BP Delivers Ahead of Time and Under Budget

Liquefied Petroleum Gas tanks


In the Omani hinterland 350 kilometres south of Muscat and under an area of desert measuring 2,800 square kilometres lies the gas field of Khazzan.   Not only is the desert environment challenging but the geology of the rock formations holding the gas are challenging as well.  Despite all of this BP has delivered the construction of a project to extract this valuable source of energy from under the desert ahead of time and under budget.

Production from the Khazzan gas field started in mid-September 2017.  From that initial start production is slated to be ramped up so that by 2019 gas from this region will be enough to meet 25% of Oman’s domestic gas consumption.  The gas is already booked for use in generating electricity and as feedstock for the developing domestic petrochemical industry as part of a strategy to industrialise the economy.  This gas is not for export.

The Khazzan project is a huge milestone in the near 50 year history of BP’s involvement in Oman.  This started back in 1959 when the company was granted a Royal Charter to supply oil based products into the country.  From those humble beginnings the company has expanded its downstream activities to include forecourt services, marine bunkering services, aviation fuel services and maintaining the infrastructure essential to support these activities.  This has grown to the extent that BP now employs 700 people through its subsidiary ‘BP Oman’ of which 500 are Omani nationals.

Khazzan’s history spans 17 years from the initial discovery in 2000 to September 2017 when the first gas was successfully extracted from the field.  The agreement to exploit this field between BP Oman and the Omani Government was signed in 2007 and construction was only started in 2014.

To extract the gas will involve deploying 8 drilling rigs over an area twice the size of London.  Extensive drilling will result in 320 individual wells being drilled at least 5 kilometres into the earth.  The rock formations that the diamond tipped drill bits will encounter where the gas is stored are formed of extremely hard and impermeable strata.  Geologists refer to these types of strata as ‘tight’.  The energy industry refers to the gas extracted from these strata as ‘tight gas’ which can only be extracted by enhanced recovery methods; fracking in this instance.

As wells are drilled downwards they will at various ‘kick off’ points change direction from the vertical towards the horizontal until they are bored horizontal to the earth’s surface.

In 2012 the gas reserves of the Khazzan field were estimated to be 100 trillion cubic feet which is a difficult volume to comprehend.  So, to put some perspective on this, 100 trillion cubic feet is the equivalent of 40 years gas consumption in the UK at current annual rates.

Khazzan is the 6th of 7 projects that BP has slated for completion in 2017.  To understand the global reach of BP the other 6 projects are located in the Caribbean, Egyptian territorial waters, Australia and close to home in the North Sea.  The nature of these projects is a reflection of the shift in BP’s activities away from oil and into gas as 6 of the 7 projects are gas related.

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UK Energy Security – Gas

Liquefied Petroleum Gas tanks

Switching on our lights at home or at work, cooking a meal and being able to enjoy the comforting benefits of central heating are facts of life largely taken for granted on cold winter nights especially as so much of these enjoyable facets are life are powered by gas.

So far in this century there have been two tipping points in the UK’s gas industry.  In 2000 gas production from the UK Continental Shelf(UKCS) in the North Sea peaked and has been going through a slow but steady decline ever since.  In 2005 the UK flipped from being a net exporter of gas to being a net importer of this valuable and essential energy source. By 2015 the cumulative effect of these two tipping points is represented in the following very short table illustrating where the UK’s gas comes from:


UK Production              45%

Norway                          33%

Rest of Europe                5%

Qatar                              16%

Rest of World                  1%

Total                      100%

As this table shows, in 2015 the UK had to import 55% of its annual gas requirements.

Production of gas from the UKCS will continue to decline as existing reservoirs are depleted.  There is still gas in these territorial waters but it is located in what the energy industry term as ‘marginal’ areas where extraction involves high risk caused by working in the challenging conditions of deeper waters and wells.  To extract this resource from these areas involves high capital expenditure in technology which has to show an adequate return to justify the investment.

Faced with declining domestic production the UK has no choice but to import increasing volumes of gas to quite literally keep the home fires burning.

As the country has to rely ever more on imports it’s level of energy security will decrease.  Perfect energy security would entail complete self-sufficiency in energy sources to meet demand.  A sort of energy autarky.  Lack of energy security and specifically in gas increases the importing country’s exposure to price fluctuations in a highly globalized market.  Lack of energy security also exposes a country to the risks of disruptions in the supply chain for gas caused by geopolitics and natural disasters.  Any country heavily reliant on gas imports to fuel their economies does not have any control over either of these two threats to their energy security.

Norway is a politically stable country that has very little exposure to natural disasters and so it represents a secure and stable source of gas for the UK.  It’s known reserves are enough for the foreseeable future.  However, there is one major constriction in the supply of gas from there.  All of the gas the UK imports from Norway comes from two undersea pipelines.

The longest one is the ‘Langeled’ pipeline stretching 1,106 kilometres from Nyhama on the Norwegian coast to Easington on the East Yorkshire coast. The diameter of this pipeline is between 1,067 mm and 1,118 mm.  It was fully commissioned in 2006 and cost £1.7bn to build.

The shorter pipeline is the ‘Vesterled’ which is just 360 kilometres long and runs from the Heimdal gas field in Norwegian territorial waters to St Fergus on the North-East coast of Scotland.  It is 810mm in diameter, was originally commissioned in 1978 and was further extended in 2001.

Earlier in 2017 Qatar, where 16% of the UK’s gas comes from, was at the epicentre of a diplomatic storm with its neighbours in the Middle East.  There was a risk that Qatar could have had trade sanctions imposed on it by its own neighbours.  That action could have escalated to the point where Qatar would have been unable to export gas to its customers, even those in the UK.  This could have caused a serious choke in the supply chain into the UK by sea.

If that had happened for any length of time then the UK could have been in serious energy based trouble.  By the very nature and level of usage of the existing pipelines from Norway it would not have been possible to increase supplies from there simply by opening a tap further. One instant effect this dispute did have on shipments was that two tankers destined for the UK had originally planned to travel via the Suez Canal but because that runs through Egypt that was a part of the alliance against Qatar the two tankers were considering rerouting via Southern Africa.  An additional risk with gas travelling by sea is that the cargo can change hands several times and can finally be discharged in another country where it can be sold for a higher price than in the UK.

Fortunately, the situation in the Middle East with Qatar did not escalate to that level and gas was supplied continuously. However that geopolitical incident did cause jitters in the commodity markets for gas for a few days as traders temporarily anticipated a shortage in the market.

The National Grid estimates that by 2030, which is less than 13 years away, the UK will have to import 60% of its annual gas requirements.  That level of dependency on imports will further decrease the country’s energy security.

Renewables such as wind generated electricity are helping to improve the energy supply balance.  For part of one day in June wind farms generated more electricity than power stations but that was only for one part of one day.  Throughout the year 42% of the UK’s electricity is generated with gas. So, it is still an essential source of energy especially when the wind does not blow or there is no sunshine to power renewable sources.  However, a safe and secure supply of gas is still essential to fuel the UK’s economy to make up any shortfalls from renewable sources when there is little wind or little sunshine.

There are ample supplies of gas around the world but it is the vulnerability of the supply chain over which it cannot exercise any control that endangers the UK’s energy security.

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Omar’s Diary 1st April 2017

Today is the 1st April 2017 and I am being very careful not to be fooled by any little tricks Man Servant may try on me today. This morning he has already told me that there are no more Dreamies in Omar Towers as he and Lady Servant have not had time to go to the shops this week to replenish my supplies. This is very disappointing and hurtful that my needs have been overlooked.

Even before the sun was up here in The New Forest Man Servant and I have already taken a quick look through the headlines in The New York Times (TNYT). There was really nothing that indicated that this august paper was trying to fool it’s own readers with some fake news story such as there being a spaghetti harvest or that a farmer in Greece called Aprilius Moron had set his plough and unearthed the missing arm from the Venus de Milo.

The black type headlines on the front page made several references to the family name of ‘Trump’. Man Servant refers to someone of that name as POTUS. There are articles under the name referring to family wealth, political alignment, trade talks, a curse and a parrot. I am sure that J K Rowling could conjure up a wizard story containing all those themes and have Hogwarts relocated to The White House. The name ‘Trump’ appears so often on the front of this paper that one could say it has been well and truly ‘Trumpled’ on.

The reason Man Servant has subscribed to this newspaper is threefold. Up until two years ago it was possible to buy hardcopies of it in the main newsagents here in Ringwood. Man Servant considers himself as a liberal internationalist and although this paper is very American he believes that it provides an objective coverage of major stories here in the UK and Europe. He also believes, and I very much agree with him, that now more than ever there is a desperate need for a free press but that freedom has to be funded and part of that funding must come from people who read the press.

The coverage of the delivering of the Article 50 letter to Brussels earlier this week was treated with a deep respect and analysis that such an historic moment is deserving of. This was in stark contrast to the coverage of this historic moment on BBC Breakfast on the day. Despite its significance for the country and Europe all the two link people on the red couch could talk about was whose pillow the letter was kept under before it was delivered. How trite and dumbed down! This coverage caused both Man and Lady Servant to drop their marmalade, reach for the remote and switch over to Radio Three where they could listen to some Mozart.

This morning the BBC News website has more coverage of the contents of the Article 50 letter mainly in respect to Gibraltar. One of the bedrocks of the LEAVE campaign was to restore Britain’s national identity. In some ways I think this was a harking back to the days when Britain had an empire and ruled the waves. So, what I find most surprising is that the letter to Brussels failed to mention this one last bastion of Empire; Gibraltar. Now, as a result of this omission Spain has threatened to use it as a bargaining chip in the forthcoming negotiations in an effort to regain some sovereignty over the place it lost some three hundred years ago. Oh dear Foreign Secretary BOJO, that is going to be a difficult one to resolve.

Almost as difficult as the standoff I am having this morning with Man Servant about the lack of Dreamies in Omar Towers today.

One subject TNYT regularly is British horse racing.

In Clare Balding’s first book,My Animals and Other Family , she recounted how when her younger brother was at school the class was asked to name the seasons of the year. An eager young hand shot up.

‘Yes Andrew, what are the seasons of the year?’ the teacher asked.

‘National hunt and flat Miss’ was the confident answer.

Today marks the beginning of the 2017 flat season on the turf. There has been flat racing taking place all winter on all weather tracks but today marks the beginning of the new season on the turf which starts at Doncaster in Yorkshire. The first major handicap of the season is the Betway Lincoln (Heritage Handicap) which is to be run at 1535. It is worth £100,000 to fastest of the 22 runners over a mile.

Why is the race called the ‘Lincoln’ when it is run at Doncaster in Yorkshire? Well, in one of those all too many idiosyncrasies that run through not only racing culture but also British culture it is because the race was run at Lincoln from 1849 until 1964 when the racecourse at Lincoln was closed. It was transferred to Doncaster and to be honest ‘The Doncaster’ as a name for the race would not have quite the same tone to it as ‘The Lincoln’ does.

For fun Man Servant and I have studied the form assiduously and have come up with a couple of selections. Our first choice is ‘Third Time Lucky’ which is priced this morning at 14/1 so that would be a fair priced each way bet in this handicap. Our second choice has not used our imaginations at all as it is the 9/2 favourite ‘Yuften’.

I have just found out that I have been April fooled. Just as we finished typing this diary Man Servant waved a fresh bag of Dreamies in front of me saying ‘April Fool Omar’.

Have a nice day everyone and watch out for the tricksters.

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Is this what British politics have become?

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

This expression that lies at the very core of any democratic system has been mistakenly attributed to Voltaire. I say “mistakenly” as when I was researching the actual quote and its source I came across the website “Student Activism” where Angus Johnston has attributed the quotation word for word to Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her biography of Voltaire published in 1906. Her intention with this expression was summarise Voltaire’s thinking on freedom of speech as succinctly as possible.

Earlier this month, March 2017, Lord Heseltine stood and spoke in the House of Lords during the debate on the triggering of Article 50 to commence the process for Britain to leave the EU. He wanted the Act of Parliament to be debated properly in both chambers allowing members of both the opportunity to fully debate the bill and if necessary pass amendments. He spoke expressing his deeply held belief and conviction that the bill should be allowed to follow due constitutional process. His speech was also based on his deeply held belief that Britain should remain in the European Union.

At the time of his speech, 16th March 2017, he held three advisory positions in the Government. These were purely advisory and if the relevant Minister wanted to take the advice or leave it that was entirely their choice. Minutes after the vote, which was against Lord Heseltine’s views he was removed from these advisory roles by the Prime Minister for not following the party whip.

One of my companion books is “Profiles in Courage” by John Fitzgerald Kennedy. This is a collection of extended essays he wrote about American politicians who stood up and spoke according to their beliefs and convictions. They spoke from their conscience rather than the desire to win the next election. Senators, congressmen, Republicans or Democrats are included in this book. It is about how as a result of not following the party line they suffered political and social ostracism. In the final pages is an extract from a eulogy read by Senator William Pitt Fessenden for a fellow Senator about the internal conflicts all politicians in a democratic political system are constantly battling with:
“….of all the ever recurring contest between a desire for public approbation and a sense of public duty….”

After the vote in the House of Lords and his sacking I did write to Lord Heseltine expressing my views about what had happened to him. In his reply, which was a standard letter, as he had read and had to reply to “many hundreds of messages” he said that not only had he received letters of support but a few from LEAVE voters “who in various shades of language, wish me silent. They will be disappointed. A handful have had to be referred to the police.”

Whatever happened to our politics in this country that an elder statesman of the stature of Lord Heseltine receives letters that have to be referred to the police? Whatever has happened to the tenet of the first sentence of this piece? Surely now, after the tragic events in Westminster on 22nd March 2017, Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s paraphrasing of what Voltaire held true has never been a more precious belief, conviction that we should all be committed to protecting, cherishing, nurturing and enhancing for today and all of the todays to come?

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An Each Way Double for Thursday evening

I had a quick canter through the race card for Chelmsford for Thursday 23rd March 2017 and there are two handicaps with horses running that could be an interesting win or each way double.

In the 1820 (British time) there are 15 definite runners.  The cards this evening showed that King’s Julien is doubtful.

My choice in this race is ZEBEDEE’S GIRL priced at 6/1 at the time of writing.  She has had progressive form this campaign showing 6th of 9 over 6 furlongs at this course nad most recently on 8th March was 4th of 12 over 1 mile 2 furlongs.  In this race she was held up at the back then claimed 3rd on the run in only to be overtaken into 4th by less than a length.If backing each way this race only pays out on the first three places at 25%.

In the 1950 there is a wide spread of handicap weights of 12 pounds.  Because INTENSICAL is being ridden by a claimer who is allowed 7 pounds off any weight the handicapper allocates he is well down on the weights and consequently is a strongly fancied favourite priced at 9/4.  If backing each way this race only pays out on the first two places at 25% of the SP’s.

I like a punt but I also like to build in a bit of safety so I would be going for an each double with these two selections but for those of you with the stronger constitution for these things a win double could reap handsome rewards.

Good luck.


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Funeral Buddies

My Dad was nearly 93 when he died recently.

It was not unexpected given the combination that he was very old and was suffering from a brain tumour as well.

Following his diagnosis with a brain tumour I had some real quality time with Dad as I was able to see him often. In his final months I could ask him what he did on his twenty first birthday during World War II. He could recount in forensic detail how he drove a Crossley truck across the Rhine on a pontoon bridge at the head of a ten truck convoy. Ask him what he had for lunch that day and he would answer ‘I knew you were going to ask that and I can’t remember.’

This happened a couple of times so I stopped asking him what he had for lunch.

In one of our quality times together we broached the subject of his end of life wishes. His local surgery had given him a pack that included a form to detail these wishes. It felt easy while we were doing it as Dad was very lucid and given suggestions was perfectly capable of making his own rational choices. Rational choices over issues such as ‘Do Not Resuscitate’, organ donation and his funeral service. For his funeral service he wanted to have one exactly the same as Mum’s. The same hymns, same location, cremation and burial of ashes next to hers.

After we finished working through the entire package I got in my car to drive home thinking ‘that went well’. Two minutes later I felt the energy drain from me and although I was not visibly shaking from exhaustion I knew that inside I was. Instead of driving straight home I went to a beech overlooking Poole Harbour that I knew Mum and Dad spent a lot of their time together. I sat on the sea wall looking across The Purbecks trying to find some energy. Just looking at the softly lapping water on the shore. The oyster catchers flitting from one spot to another dipping their bills into the sand for a morsel only worrying about their next meal and not about their parents. And the timeless view across The Purbecks restored me. The ocean is where we came from and so often it is where return for comfort and rejuvenation.

I could never stay long enough on the shore; the tang of the untainted, fresh, and free sea air was like a cool, quieting thought.” – Helen Keller

At least two years passed between Dad and I going through his end of life wishes and when I received the phone call from the hospital that he had passed away.

That plan was a saviour. Dad had made all the necessary decisions. None of us in the family had to ponder over what he would have liked or not liked and then gone into the dark land of self doubt over the correctness for Dad of what we had decided. Everything was in writing. Everything was crystal clear. That clarity was one of the greatest gifts Dad could have left.
Death is one of the two certainties of life. Taxation being the other. We know when our taxes are due but none of us, even those of us with terminal conditions know exactly when that other ultimate certainty will happen. Taxation is a subject we brush to one side; always putting off until tomorrow the preparation of a tax return until tomorrow morphs into the final deadline day As with taxation, death is a subject we brush aside thinking that we know it will happen but are deterred from preparing for it as if any preparation is a recognition of our own very personal mortality. Unfortunately when we reach the deadline of death it is too late to prepare for its arrival. If we miss a tax deadline all that happens is a fine and a chance to correct our behaviour.

My middle brother knew he was under the constant shadow of death due to a heart condition. That did not stop him living and if anyone was a walking talking example of carp diem then he was as perfect as a Michel Angelo sculpture. His life was full of travel, meeting people, keeping in touch with family, making fun for himself and those around him and giving so much of himself to others. On one of his travels with his wife to Spain they stayed at a friend’s farm in the hills above Barcelona. My brother and his ‘best’ friend sat on the terrace smoking cigars and drinking local red wine watching the evening light fade into the darkness of night. On quiet evenings like this with close friends hearts open up to talk about hopes and fears, mistakes and the future. My brother knew his future was limited and his friend knew this as well. That night over some rioja and cigars they both talked about and then wrote down how each of them would look after each other when either of them died. This final wish list went down to the finite details of which music to play during the service and where reception after the service would take place.

When my brother’s wife phoned me about his sudden death she told me about his best friend and gave me his contact details. I spoke to him. He told me about the arrangement made that night in Spain and all I had to do was look after my parents to make sure they got the funeral. The ‘arrangement’ mentioned the best friend looking after everything for my sister in law from providing her with good comfort to sorting out the legalities surrounding his death.

The ‘best’ friend was in fact a ‘best man’ but for a funeral instead of a wedding.

This ‘best man’ arrangement made my sister in law’s life much easier at a very stressful than it would have been if my brother had not made any arrangements. It was hard work for the ‘best man’ but he told me that it was the least he could do for his own, very own best friend.

When my mother died neither of my parents had made any plans so Dad and I more or less had to wing it. I was with him when he collected her ‘Cause of Death Certificate’ from the hospital along with the impersonal green bag of her last few possessions which some three years after her death lies unopened in a wardrobe in Dad’s flat. We had to find our own way through registering the death and then making funeral arrangements. Dad was in dep shock even though Mum had been ill for years. So, if he had been by himself how on earth would he have coped. I had to be his ‘best man’ for Mum’s funeral. It was the first one I had organised so I did my best but it may not have been my best.

It was being in that situation with Mum and Dad that helped me to help Dad with his end of life wishes when the opportunity arose. As a result it has been possible to lay the foundations a funeral in less than a day in time spread over two days including speaking to dad’s vicar about her role at the funeral.

So, based on this highly personal experience I cannot suggest strongly enough, implore and even plead with anyone who reads this article to take some time out of denying their own mortality, find someone who could be your ‘best man’ or ‘best woman’ for your own funeral and sort out some plans including writing up a will.

Being that organised will be the best legacy anyone can leave behind for their friends and family.

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Martin Gale’s Racing selections for Saturday 3rd February 2017

As the weather looks inclement for tomorrow the opening day of the Six Nations Rugby Championship Martin Gale is concentrating his selections on the all weather racing taking place at Lingfield Park.

No hanging around here, no in depth analysis, just four quick selections for you to follow while the rain batters against your windows:

1250 SALEH (5/1)



1540 HEADSPACE (5/1)

To keep an interest for this sort of selection Martin Gale normally places a ‘Lucky Fifteen’ which puts all of the four horses in a series of singles, doubles, trebles and one four horse accumulator.  This Lucky Fifteen can also be placed as an each way giving the punter thirty bets.

Good luck.

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