Patterson-UTI Feb Rig Count Up 9th Month in a Row

As we do every month, MDN tracks how many rigs oilfield services company Patterson-UTI Energy reports operating–as a proxy for when/if the drop in rig counts for the Marcellus/Utica will turn around. Patterson operates a number of rigs in the northeast, as well as other areas of the continental United States (and Canada). Patterson was our “canary down the mine shaft” for discerning when the deep, dark recession in drilling would turn around. It happened in June 2016–and every single month since that time, including the month of February, Patterson’s active rig count has increased. In February, Patterson’s rig count hit 78, up 2 from 76 in January…
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OH Court Rules Landmen Need to be Licensed Real Estate Brokers

We know this is an important story, and we know that some (many?) MDN readers will be interested. But this is one of those rare cases where we just can’t get our heads around the scope and importance of the story–and who it really affects. We had thought that landmen in Ohio (agents who deal with landowners and mineral rights owners, getting them to sign leases or easements) did not have to be licensed real estate agents in order to do their job. However, a court case just decided in Ohio’s Seventh District Court of Appeals seems to say that at least some landmen DO need to be licensed real estate agents, in order to get paid a commission on deals they’ve brokered. We don’t think the decision requiring a real estate license applies to all landmen in Ohio (although we’re open to correction on that point). Below we have information about the Dundics v. Eric Petroleum Corp. case, along with previous info from 2014 that indicates the reverse–that Ohio landmen DO NOT need to be licensed real estate brokers. Does the Dundics case supersede previous rulings? Is the Dundics case dealing with an obscure situation that doesn’t apply to all landmen? We simply don’t know…
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PA DEP Sec McDonnell Defends Overreach of GP-5/5A

At last week’s Oil & Gas Awards’ 2017 Northeast Industry Summit, MDN editor Jim Willis heard former Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary, Michael Krancer, say that the DEP’s proposed changes to General Permit (GP) 5 and 5A are “a big deal” and that the permits, as drafted, have the potential to stop PA natural gas production for 12-18 months while new regulations get sorted out (see Big News from the O&G Awards Northeast Industry Summit). We’ve written a fair bit about GP-5/5A, most recently in December (see PA DEP Extends Public Comment Period for Methane Regs). Our take on GP-5/5A is that it will target a reduction in fugitive methane. However, Krancer said the new rule would also stop any new pipeline construction through wetlands (virtually any and all new pipelines) until new permitting procedures are hashed out–hence his startling statement about production stopping for more than a year. Krancer also said GP-5/5A will regulate small gathering lines. PA’s legislators are very concerned about GP-5/5A and submitted a letter to DEP Acting Secretary Pat McDonnell in February with 21 questions about the new rule change. McDonnell met with several Senators and subsequently responded, in writing, by addressing each of the 21 questions. We have McDonnell’s letter and responses below…
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NETL Research Discovers Microbes May Make Marcellus Gas Renewable

NETL researcher Yael Tucker uses a special bio-reactor to study microbes from shale samples – click for larger version

Dr. Yael Tucker, a research scientist working for the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) at West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV), continues to make important discoveries that have the potential to increase Marcellus Shale production. Her work involves tiny microbes. Dr. Tucker’s work “shakes the general assumption” that methane gas from the Marcellus is all thermogenic–or the result of decomposing dinosaurs put under extreme heat and pressure over long periods. At least some methane in the Marcellus, according to Tucker, is biogenic–the result of tiny LIVING microbes doing their thing. In other words, natural gas may be renewable! Who knew?! Tucker’s research has huge implications: “…there may be a faster recovery time than expected for the renewal of gas reserves” in Marcellus reservoirs. Contrary to the “leave it in the ground” dunces who say once the gas is gone it’s gone, now we know we can take it out and at least some of it will magically reappear again. Renewable. Sustainable. Shale gas…
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7 Major Marcellus/Utica Pipelines Coming This Year & Next

Yesterday MDN brought you a story about the difference, in the price drillers get for their gas, that a single pipeline can make (see The Difference One Utica Pipeline Can Make on Gas Prices). That story was about how the Rockies Express Pipeline (REX) reversed its flow from Ohio to Missouri adding 800 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of extra capacity for a total of 2.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of gas now flowing from the Utica/Marcellus to the Midwest. REX is an existing pipeline. Just think about all of the pipeline projects in the queue for the Marcellus/Utica. In fact, there are seven major projects that are either already-approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) or under review now. If you add them all together, it represents almost 12 Bcf/d of additional natural gas flowing out of our region to other regions, where it will fetch higher prices. What are the seven projects? How much gas will each flow? When will they go online? We need a scorecard! We now have one…
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Antis Try to Stop Buffalo-Area Coal Plant Conversion to NatGas

NRG Dunkirk coal plant

In 2013, a coal-fired electric generating plant near Buffalo (in Dunkirk) was slated to be converted to burn natural gas–a win/win for everyone (see Dunkirk, NY Electric Plant Saved – Converting from Coal to NatGas). Radical environmentalists like the Sierra Club opposed it, but that’s to be expected. Crazy people do crazy things. Everything seemed to be fine until a competitor hauled NRG, the plant’s owner, into court to dispute the change from coal to natgas. They objected to ratepayers kicking in $150 million for the project. NRG said fighting the case in court will take years, so they just closed down the plant instead (see Dunkirk, NY Coal-Fired Electric Plant Closing in January 2016). It was an economic nuclear bomb for that community. The Town of Dunkirk gets 40% of its tax revenue from the plant. New York State “generously” shucked out $5.5 million so Dunkirk wouldn’t collapse economically. But doing that year after year will get old quick. Other communities can rightly demand state help too. But then the competitor who had objected to converting the old coal plant to natgas (with ratepayer assistance) dropped their objection, and NRG restarted the project in December (see Coal-to-Gas Plant Conversion in Western NY Back from the Dead). But once again, the environmental lunatics who would rather bankrupt Dunkirk than let the plant restart as a gas-fired plant, are lobbying the state Public Service Commission to block the deal…
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Halliburton CFO Leaves to Become Weatherford CEO

Mark McCollum, who had been Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Halliburton, the world’s second largest oilfield services company, has left to become the CEO of Weatherford, the world’s fourth largest oilfield services company. Sounds like a good move for McCollum’s career. But is it? Since last November we’ve highlighted the financial problems at the company (see our Weatherford stories here). In February, Weatherford set about trying to raise $2.5 billion, to stay out of bankruptcy court (see Weatherford Tries to Dig Out of Debt – $2.5B Securities Offering). It makes perfect sense to hire an accountant to run the company and try to extract it from its financial woes. It’s a high stakes game for McCollum. If he’s successful in turning around the Weatherford ship, McCollum can write his ticket. If he doesn’t turn it around–well, perhaps he still has some Halliburton stock options stuffed away in a safety deposit box…
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Josh Fox, Maya & Friends Plan to Protest Any FERC Appointments

You know it’s a slow week for anti-fossil fuel crackpots like Josh Fox and Maya van Rossum (THE Delaware Riverkeeper) when they have to hold a conference call to begin protesting something that hasn’t even happened yet. The Donald has been a busy boy, trying to weed out Obamadroids deeply embedded in the federal government. The President is responsible to appointing something like 5,000 people to positions throughout the federal government. Most of them pass through Presidential Personnel (an office MDN editor Jim Willis once worked in during the Reagan Administration, back in the Jurassic period) and do not require Congressional approval. But one agency of primary concern for us, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), is still missing three of five Commissioners. Trump has not (yet) put forward nominees to staff it, nominees who will have to be approved by the Senate. But lack of nominees isn’t stopping Josh Fox, Maya van Rossum, a PA pig farmer and others with an abject hatred of FERC because FERC is responsible for evaluating and approving pipeline projects. You know, pipelines that flow evil, disgusting, horrible fossil fuels that are poisoning Mom Earth. On a conference call scheduled for tomorrow, Josh, Maya & friends will outline their opposition to ANYONE Trump puts forward. Doesn’t matter who it is. The Dalai Lama? Against him. BH Obama? Against him too. Meryl “hates Donald Trump’s guts” Streep? Against her, even though she’s a hater. Queen Hillary? She’s yesterday’s news. Mickey Mouse? Set out a mousetrap. That will be the strategy outlined on tomorrow’s conference call…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Tue, Mar 7, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: Opposition to fracking in Maryland is anti-science; outrage over closing NY nuke plant; Exxon plans to invest $20B in U.S. Gulf region; GE & Baker Hughes get more info requests from DOJ on merger; Statoil says shale profitable at $50/barrel; #ExxonKnew activists target Shell next; Chesapeake “won’t hesitate” to dump more assets; hackers target energy sector; and more!
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