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Exxon calls for carbon price, working on CCS projects across Asia

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October 25, 2021

By Florence Tan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) -Exxon Mobil Corp is pursuing carbon capture storage (CCS) hubs across Asia and has started talks with some countries with potential storage options for carbon dioxide, the company’s head of low carbon solutions said on Monday.

One of Exxon’s key projects is to build CCS hubs in Southeast Asia, similar to one being built in Houston, Texas, ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions President Joe Blommaert told Reuters.

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CCS traps emissions and buries them underground but is not yet at the commercialisation stage.

CCS advocates, including oil majors and the International Energy Agency, see the technology as being essential to help meet net zero emissions and key to unlocking large-scale economic hydrogen production, although critics say CCS will extend the life of dirty fossil fuels.

Melbourne-based Global CCS Institute said in October that global plans to build CCS projects https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/global-carbon-capture-projects-surge-50-9-months-research-2021-10-12 surged 50% over the last nine months.

For CCS to take off, a transparent carbon price and cross-border pricing adjustment systems will be necessary to enable CO2 to be captured in one country and stored elsewhere, Blommaert said in an interview ahead of the Singapore International Energy Week.

“That’s why a transparent value of carbon is so important, that it is a durable mechanism, that it is agnostic to what kind of technology that goes … and that it works across borders because emissions do not know any borders,” Blommaert said, adding he expects discussions of carbon border tax similar to that in Europe https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/eu-proposes-worlds-first-carbon-border-tax-some-imports-2021-07-14 to occur in Southeast Asia.

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“Because much of the world doesn’t have carbon pricing, there’s a risk that some operators will move to countries that don’t yet price emissions,” he told the conference.

Last month, the U.S. energy major said 11 companies have agreed to begin discussing plans that could lead to capturing and storing up to 50 million tonnes per year (tpy) of CO2 in the Gulf of Mexico by 2030 https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/exxon-proposes-massive-carbon-capture-storage-project-houston-2021-04-19.

“Unlike in Houston, the storage capacity here is not close to the areas with the highest emissions,” Blommaert said.

“That’s why we’ve been studying the concept of placing CO2 capture hubs in some of Asia’s heavy industrial areas such as here in Singapore and then connecting them to CO2 storage locations elsewhere in the region,” he said, adding that CO2 could be transported via pipelines or ships.

Southeast Asia’s industrial CO2 emissions exceeded 4 billion tpy, Blommaert said, citing 2019 data from the International Energy Agency.

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ExxonMobil has listed Singapore, home to the major’s largest refining-petrochemical centre globally, as one of its CCS projects. However, Singapore does not have suitable CO2 storage sites, a recent CCS study commissioned by Singapore government showed.

LOCATIONS

Another study by the Singapore Energy Centre, partly founded by ExxonMobil, estimated nearly 300 billion tonnes of CO2 storage capacity in depleted oil and gas fields and saline formations in Southeast Asia, Blommaert said.

Countries in the region with potential storage sites include Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia where ExxonMobil has oil and gas production facilities. The U.S. major also operates a joint refining-petrochemical complex in eastern China Fujian with Sinopec and Saudi Aramco.

Dwi Soetjipto, the head of Indonesia’s upstream regulator SKK Migas, told reporters last week that ExxonMobil is planning a CCS project at its mega Cepu block in East Java.

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“We continue to evaluate all options around the world, and that includes some of those locations,” Blommaert said, without naming countries.

“If you have a very high concentration of carbon dioxide stream that will represent, possibly a lower cost (for CCS),” Blommaert said.

“The market for CO2 is rather limited when you put it into that scale, and therefore storage of CO2 long term is essential.”

(Reporting by Florence Tan in Singapore; additional reporting by Christina Bernadette in Jakarta, Sonali Paul in Australia, Sabrina Valle and Gary McWilliams in Houston; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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Deutsche Post CEO favourite to become Telekom chairman – sources

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December 5, 2021

BERLIN (Reuters) – Frank Appel, the chief executive of German logistics company Deutsche Post, is the favourite to become the next supervisory board chairman of Deutsche Telekom, two sources close to the matter told Reuters.

The sources said Deutsche Post’s supervisory board is due to meet on Wednesday and Deutsche Telekom’s board will meet a week later to discuss the matter.

Both companies declined to comment.

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The Handelsblatt newspaper reported on Saturday that Appel would potentially be proposed for election at Deutsche Telekom’s annual meeting on April 7.

The term of office of Telekom chairman Ulrich Lehner, who has headed the Telekom supervisory body since 2008, ends at next year’s shareholder meeting. He had already confirmed that an external search for a successor was under way.

Appel’s predecessor at Deutsche Post, Klaus Zumwinkel, also served as supervisory board chairman of Telekom.

The German government holds stakes in both companies.

Appel, a former McKinsey consultant, has been with Deutsche Post since 2000. In 2002, he became a member of the board of management, and in 2008 he moved up to the post of CEO.

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His contract runs until 2022 and a decision on his future at the Post had been expected soon. Some industry insiders have speculated that Appel could be ready to move on given that Deutsche Post has posted record results through the pandemic.

(Reporting by Matthias Inverardi and Nadine Schimroszik; Writing by Emma Thomasson; editing by David Evans)

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Canadian employers, facing labor shortage, accommodate the unvaccinated

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December 5, 2021

By Julie Gordon and Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s tight labor market is forcing many companies to offer regular COVID-19 testing over vaccine mandates, while others are reversing previously announced inoculation requirements even as Omicron variant cases rise.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government adopted one of the strictest inoculation policies in the world for civil servants and has already put more than 1,000 workers on unpaid leave, with thousands more at risk.

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Airlines, police forces, school boards and even Canada’s Big Five banks https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canadas-major-banks-require-employees-entering-premises-be-vaccinated-2021-08-20 have also pledged strict mandatory vaccine policies. But following through has proven less straightforward, especially as employers grapple with staffing shortages and workers demand exemptions.

Job vacancies in Canada have doubled so far this year, official data shows, and vaccine mandates can make filling those jobs harder, potentially putting upward pressure on wages. That could fuel inflation https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canadas-annual-inflation-rate-hits-47-oct-highest-since-feb-2003-2021-11-17, already running at a near two-decade high.

“It’s already difficult to find staff, let alone putting in a vaccine mandate. You’d cut out potentially another 20%” of potential workers, said Dan Kelly, chief executive of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

There are pitfalls to employing the unvaccinated. Companies run a higher risk of COVID-19 outbreaks and many vaccinated employees are uncomfortable working with those who have not had the jab, said industry groups and marketing experts.

At Luda Foods, a Montreal-based soup and sauce maker, president Robert Eiser said he has 14 open jobs, no vaccine mandate and no plans to restrict new hires to the vaccinated.

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“I don’t know that I want to reduce the (labor) pool, which is already quite low,” said Eiser. “We need to attract people to meet the demand. If we don’t, our competitors will.”

Data released on Friday underpinned Canada’s tight labor market, with a hefty 153,700 jobs https://www.reuters.com/markets/us/canada-posts-hefty-job-gains-outlook-clouded-by-omicron-variant-2021-12-03 added in November. It also showed a growing mismatch between available workers and unfilled jobs. And job postings are far above pre-pandemic levels. (Graphic: Canada job postings surge above pre-pandemic level Canada job postings surge above pre-pandemic level, https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/CANADA2/klvyknzklvg/chart.png)

WALKING BACK

The province of Quebec backtracked on a vaccine mandates for healthcare workers last month, saying they could not afford to lose thousands of unvaccinated staff. Ontario, which was also eyeing a mandate, said it would not go ahead.

Toronto-Dominion Bank and Bank of Montreal have both softened their vaccine policy to allow regular testing for workers who missed their Oct. 31 inoculation deadline.

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In Canada, 86% of adults are fully inoculated, though that drops under 80% among 18-40 year olds. At least 15 cases of the new Omicron https://www.reuters.com/markets/rates-bonds/canada-has-reported-total-11-cases-omicron-variant-health-official-2021-12-03 variant in Canada have been reported in the past week.

John Cappelli, vice president of onsite managed services in Canada for global recruitment firm Adecco, said half of his clients are mandating vaccines with the other half allowing regular testing for the unvaccinated.

But he expects the Omicron variant will prompt more workplaces to get strict on vaccination, even as they grapple with the tightest job market he’s seen in his 25-year career.

“We are now starting to see our first workplace (COVID-19) cases in five months,” he said.

The number of Canadian job postings on search website Indeed mentioning vaccine requirements has quadrupled since August. (Graphic: Canada job postings and vaccine mandates, https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/CANADA3/byvrjqrlmve/chart.png)

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In the hard-hit manufacturing sector, where 77% of firms say their top concern is attracting and retaining workers, vaccine mandates are more rare.

Dennis Darby, CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said most of Canada’s factories have operated safely throughout the pandemic. While CME encourages vaccination, “some companies are still using rapid testing if somebody doesn’t want to get vaccinated,” he added.

But companies risk a hit to their reputation if they are overt in efforts to tap into the unvaccinated as a labor pool, said Wojtek Dabrowski, managing partner at Provident Communications.

“If you go out and say, ‘We are intentionally seeking to hire unvaccinated people,’ many customers are equating that with you being anti-science and anti-safety,” said Dabrowski.

(Reporting by Julie Gordon and Steve Scherer in Ottawa, additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Nichola Saminather in Toronto; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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Israeli firm to sell HSBC Tower in New York for $855 million

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December 5, 2021

By Steven Scheer

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s Property and Building Corp said on Sunday it agreed to sell the HSBC Tower building in midtown Manhattan for $855 million to New York-based real estate firm Innovo Property Group, recording a net loss of $45 million.

The Israeli company, which is 63% owned by Discount Investment Corp, said it had also sold property in Israel for 390 million shekels ($123 million).

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Doron Cohen, chief executive of both Property and Building and Discount, said management was focusing on income-producing properties in Israel and that the amount it was receiving from both transactions would allow it to advance this policy.

“We are continuing the policy and examining the possibility of realising additional properties in the United States and in Israel,” Cohen said, noting the sale of the HSBC building came despite “gloomy” predictions over U.S. commercial real estate market.

He cited Tivoli Village, an upscale apartment complex in Las Vegas that opened this year, which may be put up for sale as part of the company’s efforts to boost liquidity and reduce debt.

Along with conglomerate Koor Industries, Property and Building, bought the 30-storey, 80,000 square metre HSBC Tower in 2009 for $353 million. In 2011, Property acquired Koor’s stake in the tower which has an occupancy of 99%, it said. HSBC had bought the building in the 1990s.

Property and Building said the value of the HSBC Tower in its books was $864 million as of Sept. 30. After costs, it said it would record a net loss of $45 million from the sale.

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Completion of the sale is expected by April 1, 2022 subject to Innovo’s right to advance the date while also receiving options to postpone the completion twice for 30 days each.

Property said after the sale it will have a net cash flow of $343 million.

Its shares were 0.7% lower in afternoon trading in Tel Aviv.

($1 = 3.1605 shekels)

(Reporting by Steven Scheer;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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