Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Fri, Jan 10, 2014

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading:

New York

Hmm: Mention of hydraulic fracturing conspicuously absent from New York’s latest energy plan
Hot Air
The Keystone XL pipeline and New York state’s moratorium on fracking — the innovative hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques that have almost single-handedly revolutionized the United States’ domestic energy production in a matter of just a few years and ushered in a new era of abundance — have been comrades in their shared fate of subjection to relentlessly politicized campaigns waged mainly by bands of determined eco-radicals that have gone on for more than five years running. Despite their similar status as common-sense projects that would both clear the way further for said energy abundance whilst creating jobs and growing the economy, both President Obama and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have pretended that their interminable dithering is only due to environmental concerns and the stubbornly outstanding studies thereof, but their concerns are less environmental than they are environmentalist. In December, Cuomo’s administration pretty much freely indicated that they had no near-future plans to do anything about their fracking moratorium, and the matter was more or less confirmed with the release of their latest energy plan for the state — which didn’t actually mention, oh, I don’t know — the most contested, hot-button energy issue of the day. It’s whatever.

New York Energy Plan High On Renewables, Mum On Fracking
AP/Huffington Post
New York’s newly released energy plan calls for increased use of renewable energy and clean technology and anticipates reduced utility bills and a more flexible distribution grid, but takes no position on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the fertile Marcellus Shale. While the proposal of the State Energy Planning Board calls for expanding the use of natural gas, instead of oil, for heating and power generation to reduce emissions of climate-changing carbon dioxide, it also notes that state officials are reviewing health and environmental concerns regarding fracking.


Pipe plans draw fire
Warren Tribune Chronicle
Saying they are “bullish on the production growth from the Marcellus and Utica shales,” a Philadelphia-based pipeline operator recently began pumping natural gas liquids through a pipeline headed west through parts of Portage and Mahoning counties, with plans for a second line shipping the liquids in the other direction. The pipeline development has raised the ire of some Portage County residents. Mary Greer, an outspoken opponent of the plans and spokeswoman for the group Ohio Concerned Citizens, worries about shipping the liquid, which she described as “volatile,” across many wetlands and streams in Portage County. “It’s high-compression gas, odorless, highly toxic and highly flammable,” Greer said this week. Spokesman Jeff Shields of pipeline operator Sunoco Logistics acknowledged that natural gas liquids like ethane are flammable. He pointed out that it is similar to propane, another natural gas liquid that has been shipped by pipeline for the last 75 years. Despite that, Greer and other opponents said they plan to express their worries about the pipelines during the public comment section of the Portage County commissioners meeting at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

Holmes County Businesses See Direct Impact from Gas, Oil Exploration
Ohio Gas & Oil
To the untrained eye, Holmes County has been unaffected by the oil and gas industry in Ohio in the past year. However, local businesses have seen a direct impact from oil and gas exploration in other parts of the state. “Most of the activity is east of us, so it has not had a major impact on lodging and tourism,” said Holmes County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shasta Mast. Last year, it seemed that Holmes County was on the brink of a flurry of oil and gas activity. However, that activity never came. “What we’ve seen is that most of the land men and the oil companies who were trying to buy leases, that activity has slowed. Most of them are either gone or have considerably downsized their presence in Holmes County,” explained Mast. “That’s not to say it’s not going to come here, but with the price of gas decreasing it made it less affordable for them to get it out of the ground and a lot of the infrastructure needed to move the oil and gas once it is out of the ground isn’t in place.” Now, the activity is to the east and the southeast, where infrastructure is being developed to accommodate the oil and gas industry.

Tax Break for Natural Gas Vehicles?
Ohio Gas & Oil
Consumers and businesses would get tax breaks to buy new vehicles or convert existing ones to run on natural gas under legislation being considered in the Ohio House. HB 336, which had its first hearing before the chamber’s Finance Committee, also would provide incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles and phase-in motor fuel tax collections for compressed natural gas. The bipartisan legislation has more than 60 co-sponsors, including its two primary carriers, Reps. Dave Hall (R-Milllersburg) and Sean O’Brien (D-Brookfield). It’s aimed at taking advantage of increased oil and natural gas production in eastern Ohio’s emerging shale oil fields.

NiSource provides $15,000 for police in Poland School District
Akron Beacon Journal
NiSource Midstream Services yesterday presented a $15,000 grant to Poland Township and the Poland School District to aid in the funding of a Poland Township Police Officer, or Resource Officer, in the Poland School District.The check presentation took place at the Poland Township Trustees meeting by representatives of NiSource Midstream Services.The Poland Township Trustees and representatives of the Poland School District were on hand to accept the contribution, which was made possible through the NiSource Charitable Foundation, an entity created to support and build strong and sustainable communities. NiSource Midstream Services is a part of NiSource’s Columbia Pipeline Group.


Beyond the Shale – Zoning Implications for Municipalities: Robinson Township, et. al v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Much has been made of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s recent decision in Robinson Township, et. al v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as it relates to Marcellus Shale and who – the Commonwealth or the local municipality – can regulate the drilling for such shale. However, it is extremely important to realize that the Court’s decision has wide ranging impact on how land development can be regulated throughout Pennsylvania. As a result of this recently issued decision, local municipalities retain the right to regulate and permit or prohibit oil and gas operations. Though Act 13 amended the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act by: creating statewide (rather than local) regulation of oil and gas operations, permitting industrial uses in all zoning districts regardless of prior regulations of municipalities, and requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to waive well permit and setback requirements, the Robinson Township decision rejected these changes, and squarely put control of land development regulation back into the hands of municipalities.

Associated Press “Investigation” Confirms Safety of Gas Drilling
Energy Trends Watch/Michael Krancer
Despite claims to the contrary, the recently released AP “investigation” proves that drilling for natural gas or oil has an excellent safety record. Moreover, it’s getting better, especially in Pennsylvania. Let’s first set the broader context. This is not about hydraulic fracturing. It’s about well drilling. Drilling any well has to be done carefully—even (or especially) a drinking water well. Pennsylvania has 3 million citizens who rely on private water wells as their primary source of drinking water, but we remain alone with Alaska as the only two states in the nation that have no statewide technical protective standards applicable to drilling private water wells. As reported and documented by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, 40% of private water wells in Pennsylvania exhibit some level of contamination above federal standards from natural conditions. In fact, there are many wells in Pennsylvania that experience naturally occurring methane intrusion. Those wells, by the way, are quite effectively managed by their owners to mitigate the methane. On the other hand, there are strict technical standards applicable to drilling a natural gas or oil well.

West Virginia

Legislative Interim Committee Recommends Water Usage Bill, Including Fracking Provision
West Virginia Natural Gas Blog
The Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources this week adopted a proposed interim recommendation for legislative action (click to read proposed bill) in the 2014 regular legislative session that would: modify the definition of a “large quantity user” to become a user of 300,000 gallons of water in a 30-day period; would remove the current 10% variance provision for reporting of water usage by requiring an actual monthly report; would require any agency that contributes funding to the statewide water gauge system to report to USGS and the Legislature if that agency can no longer contribute funds; would require the depth of groundwater reached to be reported by producers to DEP in addition to the current requirement for reporting longitude and latitudes for well locations and; would require annual water usage reports to be made to DEP. In addition, an amendment to the proposed interim bill was advanced by Delegate Bill Hamilton that would require any usage of water found during the course of Marcellus production in the fracking of the well where such water was discovered to also be reported. The commission is co-chaired by Senate Majority Leader John Unger and Delegate Mike Manypenny. The 2014 session of the West Virginia Legislature began today.

‘Future fund’ pushed to diversify economy
Charleston Gazette
State Senate President Jeff Kessler on Tuesday kicked off a forum on diversifying West Virginia’s economy with a push to create a “future fund” that would set aside tax dollars from the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom for improving education, infrastructure and economic development. Kessler, D-Marshall, said that West Virginians should not waste any more time before truly preparing for the decline in the state’s coal industry. “Coal has been king in West Virginia for 100 years, but it hasn’t taken very good care of its subjects,” Kessler said, noting that counties with the largest historic coal production are among West Virginia’s poorest communities. Kessler made his remarks during a keynote speech at the start of a forum called, “A Bright Economic Future for West Virginia,” that continues today at the Clay Center in Charleston.


Texas keeps gas flowing in the cold, fares better than Northeast
Dallas Business Journal
Nationwide demand for natural gas set a record Monday with 125 billion cubic feet consumed by homeowners and power producers to stave off the freezing temperatures, Forbes reported. The nationwide supply of natural gas was drawn down by 310 bcf this week, also a record, Forbes reported. Dallas-based Atmos Energy (NYSE: ATO) reported very few problems in its service area, which includes North Texas. The same could not be said for the state’s electric grid, which came close to having rotating power outages on Monday. “The temperature in Texas was not as extreme as what Texas experienced in February 2011,” said Kenny Malter, Atmos’ vice president of gas supply and services. “Atmos’ forecasting and modeling has been reliable in forecasting purchase requirements and Atmos had minimal suppliers fail to deliver gas as a result of well freeze offs.” The Marcellus Shale was not so lucky. Forbes reports that some gas wells in Pennsylvania froze and couldn’t deliver gas to market. Instead, the drillers were forced to buy natural gas at inflated prices to meet obligations to their customers.

Sorry WSJ and FT, America’s Energy Boom Isn’t a Bubble
The Motley Fool
Whenever the new year rolls around, we all like to reflect on the past in hopes of bringing perspective toward the future. Both The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal did this recently, and they both suggested that the boom in American oil and gas production is a bubble headed for a pop. Do they have a point? Let’s take a look at the thinking behind these two articles and why they could be very wrong. The boom in oil and gas production has been far from perfect for investors. The major slump in natural gas prices back in 2012 had many natural gas companies on their heels, and the fits and starts in pipeline infrastructure coming online has made for a very volatile environment for refiners. These two recent newspaper articles, though, have taken aim at oil and gas producers. Both of these articles are much more bearish on the future of American-centric oil and gas companies. Here are the arguments they are making:

Switch to Natural Gas Slashes Power Plant Pollution
Scientific American
Natural gas plants emit a tiny fraction of the smog-causing gases and slightly more than half of the greenhouse gases emitted by their coal-burning counterparts, according to a soon-to-be published study. The assessment builds upon earlier reports that substituting natural gas for coal has sharply reduced air pollutants from power generation in the United States. “Since more and more of our electricity is coming from these cleaner power plants, emissions from the power sector are lower by 20, 30, even 40 percent for some gases since 1997,” said Joost de Gouw, lead author of the study and an atmospheric scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The researchers compared readings from stacks across the country since 1997, then calculated emissions per unit of energy produced. Coal-based plants emitted on average 32 ounces of carbon dioxide for every kilowatt hour of energy, compared with 19 ounces for natural gas plants.

Please Come to Boston—New England Needs More Natural Gas Pipelines
RBN Energy
This winter the Northeast US is being blasted with record cold weather. As a result, daily natural gas prices in both New York and New England have spiked more than $30/MMBtu above the US benchmark at Henry Hub, LA. But the average price you’ll pay for natural gas in the region will likely depend on whether you root for the New York Giants or the New England Patriots. With their dismal records and embarrassing mistakes, it’s not easy being a Giants (or Jets) fan these days. But on average – thanks to new gas pipeline capacity added this past fall, natural gas prices in New Jersey and New York have remained less volatile relative to US benchmark Henry Hub, LA than prices in New England. That is because the six-state region continues to suffer from woefully inadequate gas transmission infrastructure. Today we begin a two-part analysis of the still-stalled effort to deliver more supplies to gas-hungry New England.

Are Companies Giving Up on This Shale Gas Play?
The Motley Fool
The monumental decline in Barnett drilling activity is due largely to low gas prices and the fact that the play’s economics aren’t nearly as good as the Marcellus shale’s. With natural gas prices at $4 per MMBtu, the Marcellus can generate an internal rate of return (IRR) of about 20%, while other gas plays, including the Barnett, Haynesville, and Fayetteville shales, require a gas price of roughly $5 per MMBtu to generate the same IRR, according to Bentek Energy LLC, an energy market analytics provider. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Marcellus production surged more than 70%, from 7 billion cubic feet of gas per day in 2012 to 12 billion cubic feet in October 2013, while Barnett production declined 6.5% in 2013. Not surprisingly, Marcellus-focused drillers such as Cabot Oil & Gas and Range Resources delivered record production numbers last year. In the third quarter, Cabot reported a 61% year-over-year increase in production and attained a record gross production rate of 1,295 Mmcf per day, while Range delivered a 21% year-over-year increase in production volumes, which reached a record high of 960 Mmcfe per day.

Natural Gas Exports: Slow Walk or ‘Danger Zone’?
ABC News
The debate over exporting liquefied natural gas is intensifying as the Energy Department considers an array of applications to ship the fuel to Japan, India and other countries where prices are far higher than in the United States. Some large manufacturers that use natural gas say the department is moving too quickly to approve gas exports, pushing the United States into a “danger zone” that could raise prices and harm the economy. Environmental groups worry that tentative approval of several large export projects may accelerate a fracking boom they say could harm public health and the environment. Industry groups, meanwhile, say the administration is moving too slowly, with just one of nearly two dozen proposed LNG export terminals given final approval in the past two years. Four other projects have received conditional backing. “The Department of Energy’s slow-walk of LNG export licenses violates our trade obligations” and could cause the U.S. to lose billions of dollars in the global gas market, said Margo Thorning, director of the Act on LNG campaign, an advocacy group that supports gas exports.