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M&A activity in general, and in the energy sector in particular, was relatively mute in the last year. Activity picked up towards the end of the year with BP's sale of its 51 per cent stake in its Indian solar power business to Tata, Repsol's acquisition of stakes in oil and gas fields in Mississippi, EDF's announcement to acquire Edison, and earlier this year Eon's planned acquisition of a stake in Brazil's MPX Energia. Despite that, 2011 overall was still a dull year for M&A transactions.
Considering the increased complexity of energy projects as companies are entering a new technological era marking the end of "easy oil", there is a growing concern about the real preparedness of companies to deal with the new risks they are facing. The potential severity of those risks due to the important damages caused to the environment and their possible impact on populations explain this apprehension.
Increased price and supply risk in the British gas market this winter suggest a need to further diversify sources of gas supply. The UK does not need to look far however, as homegrown shale gas is a way to lessen the risk premium on gas in future winters.
Even a nuclear disaster like Fukushima cannot wipe out nuclear reactors from the world. Accidents, proliferation, social unease and high capital costs, all indicate that nuclear energy cannot grow fast, though in general, this is the case with almost all energy technologies that mature and succeed each other over many decades. Eventually, nuclear will play a larger role in electricity generation, but it will get there slowly.
The recent run-up in oil price and other energy products between 2003 and 2008, and then their subsequent steep collapse within a few months, to many economists appears to be a huge bubble that was meant to burst (Eckaus, 2008).
Britain's new anti-corruption law, the UK Bribery Act 2010, came into force on 1 July 2011 after a legislative process that was long, complex, and controversial, mainly because of the implementing conditions. Companies in the energy sector, most of which have transnational business activities, are clearly covered under the law. This column will therefore briefly analyse the new set of rules and the scope of the law.
There is a great hype aboutBrazil's pre-salt oil potential and the impact it will eventually have on the global oil market. Some sources say that it could vault Brazil to seventh place in the world rankings in terms of proven oil reserves behind Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Others claim that Brazil could emerge as a major oil producer and exporter and that will certainly change the balance of oil distribution in the world.
Europe's shale gas landscape presents risks and opportunities over the next 10 years. As interest in developing a European shale industry expands, it is imperative that investment and partnering decisions are guided by an appreciation of risks that are of greatest consequence to the business strategy. Across industry sectors, to include the energy sector, these risks - strategic risks - are too frequently ignored and minimized. Closely related is the all too common practice of focusing risk management actions on near-term hazard, financial and operational risks to the detriment of enduring, broader discussions on longer-term risks and opportunities. Below we offer nine considerations for companies and the shale gas industry as a whole as they contemplate future investments in shale development in Europe.
Relying only on hubs for price discovery makes sense in the US where numerous producers are in competition. This is not the case in Europe where the main external sources of supply in 2011 were Russia (24%), Norway (19%), Algeria (9%) and Qatar (7%), giving those four countries and their state-owned company c.50% of the market. So, with European gas supply on the verge of being mostly spot-indexed, after implementation of the third energy package, the EU Commission should foster domestic shale production as a diversification to boost not only security of supply but also to finally achieve a fully functioning gas market.
For many reasons, such as being the world's largest country, possessing vast natural resources and having a population of over 150 million people, Russia possesses good opportunities of investment for foreign companies. However, Russia also has a dynamic, unique, challenging and, sometimes, difficult to understand business environment that has caused problems for many foreign firms. As a result, businesses tend to perceive doing business in Russia more as a risk than an opportunity, and BP knows this - its difficult experience in partnering with its Russian counterpart illustrating this reality.