Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted May 14, 2015
Wall Street Journal: After slashing production for months, U.S. shale-oil companies say they are ready to bring rigs back into service, setting up the first big test of their ability to quickly react to rising crude prices.
Last week, EOG Resources Inc. EOG, -0.08% said it would ramp up output if U.S. prices hold at recent levels, while Occidental Petroleum Corp. OXY, +0.93% boosted planned production for the year. Other drillers said they would open the taps if U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate CLM5, -0.88% reaches $70 a barrel. WTI settled at $60.50 Wednesday, while global benchmark Brent LCOM5, -0.13% settled at $66.81.
An increase in U.S. production, coupled with rising output by suppliers such as Russia and Brazil, could put a cap on the 40% rally in crude prices since March and even push them lower later in the year, some analysts say.
“U.S. supply could quickly rebound in response to the recent recovery in prices,” said Tom Pugh, a commodities economist at Capital Economics. “Based on the historical relationship with prices, the fall in the number of drilling rigs already looks overdone, and activity is likely to rebound over the next few months.”
Posted May 13, 2015
Some observations on a new University of Texas energy poll and its findings on the Keystone XL pipeline:
First, among Americans who have some familiarity with Keystone XL, 45 percent support the pipeline’s construction while 21 percent oppose. (Twenty-one percent said they neither support nor oppose Keystone XL and 13 percent said they didn’t know.)
The more than 2-1 margin of Americans who favor Keystone XL over those who don’t in the poll underscores a couple of things: People who’ve learned about the pipeline, its purposes and its benefits in terms of jobs and economic growth overwhelmingly support it – and they must be baffled that it hasn’t been built yet. It also underscores how unfortunate it is for the country that Keystone XL’s merits have been denied by purely political, inside-Washington reasons.
Second, among those in the poll who oppose Keystone XL, climate change isn’t the top reason they oppose it – no doubt a kick in the pants to those who’ve spent lots of time and money arguing that building the oil pipeline would doom the climate and the planet.
They have themselves to blame. The main reasons to oppose Keystone XL, cited by the 21 percent in the poll – potential impacts on the environment and water, the presence of hazardous chemicals and benefits accruing to Canada instead of U.S. consumers – reflect the “whack-a-mole” strategy opposition leaders used, moving from flawed claim to flawed claim as quickly as facts, science and sound analysis dispelled them.
To further the discussion, let’s look again at the facts surrounding the top concerns of the 21 percent. Maybe that number will come down in the next UT poll.
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 12, 2015
Wall Street Journal: The U.S. government Monday conditionally approved Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer, removing the biggest remaining obstacle before the company can explore for oil and natural gas in the Arctic’s frigid, isolated waters.
The announcement adds to a mix of decisions by the Obama administration that have restricted and granted new domestic fossil-fuel development.
Though affecting just one company, the approval is a victory for the oil-and-gas industry, which has criticized recent regulations affecting the sector, including tougher requirements on hydraulic fracturing and trains hauling flammable oil. Monday’s approval is tied to regulations proposed by the government in February for Arctic drilling operations off the coast of Alaska that could pave the way for additional companies exploring in the region.
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
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
Energy Outlook Blog (Geoff Styles): The US Energy Information Administration's latest Annual Energy Outlook features the key finding that the US is on track to reduce its net energy imports to essentially zero by 2030, if not sooner. That might seem surprising, in light of the recent collapse of oil prices and the resulting significant slowdown in drilling. EIA has covered that base, as well, in a side-case in which oil prices remain under $80 per barrel through 2040, and net imports bottom out at around 5% of total energy demand. Either way, this is as close to true US energy independence as I ever expected to see.
It wasn't that many years ago that such an outcome seemed ludicrously unattainable. I recall patiently explaining to various audiences that we simply couldn't drill our way to energy independence. The forecast of self-sufficiency that EIA has assembled depends on a lot more than just drilling, but without the development of previously inaccessible oil and gas resources through advanced drilling technology and hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. "fracking", it couldn't be made at all. The growing contributions of various renewables are still dwarfed by oil and natural gas, for now.
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
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.”