Findlay Twp Signs Deal w/Range to Drill Under Town Park, $3K/Acre

Findlay Township (Allegheny County, PA, west of Pittsburgh) has just signed a deal with Range Resources to allow drilling under (not on) the towns 61-acre Clinton Park. Terms of the deal: Findlay gets a $3,000 per acre signing bonus and when the gas begins to flow, an 18% royalty. That means Findlay will get a nice, fat check for $183,000 in the next 90 days. The lease has been a long time in coming. Town supervisors worked on a deal five years ago, but then drilling slowed down and the deal was “put on the shelf.” Range will actually drill under the property from the Seibel Farm, which sits just over the border in Beaver County. The board of supervisors voted unanimously to approve the deal…
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Shell Cracker Plans to Build Truck Facility in Washington County

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Please note: Thanks to MDN reader Todd S. from Washington County, PA for correcting our map/distance from the Starpointe Business Park to the cracker plant location in Monaca, PA. Our previous Google map showed an incorrect distance (46 miles). It is actually ~28 miles. The story below has been corrected to reflect it.

It looks like Shell is going to build a trucking dispatch operation for its ethane cracker–but it won’t be located anywhere near the cracker site. The new trucking facility will be located in Washington County, PA–a half hour away. MDN was one of the first to announce Shell’s final investment decision to build an ethane cracker plant (that we now know will cost $6 billion) in Beaver County, PA (see Breaking: Shell Pulls the Trigger, PA Ethane Cracker is a Go!). A lot has happened at the site, situated on a former zinc smelting plant site in Monaca, PA. Shell built a new access road for trucks accessing the site–a concrete bridge overtop an adjacent highway–even before the final investment decision (see Shell Begins Building Bridge to PA Cracker Plant Site). Shell leased a huge office building and parking lot near the site (see Shell Leases 76,000 Sq Ft Office Space Near Cracker Plant Site). Shell even leased part of a nearby mall parking lot, for workers to park there (see More Evidence that the Shell Ethane Cracker Plant in PA is a Go). Everything we’ve seen thus far seems to be activity in and around Monaca–in Beaver County. That is, until now. A meeting yesterday of the Washington County (PA) Board of Commissioners hinted that Shell is about to build a facility there. Yesterday the commissioners voted to approve a new 31-acre development with a “90-bay distribution center and trucking dispatch operation” at Starpointe Business Park, in Hanover Township. The resolution contained this language in describing the project: “…to construct a two-unit building for Shell.” County officials and Shell officials won’t confirm a thing, but it seems pretty likely Shell is planning to build a big trucking facility in the business park, which is (by our calculations) about 28 miles and a half hour from the cracker site…
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Lawrence County, PA O&G Production “Inching Upward Again”

Lawrence County, located along Pennsylvania’s border with Ohio, is not the first county you think of when discussing Marcellus/Utica drilling in western PA. There have been no permits to drill new shale wells in Lawrence so far this year. However, the county does have 58 operating shale wells–and the amount of gas those wells produce is gradually rising. All but 10 of the wells are owned and operated by Hilcorp. Most of the wells are located in just two townships: Pulaski and Mahoning. Linda Nitch, executive director of economic business development for the Lawrence County Regional Chamber of Commerce, believes Hilcorp is pumping more gas from the wells it owns in Lawrence. She’s hearing from some landowners that their royalty checks are “getting a little bigger”…
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EXCO Resources Receives 3rd NYSE Notice of Delisting

EXCO Resources has just been threatened by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) with delisting their stock–for the third time. EXCO was once a sizable player in the Marcellus. They still have 184,000 net acres in the Marcellus, with 124 horizontal Marcellus wells drilled and in production. However the company, as we pointed out a year ago, has abandoned the Marcellus/Utica at this point (see EXCO: No Marcellus Drilling in 2015/2016, NYSE Threatens Delisting). The company flirted with bankruptcy for some time. In the end, they effectively turned over control of the company to its creditors (see EXCO Issues 2.7M Shares of New Stock in Lieu of Paying $23M). As we pointed out just a week ago, EXCO recently expressed interest in restarting drilling in our region again–in the Utica (see EXCO Resources 2Q17: Still No M-U Drilling, but Considering It). But the company faces steep challenges–primarily financial. Two times in the past the New York Stock Exchange notified the company it had fallen below the NYSE’s standards for listing and trading the stock, the most recent notice in January (see EXCO Resources Stock Threatened Again with De-Listing by NYSE). Both times EXCO’s stock had slipped below the $1/share level. EXCO finally fixed it by doing a reverse stock split–by combining outstanding shares into fewer shares worth more. The stock price currently is (and has been) trading well above $1/share. So why the NYSE notice this third time? Because EXCO’s market capitalization has fallen below $50 million. As of today, on paper, the company is worth only $30.8 million…
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Utica Shale Powers Ohio’s Economy with Massive $68B Investment

The Utica Shale’s economic impact on Ohio has been nothing short of “staggering.” In fact the shale revolution has fundamentally changed the United States over the past 10 years. But nowhere is it more obvious than in the Buckeye State. Our friends at Energy in Depth have assembled the results of several research studies of just how much shale has impacted Ohio, and summarized it in a handy infographic download (below). The short version is this: through the first quarter of 2016, if you add the number all up thus far, the “upstream” (drilling) industry in Ohio has invested a whopping $39.2 billion. Amazing! But that’s not all. The “midstream” (pipeline) industry has invested $13.7 billion. But wait! There’s more! The downstream (petrochemicals) industry has invested, so far, $15.3 billion. And there’s far more downstream investment coming, especially if/when PTT Global Chemical decides to move forward with building a $5 billion ethane cracker facility in Belmont County. When you add it all up, the Utica industry has invested $68.2 billion SO FAR. And that’s all private money–not taxpayer money. In fact, millions of dollars have flowed into communities from taxes on the industry. It’s truly hard to put into words just how big a deal this is…
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If NatGas Pipeline is Blocked, NY Elec Plant Will Use Oil Instead

For the past 2+ years MDN has chronicled the journey of Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) to build a $900 million Marcellus gas-fired electric plant in Wawayanda, NY, called the Valley Energy Center. Early on the project faced court challenges, but a judge gave final approval to build it in September 2015 (see Orange County, NY Marcellus-Fired Electric Plant OK’d by Judge). One of the “locals” who objected to the plant is Hollywood actor James Cromwell, star of movies like Babe and Star Trek: First Contact. Cromwell has a summer home in the area and doesn’t like the idea of an electric plant nearby, so he became a criminal protester (see Actor James Cromwell Arrested Protesting NY Power Plant Site). It took a few years, but Cromwell was finally jailed after refusing to pay a fine related to his arrest. He ended up serving just three of his seven day sentence (see “Privileged White” Actor Cromwell Serves < Half of Jail Sentence). Being famous and rich has its perks–including corruption of justice. The thing about Hollywood actors who are good at their craft, as is Cromwell, is that in other areas of life they are often stupid, as is Cromwell. Case in point: Cromwell thinks he can stop the $900 million plant, which is more than half built, by opposing a short, 7.8-mile pipeline spur off the Millennium Pipeline to feed the plant (see NY DEC Holds Sham “Hearing” for Power Plant Pipeline). Stop the pipeline, and the plant won’t open, right? Wrong! The owner has a Plan B for the plant, otherwise they would not have begun construction in the first place. If for some reason the natural gas pipeline doesn’t get built (highly unlikely), the plant will burn oil instead. Apparently Cromwell would rather have MORE air pollution around his home rather than allow a clean-burning pipeline to feed the plant. What a dope. The plant will open either way, with or without natural gas feeding it…
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Marc/Utica Pipeline Troubles Led to Goldman Sachs Losing $100M

Yes, lack of pipelines in the Marcellus/Utica does hurt many people and businesses. When drillers can’t get their product to markets that fetch higher prices, the existing markets where they sell becomes saturated and the price drops. That means less money in royalty payments for landowners, less money in the pockets of drilling companies, less drilling until prices go up again, fewer jobs, less tax revenue flowing to the state and municipalities. Etc. You get the idea. It also can impact those who trade natural gas futures. Ginormous investment bank Goldman Sachs markets and trades natural gas–one of the world’s biggest natgas traders. The company “bet wrong” on which way the price of gas would go in the Marcellus/Utica, believing it would go higher with projects like Rover Pipeline coming online. Instead, Rover and other projects in our region hit obstacles and delays. And the price of gas stayed low. It cost Goldman $100 million this spring–turning in the worst performance ever for its commodities trading unit. Yes, we understand, it’s hard to shed a tear for a big company like Goldman. After all, they were rolling the dice in the Wall Street casino. Our point remains: When pipelines don’t get built, there’s a very real cost associated–a cost that ripples throughout the economy from the biggest players (Goldman) to the smallest players (landowners)…
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The Legal Dance Between States and FERC in Pipeline Approvals

MDN has enthusiastically covered the story of Millennium Pipeline’s challenge of the New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) refusal to (so far) grant a federal Clean Water Act stream crossing permit for a short, 7.8-mile pipeline from Millennium to natgas-fired electric plant currently under construction in Orange County, NY. States are given a year to respond to a request for such a permit, and the DEC was long past that date. So Millennium took the DEC to court–the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In June the court dismissed the lawsuit by Millennium, which at first blush may seem like a blow. But it was the reasoning and opinion of the judges in dismissing the case that will change everything in New York. The judges said there is no case because if, as Millennium says, the DEC is denying the water permits, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) itself has the power to jump back in and simply override NY DEC and issue the permits (see DC Court Tells Millennium FERC Can Override NY DEC Pipeline Delay). Millennium took the judge’s advice and filed a request with FERC to do just that (see Showdown: Millennium Asks FERC for Permission to Ignore NY DEC). We’re now waiting the outcome of that request. Actually, the DEC said it has until the end of this month, August, to deliver the permit–so perhaps they will do it to avoid losing their power. How does these matters get resolved between states and FERC? Why do the Appeals Courts get involved when there is a dispute? Does the state have more than just a rubber-stamp approval role when it comes to issuing stream crossing permits? A well-written article from an energy attorney explains the process (something we found very helpful in our own understanding of how these things work)…
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The Many Types of Skilled Trades Jobs Needed to Build Pipelines

The Oil and Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee, led by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and North America’s Building Trades Unions, released a study this week on union pipeline employment across the county. The study outlines the many (many!) different types of jobs involved in building pipelines. You may think it’s just welders and their assistants. No way. It’s FAR more than that. Skilled tradespeople that work on pipelines include: boilermaker, carpenter, electrician, instrumentation technician, insulator, ironworker, construction laborer, millwright, operator, painter, scaffold builder, welder, and plumber, pipefitter, and steamfitter. Of special interest, however, are four occupations that traditionally play central roles in pipeline crews. Three are among the trades listed above: operators (i.e. operating engineers), construction laborers, and plumbers/pipefitters/steamfitters. The fourth is “drivers,” the occupation responsible for moving people and equipment around and between job sites. Now that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has a quorum, pipeline projects will start getting approved and all of the jobs above, in the Marcellus/Utica, will pick up. Below is a copy of the full report, titled “Skilled Trades Employment in the Pipeline Industry: 2006-2015″…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Fri, Aug 18, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: OH Utica permits resume rise in July; Shell cracker plant’s reach impacting OH; NJ tries to screw-up oil trains shipments with onerous bill; teaching old Dog Anadarko Basin some new shale tricks; the Permian Basin will provide oil “indefinitely”; Weather Channel founder says there is no man-made global warming; Deloitte predicts pause in growth of demand for natgas in US; Henry Hub emerges as global natgas benchmark price; Waste Management opens 100th natgas fueling station; Trump looking for new head for EIA; UK begins fracking its first shale well; and more!
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