PA DEP Issues “Final” New Drilling Regulations; Industry Pushback

PA DEPJohn Quigley, the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP), yesterday released a finalized version of proposed new oil and gas drilling regulations, otherwise known as Chapters 78 and 78a. A copy was sent to the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) for their required review which is planned for Feb. 3. The entire set of revised/new regulations (copy below) will then get published in the Pennsylvania Register and become final. Both the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), representing unconventional drillers, and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association (PIOGA), representing conventional drillers, have come out against the new regulations. The MSC says the new regulations will cost the industry $2 billion annually without a corresponding benefit for the environment or safety, and PIOGA minces no words when it says the four-year revision process “has been flawed to the point of being fraudulent”…
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CONSOL Pursues Drilling Test Utica Well at Pittsburgh Airport

Sometimes when we’re wrong, we’re still right! Last June MDN reported that CONSOL Energy, currently in the process of drilling a series of Marcellus and Upper Devonian shale wells at the Pittsburgh International Airport, was mulling over the possibility of drilling a single test Utica well at the airport (see CONSOL Energy May Add More Utica Wells to Pitt. Airport Project). Our error was in reporting CONSOL had already received a permit to drill a Utica well–they had not. However, CONSOL has just received permission from local town officials to swap out one of the planned Marcellus wells with a Utica well…
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CONSOL Energy Slashes 2016 Drilling Budget 50% from Previous Plan

There’s just no ignoring the fact that most (many? all?) Marcellus/Utica drillers are pulling in their horns for 2016 and, as things stand right now, will drill far less this year than they did last. Take CONSOL Energy as an example. Yesterday CONSOL issued a revised 2016 capital budget and operational forecast (full copy below). CONSOL has decided to spend even less on drilling in 2016 than previously announced. CONSOL spent $1.3 billion on drilling in 2014, $1 billion last year, and was planning “$400-$500 million” this year. Now? That number has crumbled to $205-$325 million. You don’t drill many wells with $200 million. CONSOL’s update says the company plans to spend $110-$210 million on drilling and completing wells, with an emphasis on completing already-drilled wells. Of note and interest is the increasing number of Utica wells that are in the CONSOL portfolio. Even though CONSOL will drill and complete far fewer wells than previous years, they still expect production to increase by 15%…
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NY Town Barred from Selling Water to Shell for PA Fracking

In March 2012, the village board in Painted Post (Steuben County), NY voted to sell water to Shell for use in fracking operations across the border in Pennsylvania. The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) gave its blessing to Painted Post to sell up to 1 million gallons of water day. But the decision didn’t sit well with power-hungry anti-drillers. The nutters from the radical Sierra Club sued to stop the deal in June 2012 (see Sierra Club Sues to Stop Water Sales in Steuben County, NY). A lower court ruled in favor of the radicals and struck down the deal. On appeal, a corrupt state appellate court has upheld the lower court’s ruling. Shell will have to find water from another source–not that they’re drilling any wells right now anyway…
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Corporate Raider Mason Hawkins Now Owns 23.1% of CONSOL Energy

Mason HawkinsThere’s little doubt about who now is, or soon will be, calling the shots at CONSOL Energy: corporate raider Mason Hawkins. Hawkins, along with corporate raider buddy Carl Icahn, is responsible for firing Aubrey McClendon from the company he co-founded (Chesapeake Energy) and further firing some 2,000 or more Chesapeake employees–all in a bid to put more money in his pocket. Hawkins and Icahn control Chesapeake by owning a combined 20% or so of the company’s outstanding shares of stock. In February 2015, MDN shared the disturbing news that Hawkins and his Southeastern Asset Management had amassed 14% of CONSOL’s outstanding shares of stock (see Corporate Raider Mason Hawkins Holds 14% of CONSOL Energy Stock). By July that number ballooned to 21% and Hawkins was throwing his weight (and money) around (see CONSOL’s #1 Stockholder Says Spin Off CNX Gas…or Sell It). Now? We spotted a notice that Southeastern Asset Management’s stake in CONSOL has grown to 23.1% of the company’s outstanding shares. Which means Hawkins can have his way with the company…
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Southwestern Energy Gets New CEO – What’s Ahead for 2016?

Southwestern Energy CEO Steve Mueller is stepping down (or is it up) from his position as CEO. Mueller will remain on the board of directors as non-executive chairman. In his place, Southwestern’s current president, Bill Way, will take on the added title and responsibility of CEO. Southwestern is one of the biggest, and most important, drillers in the Marcellus/Utica. When there’s a change in leadership, it has the potential to impact company strategy. So we’re always interested when changes of this type come along. It was just two years ago that Steve Mueller stepped down as president but retained his title of CEO and was appointed to succeed the outgoing chairman of the board (see Southwestern Energy’s Board Changes, Marcellus Plans for 2014). The company has been on a mission to expand its Marcellus/Utica footprint ever since. In October 2014 Southwestern announced a deal to buy 413,000 Marcellus/Utica acres from Chesapeake Energy, most of it in West Virginia, along with 435 drilled wells in a deal costing the company $5.375 billion (see Chesapeake Sells Close to 25% of Marcellus/Utica Operation). Then in December 2014, Southwestern bought 46,700 net acres of leases and 63 operating Marcellus Shale wells in northeastern PA from WPX for $300 million (see First Shoe Drops: WPX Sells 1/2 Marcellus Assets to Southwestern). When everyone else was slowing down, Southwestern was doubling down on their drilling program (see Southwestern’s Contrarian Plan: Double Down on Drilling in the Marcellus). The question now is, what’s ahead for 2016 with Bill Way at the helm?…
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NH New State Motto: “Live as Slaves then Die” – Plans to Nix Pipe

The official motto for the State of New Hampshire used to be “Live Free or Die.” Sometime over the past 200+ years it changed. These days the new motto in New Hampshire is, “Live as Slaves then Die.” How else do you explain why NH leaders (Republicans!) have introduced a blizzard of bills that would essentially outlaw a simple natural gas pipeline from being added to the ground–in a state where thousands of miles of pipelines are already buried in the ground? Why are they all of a sudden allergic to the safest form of transportation in existence? The only explanation we can find is, they want to be slaves to Big Green and forsake modern conveniences like electricity and automobiles…
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Big Stock Trades for Rice Energy, Summit Midstream

Periodically we catch you up on major cases of insider buying or selling–when upper management and/or board members either buy stock in the company they run, or sell it. We also periodically report on major shareholders either buying or selling. Earlier this week we told you that Eagle Asset Management had sold some of its Gulfport Energy stock and beefed up its Rice Energy portfolio (see Eagle Asset Mgmt Sells Gulfport Energy, Buys Rice Energy Stock). Today we report that Jennison Associates (investment firm) recently sold 369,662 shares of Rice Energy. After all, somebody like Jennison has to sell if companies like Eagle Asset buy, right? In addition, we’re reporting that a board member of Summit Midstream (company with sizable pipeline assets in the Marcellus/Utica) recently bought a whopping $5.6 million worth of company stock. Now there’s a vote a confidence!…
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Columbia Gas Gets “Intelligent” Pipelines from GE/Accenture

Who knew that pipelines could actually be “intelligent”? We sure didn’t. GE and Accenture have just announced that Columbia Pipeline Group (CPG) is the first company to deploy their “Intelligent Pipeline Solution”–a breakthrough software solution that helps pipeline operators make informed decisions about pipeline safety and integrity. Columbia Pipeline Group has deployed the GE/Accenture Intelligence Pipeline Solution on 15,000 miles of interstate pipelines–much of that flowing Marcellus and Utica Shale gas. The software monitors pipeline threats, improves risk management and provides “situational awareness” in near real-time…
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Ashtabula GTL Plant Builder Velocys Gets New CEO

MDN Update: Velocys’ former CEO, Roy Lipski, contacted MDN to express concern that our reference to an earlier story about his departure (the way we present it) is misleading and harmful. We apologize. Roy points out that although he left the company, there was, after an investigation, no finding of any wrongdoing

UK-based Velocys is the company building the Ashtabula, OH Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) plant to convert natural gas into other hydrocarbons like diesel fuel and even gasoline. In July 2015, Velocys suspended its CEO, Roy Lipski, for potential misconduct (see Velocys GTL Company Suspends CEO for Possible Serious Misconduct). Velocys said at the time there was no financial misconduct involved (which makes you wonder just what did happen), and a month later, in August, Lipski left the company for good. It’s taken a while, but Velocys has finally located a new CEO. Yesterday they announced the appointment of David Pummell as the next CEO…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Thu, Jan 7, 2016

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: Marcellus drillers’ stock dives in 2015; Move over Bakken, Marcellus/Utica is taking your place; confused state of Maryland; New York’s jobs-free renewable plan; WV state land leased sees no drilling so far; Florida OKs natgas power plant in Okeechobee; natgas demand this winter; and more!
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