Energy Tomorrow Blog
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 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 29, 2015
Rigzone: For every $1 that public pension funds allocated to oil and gas assets in 2005, investors saw a return of 130 percent in 2013, about double their returns on other investments, according to a new study from the American Petroleum Institute and Sonecon LLC.
“The lesson, frankly, from this analysis is that pension plans would be in better shape if they increased the share they invest in oil and gas,” said Robert Shapiro, a co-author of the report, said during a conference call with reporters.
Shapiro found that the funds invested an average of 4 percent of their assets in oil and gas, which yielded 8 percent of the returns. The study reviewed the returns of the two largest funds — those owned by public school employees and state workers in every case — for each of 17 states, which included California, Florida, New Mexico and West Virginia for the eight-year period from 2005 to 2013.
“All of these pension plans have been under serious economic stress since 2008. Thirty-five states have enacted changes that will change benefits,” Shaipro said, adding that when the plans’ returns are higher, there is less pressure on them to reduce benefits.
Posted April 28, 2015
EIA: In its recently released Annual Energy Outlook 2015 (AEO2015), EIA expects the United States to be a net natural gas exporter by 2017. After 2017, natural gas trade is driven largely by the availability of natural gas resources and by world energy prices. Increased availability of domestic gas or higher world energy prices each increase the gap between the cost of U.S. natural gas and world prices that encourages exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and, to a lesser extent, greater exports by pipeline to Mexico.
The AEO2015 examines alternate cases with higher and lower world oil price assumptions, which serve as a proxy for broader world energy prices given oil-indexed contracts, as well as with higher assumed U.S. oil and natural gas resources. These assumptions significantly affect projected growth in annual net LNG exports after 2017. Net LNG exports make up most of the natural gas exports in most cases. By 2040, LNG exports range from 0.2 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in the Low Oil Price case to 10.3 Tcf in the High Oil and Gas Resource case. For comparison, 2040 natural gas net exports by pipeline range from 1.1 Tcf in the High Oil Price case to 2.9 Tcf in the High Oil and Gas Resource case.
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.
Posted April 27, 2015
Wall Street Journal op-ed (John Hess): While one can debate the reasons for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ decision in November to continue flooding the oil markets, the fact is that this is squeezing many U.S. shale oil producers out of business. Oil prices have dropped by 50% in the past six months, and crude oil inventories in the U.S. have grown from 350 million barrels last year to more than 480 million barrels today.
Part of the reason inventory has ballooned is that crude produced in the U.S. is literally trapped here, because American firms are not allowed to sell it overseas. An antiquated rule bans crude oil exports from the lower 48 American states, even though producers could earn $5-$14 more per barrel by selling on the world market. At this moment the U.S. government is considering lifting sanctions on Iranian crude oil exports. Why not lift the self-imposed “sanctions” on U.S. crude exports that have been in place for the past four decades?
The export ban is a relic of a previous era, put in place around the time of the 1973 Arab oil embargo against the U.S., when Washington thought very differently about ensuring America’s energy needs. Other measures related to the 1973 embargo, such as price controls and rationing, were eliminated decades ago, as policy makers realized that they impeded, rather than aided, American energy security. But the ban on crude oil exports persists.
There is no defensible justification for the continued ban on the export of U.S. crude oil.