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Archive for April 6th, 2011

Iran says oil prices to reach $150 per barrel

Posted by Admin on April 6, 2011

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran

Belligerence and Hypocrisy

http://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/Iran-says-oil-prices-reach-reuters-728569414.html

On Monday 4 April 2011, 9:22 PM

 

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday that oil prices will reach $150 per barrel and the current crude prices were “not real”.

“The price of oil will increase to $150 per barrel in a period of time … the current oil prices are not real,” Ahmadinejad told a news conference.

Oil traded above $119 a barrel for Brent on Monday, just off a two-and-a-half year high touched in February, spurred by political instability in the Middle East and North Africa.

Iran is OPEC ‘s second biggest crude producer after Saudi Arabia .

Disruption of Libyan exports because of violent unrest in the OPEC member country also provided an opportunity for Iran to sell some of the crude that had built up in floating storage.

A popular uprising in Libya has shut down almost all of the country’s 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil production, prompting Saudi Arabia to boost crude output to try to compensate for the loss and rein in oil prices.

(Editing by Jason Neely)

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Lebanon-Israel Tensions Rise over Offshore Oil and Gas

Posted by Admin on April 6, 2011

Map showing the Blue Line demarcation line bet...

Black Gold and Crisis Borders

http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20110406/wl_time/08599206118700

By NICHOLAS BLANFORD / BEIRUT Nicholas Blanford / Beirut 24 mins ago

For most countries, the existence of a massive fossil-fuel deposit within its sovereign territory would be gratefully welcomed as an economic windfall. But the delight in Israel at the recent giant gas discovery off its northern coastline is tempered by the knowledge that it could provide the spark to ignite the next war between the Jewish state and its mortal foe to the north, Lebanon‘s militant Shi’ite Hizballah.

The stakes are enormous. Both Lebanon and Israel currently have little or no oil or gas deposits, and are dependent on neighboring countries for importing fuel and power. Israel presently relies on Egypt for most of its gas, but the durability of that arrangement has been cast into doubt following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak‘s regime. The Egyptian pipeline supplying gas to Israel and Jordan was blown up in January and only began operating again last week. (See TIME’s video “Israel’s Lonesome Doves.”)

Key to the tensions over the potential gas bonanza is that the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon has never been delineated because the two states are still technically at war.

The two gas fields off the northern Israel coast – Tamar and Leviathan – contain an estimated 8.4 trillion cu. ft. (238 billion cu m) and 16 trillion cu. ft. (453 billion cu m), respectively, sufficient to satisfy Israel’s energy needs for the next half-century. What remains unknown is if the fields stretch into Lebanon’s territorial waters. Even if neither of them do, Tamar and Leviathan are part of much bigger potential oil and gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. Last year, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the Levant Basin Province, encompassing parts of Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus, could contain as much as 122 trillion cu. ft. (3.4 trillion cu m) of gas and 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil. (For comparison, Libya has gas reserves of 53 trillion cu. ft. [1.5 trillion cu m] and oil reserves of 60 billion barrels.)

The Israelis have a head start in the race to extract gas, having awarded the concessions to a joint U.S.-Israeli firm. Tamar is expected to go online in 2012 and Leviathan three years later. (See “Does Libya’s Oil Industry Reflect Its Fate?”)

The upheaval in Egypt has “awakened old fears among Israelis that their power supply rests in the hands of potentially hostile neighbors,” says Gal Luft, the executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Potomac, Md. “This jolt will force Israel to move much more expeditiously toward developing its own newly discovered fields in order to achieve energy independence.”

Meanwhile, Lebanon is moving on its interests as well. Last August, the country’s parliament approved a long-awaited draft bill on gas-and-oil exploration. Lebanon also is pursuing arrangements with neighbors Syria and Cyprus to delineate their respective maritime exclusive economic zones. Representatives of energy companies are already in Beirut lobbying for potentially lucrative oil-and-gas concessions. The prospect of oil and gas beneath Lebanon’s coastal waters could have immense benefits for a country with one of the highest debt rates in the world, around $52 billion, or 147% of gross domestic product. But progress has slowed down because of the collapse of the government in January and the delay in the formation of a new Cabinet due to political bickering.

“Oil exploration is the victim of the current political vacuum,” Nabih Berri, the parliamentary Speaker, said last week, noting that Lebanon’s three neighbors – Israel, Syria and Cyprus – were forging ahead with agreements on oil-and-gas surveys. (See pictures of life under Hamas in Gaza.)

Beirut has asked the U.N. to help mark a temporary sea boundary between Lebanon and Israel, a maritime equivalent of the “blue line” established by the U.N. in 2000, which corresponds to Lebanon’s southern land border. The U.N. has agreed to assist and the Israelis are studying the proposal. But the U.N. faces a potentially thankless task. The demarcation of the blue line 11 years ago was mired in mutual distrust and wrangling with neither the Lebanese nor Israelis willing to concede an inch of territory to the other. Without goodwill from both sides, the maritime boundary could be even more difficult to define given the complicated geography of the coastline.

Some have described the dispute over the gas fields along the Lebanon-Israel border as another Shebaa Farms, a reference to a small unpopulated mountainside along Lebanon’s southern border that is occupied by Israel but claimed by Lebanon. The Shebaa Farms has been a periodic flash point between Hizballah and Israel. But a foreign diplomat in Beirut said that parallels between the Shebaa Farms and the offshore gas fields are misplaced. “Forget the Shebaa Farms,” the diplomat says, “That was created as a point of tension between Lebanon and Israel.” The practicalities of energy needs, however, mean that the Lebanese will approach the gas fields practically – not politically. “The Lebanese are not being difficult [over the maritime boundary] because they have real economic interests here,” he says. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a potential for friction. He adds, “Unless there is a pragmatic arrangement, you could have a confrontation.”

It is perhaps no surprise then that the sudden interest in the potential fossil-fuel wealth off the Israeli and Lebanese coastline has turned the Mediterranean into a potential new theater of conflict between the Israelis and Hizballah. The Lebanese group already boasts an amphibious warfare unit trained in underwater sabotage and coastal infiltrations. Hizballah’s ability to target shipping – and possibly offshore oil-and-gas platforms – was demonstrated in the monthlong war with Israel in 2006 when the militants came close to sinking an Israeli naval vessel with an Iranian version of the Chinese C-802 missile. Hizballah fighters have since hinted that they have acquired larger antiship missiles with double the 72-mile (116 km) range of the C-802 variant. Last year, Hizballah chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah warned that his organization now possesses the ability to target shipping along the entire length of Israel’s coastline. (See pictures of 60 years of Israel.)

In January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the offshore gas fields as a “strategic objective that Israel’s enemies will try to undermine” and vowed that “Israel will defend its resources.” Last month, the Israeli navy reportedly presented to the government a maritime-security plan costing between $40 million and $70 million to defend the gas fields.

Upping the ante even further, Nasrallah promised last week that if Israel threatens future Lebanese plans to tap its oil and gas reserves, “only the Resistance [Hizballah] would force Israel and the world to respect Lebanon’s right.”

Then there is the recent passage of two Iranian navy vessels in the Mediterranean and the subsequent discovery last week by the Israeli navy of a smuggled consignment of arms and ammunition that included six C-704 antiship missiles believed destined for Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The missiles, though smaller than the C-802, could target Israeli shipping off Gaza as well as Israel’s Yam Tethys oil rig off the coast of Ashkelon. Citing the Iranian vessels and smuggled antiship missiles, security analyst Luft said, “Such activities could present real threats to exploration activities off Israel.” The potential oil and gas fields off the Lebanese and Israeli coasts look set not only to become a potential long-term source of wealth – but also a source of conflict in the years ahead.

Watch a video about the gas shortage in Iraq.

See TIME’s Pictures of the Week.

View this article on Time.com

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Japan stops nuclear plant leak; crisis far from over

Posted by Admin on April 6, 2011

fukushima reactor #2 with waterpumper, there i...

Fukushima Reactor 2

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110406/wl_nm/us_japan

By Mayumi Negishi and Yoko Nishikawa Mayumi Negishi And Yoko Nishikawa 1 hr 55 mins ago

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan stopped highly radioactive water leaking into the sea on Wednesday from a crippled nuclear plant and acknowledged it could have given more information to neighboring countries about contamination in the ocean.

Despite the breakthrough in plugging the leak at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, engineers need to pump 11.5 million liters (11,500 tons) of contaminated water back into the ocean because they have run out of storage space at the facility. The water was used to cool over-heated fuel rods.

Nuclear experts said the damaged reactors were far from being under control almost a month after they were hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said it had stemmed the leak using liquid glass at one of the plants six reactors.

“The leaks were slowed yesterday after we injected a mixture of liquid glass and a hardening agent and it has now stopped,” a TEPCO spokesman told Reuters.

Engineers had been struggling to stop leaks from reactor No. 2, even using sawdust and newspapers.

Neighbors South Korea and China are getting concerned about the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, and the radioactive water being pumped into the sea, newspapers reported.

“We are instructing the trade and foreign ministries to work better together so that detailed explanations are supplied especially to neighboring countries,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference on Wednesday.

Experts insisted the low-level radioactive water to be pumped into the ocean posed no health hazard to people.

“The original amount of radioactivity is very low, and when you dilute this with a huge body of water, the final levels will be even lower than legal limits,” said Pradip Deb, senior lecturer in Medical Radiations at the School of Medical Sciences, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University.

Workers are struggling to restart cooling pumps — which recycle the water — in four damaged reactors.

Until those are fixed, they must pump in water to prevent overheating and meltdowns, but have run out of storage capacity for the seawater when it becomes contaminated.

Radioactive iodine detected in the sea has been recorded at 4,800 times the legal limit, but has since fallen to about 600 times the limit. The water remaining in the reactors has radiation five million times legal limits.

“What they are going to have to release is likely to be highly radioactive. The situation could politically be very ugly in a week,” said Murray Jennex at San Diego State University, who specializes in nuclear containment.

A floating tanker is being converted to hold contaminated seawater and is due to arrive at the plant site by April 16. TEPCO also plans to build tanks to hold radioactive water.

COOLING REACTORS KEY

Japan is facing its worst crisis since World War Two after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami left nearly 28,000 people dead or missing and thousands homeless, and rocked the world’s third-largest economy.

It will likely take months to finally cool down the reactors and years to dismantle those that have been damaged. TEPCO has said it will decommission four of the six reactors.

An opposition lawmaker from Fukushima told reporters antipathy in the area would make it difficult to resume operations at the nearby Fukushima Daini plant, where operations have been halted since March 11.

The two Fukushima plants together provide four percent of Japan’s electric power.

“Nuclear power plants can run only with local consent. I see it as being quite difficult to resume operations,” said Masayoshi Yoshino of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Concerned over a possible buildup of hydrogen gas in reactor No. 1, engineers will inject nitrogen gas into the reactor on Wednesday night to prevent an explosion, TEPCO said.

Hydrogen explosions ripped through reactors 1 and 3 early in the crisis, spreading high levels of radiation into the air.

The key to bringing the reactors under control is the extent of damage to the plant’s cooling system, said analysts.

In a sign the cooling systems may be severely damaged, the Sankei newspaper reported on Wednesday the government and TEPCO were considering building new cooling systems for three reactors to operate from outside the reactor buildings.

Kyodo news agency quoted a government source as saying authorities were also considering covering damaged reactors with special sheets to halt radiation leaks. But they could not be installed until September due to high levels of radiation.

“To put the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in perspective, Chernobyl involved a single operating reactor core,” said Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear, a U.S. radioactive waste watchdog.

“Fukushima Daiichi now involves three reactors in various stages of meltdown and containment breach, and multiple (spent fuel storage) pools at risk of fire,” said Kamps.

Kamps said the spent fuel rod pools, which are on the roof of the damaged reactors, alone have more irradiated nuclear fuel than that which exploded and burned at Chernobyl.

MOVES TO AVERT BLACKOUTS

The world’s costliest natural disaster has hit Japan’s economy, left a damages bill which may top $300 billion, and forced the heavily indebted country to plan an extra budget.

Rolling power blackouts have hit global supply chains, with the world’s largest automaker, Toyota Motor Corp, idling local plants and saying it will suspend some U.S. plants also.

Japan is considering ordering TEPCO’s big power users to achieve 25 percent cuts in peak summer usage, said a Trade Ministry official. TEPCO shares went lower on Wednesday after hitting a 60-year low the previous day. ($1=84 Japanese yen)

(Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo, Scott DiSavino in New York and Tan Ee Lyn in Singapore; Writing by Michael Perry and Paul Eckert; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher and Robert Birsel)

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