Oil

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Tuesday, paving the way for an infrastructure project that has been surrounded by protest and controversy.

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Robert Speer, the acting secretary of the Army, announced the decision to Congress, saying he was ready to offer the pipeline’s owner a 30-year easement on a disputed patch of land.

In the decision, Speer said he would halt the preparation of an environmental impact statement meant to assess the effects of the pipeline, adding that he had sufficient information to support approval. The pipeline had already passed environmental review and a federal judge found for the pipeline after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe flied a lawsuit, based on the tribe’s water supply and sacred lands, against it before then-President Obama halted the project last November. No part of the proposed route goes through tribal lands.

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The easement will allow for the completion of the last mile and a half of the 1,172-mile project, connecting oil production areas in North Dakota to a crude oil terminal near Patoka, Ill. The pipeline is owned by Energy Transfer Partners. In a statement, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said, “Today’s announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brings this issue one step closer to final resolution — and delivers the certainty and clarity I’ve been demanding.”

OPEC’s oil output fell by more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) January, a Reuters survey recently found, pointing to a strong start by the exporter group in implementing its first supply cut deal in eight years.

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The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to cut its output by about 1.2 million bpd from Jan. 1 to prop up oil prices and reduce a supply glut.

North Dakota Senator John Hoeven (R.) said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is ready to provide the easement necessary to build the final leg of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline under North Dakota’s Lake Oahe.

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Hoeven said he spoke with acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer and Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday.

The Army Corps issued a statement Wednesday saying it had initiated the steps outlined in President Donald Trump’s directive to complete the 1,172-mile crude oil pipeline but that no permit has been granted. A decision will be made “once a full review and analysis is completed” in accordance with the directive, Malcolm Frost, a spokesman, said in the statement.

U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota, also said that the Army Corps had notified Congress of its plan to grant the easement. A spokesman for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others that have fought against its construction, said Tuesday that it will challenge any suspension of the federal environmental review that previously held up the pipeline. However, the Tribe lost a previous challenge in federal court when a judge approved the final eight miles of the route, noting that the proposed route does not go through tribal lands.

Navarro: Germany Takes Advantage of Undervalued Euro

Peter Navarro, the head of President Trump’s new National Trade Council, recently gave an interview to the Financial Times. The economist told the FT that Germany is using a “grossly undervalued” euro to “exploit” the U.S. The euro has weakened against the dollar over the past two years.

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He also told the FT that one of the administration’s trade priorities is unwinding and repatriating the international supply chains on which many U.S. multinational companies rely, “It does the American economy no long-term good to only keep the big box factories where we are now assembling ‘American’ products that are composed primarily of foreign components,” he said. “We need to manufacture those components in a robust domestic supply chain that will spur job and wage growth.”

President Donald Trump is expected to take executive action Tuesday to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines Trump told reporters before a meeting at the White House this morning. The president is scheduled to sign orders at the White House later today.

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Former President Barack Obama stopped TransCanada Corp.‘s proposed Keystone XL pipeline in late 2015, declaring it would have undercut U.S. efforts to clinch a global climate change deal that was a centerpiece of his environmental legacy, a deal that Trump has said he will pull the U.S. out of.

The pipeline would run from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf Coast. The U.S. government needed to approve the pipeline because it crossed the border with its northern neighbor. Read more

The International Energy Agency recently upgraded its estimate for rising U.S. shale production this year, projecting output will increase by 500,000 barrels per day by the end of 2017, which will translate to an increase of 170,000 bpd averaged over the year.

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Benchmark crude prices subsequently fell in London. In the first week of January, U.S. crude production rose to 8.95 million bpd, the highest level since April. Oil-rig use expanded to 529 in the prior week, a 67% increase from the 2016 low of 316.

Japanese Steel Officially Worried About Trump

Japan’s steel industry is concerned over the risks of a U.S. exit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal and reform of the North American Free Trade Agreement by the incoming Trump administration, a Japanese industry official said on Friday.

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“We are worried about the risks of the Trump administration taking protectionism actions or policies,” Kosei Shindo, chairman of the Japan Iron and Steel Federation, told a news conference.

China has issued its first batch of crude oil import quotas for non-state companies at 68.81 million metric tons, or 1.38 million barrels per day (bpd), four refining sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

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29 Companies received quotas, including independent refiners and trading companies, the sources said, citing an official document.

Architecture Billings End Year Strong

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) concluded the year positive, with the December reading capping off three straight months of growth in design billings. As an economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects an approximate nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending.

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The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the December ABI score was 55.9, up sharply from 50.6 in the previous month. This score reflects the largest increase in design services in 2016 (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings).

After a recovery late last year, the oil market seems to have settled with a price around $55 a barrel… at least for now. That level is not likely to dissuade consumption but most Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries members seem to feel it justifies their oil output cut agreed to late last year.

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A few producers, such as Venezuela, that are running massive budget deficits have targeted $70 or more, but most analysts would agree that if oil can hang onto recent price gains for the next six months it will be doing well. Read more

Brazilian flat steel producers have notified distributors they are raising prices of hot- and cold-rolled steel between 8 and 10% this month, a steel market source and an analyst told Reuters on Wednesday.

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Cia Siderúrgica Nacional SA, Usinas Siderúrgicas de Minas Gerais SA and the Brazilian unit of ArcelorMittal SA will keep zinc-coated steel prices unchanged, the source said. The price hikes are effective Jan. 1, Jan. 5 and Jan. 10, respectively, the source added.

Vitol Signs First Major Iranian Oil Deal

The world’s largest oil trader, Vitol, has clinched a deal with the National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC) to loan it an equivalent of $1 billion in euros guaranteed by future exports of refined products, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

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The pre-finance deal is the first such major contract signed between Iran and a trading house since sanctions were lifted in early 2016.

Following Russia’s military success in their support the Syrian regime, you could be excused for thinking Western sanctions, applied in 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, have had little or no effect on the country.

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Certainly, they seem to have had little impact in altering or encouraging a change in behavior but there are examples in which the sanctions have had quite a profound effect on the economy and particularly on certain industries.

A recent article in the Financial Times explores the challenges Gazprom Neft is facing in trying to exploit Russia’s vast shale gas reserves without the benefit of Western partners. Following the imposition of sanctions Western oil and gas companies withdrew support from any projects to exploit shale reserves requiring fracking technology, and as a result firms like Gazprom Neft, the oil division of state-controlled Gazprom, have been forced to go it alone in developing the technologies and practices necessary to exploit shale rock containing oil and gas resources.

Source: Financial Times

Progress has been slow, in spite of the huge potential. As Russia’s hydrocarbon resources dwindle from their peak in Soviet days, the country is sitting on vast shale resources rivaling the U.S. Read more

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries‘ efforts to hold market share in Asia by keeping its customers, which take about two-thirds of its exports, supplied amid wider output cuts could prolong the global fuel glut and frustrate its attempt to bolster prices.

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Saudi Arabia, the defacto leader of OPEC will target its supply cuts at refiners in the U.S.and Europe rather than Asia. Ally Kuwait is following a similar strategy, and OPEC’s second-largest producer Iraq is even raising exports to Asia.

Vedanta Ordered to pay $100 Million Over Copper Mine

Konkola Copper Mines, owned by Vedanta Resources, has been ordered by a London court to pay the Zambian government more than $100 million for a claim related to the copper price, a state-owned company involved in the dispute said. The claim relates to outstanding payments under a 2013 copper price participation settlement agreement between KCM and ZambiaConsolidated Copper Mines Investments Holdings (ZCCM-IH).