Shell Focused on Single PA County, No New Drilling in Other Areas

Some big news about Shell’s plans for drilling and fracking in the Marcellus/Utica region came from this week’s DUG East conference in Pittsburgh. The Shell head of unconventional drilling in PA told conference goers that Shell’s shale drilling is currently focused on one county: Tioga County, PA. Shell has leases on 250,000 acres in Tioga and plans to spend $150 million to drill wells on four pads in 2018. That’s the focus for this year. According to MDN’s recently published Marcellus & Utica Shale Upstream Almanac, Shell also has assets (producing wells) in Bradford, Butler, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, and Potter counties–all in PA. The Shell rep said the company also owns leases in eastern Ohio, in the Utica, but there’s no current plans to drill in Ohio. Instead, they remain laser focused on PA–specifically Tioga County…
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New Strategy: CNX Blends Marcellus/Utica Gas, Eliminates Processing

Another interesting story coming from this week’s DUG East Conference in Pittsburgh. CNX Resources (formerly CONSOL Energy), is beginning to use a new strategy of mixing together the natural gas produced from two different rock layers–the Marcellus and Utica. Why do that? The “gas” CNX gets from their Marcellus wells is “damp”–which is a new term for us. Everyone else would call it “wet”–as in there are extra hydrocarbons in the gas, like ethane, propane, butane, etc. In other words, NGLs (natural gas liquids). Interestingly, the Utica wells CNX is drilling in southwestern PA are “dry”–meaning relatively little if any NGLs coming out of the ground along with the methane. By mixing the two together, damp and dry, CNX dilutes the mixture enough that it’s pipeline ready and goes directly to market. That is, the gas doesn’t have to be transported via pipeline (which costs money) to a gas processing plant to remove the extra hydrocarbons (which costs more money). Typically if you can get a good price for those other hydrocarbons, it’s worth the extra transportation and processing costs. But with NGL prices low, and with few markets for ethane (the primary NGL extracted) right now, other than exporting it out of the area, CNX’s “blending” strategy lowers their costs and gets the gas to market quicker. Here’s the beauty of it: CNX can drill both Marcellus and Utica wells on the very same pad, and blend the gas together right at the pad. Less cost and faster to market sounds like a good strategy to us…
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CNX Signs Deal with Evolution to Use 100% Electric Fracking Fleet

CNX Resources announced Tuesday that the company has signed a long-term contract with Evolution Well Services to use Evolution’s 100% natural gas-fueled electric pressure pumping equipment. That is, CNX will use electric fracking equipment, with the electricity generated by burning natural gas (instead of diesel). According to Evolution, their “next generation” equipment saves drillers “up to 95 percent on fuel costs.” Whoa! If that claim is true (we have no reason to disbelieve it), it certainly changes the economics of fracking. Using natgas to generate the electricity, instead of diesel, also has the benefit of cleaner air. And here’s the coolest part: The natural gas used to power the electric generator comes from other other CNX wells in the area, i.e. “field gas.” Look ma, no more endless truck deliveries of diesel fuel! Here’s the exciting news that CNX is a “first-mover” on this new technology…
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No Severance Tax in This Year’s Massive, Way-Too-High PA Budget

This year’s Pennsylvania budget deal is different from the previous three such annual budgets. One way it’s not different is that this year’s budget once again hits a new high–a massively bloated, morbidly obese $32.7 billion. Although the budget does not include any new taxes, it does increase spending in a number of areas, including “education” (i.e. teacher’s unions). Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf once again asked for a Marcellus-killing severance tax this year, but he didn’t really mean it. He knew he wouldn’t get one. So Wolf brokered a deal with House and Senate Republicans that leaves out a severance tax. In the previous three budgets Wolf demanded a severance tax and delayed adopting each budget by months, in an act of petulance and temper tantrum. Since this is an election year and Wolf is up for reelection, he decided to forgo the histrionics over a severance tax. So, we’ve dodged the tax bullet once again. However, if Wolf is reelected, expect him to double down and perhaps even shut down state government in order to get a severance tax. The tax battle will be super-nasty next year, you can count on it. Meanwhile, the Senate is due to pass the budget on Friday, and Wolf will sign it soon after…
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SWPA Gas-fired Elec Plant Next to Pot Farm Nears Final Approval

Last October MDN told you that a second Marcellus gas-fired electric generating plant is 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 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, and in early December the DEP issued an air quality permit for the project (see PA DEP Issues Air Permit for Gas-fired Elec Plant Next to Pot Farm). The plant will be built next door to a “medical marijuana operation”–i.e., a pot growing farm. Here’s an idea: Why not burn pot to generate the electricity instead of natgas? Roughly the same CO2 footprint, with the added benefit of lacing the air in the region with happy smoke. Oh well, back to reality. What’s left to do before construction begins on the Hill Top Energy Center? The facility needs a building permit from Cumberland Township. Plans will be reviewed at the next town meeting on July 2. If the plans are approved, a building permit will follow in short order. However, Hill Top says they don’t plan to begin construction until early 2019…
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Presbyterians Vote to Divest from Fossil Fuels – Yet Keep Using Them

Liberal Presbyterians in Pittsburgh, along with their comrades from New York, have succeeded in pressuring a once-great denomination, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), into adopting a proposal that forces the denomination to divest from all investments in fossil fuel companies, and instead invest in so-called renewable energy companies. The measure says divestment is “the beginning of a faithful response to the devastating and urgent reality of climate change.” The leaders of the divestment movement within the denomination say investing in fossil fuels is the moral equivalent of investing in tobacco, alcohol and gambling. And yet the very same people and the very same denomination refuse to lead by example. They don’t force their churches to quit using “devastating fossil fuels” to heat and cool their buildings. They don’t demand parishioners quit driving fossil-fuel powered automobiles to church. And they certainly don’t refuse tithes and offerings from those who work at evil fossil fuel companies (nor do they prohibit contributions from fossil fuel companies). Just a tad hypocritical?…
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Antis Convince Chatham County, NC to Extend Frack Moratorium

In 2014, the North Carolina legislature passed a law that specifically says local municipalities can’t regulate oil and gas exploration–it is the sole responsibility of the state to do so. Some municipalities thought there were loopholes they could use. Stokes and Chatham counties enacted moratoriums instead of outright bans, hoping to game the system. In order to plug the loopholes, the NC General Assembly approved a 41-page “technical corrections” bill (literally passed in the middle of the night) in September 2015 (see NC Legislature Makes Local Frack Bans/Moratoria Illegal). The technical corrections bill, signed into law by then-Gov. Pat McCrory, introduced language which closes any perceived loopholes and makes any actions like the ones in Stokes and Chatham illegal. And yet the moratoriums in those counties persist, contravening NC law. On Monday night Chatham County commissioners voted (unanimously) to extend their illegal moratorium until Jan. 31, 2019. How do they get away with it? The obvious answer is that nobody cares about drilling in Chatham County, otherwise there would have been a lawsuit to challenge this blatant violation of the law…
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Energy Stories of Interest: Thu, Jun 21, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading: ICE launches updated Cove Point trading instrument; solar power slow to catch on in NY; closing PA nuke plants will cut energy prices; natgas pipeline bottlenecks in Louisiana affect M-U; antis keep pressure on Michigan regulators to retract decision to approve gas-fired power plant; is Trump’s coal/nuke support getting him in hot water with supporters?; massive climate funding by big foundations fails to sway public opinion; China’s home-grown frack boom; more OPEC machinations; and more!
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