Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yemen LNG Makes First Shipment

A bit of good news for this beleaguered country - which is desperately in need of hard currency earnings, not to mention water, peace, progress .....

Most estimates are that over its 20 year or so life the Yemen LNG project will generate US$20 billion for Yemen.  The Yemeni Government's own "conservative projections" estimate US$30 to US$50 billion.

Much needed because oil exports, Yemen's current major source of FX revenues (roughly 90%),  are rapidly running out.  Estimates are for 10 years more production, though the Yemeni Government disputes these figures.

Anyways a few random data points to illustrate the importance of Yemen LNG to the country:
  1. In 2003 Yemen exported 450,000 barrels of oil per day.  In January 2009 the total was down to 280,000 bpd.
  2. During the first six months of 2009, FX earnings from oil exports were down 75% from the same period in 2008.  Most of that is due to the decline in oil prices, but a worrying 25% drop in volumes exported was also a major cause.
So Yemen LNG's first shipment is good news for Yemen.  A substitute for dwindling oil exports.

For those interested in more on Yemen LNG, here's a link to their website.

The project has been "kicking around" since the 1990's.  As one might expect, putting a deal of this magnitude together in Yemen is not an easy task.  The shareholders' group has been a bit of a revolving door - ExxonMobil withdrew after the 1994 civil war.  Enron sniffed around a bit but declined. At one point Hunt Oil (an old Yemeni hand) was rumored to be contemplating withdrawing from the project.  Competition from Qatargas and Dolphin in which Total (the major shareholder in Yemen LNG) has interests also were obstacles.

For those interested in a bit more information on Yemen, two suggestions:
  1. Christopher Boucek's "Yemen Avoiding a Downward Spiral" at Carnegie.
  2. The IMF's Public Information Notice ("PIN") on  Article IV Consultations with Yemen released this March.
Boucek's piece is an overall analysis of all factors - political, economic, and social.   It is also written to promote a particular policy response so factor into your evaluation how that goal may affect his diagnosis and conclusions.

The IMF PIN is focused on economics only.

Some background on the Article IV process and PINs.

Each country that has joined the IMF  (there are 186 or so) undertakes certain obligations with respect to the conduct of its affairs.  A key part of those are reflected in Article IV.   Each year the IMF "consults" with countries about their obligations focusing on Article IV. Member countries have the right to decide how much detail is released to the public about the results of those consultations.

Two other things are relevant to Article IV consultations.
  1. Diplomatic Speak:  The position of the IMF is couched in diplomatic language.  Criticisms come in the form of "encouragements" or "strong encouragements".  Issues are described in similar gentle language.  Instead of stating that a member country's economic statistics are deficient, the PIN will speak about improving the timeliness and accuracy of statistics. 
  2. Mathhab:  The IMF holds more or less to a certain economic philosophy.  It's important to understand this when reading both their diagnosis and prescriptions. 
A second post will follow to hopefully shed some light on the intriguing story of how US$2.8 billion in long term financing was raised for a project finance in a country in Yemen's situation.

1 comment:

Abu 'Arqala said...

With all the reader comments, it's hard for me to get a word in edgewise.

Given this blog's focus on the GCC, it's likely that from time to time I will criticize or appear to things in the area.

That doesn't mean that I don't recognize problems elsewhere.

To whit, my comment about deficient country statistics could equally well be directed to the USA and Japan.

I will pass on commenting on the particularly artful choice of words in the NY Times headline.

(But just barely).