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 12, 2015
Encana President and CEO Doug Suttles participated in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Leadership Series last week with a luncheon address and a Q&A session with Linda Harbert of the Institute for 21st Century Energy. Highlights of the conversation below. Suttles joined Alberta-based Encana as president and CEO in June 2013. He has 30 years of oil and natural gas industry experience in various engineering and leadership roles. Before joining Encana, Suttles held a number of leadership posts with BP, including chief operating officer of BP Exploration & Production and BP Alaska president.
Q: You opened your talk by saying I’m a North American energy company. … Can you shed a little light on the differences and similarities between operating in Canada and the U.S.?
Suttles: They’re not as big as many people would think. First of all, in the places we operate – Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and then Alberta and British Columbia – these are all natural resource states, and they understand that and I think the people and political leaders understand the importance, too. Both countries have high environmental expectations.
Probably the biggest difference you’d really see between them is the remoteness of operations, which creates a unique challenge in Canada. Many of our operations are away from large towns and cities … But you have an environment where I think people understand the benefits of our industry. They promote the industry, they support it.
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 7, 2015
The oil and natural gas industry’s recent tax revenue and economic contributions to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania look like this: more than $630 million through the state’s existing local impact fee since 2012, including $224 million in 2014 alone; more than $2.1 billion in state and local taxes; annual contributions to the state economy of $34.7 billion, boosting the bottom lines of more than 1,300 businesses in the energy supply chain.
Gov. Tom Wolf, who has proposed new industry taxes, says the state is “getting a bad deal.” We suspect a lot of states would like to have things so rough.
Nevertheless, the governor is pushing for an additional natural gas severance tax of 5 percent on the gross market value of production, plus a fixed fee of 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) produced. The governor also wants an artificial floor of $2.97 per Mcf regardless of the actual price of natural gas. All suggest unfamiliarity with the story of the goose that laid golden eggs.
Posted May 4, 2015
The Colorado Petroleum Council and its new executive director, Tracee Bentley, recently opened a new office in Denver, where the council will focus on growing energy priorities in the state. A Colorado native, Bentley served as Gov. John Hickenlooper’s legislative director and senior advisor on energy and agricultural issues before coming to API. Below, Bentley talks with Energy Tomorrow about opportunities and challenges facing the council and her role as the organization’s leader.
Q: What do Coloradoans think about the state’s energy potential? Is it something people are aware of, and what do you believe they want most from industry as it develops that energy? What are the key “education” points needed to build a strong partnership between industry and Coloradoans?
Bentley: Coloradans know their state is blessed in terms of energy. And they’re aware of the importance of energy development to the state’s economy. Even with the recent downturn, oil and natural gas development remains a crucial contributor economic growth, adding $26 billion to the state economy and supporting 213,100 jobs – or nearly 7 percent of total state employment. School districts in Colorado received nearly $202 million from oil and gas production property taxes in 2012 alone, according to a study conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.
Coloradoans want the same things people in other energy-producing states want. They want assurances that development will be safe, and that operators will hear and respond to their concerns. The Colorado Petroleum Council helps this relationship by providing factual information on safe energy development. One of our priorities is to demystify things like hydraulic fracturing. We’re here to explain it and to reassure communities and individuals that it has been going on for decades, is an advanced, precise technology and that the combination of state regulations and industry standards is keeping energy development safe to residents, water supplies and the local environment.
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 30, 2015
It’s noteworthy that there’s bipartisanship in Congress on offshore energy development. Last week a group of Republican U.S. House and Senate members signed onto a letter urging the Interior Department to increase access to energy reserves on the nation’s outer continental shelf. It follows a March 26 letter from Virginia’s two Democratic senators and a March 27 letter from a dozen House Democrats supporting offshore energy development.
Bipartisanship in Washington is quite a rare bird, so it’s significant to see it form around the need to develop domestic offshore energy.
Equally important: Strongly worded concern from the most recent letter’s signers that the draft 2017-2022 plan for oil and natural gas leasing offered by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management not be weakened by removing any of the leasing areas in the proposal.
Posted April 30, 2015
The Hill’s Congress Blog (Weinstein): In response to significantly lower oil and natural gas prices, America’s energy sector is retrenching rapidly. The drilling rig count has dropped by more than 50 percent over the past year, while companies large and small have announced sizeable layoffs and cuts in their capital budgets for 2015 and 2016. Nonetheless, several states, including Pennsylvania and Ohio, are considering imposing or hiking production taxes—called severance taxes—on oil and gas operators. These increases will be in neither the public’s nor the industry’s best interests.
Governors and state legislators should keep in mind that in today’s competitive environment, producers in their states are simply “price takers.” What this means is that any factor increasing the marginal cost of production, such as new or higher severance taxes, will put that state’s operators at a competitive disadvantage. The result will be lower production today and diminished investment in the future.
What’s more, as the experience of Texas and other energy producing states has demonstrated over the years, severance taxes are not dependable revenue sources because they rise and fall with changes in output and price. With prices for oil and natural gas expected to remain low for an extended period, their contribution to total state revenues is likely to be quite small and not enough to offset any sizeable cuts in other taxes. In addition, it’s never good public policy to increase the tax burden one specific industry as opposed to imposing or hiking taxes generally across all industries.
Posted April 24, 2015
Last summer we posted on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s gentle pushback against various voices that objected to BOEM’s decision to allow safe, carefully regulated seismic testing to map offshore energy reserves in the Atlantic. The pushback apparently prompted some pushback, because last month BOEM reasserted the facts on safe seismic in its online “Science Notes” feature.
As was the case last August, BOEM Chief Environmental Officer William Y. Brown weighed in:
In August 2014, BOEM published a Science Note addressing a few fundamentals about impacts of seismic air gun surveys on marine mammal populations. … BOEM's conclusion regarding the impact of these surveys is in stark contrast with public statements citing BOEM research and asserting that many thousands of marine mammals will be killed or injured through these surveys. For example, one web posting states that “Seismic air gun testing currently being proposed in the Atlantic will injure 138,000 whales and dolphins and disturb millions more, according to government estimates.” This characterization of our conclusion, however, is not accurate; that is actually not what we estimate.
Posted April 15, 2015
Wall Street Journal (subscription publication): The U.S. could soon export more energy than it imports, significantly changing the country’s appetite for foreign fuels starting as early as 2020, according to a new report from the Energy Information Administration.
Despite energy prices that are sharply lower today than they were a year ago, the federal government’s new outlook forecasts that U.S. oil and natural gas production will continue to rise over the next five years.
As American drillers keep pumping, the U.S. will meet more of its own energy needs. The trend will also boost the amount of natural gas, refined fuels such as diesel and ultralight oil the U.S. has available to ship overseas, reversing the country’s energy importing trend that has been in place since the 1950s.