Ukraine’s lack of perspective

Ukraine needs foreign investment, particularly in the energy sector – this mantra is repeated time and again by the authorities. Proven natural gas reserves of more than 1 trillion m³ and government plans to boost gas production to 27bn m³/yr in 2020 from the current 19.9bn m³/yr should draw the eye of investors. The obstacle is decisions made this week in parliament that militate against a healthy investment environment in the sector.

Parliament’s tax committee rejected a draft law to decrease subsoil taxes for gas producers for new wells to 12pc from a current 28pc of the price of gas sold. The decision was a bitter blow to gas producers who lobbied for the new tax rates over several months. “We failed to prove for foreign investors that Ukraine is a good place to invest in gas production and we are left on the world map as a country with one of the highest tax rates for gas production”, said head of Ukraine’s association of gas producers Daniel Maydanik. The tax committee argument that there might be a loss of state revenues was weak, given that producers asked for low rates only for future wells. Besides, the committee approved a drop in tax rates for crude production that will lop 2bn-3bn hryvnia ($76.5mn-$114.8mn) off the 2017 budget.  Continue reading

Latin America swaps oil flag for welcome mat

Big Oil is roaring back into Latin America, sweeping past the detritus of resource nationalism to scoop up acreage once reserved for national oil companies. Ho hum shifts the pendulum, but with a twist: most of the focus is now offshore.

Witness Mexico’s historic auction this week. ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Statoil, and Total, plus a smattering of independents, were awarded deepwater acreage in the Gulf of Mexico, some tantalizingly close to prolific developments on the US side of the maritime border. That includes Trion, the Perdido fold belt field that state-owned Pemex will develop with its new farm-in partner BHP Billiton. This wasn’t just a private-sector affair. China’s state-owned CNOOC picked up two blocks, the only bidder to go it alone.

Shell was conspicuously absent from the Mexican winner’s circle, even though it presented an offer for one of the blocks. The European major already has a full plate of offshore assets in Brazil, where it is the largest private-sector producer after state-controlled Petrobras, thanks to its BG acquisition early this year. Expect the gap to narrow as Petrobras’ legacy Campos basin fields decline and foreign firms prepare to operate sub-salt projects, a role that had been, until recently, the exclusive domain of Petrobras. A series of upstream tenders are scheduled for 2017. Oil companies like Shell, Statoil, and Chevron are keeping a close eye on Brazil’s evolving regulations and still-tumultuous politics.  Continue reading