Thursday June 2nd, 2005

ConocoPhillips said to be ready to finalize joint venture in Russia...Continental reports highest-ever passenger loads for month of May...Dell debuts two environmentally friendlier PCs...

ConocoPhillips and Lukoil hope to finalize a $500 million joint venture to develop a Siberian oil province, according to Reuters. Houston-based ConocoPhillips will take a 30 percent stake for its investment in the deal. Total investments by both partners are expected to reach $1 billion by 2008.

The owner of a burning natural gas well near Houston hopes the ground around the well shaft will collapse and naturally cap the fire. More than a dozen families were forced from their homes early yesterday after a series of explosions rocked the exploratory gas well near Crosby. No injuries or environmental damage were reported. The well is about 25 miles northeast of Houston. Mike Fleniken is president of Shreveport-based Louisiana Gas Development Corporation. He tells the Baytown Sun that the fire is a good sign because the gas is being disposed of with the fire. The company has hired Wild Well Control to extinguish the blaze. Firefighters say nearby residents will likely remain displaced until the fire is extinguished.

The president and CEO of Woodlands-based Huntsman Corporation is blasting natural gas traders on the New York Mercantile Exchange for continuing to foster high and volatile natural gas prices at consumers' expense. Peter Huntsman says government data shows a record amount of natural gas in inventory for this time of year, and demand for natural gas remains flat. Huntsman says hedge funds and other paper traders on the NYMEX continue to enrich themselves while U. S. gas consumers are forced to endure the result of the world's highest and most volatile natural gas prices.

Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA regarding development of human spaceflight hardware. California-based SpaceX and the Johnson Space Center will identify joint opportunities for cost-effective human spaceflight systems. Space Act Agreements are flexible partnerships that allow NASA to work cooperatively with industry to develop and transfer technology in support of national priorities and NASA's mission. They provide for ongoing exchange of personnel, use of NASA facilities, expertise, equipment and technology.

Continental Airlines is reporting its highest-ever passenger loads for the month of May. The Houston-based air carrier says its planes averaged 79.1 percent capacity, which was 4.7 points higher than May of 2004. Continental says its revenue per available seat mile rose between 8.5 and 9.5 percent compared to the same month last year. That's the amount of money made from flying a paying passenger for one mile.

Continental says the first of its Boeing 757-200 aircraft equipped with Aviation Partners Boeing Blended Winglets has entered service. The 8 foot 2 inch winglets enable increased fuel efficiency and range by reducing the amount of drag on the aircraft. The winglets are expected to achieve up to a five percent fuel savings, saving as much as 300,000 gallons per aircraft per year.

Oil State International says its Tubular Services segment, through a subsidiary of Sooner, Incorporated has purchased Phillips Casing and Tubing for $31.4 million. Phillips distributes oil country tubular goods, primarily carbon electronic resistance welded pipe, from its facilities in Midland and Godley, Texas.

Natural Resource Partners is buying coal reserves in Illinois for $105 million, adding 144 million tons of coal to its holdings. The seller is Steelhead Development Corporation, with reserves leased to Cline Resources & Development affiliate Williamson Energy.

A natural gas company seeking permission to drill near an underground nuclear explosion site in Colorado had a surprise for local officials. Texas-based Presco Incorporated said it wants to drill four wells, not just one. Garfield County, Colorado commissioners rejected the plan. Presco--based in The Woodlands--already has the county's OK to drill within a half-mile buffer zone established around the Project Rulison site. Only the surface area would be disturbed inside the zone, and the well bottom would be outside the zone. A nuclear bomb was exploded at the site in 1969 in hopes of freeing up natural gas from oil shale. The gas was considered too radioactive to be sold commercially, though state and federal officials have said nearby drilling would not present a danger. Presco has asked the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for a waiver of a rule prohibiting natural gas drilling within the buffer zone. The commission is expected to take up the plan next week.

Dell today announced two environmentally friendlier desktop computer systems for business users. The Round Rock-based world leader in personal computer manufacturing says it's come out with lead-reduced versions of its Optiplex GX-520 and GX-620. The corporate desktop computers are available immediately worldwide. The new models eliminate lead from the power supply, motherboard and chassis. However, Dell says lead still may be present in certain other components as it continues to work with parts suppliers to eliminate the material. The move comes ahead of the European Union's July 2006 deadline requiring electronics shipped in the EU to be completely lead-free. Dell already bars the use of other hazardous chemicals such as cadmium and mercury. It says it'll meet the EU requirements before the deadline.

Five associates from Fulbright & Jaworski are on loan to the city of Houston in a new 20-week program that will help move the city's docket along at a snappier pace. The cost of the program is underwritten by Fulbright, whose lawyers will gain trial experience by working with the City Attorney's office. The volunteer lawyers will be trying city ordinance cases such as traffic violations, vagrancy, trespass and health and safety violations, taking them from arraignment to trial.

Carvel Corporation is opening 11 Houston-area ice cream stores by the end of this year, according to the Houston Business Journal. One store is already operating on Eldridge Road in the Parkway Villages Shopping Center. Atlanta-based Carvel has signed two new franchisees to open the future stores, which will eventually employ more than 100 workers in the area. Carvel plans to open 100 new outlets and sign 200 new domestic franchise agreements by the end of the year.

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