Hundreds of tanker trucks and railroad cars snake for miles through the vast landscape of North Dakota now. For his video diary, Reuters correspondent Ernest Scheyder drove into the Bakken Oil Express, a sprawling project at the heart of the state’s booming oil economy.
Commander Linda Sturgis, who oversees emergency prevention at the Port of New York, was buzzed through two thick security doors into the Port’s hive-like vessel traffic center, the maritime equivalent of an air traffic control tower. The Port had been bracing for Sandy for days, and a few hours earlier, its Captain had halted all commercial vessel traffic, an emergency lockdown known as Condition Zulu.
Shipping delays during storms are common. What few people could foresee was how Sandy’s 16-hour assault on a major oil hub would result in the worst regional fuel supply collapse in decades, delaying disaster relief, triggering panic-buying, and raising questions about energy security in the country’s most densely populated area.
BP Plc (BP.L) said on Wednesday it reached definitive agreements with well over 100,000 private plaintiffs to resolve claims for economic, property and medical damages resulting from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The London-based oil company said it still believes the cost of the settlement will be $7.8 billion, to be paid from a $20 billion trust it had previously set aside.
This coming Friday is the two-year anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which killed 11 workers and triggered the largest offshore oil spill, after BP’s Macondo well ruptured.
"BP made a commitment to help economic and environmental restoration efforts in the Gulf Coast," Chief Executive Bob Dudley said in a statement. "This settlement provides the framework for us to continue delivering on that promise, offering those affected full and fair compensation, without waiting for the outcome of a lengthy trial process."
According to settlement papers, about 109,000 condominium owners, hotel and resort operators, restaurateurs, shrimpers and others may be eligible to recover on economic and property claims. About 16,000 plaintiffs may recover for medical claims.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs may be awarded as much as $600 million to cover fees and costs. This sum is separate from any amounts paid to spill victims, settlement papers show.
Royal Dutch Shell is struggling to pay off $1 billion that it owes Iran for crude oil because European Union and U.S. financial sanctions now make it almost impossible to process payments, industry sources said
Four sources said the oil major owes a large sum to the National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) for deliveries of crude, with one putting the figure at close to $1 billion. A debt of that size would equate to roughly four large tanker loads of Iranian crude or about 8 million barrels.
"Shell is working hard to figure out a way to pay NIOC," said an industry source, who requested anonymity. "It’s very sensitive and very difficult. They want to stay on good terms with Iran, while abiding by sanctions."
A Shell spokesman declined to comment.
President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron discussed the possibility of releasing emergency oil reserves during a meeting on Wednesday, two sources familiar with the talks said, the first sign that Obama is starting to test global support for an effort to knock back near-record fuel prices. Obama raised the issue during a broad bilateral meeting at the White House, according to a UK official with knowledge of the discussion.
Asked about the talks, a senior Obama administration official said: “No agreement was reached. We will continue to work together to address energy security and oil price issues.” While U.S. officials have said for weeks that they will consider all possible measures - including a release from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) - to prevent prices from derailing a nascent economic recovery, Wednesday’s meeting was the clearest indication that diplomatic talks were moving ahead. Discussions could last as long as several months before any decision is made, one of the sources said.
Obama’s approval ratings have come under pressure from rising gasoline prices, which have hit seasonal record highs, and the White House is eager to show exasperated Americans that it is doing all it can to keep fuel costs in check.
Read more: Obama, Cameron discuss tapping oil reserves
The government of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is emerging as a rare supplier of diesel to Syria, potentially undermining Western sanctions and helping the Syrian government fuel its military in the middle of a bloody crackdown on civilian protests.
A cargo of diesel, which can be used to fuel army tanks or as heating fuel, was expected to arrive at Syria’s Mediterranean port of Banias this week, according to two traders and shipping data. The cargo could be worth up to $50 million.
Chavez is a vociferous advocate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who face pressure from Western sanctions. Few leaders on the world stage have polarized opinion as sharply as the Venezuelan president.
Exclusive report: Venezuela ships fuel to war-torn Syria
Reuters has learned that on February 1, Iran-based Naftiran Intertrade increased its holding in British oil giant BP Plc by 1.85 million shares. It now holds a stake worth more than $190 million.
In addition to the shareholding, the Iranian company’s ties to BP include the Rhum gas field in the North Sea, a venture that’s now suspended due to sanctions. It also has active projects like a gas field with BP in Azerbaijan, and an investment with Royal Dutch Shell in fuel distribution in Senegal.
Read more: Iranian oil trading firm has $190mil stake in BP
Iran’s Oil Ministry denied state media reports on the Islamic state stopping its crude exports to six European countries on Wednesday.
"We deny this report … If such a decision is made, it will be announced by Iran’s Supreme National Security Council," a spokesman for the ministry told Reuters.
Iran’s English language Press TV had earlier said Tehran has stopped exporting oil to France, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Netherlands and Spain.
Iran is threatening to respond to any U.S. aggression in a crushing manner amid heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.
"We will respond to any threat or aggressive action in a crushing manner," spokesman Massoud Jazayeri said. "Our response will definitely lead them to regret their actions. We hope that this doesn’t happen. If it does happen, however, history will prove whether it is Iran or the U.S. that just talks."
Iran did not carry out an earlier threat to take action if the U.S. moved an aircraft carrier into the Gulf when the U.S. did so last week. [Report by Lindsey Parietti]