Five-Minute Headlines for Dec-7th

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Saudi Aramco plans to drill 45-50 exploration wells in 2010.

(Bloomberg) Saudi Aramco, the world's biggest oil company, plans to drill 45 to 50 oil exploration wells next year, the company's vice president for exploration said.

"Aramco now is exploring in every corner of the kingdom," Abdulla al-Naim said in an interview in Doha, Qatar, today. "Our exploration is spread evenly in the Rub al Khali, in northwestern Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf area, and in existing operational areas too."

The company will begin acquiring 3D seismic data off the Red Sea coast in the first quarter of 2010, and plans to drill the first well in 2012, he said.

"Our exploration program is very very active and very successful," al-Naim said. "Aramco wildcat exploration has close to a 50 percent success rate based on a three-year moving average."

Chevron's $82 billion Wheatstone LNG deal is Australia's biggest.

(Reuters) - U.S. major Chevron Corp's (CVX) gas sale agreement with Japan's Tokyo Electric Power is worth A$90 billion ($82.5 billion), and is the biggest Australian LNG supply agreement ever signed, the West Australian government said on Monday.

Japan's top utility TEPCO has signed a deal for 3.1 million tonnes of LNG from Wheatstone a year for 20 years, plus it has bought a 15 percent equity stake in the project that could give it another 1 million tonnes. TEPCO will also take an 11.25 percent stake in the Wheatstone gas processing facility. The Nikkei newspaper reported on Sunday that TEPCO will invest more than 300 billion yen ($3.34 billion). Chevron declined to comment on the value.

The first phase of Wheatstone consists of two LNG processing trains with a total capacity of about 8.6 million tonnes per year. Chevron is aiming to approve the project in 2011 and is targeting first LNG shipment in 2016. ($1=1.091 Australian dollar) ($1=89.89 yen)

China car sales pass 12 million

(BBC News) The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers expects car sales and output to top 13 million for the full year, the Xinhua News Agency reported. China has never produced more than 10 million cars in one year before. In November alone, sales reached 1.35 million units, according to the preliminary figures. State incentives have boosted car sales, and the government has reiterated its plans to continue economic stimulus measures next year.

China's car sales have soared this year, aided by tax cuts and other incentives aimed at promoting low-emission cars. Sales in China are set to storm ahead next year too - though the growth rate is set to slip back to a more measured 10-15% from 40-50% growth in 2009. The country's largest carmaker, Shanghai Automotive Industry, sold 2.44 million cars in the year to the end of November, a rise of more than 50% compared with the same period a year earlier, Xinhua said.

Offshore oil drilling gets approval in Alaska's Arctic

(McClatchy) The Interior Department on Monday gave the go-ahead for Shell Oil to begin drilling three exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea, a move that opens the door for offshore oil and gas production in the Arctic. The company's proposal calls for using several vessels, including a drill ship and oil spill response vessels, the Interior Department said. The closest proposed drill site is more than 60 miles from shore.

Shell Alaska Vice President Pete Slaiby said that his company thinks its exploration plan addresses the concerns he's heard in North Slope communities, "including concerns around program footprint and pace. Shell believes the Chukchi Sea could be home to some of the most prolific, undiscovered hydrocarbon basins in North America," Slaiby said.

Shell, Conoco Phillips and other companies in 2008 paid more than $2 billion for leases in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska . The companies and state officials think the offshore reserves could power the Alaska economy for decades.

Bernanke gives markets a reality check

(Bloomberg) Oil dropped yesterday as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the U.S. economy will face a weak labor market and tight credit, signaling fuel demand will be slow to recover.

Bernanke's comments "gave markets a bit of a reality check and made people reassess how they thought the recovery is going to pan out,"Ben Westmore, an energy and minerals economist at National Australia Bank Ltd. in Melbourne, said by phone. "As a result oil got sold off." Continue Reading