It's just a bit early to be posting on the Osama / precious metals thing, so here's a headline that - as it was intended to do - caught my eye: Centrica would like us to know that they are con- sidering shutting down one of their high profile Morecambe Bay gas fields, and all because of little George's windfall tax.
I suppose it is fair for Centrica to assume that few in government have the faintest idea how oil & gas companies make these decisions. Let me assist.
Firstly, it is normal to shut fields down for the summer, because that's the only time you ever do planned maintenance on an offshore platform: (a) demand for gas is low in summer and (b) have you ever been on a platform in winter ? So it's entirely probable they have it slated to be down until October or even November in any event. (It's dead easy for the authorities to get hold of their maintenance plans, so hopefully this simple step has already been taken.)
More importantly, the economics of terminating production permanently are quirky. As we've mentioned before, there is a chunky capital cost involved when a field is abandoned, and it is the cash-flow / accounting / tax-treatment around this outlay that determines whether or not to shut down permanently. The marginal profitability of ongoing production is largely irrelevant, to the point where sometimes it is better to keep a field going whilst making an operating loss, rather than incur the abandonment cost. George's windfall tax only affects the operating earnings (unless there is some unintended & unforeseen aspect of the small print, in which case the whole industry would be quietly lobbying to have it fixed, as always happens in such cases).
It might be pointed out that the part of the Morecambe Bay area they've hinted at as a candidate for termination is just one part of a complex, the infrastructure of which would not need to be abandoned just because one reservoir is exhausted: in which case the effect mentioned above is not at work here. Fair enough: but by exactly the same reasoning, no permanent decision on abandonment is required any time soon: it becomes trivial to keep all options open.
In short: this decision won't be based on the windfall tax. Perhaps the reservoir is indeed fully depleted and Centrica is just trying to spin the headlines associated with this fact to their benefit. More likely, it is simply uneconomic to produce the gas over the summer when prices are low, and they'll keep all their options open for the future, parading their shrouds for the cameras all the while.
We've called Centrica here for demanding that free money be bunged their way for nuclear schemes, and here for wanting new subs to be invented for them to invest in gas storage. It's getting tiresome.