Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted May 13, 2015
The Hill: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) have introduced a bill to lift the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.
The bill would fulfill one of Murkowski’s biggest energy priorities and allow American oil companies to export crude oil as they do petroleum products. It would also allow exports of condensate, a type of light crude oil.
“America’s energy landscape has changed dramatically since the export ban was put in place in the 1970s. We have moved from energy scarcity to energy abundance. Unfortunately, our energy policies have not kept pace,” Murkowski said in a statement.
“This legislation builds from bipartisan ideas, linking energy security and infrastructure to expanding exports and helping our allies. Our nation has an opportunity to embrace its role as a global energy powerhouse, sending a signal to the world that we are open for business and will stand by our friends in need.”
Posted May 11, 2015
Breaking Energy Opinion (Thorning): The Department of Energy recently approved an application from Alaska LNG to export natural gas. But there’s a catch: these exports can only go to nations where the United States has a free-trade agreement in place.
Never mind the fact that the top markets for LNG are India, China, and Japan, where we don’t have free-trade agreements set up.So essentially, the company is stuck alongside the 20-plus U.S. natural gas companies that are awaiting approval to sell abroad. Some have been waiting for nearly three years.
Despite the rapid expansion of the American energy sector, the American regulatory apparatus hasn’t kept pace with the industry’s growth. New exploration techniques like fracking have opened up giant swaths of underground energy reserves in places like North Dakota and Pennsylvania. And the operations established to dig up the embedded oil and natural gas have created hundreds of thousands of new jobs and driven billions in new economic activity.
But now, unnecessary regulations are stifling firms with outdated rules. Most notably, the federal approval process energy producers have to navigate in order to sell in foreign markets is extremely restrictive. It’s needlessly difficult for firms to ship surplus oil and gas to eager customers abroad.
Posted May 8, 2015
The Hill: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) took her biggest step to date toward a large-scale overhaul of federal energy policy on Thursday, introducing 17 bills she said could make up parts of an energy reform package this session.
The bills cover a myriad of topics, from electricity reliability to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to the production of methane, hydropower or helium. Any of the bills could make up the backbone of a broad energy reform effort, something Murkowski, the chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has made one of her top priorities this session.
“Does this mean all of them are going to part of a broader bill? No,” she said at a briefing with reporters. “But does it mean these are my ideas I would like to have folks catch up on? Yes, absolutely.”
One high-profile piece of legislation missing from the slate introduced Thursday: a bill to lift the federal ban on crude oil exports. Murkowski said she will release that bill separately next week.
Posted May 6, 2015
The opportunity to stimulate increased domestic production of oil and natural gas, create jobs, spur the economy and enhance America’s ability to positively shape world events is at hand – waiting only on the stroke of a pen. Lifting the United States’ four-decades-old ban on crude oil exports could help advance all of the above, and it all could be launched with the stroke of a pen.
Encana President and CEO Doug Suttles and API President and CEO Jack Gerard emphasized the relative ease with which the 1970s-era export ban could be ended, as well as the building political momentum for action, during a conference call with reporters.
Gerard said the ban could be lifted through the exercise of presidential authority or by the president signing legislation from Congress. Gerard:
“There is a consensus building in the country. We see strong bipartisan support in the House and now rolling in the Senate. So overall, we think the momentum continues to build as people better understand all of the issues. … Job creation, benefit to our trade imbalance, revenues to government, lowering the price at the pump. … It’s just a matter of time now before that pen is deployed to allow this to happen.”
Posted May 6, 2015
BloombergBusiness: The U.S. will become one of the world’s largest oil exporters if domestic production continues to surge and policy makers lift a four-decade ban that keeps most crude from leaving the country, a government-sponsored study shows.
America would be capable of sending as much as 2.4 million barrels a day overseas in 2025 if federal policy makers were to eliminate restrictions on most crude exports, an analysis by Turner, Mason & Co. for the Energy Information Administration shows. That would make the U.S. the fourth-largest oil exporter, behind Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, based on 2013 EIA data. The report assumes domestic output rises by 7.2 million barrels a day from 2013.
The analysis is part of a series of studies the U.S. government is performing following a 71 percent surge in domestic oil production over the last four years. Drillers including Harold Hamm of Continental Resources Inc. and John Hess of Hess Corp. have been calling on the government to lift the ban on crude exports as they pump more light oil out of shale formations from North Dakota to Texas.
Posted May 5, 2015
During months of public discussion of improving the safety of transporting crude oil by rail, we’ve stressed the need to let science and fact-based analysis guide development of a holistic strategy that would have the best chance of producing tangible safety benefits.
Unfortunately, new rules published last week by the Transportation Department – featuring requirements for sturdier tank cars and electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes – are a mixed bag that will do little to prevent derailments in the first place.
Instead of working to ensure the integrity of the tracks and to eliminate human error as much as possible, both of which would help prevent accidents from occurring, it seems federal officials at times opted for the optics of appearing to make progress. In the case of the ECP brakes, it’s a technology that experts say doesn’t significantly improve safety – which is the goal. To add to the 99.99 percent safety record in the transport of hazardous materials by rail, a more comprehensive approach that focuses more attention on prevention is needed.
Posted May 4, 2015
USA Today: The U.S. economy may not be benefiting as much as anticipated from the collapse in oil prices over the past 10 months. In fact, for oil-producing states, the decline of some 50% is taking a toll.
But one thing seems clear: The nation as a whole is nowhere near as susceptible to sharp swings in oil prices — one way or the other — as it was for decades.
That was the message from Jason Furman, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers and President Obama's chief economist, at a New York forum held by the Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy.
Furman spoke one day before the U.S. government reported an annual growth rate of just 0.2% for the nation's gross domestic production from January through March, down substantially from a 2.2% pace in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Among the factors was consumer spending, which rose by only 1.9% in the first quarter compared with a 4.4% increase in the previous quarter.
Consumers proved slow to spend their savings from lower gasoline prices, savings that economists estimate at $700 per household, as Furman pointed out. But that reluctance may change soon, to the benefit of the nation's economy, he added.
Posted May 1, 2015
API President and CEO Jack Gerard joined members of Congress and others at a Capitol Hill press conference calling for an end to the United States’ 1970s-era ban on the export of domestic crude oil. Gerard:
“We've come to the point where we have a limitation on our ability to continue to grow this renaissance, to create good-paying jobs, to help stimulate the domestic economy. Today, there are few public policy changes that would bring as much economic value to our domestic economy than lifting the ban on crude exports.”
Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar said other Democrats will support legislation to end the export ban:
“I think we are going to get there. Once we get this on the floor, you’re going to see that we’re going to get more support from the Democratic side. … I’ll continue working with my friends across the aisle to make sure that this outdated ban on oil exports is lifted.”
Posted May 1, 2015
Ravalli (Mont.) Republic: The nation’s energy future is strong, with oil and natural gas production driving the country closer to becoming a net exporter of energy, the commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Wednesday.
Commissioner Norman Bay said the U.S. has ramped up its oil and gas production while slowing domestic demand for petroleum.
Growth of the nation’s electrical consumption has also slowed to 1 percent a year, and coal is playing a smaller role in U.S. power generation.
“In 2009, all that natural gas flooded the market and the share of electricity generated from coal dropped from 50 percent to 45 percent,” Bay said. “Over time, the share of generation by natural gas continues to increase and electricity generated from coal continues to decrease. It’s primarily driven by market forces.”
Posted April 27, 2015
ConocoPhillips Chairman and CEO Ryan Lance talks with Energy Tomorrow about key industry challenges ahead and details the case for ending the United States’ 1970s-era ban on the export of domestic crude oil. Lance is a petroleum engineer with 28 years of oil and natural gas industry experience in senior management and technical positions with ConocoPhillips, predecessor Phillips Petroleum and various divisions of ARCO. His past executive assignments with ConocoPhillips have included responsibility for international exploration and production, regional responsibility at various times for Asia, Africa, the Middle East and North America, and responsibility for technology, major projects, downstream strategy, integration and specialty functions. He is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in petroleum engineering from Montana Tech in 1984.
Q: Given the current downturn in oil prices, talk about the key decisions ahead for the industry over the next 10 years.
Lance: We foresee several key decisions ahead for companies in our industry. First they have to determine their strategic direction. Industry has transitioned from an era of limited resource access to one that, due to the productivity of North American shale and the potential for shale development elsewhere, offers a new abundance of resources. Although many of the best conventional resource areas remain off limits in traditional exporting countries, shale and other unconventional resources offer immense potential in many areas that are accessible. So companies now have an unprecedented range of options – pursuing North American shale, international shale, deepwater development, LNG, oil sands, international exploration, and so on. Companies must determine where they have or can build competitive advantages and leverage relationships with host nations, potential partners and suppliers, and identify the long-term opportunities best for them.