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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Shell profits up in first quarter

Category : Business

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell reports a rise in first quarter profits and says chief executive Peter Voser will retire next year.

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Shell secures huge UAE gas deal

Category : Business

Royal Dutch Shell beats France’s Total to a multi-billion-pound deal to develop a gas field with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

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Shell barred from returning to drill for oil in Arctic without overhaul

Category : Business

Review finds company had failed to plan for short drilling season and its equipment did not stand up to harsh conditions

Shell “screwed up” drilling for oil in Arctic waters and will not be allowed back without a comprehensive overhaul of its plans, the Obama administration said on Thursday.

A government review found the oil company was not prepared for the extreme conditions in the Arctic, which resulted in a series of blunders and accidents culminating in the New Year’s Eve grounding of its drill rig.

Shell announced a “pause” in Arctic drilling last month. But Ken Salazar, the interior secretary, told a reporters’ conference call that the company will not be allowed to return without producing a much more detailed plan, one tailored specifically to the harsh Arctic conditions.

“Shell will not be able to move forward into the Arctic to do any kind of exploration unless they have this integrated management plan put in place,” said Salazar, in one of his last acts before standing down as interior secretary. “It’s that plain and simple.”

The findings of the review could mean further costs and delays for Shell, which has spent years and $4.5bn securing permits to drill in Arctic waters.

But it did not satisfy some environmental groups which said the review demonstrated the government should never have allowed drilling in the first place.

Salazar and other officials said Shell had not been prepared to drill last year, when a season of blunders and accidents was capped with the New Year’s Eve grounding of one of its drilling rigs.

“Shell screwed up in 2012 and we are not going to let them screw up after their pause is removed,” Salazar said.

The review said Shell had failed to plan for the short drilling season in the Arctic, and the extreme weather conditions. Its equipment, in particular, did not stand up to the harsh environment.

The review did not focus on the government’s failings to anticipate last summer’s near-disasters in the Arctic, and administration officials admitted in the call: “The government has a lot to learn.”

Instead the review reserved its harshest criticism for Shell’s management of its contractors. The review said the company failed to make sure its contractors were up to operating in Arctic conditions. The makers of Shell’s oil spill containment device – which failed on an early test in relatively calm waters off Seattle – only had experience in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a further attempt for a more stringent oversight regime, the review also recommended that any future Arctic plans put forward by Shell be subjected to third-party audit.

The review won cautious praise from some environmental groups as a “first step” towards improving safety in Arctic drilling.

“We are pleased the interior department has conducted this public review, it’s an important first step towards preventing future drilling accidents in the Arctic Ocean,” said Marilyn Heiman, director of the US Arctic programme for Pew Charitable Trusts.

However, Greenpeace said Shell had got off too lightly. “The government should be embarrassed for granting Shell the permits it did this year,” the campaign group said. “This report merely gives big oil a slap on the wrist.”

Conservation group Oceana said that the review had dodged a key question of the administration’s failure to anticipate that Shell would not be prepared to drill in the Arctic.

“The department of the interior must accept responsibility for the failures that resulted in approvals and permits being granted to a company that was obviously not ready,” Oceana said in a statement.

“The government should suspend activities on leases in the Arctic Ocean until and unless companies prove they can operate safely and without harm to the environment and without harm to opportunities for the subsistence way of life.”

Salazar ordered the review of Arctic offshore drilling after a Shell drilling vessel ran aground off the coast of Alaska on New Year’s Eve.

After ordering the review, Salazar told reporters he had doubts about whether drilling could ever be done safely in a region as harsh and remote as the Arctic Sea.

On Thursday, however, Salazar and other officials told reporters that the Obama administration remained committed to drilling for oil in the Arctic.

Shell to suspend Arctic offshore drilling program over safety fears

Category : Business

Oil company will ‘pause’ exploration off Alaska’s northern coasts over concerns for equipment and employees

Shell shut down its 2013 drilling season in the Arctic waters off Alaska on Wednesday, after a series of mishaps and mechanical failures. The oil company said in a statement it was putting its operations off the coast of Alaska on pause for 2013, but remained committed to drilling at a later stage.

The decision raises further doubts about the future of drilling in the Arctic – given Shell’s difficult and costly first season of hunting for oil last year. The company spent eight years and $5bn to secure permits to drill two exploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

“We’ve made progress in Alaska, but this is a long-term program that we are pursuing in a safe and measured way,” Shell’s president, Marvin Odum, said in the statement. ”Our decision to pause in 2013 will give us time to ensure the readiness of all our equipment and people.” He went on to say Shell remained committed to drilling in the Arctic.

The decision was praised by environmental groups, which said Shell’s decision to call halt on drilling for 2013 was the only logical conclusion to a season of equipment failures and safety and environmental violations.

“Given Shell’s performance over the past year, their decision to pause drilling for 2013 is one of the smartest moves they’ve made regarding Arctic operations,” said Andrew Hartsig, Arctic programme director of the Ocean Conservancy. “Shell has clearly demonstrated that the company is not prepared to conduct safe and responsible operations in icy Arctic waters.” 

Shell’s decision to call time on Arctic drilling for 2013 pre-empts the anticipated release next week of a high-level government review of Shell’s first year in the Arctic – which was plagued by harsh weather and the breakdown of two key pieces of equipment. The review focused specifically on Shell’s mechanical breakdowns in the Arctic, and possible safety and environmental lapses. The interior secretary, Ken Salazar, said soon after ordering the review that he had doubts about whether drilling could be safely conducted in the Arctic at all.

In July 2012, the Shell drill ship Noble Discoverer briefly drifted out of control near Dutch Harbor. Two months later, Shell’s purpose-belt oil spill containment system was crushed – as easily a a beer can – during a test in relatively calm waters off Seattle. In November, crew reported a small fire and propulsion problems on the Noble Discoverer. Then, on New Year’s Eve, came the mishap that appears to have finally sunk Shell’s drilling plans for the Arctic this year, when a conical drilling rig, the Kulluk, ran aground after being separated from its tow vessels in 70mph winds and high waves off the Gulf of Alaska.

The oil company was forced to send both ships – the Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk – to Asia for repair, effectively ruling out a return to drilling this calendar year. Meanwhile, a Coast Guard investigation found 16 safety and environmental shortcomings on the drill ships, including air-pollution concerns.

In follow-up emails to reporters, Shell’s spokesman in Alaska, Curtis Smith, said the company’s future plans for the Arctic would depend on getting the two ships back in working order. “Our future exploration plans offshore Alaska will depend on a number of factors,” he wrote, “including the readiness of our rigs.”

The federal government had barred Shell from drilling into oil-bearing zones last summer, because of the failure of its oil spill containment system. The company, which was limited to drilling to about 1,500ft, had hoped to return to finish off those holes in 2013. Environmental groups said they hoped the pause would force the Obama administration to re-evaluate its entire plan to open up Arctic waters for drilling.

“This pause is a real opportunity for president Obama to revisit his position on Arctic Ocean drilling. If the top oil company in the world has failed in its quest to drill in the harsh and unpredictable conditions in the Arctic, it is time to assess whether any oil company can safely drill in the Arctic Ocean,” Cindy Shogan, director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said in a statement. “With no infrastructure or ability to clean up an oil spill in ice and Shell’s continual laundry lists of mishaps and failures, it is a no-brainer to suspend drilling in the Arctic.

But even given the billions that has been spent on drilling leases and equipment made to withstand the extreme conditions in the Arctic, the potential for drilling there remains enormous. The US Geological Survey estimated the waters in the Arctic contain about 90bn barrels of recoverable oil. Odum said in his statement that Shell was determined to return.

“Shell remains committed to building an Arctic exploration program that provides confidence to stakeholders and regulators, and meets the high standards the company applies to its operations around the world,” his statement said. “We continue to believe that a measured and responsible pace, especially in the exploration phase, fits best in this remote area.”

NBC boss supports ticket touting

Category : Business

Jeff Shell, chairman of NBC Universal International, encourages future Olympic Games to allow tickets to be resold at above face prices.

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Bumi report debacle is unsatisfactory conclusion

Category : Business

The next instalment of the saga surrounding the Nat Rothschild-created shell company may prove more interesting

It was billed as the moment when shareholders might finally learn the horrible truth about Bumi, the Nat Rothschild-created shell company that gobbled up stakes in a couple of Indonesian coal miners but saw hopes of riches replaced by power struggles and allegations of “financial irregularities”.

But the big unveiling of the report from law firm Macfarlanes was a big flop. There is circumstantial evidence to support some of the allegations of wrong-doing at the Indonesian operations, said the board, but it hasn’t been possible to substantiate the charges. So the report will stay under wraps for fear of falling foul of Indonesian law. This is unsatisfactory, to put it mildly, given that the sums at stake are said to amount to $1bn (£630m) or so.

The key question, however, is whether the board, in tricky circumstances and with Macfarlanes faced by unco-operative witnesses, could have done anything differently. Probably not. For now, a pledge to “engage” with Indonesian authorities and the UK Serious Fraud Office and to consider civil actions may represent the most practical response.

The main event, though, remains the question of who should lead Bumi – the current board, including senior non-executive Sir Julian Horn-Smith, or a returning Rothschild and his new crew. The non-publication of the Macfarlane report probably won’t change any minds. But the next instalment of this saga – the verdict of the takeover panel on why various concert parties among the Indonesians were not revealed on day one – may be more interesting.

Shell’s Arctic drilling plan under threat after US orders review

Category : Business

Grounding of Kulluk rig the latest in a series of mishaps, raising possibility that Shell may be forced to re-evaulate its proposals

The Obama administration ordered a sweeping review of Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic on Tuesday, after a series of mishaps ending with the New Year grounding of the company’s Kulluk rig.

The review – and a separate investigation of the grounding of the Kulluk – raises the possibility that Shell, after investing six years and $5bn trying to extract oil in harsh and remote conditions, may be forced to re-evaluate entirely its plans to drill in the Arctic.

The high-level review will home in on some of the most difficult moments for Shell since it began exploring for oil beneath the Beaufort and Chukchi seas last summer: a series of equipment breakdowns and safety and environmental violations.

The department of interior, in announcing the review, said it would help determine whether the company is prepared to operate in the Arctic.

“Our review will look at Shell’s management and operations in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas,” said Tommy Beaudreau, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy and Management, who will be heading the 60-day review. “We will assess Shell’s performance in the Arctic’s challenging environment.”

The review will pay special attention to the series of mishaps that culminated in the grounding of the Kulluk, including the botched test of its made-to-order oil spill containment dome, and equipment breakdowns and safety and environmental violations aboard the Arctic Challenger barge and the Noble Discoverer and Kulluk drilling rig.

Shell’s safety and environment practices will come under additional scrutiny with a separate US Coast Guard investigation announced on Tuesday into the grounding of its drill rig.

Tuesday’s moves come at a time when the Obama administration has been under growing pressure from Arctic scientists and campaign groups to reconsider its decision to open up the Arctic to oil companies.

The Arctic is believed to be one of the last great unexplored deposits of oil and natural gas remaining beneath the Beaufort and Chukchi, but conditions are far more difficult than anywhere else – and so are the risks to a pristine environment and wildlife including endangered polar bear.

“The unique challenges posed by the Arctic environment demand an even higher level of scrutiny,” the interior secretary, Ken Salazar, said.

The company said it welcomed the review. “While we completed our drilling operations off the North Slope safely and in accordance with robust permitting and regulatory standards, we nevertheless experienced challenges in supporting the program,” Curtis Smith, a company spokesman, said in an email. “A high-level review will help strengthen our Alaska exploration program going forward.”

Campaign groups said the review was a step in the right direction, but renewed their call on Obama to ban drilling in Alaskan waters outright.

“Again and again we are learning the hard way that Shell is not prepared to operate in Alaskan waters,” said Michael Levine, a senior attorney for the Oceana conservation group. “There is no way Shell should be allowed to drill into hydro-carbon bearing zones in 2013 or in the foreseeable future.”

The review could clear the way for further restrictions on Shell. Eleanor Huffines, who manages the Arctic programme for the Pew Environment Group, said it was time for the Obama administration to impose an Arctic-specific regulatory regime. ” What I would really like to see is the Obama Administration take a step back and impose Arctic specific safety, training, and spill response standards,” she said. “We would like to see training, equipment and spill response standards that are geared towards the reality of the weather, the remoteness of infrastructure, the fog, the sea, the winds – all those things that you are not going to encounter in the Gulf of Mexico.”

The Kulluk drilling ship ran aground on rocky shores off Alaska on New Year’s Eve, after breaking free from tug boats pulling it to Seattle. Before the grounding, Crew had struggled for five days through four-storey waves and 70mph winds to tow the rig to safe harbour. Salvage crews finally pulled the rig to sheltered Kiliuda Bay on Monday.

But the stranding was only the latest in a string of setbacks. Arctic groups said the repeat equipment failures and the oil company’s failure to meet air pollution standards for the region should have been a warning sign.

Separately, the US Coast Guard on Tuesday formally announced it was launching an investigation into the Kulluk’s grounding.

Even without the review, Shell is facing severe challenges to resume its billion-dollar quest for Arctic oil. It was unclear whether the Kulluk can be repaired in time for any drilling next summer – even if the company is cleared to return to the Arctic – and there are not many vessels designed to weather the region’s high waves and floating ice.

All of those mounting costs – and now the prospect of more stringent regulations for the 2013 season – may even persuade oil companies to stay out of the Arctic, said Paul Sullivan, an economics professor at the National Defence University. “The number one lesson is that it’s not easy to do oil exploration and production in the Arctic,” he said.

Meanwhile, new technologies were making unconventional oil and natural gas more attractive, he said. “The Arctic has a lot of potential but it could be that there are lot of better potentials elsewhere.”

VIDEO: Inquiry call after rig runs aground

Category : Business

Senior members of the US Congress are demanding an inquiry after a Shell oil drilling ship ran aground off Alaska.

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Profits fall at Shell and Exxon

Category : Business, World News

Oil giants Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil both see quarterly profits fall as the industry battles a “difficult environment”.

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Shell faces Nigeria spill case

Category : World News

Oil giant Shell is due to appear in court in the Netherlands charged with polluting villages in the Niger Delta, a case that may set a legal precedent.

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