Exxon has launched a flurry of lawsuits, threats of lawsuits and demands for sworn depositions against 30 individuals and organizations, including the attorney generals of New York and Massachusetts, in response to allegations that the supergiant has deceived consumers and shareholders about the effects of its activity on the climate.
Itself the target of several lawsuits claiming the company knew about the effects oil and gas production had on climate, the number-one integrated oil company in the world is responding in what most see as an unusual—and risky—manner. Exxon’s attorneys have alleged the company is victim to a conspiracy from lawyers, public officials, and environmental activists.
It has denied the allegations made against it by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts AG Maura Healey that it concealed its knowledge about the impact of its business on climate. Exxon has also denied the allegations of New York City and eight California cities and counties that it and other oil companies denied the findings of climate change research.
Striking back at its foes, Exxon says it has acknowledged these climate change findings but is now being hounded for not following the go-green political agenda and being denied the right to participate in the national discourse on climate change. The company also says the conspiracy it calls the ‘La Jolla playbook’ was conceived at a meeting attended by two dozen people six years ago.
The targets of Exxon’s legal attack claim its allegations are unfounded, blaming the company of trying to intimidate them and shift the spotlight away from climate change. How these cases unfold could have major implications for other lawsuits against Big Oil.
Deals, Mergers & Acquisitions
• Indian ONGC in partnership with two other state oil companies has acquired a 10% interest in the Lower Zakum offshore oil and gas concession. This is the first acquisition by Indian companies of an Emirati oil and gas stake and part of India’s drive to ensure supplies of much-needed oil to satisfy its fast-growing demand. The $600 million price tag on the 40-year deal puts the total value of the concession at $6 billion.
• Mitsubishi Corp. subsidiary Mocal Energy has agreed to offload its 5% stake in the Syncrude oilsands project to Suncor Energy for about US$730 million. This will boost Suncor’s holding in the project to 58%. The deal will add some 17,500 bpd of light crude production capacity to Suncor’s portfolio. Separately, the Canadian energy major bought into a Norwegian project, Fenja, spending US$54.5 million on a 17.5% interest.
• Australia’s Woodside Petroleum has raised $2 billion for the acquisition of Exxon’s 50% stake in the Scarborough gas field in Western Australia, which will boost its total interest in the field to 75%. The news came on the heels of an 18% increase in net profits for the Australian company, which also reported production of 84.4 million barrels of oil equivalent for the reporting period.
Tenders, Auctions & Contracts
• Cheniere has inked its first long-term LNG supply deal with China, under which the American company will supply the world’s emerging top consumer of the fuel with 1.2 million metric tons of LNG annually through 2043. The buyer, CNPC, will pay a price linked to the US LNG benchmark plus a fixed feel for the shipments. The income from the sales will fund the expansion of Cheniere’s Corpus Christi gas export terminal, which could begin next year, helping the United States position itself better for competing with global LNG supply leaders Qatar and Australia.
• Total, Eni, and Novatek signed several exploration and production agreements with the Lebanese government for two offshore blocks in the eastern part of the Mediterranean. Total and Eni will each hold a 40% interest in the project and the Russian company’s portion will be 20%. The deal followed Lebanon’s first international oil and gas tender, carried out in December. Separately, Novatek signed this week a memorandum of cooperation with Saudi Aramco concerning the development of Novatek’s Arctic LNG 2 project.
• Scottish oilfield services provider Wood has bagged a multimillion-dollar five-year contract to boost the production rate at one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest fields, Marjan. The contract is part of a multibillion-dollar program aimed at improving production rates at Marjan and other fields in order to boost natural gas production and improve the kingdom’s energy sustainability.
Discovery & Development
• BP said it had started commercial production from the Atoll gas field in Egypt earlier seven months than planned, at a cost that is 33% lower than initial calculations. Atoll will produce some 350 million cu ft of natural gas daily plus 10,000 bpd of condensate. The field holds an estimated 1.5 trillion cu ft of gas and 31 million tons of condensate.
• Occidental Petroleum said its production from the Permian Basin jumped by 15% in the last quarter of 2017 thanks to more drilling and better productivity. To date, the company’s total proven reserves stand at 2.6 billion barrels of oil equivalent, of which 60% in the United States.
• Gazprom Neft said it plans to produce the same amount of oil this year as the last or even a little more, despite Russia’s commitment to the OPEC production cut deal. The company produced an estimated 88.8 million tons of oil equivalent last year, a 4.2% rise on 2016.
• Occidental Petroleum reported a net profit of $497 million for the last quarter of 2017 meeting analyst expectations. The result was a swing into the black for the shale-focused independent, from a loss of $272 a year earlier.
• Marathon Oil reported a major reduction in its net loss for the fourth quarter of the year, at $28 million, versus $1.38 billion a year earlier, thanks to the strengthening of oil prices and cost cuts.
Politics, Geopolitics & Conflict
• China and the Philippines have set up a joint panel to work out exploration for oil and gas in the South China Sea without encroaching on sovereignty sensitivities. The Philippine’ ambassador to Beijing called the news a breakthrough.
• Germany’s new ruling coalition is good news for the Nord Stream 2 project: the Social Democrats remain in charge of the Foreign Affairs ministry and they are backing the project despite opposition from Poland, the Baltic States, and Ukraine.
• The government of South Sudan and rebel groups have once again failed to resolve their differences in order to put an end to the civil war, suggesting peace is still far off in the future.