General Interest news briefs

TotalFinaElf SA and the French authorities have chosen Coflexip Stena Offshore Group of France and Stolt Offshore of Norway to pump out the 13,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil remaining in the Erika tanker after it sank in 110-120 m of water off Brittany, France. The firms will be in charge of the entire operation, from preparing the wreckage to installing the flood gates, subsea pumps, and transfer module; connecting the flexibles; and evacuating the pumped fuel to shore. The operation, which will start this month, should be completed by the end of September and will cost TotalFinaElf an estimated 400 million francs.

The US Trade and Development Agency awarded a $600,000 grant to the Kazakhstan Ministry of Energy, Industry, and Trade for a strategic gas utilization study for the country. The study will examine Kazakh gas reserves, potential domestic uses of gas, and the domestic gas pipeline network. This study, which was discussed during President Nursultan Nazarbayev's December 1999 meeting with US Vice-President Al Gore, will assist Kazakhstan in planning for future oil and gas production and utilization. TDA also awarded the country an Air Traffic Control Feasibility Study grant worth about $900,000.

The German fuel company Aral will invest some 500 million deutschemarks by 2002 to open more than 70 new filling stations in Poland, said Aral Polska Director-General Ingo Paap. Aral wants to ultimately own a network of 200 stations and control 10% of Poland's fuel sales. It has invested 300 million deutschemarks in Poland since 1996. Paap said Aral is also interested in the privatization of oil refinery Rafineria Gdanska and fuel transporting company Dyrekcja Ekspoloatacji Cystern.

Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. and Agip SpA's Nigerian subsidiary Nigerian Agip Oil Co. have signed a memorandum of understanding to build and operate a gas-fired power generation plant. Jackson Gaius-Obaseki, NNPC group managing director, said the first phase of the project is estimated to cost $350 million and will contribute an additional 450 Mw of power to the national grid.

A Canadian judge has sentenced Alberta oil field bomber Wiebo Ludwig to 28 months in jail. Ludwig was convicted of mischief for blowing up a Suncor Inc. well site in August 1998, and mischief for vandalizing a Norcen Inc. well. He was also found guilty of counseling a police informant to acquire explosives and with acquiring explosives from him. Richard Boonstra, a friend of Ludwig�s, was found guilty of mischief and was sentenced to 21 days in jail. Ludwig said during his trial that oil company operations caused health problems for humans and animals at the Trickle Creek eco-religious community he headed in northern Alberta near the towns of Hythe and Beaverlodge.

The Lukoil board has approved a program for development of oil production in Russia's Timan-Pechora oil and gas province. Lukoil will spend 134.2 billion rubles during 2001-10. Spending will be divided as follows: 89.4 billion rubles for oil production, 13.5 billion for exploration, 7.1 billion for refining, 1.6 billion for products marketing, 15.8 billion for transportation system development, 4.4 billion for associated gas utilization, and 2.4 billion for social facilities.

Russian President-Elect Vladimir Putin has established the new post of Presidential Representative for the Caspian Region. In creating this position, Putin is putting some muscle behind his promise to defend the interests of Russian companies abroad. Specifically, his goal in the Caspian Sea basin is to beef up the position of Russian oil majors in the petroleum-rich region, where they face stiff competition from US oil firms. Moreover, US oil majors can operate in the Caspian secure in the knowledge that Washington, DC, considers the area a zone of US national interests. Lukoil stands to benefit the most from this new government initiative, as it is engaged in several development projects in the Caspian. The company recently announced an apparently major oil discovery in the northern part of the Caspian shelf (OGJ, Apr. 3, 2000, p. 32).

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