|See more of yesterday's reports and reactions from U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (NGP Photo), various news sources yesterday, more sources today, and our commentary.|
Tuesday's Early Report: In Wake Of Shell's Announcement Yesterday That After $7 Billion Invested and Over A Half Decade of Delay and Disruption Mostly Caused By America's Government, It Is Withdrawing From Arctic OCS Exploration (Statements by Governor Walker (below), Alaska Oil and Gas Association, Consumer Energy Alliance, Congressman Don Young (NGP Photo) via American Energy Alliance. -dh
Yesterday, after absorbing Shell's announcement, Alaska Governor Bill Walker (NGP Photo) said in a statement we received, “I thank the people of Shell for all their hard work on offshore exploration and their strong focus on safety.
We would have said, "...it is a reminder that underscores our need to better cooperate with the oil industry, help it compete in every reasonable way and endeavor to not be an obstacle to industry investment in our state."
Instead, Walker doubles down on being a natural resource dictator. His actions can only lead to less investment, and, troublingly, an effort to socialize and seize ownership of natural resource projects.
How else can the governor's arrogance be explained? -dh
"While the company’s recent announcement is disappointing, it is a reminder that underscores the need for Alaska to drive its own destiny through development of known gas resources, as well as rich oil reserves in a small area of ANWR.
"I contacted the White House this morning to set up meetings to discuss the potential impact of Shell’s decision, as well as Alaska’s need to explore in the 1002 area.”
Alaska Oil and Gas Association President and CEO Kara Moriarty (NGP Photo) on Shell’s announcement
It is a sobering day for Alaska; both in the short and long-term," Moriarty said yesterday.
"Today’s news from Shell is a painful reminder that exploration is expensive, involves huge risk, and does not guarantee success.
Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) President David Holt (NGP Photo) and CEA-Alaska President Anne Seneca issued the following statement yesterday in response to Shell’s announcement about its exploration activities offshore Alaska:
“Contrary to the previous rhetoric of anti-development activists, the 2015 Chukchi Sea exploration season provides further evidence that drilling can be done safely in the U.S. Arctic offshore. Furthermore, while extremists irresponsibly cheer the decision to put plans for further offshore exploration on hold for now, today’s announcement underscores the need for a more stable and reasonable federal regulatory environment,” said David Holt. “According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than 63 percent of American energy will come from oil and natural gas by 2040. Finding and developing new resources is in EVERYONE’S interest, especially those Americans who can least afford to pay more for gasoline and electricity.”
According to Holt, “as the Interior Department mulls Arctic offshore drilling regulations and requests for U.S. Arctic lease extensions, and with the 2015 season accompanied by just-in-time permitting and conflicting agency decisions that prevented the drilling of more than one well, the federal government must commit to ensuring a regulatory environment that encourages rather than disincentivizes investment in the exploration of this region. CEA applauds Shell for its dedication to meeting consumer energy needs, as well as its patience with the unwieldy regulatory process and litigation delays over the past seven years and its persistent efforts to explore the potential for the production of American Arctic offshore energy resources.”
“Fossil fuels will be the primary contributor to meeting our energy needs for decades to come. At a time when lower 48 crude oil production is expected to decline over the long term, it is incumbent on federal decision-makers to do everything possible to accommodate the domestic development of these resources, including those in the Arctic.”
“Energy and the environment can and must occur together,” added Anne Seneca. “The environment is very important to Alaskans – and people everywhere. But so is economic opportunity and jobs for this and future generations. Developing our resources is important for our national security and future generations.”
For more information visit Consumer Energy Alliance.
"It would be interesting to know what the results would have been if Shell had been allowed this summer to conduct a multi-well program versus the very limited program of only one exploration well.
"It is now more important than ever for state policymakers and lawmakers to work together to ensure Alaska’s oil and gas industry has a viable future in this state; just like Shell, the companies working in the Cook Inlet and on the North Slope need legal, fiscal, and permitting predictability and consistency in order to make the sizeable investments required to keep the Trans Alaska Pipeline operational for many years.
"Shell’s departure is also a blow for the hundreds of employees who call Alaska home, as well as the many contractors and small businesses that began working on Arctic development as a result of Shell’s $7 billion investment.
"This decision will not halt oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean, but, as of today, that development will be done by countries other than the United States that lack the stringent environmental standards demanded of industry in the U.S. There are very few companies that could meet these federal requirements and expensive demands, but even large companies with the financial resources like Shell will walk away from mega opportunities when they cannot continue to spend billions of dollars without any promise of a return.
"The Arctic Offshore has rightly been viewed as the next generation of oil and gas development in this state, so for those plans to disappear overnight is beyond painful. It is also a clear reminder about how a state dependent on one industry for 90 percent of its spending needs to look constantly for new developments in oil and gas development.
Moriarty concluded that, "With 27 billion barrels of known oil reserves in the Arctic Offshore, the Outer Continental Shelf was supposed to be Alaska’s next big opportunity.”
For more information visit AOGA.
More reactions keep coming in....
Bloomberg by Paul Barret. After spending $7 billion on a single well ... what?
From Our Mid-Atlantic Energy Analyst friend:
Some of the biggest long-term prospects for providing major oil supplies a decade are disappearing from consideration.
The US Arctic is unlikely to see any further interest for some years to come. It may be that the oil simply is not there in commercial quantities (this writer remembers that Sohio drilled the most expensive dry hole to that time in 1979 from a man-made island off the coast of Alaska), or they simply wanted to preserve capital for less risky plays.
Regardless, this is not the only such regional play, which just a couple of years ago had great prospects, that now appears dead in the water (bad pun). Consider Brazil’s pre-salt plays; even if oil prices had not fallen, Petrobras was going to have real trouble making a success there (this is a whole set of separate columns). We see this play going nowhere the rest of this decade.
We also wrote recently about the North Sea entering into curtailment mode; there will be more shut-downs than new plots drilled. Offshore US is not even mentioned these days.
The Alaskan North Slope is struggling to keep an adequate daily flow of oil for the Alaska pipeline; it is not far from reaching a critical level, and it is certainly not helped by the present price level for oil that does flow. If it cannot stay above about 300,000 bpd, the whole thing faces shutdown and dismantlement. There are others.
The point is, the Megaprojects around the globe are getting long in the tooth, helped along by technology to keep production commercial but old just the same. If the next generation of Megaprojects is delayed by several years each, there will come a time when oil prices will once again be squeezed. It may not come soon enough to give much comfort to today’s producers, but it is coming just the same.
Congressman Don Young:
"I’m sure somewhere Sally Jewell and President Obama are smiling and celebrating Shell’s decision to cease operations off the coast of Alaska. For Alaskans, this announcement is a major blow to our local communities, the future of Alaska’s economy, and the Trans Alaska Pipeline. Make no mistake, this decision is the result of the Administration’s narrow-minded approach to responsible resource development – putting large areas off limits, while building insurmountable new hurdles to use areas that have been leased.”
See Our Aussie Energy Expert's Current View On Alaska's Energy 'Leadership'
ADN/AP Shell Announcement by Dan Joling/Yereth Rosen
Our Commentary On Shell's Alaskan Arctic OCS Exit
With Alaska's "Plan B" failing what's wrong with relying again on "Plan A"?
Alaskans will be seriously questioning the future of their state when they wake up and read the news this morning.
This is because Alaska is more than any other North American state or province dependent on oil production and production is down, down, down.
Alaska North Slope (ANS) production once fed about 20% of domestic oil supply at a rate in the '80s that exceeded 2 million barrels per day.
The Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) transporting that oil is about 40 years old now and -- as important as it still is -- it is merely a reflection of its former, vigorous self, losing about 5% of its throughput every year as ANS field production declines. It's nearly 3/4 empty and without added production could shut down in a few years.
Shell's success could have helped sustain Alaska's job economy and ANS throughput in TAPS.
Alaska depends upon taxes and royalties from oil flowing through TAPS for almost 90% of its lavish state operating budget.
Recent statistics label it the highest per capita spending state in the nation and the highest per capita debtor state in the nation. It has the highest number of non-profit corporations in the country per capita, most of which are directly or indirectly dependent on oil for at least part of their budgets.
Available state savings accounts currently protect a $3.5 - 4 billion annual operating deficit, but that savings will be gone in a year or two. Even a return to $100/barrel oil would not put Alaska in the black based on current production and state spending trends.
In addition, over a third of the 49th State's total economy depends on oil revenue and oil-dependent jobs.
With falling production and increased opposition to oil operations both within and from outside Alaska, state policy has drifted aimlessly for many years.
It has pretty much been a policy of tax oil and spend that oil money while minimizing taxes/fees on people and maximizing transfers of state wealth to them.
"Plan A" first began to surface in the mid-1980s when various business groups began advocating for a constitutional amendment limiting government spending via a population and inflation formula.
By the early 1990s the University of Alaska's Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) began showing the public and elected leaders how very modest spending controls THEN could have provided a "safe" and sustainable glide path toward a long-term, sustainable economy for current and future generations.
ISER has provided another path to sustainability (i.e. "Maximum Sustainable Yield") for the last few years, also largely ignored.
Neither an effective constitutional spending limit nor economically viable "safe economic landing" were embraced by those holding the purse strings and whose pleasure and reelection were sustained by taxing oil and spending on constituent desires. (Note: Civic groups did succeed passing, in 1982, an amendment, but lawmakers loosened it to allow capital project designations, among others, to weaken the stricter "population and inflation" formula. (Alaska Constitution, Article IX, Sec. 16)
With oil income falling and spending continuing to increase over the years, even the most deluded politicians could see that "something should be done".
We call that "something" the strategy of hope, which took four forms:
a. Hope that the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act's congressionally authorized "1002" area within the Arctic National Wildlife Range (ANWR) would be successfully developed, contributing to TAPS throughput, jobs and economic stability; and
b. Hope that sufficient new oil would be found in the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska to maintain robust throughput of TAPS, state economic stability and jobs; and
c. Hope that sufficient new oil would be found within existing Alaska North Slope fields and other state lands to maintain robust throughput of TAPS, jobs and state economic stability; and
d. Hope that sufficient new oil would be found in the Alaskan Arctic OCS to maintain robust throughput of TAPS, jobs and state economic stability.
And wouldn't it have been nice if all four hoped-four outcomes had materialized?
How has the strategy of hope worked out for Alaska?
Well, the State has continued its upward spending and taxing trend, somewhat ameliorated by an oil tax reform law two years ago, but continually challenged by liberal lawmakers and their constituencies since then.
The president is operating the federally owned land in ANWR as if it were a wilderness area -- part of his end run around Congress using the 'pen and a phone' tactic.
The president's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has promulgated regulations that effectively 'lock up' half of the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska (NPR-A). Together with other regulatory agencies like the EPA, BLM has also significantly delayed and increased the expense of new oil production in areas of NPR-A that are open to exploration and development.
The current Governor is raising the old Palin flag of populism and anti-oil rhetoric, threatening the oil industry, endangering a pending LNG project, and signaling investors that investment even in existing oil fields -- and other state lands -- is accompanied by a high risk premium. Some even believe that the objective of the current governor is to socialize the energy industry (Our notes, here and here).
Now, on top of these first three disappointing Plan B results comes Shell's decision based, in part, on a hostile, federal regulatory regime.
Plan A -- involving support for Alaska's major industry and spending discipline -- didn't work out when the Plan B strategy of hope offered the above 4 lifelines.
Now that the reality is setting in that there is so little hope for the strategy of hope, Alaska may be forced to reconsider the best approach of all: the original Plan A.
Plan A has the negative qualities of being distasteful to big public spending and high oil taxing constituencies.
It requires citizens to 'do without' certain government amenities.
It requires lawmakers and the governor to seek the high road, be the adults in the room and prepare a sustainable economy for the next generation. This includes fighting the hostile and debilitating overreach of the federal government.
But Plan A has the major benefit of preventing intergenerational inequity, of providing a sustainable economy for Alaska's children rather than robbing their generation to secure the selfish wants of this generation.
Keep watching. We'll know the political class for what it is after absorbing today's news.
Will politicians embrace Plan A along with the dedication and self discipline it requires?
Or, will they do everything to avoid political pain at the expense of the next generation (i.e. as the federal government has done), perhaps by constructing a Plan C that is no more responsible than Plan B's strategy of hope?
Royal Dutch Shell will cease exploration in Arctic waters off Alaska's coast following disappointing results from an exploratory well backed by billions in investment and years of work
Shell has spent upward of $7 billion on Arctic offshore exploration, including $2.1 billion in 2008 for leases in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast, where an exploratory well about 80 miles off shore drilled to 6,800 feet but yielded disappointing results.
"Shell continues to see important exploration potential in the basin, and the area is likely to ultimately be of strategic importance to Alaska and the U.S.," Marvin Odum, president of Shell USA, said in The Hague, Netherlands. "However, this is a clearly disappointing exploration outcome for this part of the basin."
Shell will end exploration off Alaska "for the foreseeable future," the company said, because of the well results and because of the "challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska. (Our emphasis added. -dh)
The Burger J well drilled this summer will be plugged and abandoned, Shell spokeswoman Megan Baldino said.
Other references will be added here:
- Wall Street Journal
- Greenpeace's "Great News"
- Alaska Oil & Gas Association
- Consumer Energy Alliance
Alaska's LNG Prospects
Today, our Aussie oil and gas analyst friend wrote:
Further to the news story on Friday about the sovereign risks facing LNG projects even in the USA, such as Alaska LNG (AKLNG) - Alaska's populist Governor has subsequently formally introduced a concept that no doubt will look attractive to his peers in Mozambique, Tanzania, etc - a "gas reserves tax".
The intent of this concept is to tax resources in the ground, thereby presumably encouraging oil companies to develop assets.
The concept shows a fundamental lack of understanding as to what are "reserves" - which seems surprising for a State which is built on the oil industry.
Although Alaska's North Slope contains very substantial and well understood contingent resources of gas - it contains no gas reserves and will not do so until AKLNG reaches FID (i.e. reserves require commerciality).
By seeking to tax in-ground resources, Alaska's Governor reduces the chances of such resources actually becoming (commercially available) reserves.
Free subscription to Aussie Oil & Gas Observer
September 25, 2015
Regular readers will know that this blog considers the Alaska LNG (AKLNG) project to be the Aesopian tortoise of the LNG project world – not as flashy as some, but plodding towards first gas next decade.
However, that tortoise carries a heavy shell that would be familiar to LNG project proponents in most locations around the world – a Government that wants to maximize its share of something that does not as yet exist – and therefore risks getting a larger share in nothing rather than a reasonable share in something.
Australian readers of this blog will likely be familiar with only one Alaskan Governor – the surprisingly socialist (when it comes to taxing oil companies) Sarah Palin. Her populist instincts live on in the State and even the Russian news service Interfax today points out that AKLNG risks being bogged down by politics
Alaskan based website Northern Gas Pipelines today provides an update on the latest Government meddling in AKLNG and asks the reasonable question – “with so many government cooks in the LNG kitchen, really, what could possibly go wrong?”
SitNews, Ketchikan, Alaska, by Mary Kauffman
Alaska Governor Bill Walker issued a proclamation Thursday calling the Alaska Legislature into a special session next month to consider legislation to move a project forward to get the natural gas on the North Slope to market. Efforts to to commercialize North Slope gas dates back to the 1970s.
Addressing what the Governor describes as the urgency of North Slope gas production, Walker called the special session to be held in Juneau on October 24th.
“With a $3.5 billion budget deficit, this gasline project has gone from a wish-list item to a must-have,” said Governor Walker. “Under the negotiation process I inherited, very little has been accomplished on the commercial agreements. It is time to make the necessary legislative changes so a single party cannot delay the production of Alaska’s natural gas resources and sway our destiny.”
Senator Lisa Murkowski's reaction to Shell's announcement
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today released the following statement regarding Shell’s decision to suspend operations in Alaska’s offshore waters:
“I am extremely disappointed by this decision, just as I have been deeply frustrated by the years-long path that led to it.
“In the more than seven years that Shell has held leases in the Chukchi, it has only recently been allowed to complete a single well. What we have here is a case in which a company’s commercial efforts could not overcome a burdensome and often contradictory regulatory environment. The Interior Department has made no effort to extend lease terms, as recommended by the National Petroleum Council. Instead, Interior placed significant limits on this season’s activities, which resulted in a drilling rig sitting idle, and is widely expected to issue additional regulations in the coming weeks that will make it even harder to drill. Add this all up, and it is clear that the federal regulatory environment – uncertain, everchanging, and continuing to deteriorate – was a significant factor in Shell’s decision.
“What we need – but still do not have – is a predictable and sensible regulatory system both onshore and offshore that encourages companies to make major investments in our future. Continued uncertainty will only further damage our competitiveness and our economy. And so today, I call on the administration to work with Alaskans – to develop a legitimate plan, driven by our input and preferences, to ensure the prolific resources in our federal areas are produced.
“There are many steps that can be taken, if the Interior Department and others commit to working with us. We must enable the sanctioning of GMT-1 and further development in NPR-A, rapidly progress Liberty and open new areas in the nearshore Beaufort Sea, extend offshore lease terms, conduct Lease Sale 237 as scheduled, finalize a strong Five-Year Plan for 2017-2022, provide for offshore revenue sharing, and expedite leasing throughout the state – including the non-wilderness portion of ANWR.
“There is also more at stake here than the current status of one company’s exploration program. Development in the Arctic is going to happen – if not here, then in Russia and Canada, and by non-Arctic nations. I personally believe that America should lead the way. The Arctic is crucial to our entire nation’s future, and we can no longer rely solely on private companies to bring investments in science and infrastructure to the region. As the Arctic continues to open, we urgently need to accelerate our national security investments in icebreakers, ports, and other necessities.” (See the source here.)
TODAY'S RELEVANT CONSUMER ENERGY ALLIANCE ENERGY CLIPS:
Southeast Green: PACE Says EPA's Clean Power Plan Would Raise Consumer Costs, Yet Fail to Lower Earth's Temperature
The Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) issued a statement today that criticized the Environmental Protection Agency's unprecedented mandate on carbon dioxide emissions under its Clean Air Plan, especially the change to demand more reductions by 2030.
DC City Biz List: Offshore Drilling Could Boost The Economy Or Be An Unnecessary Risk
Drilling for oil the coast of Virginia is either a chance to boost the economy or an unnecessary risk for beachfront communities and the environment. Voices on both sides of the argument were in Richmond on Thursday for a forum hosted by the Consumer Energy Alliance.
Consumer Energy Alliance: CEA Leads Discussion on the Need for Responsible Atlantic Offshore Energy Development
Consumer Energy Alliance today hosted the 2015 Atlantic Energy Forum in Richmond, Virginia, featuring Abigail Ross Hopper, Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and other distinguished panelists.
New York Times: Shell Abandons Disappointing Offshore Alaskan Well
Royal Dutch Shell said Monday that it would stop exploration off the coast of Alaska “for the foreseeable future.” The decision came after the Burger J well, which the company drilled this summer, produced disappointing results. The company said the well had “found indications of oil and gas, but these are not sufficient to warrant further exploration” of the Burger prospect, a geological structure.
The Hill: Senate Dems tell Obama to end Arctic drilling
Some Senate Democrats are once again asking President Obama to end oil and natural gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean. In a letter Friday, 12 senators asked Obama to block any additional drilling after Royal Dutch Shell wraps up its exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea, northwest of Alaska, this fall.
The Hill: Clinton explains shift on Keystone, other key issues
Hillary Clinton on Sunday pointed to the nation’s shifting energy profile for her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline after she had initially seemed to voice support for its construction. In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd asked Clinton if her position on Keystone had changed as a matter of political expediency.
Post and Courier: Hillary’s slick move on XL pipeline
Hillary Clinton continued her unimpeded march toward the Democratic presidential nomination for 2016 by announcing her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. In doing so, she checked another box on her campaign strategy list, reassuring some core Democratic voters and probably ensuring some large campaign contributions.
The Hill: Energy empowers the world’s poor
The White House, the United Nations, even the Vatican are in full court press for action to reduce manmade global warming at the climate summit in December. Many well-intentioned people believe manmade global warming is so dangerous we should spend trillions trying to prevent it by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), which would require tremendous reductions in fossil fuel use.
Fortune: Why America’s power grid needs natural gas now more than ever
Now that the Obama administration has finalized its Clean Power Plan regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the power sector, the focus of attention turns to the states, which must now find a way to reduce emissions consistent with the Plan. One question states face as they envision a lower carbon future is how much to rely on natural gas-fired generation.
Washington Examiner: House sets vote to lift oil export ban
The House is set to consider a bill on the floor this week to lift a 40-year-old ban on exporting crude oil from the United States. The bill is being supported by the House leadership as integral to the Republican energy agenda this Congress, and many high-level lawmakers have vowed to see it passed before the end of the year.
Bloomberg: Oil Traders May Look to the Sea for Profit Amid Price Collapse
The global oil glut may soon expand to the ocean. While traders are already cashing in on the surplus by housing oil in onshore tanks across the globe -- including on the tiny Caribbean island of St. Lucia-- expanding the storage to tankers at sea may near a point where it becomes profitable, according to Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and IHS Maritime & Trade.
Associated Press: Alaska’s Walker brushes aside reserves tax criticism
Gov. Bill Walker on Friday brushed aside criticism from Republican lawmakers that they were blindsided by his call to reinstate the gas reserves tax during the upcoming special session. “I sat right at this table and talked about fiscal certainty and project certainty,” Walker said during a news conference at his Anchorage office. He met with lawmakersMonday to inform them of his call for the special session, which starts Oct. 24 in Juneau.
Alaska Highway News: Despite fracking fights, resource extraction key for Peace Region, says NDP candidate
When Kathi Dickie was considering whether to run for parliament as a New Democrat in Northeast B.C., one question was on the top of her mind. "My question to the NDP was if you're against development of our natural resources, then I'm not your candidate," Dickie told the party brass.
Beaumont Enterprise: Keystone XL Pipeline needs market decision
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came out against the Keystone XL Pipeline last week, a decision that will have an impact on the 2016 race. And Southeast Texas, because the Valero refinery in Port Arthur would process 150,000 barrels a day of tar sands crude from Canada - if it ever gets here.
Midland Reporter-Telegram: Government agency plans intensive safety study - Two-year project targets all aspects of oil and gas industry
High salaries and soaring numbers of new jobs were not the only things attracting attention as the oil and gas industry boomed in recent years. Industry fatality, injury and exposure rates drew focus, especially from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fuel Fix: California regulators restore emissions-cutting fuel rule
California regulators on Friday restored ambitious rules to cut transportation fuel emissions 10 percent within 5 years. The rules further strengthen California’s toughest-in-the-nation carbon emissions standards, but oil producers warn the changes could drive up costs for consumers at the gas pump.
Denver Post: Colorado oil companies say they are safer, stats say otherwise
The country's oil and gas companies say they are cooperating more and working harder to make jobs safer for employees even as a new report suggests oil-field work has never been more dangerous. The industry touts the rise of training networks, partnerships with governments and tough certification standards as helping to improve the work environment in one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.
Fuel Fix: Pro-industry group throws support behind drilling on Texas university land
A pro-industry group is firing back at calls by environmental advocates to restrict drilling on university land in Texas, arguing that oil and gas revenue has provided massive financial support for the University of Texas and Texas A&M.
Houston Chronicle: Community colleges offer training for petrochem jobs
Petrochemical plants along the Texas Gulf Coast and the Port of Houston are spending billions of dollars to expand facilities. It is estimated that these projects, along with the retirement of existing workers, will provide jobs for more than 50,000 skilled workers.
Austin American-Statesman: Houser: Concerns about fracking on UT land overstated
University Lands, which comprises about 2.1 million acres of land in West Texas, is a resource unlike any other in the nation. The lands were set aside in 1839 specifically to benefit Texas higher education. Today, more than 20 academic and health institutions in the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems benefit from these assets.
Baton Rouge Advocate: Our Views: New roles for natural gas, including on the road, will help Louisiana’s growing natural gas industry
The price of oil is sharply down from last year, but if there’s one thing Louisiana has still got, it’s lots of natural gas at a historically low price level. That is of course good news for the metropolitan areas of the state, including big refineries in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles and in the River Parishes above New Orleans.
Columbus Dispatch: Oil, gas industry boosts local economy
There is no question, these are tough times for Ohio’s oil and gas industry. Prices for crude oil and natural gas are at their lowest levels in decades. The downturn in prices and drilling activity has caused many people to ask questions: Is Ohio’s oil and gas industry still a major contributor to our local economy? How important is this industry to the average Ohioan? The answers are yes, and, in fact, more important now than ever.
Washington Times: GOP will allow tax vote, if Democrats secure enough support
Leaders of the Pennsylvania Legislature’s Republican majorities will allow a floor vote on a budget package that includes an income or sales tax increase if Democrats can secure enough support to pass it, officials said Friday.
Tribune-Review: 2 Marcellus pipeline projects move forward
Two large pipeline projects aimed at easing a glut of natural gas from the Marcellus shale advanced in the federal permitting process this week. Houston-based Columbia Pipeline Group said its proposal to build the $2 billion, 165-mile Mountaineer Xpress in West Virginia entered a pre-filing phase before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
WKBN: Judge tosses Pa. landowners’ lawsuit against fracking opponents
A judge has dismissed a lawsuit that landowners filed against people and groups who oppose fracking in a western Pennsylvania township. Natural gas drilling has been delayed in Middlesex, Butler County while some of the rural community’s 800 residents challenge a zoning ordinance that would allow drilling in 90 percent of the rural township.
Myrtle Beach Sun News: Offshore Wind a Viable Source for Future Electrical Energy
It’s evident, or should be, that electrical energy in the future will come from sources other than fossil fuels such as coal, oil or even natural gas. Offshore winds are one of the most viable alternate energy sources and coastal South Carolina residents should applaud ongoing efforts to produce power from the wind.
Oil Price by Nick Cunningham. ... ExxonMobil’s CEO Rex Tillerson didn’t mince words in a recent interview with the Energy Intelligence Group. “I have a long history with this, and I always tell every governor of Alaska, ‘You are not waiting on us. You are waiting on you,’” he told the Energy Intelligence Group, as reported by The Alaska Journal of Commerce. “And every governor that comes in decides they’ve got a different way of doing this, which is why it never happens. You can’t take a project that is going to take five-six-seven years to execute and require $50 billion-$60 billion of capital and decide every two years you’ve got a different way to do it.”
Tillerson thinks Walker’s moves may have doomed the project, at least for now. “We’ve had two good chances in the last 10 years to get it done, and as soon as you had an election that ended it. Alaska is their own worst enemy.” (See our reference. -dh)
YOU READ ALASKA GOVERNOR BILL WALKER'S ANNOUNCEMENTS HERE FIRST, YESTERDAY
BELOW IS TODAY'S UPDATE
(Scheduled for completion this weekend)
I always enjoy your newsletter, but your recent re: the NG issues one is special.
In my nearly 60 years in Alaska I have witnessed "many positive", and "too many negative" uses of the resources found within the boundaries of Alaska (not the boundaries of the State of Alaska) but nothing, not fish plants, not bridges to nowhere, not barley farms, etc., come anywhere near the Natural Gas fiasco that got underway with the El Paso group so long ago.
I have many observations and opinions on what has transpired over time, and will not list them.
But I continue to marvel at the way our "leaders" (elected and not) and the consultants, have been able to relieve the bank accounts (and the money goes somewhere!)!
Thanks, keep up the good reporting.
Terry T. Brady, MS (wood science), for
The Governor's Bombshell
We call Governor Bill Walker's actions this week a 'bombshell' because just as they create a new relationship with Alaska's largest investors so do they change Alaska's reputation as an investment destination. While the Governor has created "change he surely hopes Alaskans will believe in", at the same time, he has destroyed Alaska's attempt over the last few years to make itself more attractive to investors.
Here is, 1) what the Governor did and, 2) how we react to those actions after nearly 45 years of experience in Alaska as a regulator, educator, journalist, small business owner, municipal employee, oil industry executive and non-profit sector volunteer.
What The Governor Did
- Alaska Governor released a "Summary Report on the Review of the Alaska LNG Project Process"
- The "review" should be read in context of his very personal transmittal letter sent to legislators.
- Above is a video he released yesterday.
- Here is a bearish oil price report provided by the Governor
- Here is the Governor's proclamation calling for a special session to, among other things, establish a 'reserves tax' on industry investors applying to gas that is available but not committed to a market.
- Here is the Governor's news release, discussing the above actions.
- Alex DeMarban's ADN review of events.
- We think Alaska's leaders may sometimes forget that sophisticated observers are watching, from all over the world! Here's an example, our Australian oil and gas industry analyst friend who is quite candid about his view of Alaskan leadership and its LNG project.
- Here is our recent and highly relevant review of the Alaska investment climate.
Our Reaction To What The Governor Did
General. Governor Walker assumed office knowing the economic challenges were awesome.
Oil prices ranged at half the level the state operating budget required and that operating budget, in turn, was 90% dependent on Prudhoe Bay oil production. The entire economy of Alaska is over a third dependent on this sole source of income. Annual deficits of $3.5 - $5 billion will deplete the state's available savings within two - three years depending on the level of spending cuts politicians are ready to approve. Still, an almost $10 billion state employee retirement program unfunded liability awaits full funding.
Alaska's oil income flows from a 1/8 royalty share of the oil; a discriminatory, statewide 20 mil oil and gas property tax; one of the highest production (i.e. 'severance') taxes in the free world; and, a corporate income tax.
While the royalty rate was one of the lease terms agreed upon during the famous 1969 Prudhoe Bay lease sale, the bulk of oil taxation was added after the lease holders began making their massive investment in developing the ANS reservoirs and building TAPS. For the dozen years following the lease sale, taxes were increased about a dozen times. At least twice in Alaska's history, higher tax rates were applied retroactively for the sole purpose of clawing into state coffers, more money.
While Alaska got away with its unfair and predatory taxation for a long time, even the great and prolific Prudhoe Bay reserves would dwindle, age and continue need massive reinvestment in order to spawn new production. The trouble is that with the highest oil taxes in the free world, Alaska's political leadership had created the highest per capita taxing authority in America, the highest debt per capita state in the nation characterized by some of the most lavish social programs devised by man. Alaska even has more non-profit organizations per capita than any other state.
In the early 1990s, Dr. Scott Goldsmith (NGP Photo) of the state university's Institute of Social and Economic Research began warning that if Alaska were to begin slowly cutting the growth of spending its economy could arrive at a "soft landing", meaning a sustainable, long term economy.
Common Sense for Alaska, a public interest non-profit organization, sponsored government-spending conferences leading to powerful recommendations for a constitutional amendment limiting government spending increases to an inflation/population formula.
All public officials paid lip service to both Dr. Goldsmith's warnings and Common Sense's recommendations, to no effect. Spending continued to explode.
Alaskan apologists justified their high oil taxes and high spending in this way: "We are a large state with a small population and our cost of living is higher than elsewhere; therefore, it costs more for us to maintain government services."
Problem with that argument is that no matter how much a person, family or government wants to spend more money, one simply can't spend more than one brings in without sacrificing credit worthiness. (Of course, the Federal government has shown that it can spend over $18 trillion more than it takes in, but even its citizens pay for its irresponsibility when, ultimately, inflation devalues the currency) Recently the rating agencies, as we have long predicted, began putting Alaska on notice that its cost of borrowing is likely to increase since its economic risks have now become too large for analysts to ignore.
In addition to the low price era in which Walker finds himself, production has been steadily declining for years at a 5-7% rate.
In the mid 80s, Alaska produced over 2 million barrels per day to feed about a fifth of America's domestic oil needs. The Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) which transports Alaska North Slope (ANS) oil to tidewater now operates at only about a quarter of its capacity. Nearly three-quarters empty is another way to put it.
Governor's Background. Governor Bill Walker was born, raised and spent most of his life in the state. We believe that many who know him would agree he is a gifted public speaker with charismatic qualities. He knows the state well.
These attributes would benefit one's role as governor.
But being governor of a State dependent on oil investment requires a studied, wise, world view of the opportunities, the competition, the alliances leading to a successful term of office.
As a lawyer, much of his professional background, counter-intuitively, dealt with politics and marketing. He held elective posts in Valdez, site of the major, 1989 oil spill, and served as the general counsel and major marketer of a municipally-owned authority.
The Alaska Gasline Port Authority (AGPA) was designed to promote (i.e. and then finance, build and own) a gas pipeline/LNG export project.
During this time, Walker continually criticized other parties (i.e. like the oil industry) for not cooperating with AGPA's or predecessor LNG project efforts.
An observer might conclude Walker's AGPA was never successful for logical reasons: 1) From the early 80s to the late 90s, the Lower 48 gas price was too low to support any project and the world LNG trade was in its infancy. 2) During the years, before the shale phenomenon, when the Lower 48 needed Alaskan gas, the most economical way to monetize ANS gas was to send it by pipeline directly down to those markets, and not to try to send it via tankers to Asian markets. 3) When the shale revolution produced massive gas supply for North American markets, Asia looked more promising, especially after the Nakashima tragedy in Japan lessened interest in Nuclear power and increased interest in natural gas fired power plants. At that point, the major gas owners rather quickly shifted their sights to Asia and with ample expertise and contacts had no need for a 'middle man' like AGPA to market their gas.
Others may view it differently, but this scenario provides a very understandable backdrop for this governor's 'Alaska-centric' judgment and decision making.
While his AGPA attempts failed to monetize ANS gas, now he is governor and, again, he may be viewing the oil companies as roadblocks when, in fact, their diligent efforts have brought an ANS gas monetization project farther forward than ever before.
We believe it ironic that Walker's zeal to be the man at the helm of an LNG project may, in fact, be clouding his judgment and sabatoging the project.
Insisting on certain state control of and equity in a mega project perverts the private enterprise system to begin with. Then, to be criticizing the investors, refusing to talk about a comprehensive fiscal security package for them and threatening them with a gas reserves tax radiates a hostility sufficient to dampen the ardor of any Alaska investor, current or potential.
In fact, we would be not the least surprised to someday read an announcement from one or more producers to the effect that, "The governor has indicated his desire to own and operate an ANS gas pipeline/LNG system. We respect that desire and, accordingly, are withdrawing from our plan to construct such a project. Instead, we stand ready to sell the state the research and planning material we have developed and will support the governor's efforts in any reasonable way. Our efforts had led Alaska closer than ever before to launching a successful ANS gas monetization project and we were completely on schedule with that effort, but for the governor's demand that we spend additional time and money studying a 48" pipeline alternative. The time honored adage that, 'too many cooks spoil the soup', is as true now as it was in the old days. Rather than face a continuingly critical state administration for what we believe has been our on-time, on-budget, good faith gas monetization effort, we conclude it prudent to transform our project support into support for the governor's state-ownership idea, whatever that turns out to be. Meanwhile, we shall shift the majority of our focus now on investing in expanded throughput of TAPS, upon which the state government and the people of Alaska depend."
Please check back this weekend; much more coming....
|KTVA Video/story by Liz Raines. The Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline (ASAP) was almost ready for construction after more than five years. At a board meeting Wednesday, members of The Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) decided to mothball it, saying they didn’t want to run parallel projects. Instead, the agency plans to focus efforts and funding on AKLNG, the larger pipeline project that involves large oil companies like Exxon Mobil, BP and ConocoPhillips.
ADN by Alex DeMarban. ... concerned with public apathy about an effort the state has pursued unsuccessfully for decades -- to tap and sell gigantic volumes of North Slope gas -- the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. has proposed launching a communication campaign to educate the public about Alaska LNG.
(John) Burns, the chair, said there’s a lot of “gas line fatigue” in Alaska, with people confused about the process. Some don't understand that the large sums the state is putting into the project are investments that will one day yield income, he said.
An education campaign could help unify the state’s messages that currently come from multiple sources, including the governor's office, AGDC and agencies working on the effort, officials said.
“The general public has to know what’s going on. It’s Alaska’s pipeline,” said board member Dave Cruz.
Miles Baker, vice president of external affairs and government relations, said the campaign could probably cost “several million dollars” over the next couple years.
(AGDC President Dan) Fauske said that's possible, but a final plan has yet to be presented to the board.
"We really have no clue," he said, referring to the potential cost.
FRIDAY'S EARLY REPORT: MORE TO COME, INCLUDING OUR VIEW OF WHY WE CHARACTERIZE THE GOVERNOR'S RELEASE ON THURSDAY AS A BOMBSHELL REPORT (I.E. NOT MEANT AS AN ENDORSEMENT.) MEANWHILE, WE WANTED YOU TO HAVE THIS MATERIAL AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. PLEASE REVIEW IT AND DEVELOP YOUR OWN REASONED PERSPECTIVE. -DH
Reference: Governor Bill Walker's transmittal letter to Legislators
Reference: Governor Bill Walker's, "Summary Report on the Review of the Alaska LNG Project Process"
We will provide our dear readers with commentary later in the day on Friday.
Here is the copy of an email alert we also issued Thursday on this subject:
- A Governor who has endured a quixotic journey of several decades to force private industry to build a project of his own dreams, and
- Legislative leaders who created a several hundred million dollar state-owned "Alaska Gasline Development Corporation" (AGDC) to deliver North Slope Gas to citizens in case a larger interstate project did not materialize, now run by Walker's appointed board members, and
- Alaska's largest investors, the North Slope Producers, who purchased leases, found oil and gas and have the right to market it while providing a royalty in kind (RIK) or royalty in value (RIV) to the state, and
- Fairbanks citizens and politicians anxious to benefit from a state-financed -- and to this point state managed -- natural gas distribution system concept, enabled by Walker appointed members of a state investment corporation, and
- Politicians from all over the state who are thinking, "How can my constituents and I benefit from any of the horse trading going on", and
- Frightened citizens whose leaders have created a $4-5 billion ANNUAL deficit in the state operating budget which is almost 90% funded by North Slope producers -- at a time when production is declining, world oil prices remain depressed and state spending continues rising.
Regular readers will know that this blog considers the Alaska LNG (AKLNG) project to be the Aesopian tortoise of the LNG project world – not as flashy as some, but plodding towards first gas next decade.
However, that tortoise carries a heavy shell that would be familiar to LNG project proponents in most locations around the world – a Government that wants to maximize its share of something that does not as yet exist – and therefore risks getting a larger share in nothing rather than a reasonable share in something.
Australian readers of this blog will likely be familiar with only one Alaskan Governor – the surprisingly socialist (when it comes to taxing oil companies) Sarah Palin. Her populist instincts live on in the State and even the Russian news service Interfax today points out that AKLNG risks being bogged down by politics (http://interfaxenergy.com/gasdaily/article/17647/alaska-lng-could-be-left-out-in-the-cold).
Alaskan based website Northern Gas Pipelines (http://www.northerngaspipelines.com) today provides an update on the latest Government meddling in AKLNG and asks the reasonable question – “with so many government cooks in the LNG kitchen, really, what could possibly go wrong?”
Dave Harbour, publisher of Northern Gas Pipelines, is a former Chairman of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska and a Commissioner Emeritus of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). He served as NARUC's official representative to the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC). Harbour is past Chairman of the Alaska Council on Economic Education, Anchorage Downtown Partnership, and the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. He served as President of the American Bald Eagle Foundation, Common Sense for Alaska and the Alaska Press Club. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Alaska Oil & Gas Congress.
Opinions or viewpoints expressed in this webpage or in our email alerts are completely independent. They are solely those of the publisher and are not intended to reflect the opinion(s) of any affiliated company, person, employer or other organization which or who may, in fact, oppose the views stated herein. -dh
You'll love this Blog by our Aussie friend; try it here.
Suncor (TSX:SU), Canada's largest energy company, boosted its stake in the Fort Hills oil sands project
ADN by Pat Forgey. The big oil companies that plan to produce and ship North Slope natural gas have agreed to pay $16.5 billion in property taxes on the huge project, but they'll pay them to the state instead of local governments, Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck said Wednesday.
Financial Post: TransCanada layoffs.
“This past Monday, employees were informed of organizational changes being implemented over the next several months. At this time, our new structure has resulted in a reduction of some senior leadership positions. Moving forward, staffing levels will be further impacted,” wrote company spokesman James Millar in an email.
NGI Daily by Joe Fisher. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (NGP Photo) plans to hold a special session of the state legislature next month related to the Alaska LNG project. The main, and perhaps only, topic is expected to be a potential state buyout of TransCanada Corp.'s stake.
|Alaska Journal of Commerce by Tim Bradner.
Alaska LNG Project managers presented an upbeat report on technical progress of the giant gas project in a Sept. 9 briefing to legislators, but also warned of the economic challenges faced.
Steve Butt (NGP Photo), an ExxonMobil official who is manager of the overall project, described the possible complications of an expansion of the pipe diameter requested by Gov. Bill Walker. However, if the expansion were done the goal would be to keep the project on schedule for a 2018 or 2019 construction decision, he said.
Butt said there are about 1,000 people at work on.... More...
A deal would have to occur by Dec. 15 due to provisions of agreements between the state and the pipeline company. Lawmakers have received notice of the special session, which is expected to end by Thanksgiving. More....
Forbes by Brigham A. McCown. Alaska was long at the vanguard of America’s energy industry. At one time the State of Alaska accounted for as much as one-quarter of the entire country’s domestic oil production. Alaska’s vast fields also served as a source of pride – and the backbone of the state’s economy. As production surged, it was common to hear industry men revel in the United States’ diminishing reliance on foreign supplies as they worked rigs up and down regional reserves.
Yet, as energy development in the lower 48 has burgeoned over the past decade, those refrains have waned.... More...
ADN by Pat Forgy.
The North Slope Borough has become fabulously wealthy from taxes on the oil industry and its massive Prudhoe Bay infrastructure. More....
Our Mid-Atlantic Energy Senior Consultant Friend
(Reference this Fuel Fix Story by Collin Eaton)
While Alaska producers are poised to finance and build a gas pipeline/LNG export project, Alaska's new Administration seems to be doing everything possible to delay it into oblivion.
We have commented on these various matters separately over the governor's first year in office; we believe that, this issue cannot be separated from the theme of our consultant friend's article on the left.
As development projects are delayed during this low energy price era, experienced oil industry specialists in many areas -- including gas exploration, production, pipelines, liquefaction and ocean transport -- are being laid off and/or retired.
Our consultant friend has observed that this trend endangers future projects, not because of future oil prices but because of the serious lack of oil and gas specialists needed when demand and higher prices again call for more production -- from highly technical projects.
It is another viewpoint that public and private officials involved in pipeline/LNG projects should bear in mind.
If politicians waste too much time trying too hard to dictate what projects investors should build, how, in what timeframe and with what personnel policies (i.e. as Alaskan politicians tend to do), Alaska's gas pipeline could remain a pipe dream for another, perhaps poorer but wiser, generation to tackle.
-dh (Note: we will immediately correct any factual errors in this or any archived material. Please write us with any additions or corrections. Thank you.)
Wood Mackenzie has estimated that the number of major drilling projects on which the oil industry can make money, given current economics, is down by huge amount (although the numbers are actually a little fuzzy). We have written about this trend several times recently, including our note on diminished North Sea drilling. We do not have access to the complete WM report – their press release is below – but it is still fair make several points about the implications of this trend:
· It will be tough to get to the cost reductions estimated as necessary below, without fudging the numbers. The oil companies already challenge costs in a very disciplined manner for every project, even after it goes FID.
· Given current cash flows, it is probable that a number of projects declared marginally profitable after being put through the cost reduction wringer will get deferred for significant time, or simply mothballed.
· This process will have a cascade effect if it goes on for several years. The longer it goes on, the more the reason for deferral will be lack of qualified
specialists. Prostitution is not world’s oldest profession; the oil industry is. The business lost the bulk of a whole generation through layoffs in 1980s and 1990s. With the layoffs this time around, the talent needed for the next upturn simply will not be there.
· Many of these projects will take multiple years to be developed. The lack of timely response to deal with a supply/demand imbalance will also contribute to greater volatility in the future.
Bottom Line: We have seen this movie before. The monsters involved will be bigger and more convoluted in the current version of the story, but the result will be the same. It will not end well.
Today's Energy Links Are From Larry Persily, Former Federal Gas Pipeline Coordinator
Oil and gas news briefs for Sept. 21, 2015
LNG buyers making progress in push for more flexible contracts
(Platts; Sept. 18) - Calls for increased contract flexibility dominated discussions at the fourth annual LNG Producer-Consumer Conference in Tokyo this week, as industry participants met once again to deliberate emerging trends in the LNG market. The debate advanced some from a year ago, when price indexation had largely taken center stage. With some flexibility now granted in this area, the focus increasingly turned to the still-restrictive terms around LNG delivery schedules and destinations.
Numerous industry observers saw the removal of destination clauses, take-or-pay terms and wider quantity tolerance in contracts as key components that will be necessary to manage the looming supply glut in LNG. "LNG producers must improve on the contract practices of the past. Simply put, producers need to help increase the flexibility of the trade," said Jae-do Moon, South Korea's vice minister for trade, industry and energy.
Jean-Pierre Mateille, Total Gas & Power's vice president for trading, conceded that changes around delivery and schedule terms in contracts were inevitable. "Contracts are becoming shorter.” Most U.S. LNG exports will allow destination flexibility, Mateille said, “We see the traditional link between producer of gas and buyer has been broken up by this new business model.” Satoshi Kusakabe, commissioner of Japan METI's Natural Resources and Energy Agency, said removal of destination clauses would help the market because it would draw more players and increase liquidity and spot trades.
Meanwhile, market uncertainty and lack of new project sanctions has prompted caution of future shortages. "Even at current projections, we need to add about 20 million metric tons of LNG per year to maintain a stable supply demand balance [from 2023 onward]," said Demus King, general manager for offshore resources at Australia's Department of Industry and Science. "To deliver in 2023, FIDs need to be made in the next few years."
Global commodity traders see big opportunities in LNG
(Reuters; Sept. 17) - Mining and trading giant Glencore is mounting a challenge to Trafigura and Vitol to become the top merchant trader of liquefied natural gas as a global market in which sales are largely frozen in decades-long contracts looks ready to thaw. Trafigura recently adopted tactics developed from years of trading oil to become the world's top LNG merchant, investing in logistics and storage, while also providing credit and shouldering risk for buyers.
Glencore, on the other hand, plans to double its global LNG trading team and trade as many as 50 cargoes of the fuel over the next year — almost twice what Trafigura traded in its past fiscal year. LNG could soon surpass iron ore as the world's second-biggest traded commodity, with estimates of the market's worth ranging between $90 billion and $150 billion. "The opportunity for growth in LNG trading is spectacular," said Glencore's global head of LNG, Gordon Waters, who joined the firm in July after 18 years at BP.
Trading companies, which industry sources say have so far accounted for less than 10 percent of overall LNG trade, could help trigger a more liquid Asian LNG market, with exchanges from Singapore to Tokyo launching indices and futures contracts in preparation. Glencore — which has had a limited presence in LNG up to this point — plans to trade in spot or short-term deals over the next year and double the size of its three-trader team based in Singapore, London and Madrid.
First Nation seeks title to island at proposed LNG plant site
(Globe and Mail; Canada; Sept. 18) - The Lax Kw’alaams First Nation is seeking aboriginal title to Lelu Island and Flora Bank, creating a legal obstacle for a Malaysian-led consortium that wants to build a liquefied natural gas export terminal near Prince Rupert, B.C. The aboriginal group will file a notice of civil claim to launch the legal action next week in B.C. Supreme Court, Lax Kw’alaams Mayor Garry Reece said Sept. 18.
Pacific NorthWest LNG, led by Malaysia’s Petronas, is proposing to construct an LNG export terminal on Lelu Island, and also build a suspension bridge and jetty to a dock for Asia-bound tankers. Pacific NorthWest LNG has offered assurances that the design of marine infrastructure will not harm the environment. But the Lax Kw’alaams believe there would be environmental damage because Flora Bank contains juvenile salmon habitat in eelgrass beds next to the island in the Skeena River estuary.
“We want to protect crucial salmon habitat, protect our food security and ensure that governments and industry are obligated to seek our consent,” Reece said. The area is part of the traditional territory of the Allied Tsimshian Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams, and Reece believes that gaining aboriginal title will provide the First Nation with an effective veto over specific aspects of Pacific NorthWest LNG’s proposal. The B.C. government said it respects the right of the Lax Kw’alaams to seek title, while the Prince Rupert Port authority said it is examining the implications of the legal challenge.
Petronas will market ‘package deals’ to sell some of its B.C. LNG
(Platts; Sept. 15) - Pacific NorthWest LNG will look to sell additional volumes of gas from its planned Prince Rupert, B.C., facility to Asian buyers as part of "package deals,” responding to buyer demand, company president Michael Culbert said Sept. 16. “The Chinese, Japanese and Indian markets are seeking diversity [in supply sources] and Petronas is looking at a portfolio of supplying LNG for 20 to 30 years that will be sourced from Canada besides Australia and other global producers," he said.
"A prime advantage of mixing LNG supplies from Canada with other producers will be stability of supply that buyers are demanding," he said on a webcast of the Peters and Co. annual conference in Toronto. Petronas holds 62 percent of the B.C. project that is aiming to start exports in late 2019 or early 2020. Petronas is responsible for marketing the LNG, Culbert said, and already has sold nearly 50 percent of the output under long-term deals with Sinopec, Indian Oil Corp., Japex and Petroleum Brunei.
Culbert did not indicate how much LNG that Petronas plans to sell under the package deals, or if negotiations have already started with Asian buyers. Pacific NorthWest LNG is awaiting final clearance from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency before taking a final investment decision to build its LNG facility.
Asian owned-and-operated LNG plant new to the market
(Nikkei Asian Review; Sept. 16) - Companies in East Asia are teaming up to secure cheap, stable supplies of liquefied natural gas. In the process, they are attempting an end-around of the oil giants that dominate the LNG business. One example of how they are trying to do this can be found in Indonesia, where Japanese trading company Mitsubishi and Korea Gas, the world's largest LNG importer, built an LNG plant.
The hope is to eventually ease Big Oil's grip on Asia's LNG market. In August, the first shipment of LNG made its way from the new Donggi Senoro plant to an LNG receiving terminal operated by Pertamina, Indonesia's state-owned oil and gas company. This fall, LNG from the Donggi Senoro plant will be shipped to Korea Gas and Japanese electric utilities, said Toru Kawabata, operations director for the joint venture.
The new plant in Indonesia — at 2 million metric tons annual capacity — is much smaller than the Middle East's typically gigantic production facilities, though it has huge implications for East Asia's LNG market. It is a wholly Asian enterprise in an industry used to Western oil companies taking the lead in building and operating LNG plants — and its output will stay in Asia. Neither Mitsubishi nor Korea Gas has any experience operating an LNG plant, however, and the team has gotten off to a shaky start. After production began, operating errors have caused emergency shutdowns.
Major LNG carrier operator says Australia gas could go to Europe
(Sydney Morning Herald; Sept. 17) - If Asia doesn't want Australia's liquefied natural gas, Europe will take it, said the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent owner and operator of LNG carriers. Australian LNG producers are seeing growth demand in top-consuming East Asia countries, like China, Korea and Japan, dry up as those economies slow down. That's causing some Australian developers whose projects are due to come online to look elsewhere, said Gary Smith, who heads up Golar LNG.
"The only other liquid market that is open to them with the U.S. now closed is Europe," Smith said Sept. 16 at the annual Capital Link Global Commodities Energy & Shipping Forum in New York. "And we've seen it before where cargoes start moving west from Australia instead of east." East Asia nations are not taking a lot of additional supply commitments, with some buyers reselling their cargoes, Smith said. Unless markets in Asia change, Australian LNG is “going to have to go farther to find a home,” he said.
European demand for LNG is constant, since the fuel can be used to replace pipeline gas or used by generators to produce electricity, he said.
U.S. report shows coal losing favor in China
(U.S. Energy Information Administration; Sept. 17) - Economic deceleration, industry restructuring and new energy and environmental policies have slowed China’s growth in coal consumption and are also driving more centralized and cleaner uses of coal. After nearly a decade of rapid growth, coal consumption — which currently supplies two-thirds of China's overall energy use — grew only 1 to 2 percent in 2012 and 2013 and was essentially flat in 2014, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Total energy consumption in China has slowed as its economic growth has eased and as the composition of its gross domestic product has shifted. In 2013, the service-sector share of GDP surpassed the industry-sector share for the first time in Chinese history. The service-sector share further increased to 48 percent in 2014. Policies to accelerate the development of service industries are likely to sustain the transition away from industry, further weakening coal consumption, the EIA said in its report.
Industry restructuring has reduced China’s energy demand growth from coal-intensive industries such as steel, cement and fertilizer as industry growth slows and processes become more energy efficient. In addition, China's severe air pollution challenges have led to new policies and regulations to restrict coal use in coastal China, to upgrade the nation's coal-fired power generation fleet, and to accelerate the increase of alternative energy technologies.
Idled oil rigs mean less gas production in U.S.
(Bloomberg; Sept. 16) - The retrenchment in drilling for oil in the U.S. is threatening to leave a different market short: natural gas. “The impacts of oil-rig counts extend beyond oil; the outlook for U.S. natural gas is critically dependent on the outcome of this balancing act in U.S. oil rigs,” Anthony Yuen, a strategist at Citigroup in New York, said in a report to clients Sept. 16. “If the oil market remains oversupplied and oil-rig counts fall, the decline in associated gas production would leave the market short of gas.”
Associated gas is the gas that comes out of oil wells along with the crude. Supplies of this byproduct from fields including the Bakken formation in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas may fall by about 1 billion cubic feet a day next year as drillers idle rigs in response to the collapse in oil prices, Yuen said. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has already forecast that shale gas production will drop in October for the fourth straight month, a record streak of declines.
Crude producers in the Lower 48 states may have to keep the number of working rigs low for a while longer to balance the global oil market, Yuen said. A premature recovery in the rig count may “exacerbate the current oversupplied environment” and weaken prices, he said. While oil prices have been down, natural gas futures have been lower, too, settling at $2.66 per million Btu on the New York Mercantile Exchange Sept. 16, down 41 percent from June 20, 2014.
Floating LNG storage, regasification ships gain in popularity
(Bloomberg; Sept. 15) - At a time when oil and gas producers are writing down assets and canceling projects worldwide, one niche area is booming. Hybrid ships, called floating storage and regasification units, or FSRUs, offer emerging nations from Egypt to Pakistan a cheaper, quicker way to attack power shortages by importing liquefied natural gas. They cost about $300 million to build, half as much as an onshore import terminal, and are up and running as much as six times faster, sometimes within as little as a year, according to FSRU owners Hoegh LNG Holding and Excelerate Energy.
Built at shipyards in South Korea, Hoegh sees as many as 55 such vessels in use within five years, from about 20 now and just one a decade ago. “The main driver is speed,” Sveinung Stohle, Hoegh’s chief executive officer, said by telephone from the company’s Oslo office. “Demand for FSRUs follows a drastic reduction in the cost of LNG. We see that this has caused a very strong increase in requests.”
FSRUs are emerging as the fastest alternative for gas imports as nations imposing limits on carbon dioxide emissions turn to cleaner-burning gas. Competition has cut costs of leasing such vessels by 20 percent to about $120,000 per day from five years ago, said Keith Bainbridge, managing director of industry consultant CS LNG in London. Once the 1,000-foot ships are moored, LNG is transferred from arriving tankers through pipes. The LNG is regasified onboard and typically used at a nearby power plant.
Australia antitrust regulator delays decision on Shell-BG deal
(Wall Street Journal; Sept. 17) – Shell’s $70 billion takeover of BG Group has hit a snag after Australia’s antitrust regulator flagged concerns the deal might squeeze domestic supplies of natural gas and drive up prices. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said Sept. 17 it would delay a decision on the deal by about two months toNov. 12, after receiving a welter of submissions from businesses worried Shell would curb local supply in favor of more lucrative sales to Asia through BG’s LNG terminal.
Shell’s proposed acquisition of BG is, in part, a bet that developing countries will move to cleaner-burning gas amid growing pressure to curb emissions. The regulator’s review of the Shell-BG tie-up has become entwined in a separate study of Australia’s East Coast gas market, which Commission Chairman Rod Sims said is one of the few in the world under the shadow of supply uncertainty despite a global gas production boom.
Australia is due to become the world’s biggest producer of liquefied natural gas within two years, as several multibillion-dollar export terminals that began construction when oil and gas prices ran hot start shipping cargoes of LNG to Asia. While that investment holds out the prospect of sharply higher revenues for state and federal governments in Australia, it has also spooked local businesses, which fear paying more for energy as fuel that would have previously fed the domestic market gets shipped overseas.
Gas association launches pro-pipeline public awareness campaign
(Houston Chronicle; Sept. 14) – Increased domestic production has spurred a need for new pipelines to carry natural gas across the country, but also a wariness by some Americans worried about pipelines snaking through the ground. The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America hopes to combat some of the skepticism by rolling out a new ready-for-social-media campaign with videos, graphics and a website emphasizing that pipelines are a vital energy link for the nation.
“If you think about citizens who live near pipelines or in communities where pipelines are proposed to be constructed, they probably don’t know much about natural gas or natural gas pipelines and the tremendous contributions (they) make to overall quality of life,” said Don Santa, CEO of the gas association. With the campaign, INGAA argues that pipelines are the safest method for transporting gas. In addition, gas is better for the environment than the coal it often displaces for power generation.
Cathy Landry, an INGAA spokeswoman, said the group is trying to reach “everyday Americans,” including landowners and others in communities affected by pipeline construction — people who may not realize that natural gas is used to generate electricity as well as fuel furnaces. The campaign is being launched as opponents to oil and gas development have focused more attention on pipelines.
Analyst forecasts another record year for U.S. gas production
(Platts; Sept. 18) - Record levels for production, power burn and storage injection will help make 2015 another record year for natural gas, Jeff Moore, senior energy analyst at Platts unit Bentek Energy, told attendees Sept. 18 at the 38th annual Coal Marketing Days conference in Pittsburgh. Moore said that while coal plant retirements have helped fuel an increase in natural gas generation, the real driver behind in the rise in demand is the commodity's continued low price.
With the Henry Hub price staying below $3 per million Btu, natural gas generation is deployed ahead of coal, Moore said. The only time gas demand for power generation was near these levels was in 2012, the year the Henry Hub price dipped to about $2 in May, he said. Bentek sees the price rounding out in 2015 at an average of $2.68 and increasing to $2.84 in 2016. From 2017 to 2020, Bentek expects the price to average $3.38, $3.85, $4.23 and $4.42, respectively.
Efficiencies in horizontal drilling and a drastic increase in the initial production rate from wells in the Marcellus and Utica shales will push gas production to a new high in 2015, Moore said. Total U.S. marketed gas production is averaging 72 billion to 72.5 billion cubic feet per day this year but will ramp up to near 74 bcf by the end of 2015, Moore said. Gas inventory levels are predicted at an all-time high at the end of the year, but the volumes depend on winter weather.
U.S. oil production finally starts trending lower
(EnergyWire; Sept. 17) – U.S. crude oil production is finally starting to decline, according to statistics and experts. After months of production increases — even in the midst of falling oil prices — total output volumes have been trending downward as production growth in some areas is being outpaced by declines in major shale oil regions. The trend appears to be holding.
Earlier, it had been difficult to tell whether output declines represented a steady trend or the occasional variance seen month to month. Output continues to expand in the Permian Basin of west Texas and southeastern New Mexico and in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. But declines in the North Dakota Bakken Shale, in south Texas' Eagle Ford Shale and from other fields appear to be outpacing growth elsewhere.
"There is evidence now that production from the shale plays is declining, not at a rapid rate, but I just recently saw some data for the Eagle Ford and the Bakken which do show production declines over the last couple of weeks," said Bernard Weinstein, director at the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University. The U.S. Energy Information Administration sees a gradual decline continuing for the next year, with U.S. oil production forecast to reach 8.63 million barrels a day in August 2016, a drop of nearly 1 million barrels per day from the April 2015 high-water mark.
Low oil prices may cut into production as companies run out of cash
(Bloomberg; Sept. 17) - As much as 400,000 barrels a day of oil production is at risk as U.S. shale companies like Samson Resources run out of money and are forced to slow drilling. Total debt for half of the companies in a Bloomberg index of more than 60 producers has risen to a level that represents 40 percent of their enterprise value. It’s a sign of distress that shows equity values falling in the face of oil’s crash, said Rob Thummel, a managing director and portfolio manager at Tortoise Capital Advisors.
The companies facing high debt loads, which include Encana and Chesapeake Energy, produced 1.1 million barrels a day in the second quarter of this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. If more companies file for bankruptcy as Samson did Sept. 16, or embrace the kinds of draconian cuts needed to survive, output could fall by 200,000 to 400,000 barrels, Thummel said. A loss of that much crude would be the steepest U.S. decline since 1989 — about the same as Oklahoma, the sixth-largest producing state.
“We are going to see a major response because these financially challenged companies won’t be able to produce as much as they did in the past,” he said. As companies run short on cash from low oil prices, they may be forced to idle drilling rigs, file bankruptcy or seek more expensive financing and sell assets. In the past year, U.S. oil producers used 83 percent of their operating cash flow to pay for debt service, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. A year earlier, it was less than 60 percent.