Reuters Smiles: MI Criminal Court to Charge Chesapeake & Encana

smiley faceIn June 2012 MDN brought you the story that of possible collusion between Chesapeake Energy and Encana over lease offers in the state of Michigan. At the time we pointed out that the Reuters news service had “obtained” confidential emails that supposedly show such collusion, and we asked the question, how did Reuters come by those emails (see Did Reuters Break the Law with Latest Chesapeake Story?). It was obvious Retuers was trying to take down Aubrey McClendon and by extension Chesapeake Energy. Aubrey is now gone from Chesapeake and Reuters’ favorite corporate raider, Carl Icahn, now pulls the strings of the new CEO, Doug Lawler.

Not long after the whole story burst onto the scene, Encana did their own internal investigation and cleared themselves (see Encana Says Investigation Shows No Collusion with Chesapeake). That was Sept. 2012. Reuters is now back and announcing that the attorney general in Michigan will now file, two years later, criminal charges against both Chesapeake and Encana on March 19 in Michigan state court. We’re sure Reuters is smiling…
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Drilling Shifts South in OH Utica Shale + More on Halcon Exit

There is no doubt Utica Shale drilling in eastern Ohio has made a transition. Once upon a time Chesapeake (and a few others) looked to places like Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Carroll County is still quite active with drilling, but much of the new drilling has drifted south, to places like Harrison, Guernsey, Belmont, Noble and Monroe counties, as evidenced by the latest round of permits issued by the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources. To the north in places like Trumbull? Not so hot anymore. Two days ago we told you about Halcon Resources’ decision to say adios to Trumbull County (see Halcon Resources Stops Drilling, Gives Up on the Utica Shale).

The shift southward and Halcon’s exit doesn’t seem to concern one of Halcon’s contractors, Kleese Development Associates, that hauls Halcon’s frack wastewater to area injection wells. Below are two articles: one illustrates the shift south in permits for new wells, and one that interviews Kleese, providing us with a bit more insight into Halcon’s decision to stay away from the Utica, for now…
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Will Penn State President’s Global Warming Views Affect Drilling?

A few weeks ago Penn State got a new president–the 18th person to serve in that capacity. His name is Eric Barron and he’s credentialed in all the right ways and is, in fact, a previous faculty member and administrator at Penn State. Barron has been a geosciences professor and has headed up various geosciences departments, including one at the University of Texas-Austin. You may think, “Great! Someone that will understand the importance of shale drilling!” We’re not so sure.

Penn State is arguably one of the country’s most important university systems, and home to MCOR–the Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research. The guys and gals at MCOR are very bright and very active. They engage in research and do a top notch job in educating Pennsylvanians on the miracle in their midst–Marcellus Shale drilling. So what’s MDN’s “problem”? Barron is a global warming alarmist, from what we’re able to gather. And we’re concerned his views, like that of other warmists, will color his views of all fossil fuels, including natural gas. With the flick of a pen he can do profound damage to MCOR and their mission–which would be a shame…
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New Preservation Organization – Friend or Foe of PA Drilling?

We’re not quite sure what to make of this, but we’ll take it at face value (for now). A new non-profit organization has sprung up in (where else?) Washington, D.C. Called the Gas and Preservation Partnership (GPP), the purpose of the new group is to form a voluntary alliance between preservationists and drillers. That is, people who are concerned that drillers may sink a well in an old Indian artifact area, would like those drillers to use seismic mapping of the site to see if anything of archaeological significance is present, and if it is, either drill somewhere else or take time to excavate the site before drilling. The fear is that once drillers start pushing dirt around to level a drilling pad, it might destroy something of historical significance. Which of course sounds to our hypercritical ear a lot like “delay in order to slow down or kill drilling.” But, according to GPP, that’s not their aim.

GPP says they do not (at this time) “plan to advocate” for regulations that will slow down drilling in PA and other shale states. Rather, GPP hopes drillers will cooperate voluntarily, apparently so they won’t have to advocate for regulations. GPP is holding a summit in Pittsburgh later this month. Shell and Southwest Energy are co-sponsoring the summit which aims to bring everyone together to the table to sing kumbaya, er, talk about how drillers can lend a hand with ensuring they don’t destroy any arrowheads buried in the dirt…
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Drillers Petition PA Court (Again) to Participate in Act 13 Case

Try this on for size. Pennsylvania lawmakers passed sweeping new regulations, called Act 13, that control how and where drillers can drill, and stipulate how much money drillers will pay as part of a new “fee” (really a tax, but called an impact fee). A portion of the Act 13 law–statewide uniform zoning regulations–was challenged by seven townships that eventually won in the PA Supreme Court (see Happy Story Ends Badly Because of 7 PA Towns). Early on the drilling industry wanted to join the case to argue in favor of the Act 13 law but the wizards on the bench said nyet. The judges said the industry had no “standing” to be party to the suit, while an anti-drilling environmental organization was allowed to participate. “Standing for me but not for thee” was the attitude. It was and is the height of hypocrisy because the Act 13 law directly affects those very industry groups and their members. Anyone can see there’s “standing” for the industry to participate in a lawsuit that directly affects them.

The PA Supreme Court made a poor decision on Act 13, based on poor theories of law, and then took the easy way out and sent the non-zoning portions of the case back to a lower court to decide if the entire law should be scrapped. There’s a very possibility that will now happen (see Ongoing Fallout from PA Supreme Court’s Wrong Act 13 Decision). The three top drilling industry groups in PA yesterday petitioned the court, once again, to join the lawsuit as it’s now considered in the lower court, arguing they are DIRECTLY affected by the outcome and indeed it is evident to ALL that they do have standing. The groups are trying to salvage something out of the miscarriage of justice that has occurred at the Supreme Court. Question is: Will anti-drilling judges once again deny their petition to join the case?…
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BP Shifts into First Gear with Shale – Splits Offshore/Onshore

BP is one of the world’s largest integrated oil and gas companies, with operations that span from exploration and production in the upstream to midstream pipelines and even downstream (one of the world’s largest energy traders). A truly huge company. They also own 84,000 acres of leases in the Ohio Utica Shale–acreage they’ve done almost nothing with since leasing in early 2012. According to Volume 3 of the Marcellus and Utica Shale Databook (published in January), we count 5 drilling permits for BP in the OH Utica Shale for all of 2013. Barely a pulse.

Our course hindsight is 20/20, but one of the problems is BP leased all of that land in the northern part of the Utica play–in Trumbull County. As we’ve noted elsewhere today on MDN, Utica drilling has decidedly shifted southward (away from Trumbull and other northern counties). But perhaps geography hasn’t been the only thing holding BP back in their Utica drilling program. Could it be an inefficient management structure in the company? Perhaps! Two days ago BP announced they are splitting offshore and US onshore drilling into separate divisions within the company. Judging from the announcement, it appears the decision to split operations is an effort to take better advantage of shale drilling. While they don’t mention the Utica specifically, we believe part of the reason BP has not drilled in the Utica is due to their own internal structure, which they’re moving to remedy…
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KKR Launches New $2B Fund – Now in Hunt for NA Shale Investments

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) is a bigtime global investment firm. KKR was founded by Henry Kravis and George Roberts in 1976 and is still led by them. They have gobs of money that they invest, and according to a press release they issued yesterday, they have a nice pile of money they want to invest in shale plays–$2 billion of cash. KKR has just launched their Energy Income and Growth Fund I, or EIGF for short. The I seems to indicate there may at some point be a II and so on. The aim of the new fund is to invest the money in North American unconventional oil and gas resources. (Calling Aubrey McClendon…We’ve spotted another pile of cash that’s yours for the takein’!)

Here’s the announcement from KKR about the fund and the types of shale investments they’re looking to make…
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Industry Supports Bill Forcing FERC to Approve Pipelines <1 Year

Apparently a year is not long enough for employees at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve new pipeline applications. FERC is the agency charged with approving new interstate natural gas (and other types of) pipelines. It’s a long, arduous, and complex process to approve and build a new pipeline. You might think if an agency had 100% completed paperwork before them it wouldn’t take an entire year to evaluate and approve it–but indeed, it often takes longer. Much longer. Years, in fact.

Enter Congressman Mike Pompeo, Republican from Kansas. Last year he introduced H.R. 1900 which would bring some “discipline” to the process by making FERC approve or deny newly proposed pipeline projects within a year of receiving all necessary paperwork. Jeff Wright, director of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects, promptly threatened lawmakers, telling them if FERC is backed into a corner, the agency will simply start denying projects left and right (see FERC Warning to Lawmakers: Back Us in a Corner, You’ll be Sorry). We hadn’t heard anything further on H.R. 1900 since Wright’s threat, until we spotted this…
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Another New Gas-to-Liquids Plant Coming in PA – Near Philly

Not frequently, but every now and again MDN has highlighted stories about the intriguing technology that converts natural gas into other hydrocarbons–like diesel fuel and petrochemicals. The technology is called gas-to-liquids (or GTL). We’ve told you about several such facilities on the board or being built in PA and in OH (see Gas-to-Liquids Trend Picks Up Steam in Northeast).

You can add one more such facility to the list, coming in Berks County, PA (near Philadelphia). Canadian EmberClear Corp. NGI’s Shale Daily is reporting that EmberClear is seeking approval on a new $1 billion GTL plant that will employ 100 people in Berks County, and (amazingly) it seems the township where they want to build it, wants it…
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Tiny SE OH Town Sees Hotel Construction Boom Thx to Utica Shale

As we’ve previously written, one way you know shale drilling is on the horizon is when there the county clerk or county recorder’s office gets busy with title abstractors researching. We told you way back in 2012 that Belmont County, OH was about to see a drilling boom (see Belmont County, OH Drilling to Take Off Soon). How do you know when an area’s drilling is about to expand even more? When companies are willing to build not one but four new hotels–in a town with only 10,555 residents!

Here’s the story of drilling about to reach a fevered pitch in Belmont’s neighboring county, Guernsey and the little town of Cambridge which is having a boom in hotel construction…
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