable and can cause health problems. It is hazardous, and, in this case, it was reported that BP had to pay millions of dollars in compensation claims to the clean-up crews.”

There are other situations too where Johnson sees an unmanned system as more efficient, able to operate for longer periods than manned vessels, and safer. The system is well suited to repetitive tasks such as surveying. In this scenario, a manned vessel would form the centrepiece of the operation with one or more unmanned boats working in formation with it. The master of the manned boat would have control of the other vessels, or alternatively, they could be controlled from a shore base.

The set-up would reduce costs, says Johnson, who also sees harbor tugs working in a similar fashion. There will still be masters and mariners involved in tug work, but you will see varying degrees of increased automation, such as autonomous tugs working in concert with a lead manned tug. Ultimately, increasing levels of autonomous operation will boost safety, efficiency and reduce costs, says Johnson.

The Sea Machines V1 is capable of running extended survey grids due to its duration, available power, and room for onboard processors and storage. Hardened Wifi will allow Surveyors to operate and modify settings of Multibeam or Side Scan Sonar systems from aboard another vessel. Running a Sea Machines V1 in conjunction with a Survey Boat is a force multiplier which will effective double coverage rates. The Twin Azimuthing Propellors of the V1 allows for accurate survey lines in the most challenging conditions and cross winds.

He likens the company’s new control system to the advances made by the development of dynamic positioning (DP). A skilled master can keep a vessel in position, but it is much easier for a computer to do it. Sea Machines’ system is an advancement of DP and has DP functionality contained with it.

“Our system is a step beyond dynamic positioning,” says Johnson. “Dynamic positioning, right now, can be used to keep a vessel on station or to send it to a set destination, but the interface still relies on a person being there. We are taking the next step. The interface is not on the boat itself but on a separate vessel.”

The next step forward again is to have the unmanned vessels working beyond the line of sight using satellite communications.

“Our whole concept is to develop autonomous control systems and unmanned work boats,” says Johnson. “This is the next natural evolution of the maritime space – to go from the current, manned vessels that are out there to adding additional levels of automation.”

The company’s first system is suited to work boats up to around 50 foot length and can be installed on newbuildings or retrofitted for optionally unmanned operations. That will be followed with technology suitable for larger boats by around 2020.

The Sea Machines V1 makes an ideal small Fire Boat, allowing the vehicle to get closer to, or under hazardous fires than would normally be safe with operators aboard. The V1’s accurate stand off and station keeping capabilities will keep the vehicle where the operators set it, while allowing them direct control of the fire pump.


Watch: Refugees Left Stranded Across Europe

By MarEx 2015-09-13 17:16:52

The Captain Elias camp on the island of Kos, Greece, a makeshift building where authorities have been directing refugees to stay while awaiting registration papers, was closed on September 10.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), used the building for medical consultations, and is seriously concerned there is now no provision of accommodation of any sort for new arrivals.

Since March, an MSF team has worked inside the Captain Elias structure and around Kos, conducting more than 4,450 medical consultations, treating patients mainly for chronic diseases that need medical follow-up, upper respiratory tract infections, skin infections, muscle pain and gastro-intestinal diseases.

“It is unacceptable that this closure was not accompanied by any decision from the authorities to provide other facilities for refugees arriving in Kos,” said Elisa Galli, MSF field coordinator in Kos.

“Captain Elias was far from ideal, but now people have absolutely nowhere to go. There is no clarity on what will happen next, and authorities are not assuming their responsibilities about the well-being of these vulnerable people.

“As we have said repeatedly, the authorities need to ensure that adequate reception facilities are provided.”

The building housed several hundred people at a time.

While living conditions were sub-standard it was the only place where new arrivals could seek free shelter and have access to water, toilets and showers.

Three thousand people are currently scattered around Kos town waiting for permission to leave the island, which usually takes an average of eight days.

“Without any shelter the refugees are exposed to weather conditions that soon will get worse, and they have little or no access to water and sanitation.” said Galli.

“Furthermore they are exposed to potential attacks by unidentified groups that have targeted migrants in the city of Kos in the last few weeks.

“It is simply not safe to be a refugee and stay in the streets.”

To improve conditions in the Captain Elias site and in the absence of any management from the authorities, MSF has installed water points and latrines and has been cleaning the building every day.

MSF has also distributed essential relief items such as blankets, hygiene kits and energy bars.

Germany Struggling

Meanwhile, Germany re-imposed border controls on Sunday after Europe’s most powerful nation acknowledged it could scarcely cope with thousands of asylum seekers arriving every day.

A day before deeply divided European Union ministers tackle the migrant crisis, the U.N. refugee agency also called on every member state to take in a share of asylum-seekers under a Brussels plan which some countries are fiercely resisting.

Berlin announced that the temporary measure would be taken first on the southern frontier with Austria, where migrant arrivals have soared since Chancellor Angela Merkel effectively opened German borders to refugees a week ago.

“The aim of these measures is to limit the current inflows to Germany and to return to orderly procedures when people enter the country,” said German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.

Open borders among the European countries which signed the Schengen Treaty are a crucial part of the E.U. project, but controls can be re-introduced, provided they are only temporary.

“The free movement of people under Schengen is a unique symbol of European integration,” the E.U.’s executive Commission said in a statement. “However, the other side of the coin is a better joint management of our external borders and more solidarity in coping with the refugee crisis.”

Emergency Meeting

At an emergency meeting on Monday, interior ministers from the E.U.’s 28 member states will discuss Commission proposals to redistribute about 160,000 asylum seekers across the bloc.

“We need swift progress on the Commission’s proposals now,” the Commission said in a statement issued as tens of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in Syria and other parts of the Middle East, Asia and Africa made their way north.

EU envoys meeting on Sunday evening in Brussels failed to break the deadlock, with some eastern states still refusing to accept binding quotas of refugees. They argue the plan will draw more people to Europe and disrupt their homogeneous societies.

More Lives Lost

Amid the political bickering among European governments, the crisis claimed yet more lives. On Sunday 34 refugees, almost half of them babies and children, drowned off a Greek island when their boat sank, the coastguard said.

Four babies, six boys and five girls died when the wooden vessel carrying them overturned on Sunday morning, about three miles (5 km) east of the small island of Farmakonisi, close to Turkey’s coast, the service added.

Tens of thousands of mainly Syrian refugees have braved rough seas this year to make the short but precarious journey from Turkey to Greece’s eastern islands, mainly in flimsy and overcrowded inflatable dinghies.


Watch: September 11 Remembered

By MarEx 2015-09-12 21:47:00

The harrowing events of September 11, 2001, forever changed the United States as more than 3,000 Americans tragically lost their lives in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Despite those horrible events, many people – from ordinary citizens to trained first responders – acted heroically on that day and in the aftermath of the attacks. Dedicated public servants from all across the ranks of local, state and the federal government worked to confront the unprecedented challenges brought by that day to keep America safer in the future.

The U.S. Coast Guard has released a short film that pays tribute to first responders who led the largest maritime evacuation in history.

“Fourteen years after the 9/11 attacks, we remember the nearly 3,000 lives that were taken far too soon. We also remember the thousands who answered the call on that day and those who have defended our Nation in the ensuing years,” said Admiral Paul Zukunft, commandant, U.S. Coast Guard.

“Let us never forget the lives lost on this day and those who continue to protect America and our freedom.”


What Will it Take to Melt Antarctica’s Ice?

By MarEx 2015-09-12 21:01:59

New work from an international team including Carnegie Institution for Science’s Ken Caldeira demonstrates that the Earth’s remaining fossil fuel resources would be sufficient to melt nearly all of Antarctica if burned, leading to a 50- or 60-meter (160- to 200-foot) rise in sea level.

Because so many major cities are at or near sea level, this would put many highly populated areas where more than a billion people live under water, including New York City and Washington, DC, sates the report published in Science Advances.

“Our findings show that if we do not want to melt Antarctica, we can’t keep taking fossil fuel carbon out of the ground and just dumping it into the atmosphere as CO2 like we’ve been doing,” Caldeira said. “Most previous studies of Antarctic have focused on loss of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Our study demonstrates that burning coal, oil and gas also risks loss of the much larger East Antarctic Ice Sheet.”

Caldeira initiated the project with lead author Ricarda Winkelmann while she was a Visiting Investigator at the Carnegie Institution for Science. Winkelmann and co-author Anders Levermann are at the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research; co-author Andy Ridgwell is at the University of California Riverside.

Although Antarctica has already begun to lose ice, a complex array of factors will determine the ice sheet’s future, including greenhouse gas-caused atmospheric warming, additional oceanic warming perpetuated by the atmospheric warming and the possible counteracting effects of additional snowfall.

“It is much easier to predict that an ice cube in a warming room is going to melt eventually than it is to say precisely how quickly it will vanish,” Winkelmann said, explaining all the contributing factors for which the team’s models had to account.

The team used modeling to study the ice sheet’s evolution over the next 10,000 years, because carbon persists in the atmosphere millennia after it is released. They found that the West Antarctic ice sheet becomes unstable if carbon emissions continue at current levels for 60 to 80 years, representing only six to eight percent of the 10,000 billion tons of carbon that could be released if we use all accessible fossil fuels.

“The West Antarctic ice sheet may already have tipped into a state of unstoppable ice loss, whether as a result of human activity or not. But if we want to pass on cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Calcutta, Hamburg and New York as our future heritage, we need to avoid a tipping in East Antarctica,” Levermann said.

The team found that if global warming did not exceed the two degree Celsius target often cited by climate policymakers, Antarctic melting would cause sea levels to rise only a few meters and remain manageable. But greater warming could reshape the East and West ice sheets irreparably, with every additional tenth of a degree increasing the risk of total and irreversible Antarctic ice loss.

This is the first study to model the effects of unrestrained fossil-fuel burning on the entirety of the Antarctic ice sheet. The study does not predict greatly increased rates of ice loss for this century, but found that average rates of sea level rise over the next 1,000 years could be about three centimeters per year (more than one inch per year) leading to about 30 meters (100 feet) of sea level rise by the end of this millennium. Over several thousand years, total sea level rise from all sources could reach up to 60 meters (200 feet).

“If we don’t stop dumping our waste CO2 into the sky, land that is now home to more than a billion people will one day be underwater,” Caldeira said.

This chart shows how Antarctic ice would be affected by different emissions scenarios. (GtC stands for gigatons of carbon.) It is provided courtesy of Ken Caldeira and Ricarda Winkelmann.