Westlake Chemical Expanding Kentucky Ethane Cracker Capacity

Westlake logoWestlake Chemical Partners has just announced it will expand ethylene capacity at its Calvert City, Kentucky facility. The expansion will add 70 million pounds of annual ethylene capacity to the Calvert City facility during the first half of 2017. OK, what does this have to do with the Marcellus/Utica? As it turns out, a lot. The Westlake Calvert City petrochemical plant is an ethane cracker plant by a different name. Cracking ethane into ethylene is not the only thing that happens at the facility, but it’s one of the main things that happens there. And the ethane that feeds the cracker at the Calvert City facility comes, in part, from the Marcellus/Utica…
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Williams Plans to Start Clearing Trees for Constitution Next Week

Since last October MDN has been calling on Williams, the company planning to build the 124-mile Constitution Pipeline from Susquehanna County, PA to Schoharie County, NY, to take the gloves off and go after New York State, aggressively (see Time to Force NY DEC to Issue Permit for Constitution Pipeline). Earlier this month we re-posted an article from MDN friend Tom Shepstone and his Natural Gas Now website (always excellent, must read) that chronicles where we are at and how we got here with ongoing delays of the Constitution from the NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation (see Time for Williams/FERC to Sue NY & End Constitution Pipe Delays). In short, the DEC is now arbitrarily (for political reasons) intentionally withholding stream crossing permits that are delaying construction of the Constitution. The state is in danger of being sued by, and their authority to grant those permits taken over by, the federal government if they don’t issue those permits forthwith. Williams is attempting to advance the ball, still playing nicey nice, hoping to coax the DEC into issuing the permits. Williams has asked for and received permission (from the DEC) to begin clearing trees along the pipeline’s path, a process that will begin next week. However, rabid anti-drillers have asked NY’s out-of-control Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, to step in and stop the tree clearing. If Williams doesn’t start the tree clearing now, they risk losing another entire construction season. There is a finite window each year you can clear trees because of nesting Northern long-eared bats, an endangered species…
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Seventy Seven Energy Hires Turnaround Expert, Hopes to Stay Afloat

Seventy Seven Energy, an oilfield services company with major operations in the northeast, is the old Chesapeake Oilfield Operating division of Chesapeake–spun off into its own company on July 1, 2014. It’s very first quarterly income statement, issued in August 2014, was the first and last time the company actually cleared a profit (see Seventy Seven Energy’s 1st Quarterly Update: Revenue Down 6%). Since that time, quarter after quarter the company has lost money. One of the challenges faced by Seventy Seven is that its main customer was and continues to be Chesapeake Energy. As of the third quarter 2015, Chesapeake provided Seventy Seven with 58% of its revenue, down from a previous 64% (see Seventy Seven Energy 3Q15: Still Losing Money, But Not as Much). As we said at the time, “You can’t stay in business long with multi-million dollar losses quarter after quarter.” Indeed. Seventy Seven announced yesterday they’ve retained the services of Lazard Freres–an international financial advisory and asset management firm. One of Lazard’s talents is in helping companies “restructure” and/or find a buyer. Here’s what Seventy Seven said yesterday…
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Severance Tax Not a Panacea After All – Down 50%+ in 2015

There’s been a lot of talk over the past 5+ years in Pennsylvania that the state needs a severance tax. We’ve heard the repeated drumbeat that “eeeevvvvery other oil and gas state has a severance tax and we need one too.” A severance tax would, according to sticky finger Democrats and teachers unions, instantly solve funding shortfalls for education. Bam–solved. It would also fund a variety of “worthy” programs that the beneficent politicians in Harrisburg salivate to fund. A severance tax might even be the cure for cancer–who knows? Just one teeny, tiny problem. With the collapse of prices for oil and gas, and the resulting collapse in drilling, all of those “other states” with a severance tax are now scrambling to make up the difference in the shortfall they face in their own budgets. Turns out a severance tax isn’t a panacea after all. It also turns out an impact fee (PA’s equivalent of a severance tax), while sure to go down, will go down a lot less than a severance tax would. To our PA friends: Are you still happy you traded Tom Corbett, who was smart enough to create the impact fee, for the inept Tom Wolf who’s chasing a St. Elmo’s Fire severance tax? Here’s a look at the rapid fall of severance taxes in key oil and gas states in 2015, by the experts at the U.S. Energy Information Administration…
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EIA’s STEO Predicts NatGas Price Constant This Year, Up Next Year

Yesterday the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released their monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) report. It contains some interesting predictions. Among them: EIA predicts the average Henry Hub price for natural gas in 2016, when the year is completed, will end up being $2.65 per million British thermal units (MMBtu). The average price for 2015 at the Henry Hub was $2.63/MMBtu–so the EIA believes this year will be virtually unchanged from last year, when the final chapter is written. The EIA goes on to predict the average HH price in 2017 will be $3.22/MMBtu. Another interesting prediction in this month’s STEO: EIA says natural gas’ share of the electric generation pie will actually fall–with natgas generating 33% of all electricity in 2015 to 31% in 2017. Why? More renewable sources coming online…
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How Environmentalist Radicals Ruined Obama’s Clean Power Plan

In an excellent commentary article posted by the Cato Institute, a public policy research organization and “think tank,” the authors explain how President Obama’s so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP) was co-opted by radical environmentalists. Obama’s original CPP had a starring role for natural gas–the single biggest reason why the U.S. has reduced its carbon emissions over the past decade. But then the crazies got involved and Obama, bowing to pressure from the far left, threw natural gas under the bus in the final CPP. Here’s how the Cato experts explain it…
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The Smartest Man in the Oil (& Gas) Patch: Rusty Braziel

In 2015 MDN editor Jim Willis had the pleasure of sitting in on a one-day “State of the Energy Markets” presentation by RBN Energy, held in New York City. RBN, for those who don’t know, was founded by the former co-founder of Bentek Energy, Rusty Braziel. Rusty is a legend in the industry. He was there presenting, along with a few other seasoned pros that work for him at RBN. Great session. Jim learned a lot about the energy markets and how they work. And why they work the way they do. Rusty was a guest on Jim Cramer’s Mad Money program (on CNBC) last Friday. We have the video below. Jimmy Cramer calls Rusty “the smartest man on the oil patch” and the only person he consults with when it comes to the price of oil and gas and what’s happening. It’s high praise coming from Cramer. And well deserved. If you want to know why the price of oil (and gas) is doing what it’s doing, give this a watch and read…
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Debate Rages: How Many Shale Drillers will go Bankrupt?

Fadel Gheit, senior oil and gas analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., speculated on CNBC on Monday that half of all U.S. shale oil producers could go bankrupt before the price of oil reaches equilibrium. For Gheit, equilibrium price will be somewhere around $60-$70 per barrel. But, he says, it will take a few years to get there. His thesis is that in the meantime oil and gas companies are spending money out the wazoo and cannot sustain it and a good many of them (the smaller ones anyway) will go under. We compare his comments (below) with what Rusty Braziel recently said to Jim Cramer…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Wed, Jan 13, 2016

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: Gas downturn beats up Appalachian oilfield services companies; OH natgas prices for consumers drop 40%; 3 new drilling permits in OH; rig counts fall sharply in PA; how shale helps family farms; surveying with/without permission; Henry Hub price to collapse below $2; what’s next for Chesapeake?; the “bottom of the barrel” club; U.S. fighting for oil dominance; Saudis claim victory in oil war; and more!
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