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    ESG : Recent news that a Sovereign Wealth Fund from Abu Dhabi had taken over CEPSA Oil Company came as a surprise to the ESG and other Bay campaigners. An article in April’s Economist discusses how this type of “buy-out” is not the exception but a growing trend in the oil industry today- For more, read on:

    FROM BUCKET BRIGADE USA : Here’s some interesting news about the oil refinery sector.
    If this article has it right, the output from the proposed tar sands crude oil refinery in South Dakota (Hyperion) is likely destined for overseas markets. It’s also interesting forecasting the potential marketplace prospects for Hyperion. Refineries are suffering “chronic overcapacity” and  “weak margins”, and the domestic thirst for oil has flat-lined. The future is uncertain, at best.  Why invest $10 + billion in a tar sands refinery built from scratch in South Dakota? 
    The oil industry…
    Refined tastes
    The big oil firms are offloading their refineries to different kinds of buyer 
    The Economist/Apr 7th 2011 
    THE twinkling lights of an oil refinery at dusk show the potential for beauty in industrial landscapes. But the dramatic silhouettes, part ocean liner, part funfair, disguise the difficulties within. Decades of poor returns from turning crude oil into petrol, diesel and other fuels have convinced the Western oil giants to get out of the business. In their place come mainly state-run oil firms from Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, and private equity.
    Essar, an Indian conglomerate, this week paid Shell $1.3 billion for the Stanlow refinery in north-west England. In February, state-owned PetroChina paid $1 billion for a half-share in Scotland’s Grangemouth refinery and in another at Lavéra in the south of France. Many more refineries are for sale in Europe and America. Britain’s BP, which is raising cash to pay the bill for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, wants to sell two huge ones in America. Valero, an American refinery, may show interest, though it has just bought a plant in Wales from Chevron for $1.75 billion.
    American private-equity firms may also be taking a look at BP’s plants. According to FACTS Global Energy, a consultancy, over the past two years private-equity buyers have snapped up refining capacity of around 1m barrels of crude a day (b/d). State-backed oil companies, such as PetroChina and Russia’s Rosneft, have bought nearly the same amount.
    The refining business has suffered from chronic overcapacity, and thus weak margins, since the 1970s oil shocks, which led to a slump in the use of oil-based fuels for generating electricity and heating homes. A respite came in 2005-07, as a buoyant rich world and increasingly thirsty emerging economies boosted demand. But that was a high point that the rich world may not hit again. Demand for petrol in America has fallen, and may never regain its previous peak. Refining margins, having touched $4.50 a barrel, are down to one-tenth of that and still falling.
    It makes sense for big Western oil companies to get out of such an unprofitable business and put the capital into exploration and drilling. But refineries’ weak margins are not deterring oil firms from emerging economies from buying them. One reason is that they are going cheap. This gives the buyers access to declining but still sizeable rich-world markets. Such access is especially useful for those with ambitions to become global oil traders.
    As they buy refineries abroad, emerging-market firms continue to build them back home, where demand is still booming. For those firms owned or backed by their home governments, there are other considerations besides commercial ones. China, although it is set to remain a big importer of crude, is desperate to become at least self–sufficient in refining. By 2015 it will boost its domestic capacity by 20%, taking the total to 12m b/d. Middle Eastern oil producers are also building refining capacity to add value to the crude that they pump out of the ground.
    So why buy? All this extra capacity will keep global refining margins under pressure for at least another five or six years, believes Francis Osborne of Wood Mackenzie, a consultancy. That may not bother state oil companies much, but it ought to worry private-equity firms. So why are they buying? First, because prices are so low. Second, because they are looking optimistically to the long term. Martin Brand of Blackstone, a private-equity giant that has bought three refineries in America in recent years, thinks margins will have recovered in ten years’ time, and in the interim there will be plenty of efficiency gains to be made. 
    Others are sceptical. The European and American refineries’ new owners will be far less likely to close them than their old ones. In the absence of such a rationalisation of capacity, thinks Gemma Gouldby of FACTS Global Energy, margins will stay poor indefinitely. If so, the Western oil majors will be glad they got rid of them. 

    “Climate is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks.” Wally Broeker