Chinese aurora observatory: the PRIC comes to Iceland

The PRIC, China’s Polar Research Institute, hails a meeting held earlier this month in Akureyri, northern Iceland, about a Chinese-Icelandic northern lights observatory, as a “substantial development” and the “official start” of the project, following a cooperation agreement between research institutions of the two countries. The meeting was chaired by Yang Huigen 杨惠根, director of the PRIC. The project is to take up some 150 hectares of a farm called Kárhóll, in Reykjadalur, near Akureyri.

The very day the PRIC announced this, Icelandic primetime news show Kastljós opened with a story on the Kárhóll project. The land for the observatory had just been purchased, and Dr Yang was on it, busy with what looked like the first stages of the construction. The plot was bought by a foundation named Aurora Observatory, established by a local government, a local bank and the firm Arctic Portal, and the price was somewhere below $700k. The deal generally confirms rumours published in May by the Akureyri Vikublað, but it has now emerged that the plot had already been sold last year, to Arctic Portal alone, and only a fraction of the price had been paid.

Arctic Portal belongs to Halldór Jóhannsson, known as Chinese poet-tycoon Huang Nubo’s spokesman in Iceland. Back in March I wrote about Mr Huang’s failed attempts to buy a tract of land in Iceland; he hasn’t given up, but his plans have advanced little if at all since then. In the meantime he has embarked on a ten-year long ‘world-travel project’ which began in Germany.

Other than in the Icelandic sources quoted above, the Kárhóll deal is reported in detail on Islandsbloggen (in Swedish).

CNPC, Rosneft in Siberian JV

China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is set to have a 49% stake in an East Siberian onshore oil production project it will undertake with Rosneft. The JV is planned to be based on the Srednebotuobinskoe field in SW Yakutia (labelled ‘2’ in this map), which Rosneft had gained control of just days before announcing the deal with the Chinese. CNPC recently bought a 20% stake in Novatek’s Yamal LNG project, and plans to close a gas supply deal with Gazprom by the end of the year.

Myanmar-China pipeline now fully operational

So says Xinhua. CNPC has a majority stake in the project, which starts in Myanmar’s coastal Rakhine (Arakan) state, where Chinese-invested projects have a history of conflict with disaffected locals (I’ve touched upon CNOOC’s activities in the area). The pipeline was being ‘tested’ by the end of July, but Chinese customs recorded no Burmese gas imports in August (Platts).

Iceland oil license coming CNOOC’s way

Iceland’s National Energy Authority (NEA) is done processing the application for an E&P license in the Dreki Area presented by Chinese state-owned oil giant CNOOC and Eykon Energy, an Icelandic company established last year. The Dreki Area is the Icelandic half of the region that surrounds the Norwegian island of Jan Mayen, and a 1981 treaty gives each country the right to a 25% share in any oil drilling licenses awarded in the other’s sector. The Norwegians did take up a stake in the two licenses awarded so far by Iceland, but it’s less clear if they would do so this time, just after the new government there has suspended exploration plans in the Norwegian sector. Norway has now a month to decide if they want a share. By mid November, CNOOC will then be the biggest oil company with an interest in Icelandic oil. The other two are Ithaca Energy and Faroe Petroleum, 23% of which is (for the time being) owned by Korean major KNOC. I’ve written about this topic in some length.

CNOOC, Petroleum Brunei sign JV deal

Petroleum Brunei and CNOOC subsidiary COSL have agreed to form an oil service JV during a visit by premier Li Keqiang. Chinese state media have spun the deal as a “pioneering move” towards joint resource development amid territorial disputes n the South China Sea. While the sultanate’s claims do overlap with China’s, the two countries have historically got along just fine despite the dispute, and it’s less than obvious what such a deal with Brunei means in terms of prospects for joint development with other countries in SE Asia.

beached in Birubi

Posted on Tumblr on Oct 3.

In the months since I mentioned it among other CSST-financed developments, the Birubi Beach Resort in Anna Bay, New South Wales, hasn’t advanced much. Contractors had walked off the site in mid 2012 over a payment dispute that was later settled, but work stopped again early this year. Last April, Newcastle, NSW-based NBN TV reported claims the developers had “gone into hiding”, and in June it emerged the builder, Quick Home Australia, had been liquidated. Quick Home’s Hong Kong parent is now said to be claiming $1m from CSST in a suit filed in NSW last month. The developer (not in hiding apparently) expects work to resume “in the very near future”.

CNOOC to get Dreki license by year’s end: NYT

Posted on Tumblr on Oct 2.

The NYT quotes Þórarinn Arnarson from the Icelandic National Energy Authority (NEA) as expecting CNOOC and Eykon Energy’s application to drill in the Dreki area to be approved “by the end of the year”. Not two months ago, Vísir‘s sources thought it likely for the approval to come in October. The Dreki area is under continental waters between Iceland and the Norwegian island of Jan Mayen. I’ve written about the project, a first for both Iceland and CNOOC.