Tag Archive | gordon mackay

Central Energy Fund hatches fuel plan

A lot going on at Central Energy Fund…..

Central Energy Fund (CEF), the state utility which controls the Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF) and fosters PetroSA, cef logohas again been outside of a plan that has Parliamentary approval or, it appears, Treasury knowledge.    CEF falls under the aegis of the Department of Energy (DOE) and is therefore responsible to Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson.  Clearly there is much going on of which Parliament knows nothing – in recess as it is.

The history of CEF’s  problems go way back before the period during which  previous Minister of Energy, Ben Martins, held office and even before Ben Martins, as an MP was chairperson of the Parliament Portfolio on Energy. Most of CEF’s troubles appear to involve the fuel storage facilities  at Saldanha Bay on the West coast and PetroSA’s operation on the East coast, causing considerable negative comment from the portfolio committee and Ben Martins himself at the time. Sadly, Minister Martins was not chosen to remain by President Zuma.

tina-joemattQuite clearly a plan has been hatched to meet Cabinet ambitions.

Glaring omission

It was only after  Minister Joemat-Pettersson’s current budget vote speech did the investigative journalism of the newspaper media discover the sale of almost completely the entire SA reserve oil stock of the Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF) held at Saldanha Bay.

Not only was the sale concluded without any mention but the quantity of fuel involved appears to have been a major financial  decision  undisclosed in any cabinet statement.    It appeared that CEF had allowed SSF to sell 10 million barrels of crude — close to the entire stockpile — in a closed tender at the point that the oil price had bottomed at somewhere around R34 Brent.

It also appears that this was without the agreement of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Treasury whosepravingordhan concurrence is needed under the Central Energy Fund Act.  How this will play with Treasury and the Auditor General is not clear, nor whether when and how CEF intends to replace this. The Democratic Alliance will no doubt be asking for answers in parliamentary question papers.

What the Minister said

It is interesting to note exactly what the Minister had to say to Parliament about SFF in holding back, it appears, on such major financial move. She told MPs that in line with the Presidential Review Commission on State Owned Entities (SOEs) that her Ministry had been working towards “a review of the composition of the CEF Group of companies.”

She went on to say, “Our work in this area includes the strengthening of the entities in the oil and gas sector and the stated policy objective of the creation of a stand-alone national oil company, using PetroSA as a nucleus.”
SFF had a good revenue base, she said.

saldanah bay 2“We shall finalise this work by October 2016”, Minister Joemat-Pettersson said and she would revert to Parliament on Cabinet views and strategies for a revised energy sector framework. “Accordingly, in 2015, the Ministry of Energy issued a ministerial directive for the rotation of strategic stocks in the SFF and this has resulted in an increased revenue base for SFF whilst at the same time maintaining stocks within our storage tanks for security of supply.”

Long term view

“This as a result, the Minister continued, “of a long term lease and contractual agreements with the buyers. The estimated revenue to accrue from this process is around R 170 million per annum, significantly boosting the balance sheet of the SFF.”

The Minister concluded that through the rotation of strategic stocks and trading initiatives the SFF had further consolidated its ability to be self-sustainable. “This has also allowed us to replace the unsuitable stock that we have been storing in our tanks which has been both uneconomical and did not contribute to security of supply.”

“The SFF will continue to ensure that it is able to respond to any shock in the market, whilst optimally making use of the opportunities presented in an evolving oil sector”, she concluded regarding West coast activities.No figures were given nor a clear indication mentioned that a sale had been concluded.

  SASAL LOGOHowever she was particular in supplying numbers regarding the joint venture between Sasol and Total when she said, ” Effective from 1 July 2006, Sasol Oil sold 25% of its shares to Tshwarisano LFB (Pty) Ltd, a broad based black economic empowerment consortium comprising of 150,000 direct shareholders and 2,8 million beneficiaries. The value of this transaction amounted to nearly R1.5 Billion, making it a significant BEE transaction in the liquid fuels industry.”

Trading nightmare

Therefore, the sale of nearly the entire reserve held by SFF, whether it is kept in the same tanks at Saldanha or not, at an oil price when at it’s very lowest, “suitable” or not, and being obliged by the Act to eventually replace it some later point should get an explanation.   However, it seems that there was an incentive to sell.

Also, to have to buy back at an oil price which is currently already well over double would appear to be completely against the tenets of the Public Finance Management Act; what the Auditor General is bound to call “fruitless and wasteful expenditure”; and contradictory terms of the Minister’s statement to Parliament that the SFF “has the jacob zumaability to be self-sustainable”. Unless, of course it is bolstered by external funds. 

Gas nightmare.

Parliament is of course closed for the election recess but no doubt there will be a parliamentary uproar on the subject – if not an investigation, which will come on top of the further current investigation of CEF’s activities as far as PetroSA is concerned.Once again the question will arise on how it was possible for PetroSA to continue with Project Ikhwezi when drilling for gas for two years in an area already defined by experts as impractical in lieu of fault lines in the projected gas field.

Central Energy Fund seen as politically driven

R11.7bn was the total “impairment” of PetroSA, the result of underperformance of Project Ikhwezi in its efforts to supply gas onshore to Mossgas. The total PetroSA loss for 2014/5 was in reality R14.6bn after tax. Currently a team comprising of industry experts is now defining a new strategy to save the PetroSA in its offshore struggle on the East coast, according to DOE reports to Parliament.

Roughnecks wrestle pipe on a True Company oil drilling rig outside WatfordThe experts were not named but the exercise is entitled Project Apollo and reports were also given to Parliament that the team has progressed well so far, said controlling body Central Energy Fund during 2015.

PetroSA was originally flagged by Cabinet some twelve years ago as “South Africa’s new state oil company”.     Last year, CEF described at the time PetroSA’s performance in their annual report to Parliament as “disappointing”, resulting in harsh criticism last year from the Portfolio Committee on Energy. The subject was not raised this year by the Minister in her Budget vote speech.

Failed deal

What, however, was raised in opposition questioning in the National Assembly by Pieter van Dalen, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Energy, was Central Enegy Funds venture into the proposed purchase of Engen’s downstream activities from Malaysian company Petronas, known as “Project Irene”. This was understood to be the Cabinets secret plan to own the promised state oil company.

fuel tanker engenThe purchase from Petronas, who own 80% of Engen, was an attempt through Central Energy Fund to gain a foothold in the fuel retail and forecourt space by acquiring a stake in Engen, South Africa’s largest fuel retailer. The remaining stake is held by the Pembani Group.

First try

The board of PetroSA was repeatedly advised by both transaction advisers and the Treasury, according to Deputy Shadow Minister van Dalen, “that the proposal to buy the Engen stake did not make good business sense.”
“However,” van Dalen said to MPs, “the project was strongly championed by Minister Joemat-Pettersson and President Jacob Zuma. In the end, the deal fell through due to lack of financing.’These sort of things cannot go on”, he said.

The last word

This particular meeting in the National Assembly was completed by Shadow Minister of Energy, Gordon Mackay,gordon mackay DA attacking the Minister for “misleading the country on nuclear energy deals.”

He concluded after a long speech on the subject of the proposed nuclear build programme and what he referred to as “anomalies”, with the remark “We must ask ourselves Chair – why is our government doggedly pursuing this nuclear deal. It is clearly not a deal in the interests of the poor. It is clearly not a deal in the interests of business. It is clearly not a deal in the interest of the nation.”

Gordon Mackay did not know about the Chevron approach, or at least he did not indicate that he did.

Previous articles on category subject
Central Energy Fund slowly gets its house in order – ParlyReport
PetroSA on the rocks for R14.5bn – ParlyReportSA
Chevron loses with Nersa on oil storage – ParlyReportSA

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Fuel price controlled by seasonal US supply

US refinery shut downs affect fuel price…..

US refineryThe current spike in the price of petrol is due of a number of international issues  compounding together but the primary cause is that at this time of year in the United States, a number of major US refineries close down for maintenance in order to prepare for the US summer surge in fuel sales.

This was said by Dr Wolsey Barnard, acting DG of the department of energy (DoE), when he introduced a briefing to the portfolio committee on energy on its strategy for the coming year.

In actual fact, the meeting had been called to debate the promised “5-point energy plan” from the cabinet’s “war room” which did not eventualise, the minister of energy also being absent for the presentation as scheduled. It appeared that the DoE presentation had been hastily put together.

“Price swingers” make perfect storm

Dr Wolsey BarnardDr Barnard said that it could be expected that the price of fuel would be extremely volatile in the coming months due in main “geo-political events” affecting the price of oil, local pricing issues of fuel products and possibly even sea lane interruptions. Price would always be based on import parity and current events in Mexico, Venezuela and the Middle East would always be “price swingers”, he said.

On electricity matters, his speciality, he avoided any reference to past lack of investment in infrastructure, but said that he called for caution in the media, by government officials and the committee on the use of the two expressions “blackouts” and “load shedding”.

Same old story

“Over the next two years”, he said, “until sufficient infrastructure was in place, there would have to be planned maintenance in South Africa” and referred to the situation in the US as far as maintenance of refinery plant was concerned. He said that also “unexpected isolated problems” could also arise with ageing generation installations, during which planned “load shedding” would have to take place.

He said he could not imagine there being a “blackout”.

Opposition members complained that the whole electricity crisis could be solved if some companies would cease importing raw minerals, using South African electricity at discounted prices well below the general consuming manufacturing industry paid, and re-exporting smelted aluminium back to the same customer. They accused DoE of trying to “normalise what was a totally abnormal position for a country to be in.”

Billiton back in contention

One MP said, “Industry was in some cases just using cheap South African electricity to make a profit”. Suchaluminium smelter practices went against South Africa’s own beneficiation programme, he said, in the light of the raw material being imported and the finished product re-exported. “It would be cheaper to shut down company and pay the fines”, the DA opposition member added, naming BH Billiton as the offender in his view.

Dr Barnard said DoE could not discuss Eskom’s special pricing agreements which were outside DoE’s control  and “which were a thing of the past and a matter which we seem to be stuck with for the moment.”

High solar installation costs

Dr Barnard also said that DoE had established that the department had to be “cautious on the implementation of solar energy plan” as a substitute energy resource in poorer, rural areas and even some of the lower income municipal areas.  DoE, he said, “had to find a different funding model”, since the cost of installation and maintenance were beyond the purse of most low income groups.

In general, he promised more financial oversight on DoE state owned enterprises and better communications.   There were plenty of good news stories, he said, but South Africa was hypnotising itself into a position of “bad news” on so many issues, including energy matters. He refused to discuss any matters regarding PetroSA, saying this was not the correct forum nor was it on the agenda.

Still out there checking

On petroleum and products regulation, the DG of that department, Tseliso Maquebela, said that non-compliance in the sale of products still remained a major issue. “We have detected a few cases of fraudulent fuel mixes”, he said, “but we plan to double up on inspectors in the coming months, especially in the rural areas, putting pressure on those who exploit the consumer.” The objective, he said was reach a target of a 90% crackdown on such cases with enforcement notices.

Maquebela added that on BEE factors, 40% of licence applications with that had 50% BEE compliance was now the target.

Competition would be good

On local fuel pricing regulations, Maquebela said “he would dearly like to move towards a more open and competitive pricing policy introducing more competition and less regulations.”

fuel tanker engenOn complaints that the new fuel pipeline between Gauteng and Durban was still not in full production after much waiting, Maquebela said the pipeline was operating well but it was taking longer than expected to bring about the complicated issue of pumping through so many different types of fuel down through the same pipeline. “But we are experts at it and it will happen”, he said.

Fracking hits the paper work

On gas, particularly fracking, DoE said that the regulations “were going to take some time in view of all the stakeholder issues”.

On clean energy and “renewables” from IPP sources, DoE stated that the “REIPP” was still “on track” but an announcement was awaited from the minister who presumably was consulting with other cabinet portfolios regarding implementation of the fourth round of applications from independent producers.

Opposition totally unimpressed

In conclusion, DA member and shadow minister of energy, Gordon McKay, said that the DoEgordon mackay DA presentation was the most “underwhelming” he had ever listened to on energy.   Even the ANC chair, Fikile Majola, sided with the opposition and said that DoE  “can do better than this.”

He asked how Parliament could possibly exercise oversight with this paucity of information.   DoE representatives looked uncomfortable during most of the presentations and under questioning it was quite clear that communications between cabinet and the DoE were poor.

When asked by members who the new director general of the department of energy would be and why was the minister taking so long to make any announcement on this, Dr Wolsey Barnard, as acting DG, evaded the question by answering that “all would be answered in good time”.

Other articles in this category or as background
Energy gets war room status – ParlyReportSA
Medupi is key to short term energy crisis – ParlyReportSA
Integrated energy plan (IEP) around the corner – ParlyReportSAenergy legislation is lined up for two years – ParlyReportSA

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