Energy Stories of Interest: Thu, Aug 16, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading: Public forum set for new natgas pipeline in Rochester, NY area; rig count in Utica climbs by 2 to 20; US-China dispute may delay Magnolia LNG construction; judge overturns Idaho’s forced pooling reg in court case; SEC drops #ExxonKnew investigation; scientists invent mineral to soak up CO2 out of atmosphere; plastics industry flourishes thx to shale; Canada’s Quebec looking for LNG suppliers; China can’t shake US oil addiction; and more!
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EIA Aug ’18 Drilling Report: Gas Prod. Jumps 1 Bcf/d, Again!

Records continue to be shattered. On Monday our favorite government agency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), issued our favorite monthly report, the Drilling Productivity Report (DPR). The DPR is the EIA’s best guess, based on expert data crunchers, as to how much each of the U.S.’s seven major shale plays will produce for both oil and natural gas in the coming month. The Marcellus/Utica region (called Appalachia in the report) continues to see production go through the roof. As has been happening for the past 6 months or so, production in the Marcellus/Utica region will grow another roughly 1/3 billion cubic feet (Bcf) in the coming month. If you add up new gas production for all seven major plays, the U.S. will produce an additional 1 Bcf/d in September, same as was added in August. That’s 1 Bcf more in September than we produced in August, or 2 Bcf/d more in September than what we produced in July. Mind blowing! No less impressive is U.S. oil production from shale. This month oil production will grow another 93,000 barrels per day, hitting a new all-time high of 7.5 million barrels per day of production–just from shale (not from offshore). Once again, new records for gas (and oil) will be shattered in September…
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Mountain Valley Pipe Asks FERC to Lift Stop Work Order

EQT Midstream and its partners in the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) project are trying to convince the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to lighten up and reconsider lifting most of a stop-work order for the entire 303-mile pipeline project. In a 7-page letter to FERC yesterday, Matthew Eggerding, EQT Midstream’s top lawyer, outlined his company’s case for allowing them to restart work on most of the pipeline. Two weeks ago FERC ordered MVP to shut down all construction for the entire project following a court case that overturned permits for a tiny, 3.5-mile section of the project as it runs through the Jefferson National Forest (see FERC Shuts Down ALL Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline in WV, VA). In delivering its stop-work order, FERC said while it expects the two federal agencies involved (U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management) to quickly rework and reissue the permits overturned by the court, they (FERC) don’t know when that will happen and so in the meantime, just shut it all down. MVP is asking them to reconsider. What happens if FERC doesn’t reconsider and MVP stays shut down until the court gives the OK for reissued permits? According to EQT’s incoming CEO Rob McNally, “that would certainly put the first-quarter [2019] timing in jeopardy.” Meaning all bets are off…
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Cabot, Seneca, Chief Ramp Up Production for Atlantic Sunrise

According to a report from BTU Analytics, the top three shippers who will soon flow natural gas along Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline (ASP)–Cabot Oil & Gas, Seneca Resources and Chief Oil & Gas–have “nearly doubled” their rig counts over the past few months leading up to the imminent startup of ASP. The pipeline is due to go online any day now–by the end of August (see Genscape Confirms Atlantic Sunrise Pipe Ready to Flow in August). Cabot has reserved 1 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of the 1.7 Bcf/d capacity of the new ASP. One third of Cabot’s 1 Bcf/d (350 million cubic feet per day, MMcf/d) will flow to Dominion’s Cove Point LNG export plant in Maryland–heading for Japan. Another 500 MMcf/d of Cabot’s gas will go to Washington Gas via ASP–meaning northeast PA Marcellus molecules will help heat, cool and power D.C. swamp dwellers. Joy. Here’s the great news that a single pipeline is stirring up a lot more drilling in northeastern PA…
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MSC Calls PA 250% Hike in Shale Permit Fees “Excessive”

Industry trade associations are not impressed with a proposed 250% hike in shale permit fees in Pennsylvania and they’re saying so. PA Gov. Tom Wolf’s Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP), the agency charged with overseeing oil and gas drilling in the state, blindsided the shale industry in February with a proposal to hike the fee required when submitting an application to drill a new shale well (see PA DEP Plans to Raise Marcellus Well Permit Fee by 250%). The current fee is $5,000. The proposed new fee is $12,500–or 2.5 times (250%) higher. Yes, the DEP has fewer people working there than it once did, and needs to hire more help. However, the DEP wants to slap this insanely high fee on shale drillers to (in part) cover the expenses associated with non-shale activities! The shale permit fees will, “fund the broad scope of the [DEP] office’s operations, including its oversight of traditional [i.e. conventional] oil and gas wells, gas storage wells, abandoned wells and earthmoving activities.” How is it, in any sense, fair to hike the fees of shale drillers so DEP agents can better keep an eye on non-shale wells? The DEP is trying to steamroller the increase through. DEP’s own Environmental Quality Board has already approved the increase and published an official notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin (see PA Seeks Comments on Boosting Shale Permit Fees 250%). Publication in the Bulletin triggered a 30-day public comment period which just ended. Among those commenting on the plan were the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association (PIOGA). Neither had good things to say about the dramatic increase. MSC’s David Spigelmyer called it “excessive and not proportional to the costs incurred by the oil and gas program to oversee the unconventional natural gas industry.” Making the same point we’ve made: It’s not fair for shale drillers to fund the whole darned program that includes conventional and other aspects of the oil and gas program not related to shale…
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Shell to Remediate PA Swamp in Return for Falcon Pipe Permit

Shell is proposing to remediate a swamp in Mercer County as a way to “offset” the “impacts” of building an ethane pipeline to feed it’s mighty cracker plant under construction in Beaver County. Oops. Sorry. Instead of calling it a swamp, the PC term is “wetland.” Shell will make a swampy portion of Neshannock Creek in Mercer County swampier, in return for permission to build the Falcon ethane pipeline elsewhere. Apparently it’s not the first time Shell has proposed such a swap. Shell is in the middle of remediating a swamp in Washington County in return for “local impacts” (i.e. “damage” to the environment) they’re causing by building the cracker plant itself. This is not an uncommon practice–across the country. We happen to think it’s silly. Either a project is worthwhile–worth “damaging” some of our precious environment, because of the greater good it will bring–or not. Playing this game of “I’ll spoil this area here, so I’ll un-spoil that area over there” is senseless, in our humble opinion. But hey, if that’s the game we must play to get it built…
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WV Supreme Court Crisis – House Votes to Impeach Sitting Judges

What in the world is going on in West Virginia? Last Friday in our “best of the rest” list of energy stories, we ran a brief piece about a WV House panel voting to impeach the remaining four (of five) sitting WV Supreme Court justices, claiming the justices had abused taxpayer funds (see Energy Stories of Interest: Fri, Aug 10, 2018). We didn’t think much of it at the time, partially because it was a CNN story–a known source of fake news. Yet the news, in this case, was not fake. On Monday the full WV House voted to impeach all of the sitting justices. One them (a Democrat) promptly resigned her position so that Gov. Jim Justice could not replace her with his own pick. Instead, her office will go on the ballot this November. The Wall Street Journal ran an article yesterday outlining in more detail what the alleged charges are (bordering on embezzlement), and speculating on what happens now. We’re interested in this story because earlier this year it was this group of justices that reversed itself in a highly unusual practice to allow EQT to deduct post-production expenses from flat rate leases (see WV Supreme Court Reverses Itself, Post-Production Deductions OK). That sparked a rebellion in the WV legislature which led to a new law reversing the Supreme Court’s ruling (see WV Gov Justice Signs Bill to Guarantee 12.5% Minimum Royalty). There are other oil and gas cases that may be impacted by a wholesale change in the court as well. Here’s the latest on this developing situation in WV…
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Antis Still Can’t Come to Terms They Lost NY AIM Pipe Case

Big Green antis thought they could stop the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline project–an expansion of the existing Algonquin pipeline system designed to carry 342 million cubic feet of natural gas per day to New England states that badly need the gas. On March 3, 2015 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a final approval for the project. Construction began in 2015 and, following extreme opposition from New York State over a small portion of the project near the Indian Point nuclear plant (which will shut down in a few years anyway), AIM finally went online in late 2016. In what has become a typical pattern, Big Green groups asked FERC to rehear their decision to approve AIM, FERC refused, and Big Green then filed a lawsuit in federal court. But two weeks ago the federal court told the antis “no,” crushing their efforts to roll back the expanded pipeline (see DC Circuit Court Denies Anti Request to Rehear AIM Pipe Approval). That should be the end of the matter. There’s no place left to go, court-wise, except maybe (one in a million odds) to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yet the antis, still disbelieving they’ve lost, are threatening to pursue it legally. Some unstable people just can’t let go…
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Energy Stories of Interest: Wed, Aug 15, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading: Monaca gets $3M for new gateway project to ethane cracker; Philadelphia Energy Solutions quietly installs new board & CEO; well plugging economics for Diversified; shale boom removes natgas price volatility; delays in Mexico pipes limite US natgas pipeline exports; Europe is getting serious about buying US LNG; and more!
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FERC Approves Transco Pipeline Expansion in New Jersey

Click for larger version

Last Friday, before Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Commissioner Rob Powelson left the building for the last time, FERC approved a small but important expansion of the Williams Transco Pipeline in New Jersey, called the Rivervale to South Market project. We first told you about the Rivervale project last year when Williams filed an application for it with FERC (see New Project Seeks to “Uprate” Transco Pipeline in Northern NJ). The Rivervale project will expand the mighty Transco pipeline in northern New Jersey to deliver an extra 190 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of low-carbon, clean-burning Marcellus Shale gas to markets in northern NJ and New York City. The project calls for “uprating” a little over 10 miles of pipeline (same pipeline with more pressure and more gas), and adding a half mile of new looping pipeline–which is more than enough to set off the whackadoodles at the NJ Sierra Club. One of two Democrat FERC commissioners, Richard “Dick” Glick, voted in part against approving the project because he says it will lead to more global warming. Typical lib Dem. Here’s Williams’ good news announcement, and a copy of FERC’s 46-page approval…
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FERC Rejects PennEast Pipe Rehearing Request – Antis Sue

Elvis – song & dance

Last Friday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) denied a rehearing request by radical enviro groups with respect to the PennEast Pipeline project. That is, FERC said “we’re sticking with our original decision to approve the project.” In January, FERC voted 4-1 to approve the $1 billion, 120-mile natgas pipeline that will stretch from northeast PA to the Trenton area of New Jersey (see FERC Grants Final Approval for PennEast Pipe – Real Battle Begins). FERC Commissioner Richard “Dick” Glick voted against the project claiming it will lead to more man-made global warming. But the other Dem FERC Commissioner, Cheyl LaFleur, voted to approve it–at least in January. In Friday’s “order on rehearing” LaFleur flipped and said she’s had second thoughts about the project. She voted “in part” to rehear the original decision. Glick voted to rehear. Bottom line: both LaFleur and Glick want to kill the PennEast project. That’s the upshot of Friday’s FERC communication. Unfortunately FERC Commissioner Rob Powelson has abandoned us and we will now face a 2-2 deadlock on key decisions like this one for the foreseeable future–because Senate Democrats will block a vote on a new, third, Republican member of the Commission until after the November election. Thanks Rob. The radical anti groups that filed the rehearing request–THE Delaware Riverkeeper (aka Maya van Rossum) and the NJ Sierra Club (aka Jeff Tittel)–immediately filed lawsuits with the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The antis could only take their case to court once FERC had denied a rehearing request. That’s the song and dance routine we must go through on the way to fighting to build every square inch of any new pipeline project in the northeast. Pipeline company files application, FERC approves, radical groups request a rehearing, rehearing denied, lawsuit filed. That’s the formula that plays out over and over again. Below is a copy of FERC’s approval along with details about antis filing their lawsuits…
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Is MVP Still Under Construction Following FERC Stop-Work Order?

We spotted something that seemed a bit odd to us. In a story about pipelines in WV and the challenges they face, EQT said they continue to engage in some construction activities for Mountain Valley Pipeline, even though the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently ordered them to stop all construction on the project until further notice (see FERC Shuts Down ALL Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline in WV, VA). At least, that’s what EQT appears to be saying. Background: The radical Sierra Club convinced the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to overturn permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that allows EQT Midstream’s 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross 3.5 miles of Jefferson National Forest in West Virginia and Virginia (see Court Cancels Permits for Mountain Valley Pipe on Fed Land). Even though 3.5 miles is like 1% of the entire MVP project, FERC told MVP to “cease immediately” *all* construction activities along the *entire length* of the pipeline, until the permit issue for Jefferson National Forest is resolved. And yet, an EQT spokesperson told a WV reporter, “Various construction activities have been happening along the route, include construction of compression facilities, tree felling, trenching, welding, stringing of pipe.” Did she mean those things happened *until* FERC told them to stop? Or they’ve continued to happen *after* FERC told them to stop? We report, you decide…
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100+ PA Landowners Sue EQT re Gas Storage Field Payments

According to Washington County, PA landowner Joe Raposky, EQT has been storing natural gas under his property in Finleyville without permission and without compensation since at least 2007. Last year Raposky asked EQT to compensate him and they refused. So Mr. Raposky has organized over 100 of his neighbors along with landowners who sit over top of other similar underground storage fields in the region, and on July 30 they filed a lawsuit against EQT. PA has some 60 gas storage fields spread across 26 counties in the state. The fields are used to temporarily store and then retrieve natural gas. Storage, which is not something we write about very much, is in fact a big deal when it comes to the natural gas market. Not all gas is used as soon as its extracted and sold along a pipeline. There are two main “seasons” in the natural gas industry–injection season, from April 1 through October 31, when a surplus is stored underground, and withdrawal season, from November 1 through March 31, when more gas is used than is produced. Storage fields like the one in Finleyville are an important part of the natgas puzzle. In some cases, landowners are only now becoming aware of the existing fields under their feet and they (rightly) want to be compensated for the use of their property. Is storage the next big bone of contention between landowners and drillers?…
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PA PUC Wants to Expand 811 to Include Stripper Wells

In just about every state in the country, before you start digging a hole in the ground for some reason (water well, septic system, laying an underground electric line, etc.)–the first thing you do is call 811 or some similar phone number. The “one call” or “first call” reaches a state-authorized (not necessarily state-run) office where they have, on file, maps detailing any kind of underground cables, pipelines and other infrastructure. If such underground structures exist, a representative of the owner for the underground line will, if necessary, stop by and mark the areas so when you do begin digging, you don’t hit it. Makes sense. A bill introduced in 2016 in the Pennsylvania legislature “enhances” the existing 811 law in PA. One of the “enhancements” is that it removes an exclusion for low-pressure natural gas gathering pipelines from being required to be part of the 811 system, mainly lines run to conventional gas wells. The bill was opposed by the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association (see PIOGA Opposes Bill to Regulate Unregulated PA Gathering Pipelines). The bill was reintroduced in March 2017 (see PA State Senator Introduces Bill to Regulate Gathering Pipelines). Once again PIOGA pushed back. In June 2017, a compromise was reached to exclude pipelines running to “stripper wells”–i.e. low-producing conventional wells. With that compromise in place, both the PA Senate and House voted to adopt the plan and it was signed into law (see Shale + Large Conventional Gathering Pipes Added to PA One Call). The PA Public Utility Commission (PUC) is the state agency charged with oversight of the enhanced 811 system. They have been staffing up and rolling out the changes. We spotted a story that talks about the PUC’s efforts. It mentions (bemoans) the fact that stripper wells are still exempt, and seeks to apply pressure to the owners of those wells to “voluntarily” join the 811 system. We all know what comes next after “voluntarily” joining any government-run program…
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Support Builds for Congress to Reign in States Blocking Pipes

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing this Thursday to consider the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2018 (S. 3303). Two weeks ago we told you about S. 3303, a bill that will “fix” the issue of states like New York using Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, which allows states to have a say in where interstate pipeline routes can pass through a state, from abusing their authority by blocking pipeline projects (see US Senate Bill Fixes States Blocking Pipelines via Water Permits). New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo (tinhorn dictator) has weaponized Section 401 and now routinely uses it to block any and all new natural gas pipelines in the state. That was not the intent of the Clean Water Act when delegating some (small, minor) authority to the individual states. Section 401 is meant to allow states to steer the pipeline in a new direction to avoid sensitive environmental areas–not block it completely. S. 3303 will fix the issue of state abuse. In advance of Thursday’s session, a coalition of twenty-four national organizations representing workers and businesses in the energy supply chain wrote a letter (copy below) urging the Senate committee to approve the legislation. The letter is evidence that there’s a building head of steam, a consensus, of support on this issue. Finally, someone is addressing the out-of-control abuses of power Cuomo and others are engaged in…
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Which Skills do M-U Employers Most Need in New Employees?

The answer to the question posed in our headline for which skills are most valued (and missing) in new employees looking to work at companies involved in the Marcellus/Utica industry may surprise you. Would the answer be, detailed industry knowledge, like knowing what mud logging, wire lines and Christmas tree (wellheads) are? Nope. Employers can teach those things on the job. How about subject-specific skills, like knowing how to weld (if you work in the field), or the difference between debits and credits (if you work in the accounting department)? Obviously if you apply for a welding job, or an accounting job, you’ll need to know something about those specific areas. But no, we’re talking about what kinds of skills ALL new employees should have, regardless of which area they work (in the field or in the office)–skills that so often are missing in new hires. Would you believe those skills are: writing, speaking and time management? Yep, according to a study done by RAND Corporation looking at how employers and colleges in the Marcellus/Utica region are preparing workers for the shale workforce, they found a skills gap in workers who don’t know how to properly write, speak and manage their time effectively…
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