Major investments from Oil of DRCongo
The refurbishment of the most critical sections of the Bunia-Kasenyi Road (14km over a total of 40km) in the North East Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will be funded by Oil of DRCongo, which will invest U.S. $750,000 in the road with the project expected to complete within the next 6-8 months
The Bunia-Kasenyi Road is a vital artery linking the towns of Bunia and Kasenyi. The road facilitates the supply of goods to Bunia and the on-going trade between these towns, creating jobs, encouraging investment and aiding the development of a region which has been heavily impacted by conflict over so many years. Oil of DRCongo's investment will enable a complete refurbishment of the 14km stretch, which has been affected by neglect.
There has been significant progress for Oil of DRCongo at Blocks I and II on the Albertine Graben, to ensure the continued development of these oilfields. Out of the five petroleum blocks for which the government of the DRC has signed PSCs, only Blocks I and II have undergone exploration, carried out by Oil of DRCongo. The other companies holding rights on the Albertine Graben have declared “force majeure” due to issues of security and failed to advance exploration activities.
The seismic campaign (first and second phases) has covered approximately 700km offshore and 150km onshore. The company has invested in excess of $70 million in the exploration works of the Blocks I and II so far including more than $20 million on the seismic investigations. The seismic data acquisition itself was carried out by TESLA (UK).
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The next priority is the establishment of four wells. Oil of DRCongo is carrying out a feasibility study aimed at evaluating the entire drilling exercise and in particular, to identify the exact locations of the four wells established by the PSC. The preparation phase of the drilling includes the transport to the sites of the drilling equipment, the installation of a base camp for staff, new supply roads, a new dock on Lake Albert and a landing strip for moving personnel and equipment.
The tender documents for the drilling works expect to be launched by the end of March 2014. At the same time Oil of DRCongo will identify the new seismic grid necessary to cover the entire available acreage, with particular reference to Block I.
As operator of Bocks I and II on the Albertine Graben, Oil of DRCongo has exceeded the licencee's obligations to the DRC with regards to providing local community support. The company has invested almost $4 million in local projects including assistance to the medical/maternity centre in Kasenyi.
It has also completed feasibility studies for: the refurbishment of the Budana Power Plant with the aim of doubling capacity; the enhancement of waters supply system to Bunia through a new pipeline and new storage/treatment facilities; and the drilling of new water wells in Kasenyi.
“We are excited about the future prospects for Blocks I and II,” said Giuseppe Ciccarelli, CEO of Oil of DRCongo. “Oil of DRCongo is generating jobs, fuelling development and prosperity and contributing to social progress.”
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.