Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted November 12, 2015
Another postscript to the president’s unfortunate and shortsighted rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline last week: The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that as total U.S. crude oil imports decline, Canada’s share of the imports total is rising.
The data shows that in August 1995 the U.S. imported a total of 7.43 million barrels per day (bb/d), including a little over 1 million bb/d from Canada, about 13 percent of the total. In August this year U.S. oil imports were 7.63 million bb/d (down from a high of 10.7 million bb/d in June 2005), including 3.4 million bb/d from Canada, about 45 percent of the total. (At the same time imports from Venezuela, which produces a heavy crude similar to oil sands crude, have declined from 1.29 million bb/d in 2004 to 849,000 bb/d in August – no doubt, a result of increasing supply from Canada.)
What we see here is a snapshot of the strategically important growth in the United States’ energy partnership with Canada. Our neighbor and ally is our No. 1 source of imported oil – almost three times larger than imports from Persian Gulf countries.
Posted November 10, 2015
It’s too bad that when President Obama finally announced his decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, he turned his back on American jobs, economic growth and increased energy security – each of them compelling, “national interest” reasons for building the pipeline. Also unfortunate is that the president also turned his back on science and fact.
Read the State Department’s final word on Keystone XL, and you see that State, as it said in its previous environmental reviews, acknowledges that the pipeline would have little to no climate impact.
The Keystone XL rejection was about perceptions and appearances – perceptions the president and his administration created, detached from science and fact set forth in State’s analysis, to help cultivate the appearances of climate change leadership.
Throughout Keystone XL’s tortuous, seven-year slog at the White House, the pipeline – this pipeline – was a symbol, a foil the administration used to help keep the professional activist class activated and the world climate community applauding.
Posted August 28, 2015
There’s a new report out this week that says energy infrastructure constraints have cost New England at least $7.5 billion over the past three winters – while cautioning that failing to expand natural gas and electricity infrastructure will cost the region’s households and businesses $5.4 billion in higher energy costs between 2016 and 2020.
Other key findings in the report by the New England Coalition for Affordable Energy show that without additional infrastructure, higher energy costs will lead to the loss of 52,000 private-sector jobs over the same time period. In all, a lack of infrastructure investment could mean 167,000 jobs lost or not created. The report also found that the region could see a reduction in household spending of $12.5 billion and $9 billion in foregone infrastructure construction.
Posted June 19, 2015
The issue was energy infrastructure – where the United States is and where things are headed. At the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) annual conference this week, one discussion honed in on the challenges to infrastructure approval and construction – as well as government’s best role in developing projects that are key to U.S. energy transport and overall energy security. The latter produced some friction between speakers not often seen at conferences like EIA’s. More below.
The U.S. Energy Department’s Melanie Kenderdine talked about some of the details in the department’s recently issued Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), which focused on ways to modernize the nation’s infrastructure.
Posted June 8, 2015
Platts (The Barrel Blog) – When OPEC left production unchanged in November last year many understood it to be US or Canadian tight oil producers who would suffer, but thanks to technological advances — to paraphrase Mark Twain — the reports of the death of the tight boom have been greatly exaggerated.
After OPEC’s announcement of stable production, crude prices fell under $50/b, and the obituaries began to be written.
But lower prices forced companies to become hyper-vigilant on costs, and the result was the opposite of what may have been intended. US and Canadian production continued to grow, and E&P companies became leaner and more efficient — leading to a more competitive industry.
The savings from technological advances and more efficient internal processes, unlike the drop in rig dayrates that could rise again when the market turns, will be a more permanent feature of the North American oil market.
The numbers tell the story. The North American oil rig count dropped from its peak in early October at 1,609 to 646 for the week-ending May 29, yet productions is headed in the opposite direction — US oil output hit 9.586 million b/d, its highest daily rate since the EIA began weekly production reports in 1983. The EIA recently forecast another million b/d of oil production growth until it peaks in 2020 at 10.603 million b/d.
Posted May 26, 2015
Reuters: U.S. Republicans have had to watch from the sidelines as the Obama White House has taken political credit for America's unexpected energy boom and tumbling gas prices. Now it has left their presidential candidates scrambling for a way to reclaim leadership on an issue the party once seemed to own.
Their apparent answer: calling time on a 40-year-old federal ban on crude oil exports and using the newfound energy bounty to strategic advantage.
"We've got an abundance of supply," Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said this week in Oklahoma at a gathering of putative Republican candidates for next year's presidential election. Lifting the ban, he said, would allow exports to "our allies in Europe, where, instead of being dependent on (President) Vladimir Putin and the Russians, they could be dependent on Americans."
Posted May 21, 2015
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Weinstein): Thanks to what’s sometimes called the “shale revolution,” America has re-emerged as an energy superpower.
Even with prices 40 percent lower than a year ago, we remain the world’s No. 1 producer of crude oil and other liquid hydrocarbons. Imports of oil have dropped from 60 percent of consumption to about 35 percent just in the past five years. We’re also the world’s largest producer of natural gas.
Both our oil and natural gas output would be even higher if not for regulatory and infrastructure constraints.
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 7, 2015
Oil & Gas Journal: North American businesses and governments must work together toward the collective goal of advancing the continent’s energy aspirations. That was the message delivered by producers and government officials during a May 5 panel discussion at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.
The US and Canada represent two of the world’s top five oil producers, and Mexico hopes to ramp up its production in the coming years once its energy reforms are fully realized.
Gustavo Hernandez Garcia, general director of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), said a primary challenge faced by his country is rising technical commercial complexity including deepwater, heavy oil, unconventional, and LNG. To attract the players capable of developing these resources, Mexico must offer attractive contractual and fiscal terms; transparent and clear roles for regulators and operators; an agile and competitive national oil company; and minimal political intervention, he said.
Pemex benefits from its geographic proximity to major producers and their unique skillsets in the US. Paula Gant, deputy assistant secretary for oil and natural gas in the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, said there’s “a tremendous need” to build on public data, statistics, and mapping in North America; for modern and resilient infrastructure; and for best practices for unconventional oil and gas.
Gant emphasized the necessity of constant and clear communication among government agencies in the three countries, and boasted that the US is “the envy of the world” with its existing natural gas pipeline system. Building out infrastructure and sustaining output growth in the US also relies on public confidence, she noted, adding that the office of oil and gas at DOE “provides scientific base from which politicians can make decisions.”
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.