Turkey-Libya preliminary deal prompts Greece, Egypt to push back

TRIPOLI (Reuters) -Libya’s Tripoli government signed a preliminary deal on energy exploration on Monday, prompting Greece and Egypt to say they would oppose any activity in disputed areas of the eastern Mediterranean.

Libya’s eastern-based parliament, which backs an alternative administration, also rejected the deal.

Speaking at a ceremony in Tripoli, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush said the deal was one of several in a memorandum of understanding on economic issues aimed at benefiting both countries.

It was not immediately clear whether any concrete projects to emerge would include exploration in the “exclusive economic zone” which Turkey and a previous Tripoli government agreed in 2019, angering other eastern Mediterranean states.

That zone envisaged the two countries sharing a maritime border but was attacked by Greece and Cyprus and criticised by Egypt and Israel.

“It does not matter what they think,” said Cavusoglu when asked if other countries might object to the new memorandum of understanding.

“Third countries do not have the right to interfere,” he added.

Greece’s foreign ministry said on Monday that Greece had sovereign rights in the area which it intended to defend “with all legal means, in full respect of the international law of the sea.”

It cited a 2020 pact between Athens and Egypt, designating their own exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean, which Greek diplomats have said effectively nullified the 2019 accord between Turkey and Libya.

“Any mention or action enforcing the said ‘memorandum’ will be de facto illegitimate and depending on its weight, there will be a reaction at a bilateral level and in the European Union and NATO,” the Greek foreign ministry said in a statement.

An Egyptian foreign ministry’s statement said on Monday that Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry received a phone call from his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias, where they discussed the developments in Libya.

They both stressed that “the outgoing ‘government of unity’ in Tripoli does not have the authority to conclude any international agreements or memoranda of understanding,” the Egyptian foreign ministry’s statement added.

Dendias posted on Twitter about his phone call with Shoukry, saying both sides challenged the “legitimacy of the Libyan Government of National Unity to sign the said MoU,” and that he will visit Cairo for consultations on Sunday.

Turkey has been a significant supporter of the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) under Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, whose legitimacy is rejected by the Libyan parliament.

Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh, seen as an ally of Egypt, said the memorandum of understanding was illegal because it was signed by a government that had no mandate.

The political stalemate over control of government has thwarted efforts to hold national elections in Libya and threatens to plunge the country back into conflict.

(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli, Ayman al-Warfali in Benghazi and Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul; Additional reporting by Angeliki Koutantou in Athens, Nayera Abdallah in Cairo;Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Ed Osmond and Chizu Nomiyama)

Italy readies guarantee to allow companies to defer energy bills

MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s credit export agency SACE said on Monday that it would start giving guarantees to allow companies to defer their energy bills.

Under the scheme, Italian companies would be able to pay their energy bills in instalments of up to 24 months, state-controlled SACE said in a statement.

(Reporting by Francesca Landini and Giuseppe Fonte; Editing by Chris Reese)

U.S. Supreme Court rejects Platinum Partner executives’ appeal of fraud convictions

By Jody Godoy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by two former Platinum Partners executives of their conviction on charges that they defrauded bondholders of one of the defunct hedge fund’s portfolio companies as they seek a new trial.

The justices, on the first day of their new term, turned away an appeal by Platinum co-founder Mark Nordlicht and co-chief investment officer David Levy of a lower court ruling that reversed the trial judge’s decision to overturn their convictions after jurors found them guilty.

Nordlicht and Levy were convicted in 2019 of securities fraud and conspiracy for cheating bondholders at the Platinum-controlled Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC to limit Platinum’s losses if Black Elk went bankrupt. They are scheduled to be sentenced in November.

Prosecutors said the scheme involved diverting tens of millions of dollars from sales in 2014 of Black Elk oil fields after rigging a bondholder vote to ensure that Platinum and not bondholders would be paid first. Black Elk creditors filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against that company in August 2015.

In 2019, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan overturned the convictions.

The judge ordered a new trial for Nordlicht, saying it would be “manifest injustice” to uphold his conviction after Nordlicht went to “great lengths” during the vote to follow rules governing a Platinum affiliate. Cogan granted Levy acquittal or alternatively a new trial, saying prosecutors had not proven he had criminal intent.

The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2021 reversed the rulings, finding that jurors had seen sufficient evidence to convict the two men. Nordlicht and Levy have argued that the 2nd Circuit’s decision set too high a bar for courts to review verdicts.

Nordlicht and Levy petitioned the Supreme Court to undo the 2nd Circuit decision, arguing that it deepened a disagreement among U.S. appeals courts over whether a judge considering a request for a new trial may “reweigh” evidence heard by a jury.

Prosecutors said the appeal mischaracterized the 2nd Circuit ruling, which they said did not conflict with other courts.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Will Dunham)

Exxon refinery lockout ‘unlawful,’ back pay sought by U.S. Labor Board

By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) – The U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said a 10-month lockout of workers at an Exxon Mobil Corp refinery in Texas was an “unlawful” effort to remove the United Steelworkers union (USW) representing the workers, according to a complaint issued on Monday.

The NLRB asked an administrative law judge to issue back pay, among other remedies, to the more than 600 workers locked out of their jobs at Exxon’s Beaumont, Texas, refinery and lube oil plant between May 2021 and March 2022.

A hearing on the complaint and proposed remedies is scheduled for January in Houston. Union refinery workers with at least four years experience nationally make over $41 per hour on average. The back pay could cost Exxon tens of millions of dollars.

“Exxon Mobil acted in accordance with the law at all times,” spokesperson Julie King said in a statement.

Exxon issued messages to the locked-out workers promising they could return to their jobs if they voted to decertify USW local 13-243 as their representative, the NLRB said.

“If (Exxon’s) lockout had been lawful, by its conduct (seeking decertification), the lockout was converted to an unlawful one,” the NLRB said.

Decertification would have removed the union from representing the workers in the refinery. However, workers voted on March 14 to keep USW local 13-243 as their representative.

Exxon “provided more than ministerial aid to efforts of employees in their attempts to decertify” the union, according to the NLRB notice.

Bryan Gross, a USW International representative, said the board’s complaint was welcome news for workers locked out by Exxon.

“We’re glad the board saw what we saw,” Gross said on Monday. “We stood by our members.”

Exxon has said it began the lockout in response to a strike notice issued by the union during negotiations in January 2021 for a new contract. A lockout was necessary to prevent potential disruption to the 369,024 barrel-per-day (bpd) processing facility.

The refinery, Exxon’s third largest in the United States by capacity, remained in operation throughout the lockout with replacements hired locally or transferred in from other Exxon plants.

The NLRB said the use of replacements was “inherently destructive of the rights guaranteed employees” by federal law.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Energy crisis seen posing ‘existential threat’ to climate goals

LONDON (Reuters) – Europe’s energy crisis has upended the green transition and undermined efforts keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, business leaders and environmentalists said on Monday, with one warning of an “existential threat” to climate goals.

With parts of Europe facing a possible fuel shortage this winter, panelists at the Reuters IMPACT sustainability conference in London addressed the challenge of keeping the power on – sometimes by producing and using more coal – without giving up on the region’s climate goals.

“We’re in a transformational moment,” said Steve Malkin, CEO of environmental consultancy Planet Mark, noting the war in Ukraine and resulting energy crisis posed an “existential threat” to countries’ sustainability goals.

Prices for thermal coal, used to generate electricity, and other fossil fuels have soared, as many European countries go with less Russian gas.

While coal demand had been expected to decline in the long-term, there’s been a resurgence in Europe in recent months as coal plants are turned back on.

“We need (coal) in the short term of the energy crisis,” said Christian Rynning-Tønnesen, CEO of Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy, Statkraft. “But policywise, we need to go for low emissions and renewables in the long-term.”

ACCELERATED TRANSITION

While many speakers at the conference worried the energy crisis could slow climate progress in the near term, some were optimistic it could consolidate the movement to greener grids to ensure energy security in the future.

“The transition to renewable energy will go faster now,” said Ikea CEO Jesper Brodin during an interview with Reuters, noting the crisis would also encourage energy efficiency.

With the next two years expected to be economically challenging, he said, Ikea is introducing more energy efficient products for customers feeling the cost-of-living crunch, including LED lighting and electronics powered by solar light and batteries.

(Reporting by Reuters journalists in London; Editing by Mark Potter)

UK to build prototype fusion energy plant by 2040 – business minister

BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) – Britain will build a prototype fusion energy plant, business minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said on Monday.

“We will build the UK’s first prototype fusion energy plant,” he told the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham. He said the plant would be built in Nottinghamshire, central England, replacing a coal power facility in the same area.

“The plant will be the first of its kind, built by 2040, and capable of putting energy on the grid and in doing so it will prove the commercial viability of fusion energy to the world.”

(Reporting by William James; editing by Michael Holden)

Sweden sends diving vessel to probe leaking Nord Stream pipelines

By Johan Ahlander and Terje Solsvik

STOCKHOLM/OSLO (Reuters) -Sweden sent a diving vessel on Monday to the site of Russian gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea that ruptured last week following blasts in the area, to probe an incident that has added new tension to Europe’s energy crisis.

Europe is investigating what caused three pipelines in the Nord Stream network to burst in an act of suspected sabotage near Swedish and Danish waters that Moscow quickly sought to pin on the West, suggesting the United States stood to gain.

Nord Stream, which runs from Russia to Germany, has been at the centre of a growing gas supply crisis in Europe, which until recently relied heavily on Russian fuel, sending prices soaring.

Several European Union states have triggered emergency plans that may lead to rationing as they race to find alternative supplies, while Britain now faces a “significant risk” of gas shortages this winter, the regulator said.

“The coast guard is responsible for the mission, but we are supporting them with units,” a spokesperson for the Swedish navy, Jimmie Adamsson, told Reuters. “The only one we are naming is HMS Belos, which is a submarine rescue and diving vessel.”

Sweden’s prosecution authority said in a press release that it had designated the area as a crime scene.

A spokesman for the Swedish coast guard confirmed in an email that there was now an exclusion zone of five nautical miles around the leaks.

Earlier, the Swedish coast guard said Nord Stream 1 had stopped leaking, but an overflight suggested gas was still draining out of Nord Stream 2 and bubbling to the surface over a 30 metre (32 yard) radius.

The Kremlin doubled down on allegations that the West was to blame for the ruptures on Monday, saying that the United States was able to increase sales and prices of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a result.

Washington has strongly denied any involvement. European countries suspect sabotage, but have declined to say who could be behind it.

Kremlin-controlled Gazprom also said flows could resume at the last remaining intact pipeline in the Nord Stream 2 network, a suggestion likely to be rebuffed given Europe blocked Nord Stream 2 on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

“If a decision is made to start deliveries through Nord Stream 2’s line B, natural gas will be pumped into the pipeline after the integrity of the system has been checked and verified by supervisory authorities,” Gazprom said.

The suggestion follows remarks by Russia’s deputy prime minister on Sunday that the Nord Stream network could be repaired, given time and enough funds.

NORWAY SENDS SOLDIERS

Nord Stream has been a flashpoint in the energy standoff between the West and Moscow that has pummelled Western economies and fuelled a cost-of-living crisis.

Russia steadily reduced gas flows via Nord Stream 1 this year before halting them altogether at the end of August, blaming technical difficulties caused by Western sanctions. European countries said Moscow was using energy as a weapon.

Nord Stream 2 was never operational, and Western countries have resisted calls from Russia to drop their opposition to the project.

Jolted by the Nord Stream ruptures, European countries have started strengthening security and surveillance around critical infrastructure that could be vulnerable to attack.

Norway, Europe’s main gas supplier and a major oil exporter, said it had deployed soldiers to guard major onshore oil and gas processing plants.

Italy has strengthened surveillance and controls on underwater energy and telecommunications cables, a source told Reuters.

Focus has also turned to the security of other gas supply lines. Eni, the biggest importer of Russian gas in Italy, at the weekend said Russia had halted all gas flows through the Tarvisio entry point, though its chief executive on Monday blamed the halt on short-term technical issues.

The stoppage of flows through the Tarvisio entry point “has absolutely nothing to do with geopolitical factors. It is due to the fact that Gazprom would have to pay a monetary guarantee for the transport of gas from Austria to Italy that was not there before,” Claudio Descalzi said.

European Union countries meanwhile are trying to forge a consensus on a gas price cap, which is opposed by some countries including economic powerhouse Germany.

EU country leaders are set to ask the European Commission to propose a cap using “workable solutions”, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters.

Hungary, which has been at loggerheads with Brussels and criticised Western sanctions on Russia, on Monday secured a deferral on payments for its winter gas supply.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Jan Harvey and David Gregorio)

Biden administration monitoring Hurricane Ian’s insurance industry impact

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (Reuters) – The Biden administration is monitoring the impacts of Hurricane Ian on the insurance industry, a senior U.S. official told reporters.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Deanne Criswell made the comment to reporters traveling aboard Air Force One with President Joe Biden, who is set to tour storm-damaged Puerto Rico.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunnicutt)

Oil jumps $3 as OPEC+ weighs biggest output cut since 2020

By Arathy Somasekhar

HOUSTON (Reuters) -Oil prices jumped $3 a barrel on Monday as OPEC+ considered reducing output by more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) to buttress prices with what would be its biggest cut since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brent crude futures for December delivery rose $2.99 to $88.13 a barrel, a 3.5% gain, by 12:50 p.m. ET (1650 GMT). U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude rose $3.33, or 4.2%, to $82.82 a barrel.

Oil prices have declined for four straight months since June, as COVID-19 lockdowns in top energy consumer China hurt demand while rising interest rates and a surging U.S. dollar weighed on global financial markets.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, known collectively as OPEC+, is considering an output cut of more than 1 million bpd ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, OPEC+ sources have told Reuters.

That figure does not include additional voluntary cuts by individual members, one OPEC source added.

Most traders were expecting cuts of about 50,000 bpd, said Dennis Kissler, senior vice president of trading at BOK Financial.

If agreed, it will be the group’s second consecutive monthly cut after reducing output by 100,000 bpd last month.

“After a year of tolerating extremely high prices, missed targets and severely tight markets, the (OPEC+) alliance seemingly has no hesitation when it comes to acting rapidly to support prices amid a deterioration in the economic outlook,” Oanda market analyst Craig Erlam said.

OPEC+ missed its production targets by nearly 3 million bpd in July, two sources from the producer group said, as sanctions on some members and low investment by others stymied its ability to raise output.

While prompt Brent prices could strengthen short term, concerns about a global recession are likely to limit the upside, consultancy FGE said.

“If OPEC+ does decide to cut output in the near term, the resultant increase in OPEC+ spare capacity will likely put more downward pressure on long-dated prices,” it said in a note on Friday.

The dollar index fell for a fourth consecutive day on Monday after touching its highest level in two decades. A cheaper dollar could bolster oil demand and support prices.

Goldman Sachs said it believes the OPEC+ supply cut could help remedy large exodus of oil investors that has left prices under-performing fundamentals.

(Reporting by Noah BrowningAdditional reporting by Florence Tan and Muyu XuEditing by David Goodman, Paul Simao and David Gregorio)

U.S. Supreme Court spurns coal executive’s challenge to mine-explosion conviction

By Nate Raymond

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned away former Massey Energy Co CEO Donald Blankenship’s bid to overturn his conviction on a charge of criminal conspiracy stemming from a 2010 West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 coal miners.

The justices declined to hear an appeal by Blankenship, who served a one-year sentence after being found guilty in 2015 of a single misdemeanor charge, of a lower court’s rejection of his arguments that the conviction should be tossed due to prosecutorial misconduct. Blankenship, 72, had faulted federal prosecutors for failing to turn over to his lawyers before the trial evidence he considered favorable to his defense.

Once dubbed West Virginia’s “king of coal” for his working-class background and tough approach to business, Blankenship helped build Massey into Appalachia’s largest coal producer, with more than 7,000 employees and more than 40 mines.

A jury found him guilty of a misdemeanor charge of conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards while opting not to convict him on other charges. Blankenship, who also was fined $250,000, was released from prison in 2017. He mounted an unsuccessful campaign as a Republican for the U.S. Senate in 2018.

A fire caused by a methane or natural gas leak likely set off the April 2010 blast at Massey’s now-closed Upper Big Branch mine, located about 40 miles (65 km) south of the West Virginia city of Charleston, according to federal investigators. The death toll was the highest in a U.S. mine accident since 91 workers died in a 1972 Idaho silver mine fire.

Massey was acquired in 2011 by Alpha Natural Resources Inc for about $7 billion.

Blankenship in 2018 sought to overturn his conviction after completing his prison term and while preparing for his Senate campaign, noting that prosecutors belatedly turned over evidence that he should have received before the trial.

Those records included citing memos summarizing interviews with high-ranking Massey employees and internal U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration documents that prosecutors had not turned over to his lawyers before trial as required.

The U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility conducted an investigation and concluded that prosecutors committed professional misconduct, exhibited “poor judgment” and were “deficient” in performing their duties.

A federal magistrate judge in 2019 recommended that Blankenship’s conviction be overturned, saying the federal prosecutors had violated his constitutional rights to a fair trial by withholding the evidence.

A U.S. trial judge rejected that recommendation and upheld the conviction, as did the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2021, finding that the withheld evidence would not have affected the verdict.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Will Dunham)

Europe braces for heavy oil refinery outages amid tight supplies

(This Sept. 29 story is refiled to fix typo in analyst’s name in 5th and 7th paragraphs)

By Ahmad Ghaddar and Rowena Edwards

LONDON (Reuters) – A heavy oil refinery turnaround season in Europe this autumn, plus French strike action, is set to push diesel prices higher and tighten supplies ahead of a European Union ban on Russian refined products which is due to come into force early next year.

In October, around 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude refining capacity is expected to be offline in Europe for planned and unplanned maintenance, Energy Aspect estimated.

This figure compares with 1.1 million bpd of offline capacity in September, and is above the 2015-2019 average for this period. In November, offline capacity is expected to reach 600,000 bpd.

The busier maintenance schedule is likely to be related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Given all the Covid-related restrictions, social distancing etc, it’s likely that not a lot of extensive works were actually carried out but rather just essential maintenance,” Energy Aspect’s Livia Gallarati said.

Maintenance outages next month include Eni’s Sannazzaro refinery in Italy, Repsol’s Tarragona refinery in Spain, and Galp Energia’s Sines refinery, among others.

“The European diesel market is looking a bit softer than we had expected say this time last month,” Gallarati said, adding that the consultancy has softened its European demand forecast as economic pressures mount.

Europe has also been upping its diesel imports from other regions like the Middle East and Asia, with September arrivals hitting a three-year high of 1.6 million barrels per day, based on data from oil analytics firm Vortexa.

But while higher imports and a softening demand outlook are helping to ease the pressure on diesel markets, widespread refinery outages in France, partly due to strike action, could tighten supplies again.

One European trader said that while the market has priced in, and to a large extent prepared for the planned outages, it is the unplanned outages that could cause problems for the oil products market.

“The issue is unexpected outages like the French strikes,” he said.

Walkouts over pay and unplanned maintenance have resulted the temporary shutdown of four out France’s six oil refineries in the week to 28 September.

This has taken offline 740,000 bpd, or over 60% of France’s refining capacity.

Exxon Mobil, which operates two of the shut plants, told Reuters it had temporarily put limitations in place for customers, saying this was in accordance with the terms of its supply contracts.

Benchmark European diesel profit margins hit a two-week high of about $50 a barrel on Wednesday, based on Reuters assessments, driven by the French strikes.

Analysts expect the shutdowns to tighten refined product supply if they drag on.

“The wave of strikes in France took the market by surprise and there is uncertainty about its duration,” OilX analyst Neil Crosby said.

“Overall, we remain constructive diesel cracks come Q12023 as the market will struggle to replace lost Russian supplies,” Gallarti said, adding that Europe stands to lose 500,000-600,000 bpd of Russian diesel due to sanctions.

The European Union will stop buying all Russian crude oil delivered by sea from early December, and will ban all Russian refined products two months later, in protest over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“We struggle to see [diesel] stocks building massively from where we are,” Woodmac analyst Mark Williams said.

“We expect prices to really spike … mid-January, probably February, but we may see a spike little bit earlier as the market starts to panic,” he added.

(Editing by Jane Merriman)

U.S. Supreme Court turns away dispute between Ukraine and Russian oil company

By Jacqueline Thomsen

(Reuters) – With a backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a Ukrainian government bid to avoid paying a $173 million judgment to Russian oil and gas company Tatneft as ordered by a Paris-based arbitration panel.

The justices turned away Ukraine’s appeal of a lower U.S. court’s decision to affirm the judgment ordered by the arbitration panel established by the parties to consider Tatneft’s accusations of Ukrainian wrongdoing over the handling of shares in an oil refinery. Ukraine has sought to overturn the award, which has been upheld in both foreign and U.S. courts.

Tatneft has been in a U.S. federal court in Washington since 2017 seeking to enforce the award. Ukraine has said the matter should not be heard in an American court, adding that Tatneft has not proved Ukraine has any assets in the United States so there is no reason for the matter to be argued in the country. Tatneft has said Ukrainian courts have proven untrustworthy and that arbitration is commonly addressed in U.S. courts.

The United States was not a party to the underlying dispute.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled in Tatneft’s favor in 2020, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2021 subsequently affirming the enforcement of the judgment. Ukraine’s lawyers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case after Russia’s February invasion, arguing that the legal fight should be waged in Ukraine’s courts.

Lawyers representing Ukraine raised Tatneft’s ties to the Russian government and the ongoing invasion in asking the U.S. high court to take up the appeal. They said Tatneft had used the case to target “third parties integral to Ukraine’s national security” ahead of Russia’s invasion. Tatneft has denied those allegations, saying the company was not targeting sensitive information and accusing Ukraine of stonewalling.

The U.S. Justice Department has not yet weighed in on the case, though it raised concerns that Ukrainian documents shared with Tatneft could be passed onto the Russian government. The parties in March, due to the war, agreed to pause proceedings before Kollar-Kotelly that were aimed at identifying Ukrainian assets that could satisfy the judgment.

(Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen; Editing by Will Dunham)

EU leaders to call for gas price cap to curb inflation -draft statement

By Jan Strupczewski and Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -European Union leaders will ask the EU’s executive arm on Friday to work out how to tackle soaring inflation through a cap on gas prices in a bid to address the root cause of the EU’s problems, draft conclusions of the summit showed.

The call for an EU gas price cap, which Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Hungary and Denmark have opposed, comes as the 27-nation EU is scrambling for a joint response to the unfolding cost-of-living crisis, caused by the collapse of Russian gas deliveries in retaliation for the EU’s support for Ukraine.

Germany raised the temperature of the debate last Thursday by announcing a 200 billion support package for its firms and households as electricity prices, linked to gas prices, went up tenfold this year, inflation hit a record high of 10% and the 19 countries sharing the euro are heading into a recession.

Others in the EU cannot afford help of such size — France has put together 67 billion euros and Italy 68 billion. Berlin’s move triggered concern in the European Commission and EU capitals about the fairness of competition in the EU market.

Comparing the external shock of the energy price crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic, EU officials are calling for a joint EU response that would help all countries deal with the problem without compromising fair competition rules.

An EU-wide agreement on a cap on gas prices, if it gets enough backing, could be one such joint response.

“Our efforts to ensure the security of supply and to reduce energy prices need to be continued,” the draft conclusions of EU leaders, seen by Reuters, said.

“We invite the Commission to work, as a matter of urgency, on … proposing workable solutions to reduce prices through gas prices cap,” said the draft, which could still change before it is published on Friday.

In what looks like a response to the German support scheme, euro zone finance ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, will belatedly, pledge in a statement on Monday to better coordinate national support measures between countries in the future.

“Given the strong spillovers in the European energy markets, we will coordinate our measures to preserve the level playing field and the integrity of the single market,” a draft statement of the ministers, seen by Reuters, said.

“We should seek to avoid the energy price shock to develop into second round effects and more persistent acceleration of inflation,” the draft said.

EU countries on Friday approved a set of bloc-wide measures including windfall profit taxes, to cushion consumers from soaring energy bills. But states are split over their next move, which leaders will debate at their meeting in Prague.

A majority of the 27 countries want an EU-wide cap on gas prices. Fifteen countries last week urged the Commission to propose one, and some – including Poland and Italy – are now drafting their own proposal. Other countries are opposed.

The Commission has not yet proposed a cap and raised concerns over the idea – suggesting countries instead consider narrower price caps, such as one targeting gas used for power generation only.

But while the EU searches for more bloc-wide measures, some, like Germany, are pushing ahead with national measures.

“Without a common European solution, we seriously risk fragmentation,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski, Kate Abnett, editing by Marine Strauss and David Evans)

RWE may hike European renewables spending after Con Edison deal

BERLIN (Reuters) -RWE sees room to raise renewables investments in Europe, its chief executive officer said on Monday, brushing off concerns the German power producer’s $6.8 billion purchase of Con Edison’s green energy arm would hurt spending on the continent.

RWE, the largest power producer in Germany, on Saturday unveiled the planned purchase of Con Edison Clean Energy Business, drawing criticism from activist fund Enkraft, which slammed the deal as “incomprehensible” given Europe’s energy crisis.

“There was a strategic objective to especially make a step forward in the U.S., which we now clearly achieved with this transaction. But that does not mean that we’re going to scale back on our European and UK ambitions,” RWE CEO Markus Krebber told journalists.

Krebber said capital was not the limiting factor in Europe, adding that the group may upgrade spending targets for the continent when it updates markets on its renewables spending plan at the end of 2023.

“Limiting factors are more … remuneration frameworks, how attractive are they but also still again getting the permits and the planning speed up,” Krebber said.

RWE is targeting gross investments of more than 50 billion euros by 2030, with a heavy focus on solar and wind. Three-quarters of that amount is to be spent in Europe.

Shares in the company were up 1.7% on Monday, a public holiday in Germany while markets are open, with analysts at Bernstein saying the deal is “positive for the RWE equity story as it takes RWE to a position of prominence in the US renewables space”.

(Reporting by Christoph SteitzEditing by Riham Alkousaa and Paul Simao)

Libra Group unit acquires German tanker firm in shipping expansion

LONDON (Reuters) – A subsidiary of global private business group Libra has acquired German tanker company Carl Büttner Holding (CB) for close to $160 million, the unit said on Monday in its latest expansion into shipping.

Lomar – Libra’s global ship owning and management unit, which has around 50 ships in its fleet including container ships and dry bulk vessels – has completed the acquisition of CB, which has a fleet of chemical and oil products tankers.

CB would “benefit from the strength of Libra Group’s network around the world”, Libra’s executive chairman George Logothetis said.

“This is an exciting time for Lomar, and we look forward to many innovative and future-thinking announcements to come.”

Lomar was part of one of the consortiums that bid for the Israeli port of Haifa, which was awarded earlier this year to India’s Adani group and their Israeli partner for 4.1 billion shekels ($1.15 billion).

A separate subsidiary of U.S. headquartered Libra acquired a U.S. shipyard this year, aiming to capitalise on growing ship building demand for the offshore wind industry as Washington accelerates efforts to boost cleaner power.

(Reporting by Jonathan Saul; editing by Grant McCool)

Dutch food company HAK to pause operations in January as energy costs bite

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – HAK, a major seller of conserved foods such as peas, beans and apple sauce in the Netherlands, is to temporarily halt production this winter due to high energy costs, with a spokesperson saying the pause would last six weeks from January.

Dutch national broadcaster NOS cited HAK director Timo Hoogeboom as saying the decision would not lead to empty grocery store shelves as the company keeps extra supply in case of disruption.

A household name in the Netherlands, HAK was sold to Russia’s KDV Group by NPM Capital last year for an undisclosed sum.

According to Dutch Chamber of Commerce records, HAK and related companies had sales of 100.2 million euros ($98 million) and operating profit of 10.2 million euros in 2021.

“If companies have to sell under their cost price for months on end, then things will turn out badly,” NOS further quoted Hoogeboom as saying.

Earlier on Monday the Union of Dutch Fruit and Vegetable Processors (VIGEF) called for the government to either impose a cap on gas prices, as Germany has done, or offer support for companies.

“It’s of importance to do this in line with other countries around us, to guarantee the continued existence of this industry and its supply chain, and to ensure that healthy food from Dutch soil remains affordable and available,” VIGEF said.

Food packed in cans and jars is usually heated to help reduce the need for artificial preservatives.

In addition, VIGEF estimated that the cost of metal and glass used in such packaging has risen to 25-35% of its members costs, from 5%, while farmers are also struggling with higher fertiliser prices among other rising costs.

“It is not possible to keep absorbing these costs,” VIGEF said.

($1 = 1.0233 euros)

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

Britain at ‘significant risk’ of gas shortages this winter, says regulator

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain faces a “significant risk” of gas shortages this winter and a possible emergency due to the conflict in Ukraine and limited supplies in Europe, the energy regulator has said.

Although Russia only meets about 4% of Britain’s gas needs, a disruption in supply to Europe has contributed to driving up British prices and makes it harder for Britain to secure gas from others.

In a letter to power company SSE, regulator Ofgem said Britain faced the possibility of a “gas supply emergency” in which gas supplies to some gas-fired power plants are curtailed, which can stop them from generating electricity.

Responding to the publication of the letter, Ofgem said in an email: “This winter is likely to be more challenging than previous ones due to the Russian disruption of gas supplies to Europe.”

In the event of gas supply issues the regulator and Britain’s National Grid could be forced to curb supply of gas to gas-fired power stations to make sure enough supply remains available to households.

“We need to be prepared for all scenarios this winter,” Ofgem said in the email.

“As a result, Ofgem is putting in place sensible contingency measures with National Grid ESO (Electricity System Operator) and GSO (Gas System Operator) as well as the government to ensure that the UK energy system is fully prepared for this winter,” Ofgem said.

SSE had contacted Ofgem for clarity over imbalance charges which could see power generators forced to pay for failing to produce promised electricity, if emergency measures meant they did not get the gas they needed.

Gas-fired power plants were responsible for more than 40% of Britain’s electricity production last year while the fossil fuel is also used to heat around 80% of British homes.

Britain’s National Grid said in July there could be periods where electricity supply is tight this winter, given uncertainty over supplies of Russian gas to Europe, but that it expects to be able to meet demand.

National Grid is expected to announce its winter outlook on Thursday.

(Reporting by Susanna Twidale and Sachin Ravikumar; editing by William James and Deepa Babington)

Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

(Reuters) – Ukrainian troops recaptured villages along the west bank of the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine on Monday in a major new breakthrough, opening a second big front that is forcing Moscow to abandon ground just days after claiming to annex it.

BATTLEFIELD ADVANCES

* Ukrainian forces have made some breakthroughs in the southern Kherson region and taken control of some settlements, a Russian-installed official said.

* Russian military bloggers described a Ukrainian tank advance through dozens of kilometers of territory along the west bank of the Dnipro. Kyiv has so far maintained almost complete silence about the situation in Kherson.

* Russia has sacked the commander of its Western military district, the news outlet RBC reported, after a series of painful battlefield reverses in Ukraine.

* Ukraine on Sunday claimed full control of Russia’s eastern logistics hub of Lyman, its most significant battlefield gain in weeks, setting the stage for further advances aimed at cutting Russia’s supply lines to its battered troops to a single route.

* Ukraine’s capture of a city within territory of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declared annexation demonstrates that Ukrainians are making progress and are able to push back against Russian forces, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

* Russia said its troops had withdrawn from Lyman to avoid being surrounded by Ukraine’s army.

RUSSIAN DEVELOPMENTS

* The lower house of Russia’s parliament approved laws on annexing four occupied Ukrainian territories into Russia, following hastily organised votes that Ukraine and the West denounced as coercive and illegitimate.

* The military commissar of Russia’s Khabarovsk region in the far east was removed from his post after half of newly mobilised personnel were sent home as they did not meet the draft criteria, the region’s governor said.

DIPLOMACY

* The head of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Ihor Murashov, has been released, U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi said, after a detention that Kyiv blamed on Moscow and called an act of terror.

* The Kremlin said it favoured a “balanced approach” to the issue of nuclear weapons, not based on emotion, after a key ally of President Putin called over the weekend for Russia to use a “low-yield nuclear weapon” in Ukraine.

* The leaders of EU member states will ask the European Commission to propose a cap on gas prices when they meet on Friday, according to a draft joint statement, amid soaring global energy costs caused by the war in Ukraine.

(Compiled by Gareth Jones)

IKEA’s home deliveries will be fully electric by 2025 – CEO

By Matt Scuffham

LONDON (Reuters) – IKEA’s home deliveries will be made by electric vehicles by 2025 as part of a target at the world’s No.1 furniture brand to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next eight years, CEO Jesper Brodin said on Monday.

In an interview at the Reuters IMPACT conference, Brodin said some cities were already fully electric for home deliveries, and many were working hard to build the infrastructure needed.

He said there may be challenges in some places.

“In some regions, maybe there will be some challenges where we need to push a bit harder on that, but basically already by 2025, customers should be able to get electrical from IKEA when it comes to deliveries,” he said.

The move is part of the company’s plan to be climate positive – to reduce more greenhouse gas than its entire value chain emits – by 2030.

Brand owner Inter IKEA said in January it was on track to become climate positive by 2030 as its annual carbon emissions fell 6% from pre-pandemic levels despite record sales.

Ingka Group, the owner of most IKEA stores worldwide, already produces more renewable energy than it consumes, having invested around 3 billion euros ($2.9 billion) in wind and solar projects since 2009.

It plans to reach 6.5 billion euros in investments by 2030 as part of efforts to increase the use of renewable energy across its supply chain. It owns 575 wind turbines, 20 solar parks, and 935,000 solar panels on the roofs of IKEA stores and warehouses.

Brodin said companies, particularly in Europe, have had to become more agile as the energy crisis has deepened, and that was likely to speed up society’s transition to cleaner energy, but he forecast the next two years would be “challenging” for households.

To help with that, IKEA plans to launch a campaign to raise awareness on how households can cut energy use – from LED lighting to solar heat pumps – and to sell low-cost energy-saving products.

($1 = 1.0226 euros)

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham and Anna Ringstrom; Writing by Josephine Mason; Editing by Mark Potter)

UK mustn’t spook investors with energy reforms, SSE says

By Susanna Twidale

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain must be careful not to spook investors with its energy reforms so it can continue attracting funds for its transition to a cleaner future, the CEO of renewables and networks company SSE said on Monday.

Britain has a target to install up to 50 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind capacity by 2030, up from almost 13 GW currently, as part of its efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

It is also looking at ways of changing its electricity markets to better reflect the costs associated with generating power.

“Whatever we do in the short term, we must be careful not to spook investors and not make people think there are new risks in the UK market that weren’t there before,” Alistair Phillips-Davies, said speaking at the Reuters IMPACT sustainability conference in London.

New Prime Minister Liz Truss’s first fiscal package, a new “growth plan” launched on Sept. 23, was poorly received by financial markets and triggered a crisis of investor confidence, hammering the value of the pound and government bond prices. 

Phillips-Davies said SSE remained committed to investing up to 25 billion pounds ($28 billion) in British energy infrastructure this decade, including in new wind and hydro electric power projects.

Increasing clean energy technology is vital, Phillips-Davies said, to help the country wean itself off costly fossil fuels such as gas, which has soared to record high prices this year driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The crisis we have got at the moment is a gas crisis and every time we put up another wind turbine we can reduce our reliance on that,” he said.

($1 = 0.8924 pounds)

(Reporting by Susanna Twidale; Editing by Mark Potter)