Energy Sector Recap

By Eric Fox | August 19, 2012 AAA

The White House is considering a release of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) as it tries to fight stubbornly high oil prices to help ensure continued compliance with sanctions against Iran.

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Strategic Petroleum Reserve
The market keeps bidding prices higher, due in part to geopolitical concerns regarding possible military action against Iran by Israel and the resulting interruption of oil transport through the Persian Gulf. The Obama Administration is concerned that if oil prices get too high, some countries may resume buying from Iran, which is under sanctions due to its nuclear program. Some countries, including South Korea and Japan, have questioned the need for a release from the SPR, given that supply is adequate.

SEE: A Guide To Investing In Oil Markets

Brazil Offshore
Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) reported an additional discovery at the Carcará prospect located in the offshore Santos Basin, adding to the already abundant oil and gas resources in this area. The company reported it has now found more than 1,300 feet of continuous oil pay at the prospect located on the BM-S-8 block. The find is the most recent of many successful wells drilled into the sub-salt formations in offshore Brazil.

More Divestitures
BP (NYSE:BP) is shopping around some of the company's oil and gas assets in the Gulf of Mexico, as it looks to raise cash to help pay for damages and potential fines related to the 2010 oil spill, according to Bloomberg. The properties have current oil production of 58,000 barrels per day and 120 million barrels of proved reserves. BP considers these assets to be non-strategic to the company's long-term plans and expects to raise after-tax proceeds of $6 billion.

This potential sale is one of many recent divestitures for BP, with the company announcing an agreement last week to sell a large refinery complex in Southern California to Tesoro (NYSE:TSO). BP estimates that it will receive $2.5 billion in pre-tax proceeds for the assets and related inventories of crude oil and refined products. Tesoro plans to divest some of the assets to Tesoro Logistics (NYSE:TLLP), a master limited partnership formed by the company in 2011.

SEE: Oil And Gas Industry Primer

South African Offshore Blocks
Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC) plans to expand its successful exploration program for oil and gas to South Africa and has acquired shares in several prospective offshore blocks. The company will operate and own an 80% share in blocks five, six and seven. Anadarko Petroleum has explored successfully in other parts of Africa including Mozambique and hopes to continue this success in South Africa.

Black Sea
Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A, RDS.B) and two other oil and gas companies won bids to explore for resources in the Scythian field in the Ukraine portion of the Black Sea. The Ukrainian government chose these operators over a rival bid by a Russian oil and gas company.

Murphy Oil (NYSE:MUR) and Newfield Exploration (NYSE:NFX) reported that the companies will drill as many as four exploration wells in the Gulf of Mexico in 2012 and 2013 at the Dalmatian South prospect. Murphy Oil discovered oil pay at the nearby Dalmatian North prospect in the DeSoto canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The operators plan to tie back three wells at Dalmatian South to an existing production platform operated by Chevron (NYSE:CVX) at the Petronius field.

The Bottom Line
The Obama Administration's recent hint of a possible release of crude oil from the SPR may have been triggered more by domestic politics in the United States than a real need for extra supply. The upcoming presidential race will be a tight one, and the last thing that President Obama needs to deal with is rising gasoline prices and angry consumers.

At the time of writing, Eric Fox did not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

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