Russian crude oil output rose to 10.5 million barrels per day during 2013, the nation’s fifth annual increase in a row. Output reached a record high for the post-Soviet era, driven by continuing strength in global oil prices. Energy has been the engine of Russia’s growth during the last a decade, with oil and natural gas accounting for more than half of budget revenues.

Exxon Mobil and Russia’s Rosneft are about to start their first Arctic well this year, targeting a deposit that may hold 9 billion barrels. It will begin a series of landmark projects and cement an alliance begun in 2011. The companies also plan to develop shale fields in Siberia, sink a deep-water oil well in the Black Sea, and build a natural-gas export terminal in Russia’s Far East.

Russian state-controlled energy group, Soyuzneftegaz, struck a deal with the Syrian regime for rights to develop and produce oil and gas off Syria’s coast in the Levant Basin in the Eastern Mediterranean. Under the terms of a 25 year agreement, Soyuzneftegaz will be permitted to perform offshore drilling, development and production activities in Syria’s territorial waters. The Levant Basin, which stretches from the coasts of Israel, Lebanon and Syria in the east to Cyprus in the west, has potential crude oil reserves of 1.7 billion barrels and potential natural gas reserves of 122 trillion cubic feet. Both Cyprus and Israel are looking to become regional powerhouses through the export of oil and gas.

US crude-oil imports fell to the lowest level in almost 16 years as domestic output rose, the US Energy Information Administration reported. Imports of foreign crude oil fell 1.1% to 7.41 million barrels a day, the fewest since January 1998.

Safety rules for crude oil shipped by rail will likely be changed for shipments from the US state of North Dakota following a series of railway explosions. The type of oil pumped from the shale formations of North Dakota may be more flammable and therefore more dangerous to ship by rail than crude oil from other areas of the country.

Alarmed at electricity prices that are almost double US levels, European Union policy makers are allowing the expansion of coal mines on the continent that were scaled back in the past two decades. Across the continent’s mining belt, from Germany to Poland and the Czech Republic, utilities such as Vattenfall, CEZ and PGE are expanding open-pit mines that produce lignite or brown coal which emits the most CO2. Lignite demand worldwide is forecast to rise as much as 5.4% by 2020, according to the International Energy Agency.

The share of German electricity generated from coal soared in 2013 to its highest level since 1990. The use of brown and hard coal together accounted for 45.5% of Germany’s gross energy output, up from 44% the previous year. Energy experts said the gain in the use of coal was the result of the German government’s policy to phase out nuclear energy by 2022. Germany made this decision in May 2011 following the Fukushima disaster in Japan earlier that year.

Major Japanese electric power utility, Tokyo Electric Power Company, said it will increase imports of coal from the United States and Canada and it will almost double its North American purchases to 5% of its overall coal supply.  The North American shale gas boom is causing power utilities on that continent to substitute natural gas for coal and thereby drive down the price of coal and making it more attractive for Asian power utilities.

Since 2007 household expenditure on natural gas and electricity in Scotland has increased by 33% while average income in has only risen by 13%.




with h/t Tom Whipple

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