Thursday, 18 December 2008

Knock on Wood – Eddie Floyd (1966), et al

The article below was brought to our attention by John H. Shepherd, faculty here at The Oxford Princeton Programme whose courses includes Overview of Physical Crude Oil Trading and Operations.

As Shep (how he is known around here) said of the recently discovered wood stave pipeline in Port Arthur, TX, "during my career, I spent a lot of time around terminals and pipelines, but have never seen a 'wooden' pipeline... I'm getting older, but not quite that old!"

Wooden Pipeline Discovered At PAR

Article by: Steve O'Donnell

The Wood Stave Line that is pictured in the photos below was installed in 1917 on Estimate 1636. Drawing Y-1745 depicts the route of this line, which was from the West Side Coke Stills (which were located generally where FCCU 1 & 2 were later built) along South "R" street between Ninth Avenue and First Avenue. The line was a condenser water overflow line from the WSCS to Alligator Bayou (which in those days was along the route of Flare Road in that area).
Wooden Pipeline
We are currently finalizing efforts to secure and restore a section of the line that the CEP (Crude Expansion Project) team would like to donate to the refinery museum. This wooden pipeline was in the way of a new pipe rack along "O" Street. Helping to make this artifact recovery was Retirees Glenn Cornwell, Jimmy Davis and Willie Lafleur, as well as New Construction's "Bo" Doyle. Conex crews were involved with site exploration and clearance for the CEP.

Here are some facts about wood stave pipe from US Patent 4897140:

Wood stave pipe is "composed of a plurality of longitudinally straight but transversely curved wood-staves, the longitudinal edges thereof being provided with a tongue and groove configuration and being glued together, while being mounted in a sidewise engagement in a cradle-like mounting means. The pipe-shaped bodies are later processed by milling, grinding or polishing internally and externally..."
Wooden Pipeline
Most likely the wood used in PAR's wood stave pipes was cypress. It is in very good condition, considering that it was probably cut in 1916. The craftsmanship in the line that we found is almost unbelievable. The joints are meticulous.

Photos: the author.

Fallin' – Alicia Keys (2001)

So OPEC met yesterday in Algeria and decided to cut production by 2.2 million barrels a day bringing it to about 24.8 million barrels a day starting in January. Will this stem the downward tide?

Early indications suggest no as its price continues to wobble (it dropped on Tuesday even after the Federal Reserve in the U.S. chopped down its key interbank rate to between 0% and 0.25%).

Well, there is always the next meeting slated for March 15th. And will non-OPEC countries like Russia make any bold statements themselves prior?

Remember that The Oxford Princeton Programme is giving away a prize to whoever comes closest in their price prediction for a barrel of sweet crude come the end of December 31st 2008.

Send your entries in by no later than Wednesday, December 24th.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed (1972)

The New York Times Magazine came out on Sunday with its 8th Annual Year in Ideas which manages to capture the essence of where we are headed as a society, whether it be the economy, art, sports, entertainment, politics, technology, and yes, even energy, thanks to the ever-wandering mind of the human species. It has an A to Z format that stopped me in my tracks at 'B' with The Biomechanical Energy Harvester.

You read it right.

The core idea is that you become your own electrical plant by donning an aluminum knee-brace-like device that captures your muscle energy as you walk into a small lithium-ion battery that then supplies power to gadgets such as cell phones. It was discovered by Canadian scientists who first reported its viability in the February 2008 edition of Science Magazine. Whilst the wattage may be weak in the scheme of things, it does bring the notion of "power walking" to a whole new level.

And how long before we start developing training classes on the subject matter?

Friday, 12 December 2008

I Just Don't Want Coffee – Caedmon's Call (1997)

I am in the midst of a minor marketing mind-mangle.

The Oxford Princeton Programme has historically referred to its process of combining instructor-led classroom instruction (our public courses and workshops) with web-based training to enhance the learning experience and reinforce mastery of content as "blended learning." I trust the term's origin stems from the notion that you can mix milk or creamer, even a sweetener, into your morning cup of Joe and that is a good thing. I remember growing up in Asia to a popular brand of instant coffee called Blend 45 which was a bestseller due to its distinct local flavor (blend of beans) and ease of preparation.

The terminology seems ubiquitous enough in the corporate training arena for end-users to associate its benefits of cost effectiveness of mastering material as well as time and location flexibility (particularly for the web-based component). As clients now consider installing our web-based courses onto their Learning Management Systems the term is also bandied about and suggests more of an integration of their various e-learning tools into a corporate-defined curriculum.

My question is whether the term is passé or am I just noticing that other training providers are trying to break away from the mold and are now using fancy surrogates like "hybrid learning," "mixed learning" and my favorite, "multidimensional training?"

I do believe in the additive strength of various methods of instruction and that is what we offer. But what terminology best represents it?

Jobert E. Abueva
Global Marketing Director

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Lump In My Throat – Departure (2005)

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) has come up with one of the more innovative and bizarre campaigns I've come across in recent memory: The Clean Coal Carolers! Say what? You get to dress seven jolly lumps of coal warmly, choose a backdrop, and have them knock at your door and sing any of six seasonal favorites including "Frosty the Coal Man", "Clean Coal Night", and "O' Technology." They sound like cousins to Alvin and the Chipmunks and the lyrics, as you can imagine, do support the "coal"–ition's mission to "advance the development and deployment of advanced clean coal technologies that will produce electricity with near-zero emissions."

While the debate rages on whether clean coal technology is a viable means to limit carbon emissions whilst tapping into an abundant resource, 'tis the holidays and how 'bout some good ol' fashioned wassailing from a core energy source?

After you've checked this out (, let me know what other carols The Clean Coal Carolers should be adding to their repertoire.

Jobert E. Abueva
Global Marketing Director


Electioneering – Radiohead (1997)

Listening to the BBC News Service on National Public Radio while driving into work early each morning takes me to news stories I would not follow otherwise.

These days I am hooked on on-the-ground reporting of Ghana's presidential election which was held along with that for the parliamentary on December 7th. It was the first general election in 16 years, had a staggering turnout of 70% (12.5 million Ghanaians) and all in all, was peaceful. Yesterday, the nation's Electoral Commission announced that the presidential polls will go into a run-off on December 28th between Nana Akuffo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) as neither man received more than 50%. They were at 49% and 48% respectively. There were actually six other candidates on the ballot.

So why is Accra on my mind?

In 2010, Ghana is likely to start exporting oil after discoveries were made off the country's coast last year by London-based Tullow Oil Plc and Dallas, Texas-based Kosmos Energy LLC.

Managing the revenue from crude production will be among the incoming president's main challenges, according to Robert Darko Osei, a research fellow at the University of Ghana's Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research, as reported on "We need to be forward-looking in terms of what the oil industry needs" by implementing infrastructure-development projects such as road building, Osei said.

I am in talks with the Centre for Logistics and Supply-Chain Excellence whose vision is to bring Ghana into the 21st century via global best practices in mining, oil and gas and logistics. They are bullish on their future and are reaching out to education entities like The Oxford Princeton Programme to be part of the transformation.

While there are discussions to be had and details to hash out, and furthermore, I would need to consider any Ghana-specific effort within the context of our African continent ones, it is truly a time of high-anticipation and trepidation for a country whose fortunes just might turnaround with its forthcoming status as an oil-exporting nation.

Jobert E. Abueva
Global Marketing Director

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Pickin’ Time - Johnny Cash (1958)

President-elect Obama is receiving high marks for his transition thus far, whether it’s the speed or the caliber of cabinet nominees. But many of us want to know who is on the short list for energy secretary and when he is going to make that selection known.

It actually is a much longer list of luminaries from both public and private sectors; from CEOs to Nobel Prize scientists:Let's just say the vetting team has its hands full at the moment. Who is your money on and why?

Countdown's Begun - Ozzy Osbourne (2007)

It's that time when many offer the year’s top stories. The energy sector is not immune. I came across a Platts poll asking for the top 10 oil industry stories of 2008. To help sort things out, there are 44 headlines to choose from.

I thought I'd give it a try. Here are my picks:

10. Chicago Mercantile Exchange acquires NYMEX

9. Ethanol’s struggles: VeraSun bankruptcy, others barely profitable, spreads collapse

8. Shale gas supply in US surges, a new factor in supply/demand balance

7. OPEC, first time in years, implements deep cuts to output

6. Push begins to lift offshore drilling ban in US; Obama and McCain differ on approach

5. Brazil subsalt finds continue to lift nation's upstream profits

4. Capital crunch and low prices lead to deferred investment

3. Credit crunch slows activity for once free-wheeling traders

2. Prices collapse below $40 in 2H as demand retreats

1. Crude prices soar in 1H, WTI tops $147, Brent right behind

So do you agree or disagree? Feel free to share your own list. What other energy stories would you consider to be in the top ten whether they are related to oil, gas, power, renewables, trading, hedging or risk management?

Jobert E. Abueva
Global Marketing Director

Monday, 8 December 2008

Hour Glass - Jersey (2003)

Last night, 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl offered tremendous insight into the vision and operations of Saudi Aramco, the state-owned national oil company of Saudi Arabia, in a recent visit to its headquarters and ambitious field operations. This rare glimpse into the inner workings of the world's richest oil producer left me certain that regardless of the mix of energy sources far into the 21st century, the kingdom is determined to remain a dominant player. In case you missed, here it is.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Black Gold – Soul Asylum (1993)

In light of the recent spat of Somali pirate activity in the Gulf of Aden, and particularly that of the Sirius Star, a giant Saudi oil tanker, as well as the Biscaglia, a Liberia-flagged oil and chemical tanker, we turned to Mr. Charles Lawrie, Course Director to The Oxford Princeton Programme’s series of Tanker Ownership, Chartering and Operations courses, for some perspective.

Here’s what he had to say:

"The situation changes daily. Hitherto owners and operators having largely been left to their own devices to determine the best way to deal with the problem. Although there are navy escorts in the region and some convoys have been organized, there is a vast expanse of water to patrol and it is reckoned that in the Gulf of Aden there is one hijacking attempt for every 100 ships passing through and the pirates have gone largely unhindered.

"Some operators have hired unarmed security personnel to deploy, for example, water hoses and audio devises to deter the pirates but these have proved ineffective. Most operators are deeply anti employing armed security personnel as this is only likely to escalate any potential confrontation and increase the danger to the crews on board. Moreover, port authorities generally do not permit entry to commercial vessels with arms on board. Some owners have considered employing their own personal marine military screens but the most effective means of deterring pirates to date is seen to have been to maintain a high speed and high freeboard. Some tanker owners - Maersk and Odfjell - have reportedly said they will re-route vessels around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid transiting the Gulf of Aden but this does not appear to be a widespread move and in any event the Sirius Star was following the Cape route.

"Things may be about to change. Up until now naval warships have only been permitted to fire on pirate vessels only in the event that they come under attack. In the absence of any use of fire power, the pirates have been able to operate with a fair degree of impunity. Indeed a US Navy spokesperson at the time of the capture of the Sirius Star seemed to suggest that such incidents were little more than a financial transaction. Pirates capture ship; owners pay ransom; crew, ship and cargo are released unharmed. At the time of writing it is understood that the EU has changed its stance on the rules of engagement. Starting Monday, they may open fire on suspect craft first. Presumably this would make the mother ships from which many of the pirates operate particularly vulnerable.

"All of this highlights, once again, how much the world depends on shipping but how as an industry it is much forgotten until there is a major incident like an act of piracy or an oil spill. It also highlights some of the commercial and operational issues which face owners and operators - not just in their responses to these events but also in the day to day safe and efficient running of their fleets. Inevitably this means additional costs. As an example, with the current threats off Somalia owners are having to ensure that their insurance policies cover piracy and make the appropriate arrangements if not. These sorts of event touch on the increasing costs which owners in the tanker sector bear in order to meet the exacting standards of operation required, in a commercial environment which at times can be extremely difficult."

So High So Low – LaVerne Baker (1959)

The Oxford Princeton Programme awards a prize each year to one of our e-newsletter readers who come closest to the December 31st NYMEX closing price of a barrel of light sweet crude. Last year's guesses around the correct answer of $95.98 were both bearish and bullish though someone actually missed the mark by just 11-cents short and was declared the winner.

This year it's anyone's guess.

As of this posting, oil prices continue to lose their value since the summer's highs of over $147/barrel as turbulent times persist globally. Light sweet crude for January sank below 45 dollars to 44.25 dollars per barrel. Last time we were in this territory was January 2005. The contract later stood at 44.61, down 2.18 dollars.

With just a few more weeks left in 2008, there is nothing immediate that warrants a buoy in pricing. But if things really do deteriorate, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) may step in when it meets again on December 17th in Algeria (OPEC decided last weekend not to cut production and it had already done so last September and October as concerns mounted over a recession).

So, still care to take a guess?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Chain Reaction - Diana Ross (1985)

With this initial posting, The Oxford Princeton Programme has officially entered the blogosphere. Applause is not necessary.

We've always understood its benefits, especially the chance to converse with colleagues in the energy, commodities, and derivatives industries on matters that matter. But it took us time to determine the value we'd offer that is not available elsewhere.

It's funny how we did not have to look very far.

The company boasts dozens of expert faculty members from around the world not to mention a ready network of thousands of former delegates (alumni) who have trained with us over 25 years (when you count when The College of Petroleum and Energy Studies in Oxford first opened its doors). Our staff connects with industry players on a daily basis and is on the pulse of what's buzzing amongst the various sectors.

Although I as a marketer will be tempted to promote our products every chance possible, I pledge to keep it in check. Or at least make it worth your while with tasty "behind the scene" tidbits. You can always go to our website for everything you need to know about what we offer. Here, we’ll focus on what's relevant and newsworthy, we’ll provide opinions, rants and raves, and yes, we’ll share insights into the dynamic world of energy education.

We do have an official blog name – The Oxford Princeton Value Chain, a cousin to our monthly e-newsletter, The Oxford Princeton Pipeline, and sister site to We do hope you visit the former often and subscribe to the latter soon. And what’s a blog if your voice is not heard?

Jobert E. Abueva
Global Marketing Director