Wheeling WV Eyes $2M Signing Bonus for M-U Drilling Under City Land

Wheeling, West Virginia–known as “the Friendly City”–is about to get an even bigger smile on its face. Wheeling city leaders are about to sign a lease agreement to allow American Petroleum Partners to drill under several “old city landfills” that have been closed for decades. The up-front signing bonus for 336 acres of Wheeling-owned land will be $2 million–which works out to ~$5,952 per acre. Once gas begins flowing, the city will get an 18.5% royalty. The money will be used for “paving, playgrounds, economic development and other city functions.” Does American Petroleum Partners (APP) sound familiar? In December we brought you the news that APP had leased the 66-acre Wheeling Park High School campus for shale drilling–under (not on) the campus–for $6,000 per acre (see Wheeling, WV High School Leased for Shale Drilling, $6K/Acre). We first wrote about the low-key, avoiding-the-limelight APP in March 2016 (see New Marcellus/Utica Driller Quietly Launches w/$800M Investment). APP is headed by Rice Energy alumnus Varun Mishra, who is the founder and CEO. Apollo Global Management invested $411 million in APP with the option to double it up to $800 million. It’s great to see this relatively young company locking up acreage and beginning to drill. Here’s the details on the latest APP lease deal–with the City of Wheeling…
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PA Shale Wells Drilled Soars 56% in 2017; Impact Fee Up $5,400/Well

In early 2012, Pennsylvania enacted the most sweeping rework of oil and gas laws in the state in decades (see Gov. Corbett Signs New Marcellus Drilling Law). Called Act 13, one of the provisions of the law is an “impact fee” collected on each horizontal shale well drilled. The fee is intended to offset the impacts of drilling in places where drilling happens, hence the name. However, in order to get enough support to pass Act 13, politics were played and 40% of the “fee” got re-allocated to non-impact uses–i.e., 40% of the fee became a tax (see PA’s New Tax on Drilling (er Sorry, Impact Fee)). In reality, PA’s impact “fee” is the equivalent of a severance tax. The main difference is that the fee is calculated according to a sliding schedule based on how long a well has been around. Beginning with the first year a shale well is drilled, and every year thereafter, drillers pay a set fee, regardless of how much gas is produced. If a driller drills a well but doesn’t complete it in year one, that driller still pays the same (very steep) fee, regardless of no production. In that way, an impact fee is superior to a severance tax as a revenue generator for the state. Impact fees are paid for 15 years. In setting up the somewhat complicated schedule for how much a driller will pay, it depends on how old the well is. The PA Public Utility Commission (PUC), the agency in charge of assessing and collecting the fee, periodically adjusts the fee schedule up to account for inflation. The fee assessed depends on how much the price of natural gas is selling for at the benchmark Henry Hub trading point (in Louisiana). In 2017 (which collected fees from drilling in 2016), if the price of natgas at Henry Hub averaged between $2.26 – $2.99 for the year (which it did, at $2.46/Mcf), the impact fee for a newly drilled well during the year of 2016 was $45,300. In 2018 (collecting fees from 2017), the price of natgas at Henry Hub was in the next higher bracket, averaging between $3.00 – $4.99 (2017 averaged $3.11/Mcf). So the fee for first year wells drilled last year will be $50,700–which is $5,400 higher than a driller would have paid the previous year. Our point: Drillers in PA pay big bucks in “fees” (i.e. taxes) to drill in the state. Slapping a severance tax on top of the impact fee would be a disaster, virtually shutting down any new Marcellus drilling. Yet that’s what Gov. Wolf and his Democrat comrades insist on doing. Below is the newly released impact fee schedule for 2018 (covering wells drilled in 2017), along with details on the whopping increase in the number of wells drilled in 2017 vs. 2016…
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Gov. Cuomo Triples Upstate NY Electric Bills by Blocking Natgas

This is a somewhat personal story that perfectly illustrates the point we’ve been making for years. MDN editor Jim Willis lives with his wife and family in the Binghamton, NY area. Jim likes to say he “lives behind enemy lines”–meaning New York State under Andrew Cuomo and his radical left base are hostile to the fossil fuel industry. The cost of Cuomo’s actions for every New Yorker (at least those of us living in Upstate) is now on full display for all to see. A few weeks ago Jim got his monthly electric bill from New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG, owned by the Spanish company Iberdrola). Jim’s eyes about fell out of their sockets. Jim largely uses electricity for heating (with a fuel oil furnace as backup). No natural gas lines where Jim lives, unfortunately. Even in the dead of winter Jim’s electric bill is rarely over $200 in any given month–typically around $150. This time? Nearly $700!!!! At first, Jim chalked it up to the cold snap and the constant running of his electric heat source. Then he spotted an article (below, sent to us by Vic Furman), that shows Jim is not the only one. Across the entire region folks received bills that are double and triple the usual amount. Why the spike in price? It seems the lack of natural gas via pipelines is not only hurting New England, it’s now hurting Upstate NY. Due to a lack of natgas supplies and the huge regional demand for natgas–for home heating as well as for electric generators–the spot price for gas went through the roof and along with it NYSEG’s cost for both natgas and electricity generated by natgas also went through the roof. Consequently, Cuomo’s frack ban and (now) pipeline ban on importing natgas from PA are having very real, tangible consequences–in our electric bills. All of Cuomo’s precious renewable sources of energy will not, indeed cannot, make up for a lack of natgas. Cuomo’s stupidity is costing ME real money…
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PennEast Pipe Forced to Do It Hard Way – Using Eminent Domain

As we told you last week, today (Monday, Feb. 5) is the final day for landowners who live along the path of the PennEast Pipeline to accept an offer from PennEast to lease their land for the pipeline (see PennEast Pipe Gives Holdout Landowners Feb 5 Deadline to Sign). The landowners have had near three years to deal in good faith negotiations with PennEast, and now time has run out. On Friday, a group of holdout landowners symbolically tore up their PennEast lease offers in a vain media stunt. Starting later this week they will receive something via certified mail they better not tear up–a court summons for an eminent domain proceeding. It’s a shame when it has to come to that, but denial is a strong emotion. Now it’s off to court they go where they’ll get a splash of reality…
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Federal Judge Pushes Pause Button on Mountain Valley Pipe in VA

In mid-January MDN brought you the news that (sadly) Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) had to file in federal court to “condemn” some holdout landowner properties along the pipeline’s route (see Mountain Valley Pipe Tweaks Route, Asks VA Judge for Eminent Domain). MVP is a $3.5 billion, 303-mile pipeline that will run from Wetzel County, WV to the Transco Pipeline in Pittsylvania County, VA. Holdout landowners in Virginia hired attorneys who argued that because MVP continued to tweak the route of the pipeline (in an attempt to work WITH said landowners!), that serves as evidence MVP doesn’t know what it really wants and whom to condemn with eminent domain–therefore the whole thing should be put on hold. MVP wants condemnation using eminent domain for Virginia landowners to happen now, because they are playing Beat the Clock with tree clearing along the path of the pipeline, work that must be done by March 31st because federal law prohibits it after March 31st for fear of killing a few roosting bats (we kid you not). In a decision handed down last week, a federal judge gave both sides reason for hope. The judge ruled that MVP can proceed with eminent domain cases against some 300 landowners–a huge legal victory for MVP. However, MVP can’t (yet) enter those properties for tree clearing and survey work. Why? Because MVP hasn’t provided the judge with enough proof that they will be able to pay landowners a fair price for their property when the time comes to settle up. She’s not saying MVP can’t or won’t pay up, she’s saying she wants to see more evidence first (surety bonds), before she will let MVP begin work. Those opposed to the pipeline heralded the judge’s decision to temporarily prevent work as some sort of victory–which it is not. They lost the case! The properties are now condemned using eminent domain (or soon will be, once the court paperwork proceeds). The judge’s order temporarily prevents work, but we expect MVP will remedy that post haste so they can then start up the chainsaws and get to work…
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Atlantic Sunrise Pipe’s Positive Impact in Lancaster Already Felt

Money–a lot of money–is flowing into Lancaster County because of construction work now being done on Williams’ $3 billion, 198-mile Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline project running through 10 Pennsylvania counties to connect Marcellus Shale natural gas from northeastern PA with the Williams’ Transco pipeline in southern Lancaster County. Local media pitches the revenue and jobs created by the project as “temporary.” MDN once heard a union pipeline worker respond to that very argument at a FERC hearing (for the Constitution Pipeline) by saying he’s had an entire career of “temporary” pipeline jobs that last a few months or a year–making enough money to put his kids through college and make a nice living for himself and his family. Lancaster residents should jump for joy at their “temporary” blessing of this pipeline’s construction. Among the beneficiaries of these “temporary benefits” are “dozens of local businesses” and “more than 100 workers” who are employed full-time working on the project. An estimated $75 million (!) is now flooding into the Lancaster County economy, thanks to Atlantic Sunrise…
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Spire Expects Early 2018 FERC Approval for M-U Gas to St. Louis Pipe

How long does it take to plan and build a pipeline? Too long. Two years ago (February 2016) MDN told you about an exciting new market for Marcellus and Utica Shale gas that may open up one day in the Midwest (see New Midwest Pipeline to Tap REX’s Marcellus/Utica Gas). Laclede Group, a St. Louis-based natural gas utility, said they want to build a ~60-mile pipeline from St. Louis through southwest Illinois and connect to the Rockies Express (REX) and Panhandle Eastern Pipeline. The new pipeline would bring low-cost Marcellus and Utica Shale gas from REX to the utility–not only for resale to gas customers, but also potentially for new natgas-powered electric plants planned to replace retiring coal-fired plants. A year later (February 2017) Laclede was renamed Spire and the Spire STL Pipeline filed an official application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build their 59-mile, 24-inch diameter pipe that would flow 400 million cubic feet (MMcf) per day of yummy Marcellus/Utica gas from REX to St. Louis (see Spire Files Plan with FERC to Flow Marcellus/Utica Gas to St. Louis). Another year has slipped by–we’re now starting the third year of this project. We have an update from Spire…
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Can Virtual Pipelines Rescue New England from Russian LNG?

The whole story of Russian LNG coming to Boston to help New England with its crisis shortage of natural gas continues to irk us. Although Russia and the Yamal plant where the gas was liquefied were sanctioned under President Obama. However, the actual gas itself was/is not sanctioned, for whatever reason. We have a situation where New England continues to obstinately refuse new natgas pipelines, instead buying LNG from Russia during critical shortages. We’re paying (and depending on) our enemies for natural gas when world-class supplies of it exist a few hundred miles away in the Marcellus. We’ve written about this confounding situation since early January (see our Russian LNG stories here). Last Friday the co-founder of NG Advantage–a “virtual pipeline” company that compresses natural gas from interstate pipelines and transports it, via trucks, to businesses and organizations that want gas but can’t get it via pipelines–wrote an intriguing blog post. Tom Evslin’s post makes a case for using virtual pipelines (i.e. CNG transported by trucks) as an alternative to help alleviate the extreme winter shortages in New England. Could trucked CNG (and LNG) actually eliminate the need for a pipeline to New England? We would argue “no.” However, without a doubt a virtual pipeline could help in certain places and under certain circumstances. Here’s Tom’s argument in favor of using virtual pipelines to alleviate New England’s stubbornly high prices for natural gas, and possibly save us from importing Russian LNG…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Mon, Feb 5, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye over the break that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: Sham DRBC hearings don’t really count, NJ gov said so; epic U.S. energy boom cruises on by New England; the Bakken rises again; another Dakota Access Pipeline extremist goes to jail; WTI to begin replacing Brent as worldwide oil benchmark?; shale oil gaining global market share; oil industry missing opportunity with Trump tax cuts; Japan LNG imports hit 5-year high; Russia tops U.S. in global energy company rankings; and more!
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