Editors: Diana Stares, Jack Myint
The Environmental Protection Agency has moved to require oil and gas operators to improve how they measure methane leaks. Climate scientists and environmentalists increasingly worry about the warming aspects of methane. Although carbon dioxide has been the focus in the fight against global warming, methane is actually more potent in the short run. And as drilling for oil and gas continues in places like Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, more methane escapes. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told a room full of Wharton students on Friday that fracking operations don’t have to exacerbate global warming.
Fracking for oil and natural gas in Pennsylvania is creating a significant amount of economic stimulus for the state in the form of new jobs and funding that will help pay for infrastructure, according to the Pennsylvania Business Daily. And while there is some resistance from activists, Pennsylvania communities are becoming more open to drilling in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Natural Gas Association Director of Public Outreach, Dan Weaver. The broader acceptance is a relatively new occurrence, Weaver said. “Four or five years ago, everyone was using scare tactics, saying that there was going to be mass, widespread devastation and everything was going to just go downhill. We’re four or five years later, and there is no mass, widespread devastation,” Weaver said
A Pennsylvania congressman has expanded his investigation of how states regulate, monitor and punish the mishandling of waste generated by the horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process by sending letters to the leaders of environmental agencies in Ohio and West Virginia. U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, a Democrat representing parts of six northeast Pennsylvania counties, wrote the letters to Randy Huffman, cabinet secretary of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, and Craig Butler, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, asking for information about the states' reporting requirements for unconventional operators, waste transporters and disposal site operators. He also requested more than three years of data regarding, among other things, the number of investigations, inspections and violations involving unconventional oil and gas waste. Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), unconventional waste is categorized and regulated as a non-hazardous material. Last month, Cartwright sent a letter requesting similar information from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
When the temperature plummeted over the weekend, homeowners and businesses across Pennsylvania were forced to crank up their heat. In another few weeks, a new batch of heating bills will show up in our mailboxes. For many of us, there's bound to be some sticker shock. Fortunately, our state has a large and growing force of well-trained workers helping make our homes and businesses more energy efficient. From larger companies like SmartWatt to small businesses like Ardmore-based Lowry EcoSolutions, companies in Pennsylvania are helping bring down our electric bills – and creating good, high paying jobs along the way. Recently, my group, Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance (KEEA), along with the nonpartisan business organization Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), examined just how important the clean energy industry is to our state. Our report, Clean Jobs Pennsylvania, found that 57,000 Pennsylvanians wake up every day to work in our state's clean energy economy.
The city best known for Rocky, cheese steaks and sharp-elbowed sports fans is developing a new reputation as a nexus of oil and gas transportation, which bodes well for its economy. With little fanfare, Philadelphia is undergoing a revolution powered by the U.S. energy renaissance. Renewed investment and activity in the region's sprawling railway network and aging infrastructure is turning the City of Brotherly Love into a potential energy hub that some believe can rival Houston.Energy experts cite two major factors working in Philly's favor: it's proximity to the booming Marcellus Shale, where 5,400 shale wells churned out nearly 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas during the first six months of the year; and the city's bustling commercial railroad system, which has made it a transit point for oil being shipped from North Dakota's Bakken formation.
Direct Energy is extending its original price protection commitment to its customers through their last meter reading in December 2014. This past winter, in light of the extreme cold weather Pennsylvanians endured, Direct Energy added a six month price protection feature for its residential electric variable rate customers. With weather predictions forecasting another extreme cold snap, Direct Energy wants to continue to protect its customers from potentially high energy bills. Pennsylvania residents are encouraged to take advantage of Direct Energy's fixed price electric plans to protect themselves from high energy bills. Direct Energy offers many fixed-rate electricity and natural gas plans and several innovative products, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat, that use smart home technology to help customers manage their energy usage, which can be particularly helpful during unpredictable weather conditions. "Our commitment to our customers is to continue to offer cost-effective energy products that help protect against the unexpected," saidGeoffrey Duda, Vice President and General Manager for Direct Energy Residential. More information and energy efficiency tips can be found at www.directenergy.com.
In state after state, energy was a winning issue in the midterm elections. Candidates who agreed on little else often found common ground in championing America's job-creating energy revolution. In West Virginia, Democratic Senate candidate Natalie Tennant made a point of saying "It's not about Democrat versus Republican... I disagree with the president on energy." That's one thing she had in common with her Republican opponent, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, whose winning campaign made the same point, stating that "Our energy jobs are under assault from President Obama's administration." Bipartisan support for key energy issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, hydraulic fracturing and increased energy development was so widespread, it was difficult for energy-supporting voters to go wrong. In the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, voters had a choice of two candidates who understand the importance of energy development to our state. Gov.-elect Tom Wolf supports hydraulic fracturing and says that the "Marcellus Shale must be a key component of any plan for Pennsylvania's economic future."
In early August 2013, Arlene Skurupey of Blacksburg, Va., got an animated call from the normally taciturn farmer who rents her family land in Billings County, N.D. There had been an accident at the Skurupey 1-9H oil well. “Oh, my gosh, the gold is blowing,” she said he told her. “Bakken gold.” It was the 11th blowout since 2006 at a North Dakota well operated by Continental Resources, the most prolific producer in the booming Bakken oil patch. Spewing some 173,250 gallons of potential pollutants, the eruption, undisclosed at the time, was serious enough to bring the Oklahoma-based company’s chairman and chief executive, Harold G. Hamm, to the remote scene. It was not the first or most catastrophic blowout visited by Mr. Hamm, a sharecropper’s son who became the wealthiest oilman in America and energy adviser to Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign. Two years earlier, a towering derrick in Golden Valley County had erupted into flames and toppled, leaving three workers badly burned. “I was a human torch,” said the driller, Andrew J. Rohr. Blowouts represent the riskiest failure in the oil business. Yet, despite these serious injuries and some 115,000 gallons spilled in those first 10 blowouts, the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which regulates the drilling and production of oil and gas, did not penalize Continental until the 11th.
A couple of years ago, the smart money was on wind. In 2012, 13 gigawatts worth of wind-powered electricity generation capacity was installed in the United States, enough to meet the needs of roughly three million homes. That was some 40 percent of all the capacity added to the nation’s power grid that year, up from seven gigawatts added in 2011 and just over five in 2010. But then a federal subsidy ended. Only one gigawatt worth of wind power capacity was installed in 2013. In the first half of 2014, additions totaled0.835 gigawatts. Facing a Congress controlled by Republicans with little interest in renewable energy, wind power’s future suddenly appears much more uncertain. “Wind is competitive in more and more markets,” said Letha Tawney at the World Resources Institute. “But any time there is uncertainty about the production tax credit, it all stops.”
It is widely known that among all the sources of alternative energy, the one with the greatest potential is solar. How could it be otherwise? Staggering amounts of solar radiation strike the Earth each day; the only trick is capturing more of it. In a new report, the Environment America Research and Policy Center seeks to visualize and quantify this potential as it pertains to the United States. The report argues that the U.S. "has the potential to produce more than 100 times as much electricity from solar PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) installations as the nation consumes each year." It adds that every single state could generate more solar electricity than its residents currently consume. Here's a visualization, showing states that can get 1 to 5 times their current energy needs from solar, states that can get 5 to 25 times their energy, states that can get 25 to 100 times what they're using, and states that can get over 100 times their current needs:
Is the United States government a savvier investor in green technology than Silicon Valley’s masters of the universe? It sure looks like it, judging from the U.S. Department of Energy’s new report on the performance of its $34.3 billion portfolio of investments in solar power plants, wind farms, and other renewable energy projects. The Obama administration in 2009 charged the DOE’s Loan Programs Office with jump-starting cutting-edge green technology ventures deemed too risky and expensive to attract cash from private investors. As of September, that portfolio had a loss rate of 2.28 percent and has made a profit of $30 million. The typical loss rate for a venture capital firm’s portfolio? As many as 40 percent of those companies fail, according to a 2012 Harvard Business School study. There are now 20 projects funded by DOE up and running.
Fossil fuel reserves are declining, sun and wind power are imperfect, and the world is looking for answers. But there's a possible solution out there: recycling energy from secondary sources. Energy "harvesting"—where incidental energy like radio waves, heat and vibrations are harnessed for power—is not a new concept, but the technology to support the idea is getting better. Just as today the kinetic force of a swinging arm can power a wristwatch, some technologists are betting that in the future pedestrians' footsteps can light a city. Much of energy harvesting's promise lies in manufacturing, where so much energy is lost to the heat, sound and vibrations of machinery. If even a small percentage of that could be captured and reused, then companies could realize significant cost savings—or so the theory goes. While manufacturers in energy-hungry Europe are already looking to invest in the technology, many American firms are less quick to see the promise in harvesting, experts said.
With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. However, the decreasing price of gas has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States. North Dakota’s economy is on fire, thanks to developments in technology that allow oil extraction from shale formations deep below the surface. The process to extract that oil, known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is the source of the economic boom for states on top of these deposits. Now, that prosperity is trickling down to the rest of the country. “Fracking is the miracle that has brought down gasoline prices,” said Phil Flynn, a senior market analyst with the PRICE Futures Group. Flynn said the rise in the number of wells, and developing and expanding the system to refine and transport shale oil, are game changers for U.S. energy independence.
Two American policy heavyweights think this is a moment when the United States can be persuaded to turn its focus to its North American neighbours, such as Canada. Retired general David Petraeus and former World Bank president Robert Zoellick, who led a task force on the continent for the Council on Foreign Relations, argue that a North American energy revolution and major reforms in Mexico mean U.S. leaders should now have a political interest in embracing their neighbours. U.S. Republicans are already clashing with President Barack Obama over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline – but Mr. Petraeus and Mr. Zoellick argue that’s just the tip of the cross-border North American issues that should feature in U.S. political debate. The two men will be in Ottawa Wednesday for the Canadian launch of the task force’s report, titled North America: Time for a New Focus. Its recommendations, including promoting cross-border energy infrastructure such as Keystone XL, will get a welcome in Ottawa. Both Canada and Mexico have long urged the United States to pay more attention to continental matters.
US natural gas producers may be seeing their dream of substantial liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports suffer fatal injury because of Russian exports to the Chinese market, Cobb writes, a market that was expected to be the largest and most profitable for LNG exporters. Russia and China have signed two large natural gas deals in the last six months as Russia turns its attention eastward in reaction to sanctions and souring relations with Europe, currently Russia's largest energy export market. But the move has implications beyond Europe. In the department of everything is connected, U.S. natural gas producers may be seeing their dream of substantial liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports suffer fatal injury because of Russian exports to the Chinese market, a market that was expected to be the largest and most profitable for LNG exporters. Petroleum geologist and consultant Art Berman--who has been consistently skeptical of the viability of U.S. LNG exports--communicated in an email that Russian supply will force the price of LNG delivered to Asia down to between $10 and $11, too low for American LNG exports to be profitable.
The epic scandal within Petrobras is unquestionably the greatest in Brazilian history. An unfortunate record, which Brazilians must, in no way, be proud of. Brazilians are known for their tolerance of corruption and wrongdoings. However, a large portion of the Brazilian population often complain about Brazilian politicians and their questionable tactics saying they too would like to enjoy easy money as the politicians do. While these scandals continue to make headlines in the Brazilian and International media, Petrobras loses value, accumulates debt and is second-guessed on its capacity to move on with the oil and gas exploration which Brazil badly needs- especially the pre-salt developments. Extensive and time-consuming investigations by a number of different authorities continue to drag on. Unfortunately, this is not the first time events such as these haven taken place in Brazil. Previous events however, were never on such a large scale with so many consequences that could potentially throw the country´s future into dire straits.
The future is tough to predict. The International Energy Agency recently came out with its World Energy Outlook 2014, a comprehensive analysis of global energy demand and the underlying supply mix through 2040. Along with BP ’s annual forecast, it is one of the most authoritative documents of its kind. But even the IEA can miss a trend. Renewables, including hydropower, will nearly triple by 2040 and surpass both natural gas and coal as the top source of electricity by 2035. By 2050, solar alone could become the largest source of power by 2050. In the executive summary of the World Energy Outlook 2004, the words “solar” and “PV” do not appear. The share of “other” renewables, i.e. everything by hydropower, will triple, but only from 2% to 6% by 2030. Hydropower is around 16% of world power today so the base figure fits but the prediction was low. The same holds for efficiency. “Efficiency” appears only twice in the 2004 summary. The report revolves around supply and the picture is grim for emerging markets.
The International Energy Agency's (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2014, with all its numbers, technical details and geographic breakdowns on oil, gas, coal, and renewables, makes a fundamental point. Advances in technology and efficiency justify optimism, but signs of stress on the energy system's future will not just go away on their own; sustained political efforts are essential if we hope to change energy trends for the better. The report's executive summary stated that "global energy trends are not easily changed and worries over the security and sustainability of energy supply will not resolve themselves." Actions from stakeholders are needed. As for bickering and bloodshed, "Turmoil in parts of the Middle East – which remains the only large source of low-cost oil– has rarely been greater since the oil shocks in the 1970s. Conflict between Russia and Ukraine has reignited concerns about gas security." Nuclear power? An uncertain future. Electricity? Still inaccessible to many people, including two out of every three people in sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated 620 million people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity, a severe constraint on economic and social development. Interestingly, the region is nonetheless "rich in energy resources, but they are largely undeveloped. Almost 30 percent of global oil and gas discoveries made over the last five years were in the region, and it is also endowed with huge renewable energy resources, especially solar and hydro, as well as wind and geothermal."
Global energy demand is likely to grow dramatically in the coming decades, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency's latest edition of the Climate Change and Nuclear Power report. The report, issued Thursday, examines the role of nuclear power in mitigating global climate change and how it contributes to other developmental and environmental challenges. Launching the report, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said "the world's carbon footprint must be reduced." Speaking at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting this morning, the Director General said that nuclear energy, along with hydropower and wind, had the lowest life-cycle CO2 emissions. He highlighted: "As part of a low-carbon national energy portfolio, it contributes to the mitigation of climate change and can help to reduce concerns over volatile fuel prices and security of energy supply." Amano expressed hope that IAEA Member States will find it useful as they prepare for next year's United Nations Climate Change Conference.
- Statoil Halts Angola Exploration, Cancels Stena Carron Contract.
The Norwegian company has halted its exploration campaign in Angola after several disappointing wells and canceled the rig contract with Stena Drilling. The rig had 2.5 years remaining per its 3-year contract, and the cancellation will cost $350mm. This is the first high-spec UDW rig contract being canceled in this downturn. [Oilpro]
- BSEE Responding To Explosion At GOM Production Platform.
The BSEE is responding to an explosion at West Delta 105 in the GOM, located approximately 12 miles off the coast of New Orleans. 1 fatality and 3 injuries resulted from the incident. The WD 105 is a production platform operated by Fieldwood Energy. [Oilpro]
- Lukoil Shaves $2 Billion Off Their 2015 Budget.
Russia's second largest oil producer plans to spend $14bn next year vs. $16bn this year. The budget reductions will result in less drilling activity at mature fields in Siberia, cutbacks on exploration outside of Russia, and reductions at infrastructure projects, but Lukoil remains committed to African projects and interested in entering Mexico despite the cutbacks. [Oilpro]
- Cyber Breach - Pemex CEO's Email Account Is Hacked.
Pemex announced through Twitter that the email account of CEO Emilio Lozoya was hacked, raising cyber security concerns as the country enacts major energy reform that will open up its oil and gas sector to foreign and private investment for the first time in over 75 years. [Oilpro]
- Iran Vows To Guard Oil-Market Share As OPEC To Review Output.
Iran will protect its share of global crude sales under all circumstances, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said, as OPEC members prepare to meet next week to review production levels. The Persian Gulf nation can double oil exports in two months if sanctions against are removed, he reportedly said. [Bloomberg]
- Russian FM Rejects Intervention In Oil Production.
Russia's foreign minister said Friday that there should be no move to cut global energy production, even as the country's economy takes a hit from falling oil prices. [Associated Press]
- Israel's Offshore Giant Is About To Get A $2bn Upgrade.
Israel's massive offshore Leviathan field could begin gas production by the start of 2018, and could see an up to $2 billion infrastructural upgrade, one of the partners in the project said in its quarterly report. [Oilpro]
- Technip Bags Tupi BV Deal.
The company has been awarded a contract to supply high technological flexible pipes for the Iracema North field, located in the Santos Basin pre-salt area, Brazil. The contract covers the supply of 114 kilometers (~70 miles) of flexible pipes, including: gas lift, gas injection and gas export lines. [Technip]
- Kinder Morgan Gets Nod To Seal Biggest Energy Deal Since 1999.
The company's investors green-lighted a $44 billion deal that will bring four related pipeline companies under the Kinder Morgan umbrella. The deal will officially close on November 26, it was announced Thursday. [Oilpro]
- SapuraKencana Buys Petronas Blocks Offshore Vietnam For $400mn.
Malaysia's largest listed O&G services firm by market capitalization, is buying state oil firm Petroliam Nasional Bhd's entire interest in 3 blocks offshore southern Vietnam for $400 million. [Reuters]