Monday PM November 6th, 2006

Norway's Statoil buying offshore oil assets from Anadarko...Jury selection begins in first civil trial stemming from BP Texas City explosion...Armed protesters overrun Italy's Agip oil facility in Nigeria...

Norway's state-controlled oil company said today it's agreed to buy offshore oil field assets in the Gulf of Mexico from Anadarko Petroleum. Statoil will pay Houston-based Anadarko $901 million for the assets--which include two oil discoveries and one prospect in the Gulf. Anadarko, one of the biggest independent energy exploration and production companies in the United States, says the sale is part of its effort to pay down debt from its acquisitions of Kerr-McGee and Western Gas Resources. Statoil is a key producer in offshore fields that make Norway the world's third-largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and Russia. The company has been expanding internationally, including in the U.S. Gulf. Statoil says its latest acquisitions are at or near fields in which it bought stakes in September. At the Gulf's Big Foot Discovery and Big Foot North Prospect, the purchase from Anadarko will increase Statoil's stake to 27.5 percent from 12.5 percent for each field. Both assets are operated by Chevron Corporation. The deal also gives Statoil a 25 percent interest in the Knotty Head Discovery in the Gulf, which is operated by Canada's Nexen Incorporated.

Jury selection began this morning in Galveston in the first civil trial stemming from the BP Texas City explosion. Potential jurors were given lengthy questionnaires to fill out today, and will return Thursday for questioning. Final selections are to made Friday. 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.

Armed protesters overran an Agip oil facility in Yenagoa, Nigeria today, causing the shutdown of the Tebidaba oil pumping station. Agip is a subsidiary of ENI of Italy. A senior official from Nigeria's state environmental department said the villagers were demanding restitution for pollution and jobs. This is the second Agip facility to be overrun in the past few weeks. The U.S. consulate in Lagos, Nigeria last Friday issued an e-mail saying militants were planning a major new wave of attacks and kidnappings over the next few days. A rise in oil prices was noted late last week, which some analysts say is due to worries that militants in Nigeria are preparing to launch simultaneous attacks in the country's oil-rich delta region. Militant groups have attacked oil pipelines and taken expatriate oil workers hostage in violence this year that has cut about 25 percent of the country's crude output.

Dozens of striking members of Teamsters Local 997 picketed today outside Fort Worth Transportation Authority headquarters. The demonstrations came one day after the union rejected a three-year contract offer. Authority Vice President Tony Johnson says most buses are being driven by non-union workers and supervisors. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that throughout the day, strikers jeered passing buses and encouraged drivers to stop working. Outside the offices of the authority known as the "T,'' many passing truckers waved at those in the picket line and honked their horns in solidarity. Striking workers want better sick leave and protections against unwarranted discipline. A three-year contract expired September 30th. The union representing about 350 bus operators, mechanics and other employees has since rejected two offers.

By official proclamation from Mayor Bill White, today is "River Oaks Theatre Day" in celebration of the theater's 67th birthday. The proclamation will be presented tonight at the theater on West Gray, as the "We Love Houston" film series continues with two Houston-based motion pictures—"Terms of Endearment" and "Paris Texas." Proceeds benefit the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance. GHPA members are actively promoting the preservation of the historic River Oaks Theatre.

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