Posted August 5, 2014
Wall Street Journal (Thomas Tunstall): The unexpected increase in the production of shale oil, a light oil called condensate and natural gas in the U.S. has upended many assumptions about the U.S. energy market. As the oil and gas bonanza continues, the U.S. ban on crude-oil exports looks increasingly outdated, arbitrary and economically damaging. With Europe poised to endanger its gas supply by imposing more sanctions on its major supplier Russia, the possibility of energy exports from America takes on an important security dimension too.
Thanks to fracking and other unconventional shale-extraction technology, natural gas is the biggest energy story in the U.S. now. In the early 2000s, natural-gas pipeline companies—such as Cheniere and Freeport LNG—spent billions on import facilities as U.S. production decreased, to less than 19 trillion cubic feet in 2005 from roughly 22 trillion cubic feet in 1970.
Since 2006, however, natural-gas production in the U.S. has soared. The U.S. now produces more than 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas a year, the most in the country's more than 100-year history of gas exploration and production. As a result, billions of dollars are now being invested to convert many of the facilities designed to receive imported gas into export facilities.
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
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 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.”
Posted July 15, 2014
Reuters: By now everyone knows the shale revolution was made possible by the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
But although fracking has captured the popular imagination, and is often used as a synonym for the whole phenomenon, horizontal drilling was actually the more recent and important breakthrough.
Mastery of horizontal drilling around 1990, originally for oil rather than gas exploration, was the decisive innovation that lit the long fuse for the shale revolution that erupted 15 years later.
"Horizontal drilling is the real marvel of engineering and scientific innovation," David Blackmon wrote in Forbes magazine last year ("Horizontal drilling: a technological marvel ignored", January 2013).
"While impressive in its own right, the main innovations in fracking have been beefing up the generating horsepower to accommodate horizontal wells rather than vertical ones, and refining of the fluids used to conserve water and create better, longer lasting fractures in the target formation."
Posted July 14, 2014
CNBC: The United States is swimming in oil and gas. But processing the new-found bounty is posing a challenge to U.S. refiners, which can't come to grips with the abundance in domestic supply.
A production renaissance has catapulted the United States into the upper strata of global energy producers. Yet with fewer than 150 refineries, the U.S. has a surprisingly limited capacity to process the bounty.
"Some refineries are better suited for light sweet crude," while others—primarily on the Gulf Coast—are better optimized for the heavier, international variety of oil, said Bob Greco, director of upstream operations for the American Petroleum Institute.
The huge increase in shale production in places like North Dakota is helping to revitalize East Coast refineries, Greco said in an interview.
Posted July 8, 2014
The Keystone XL Pipeline has been studied, and studied, and studied, in fact if the permit application were a person, it would have just graduated kindergarten. However, after nearly six years of studies which show positive benefits to our economy and energy security with no significant environmental impacts – politics are still trumping good policy.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement released by the State Department earlier this year found the project would deliver 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada and the U.S. Bakken region to U.S. refineries, create 42,100 jobs during its construction phase and provide $3.4 billion in additional revenue to U.S. GDP.
Posted July 7, 2014
Promising news last week – the U.S. will remain the world’s largest oil producer this year, maintaining the top spot now and well into the future thanks to shale development, Bank of America says.
U.S. production of crude oil, along with liquids separated from natural gas, surpassed all other countries this year with daily output exceeding 11 million barrels in the first quarter, the bank said in its report.
Posted June 25, 2014
A year ago President Obama clarified his position on the Keystone XL pipeline, saying that for him to approve the project it would need to meet two tests – that KXL would be in the national interest and would not “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”
The second point first. The environmental test has been passed – five times, in fact. The U.S. State Department’s fifth environmental assessment – which examined the Keystone XL’s construction, operation and the impact of increased oil sands development as a result of the pipeline – concluded that the project would have no effect on oil sands production and no significant effect on the environment.
Posted June 23, 2014