Energy Blast – Jan 4, 2010

Oil has reached the $80 a barrel mark today, the first trading day of 2010, as talk of a possible Russia-Belarus oil dispute hits the media.  Russia has apparently ceased oil supplies to Belarussian refineries, as the Lukashenko regime refuses to pay increased tariffs on oil, though ministry officials from Belarus have apparently denied that supplies have ceased.  Belarus has apparently suggested that the ‘unacceptable’ pressure coming from Russia to pay the duties on oil (which it did not do last year) is having a deleterious effect on customs union negotiations.  Transit to Poland and Germany is allegedly uninterrupted.  According to Gazprom statistics, demand for gas domestically dropped by 10% in 2009.  65,000 tons of LNG has arrived in China as the country attempts to build up gas reserves for winter.  Russia’s oil output apparently grew by around 1.5% in 2009, an improvement on 2008 when production dropped for the first time in a decade.  Joint production by Russia and Venezuela may increase by more than 450,000 barrels a day this year as the Orinoco belt is developed.  Iran’s foreign minister has issued a one-month ultimatum to the West to accept Iran’s counterproposal to the UN deal designed to put the brakes on Iran’s nuclear program, or else Tehran will continue further enriching of its stockpile independently.