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News Article | April 21, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

The Treasury Department said it will not issue waivers to US companies to authorize drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions (AFP Photo/MIKHAIL MORDASOV) Washington (AFP) - The US Treasury on Friday said it would not waive trade sanctions for US companies seeking to resume oil drilling in Russia, including ExxonMobil. The announcement followed media reports that Exxon had sought a waiver to resume a joint venture with Russia's Rosneft oil company. "In consultation with President Donald J Trump, the Treasury Department will not be issuing waivers to US companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions," the Treasury Department said in a statement. Having failed to win a waiver from the Obama administration in 2015, ExxonMobil began pressing the Treasury to grant an exemption in March, shortly after the company's former CEO Rex Tillerson became secretary of state, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Tillerson, who while with ExxonMobil had forged close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and with Rosneft, had recused himself from the decision. ExxonMobil has sought permission to drill in several areas that are currently off limits, including the Black Sea. The Trump administration has extensive ties to the energy sector and has vowed to promote oil exploration and production, slash regulations and allow for more development. In a statement, ExxonMobil said it understood the Trump administration's decision but underscored its position that it was hamstrung by the restrictions. "Our 2015 application for a license under the provisions outlined in the US sanctions was made to enable our company to meet its contractual obligations under a joint venture agreement in Russia, where competitor companies are authorized to undertake such work under European sanctions," the statement said. The decision comes as relations between Moscow and Washington have soured in recent weeks following a US missile strike in Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack on civilians. Trump also remains in the glare of congressional and federal investigations into alleged Russian efforts to tip November's presidential elections in his favor. Trump eventually acknowledged the existence of election-related Russian cyber-attacks but denied that they had affected the outcome.


News Article | April 24, 2017
Site: www.ogj.com

The Trump administration will not be issuing waivers to ExxonMobil Corp. and other US companies authorizing oil and gas drilling currently prohibited by sanctions against Russia. US Treasury Sec. Steven T. Mnuchin’s Apr. 21 statement came following reports days earlier that the US multinational oil company sought permission to resume operations in the Black Sea with partner OAO Rosneft.


News Article | April 22, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

FILE - In this April 1, 2017 file photo, National Assembly President Julio Borges speaks to fellow lawmakers during a special public session at a square in Caracas, Venezuela. The leader of Venezuela’s rebellious congress has a message for the world’s capitalists: Think twice before signing another check to President Nicolas Maduro’s government. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano, File) CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The leader of Venezuela's rebellious congress has a message for the world's capitalists: Think twice before signing another check to President Nicolas Maduro's government. Amid anti-Maduro protests roiling Venezuela, leading to 20 deaths and dozens of arrests the past three weeks, the opposition is trying to rally international opinion against his socialist government. For his part, National Assembly President Julio Borges has sent more than a dozen letters to leading global banks warning them of the risk to their reputations and bottom line if they throw a lifeline to Maduro as he seeks to bolster an economy suffering widespread shortages of food and other goods while avoiding a default on foreign debt. "The national government, through the central bank, is going to try to swap gold held as reserves for dollars to stay in power unconstitutionally," said one letter sent Thursday to John Cryan, the CEO of Deutsche Bank. "I have the obligation to warn you that by supporting such a gold swap you would be taking actions favoring a government that's been recognized as dictatorial by the international community." The letters are intended to build on legislation recently passed by the opposition-controlled congress that nullifies any government debt issuances not explicitly approved by legislators, Borges said in an interview Friday. Following a tense week filled with protests that drew tens of thousands into the streets and overnight clashes that left at least a dozen dead by Friday morning, opposition leaders were calling Venezuelans out again Saturday to demonstrate in a silent protest. Protesters dressed in white were gathering at cities around the country in homage to those killed in the unrest. Dozens of police officers could be seen blocking roads in Caracas early Saturday and nearly a dozen metro stations were closed. Lost in the surge of protests triggered by last month's decision by the Venezuelan Supreme Court to strip congress of power is Maduro's desperate need for financing. The ruling, which was reversed after a storm of international criticism, arose from congress' refusal to approve a proposal allowing state-run oil giant PDVSA to form joint ventures with preferred foreign partners such as Russia's Rosneft. Sitting atop the world's largest oil reserves, Venezuela has long been considered a reliable credit, managing to maintain its status as a Wall Street favorite even when the late President Hugo Chavez went on a nationalizing spree seizing factories and oil fields of major foreign companies like Exxon and Clorox. This week, General Motors became the latest major American brand to flee Venezuela after its assembly plant, bank accounts and other assets were seized as the result of a judicial ruling in favor of a former GM dealership. But as crude oil prices have fallen since Maduro took office in 2013, the country's foreign currency reserves have plummeted to a 15-year low of $10 billion. About 75 percent of that is held in illiquid gold bars as a result of Chavez's fetish for bullion over the "imperialist" dollar. The country has debt payments still coming due this year of around $6 billion. Yet, as the government scrounges for financing, it managed to donate $500,000 to President Donald Trump's inauguration events, through PDVSA's wholly owned U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, federal election records revealed this week. Borges called the donation a "hypocritical" attempt by Maduro to curry favor with Trump in hopes the Republican administration will go soft on human rights abuses. Several officials have already been targeted by U.S. sanctions, including under Trump's watch Vice President Tareck El Aissami, for alleged drug trafficking. "It shows they're afraid of the U.S.," Borges said. "They want to portray themselves as romantics, but they really are just Mickey Mouse revolutionaries. All of them have houses in Orlando (Florida), assets in the U.S., apartments in New York, and yet they donate $500,000 from a country that is dying of hunger." Borges, a lawyer who studied philosophy at Boston College, entered politics on the coattails of a popular TV program. Shortly after Chavez was elected president in 1999, he founded the Justice First party alongside the two dominant opposition politicians over the past decade: two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles and jailed activist Leopoldo Lopez. In his role as the party's coordinator, Borges is known as a cool-headed strategist and voice of moderation more comfortable behind the scenes. But with Lopez behind bars and Capriles recently barred from running for office for 15 years, Borges has been thrust into the spotlight and he has adopted a more combative stance. The second in line of succession after El Aissami, he has been at the forefront with other lawmakers in the latest protests, rejecting repeat invitations by Maduro to return to negotiations that collapsed last year. In his office hangs a photograph from 1936 Germany showing a worker named August Landmesser standing alone in a large crowd refusing to perform the Nazi salute — a model of bravery that Borges says should inspire members of Venezuela's armed forces who have been using tear gas and rubber bullets against unarmed protesters. He said the patience he has had to show in the long-running battle against Maduro was learned at home as the father of quadruplets, now 9 years old. "I wish he was like a kid because sometimes he's so cold and indifferent," Borges said of Maduro. "At least a child has feelings. He feels hurt when he sees people suffering and dying." In what the opposition claims is another example of Maduro's indifference to the country's suffering, the president posted a video on his Twitter account Friday night showing him driving through a middle-class Caracas neighborhood. While talking about promoting a "movement of national coexistence" to confront "fascists," his car passes by a wall where the words "Maduro killer of students" is scrawled in graffiti. Aggressive rhetoric from opposition leaders like Borges appears to have gotten under Maduro's skin. Almost daily since protests began, the president has accused Borges of being the "boss" of a coup attempt. And Borges is almost certainly a prime target of a "Manual for the Revolutionary Combatant" that top government officials are promoting on state TV as a sort of enemies list containing the addresses and personal details of opposition leaders. "Don't complain later when justice is served, Julio Borges. I'm telling you in advance," Maduro, pounding his fist, said this week at a rally of government supporters. Borges said that far from scaring him, such attacks and the government's growing reliance on force to squash protests is a sign of its increasing weakness. "Voting is like kryptonite for the government," he said. "But that's what we have to continue insisting on because it's the only real solution to bring change to the country." More Associated Press reporting on Venezuela's problems can be found at https://www.ap.org/explore/venezuela-undone


News Article | April 21, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

Logos of ExxonMobil are seen in its booth at Gastech, the world's biggest expo for the gas industry, in Chiba, Japan April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai WASHINGTON/SPRING, Tx. (Reuters) - The United States will not make an exception for American companies, including oil major Exxon Mobil Corp, seeking to drill in areas prohibited by U.S. sanctions on Russia, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday. The unusually direct statement served to clarify that the United States would maintain a tough stance on sanctions against Moscow. "In consultation with President Donald J. Trump, the Treasury Department will not be issuing waivers to U.S. companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions," Mnuchin said in a statement. The United States and European Union imposed economic sanctions on Russia over its annexation of the Crimea region in 2014 and its role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The sanctions forced Exxon, the world's largest publicly traded oil producer, to wind down drilling in Russia's Arctic in 2014. "We understand the statement today by Secretary Mnuchin in consultation with President Trump," Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said. Exxon had asked for and received in 2015 and 2016 waivers to operate a joint venture with Russian oil producer Rosneft in Russia. European Union sanctions do not keep European oil companies from operating in Russia, a point of annoyance for Exxon. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Exxon had in recent months applied for a Treasury Department waiver to drill with Rosneft. Jeffers said Exxon had not applied for waivers from Treasury since Trump took office. Any such request would have drawn attention because Exxon's former chief executive, Rex Tillerson, is now U.S. secretary of state. Under his leadership, Exxon lobbied Congress on Russia sanctions, and Tillerson opposed sanctions against Russia in 2014, saying they would be ineffective. U.S. lawmakers are investigating possible ties between some Trump campaign aides and Moscow. Republicans in Congress as well as U.S. allies in Europe are anxious about any sign that the Trump administration might ease some of the sanctions imposed on Russia. During his confirmation hearing in January, Tillerson said he never personally lobbied against sanctions and that he was not aware of Exxon Mobil directly doing so, later acknowledging that he spoke to former U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew regarding gaps between American and European sanctions on Russia. Tillerson has pledged to recuse himself until the end of this year from any matter involving Exxon Mobil unless he is authorized to participate. He also has until early May to sell his Exxon Mobil stock. U.S. companies frequently file license applications to the Treasury Department asking permission to undertake activities that would otherwise be barred by sanctions. The U.S. government weighs each application based on national security interests, the law and other factors. The refusal is unlikely to affect Exxon Mobil's bottom line, as it has not been able to operate in Russia for several years, but it does hinder its growth potential. Treasury almost never comments publicly on license applications. Mnuchin's statement will likely serve to clarify the U.S. stance on sanctions against Russia at a time when American allies are looking for clues to U.S. policy, observers said. "It's good from a regulatory perspective as it provides clarity to U.S. companies, but it's also great from a foreign policy perspective," Edward Fishman, a fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank and former State Department official during the Obama administration, said of Mnuchin's statement. "Any uncertainty about the future of sanctions scares our allies and encourages Russia to prolong its aggression in Ukraine."


The intelligence and security agencies in the US played a key role in Donald Trump’s election victory and they may yet be the ones who bring down this most extraordinary of presidents in recent American history. Hillary Clinton could well have been in the White House now had it not been for James Comey. She was riding high when the FBI Director announced, just days before polling, that the investigation into the former Secretary of State’s use of her email account was being reopened. Soon afterwards Mr Comey stated that nothing untoward had been discovered against Ms Clinton. But the damage had been done by then – her campaign lost momentum while that of Mr Trump solidified. While effectively sabotaging the Democrat campaign, Mr Comey helped Mr Trump’s by failing to reveal that an investigation into links between Mr Trump and Moscow, with evidence mounting, had been ongoing for months. After his first 100 days, we should fear Trump more than ever There were accusations that the FBI had tried to hide the Trump inquiry while focusing on Ms Clinton. Among those who claimed this to be the case was Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer who produced a report on Mr Trump’s Kremlin links for the Democrats, and subsequently passed on incriminating information on Mr Trump and his associates to the FBI without any action being seemingly taken. The New York office in particular appeared to be on a crusade against Ms Clinton. Some of its agents had a long working relationship with Rudy Giuliani, by then a member of the Trump campaign, since his days as public prosecutor and then Mayor of the city. Two days before Mr Comey made his bombshell announcement about the Clinton reinvestigation, Mr Giuliani, part of the Trump team, talked about “a surprise or two you’re going to hear about in the next few days. We’ve got a couple of things up our sleeve that should turn things around”. But Mr Trump cannot shake off the allegations that he was the “Muscovite Candidate”. Russia has been the dominant theme in the first 100 days of the presidency, raising fundamental questions even about his legitimacy in office. The Kremlin’s long reach, reads the charge sheet, ranges from cyber-attacks on Democratic Party computers to the funding of the Republican candidate’s election campaign. There are now FBI and Congressional investigations into Mr Trump’s Moscow connections. The President has tried to dismiss them in his endless rambling tweets and tried to deflect attention with false claims such as that he had been wiretapped on the orders of President Obama. There have, in addition, been attempts to stop important witnesses from testifying. But the inquiries continue. Mr Trump is now at loggerheads with the intelligence community. The antipathy of many of them towards him has been hardened by episodes such as his behaviour when he visited the CIA headquarters. Standing in front of the Memorial Wall – a place of reverence in the Agency – Mr Trump boasted about the fictitious size of his inaugural crowd and his own intellect: “And then they say, ‘Is Donald Trump an intellectual?’ Trust me, I’m like a smart person.” Former CIA director John Brennan let it be known that he was “deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandisement in front of CIA’s Memorial Wall of agency heroes. Mr Trump should be ashamed of himself”. Meanwhile, even senior figures in the Trump administration, including Defence Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have acknowledged Moscow’s interference in the US election. Mr Tillerson’s own Kremlin connections have been questioned. He forged close ties with Russia during his 40 years of work for Exxon Mobil, and he worked on projects with the Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. He is said to be close to its head Igor Sechin, a close confidant of Vladimir Putin. In 2013 the Kremlin awarded him the Order of Friendship. Senior Republicans like Senator John McCain had questioned whether Mr Tillerson was a fit person for his job with his close Russia ties. There have been questions, in particular, about Mr Sechin, who was named in the Steele report as one of the senior Kremlin officials who had met members of the Trump team before the election. There are, however, others in the team who are under more intense scrutiny than Mr Tillerson. There has already been a high-profile casualty, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who resigned as Mr Trump’s national security advisor after just three weeks over his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US. Lt Gen Flynn was accused of lying to Vice President Mike Pence over his insistence that he had not discussed against Russia with Sergey Kislyak. It transpired later that he was under investigation by the Pentagon for allegedly accepting Russian payment during trips to Moscow. He was to go on to admit working as a “foreign agent”, receiving money while representing the Turkish government in a dispute with the United States. Lt Gen Flynn resigned on the same day Barack Obama announced sanctions against Russia for attempting to influence the presidential election, and hours after Mr Trump had expressed “full confidence” in his National Security Advisor. Lt Gen Flynn has subsequently offered to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee in return for immunity from prosecution – an offer the Committee has so far rejected. Paul Manafort’s resignation as Mr Trump’s campaign manager came before the election. He had filled the same role with Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s former president, an ally of Mr Putin who is now in exile in Russia after being overthrown in the Maidan protests. It was money he received in his Ukrainian job which led to him leaving the Trump team, although he appears to have remained an influential voice behind the scenes. There are now fresh allegations that Mr Manafort received vast sums in “suspicious payments” from Mr Yanukovych. Prosecutors in Kiev want to question Mr Manafort and say they have requested the assistance of Mr Comey in doing so. It is seen as a sign of the Trump administration’s nervousness about what may unfold that it appears to be trying to distance itself from Mr Manafort. In a recent briefing to journalists, the White House spokesman Sean Spicer brought up Mr Manafort’s name unprompted, and claimed, to general incredulity, that “he played a very limited role, very limited amount of time” in the presidential campaign. The same kind of damage limitation is being tried with Carter Page, who Mr Trump had formerly described as a foreign policy advisor and Mr Spicer now wants to stress was “not really a major part of the campaign”. According to Mr Steele and others who have provided information to the FBI, Mr Page had discussed intelligence being held by Russia on Ms Clinton with a senior Kremlin official and the issue of ending sanctions against Moscow with Mr Sechin. He also allegedly met a Russian intelligence operative, Victor Podobny, in 2013 and offered to provide him with documents about the energy industry. The FBI obtained a warrant under the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to carry out surveillance on Mr Page as the suspected “agent of a foreign power”. Mr Page says “that his civil rights have been violated” and he is the “real victim of a conspiracy”. As investigations continue into Mr Trump, “conspiracy” is a recurring theme among his supporters. They warn of a “coup” being planned by the “deep state” of the establishment and the intelligence services to unseat an elected President. Mr Trump’s many enemies, meanwhile, hope that the investigations will lead to eventual impeachment of the President they loathe. What the intelligence and security agencies uncover, or fail to do, in the weeks and months ahead will shape the fate of the Trump presidency.


News Article | April 23, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

General Motors shut operations in Venezuela and laid off workers after the government seized its plant there, which had been idle because of the chaotic market environment (AFP Photo/BILL PUGLIANO) Washington (AFP) - The political and economic crisis in Venezuela is costing US companies dearly, as General Motors can attest following the unexpected nationalization of its plant there. The big auto-maker shut down its operations in Venezuela and laid off its 2,700 workers after the government on Wednesday seized the plant, which had been idle because of the chaotic market environment. The group had been operating in the South American country for 69 years. GM isn't the only US business to be walloped by Venezuela's crisis. Kimberly-Clark, a personal-care paper group, had its factory taken over last July, and posted a charge of $153 million to deconsolidate its Venezuela operations. Biscuit-maker Mondelez -- behind America's well-known Oreo brand -- also took a one-time charge of $778 million to reconfigure its Venezuela operations as an investment in its accounts, to prevent them dragging the group's earnings down. Although Mondelez products still sell in Venezuela, it's unable to track sales. Same story for Pepsi, which reported a $1.4 billion loss last October from its Venezuela business. The conditions in Venezuela are a formidable challenge for any company, with hyperinflation, capital controls, political turbulence, mass demonstrations and consumers who have barely enough money to buy food and basic items. The country was once considered one of the juiciest markets for US businesses, boasting the biggest oil reserves in the world, a free-spending middle class with a taste for American products, and proximity. But a slump in global crude prices coupled with mismanagement has devastated the country's economy. And nearly two decades of Socialist rule by late president Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro have badly frayed ties with the US, which has halved the amount of Venezuelan oil it imports. Venezuelan authorities regularly accuse Washington of being behind the unrest they are dealing with. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in an uncomfortable position, having been the boss of American oil giant ExxonMobil before becoming President Donald Trump's diplomatic chief. In 2014, the Venezuelan government was ordered by a World Bank disputes tribunal to pay ExxonMobil $1.4 billion for nationalizing an oil field. But that ruling was overturned on appeal in March this year to the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes. ExxonMobil also plans to drill for oil in an offshore field in a zone that both Guyana and neighboring Venezuela lay claim to. The find is a source of friction between the two countries since 2015. Another point of contention between Venezuela and the United States is Citgo, a network of gas stations in America owned by Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA. US lawmakers, especially former Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, have expressed concerns that the Russian oil company Rosneft might end up owning Citgo, which is based in Houston, Texas. That stems from the fact that PDVSA put Citgo up as collateral for a corporate bond issue in December that Rosneft underwrote. If PDVSA defaults, Rosneft could demand Citgo as compensation. "We are extremely concerned that Rosneft's control of a major US energy supplier could pose a grave threat to American energy security, impact the flow and price of gasoline for American consumers, and expose critical US infrastructure to national security threats," Rubio, Cruz and four other senators wrote in an April 10 letter to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. According to Matthew Taylor, an expert on Latin America at the Center for Foreign Relations in Washington, the Trump's administration policies towards the Venezuelan crisis seem to be the same as those of predecessor Barack Obama. "The United States has imposed targeted sanctions against individual Venezuelans, including Vice President (Tareck) El-Aissami, but has wisely avoided the temptation to more directly and unilaterally confront the regime, allowing Latin America to lead," he said in a blog. "But patience is wearing thin in Washington."


A polymer material for proppant in the form of a metathesis-radically cross-linked mixture of oligocyclopentadienes and methylcarboxy norbornene esters is obtained by mixing dicyclopentadiene with methacrylic esters and polymer stabilizers, heating the mixture to a temperature of 150-220 C., holding at said temperature for 15-360 minutes, and then cooling down to 20-50 C. A radical initiator and a catalyst are added successively to the resultant mixture of oligocyclopentadienes and methylcarboxy norbornene esters. The polymer matrix is heated to a temperature of 50-340 C., is held at this temperature for 1-360 minutes and then is cooled to room temperature. A technical result achieved by implementation of the present invention is an increase in thermal strength of the proppant material, providing a compressive strength of at least 150 MPa at a temperature of not less than 100 C.


Patent
Rosneft | Date: 2014-05-13

The material for proppant and method for producing the same relate to the chemistry of high-molecular weight compounds, and more particularly, to polymer materials with high requirements for physical and mechanical properties, for instance, for the production of proppants, i.e., propping granules, used in the oil and gas production by a method of hydraulic fracturing of formation. The technical result achieved by implementation of the present invention is an increase in thermal strength of the proppant material providing for a compressive strength of at least 150 MPa at a temperature of not less than 100 C. The method consists in the following. A mixture of oligocyclopentadienes is obtained by heating dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) to a temperature of 150-220 C. and holding at this temperature for 15-360 minutes. The oligomerization of dicyclopentadiene occurs. The mixture of oligomers is cooled down to 20-50 C., and polymer stabilizers, radical initiators, methacrylates and a catalyst are sequentially added thereto. The resultant polymer matrix is heated up to a temperature of 50-340 C. and is held at this temperature for 1-360 minutes, and thereafter is cooled down to room temperature. A metathesis polymerization (MP) and radical polymerization (RP) cross-linkage of the mixture of oligocyclopentadienes with methacrylic esters occurs.


The increased thermal strength polymer proppant and method for producing the same relate to the oil and gas production technology using materials of high-molecular compounds, especially to proppants of polymer materials with high requirements for the physical and mechanical characteristics, utilized as propping granules in the oil and gas production by a method of hydraulic fracturing. The proppant is made of a metathesis-radically cross-linked mixture of oligocyclopentadienes and methylcarboxy norbornene esters. The proppant represents microspheres having a roundness and sphericity of at least 0.9 for no less than 80% by weight, whose average size being in the range 0.25-1.1 mm and a bulk density being in the range of 0.5-0.7 g/cm^(3). The technical result is an increase in thermal strength of the proppant material, providing for a compressive strength of at least 150 MPa at a temperature of not less than 100 C.


Patent
Rosneft | Date: 2014-05-13

The polymer proppant and method for producing the same relate to oil and gas production technology using materials of high-molecular weight compounds with higher requirements for physical and mechanical properties. The proppant is used as propping granules utilized in the oil and gas production by a method of hydraulic fracturing of formation. The technical result achieved by implementation of the present invention is an increase in thermal strength of the proppant whose material provides a compressive strength of at least 150 MPa at a temperature of not less than 100 C. The polymer proppant represents microspheres of metathesis-radically cross-linked mixture of oligocyclopentadienes.

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