Posted August 1, 2014
Wall Street Journal (Merrill Matthews Opinion): The growing efforts by state and local governments to stop hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to extract natural gas could end up in the Supreme Court. These efforts may unconstitutionally limit property owners' ability to profit from their mineral rights.
More than 170 New York towns and cities have used zoning laws to restrict or prohibit fracking, and in June New York's Supreme Court turned back a challenge to this practice. Pennsylvania allows local municipalities to restrict fracking. Colorado and California are struggling with the issue.
Even in pro-energy Texas, the relatively small town of Denton, about 30 miles north of Dallas, has a fracking moratorium while the city considers whether to impose a permanent ban. At a recent contentious Denton city council meeting in which 500 people attended, the council moved to let voters decide in November.
Nevertheless, landowners and drillers are threatening to sue Denton if a ban is implemented. They may have a case.
Posted July 31, 2014
Houston Chronicle (Editorial): Fracking is more effective than bullets when it comes to containing Russian President Vladimir Putin's Soviet-era ambitions.
Empowered by oil funds and a gas pipeline yoke on Europe, Putin has resuscitated a Cold War ethos of nationalism and expansionism. Yet after the invasion of Crimea and Russian militias seizing sections of eastern Ukraine, it seemed as if Europe's red line was located somewhere a few miles east of the Brandenburg Gate. It took the attack on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 to finally shock Europe back to reality, where Russia stands as a legitimate threat to a peaceful continent.
These aggressive moves have gained Russia few friends, but as Tsar Alexander III once said, Russia's only allies are its army and its navy. For the 21st century, pipelines should be added to that list. And that is where the United States must focus containment efforts.
Our allies are far too reliant on Russian pipelines to truly oppose Putin's aggression - there's a reason why the new technology sanctions against Russia don't apply to natural gas.
Posted July 30, 2014
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Teaming up with the oil and gas industry might sound strange for a strong believer in solar power, but for David Jason, it’s just smart business.
“The entire solar industry has kind of shunned the oil and gas industry,” Mr. Jason said. “I think they see it as a business, where a lot of people in solar see it as a cause. I see it as both.”
Mr. Jason is co-owner of Green Roads Energy, a solar distribution company in Mt. Lebanon. He has been involved in various solar projects in the region, and now he’s turning his sights on the oil and gas industry.
The plan? To provide oil and gas companies with customized solar panels to generate power at remote well sites to reduce fuel costs and eliminate the need for diesel generators or transmission lines.
Mr. Jason is not the first to come up with this idea. The use of solar applications at drill sites is becoming much more common, according to Ken Johnson, communications director for the Solar Energy Industries Association, a nonprofit trade group based in Washington, D.C.
Posted July 30, 2014
The Hill (Rick Manning): Domestic energy production on private or state lands has surged over the past seven years, and this is great news for America. Per barrel oil production has increased 400 percent to an estimated 400 barrels per day in the past six years in what are known as the big three oil fields: Bakken (North Dakota), Permian Basin and Eagle Ford (Texas).
The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that next year, the United States will surpass Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world's largest oil producer, and by 2035, the U.S. is projected to have finally achieved the long-promised goal of energy self-sufficiency.
Of course, President Obama has been crowing about this as one of his administration's achievements, which like many of his claims, is far from the truth, as energy production on federal lands has actually declined during his tenure in office.
But this story is not about the federal government's shortcomings in this quest, or even about the environmentalist regulatory attempts to stymie energy development. No, it is about what happens when profit drives very smart people to figure out new ways to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks, and what it means to you and me when they succeed.
Posted July 28, 2014
In a new update to its drilling productivity report from last week, the Energy Information Agency said North Dakota's Bakken and Texas' Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale are quietly generating more than a million barrels of oil per day each–comprising at least a third of total U.S. daily oil production. Shale oil drilling generated the equivalent of nearly 90 percent of the U.S.'s total energy needs in 2013, according to EIA figures.
Mark Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, crunched the EIA's numbers even further. His analysis suggests the output of the combined three oil fields is actually exceeding 4 million bpd, which would make them the world's fifth largest oil producer by volume.
"In all of human history, there have only been ten oil fields in the world that have ever reached the one million barrel per day milestone," the economist wrote in a recent blog post. "Three of those ten are now active in the US–thanks to the advanced drilling techniques that started accessing oceans of shale oil in Texas and North Dakota about five years ago."
Posted July 25, 2014
The Southern: In three years of working in the fracking fields of North Dakota, Rick Tippett has witnessed two accidents, he said.
Tippett, 61, of Creal Springs, said he never feels he puts his safety at risk when on a horizontal fracking site. Tippett works six weeks straight and returns to his Southern Illinois home during his 10-day breaks.
Between two weeks of orientation focused solely on safety, provided by a multitude of gas companies and regulators; yearly safety training and company-provided protective gear, Tippett said safety is “the No. 1 priority” on a job site.
Tippett spoke with The Southern Illinoisan after statements from Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment issued Wednesday that fracking is unsafe for workers. The SAFE comments came a day after fracking proponents urged faster movement on drafting rules to regulate horizontal fracking.
Accidents he has seen involved one friend who hurt his hand from a fallen pipe and another who was uninjured when water used for fracking splashed on him.
In the second incident, emergency crews responded and washed the man down as a precaution, Tippett said.
“They will stop all work if anything happens,” he said of companies operating the fracking sites.
Posted July 24, 2014
The New York Times (Steven Rattner): As a young reporter covering energy for The New York Times, I saw firsthand the distortions and inefficiencies caused by the web of regulations that followed the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74, and the resulting surge in gasoline prices.
So I shared in the frisson of excitement last month when the Commerce Department cleared two Texas companies to export an ultralight, processed form of oil called condensate. It seemed like a step toward relaxing the ban on the export of crude oil, the biggest stricture remaining from the ’70s energy crisis.
But then the Obama administration quickly insisted that the Commerce Department, in narrowing the definition of crude oil so that condensate could be exported, was not about to lift the ban more widely. “There has been no change to our policy on crude oil exports,” a White House spokesman said.
That’s unfortunate, because America’s renewed hydrocarbon boom could be even more robust if we eased outdated restrictions on shipping both crude oil and liquefied natural gas overseas.
Posted July 22, 2014
AEI Carpe Diem Blog:
The chart above helps to illustrate the significance of America’s shale oil and gas boom by showing the combined domestic output of US oil and gas (in quadrillion BTUs, EIA data here). After production of conventional oil and gas peaked around 1970 at almost 45 quadrillion BTUs, there was a gradual, steady decline that continued until about 2005, when combined production had dropped to a 43-year low of 31.85 quadrillion BTUs, the lowest level since 1962. If that trend had continued, the US would now be producing only about 30 quadrillion BTUs of oil and gas (or less), which would have put us back to the production level of the late 1950s.
Posted July 21, 2014
Recent Improvements in Petroleum Trade Balance Mitigate U.S. Trade Deficit
EIA Today in Energy: Since the mid-1970s, the United States has run a deficit in merchandise trade, meaning that payments for imports exceeded receipts for exports. This large and growing deficit on the merchandise trade balance reached a maximum of $883 billion in the second quarter of 2008.
As a result of the recession, dramatic declines of imports in excess of exports during the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 reduced the merchandise trade deficit by 49%, to $449 billion in the second quarter of 2009. This trend of declining imports resulted in the lowest quarterly deficit level since early 2002. The merchandise trade deficit then increased to $686 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013, with much of the difference from the 2008 level ($131 billion) attributable to a $158 billion increase in net exports of crude oil and petroleum products.
Posted July 18, 2014
Washington Examiner: The Obama administration announced Friday that it would allow exploration for oil and gas off some portions of the Atlantic Coast using sonic testing devices that environmentalists say harm marine life.
The Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave the OK for seismic airgun testing, which are boat-towed cannons that shoot sonar blasts off the ocean floor to scan for oil-and-gas deposits, in the mid- and south-Atlantic areas that stretch from the Delaware Bay to just south of Cape Canaveral, Fla. The approval is a prelude to potential offshore drilling there, though that is blocked through 2017 under President Obama's five-year offshore drilling plan.
"The bureau has identified a path forward that addresses the need to update the nearly four-decade-old data in the region while protecting marine life and cultural sites,” said Acting BOEM Director Walter D. Cruickshank, who noted the agency has several permits on hand to conduct the seismic tests. “The bureau's decision reflects a carefully analyzed and balanced approach that will allow us to increase our understanding of potential offshore resources while protecting the human, marine and coastal environments.”