WV House Advances 2 O&G Bills: Orphan Wells & Faster Permits

The annual 60-day legislative session in WV is now under way, beginning Jan. 8. The first bill of consequence introduced that would impact/help the oil and gas industry was House Bill (HB) 4001, designed to kick start a regional NGL hub and reassure China it’s OK to invest some of those promised $84 billion in the Mountain State (see WV Bill Would Establish Fund to Kick-start NGL Hub, Reassure China). Two more bills have now been introduced and appear to be on a fast track to adoption: HB 4090 (orphan wells) and HB 4091 (faster permits).
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WV Bill Would Establish Fund to Kick-start NGL Hub, Reassure China

The West Virginia legislature kicked off its 2020 60-day session yesterday with a bang–at least for the shale energy industry. House Speaker Roger Hanshaw introduced House Bill 4001, aimed at reassuring China it’s OK to begin investing some of that $84 billion they promised to invest in WV’s shale and downstream sector. The bill also would help fund the Appalachian NGL Storage and Trading Hub project and other big petrochemical projects (maybe even a cracker plant!).
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DOE Awards $25M to Improve Natural Gas Ops, $4.5M Going to WV

Last week the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) announced it has selected 16 projects to receive nearly $25 million in federal funding for cost-shared projects to advance natural gas infrastructure technology development. DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy will provide federal funding for these projects. Two of the 16 are located in West Virginia and will receive a cumulative $4.5 million of the $25 million (18% of the total).
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Marcellus/Utica Rig Counts 2019 – The Trend was Not Our Friend

If you use the number of active rigs operating in a given shale play/state as the measure for “success,” 2019 wasn’t such a good year for the Marcellus/Utica. In January, Pennsylvania entered 2019 with 48 active rigs. In December that number was cut nearly in half, to 25 active rigs. It was a similar story for Ohio, which entered 2019 with 17 active rigs and exited with 12 rigs. West Virginia, on the other hand, entered 2019 with 15 rigs and exited the year with the same number. But at one point during the year WV had 21 active rigs. We have the monthly rig stats below for all three states.
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EQT CEO Toby Rice Says WV Co-Tenancy Law May Not be Enough

West Virginia’s co-tenancy law was signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice in March 2018 (see WV Gov. Justice Does 180 – Says He’ll Sign Co-Tenancy Bill). According to speakers at the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) 2019 Fall Meeting, the new law is working pretty well (see WVONGA Meeting: New Co-Tenancy Law Working, Still a Few Kinks). However, EQT CEO Toby Rice told WV legislators yesterday that co-tenancy may not go far enough for his company.
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Marcellus/Utica Active Drilling Rig Count Crashes to 24

The rig count in the Marcellus/Utica region is crashing–down to its lowest level for a December since the M-U became a “thing.” It’s now lower than the levels reached in 2014, which was the advent of the first “crash” in rig counts. BUT (and this is a big BUT), lower rig counts do not necessarily mean less drilling or less production. How can that be?
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10 Colleges in PA-OH-WV Form Program to Train Cracker/Mfg Workers

A group of 10 community colleges scattered throughout southwestern Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia have formed the Tristate Energy and Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, or TEAM, with the aim of training skilled workers for cracker plants and other petrochemical-related manufacturing operations. The cooperative has crafted a “stackable-credentials model” that offers “a career pathway from certifications to post-secondary degrees, up to and including a master’s degree.” Forwarding thinking!
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WV I-68 Energy Corridor Extension Project “Creeping Along Slowly”

The Route 2 | I-68 Authority in West Virginia wants to expand Route 2 to four lanes from Parkersburg, WV to Chester, WV, and to extend Interstate 68 from I-79 near Morgantown, WV westward to WV Route 2 along the Ohio River Valley, some 73 miles (see WV Wants to Extend I-68 Another 73 Miles for Shale Industry). One of the reasons to build the $1 billion project? To handle more shale-related traffic. Here’s the latest…
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WV Commerce Secretary Says His State *Will* Get a Cracker Plant

It seems like MDN has reported on the possibility that an ethane cracker plant would get built somewhere in West Virginia forever–at least back to 2013 when then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin went to Europe looking for a cracker (see Did Gov Tomblin Find a European Investor for a WV Cracker Plant?). For a while it seemed there was a legit cracker project heading to Wood County, in the Parkersburg area, from Odebrecht/Braskem (see WV Announces Brazilian Company to Build Ethane Cracker Complex). That plan eventually petered out. But WV has not given up hope. In a visit to Jackson County on Wednesday, WV Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch said he believes a cracker plant will come to the Mountain State. When?
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WV State Severance Tax Revenue Whacked by Low NatGas Price

Not long ago we highlighted the problem of falling severance tax revenue in West Virginia (see Falling WV Severance Tax Revenue a Problem for Gov. Justice). The state previously forecast severance tax revenues of $85 million for July, August and September. They got $59 million–or $26 million less. Unfortunately for WV the same downward trend continued in October.
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PA One of Two Finalists for “Massive” Ethane Storage Hub

The Appalachia Development Group (ADG) is leading an effort to build a ~$3.3 billion NGL storage hub in Appalachia. From the start, the thinking has been the storage hub would be located somewhere in West Virginia (see WV’s US Senators Lead the Charge to Build $10B NGL Storage Hub). But what’s this? ADG Chairman and CEO Steven Hedrick, speaking at a conference last week, confirmed potential sites for the project have been narrowed down to two. And one of those sites, according to “sources” (not Hedrick), is located in southwestern Pennsylvania.
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WVONGA Fall Meeting Wraps Up with Talks on Pot, Petchem

Last week the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) held its two-day 2019 Fall Meeting in Morgantown. We previously reported talk about WV’s new co-tenancy laws dominated the first day (see WVONGA Meeting: New Co-Tenancy Law Working, Still a Few Kinks). One of the key topics for the second day was the state’s medical cannabis program and how those in the oil and gas industry deal with it next year when a new state law goes into effect. The other key topic of the day was downstream (petrochemical) plants.
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WVONGA Meeting: New Co-Tenancy Law Working, Still a Few Kinks

West Virginia’s new co-tenancy law is working, according to speakers at the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) 2019 Fall Meeting held yesterday and today. Several speakers from major WV drillers, including Antero Resources and CNX Resources, sang the praises of the new co-tenancy law. WVONGA executive director Anne Blankenship also sang its praises, but said there’s still a few things to work out before the new law is “fully understood.”
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91% WV Gas Customers Get Lower Bills This Winter Thx to Marcellus

We often spot stories in the press about the price of natural gas for end-user customers going down. A utility here and a utility there will announce a rate reduction. Most of the time we don’t bring you those kinds of stories because they’re pretty common. However, we spotted a story that’s different. The Public Service Commission in West Virginia says natural gas utility companies that serve 91% of the gas customers in the state have filed requests to LOWER the rates they charge for their gas–thanks to abundant supplies of Marcellus Shale gas being extracted in the state.
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WVONGA Goes on Record: We Believe in Global Warming

We spotted an interesting op-ed column written by Anne Blakenship, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA). The column is titled “WVONGA committed to fighting climate change.” In it, Anne not only reiterates our industry’s long-running stance of being good environmental stewards, she also stats flatly that “climate change is a real, substantial challenge,” by which she means man-caused global warming. Houston, we may have a problem.
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Falling WV Severance Tax Revenue a Problem for Gov. Justice

We have, for years, brought you arguments about the superiority of an impact fee over a severance tax (see Allegheny Institute: PA Impact Fee is Better than a Severance Tax and Showdown: Comparing PA Impact Fee to WV Severance Tax). One of the problems with a severance tax is that when the price of gas is high, the tax revenues flow, but when the price of gas goes low, severance taxes on that gas dry up. That’s what’s happening in West Virginia right now–where they have a 5% severance tax on natural gas production.
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