German industrial gases group Linde’s supervisory board is due to vote on a merger agreement with U.S. peer Praxair (PX.N) on June 1, two people close to the matter told Reuters on Friday. The companies said on Wednesday that they had reached a deal in principle on a Business Combination Agreement for the proposed $70 billion merger, but some unanswered questions will be addressed at Thursday’s meeting, one of the sources said without elaborating. Linde declined to comment on the matter. The all-share merger of equals, intended to create a market leader that will overtake France’s Air Liquide (AIRP.PA), had fallen behind schedule because of the complexity of talks to forge a formal agreement. Labor representatives at Linde fiercely oppose the merger, mainly because plans to move the headquarters outside Germany would dilute their influence, which currently gives them an effective veto over strategic decisions. The first source told Reuters that the supervisory board members’ positions had not changed but that a final decision is expected nonetheless. For the deal to go through it must gain approval from the supervisory board, on which investors and workers are equally represented. Linde Chairman Wolfgang Reitzle told Reuters this month that he would be reluctant but prepared to use his casting vote as in the event of a stalemate with labor representatives.
FILE PHOTO: A truck operated by Germany’s Linde Group waits for helium to be loaded at Weil Group’s helium plant near Mankota, Saskatchewan, Canada on June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Rod Nickel/File Photo
South Africa’s State-owned Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has approved R218-million in loan finance to support the further development of a natural gas resource in the Free State through the creation of a 107-km pipeline network and associated gas processing facilities. The funding, which remains subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions, will be used by Tetra4, the natural gas subsidiary of JSE-listed energy company Renergen, which is also planning to raise a further R145-million in equity finance to implement the project. Tetra4 owns South Africa’s sole onshore petroleum production right, which, in 2015, was acquired from Molopo South Africa Exploration and Production in a deal valued at R650-million. It has since started producing limited volumes of gas, which is being processed at a recently completed natural gas compression station in Virginia and sold to Megabus, which uses compressed natural gas to fuel its bus fleet. Renergen has also concluded a helium take-or-pay agreement with industrial gas giant Linde, which is attracted by the helium-rich nature of the gas found in the Free State. Linde has indicated that it plans to build a facility by 2019 to purify, compress, liquefy and store helium for sale domestically and abroad. The helium component of the project will not feature in the current phase, which is designed to upscale gas production to well above 1 300 GJ/day and enable Tetra4 to pursue new markets for the gas, including gas-to-power opportunities. Renergen CEO Stefano Marani says the key outstanding condition precedent relates to receipt, from the Petroleum Agency South Africa (Pasa), of a record of decision for the project’s recently completed environmental impact assessment (EIA). The EIA process, Marani says, was uncontested and the EIA has been submitted to Pasa, which will make a recommendation to the Department of Mineral Resources for a final record of decision. “The EIA is the last remaining hurdle we have as a company before we can commence with the construction of the pipeline to reticulate the wells. Now that we have completed this EIA, with no objections, we have submitted it to Pasa and there is a statutory holding period of 107 days in which Pasa will make a recommendation.” Marani expects the record of decision to be granted by the end of July or early August and for pipeline construction, all going to plan, to begin before the end of 2017. That being the case, the project would enter commercial operation before the end of the first half of 2018. IDC basic and speciality chemicals business unit head Hilton Lazarus said the funding of Tetra4 was in line with the development financier’s strategy of promoting gas usage in the country, particularly through exploitation of indigenous gas resources. The IDC loan has an eight-year term and should be drawn down by August 2019. Marani says the company is still weighing its options regarding the equity portion of the financing and that it is in no rush to approach shareholders.
Eighty years after the Hindenburg disaster, the airship appears to be finally inching closer to returning to the skies. But it remains unclear whether today’s advanced airships will ever resume the use of hydrogen. The Hindenburg famously crashed and burned in New Jersey on May 6, 1937, killing 36 people. Although it was far from the first crash by a hydrogen-powered airship, the spectacular footage of the disaster essentially ended the era of the zeppelin. The sporadic use of helium-powered blimps continued in subsequent decades, and a new breed of airships recently took to the skies. Those airships, however, also use helium rather than hydrogen — a pattern analysts in part attribute to continued public perceptions of hydrogen as a dangerous, flammable gas. To mark Saturday’s 80th anniversary of the disaster, the Royal Society of Chemistry examined the suspected causes of the Hindenburg crash — electrostatic discharge, most likely — and noted dramatic advancements in both aviation safety and in the handling of hydrogen. If hydrogen can move past the stigma of the Hindenburg, it could provide substantial advantages over helium. It’s much lighter — and therefore could lift more passengers or cargo — and there are concerns about just how much helium is available on Earth. Although new airships are touted as ideal for sightseeing, they could prove more important to commerce. The helium-fueled Airlander 10, for example, can carry more than 22,000 pounds with no emissions. Studies also suggested that airships could provide an alternate way for companies to ship their goods overseas, and e-commerce giant Amazon is even looking at the possibility of airborne warehouses.
NASA is investigating what caused its super-pressure balloon to leak, leading to the sudden termination of the flight over the South Pacific ocean at the weekend. The balloon was launched from Wanaka last month. Nasa office of communications chief Jeremy Eggers said yesterday an investigative team had been formed to analyse the available data to see if a cause of the balloon’s failure could be determined. Any lessons learned would be applied to future flights. Flight controllers at Nasa’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas, conducted a controlled flight termination of the balloon, which descended to the South Pacific Ocean about 322km south of Easter Island, on Saturday. A leak in the balloon was suspected when scientists noticed it was experiencing significant altitude drops at night as the temperature dropped and regaining its predicted altitude during the day when the temperature rose. Mr Eggers said flight controllers dropped ballast to try to manage the altitude loss during cold storms when atmospheric temperatures dropped to -50degC and below. On the 11th day of flight the team was left with just 33.5kg of ballast and the balloon was still 3200km away from landfall in South America, he said. “Facing a poor weather forecast that would lead to even lower altitudes with little ballast remaining, we chose to preemptively end the flight to ensure the greatest level of control and safety during descent.” The open-ocean flight termination procedure made use of the two-tonne flight payload as an anchor to pull the entire balloon and everything attached to the bottom of the ocean as quickly as possible to minimise any environmental impact, he said. The super-pressure helium-filled balloon was launched from Wanaka Airport on Anzac Day morning after seven failed attempts. It was terminated at 11.24pm EDT on Saturday after 12 days, 4 hours and 34 minutes aloft. The flight aimed to expand and consolidate the science behind super-pressure balloon technology. In its payload was the International Extreme Universe Space Observatory from which scientists observed from above ultra-high energy cosmic rays as they penetrated the Earth’s atmosphere during the balloon’s flight. Flight controllers in Texas had hoped this year the balloon would break its previous flying record of 54 days flying at an altitude of about 33.2km. Principal investigator (PI) of the EUSO project University of Chicago professor Angela Olinto said even though the flight was cut short, the team was confident the super-pressure balloon approach to observing the most energetic cosmic particles would pioneer a new understanding of those “extreme phenomena”. Deputy PI Colorado School of Mines Professor Lawrence Wieke, who was in Wanaka for the launch, said more than 60GB of data was downloaded from the balloon. “We are looking forward to analysing the data and to another super-pressure balloon flight with Nasa.” Nasa had yet to determine whether it would return to Wanaka for a fourth consecutive year to launch another balloon in 2018 or use its site in Sweden. “But we have a long-term commitment for operations in Wanaka and will be back soon enough.”
“Helium One’s licence areas, and especially Rukwa, represent one of the most exciting new potential sources of commercial helium in the world today,” said Neil Ritson, Solo chairman.
Solo Oil PLC has highlighted “very encouraging” recent progress with Helium One’s Rukwa and Balangida projects in Tanzania. The company, which in March acquired a 10% stake in Helium One, noted that an airborne gravity gradiometry survey spanning 16,000 line kilometres had now been completed across the Rukwa and Balangida licences. It added that planning for a second phase of a soil gas and groundwater geochemistry survey is underway at Rukwa, and the company expects work to begin in the third quarter. The new survey follows up previous work which confirmed widespread helium micro-seepage characteristic of subsurface trapped accumulations, Solo explained. “Helium One’s licence areas, and especially Rukwa, represent one of the most exciting new potential sources of commercial helium in the world today,” said Neil Ritson, Solo chairman. “The most recent results from the field continue to be very encouraging and the integration of all the data will move us much closer to drilling a subsurface trap. “Solo’s team is working closely with Helium One and providing our expertise in developing the timeline and plan for technical activity ahead of drilling which is currently scheduled for next year.” The company owns a 10% stake in Helium One and it has the option to acquire a further 10%. Craig Howie, analyst at stockbroker Shore Capital, in a note, said: “we are encouraged by progress at the flagship Rukwa helium exploration project, where we believe that Solo is positioned to provide valuable technical expertise and assistance aimed at monetising this exciting industrial gas resource.”