Tuesday AM November 7th, 2006

Potential jurors given questionnaires for BP Texas City explosion civil trial in Galveston...OPEC head says cartel may need to further cut oil production...Midamerican Energy Holdings and American Electric Power plan high-voltage transmission network in Texas...

Potential jurors were given lengthy questionnaires to fill out Monday in Galveston, as jury selection began in a civil trial stemming from the BP Texas City explosion. Potential jurors will return Thursday for questioning. Final selections are to made Friday, and opening arguments are set for Monday, November 13th. Eva Rowe lost both parents in the mishap, and has rejected settlement offers in her bid to force BP to publicly admit to wrongdoing. Rowe is seeking $1.2 billion in damages. BP has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate injured workers and the families of the 15 killed in the blast. The London-based oil giant has repeatedly said it takes responsibility for the explosion and that mistakes were made by managers and workers.

The head of OPEC says the cartel may need to cut oil production further this year. Edmund Daukoru, speaking at an energy conference in South Korea, says OPEC may need to respond to what he calls an oversupply of oil. Daukoru is also Nigeria's petroleum minister. Regarding OPEC's decision last month to cut production effective November 1st, Daukoru says that the effects of the reduced output have yet to be seen, but would be soon. He says the cartel is meeting again next month.

Midamerican Energy Holdings and American Electric Power plan to build and operate a high-voltage transmission network in Texas. The memo of understanding was announced by both companies. The agreement indicates that ownership of the project will be split evenly between the two companies. Ohio-based American Electric Power plans to contribute assets currently under construction. A subsidiary of Iowa-based Midamerican will make a cash contribution to the joint venture company. The plan is subject to completion of operating and service agreements--expected by the end of this year--and regulatory approval in 2007. AEP operates in Ohio, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Woodlands-based Chicago Bridge & Iron has received a $400 million engineering and construction contract in the Middle East, according to the Houston Business Journal. CB&I says under terms of the deal, the name or location of the oil industry customer could not be identified. The project includes design, fabrication and construction of two storage facilities and associated mechanical, civil, building, electrical and instrumentation, set for completion in the fourth quarter of 2009.

BKD Risk Management & Technologies has combined with Beacon Alliance, adding up to 100 personnel, including eight partners, operating from BKD's 27 offices in 11 states. Missouri-based BKD is a CPA and advisory firm with more than 1,600 employees, including 220 partners. Beacon Alliance provides independent internal audit and business and technology risk consulting services. The firm will relocate to BKD's Houston location on Post Oak.

Two executives with DR Horton and Emerald Builders and emerald's founder are creating Gracepoint Homes, according to the Houston Business Journal. The firm is building homes in the Parks at Walnut Bend in Pearland and Canyon village at Park Lakes in Humble. The Woodlands-based builder plans to construct houses in eight additional areas by early 2007.

China's Han's Laser Technology has made Houston headquarters for its U.S. branch, according to the Houston Business Journal. Han's manufactures more than 80 different laser systems, including high-power industrial laser machines. The lasers have been adopted by Sony and Panasonic in the production of electronic appliances, integrated chips, computers and telecommunications equipment.

Two Right at Home senior home care franchises have opened in the Houston area, according to the Houston Business Journal. One franchise opened in Kingwood in September and a Sugar Land location opened in October. Services include light housework, meal preparation, medication reminders, shopping and errands, laundry, local transportation and companionship. Omaha-based Right at Home now has more than 90 offices since franchising began in 1995.

Houston-based El Paso Corporation says it swung to a third-quarter profit from a year-ago loss. The nation's biggest largest natural gas pipeline company says its books got help from lower costs and higher revenue. Net income after paying preferred dividends totaled $126 million. That's after a loss of $321 million in last year's quarter. Revenue surged 41 percent to $1.06 billion. The company says the realized price for natural gas in the latest quarter--before transportation costs--dipped 1.6 percent from last year's quarter to $6.30 per thousand cubic feet. But oil, condensate and natural gas liquids realized prices of $60.81 per barrel in the latest period, up 20 percent from the same period in 2005.

A company that Southwest Airlines sued for selling boarding passes has filed a countersuit--accusing the Dallas-based carrier of trying to ruin its business. BoardFirst charges customers $5 for checking them in online and obtaining a prime seat on a Southwest flight. It also struck a deal to get paid when customers on the BoardFirst site linked to rent a car from Hertz. Southwest in May sued BoardFirst--alleging computer fraud, unfair competition, trademark infringement and illegally making money off the carrier's product. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Dallas, is pending. In its countersuit, BoardFirst accuses Southwest of sabotaging its business by denigrating the company with customers and encouraging Hertz to end its deal with BoardFirst. The rental-car company ended the BoardFirst arrangement in August. Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King says the claims have no merit.

Offshore Communications 2006 is set for Wednesday and Thursday at the Marriott Westchase Hotel & Conference Center, focusing on worldwide standards for satellite, broadband and other communications systems used by oil and gas companies operating offshore. The conference will address regulatory obstacles in emerging markets around the world. Regulations governing use of satellite-based communications vary dramatically from country to country. The conference is hosted by Intelsat and GVF, an international non-profit association of the telecom and broadcasting industry.

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