PA DEP Issues Air Permit for Gas-fired Elec Plant Next to Pot Farm

In early October MDN told you about a second Marcellus gas-fired electric generating plant being planned for Greene County, PA (see 2nd Marcellus-Fired Electric Plant Proposed for Greene County, PA). Hill Top Energy Center, based in Huntington Bay, N.Y., is planning to build a 620 megawatt plant (original story had it wrong, saying 536 MW) on 41 acres of land off Thomas Road in Cumberland Township. The PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) held a public hearing in early November about the project. Only 20 people turned up and nobody objected. Last Friday the DEP issued an air quality permit for the project–the last major hurdle before the project can begin. In press coverage of the permit and the project advancing, we discovered one piece of new information: The plant will be built next door to a “medical marijuana operation”–i.e., a pot growing farm. Well now that’s interesting! Workers at the new electric plant can slip out the back door on break and roll a joint for later…
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WVU Gets $1.3M Grant to Research Ways to Use More NatGas In-State

West Virginia University (WVU) is a research powerhouse. They have lots of researchers doing important work in a variety of disciplines. One of those disciplines is natural gas. WVU founded the Center for Innovation in Gas Research and Utilization (CIGRU) to “conduct transformative, fundamental, research directed at innovative pathways for shale gas utilization and upgrading.” CIGRU, along with two other non-shale related research programs, have just collectively received a $3.9 million Research Challenge Grant from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. The WVU press release doesn’t say how each of the three different recipients (CIGRU being one of them) got, but we figure they likely divided it evenly, hence our assumption that CIGRU got $1.3 million. And what will CIGRU do with the money? Figure out ways to keep more of the Marcellus/Utica gas coming out of West Virginia’s rocks in the state–used by residents and businesses who reside in WV. They want to grow the “downstream” sector of end users of natural gas and other byproducts from shale drilling…
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Patterson-UTI Rig Count Gains 3 in November, Back Up to 161

As we do every month (and have for more than two years), MDN tracks how many rigs oilfield services company Patterson-UTI Energy reports operating–as a proxy for rig count health in general and rig count health in the Marcellus/Utica in particular. Patterson recently bought out and merged in Seventy Seven Energy (see Patterson-UTI Energy Completes Merger with Seventy Seven Energy). The addition of SSE’s rigs served to rocket Patterson’s rig count number in April and May much higher (see Patterson-UTI Rig Count Continues to Rocket Skyward – 159 in May). With SSE now fully absorbed into Patterson, the rig count number settled down. In September Patterson’s rig count slipped by 1–the first loss since June 2016. In October the count retreated another three, to 158. But what’s this? The numbers for November were just released and show that the count jumped again–back up to 161…
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Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Future Plans: Expand in NC & SC

Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a $5 billion, 594-mile natural gas pipeline that will stretch from West Virginia through Virginia and into North Carolina. The project will be built by Dominion Energy (lead) and Duke Energy (important partner). Years after the project filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), it was finally approved by FERC in October (see FERC Approves Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley Pipeline Projects). In November, the U.S. Forest Service granted its blessing for the pipeline to traverse small portions of two national forests (see USFS Approves Atlantic Coast Pipeline Thru 2 National Forests). But the project is not without it’s problems. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People declared the pipeline racist (see NAACP Claims Atlantic Coast Pipeline is Racist, Harms Blacks Most). That’s basically a PR stunt by the NAACP to use as a fundraiser. The more important and troublesome development is in North Carolina, where the state Dept. of Environmental Quality is playing a game of delay with questions (see NC Plays “Death by a Thousand Questions” with Atlantic Coast Pipe). Even with setbacks, the companies building the project appear to be confident it happen. So confident that Duke Energy let leak that once the project is built, it likely won’t end there. Duke says there are “great opportunities” to extend the pipeline into more areas of North Carolina–and even extend it on down into South Carolina…
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Weatherford Looks to Sell Off Pieces of the Business

We’ve had our eye on oilfield services (OFS) company Weatherford International for some time. They are the fourth largest OFS company in the world. In 2016 they lost $3.4 billion. Not good. Earlier this year (in February) the company floated $2.5 billion in new debt and equity securities in an attempt to claw their way out of the hole they’ve dug (see Weatherford Tries to Dig Out of Debt – $2.5B Securities Offering). In March, Mark McCollum, who had been Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Halliburton, the world’s second largest oilfield services company, left to become the CEO of Weatherford (see Halliburton CFO Leaves to Become Weatherford CEO). We haven’t heard much since, but McCollum, a bean counter by training, appears to be hard at working counting beans at Weatherford. News broke a few weeks ago that Weatherford has hired investment bank powerhouse Morgan Stanley to help sell off pieces of the company. They’re still trying to claw their way out of the debt hole. By the end of the third quarter this year Weatherford’s debt had climbed to an eye-popping $7.9 billion…
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FERC’s Chatterjee to Actor James Cromwell: ‘Come at me bro!’

We continue to be really impressed with the current Acting Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Neil Chatterjee, and his willingness to take the fight right back to radical antis. Chatterjee is not unlike President Trump, who appointed him to the post. Frankly, it’s a surprise for us, since Chatterjee has worked for years for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (a swamp dweller). We figured Chatterjee was a swamp dweller too–but perhaps we misjudged him. Chatterjee recently turned up the heat with Facebook posts aimed at nutty Hollywood actor James Cromwell (he of Babe and Star Trek: First Contact fame). Cromwell recently attended a FERC meeting chaired by Chaterjee and proceed to make a king-sized @$$ of himself in the meeting room, requiring security to escort him from the room (see Old Hippie/Actor James Cromwell “Escorted Out” of FERC Meeting). Chatterjee fired off some choice words at Cromwell, including a comment that invites Cromwell to “Come at me bro!” What’s obvious when you read Chatterjee’s comments is that it’s done in a lighthearted way–not mean or nasty. He’s tweaking Cromwell and other antis, using humor to do it. And they are a humorless bunch. Chatterjee’s lighthearted humor in tweaking Cromwell went right over the heads of mainstream media and the inside-the-Beltway swamp dwellers, who are all aghast, criticizing Chatterjee as not acting like a regulator should act. We wish more government officials acted like Chatterjee–and Trump…
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The World’s First Zero-Emissions Natgas-Fired Power Plant

We spotted an article that intrigued us with the headline, “A radical startup has invented the world’s first zero-emissions fossil-fuel power plant.” Most of the article–the first two-thirds of it–is obsequious genuflecting before the man-causes-global-warming gods. Whatever. Believe in fairy stories if you want to. The final one-third of the article is the real meat, which we highlight below. It seems a group of smart people at a company called Net Power, located in Texas, have figured out a way to capture all, as in 100%, of the carbon dioxide that comes from burning natural gas to produce heat to turn a turbine. There are no CO2 emissions that escape into the atmosphere. We bring you details of this new technology because it’s neat and may one day change how electricity is generated in this country. What if (gasp!) natural gas became as “green” as solar or wind? That just doesn’t fit the narrow worldview of radical environmentalists…
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Research Breakthrough in Methane to Methanol – Holy Grail?

Researchers at Tufts University say they have found a better, cheaper way to convert methane (i.e. natural gas) directly into methanol. “The direct oxidation of methane—found in natural gas—into methanol at low temperatures has long been a holy grail,” so says the Tufts announcement. A group of chemical engineers say they have found a way to do it. What’s the big deal about methanol? Methanol plants convert natural gas into methanol, used as a chemical feedstock (or raw material) to create other things, like gasoline, antifreeze, plastic bottles–even LED and LCD screens. In August 2016 MDN was the first to share the news that US Methanol is building at least two, rumored up to five, methanol plants in West Virginia (see Rumor: US Methanol Building 5 Methanol Plants in WV). Methanol has the potential to be a big market in the Marcellus/Utica region–and a big source of demand for our plentiful gas. If Tufts has figured out a better way to convert natgas into methanol, we’re all ears…
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Important Information About MDN Login

A quick note about the Marcellus Drilling News website. Two months ago I began a journey of updating the MDN website. The site has not had a major redesign since it began in 2009 (shame on me!). Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? The technologies that power the internet have profoundly changed since MDN was launched. It’s time to keep up with the changes. So in early October I launched a new “look and feel” for the website. The feedback was positive–thank you! However, the changes are not yet done. One such change is being forced by Google…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Thu, Dec 7, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: Appalachian Basin produces more natgas than any OPEC country!; Utica rig count falls to 21; PA judge doubles fracking workers’ award in overtime case; Texas looks to overhaul port to keep pace with oil & gas exports; the magic number for oil is $60/barrel; two natgas charts to start winter; new energy source–on Saturn moon; and more!
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