Energy Blast – July 31, 2008

A Russian Lukoil executive detained in Libya has been freedhours before Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was due to host the country’s prime minister.” It is thought that the two will discuss Russia’s hopes of joining a planned pipeline that will deliver Libyan gas to Europe. TNK-BP is to review its capital spending plans, with CEO Robert Dudley to work on the review from a secret location. A spending review is apparently “one of the points of contention” in the shareholders’ dispute, and The Times sees a potential review as “signalling a willingness to negotiate”. The Kremlin Labour Inspectorate has reportedly launched a second court case alleging violations of staffing laws at TNK-BP. Oil trader Gunvor has borrowed $370 million in its debut syndicated loan to fund “bold” expansion plans. The Kremlin’s extension of its antitrust probe to Evraz Group and Raspadskaya is, according to one analyst, “aimed at increasing control over the sector, as well as raising more taxes to fill in the gap left by recent tax cuts to the oil industry.” Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline, to be routed through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Greece, has been given an estimated cost of $20 billion. Kamchatka Gold, controlled by billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, plans to invest up to $270 million to increase output sixfold. A new study by Shell suggests that speculation is not a key factor in oil price volatility.