Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Wed, Jan 22, 2014

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

New York

The Fracking Lobby Lie
Natural Gas Now
Several times a year, with more regularity than Halley’s Comet, a strikingly similar headline appears in the pages of New York news media about how the oil and gas lobby has outspent fracking opponents. It is generated from the periodic release of Common Cause’s analyses claiming the same and several news sources, already inclined to suspect anyone in the industry is Rosemary’s Baby, falls for it. Few take notice of Common Cause’s agenda or the fact it is allied with the big money special interests fighting oil and gas. Last year, the Albany Times-Union, for example, fell for it with this story, which might as well have been written by fracking opponents (most of it was, in fact). YNN followed suit a few days ago with this story, which is based on a newer version of the same report. Before we get into the details, can anyone imagine the Albany Times-Union ever turning over the pages of its Capitol Confidential blog to the oil and gas industry? No, of course not, but that’s exactly what happened in this instance, with all but 143 words of uncritical introduction out of 2,292 words in total coming straight from the pen of Common Cause. I’m going to write, Rick Karlin, the author of the piece and ask him if he’ll publish this rebuttal in similar fashion, supportive intro and all. Do you think he’ll go for it? We’ll see.


Council hears more about fracking
Marietta Times
Members of Marietta City Council’s lands, buildings and parks committee on Tuesday heard a presentation on the horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process that would be used to extract natural gas from Utica shale beds located more than a mile below the surface in the Marietta area. The city administration requested the presentation from Matt Lupardus, vice president of the Southeastern Ohio Oil and Gas Association (SOOGA), Bob Chase, chairman of Marietta College’s Petroleum Engineering Department, and Shawn Bennett with Energy In Depth, an oil and gas research, education and public outreach group. Earlier this month the council members were approached by a local broker on behalf of Protege Energy III, a Tulsa, Okla.-based oil and gas company, about 35 acres of city property as part of a 6,000-acre block of surrounding lands that Protege wants to lease for a natural gas horizontal hydraulic drilling operation. The company has offered to pay $4,750 an acre, plus a 17.5 percent royalty based on any product they would retrieve from the drilling operation.


Corbett unveils state energy proposal
Pittsburgh Business Journal
Gov. Tom Corbett’s 73-page energy plan released Tuesday proclaims an “all of the above – and below” strategy that ties the industry to jobs growth. “Energy = Jobs” was released Tuesday during an appearance at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, a booming center of Marcellus Shale drilling in the eastern part of the commonwealth. The report lays out a broad overview for coal, solar, biomass, wind, nuclear and oil and natural gas. It said 240,000 residents work in the oil and gas industry with wages much higher than the state’s average and with an expected $14 billion pumped into the economy by 2020. “Our ‘all of the above’ energy policy is reinforced by four core concepts to guide our support of energy source development: free markets; independence and security; abundant, affordable and domestic; and environmental enhancement,” the report said.

Gubernatorial candidate John Hanger has changed tune on gas drilling
Allentown Morning Call
Generally, I avoid writing about politics. I wait until the two-party monopoly puts this or that scoundrel in office, and then I concern myself with what he or she says or does. This time, I could not contain myself when I heard the political pitch. On Wednesday, Hanger made a ballyhooed visit to the property of 80-year-old Max Chilson, who, a campaign release said, “has been unable to drink his water for three years due to contamination about which he is in dispute with gas drillers.” Another release expressed outrage over a DEP claim that a driller was not responsible. “This situation is becoming all too familiar in the gas field. Property owners who are having serious problems as a result of drilling cannot get help from the gas driller or the DEP. … Human decency demands drinking water for this life-long resident of Bradford County.”

Spectra Energy: Gas Utility With Plenty Of Catalysts
Seeking Alpha
Marcellus Shale – Currently, SEP has major pipeline and storage assets that are in the fairway of the Marcellus. In addition, SEP operates the Algonquin and the Maritimes and Northeast pipelines that will connect the growing Marcellus production to the gas-starved northeast.

Miami 2017—Marcellus Gas Heading to Florida
RBN Energy
Spectra Energy and NextEra Energy’s planned Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline from near Transco Station 85 in southwestern Alabama to near Orlando in central Florida will do more than provide additional gas-delivery capacity to Florida and the welcomed redundancy of a third pipeline to the Sunshine State. The big news is that Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise project by July 2017 will enable large volumes of Marcellus-sourced gas to be shipped south (backwards!) along the Transco pipeline all the way to Station 85. That (and Sabal Trail) will give Marcellus producers something unthinkable until now: access to major gas users as far south as Miami. Today we lay out the basics of what is being planned.


Anatomy of an NPR Hatchet Job, Target: Oil & Gas
On-The-Job Deaths Spiking As Oil Drilling Quickly Expands” screams a supposed National Public Radio exposé on the “terrible price” we’re paying for the fracking revolution that has transformed the U.S. energy industry. “Last year, 138 workers were killed on the job — an increase of more than 100 percent since 2009.” The story blends chilling statistics, heartrending anecdotes, and stern warnings from Labor Secretary Thomas Perez calling for a national voluntary stand-down of U.S. onshore oil and gas exploration and production because, “No worker should lose their (sic) life for a paycheck.” As anti-fossil fuel advocacy, it was a masterful piece. But was it responsible, credible journalism? Five minutes on Google provides an answer—and lays bare NPR’s practiced techniques of framing, context manipulation, and choosing which facts to report and which to ignore to advance a consistent left-liberal editorial agenda as biased as any right wing talk radio show.

The Weekly Oil & Gas Follies
All of which should make us a little nervous about this article, in which EPA officials promise their very close friends at NRDC to take action against hydraulic fracturing during 2014: EPA Vows Action on Fracking Rules, Policy – The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to assure environmentalists that it hasn’t dropped the ball on oversight of hydraulic fracturing. A letter from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to the Natural Resources Defense Council vows the agency will take steps on several fronts to boost the environmental safety of fracking, the oil-and-gas extraction method that’s enabling U.S. energy production to soar. “The EPA is moving forward on several initiatives to provide regulatory clarity with respect to existing laws and using existing authorities where appropriate to enhance public health and environmental safeguards,” McCarthy writes in a Jan. 10 letter.

When Headlines Obscure Science on Shale Development
Energy in Depth
Earlier this month, a Bloomberg News headline made a very serious accusation about hydraulic fracturing and shale development: “Study Shows Fracking Is Bad For Babies” was the title of an opinion column by Mark Whitehouse. The opening paragraph followed with a strong indictment of the oil and gas industry: “The energy industry has long insisted that hydraulic fracking — the practice of fracturing rock to extract gas and oil deep beneath the earth’s surface — is safe for people who live nearby. New research suggests this is not true for some of the most vulnerable humans: newborn infants.”

Two New Reports Highlight the Economic Power of Shale
Energy in Depth
Our tremendous shale boom has certainly taken a spotlight in the New Year. Over the past few weeks, both the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have released reports highlighting the game changing power of shale and the myriad benefits that come with it. These reports explain that drilling advancements – including the combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling – have unlocked deposits of natural gas and oil that were previously unrecoverable, transforming our energy outlook from one of scarcity to abundance in just a few short years. In fact without hydraulic fracturing, our situation would be completely different, as API explains:

Maine risks being left behind in natural gas revolution
Bangor Daily News
Maine’s 2013 omnibus energy bill, LD 1559, focused regional attention on the importance of relieving constraints in New England’s natural gas infrastructure, and in particular, on how our region’s natural gas basis differential — the extra price we pay for natural gas on top of what consumers elsewhere pay — silently but dramatically increases heating and electrical costs for homes and businesses. The omnibus bill provided a mechanism for the Maine Public Utilities Commission to work with the other New England states to contract for pipeline capacity and lower future gas and electricity costs. That process is now underway, but unfortunately, some of the proposals under negotiation fall far short of the longer-term need and may have the primary effect of helping southern New England states while helping Maine consumers only marginally. The proposed new pipeline capacity would increase gas supply for heating, but it does not adequately help power generation or manufacturing needs. Worse, it commits the region to paying for upwards of 2,400 megawatts of power transmission lines, likely sited in Maine, allowing the future purchase of Canadian hydroelectrical power on a massive scale.

North Texas investigates gas in water
San Angelo Standard-Times
Texas’ oil and gas regulator has opened a new investigation into allegations that methane is contaminating North Texas water after residents complained that independent sampling by university researchers revealed high levels of the explosive gas in their residential wells, the state agency and scientists said. Further analysis by another independent scientist, Geoffrey Thyne, of testing done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and natural gas company Range Resources indicates that the contamination is spreading to more wells and the levels are increasing in some cases. Thyne said his preliminary analysis strengthens his belief that the contamination originates at wells drilled by Fort Worth-based Range. “The leak continues, and it’s spreading,” Thyne told The Associated Press. “I can say, based on the current data, there are at least two other wells that show the same source … which is the Range well.”

Natural Gas: The Electric Grid’s 20 Minute Pizza
Dinner time is approaching, and you decide to order a large pepperoni pizza. You call one pizza place, they quote you a price, and can have it to you within the next 20 minutes. You call a second place, and they offer to match the price, but can only promise it within the next 20 minutes, or 20 hours. “But c’mon,” the second guy says, “it’s the same pizza!” Yeah, it’s a similar pizza, but you’re hungry now. So you want the pizza you know you can get in 20 minutes. The same principle applies to electric power generation. It is quite fashionable and politically correct for policymakers and news reporters to focus these days on the need for more “renewable” sources of power generation in our energy mix, and indeed, there is a place for such sources. But any source that is reliant on the weather and/or sun cycles suffers from the same shortcomings as the 20-minute-to-20-hour pizza place: It’s unreliable. And unless we’re willing to endure darkness when the weather and sun don’t cooperate, loss of reliability is a huge problem.

U.S. NatGas Production Barely Grows In 2013; Not All Basins Are Created Equal
Seeking Alpha
Natural gas production increased in 2013, but just barely, according to the latest data from the Energy Information Administration. For the year as a whole, output in the U.S. grew by 0.8 bcf/d, or 1 percent, the smallest annual growth since 2005. “In contrast, production grew by 3% in 2010, 7% in 2011, and 5% in 2012,” said the EIA. As the chart above clearly illustrates, all of 2013’s growth was thanks to the Marcellus shale, without which, output would have certainly tumbled. In sharp contrast to the Marcellus, the Haynesville saw its production decline sharply.


Europe to America: We Want Your Gas
National Journal
Citing economic and national security woes, more than a dozen European nations are ramping up pressure on Washington to open wider its federally restricted spigot of natural-gas exports. The countries, which primarily include Eastern European nations heavily dependent upon Russia for their energy supplies, are working with a Washington-based government-affairs firm to launch a lobbying coalition in the next month with American energy companies. The coalition, whose name will be LNG Allies, will lobby Washington on allowing these countries easier access to natural gas from the United States, where supplies have ballooned in recent years and domestic prices have plummeted compared with the rest of the world. Right now, federal law significantly restricts U.S. companies from exporting natural gas to countries that are not free-trade partners with United States, which includes Europe. “These countries are all still very heavily dependent upon Russia, and they’re excited about getting into the LNG [liquefied natural gas] marketplace, and are looking for not only U.S. gas, but good, solid business relationships,” said the coalition’s organizer, who works for the firm launching the coalition.

Green Fade-Out: Europe to Ditch Climate Protection Goals
The EU’s reputation as a model of environmental responsibility may soon be history. The European Commission wants to forgo ambitious climate protection goals and pave the way for fracking — jeopardizing Germany’s touted energy revolution in the process. The climate between Brussels and Berlin is polluted, something European Commission officials attribute, among other things, to the “reckless” way German Chancellor Angela Merkel blocked stricter exhaust emissions during her re-election campaign to placate domestic automotive manufacturers like Daimler and BMW. This kind of blatant self-interest, officials complained at the time, is poisoning the climate. But now it seems that the climate is no longer of much importance to the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, either. Commission sources have long been hinting that the body intends to move away from ambitious climate protection goals. On Tuesday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported as much.

Russia is starting 2014 in a strong natural gas position
Platts – The Barrel
Relations between the European Union and Russia tend to see-saw, with neither side able to maintain its dominance for long. Where natural gas is concerned, the past few years have seen Gazprom on its back foot. The European Commission’s probe into Gazprom’s oil indexed contracts, its insistence on the move from border toward hub trading, and the compulsory unbundling of supply from transportation affecting Gazprom’s joint ventures in Europe were all furiously challenged by the Kremlin, but so far with no effect. As the new year gets under way, though, the picture is looking very different, with Russia winning on several fronts. First, what promised to be a major coup for the European Union–wooing Ukraine away from the Kremlin’s sphere of influence–turned sour in the closing days of 2013, as Moscow eased Kiev’s main gripe: high natural gas prices.

Gas Exporters Group Discussed Forming a Bank, New Head Says
Members of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum discussed setting up a common bank to finance joint investment projects, the new head of the group said. The bank was discussed at an earlier meeting of the 13-nation group and “has not been followed up recently,” Iran’s Mohammad Hossein Adeli said in interview today from the group’s headquarters in Qatar’s capital Doha. “The idea of helping each other in investment, in financing projects, and in long-term plans for investment is something that has already come up,” he said. Adeli, who replaced Russia’s Leonid Bokhanovsky as the secretary general of the GECF at the start of the year, is seeking to foster closer cooperation just as international rivalry increases. Qatari liquefied natural gas is competing with Russian pipeline exports in Europe. LNG shipments planned for the second half of this decade from the U.S. may disrupt established suppliers to Asia. Russia and Qatar are the two largest exporters in the GECF, according to data compiled by BP plc. The group, whose other members are Algeria, Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Oman, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, controls 62 percent of world gas reserves, according to its website.