HBW Resources Hydraulic Fracturing Report
Below is a summary prepared by Bo Ollison, HBW Resources’ Senior Director of Policy, of publicly available activities currently underway at the federal, state and international levels that could impact the use of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas development. HBW Resources is monitoring these activities to ensure that responsible and feasible policies based on sound science are advanced.
- Ten years ago, Colorado School of Mines graduated about 30 students a year from its petroleum engineering program. This year, there are about 200 students in the junior class in the same program
- Utica shale region now has 300 producing oil and gas wells
- GE Oil & Gas Inc. will invest $8 million and add 175 jobs at its manufacturing facility in Schertz, TX
- The assessed values of real and personal property in Marshall County (WV) increased by $158.2 million for the 2014 tax year, most of which can be attributed to growth in the natural gas industry in the county related to the Marcellus Shale
- Estimates for new pipelines, gathering lines, compressors, fractionators and other systems to separate the gas in Ohio’s Utica shale range from $12 billion to $15 billion per year through 2020
- Butler County (PA) Commissioners approved $110,000 from the Marcellus Legacy Fund for the Glade Run Lake Dam Restoration project
- EP Energy Corp. will spend about half the company’s $2 billion capital budget this year developing oil-and-gas acreage in South Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale
- The Port of Corpus Christi is opening the $41 million extension of its La Quinta Channel as a result of a huge uptick in activity and construction thanks to the Eagle Ford Shale
- Oil and gas 2014 production will average about 68 billion cubic feet per day
- Rapid growth in the U.S. oil and natural gas industry helped to make 2013 a record year for U.S. trade
- EPA’s inspector general is planning a broad review of the agency’s regulation of hydraulic fracturing
- Canada’s Baytex Energy Corp. has agreed to pay about $2.36 billion to acquire an Australia-based oil and gas company and primary assets in the Eagle Ford Shale
- Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said his government would approve new investor-friendly laws within two weeks aimed at cutting red tape and regulatory hurdles that have dented the country’s push to develop shale gas resources
State Legislative Update: Please see the linked spreadsheet for an updated listing of state legislation dealing with hydraulic fracturing.
Citizens Action Network did not get a moratorium on fracking, but the Butte County Water Commission recommended that the county require a permit, including public and environmental review, before fracking takes place. The Water Commission voted 4-2 to pass the recommendation along to the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors will make the final decision, and may refer the item to the Planning Commission for more debate. The group hoped the Water Commission — and later the Board of Supervisors — would either put a moratorium in place, or place the question on the local ballot. If the county did not agree, the citizen group plans to collect signatures for a ballot initiative. Already a public hearing and conditional use permit is required for oil and gas extraction. By adding “hydraulic fracturing/fracking” to the rules, the permit and public hearing would also be required. Overall, the group still plans to push ahead with a ballot initiative. Already CAN is collecting signatures, with a goal of 15,000 before the ballot deadline. For more information, please contact HBW Resources.
Californians were urged to voluntarily cut their electricity use after frigid weather across the U.S. and Canada caused a shortage of natural gas at Southern California power plants. The so-called Flex Alert, in which residents are asked to turn off unneeded lights, avoid using large appliances or equipment, and turn off electrically powered heaters, was allowed to expire nine hours after it began. The shortage was only in Southern California, but the north was asked to do its part too. “Statewide electricity and gas conservation will help free up both electricity and gas supplies for Southern Californians,” the California Independent System Operator, which runs the state’s power grid, said in a statement. According to 2010 California Energy Commission research, 53 percent of the power generated in the state comes from natural gas.
Fort Collins is asking a District Court judge to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to overturn the city’s voter-approved moratorium on fracking. The city’s response to a suit filed in December by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association states Fort Collins is a home-rule city and its residents have “the full right of self-government in local and municipal matters” under the state constitution. Fort Collins denies some claims made in COGA’s lawsuit, said Laurie Kadrich, community development director for the city, and maintains citizens have a right to petition to place initiative on the ballot. “The city is vigorously defending the citizens’ right to use that process,” she said. The response seeks dismissal of the case and the award of all of the city’s attorney’s fees. COGA’s lawsuit contends the measure is in effect a ban on oil and gas development, which falls under the regulatory authority of the state and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The suit claims the voter-approved ordinance violates state law and economically harms COGA and its members. The suit asks the court to block enforcement of the ordinance because “it is an invalid and unlawful exercise of local government power.” The response was filed by the city and its outside counsel, Sullivan Green Seavy, LLC, of Boulder. The case is scheduled to be handled by Larimer District Court Judge Gregory Lammons. A trial date has not been set by the court.
Ten years ago, Colorado School of Mines graduated about 30 students a year from its petroleum engineering program. This year, there are about 200 students in the junior class in the same program. “It’s about the demand for jobs in oil and gas, and the fact that the jobs are good jobs,” said Will Fleckenstein, interim head of the School of Mines’ department of petroleum engineering. The School of Mines is just one of many universities experiencing enrollment increases because of the boom in the oil and gas industry happening across the country. It makes sense for the School of Mines, which is among the top schools for engineering in the nation and has seen a 31 percent increase in overall enrollment since 2007. An estimated two-thirds of the school’s graduates, no matter their major, end up going to work for oil and gas companies upon graduation, Fleckenstein said. The average starting salary for the jobs they get is about $90,000 a year. Many of them go to work for companies in other parts of the country.
The four Republican candidates running for Governor all favor the development of high volume hydraulic fracturing in Illinois. The state is still in the process of finalizing the regulations on the extraction process – which many say are some of the most stringent in the country. GOP candidate Bill Brady says fracking is a good idea. He says it’s a great opportunity to develop the bottom third of the state and could make Illinois an energy self-sufficient state. Candidate Kirk Dillard says, while fracking is largely seen as a southern Illinois issue, other parts of the state will benefit too, such as the LaSalle-Peru area where Dillard says the sand produced there could be used in the fracking process in southern Illinois. Dillard says the Sierra Club has signed off on the new regulations so he’s sure it will do well. Republican candidate Bruce Rauner says using Illinois’ natural energy resources can improve the state. He says fracking is a unique opportunity to develop a strategic energy source that will lead to job growth. Candidate Dan Rutherford says he’s not concerned about the state’s water supply suffering from high volume hydraulic fracturing. He says as governor he would continue to drink the water in southern Illinois. He also says he knows the regulations are working through their final approval and he’s convinced the state will get the best set of rules possible. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources took written comments through Jan. 3rd. More than 20,000 comments were submitted by mail and on line. The department held five public hearings across the state during November and December. The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules is in the process of determining how the hydraulic fracturing regulations will be implemented. The majority of high volume hydraulic fracturing is expected to take place in a 17-county region in southern and southwestern Illinois. The Mt. Vernon based Illinois Oil and Gas Association has estimated that more than $200-million has already been invested in high volume hydraulic fracturing in the region. Supporters say fracking will create thousands of jobs. Opponents fear it will pollute local water resources.
The Iowa Policy Project’s “Digging Deeper on Frac Sand Mining” asserts that silica mining may pose risks to water quantity and quality in Iowa. Silica is mined in several counties in northeast Iowa, and the report states the geology that produces high-quality silica also makes the region more susceptible to water depletion and groundwater contamination. The authors recommended that counties considering expanded silica mining should complete hydrologic mapping, monitor local wells to establish baseline conditions, and provide setbacks for trout streams and other hydrologic resources. Silica sand is often used as a proppant in hydraulic fracturing.
A severance tax of 2.5 percent would be applied to natural gas emanating from Garrett and Allegany counties’ Marcellus shale formations if drilling ever occurs and a bill, SB 535, setting the tax rate passes. The bill is sponsored by Sen. George Edwards (R, District 1), a member of the state commission studying the issue of safely drilling for natural gas in Maryland. The tax would be on the gross fair market value of the gas produced at the well. The 2.5 percent tax rate has the support of officials from the Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Department of the Environment, Edwards said. There are some exemptions for those using gas produced on their property for home heating and other uses, Edwards said. “The fairest way to tax natural resources is at the point … they come out of the ground,” Edwards said, explaining his support for a severance tax. The rate Edwards is proposing also remains competitive with other states, he said. “It’s a little higher, but not out of whack” with taxes in surrounding states.
SB 360 meant to prohibit the practice of hydraulic fracturing, perhaps preempting a state commission that has been weighing the issue since 2011 and is due to conclude its work this summer. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Robert Zirkin (D, District 11) told the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee that the legislature should act halt the practice before it gets going. The bill was reported unfavorably out of both the Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee and the Finance Committee. For more information, please contact us.
Allegany County commissioners decided to sign onto a letter to fight a bill that would ban hydraulic fracturing being considered by the General Assembly. Hydraulic fracturing, which would be required to extract natural gas from Western Maryland’s Marcellus shale formations, would be banned outright by SB 360. Garrett County commissioners have also signed off on the letter to Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D, District 43), the chairwoman of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, where the bill was being considered. “Advancing this … bill is premature and undermines the due diligence of the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Committee,” the letter states. The commission should be allowed to finish its work “and the process for review that the Governor has authorized should remain intact,” the letter reads. The bill was reported unfavorably out of both the Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee.
Members of a Pelham group will ask their town’s Conservation Commission next week to ban the extraction of natural gas by hydraulic fracturing. Michael Hussin of Pelham said the group Neighbor to Neighbor has been meeting for over two years and will outline its environmental concerns about fracking. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 in the Rhodes Building. Hussin said members want the panel to consider adding by-laws that would ban fracking in Pelham as well as the transportation, disposal and storage of fracking waste products. Hussin said in an email that he believes Pelham would be the first town in Massachusetts to institute such policy.
The Energy and Technology Committee overwhelmingly passed a series of bills yesterday aimed at spurring carbon-dioxide-based oil extraction in the state. The Committee passed HB 4885, a bill that would lower the tax rate for all CO2-injection operations approved after Sept. 30 of last year to 3.3 percent for oil and 3 percent for gas, 18-0. Three other bills, HB 5254, which would include a pipeline used to transport CO2 intended for use in secondary or enhanced recovery operations in provisions relating to the transport and sale of crude oil or petroleum; HB 5255, which would allow authorized entities to acquire right-of-way for transport, installation and maintenance of CO2 pipelines by eminent domain for CO2 that is intended for use in secondary or enhanced recovery operations; and HB 5274 would amend the title and various provisions of Public Act 16 of 1929 that currently apply to crude or petroleum so that they would also apply to certain gaseous or liquid substances consisting primarily of carbon dioxide; all passed 17-0.
Local governments can use existing law and amend their own rules to regulate — if not outright ban — hydraulic fracturing in their backyards, For Love of Water representatives told local officials. For Love of Water, or FLOW, was hired by Conway Township to discuss local rights after a Texas oil giant was permitted to inject 3 million gallons of water, sand and chemicals to maximize the potential recovery of natural gas at a local farm property. FLOW Chairman Jim Olson said Michigan’s Zoning Enabling Act — which does not allow prohibition of drilling projects — empowers local governments to regulate everything from noise, hazardous materials and air pollution, to chemical mixing, storage and pumping activities at drilling sites. Olson said local governments also can require environmental-impact statements and bonding for some activities, and address concerns such as lighting and dust control on local roads. Local governments, in defending the public’s health and safety, could have legal standing to ban or place moratoriums on fracking but would face much bigger legal challenges, Olson added. For more information, please contact HBW Resources.
Regulators in Nevada are writing initial rules for hydraulic fracturing as Noble Energy prepares to complete some of the state’s first unconventional oil wells. Noble said it finished two vertical test wells in December and plans to complete one of them by midyear. The company’s decision to lease 350,000 acres of private and federal land around Elko led Nevada to write its first regulations on hydraulic fracturing, the water-intensive process used to break open dense layers of rock. Nevada is one of at least three states, including Illinois and North Carolina, writing regulations on fracking as oil and gas exploration spreads into new areas. Nevada’s draft regulations call for testing as many as four water sources within a mile of a proposed oil well before drilling, and follow-up testing after six months and five years. The rules also require an extra layer of pipe, or casing, for unconventional wells. Fluids that return to the surface after fracturing will have to be kept in steel tanks, and state regulators will have to preapprove plans for disposing of them. In 2013, Governor Sandoval signed into law, SB 390, which requires those interested in engaging in hydraulic fracturing to obtain a permit from the Division of Environmental Protection of the State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The bill also requires the Division to post certain information on its Internet website concerning hydraulic fracturing and authorizes the Division to charge a fee for issuing a permit and to adopt regulations.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced that it has sent violation notices to Hess Corp., Whiting Petroleum Corp. and Marathon Oil Co. for putting rail-bound crude oil in the wrong safety packing category. The regulator said 11 out of 18 samples tested as part of a “Bakken Blitz” of unannounced oil inspections had been assigned incorrect categories on their way to tank cars. PHMSA said such mistakes “could result in material being shipped in containers that are not designed to safely store it, or could lead first responders to follow the wrong protocol when responding to a spill.” Federal officials in the United States and Canada have stepped up scrutiny of surging crude-by-rail movements following a July 2013 oil train explosion that claimed 47 lives in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.
The chairman of North Dakota’s Public Service Commission said it’s “very likely” that his agency will propose a state-run program to inspect the state’s oil pipelines, which would need legislative approval. Chairman Brian Kalk and his two fellow commissioners were meeting with representatives of the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration — which funds up to 80 percent of local inspection programs in 14 participating states. While North Dakota’s PSC has the authority to create the program on its own, it would need the state Legislature to authorize personnel and a budget. “We’re not trying to increase regulation. We’re trying to make sure we have a local touch point on regulation,” Kalk said. The commission is already responsible for approving siting of pipelines and inspects natural gas lines in the state.
Estimates for new pipelines, gathering lines, compressors, fractionators (cracker plants) and other systems to separate the gas in Ohio’s Utica shale range from $12 billion to $15 billion per year through 2020. The economists said if companies are willing to invest that kind of money, it means there is lots of gas under the ground. That’s was the general consensus at the 2014 Marcellus-Utica Midstream Conference. Rick DeCeasar, of the Willbros, Group, said more infrastructure is needed to get the gas from the wells to the customers. However, different plants are needed so that the gases and natural gas liquids can be separated. DeCeasar said infrastructure construction costs in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio are estimated between $75-87 billion a year. For more information, please contact us.
The oil and gas industry in Harrison County has taken off with wells and pipelines crisscrossing the county– providing jobs and an influx of money to the county. County commissioners signed two agreements that will continue to allow the oil and gas industry to grow. Commissioners signed a right of way agreement with Mark West and a lease with Chesapeake Energy that will continue the growth of the gas industry in Harrison County. In addition to the money from the lease, commissioners are excited about the royalties from that agreement, which will add another source of income to the county. The right of way agreement is for a line that will cut through a parcel of property on Old Hopedale Road, run underneath Route 22 and service the transload facility currently under construction near the old airport in Cadiz. “The reload facilities are going to take a lot of the excess, there’s going to be a lot of excess,” Harrison County Commissioner Bill Host said. “These plants can’t take care of all of the production we’re going to have and that’s why it’s important.” Commissioners also signed a lease agreement with Chesapeake Energy on a piece of land in Rumley Township for $5,500 an acre and they’ll receive 20-percent royalties from the well. “That’s about as much as they’ll pay and we’ve been trying to hold to that all we can on these leases,” Host said. “Eventually the county will have a good bit of income off these wells, royalty payments.” The royalty payments from wells are what commissioners are most excited about. On top of lease payments they’re hoping the added income will continue to be a boost to the county. “We’ve already collected a lot of lease payments the last couple years and the county is in better shape than it has been for a long time,” Host said.
The Utica shale region now has 300 producing oil and gas wells, another milestone for the young play. The latest update from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources shows 300 active wells out of 707 wells drilled. There are 38 rigs and 1,074 permits issued for horizontal drilling, the report says. The play cleared 1,000 permits in December.
Several Columbiana County property owners unwilling to lease their land for horizontal drilling were recently forced to do so under a nearly 50-year-old state law, and at least two other such applications in the county remain pending. The so-called “unitization” law, which dates back to 1965, is a legal process by which companies drilling for oil and gas in Ohio can force unwilling or reluctant property owners to become part of a drilling unit. Nearly 100 horizontal drilling permits in the county have been issued since the Utica shale boom in eastern Ohio took off in 2010, and the unitization applications filed with the ODNR have likewise increased. Approximately 27 unitization requests have been filed statewide to date, eight of which were approved. Until 2011, the law had only been used twice. Under the unitization law, at least 65 percent of a proposed horizontal well unit’s mineral rights must be owned or leased by the applicant. Applications to create a forced unit must be to enhance the unit’s profitability through increased production and for the purpose of either achieving a 640-acre unit or to meet minimum distance requirements from non-unit properties. The only approved unitization application to date involving county property owners was for the Leslie North unit that encompasses portions of Hanover Township in this county and East Township in Carroll County. The applicant was Chesapeake Exploration LLC, which is the largest oil and gas leaseholder in the county. The proposed Leslie North unit was for 615 acres, plus another 32 acres that were not under lease, and Chesapeake was requesting those remaining five property owners be forced into the unit. Following the required public hearing, the ODNR approved the application on Oct. 3. The group included property owned by county commissioners, the Ohio Department of Transportation, Ohio Edison, and two residential property owners who chose not to lease their land. The decision can be appealed to the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission, a state board comprised of governor appointees, and then to Franklin County Common Pleas Court in Columbus. The forced property owners will not go away empty handed. The ODNR order requires those forced into the Leslie North unit be paid 12.5 percent royalties for any oil and gas production that occurs within the unit, which the ODNR’s Bruce said is often based on what the lease landowners are receiving. Unlike those who willingly entered into leases, the forced property owners will receive no lease bonus payment, however. For more information, please contact HBW Resources.
A local anti-fracking group is requesting the Athens County Board of Elections to make an exception to allow a proposed initiative to be put forward on the May primary ballot instead of during the general election in November. The Athens Bill of Rights Committee (ABORC) has submitted a re-written ballot proposal to ban fracking and related activities in the city of Athens. A similar proposal was rejected by the Athens County Board of Elections in August after an objection was raised by a group of Athens residents. Those looking to put local issues to voters on the spring ballot faced a Feb. 5 deadline, which the ABORC met, and the elections board has until Feb. 18 to certify petitions. But after filing, group spokesperson Dick McGinn said, Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn informed the group that under Ohio Revised Code the question should be on the general election ballot in November. ORC 731.28 states, in part, that a local elections board “shall submit such proposed ordinance or measure for the approval or rejection of the electors of the municipal corporation at the next general election occurring subsequent to 90 days after the auditor or clerk certifies the sufficiency and validity of the initiative petition to the board of elections.”
The inaugural session of a workgroup that will create the “Guernsey County Comprehensive Strategic Shale Development Plan” convened at the Cambridge campus of Zane State College. Attending were various local officials and a contingent of professional planners from The Ohio State University Extension, including Cindy Bond and Myra Moss. Bond and Moss are OSU Extension educators from Guernsey and Licking counties, respectively. The goal over the next eight months will be to develop an updated, comprehensive strategy to help Cambridge and Guernsey County prepare for population growth and business development. Growth is expected to ensue as a result of the gas and oil boom in eastern Ohio. Guernsey County has been selected to be the pilot for the OSU Extension’s outreach in planning for shale oil related development. Because we are pioneering the way, there will be no cost to the county for OSU Extension’s service. The Comprehensive Strategic Shale Development Plan Workgroup’s 12 subcommittees are:
• Economic development
• Social services and family support
• Infrastructure (transportation, water and sewer)
• Agriculture, open spaces and parks
• Residential and housing
• Education and workforce development
• Tourism (cultural and historical)
• Law enforcement
• Health care
• Environmental issues
• Community engagement
• Land use and growth management
A group of minority shareholders in oil driller Continental Resources is suing chief executive Harold Hamm, alleging that Continental’s nearly $100 million investment in a pipeline being built by another firm he controls will benefit him at their expense. Continental is providing partial funding for Hiland Partners, a Hamm-owned pipeline and gas plant operator, to build the $300 million Double H crude oil pipeline. The 450-mile line from North Dakota to Wyoming is expected to start up later this year and to eventually ship up to 100,000 barrels of oil per day. A pension fund has filed suit in Oklahoma state court seeking damages and the return of profits and other benefits derived from the pipeline transaction to the company. The suit comes at a time when more investors are scrutinizing big energy companies for potential conflicts of interest, especially involving companies like Continental that were founded and part-owned by influential chief executives. For more information, please contact us.
A railroad transportation equipment and service provider will design a new generation “Tank Car of the Future” for the transport by railroad of crude oil, ethanol and other flammable freight that can better withstand the additional demands associated with operating unit trains. The Greenbrier Companies is proposing the new design in response to criticisms of the existing legacy fleet of older DOT-111 tank cars. The new design is intended to meet anticipated new industry and government standards for tank cars transporting certain hazardous material, the company said in a statement. The new design will incorporate thicker heads and more welding equipment for production lines to make bigger welds for the thicker tank, a company representative said. The company believes it can deliver the first of these new cars in 12 to 18 months. Ideally, the first delivery will take place sooner, but this is subject to material, supply and other factors, as well as regulatory guidance. The company will build the cars using its existing construction capacity, and believes it can build 2,500 to 3,000 of these new tank cars of the future in North America. The Lake Oswego, Oregon-based company also is introducing retrofits for legacy DOT-111 cars or newer cars built after October 2011 – when AAR introduced the CPC-1232 standards – to ensure that they meet the current CPC-1232 mandated by the Association of American Railroads (AAR). The company said these retrofits would significantly enhance the safety of existing cars. Retrofit options for legacy DOT-111 cars will include high-flow pressure relief valves, head shields, top fittings protection and thermal protection. These retrofits could allow for extended service of DOT-111 tank cars as these cars are placed in lower risk service over time. The company will offer a retrofit package for newer CPC-1232 cars that includes high-flow pressure relief valves and improved bottom outlet valve handles for any CPC-1232 cars in crude and ethanol service that were not originally equipped with these features.
Governor Corbett (R) is seeking to overturn a Rendell-era executive order that placed a moratorium on new gas leases in state parks and forests. Corbett unveiled his $29.4 billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year. He says allowing new oil and gas leases could immediately generate $75 million in new revenue to the state, with substantial additional royalty revenue in the future. “Shale gas offers our country a chance at energy independence and greater economic security – and it’s part of the all-of-the-above strategy we’ve put in place,” Corbett said. Budget Secretary Charles Zogby called the proposal a restrictive approach to drilling. He says gas companies would not be allowed to construct new well pads. Instead, they could lease new underground mineral rights near existing drilling sites or through adjacent properties. “We’re looking at an approach that makes no surface disturbance to the land,” says Zogby. “These are pads that are already out there. From a public standpoint they’re not going to see any activity that they otherwise might not.”
Gov. Tom Corbett’s (R) proposed budget would spend nearly $230 million in one year from leasing state-owned natural gas rights, leaving the state’s Oil and Gas Fund with $14 million less than what it started with before Corbett passed his first budget in 2011. A lot of that money would go to education, health care and public safety, Corbett officials said. It follows a trend started by his predecessor, Democrat Ed Rendell, whose government spent more than $400 million of the state’s gas revenue in the first three years of the shale gas boom, according to budget breakdowns from House Democrats. Even with drilling interests pressing public lands, the state has opted to use the money to patch its budgets. The issue strikes at the heart of Corbett’s spending plan, which includes several tweaks to move money and boost income to close a $1.2 billion deficit, said Frank Gamrat, senior economist for the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy in Castle Shannon. Corbett — and his peers — are going to try to find money wherever they can to avoid raising taxes or cutting programs in an election year, he said. “It’s a shell game at this stage,” Gamrat said. “Rendell did it, Corbett did it and I’d bet dollars to doughnuts the next guy does it, too. This is just what they do.” The budget has added new heat to the governor’s election year battle with both Democrats and environmentalists. Corbett is pushing to lease gas rights from state forests for the first time in three years and from state parks for the first time ever. He expects it to raise $75 million, but the plan’s drawing fire from conservationists upset that all of the money won’t go to conservation.
Murrysville officials will revisit a municipal drilling ordinance after the state Supreme Court struck down portions of Act 13, the state law governing Marcellus shale drilling. Chief administrator Jim Morrison said officials will review the ordinance, which was approved in October 2011, to see if any performance standards need to be sharpened. “I think it’s interesting that (the Supreme Court’s) decision was based on environmental rights,” Morrison said. “We believe, as the Supreme Court said, that zoning one does not fit all.” Morrison said Murrysville officials still think the ordinance is solid and provides for drilling in the community. He also is confident in the overlay drilling district, which permits surface drilling in less than 40 percent in the municipality. Councilman Dave Perry, an environmental geologist, said council didn’t support Act 13, but just because much of the act was remanded doesn’t mean the municipality should tighten requirements drastically. There’s a fine line between protecting the community and getting the municipality sued, he said. “If we push too far, I guarantee that we will have a challenge from a (oil or gas) producer,” Perry said. “We have to split the balance of what is acceptable for a court with what we feel is acceptable for protection. We can’t ban drilling.” The Council currently is weighing an offer to lease the rights underneath Murrysville Community Park, but will not be considering an ordinance to bid out the rights until later this year.
The Butler County Commissioners approved $110,000 for the Glade Run Lake Dam Restoration project. The money will be held in a restricted fund until construction begins and then will be distributed to the Glade Run Lake Conservancy, a non-profit that formed to restore the lake in Middlesex. The county funds come from the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which can be used only for conservation projects. About 40 percent of the impact fee charged to Marcellus shale gas drillers is allocated to each county. “How the legacy funds can be used is restricted and can’t be used for marketing or lobbying,” said Amy Wilson, Butler County’s Director of Administration. “We want to make sure the money goes to an actual project that restores the dam.” The money will be allocated over two years — $55,000 in both 2014 and 2015. The county’s resolution approving the funds permits the conservancy to use the money as matching funds in any grant application seeking backing to restore the lake. The state Fish and Boat Commission drained the lake in June 2011 because the dam was leaking. The restoration is estimated to cost $4.3 million.
Newly seated supervisors in Robinson Township, Washington County, plan to withdraw from the joint suit against Act 13, the state law regulating Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling. Township attorney Alan Shuckrow said that the lawsuit nonetheless would continue to carry Robinson’s name, and the case would move forward with the remaining plaintiffs. “Whether or not the township [of Robinson] is officially a party or not, at this point, after the Supreme Court has ruled, I would characterize [the case withdrawal] as largely a ceremonial policy statement by the majority of the board,” Mr. Shuckrow said. Immediately after taking office in January, supervisors’ chairman Rodger Kendall, a drilling leaseholder, and vice chairman Stephen Duran voted to remove Robinson from the lawsuit. The third supervisor, Mark Brositz, voted no. For more information, please contact HBW Resources.
Ziff Energy has launched its Eagle Ford Shale Production Operations Benchmarking Study. Ziff Energy consultants will analyze operating costs and uptime reliability for production operations in the South Texas shale basin. “While Ziff Energy has been benchmarking production operations in the US since 1996, this will be Ziff’s first production operations benchmarking study for a shale basin,” said Richard M. Tucker, vice president of marketing and client relations at Ziff Energy. “The level of interest to assess performance in the basin is very high, supported by the fact that many of the top basin operators are participating. This study is a critical tool for Eagle Ford operators to manage continuous improvement initiatives by identifying cost performance gaps and opportunities to improve production efficiency,” said Sergey Turchin, director of operations consulting at Ziff Energy and the project manager for this study. “Participating operators will gain insight into how to best deploy their limited resources to improve their production operations.”
Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick said the agency is sending letters to operators reminding them of the state’s natural gas flaring rules and warning that the state will enforce them. Craddick said the letters are not a response to a specific incident. But flaring has garnered increasing attention lately, including an NPR report last week that highlighted the practice in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale. “We have flaring rules in the state, and we will be implementing and enforcing those,” Craddick said, speaking at the North American Prospect Expo in Houston. “The letter is going to remind people of that. Sometimes, we’ve had a few not necessarily follow those rules.” She said the issue warranted particular attention in the booming Eagle Ford Shale. The state’s flaring regulations — known as Rule 32 — allow operators to burn off excess natural gas while drilling wells and continue to do so up to 10 days after drilling is completed. In other cases, operators can apply for permits that allow up to 180 days of flaring. The process of drilling an oil well can result in the release of methane, which operators often simply burn off. Environmentally, that’s preferred to releasing it directly into the air, but the burned byproduct is still a pollutant.
GE Oil & Gas Inc. will invest $8 million and add 175 jobs at its manufacturing facility in Schertz, Texas by next year. Currently, the company occupies a nearly 400,000-square-foot warehouse at Schwab Road and Interstate 35 North. By the end of next year, GE Oil & Gas plans to employ 400 employees, with an annual payroll of about $16 million, or an average of $40,000 per worker. At the site, GE Oil & Gas manufactures equipment used in the production of natural gas. With the investment, Schertz agreed to extend a road near the facility, which will cost the city about $200,000, said David Gwin, executive director of the Schertz Economic Development Corp. Also, the city will fast-track the permitting process, he added. For more information, please contact us.
The state grid operator asked electric consumers to reduce power use overnight, anticipating that furnaces will boost demand for electricity while some generating capacity is unavailable. “We are expecting cold weather to continue through tomorrow morning’s high demand period, and some generation capacity has become unavailable due to limitations to natural gas supplies,” said Dan Woodfin, director of system operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in a written statement. Weather forecasts said that temperatures would range from around 10 degrees in the Panhandle to just above freezing along the Gulf coast. A nationwide freeze has pushed up demand for natural gas to provide heating. The council asked consumers to reduce power use, and offered these tips:
- Set thermostats as low as is comfortable, preferably no higher than 68 degrees.
- Unplug non-essential lights and appliances.
- Avoid running large appliances such as washers, dryers and electric ovens during peak energy demand hours, 4-8 p.m. and 6-9 a.m.
- Close shades at night to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.
The council asked large power uses to consider reducing non-essential production, and suggested that other businesses minimize use of lighting and electric equipment as much as possible.
Canada’s Baytex Energy Corp. has agreed to pay about $2.36 billion to acquire an Australia-based oil and gas company with a major Houston presence and primary assets in the Eagle Ford Shale. Calgary-based Baytex will pay about $1.63 billion to acquire 100 percent of the shares of Perth, Australia-based Aurora Oil & Gas Ltd., plus the assumption of about $675.4 million in debt. The deal is expected to close in May.
The Port of Corpus Christi is opening the $41 million extension of its La Quinta Channel. The project extends the ship channel 1.4 miles to a depth of 41 feet. It also includes breakwater and shore protection for 45 acres of seagrass habitat, as well as 200 acres of shallow water habitat created by dredged material. The Port said the project supports development at La Quinta Terminal as well as projects such as voestalpine Texas Holding’s production plant, TPCO American Corp. steel pipe mill, Cheniere Energy’s proposed liquefied natural gas plant and the Gulf Compress Cotton Storage Facility. Corpus Christi’s port is the fifth largest port in the U.S. in tonnage, and has seen a huge uptick in activity and construction thanks to the Eagle Ford Shale.
EP Energy Corp. will spend about half the company’s $2 billion capital budget this year developing oil-and-gas acreage in South Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale. The company, which conducted a $704 million public offering in January, has slated the remainder of its capital budget for West Texas’ Wolfcamp and Utah’s Altamont formations. Total capital spending is up 4 percent over last year. “We start the year with an exciting future ahead as a new publicly-traded company, well positioned with a tremendous set of growth opportunities,” EP President and CEO Brent Smolik said in a written statement. Despite only a modest rise in capital spending, EP expects well completions to increase by 20 percent over the prior year, officials say. In total, the company plans to complete 265 to 290 wells this year, up from 231 wells in 2013. As a result of increased efficiency, the company also anticipates a 40 percent increase in oil production over 2013. Production for 2014 will be 50,000 to 54,000 barrels of oil per day, officials estimate. For more information, please contact HBW Resources.
The assessed values of real and personal property in Marshall County increased by $158.2 million for the 2014 tax year – though it could have been significantly more, according to Marshall County Assessor Chris Kessler. The preliminary Assessed Value Totals for each class of property in the county were provided by Kessler to the County Commission, sitting at its meetings as a Board of Review and Equalization. The figure does not include public utility values which have yet to be provided by the State Tax Department, Kessler said. “The $158.2 million is on top of an extraordinary $605 million increase for 2013, and a $335 million increase for 2012, most of which can be attributed to growth in the natural gas industry in the county related to the Marcellus Shale and the status of the coal, chemical and power industries in the county,” Kessler said. “Once the public utility values are provided by the State Tax Department, the total assessed values of all property in Marshall County it is anticipated the total will be approximately $2.9 billion.” The total amount is $2,291,271,945 for personal and real taxes in the three classes, which is more than double what it was in 2007, Kessler said.
A natural-gas export project in Louisiana received the green light from the Obama administration. The Energy Department’s conditional approval of the Cameron LNG, LLC project in Louisiana, owned by California-based Sempra Energy, is the sixth natural-gas export terminal that serves countries that aren’t free-trade partners with the U.S. Subject to environmental review and final regulatory approval, the facility is conditionally authorized to export at a rate of up to the equivalent of 1.7 billion standard cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas, for a period of 20 years. More than 20 applications are still pending. The announcement comes a week after Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee urged the administration to speed up approval of natural-gas exports, citing economic and geopolitical benefits. The approval could inflame a debate that’s been brewing in Washington in recent years. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, has expressed concern over the pace of approvals and has considered putting a hold on confirmation of a top Energy Department official because of these concerns. Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member David Vitter, R-La., also praised the administration’s approval on Tuesday, although he noted this isn’t the final sign-off. “This conditional approval means the Cameron LNG project has taken an important step in the right direction,” said Vitter in a statement. “I’ll continue to push for final approval to get this cutting-edge liquefied natural gas project through the cumbersome federal regulatory process.” Vitter announced last month he is running for governor in Louisiana in 2015.
An oil and gas analytics firm says that 2014 production will average about 68 billion cubic feet per day. Those levels are attributed to continued production growth in natural gas liquids basins as well as dry gas from the Marcellus Shale. Denver-based Bentek, a unit of Platts, also says that U.S. domestic natural gas production in the lower 48 states averaged 65 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/day) in January 2014. That is down 0.8 Bcf/d or 1.1 percent from December 2013, but on a year-over-year basis it is up 3.2 percent from January 2013. “The recent and persistent cold in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest regions affected overall production this month, given that wells can freeze during very cold weather,” said Jack Weixel, Bentek director of energy analysis. “The deep freeze was particularly noticeable in sample data from the Marcellus shale gas plays. But the annual production gain shows just how resilient domestic natural gas production has become.” For 2013 as a whole, U.S. natural gas production averaged 64.8 Bcf/d, more than 1.2 Bcf/d or 1.9 percent higher than the 2012 average of 63.6 Bcf/d.
A report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis revealed that rapid growth in the U.S. oil and natural gas industry helped to make 2013 a record year for U.S. trade. The report said that the United States imported 2.8 billion barrels of crude oil in 2013, a 9.2 percent decline from the previous year and the lowest total the mid-1990s. In 2013, the total U.S. trade deficit for goods shrank by $38.3 billion, while the trade deficit in petroleum products dropped by $56.2 billion, due to lower energy imports and increased exports. For more information, please contact us.
Ceres’ new report Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers highlights how many regions are experiencing both intense shale energy development and high water competition, which comes at a critical time as California and other states are experiencing extreme drought conditions and groundwater depletion. These regions are also supporting major water demand from agriculture, fast-growing populations and other industries. “Barring stiffer water-use regulations and improved on-the-ground practices, the energy industry’s water needs in many regions are on a collision course with other water users, especially agriculture and municipal water use,” said Ceres President Mindy Lubber, in announcing the report.
A coalition of shareholders announced that it has filed resolutions against five major oil and gas companies protesting the companies’ lack of reported progress in mitigating the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing operations. The filed resolutions urge companies to quantify and disclose the impacts of hydraulic fracturing operations on ground and surface water, air quality and local communities, arguing that failure to manage these impacts puts shareholder value at risk. The companies receiving resolutions from coalition members include ExxonMobil, Chevron, EOG Resources, Occidental Petroleum and Pioneer Resources. “The damaging impacts of hydraulic fracturing on air, water and local communities have made the public understandably nervous and resistant to permitting this controversial industrial activity,” says Leslie Samuelrich, president of Green Century Capital Management, one of the coalition members. “Companies that fail to demonstrate a public commitment to identifying and mitigating their impacts will fail to earn the public trust, and may put shareholder value at risk.”
EPA’s inspector general is planning a broad review of the agency’s regulation of hydraulic fracturing, according to a memo released. The “New Start” memo outlines the basics of the Office of Inspector General’s evaluation, for which investigators plan to contact environmental groups, industry officials, and gas and oil producers. They will also gather information from EPA’s Office of Water, regional offices and states with a lot of fracking activity. “The OIG’s objective is to evaluate how the EPA and states have used their existing authorities to regulate hydraulic fracturing impacts to water resources,” wrote Dan Engelberg, director of water issues for the OIG’s Office of Program Evaluation. “In meeting this objective, we will determine and evaluate what regulatory authority is available to the EPA and states, identify potential threats to water resources from hydraulic fracturing, and evaluate the EPA’s and states’ responses to them.”
The U.S. Energy Information Administration unveiled an expanded interactive mapping system that displays the specific locations of oil and gas wells and allows users to see developments in specific plays. The new data makes it easier to visualize the intense amount of oil and natural gas activity underway in Texas, North Dakota and the Northeast, as shale and other forms of unconventional drilling transform the regions. The website provides basic information on the type of well and location, both onshore and offshore. But in most cases, it does not list the well’s owner or other details. In addition to the new well data, the mapping system allows viewers to locate pipelines, power plants, coal mines, and fossil fuel resources across the United States. It also rates regions for their renewable energy and biofuel potential. The EIA mapping site also identifies all power plants by fuel type and overall capacity, giving users a better idea of potential power production in any given area.
EPA issued a final Permitting Guidance for Oil and Gas Hydraulic Fracturing Activities Using Diesel Fuels: Underground Injection Control Program Guidance #84. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program, EPA’s regulatory authority over hydraulic fracturing is limited to operations that include diesel fuels in hydraulic fracturing fluids. The new Guidance defines diesel fuel by reference to five specific chemicals, CAS Registry Nos. 68334-30-5, 68476-34-6, 68476-30-2, 68476-31-3, and 8008-20-6. While drafted specifically for hydraulic fracturing operations that use diesel fuels, EPA asserts that the Guidance incorporates what EPA describes as best practices for all hydraulic fracturing activities, including technical recommendations for well casing integrity and background water quality sampling, as well as other provisions. EPA also indicates that it expects the Guidance’s recommendations will be used by permit writers in states that have been delegated authority to implement the UIC program.
The Energy Information Administration lowered its U.S. crude oil production forecast for this year and next due to recent severe weather but said improving technology could boost shale oil output over the next two years. In its latest monthly short-term energy outlook, the information arm of the U.S. Department of Energy cut its 2014 crude oil production forecast by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 8.4 million bpd and by 100,000 bpd to 9.2 million bpd for 2015. “The U.S. crude oil production forecast for both 2014 and 2015 was revised downward … because of indications that severe weather this winter has caused temporary slowdowns in completing new wells,” the EIA said in its report. However, it said forecasts for onshore U.S. crude production, which includes soaring shale oil output, have undershot actual production, as companies improved the productivity of their fields by experimenting with their drilling processes. “Technological innovation may cause a faster rise in drilling productivity than currently forecast,” the EIA said, adding if that happens, its onshore estimate of 5.7 million bpd in 2013 and forecast of 7.1 million bpd in 2015 would be overshot.
New draft regulations which pave the way for the start of commercial shale gas fracking have been released in Western Australia. Western Australia is estimated to have one fifth of the world’s shale gas reserves, natural gas which is released by fracturing shale rock thousands of meters below the earth’s surface. The new regulations, Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Regulations 2014, cover water monitoring and well management, giving the West Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) greater enforcement power. Companies will face harsher penalties for breaches and can be prosecuted for abandoning wells. The regulations are open for public comment until the end of May. For more information, please contact HBW Resources.
Petragas has obtained approval for a five year exploration license to look for shale oil and gas in Tasmania’s midlands. The managing director of Petragas, Terry Kallis says no drilling will be done in the first two years of exploration and the company will work hard to make sure the landholders know what’s going on. The announcement of the plan to explore for shale oil and gas caused a stir last year due to the fracking method used in extracting the gas.
British oil major BP said it had restored gas exports from Azerbaijan to Turkey at a normal rate after a drop due to technical problems at the terminal which began last week. “All technical problems at the terminal are solved,” said Tamam Bayatly, spokeswoman for BP-Azerbaijan. “Gas is now exported to Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan under international contracts.” BP is a technical operator for the Shah Deniz gas and condensate field in Azerbaijan. It ships natural gas to Turkey via Georgia through the South Caucasus Pipeline, also known as the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum Pipeline. Export volumes dropped as a result of technical problems at the Sangachal terminal. The pipeline is more than 700 kilometers long.
The National Energy Board (NEB) is asking energy companies to submit information about hydraulic fracturing fluid 30 days after work is completed. The NEB, an independent regulator with headquarters in Alberta, said it was asking oil and gas companies operating under pertinent legislation to offer up what’s in their hydraulic fracturing fluids within 30 days of completing an operation. NEB said energy companies have been asked to submit information ranging from trade names, purpose and ingredients to the FracFocus.ca website. NEB announced plans for the request in November. Some companies have expressed reservations about the disclosure, saying the makeup of their fracking fluids is a trade secret.
Nova Scotia’s newly minted expert panel on hydraulic fracturing is scheduled to have its first meeting this week in Halifax. The nine members were announced by panel chair, David Wheeler, president of Cape Breton University, who said the first meeting is expected to develop a blueprint on how the panel will conduct its examination of the process. Wheeler, an expert on water quality and groundwater pollution, said panel members must decide on how and when it will reach out to stakeholders. In offering a rough estimation on just when the panel’s first public event may be, Wheeler suggested sometime in April adding online contact could be in place sooner. The Halifax meeting is set for Feb. 12. Wheeler said a final panel report should be ready in June. The eight men and one woman on the panel are mandated to examine the social, economic, environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing and were appointed after the provincial government abandoned its own review of the process explaining it favored a more independent study. For more information, please contact us.
The village of Dorchester is considering asking the provincial government to ban hydro-fracking across New Brunswick. The government is moving forward with plans to allow hydro-fracking in New Brunswick, amid many protests protesting the practice that have been held across the province by anti-fracking individuals, groups and organizations. At last week’s regular meeting of Dorchester council, members of the Tantramar Alliance Against Hydro-Fracking (TAAHF) addressed council, asking the village to ban the practice of unconventional shale gas in the province. The Council advised the TAAHF that it would consider their request for the hydro-fracking ban.
PetroChina, Asia’s largest oil and gas producer, has found 308.2 billion cubic meters of technically recoverable gas in southwest China’s Sichuan basin, according to parent CNPC, one of China’s largest gas discoveries in more than a decade. The Moxi block of An’yue field was officially certified to hold 440.4 bcm of proven geological reserves, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) said in report, citing PetroChina’s Exploration and Development department. PetroChina is now building a production facility able to pump 4 bcm a year under phase-1 development, which is to be followed by another 6 bcm/year in a second phase, CNPC said. CNPC gave no timeline for the development and did not say how much it would cost. CNPC and PetroChina officials were not immediately available for comment.
Germany’s gas industry says it needs shale to halt a sharp decline in domestic output, but behind its pleas lies private acknowledgement that environmental and political opposition is just too strong. Frustration is compounded by Germany’s lead in fracking technology, which it has been quietly using for over 50 years. At stake is the competitiveness of German industry – faced with rising energy costs, the opposite of shale-driven competition in the United States, shale proponents say. “Currently, there is a decline in domestic production…a major share of planned investments in our industry is stymied politically,” said Hartmut Pick, spokesman for the WEG oil and gas industry group that produces domestic gas worth 4 to 5 billion euros ($5.4-6.8) a year. “If this trend is not countered, it will have negative consequences for jobs, mining royalties and the basis of service industries,” he said. Germany’s Federal Institute for Geosciences (BGR) two years ago put shale gas potential between 0.7 trillion and 2.3 trillion cubic meters. A median exploitation rate could preserve the current 12 percent share of local gas use for 100 years.
Separatist rebels from Pakistan’s resource-rich Baluchistan province have blown up three gas pipelines, cutting supplies to the country’s most economically important province, an official from a state-owned gas company said. The rebels blew up the pipelines to Punjab province overnight, said Ayub Bajwa, the emergency manager on duty for Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited in the capital of Islamabad. Punjab is Pakistan’s most populous and wealthy province and the power base of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Most of the province is now without gas. “This the first time they have blown all three simultaneously,” Bajwa said. “They used to just blow up one here or there.” The pipelines are large – 24, 18 and 16 inches in diameter. It will take at least two days to repair them, Bajwa said. During that time millions of Pakistanis will be unable to heat their homes or run their factories. Sarbaz Baloch, a spokesman for the banned Baluch Republican Army, said his group had blown up the pipelines near the Punjabi town of Rahim Yar Khan, about 370 miles south of Islamabad. The BRA is fighting for the independence of Baluchistan, Pakistan’s poorest and biggest province. They accuse the federal government of looting the province’s rich mineral resources and leaving its people to live in poverty.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said his government would approve new investor-friendly laws within two weeks aimed at cutting red tape and regulatory hurdles that have dented the country’s push to develop shale gas resources. Poland launched a major push into shale three years ago when Tusk announced the country would seek to produce unconventional gas on a commercial scale in 2014 in an effort to wean the nation off Russian supplies. Tusk said the government should approve a new, more business-friendly draft of a shale gas law in two weeks and would not pursue the creation of a state-owned operator. “Today we understand that in order to count money from shale gas, we must first of all begin to extract it,” Tusk said at a news conference along with recently appointed Environment Minister Maciej Grabowski. “We need to cut down on bureaucracy concerning shale gas exploration. To encourage exploration we have to prepare a less rigorous bill.” For more information, please contact HBW Resources.
At the opening of the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South African Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said that the country intends to begin shale gas exploration and to this end will be releasing final regulations soon. According to her: “The government is excited about major game-changing discoveries of untapped potential for petroleum development, spanning both off-shore and on-shore, including shale gas. We will move ahead decisively, yet responsibly, with the exploration of shale gas, and to unleash its potential contribution to, among others, cost-competitive energy security, employment creation and a range of other latent benefits to the country,” she added. It is estimated that South Africa could have as much as 485 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in its Karoo rock formations.
The legislature in Catalonia, Spain amended its Urban Planning Law to prohibit hydraulic fracturing on undeveloped lands. This position contrasts with Spain’s official position in support of hydraulic fracturing. While hydraulic fracturing would be regulated at the national level, each region in Spain has a number of regional permits that are also required. Thus, by using Urban Planning Laws and related programs, each region has effective veto power over the national government’s policy with respect to hydraulic fracturing.
For additional information, please contact Bo Ollison with HBW Resources. His contact information is below.
HBW Resources Contact Information
If you have any general questions, please contact us anytime. Previous versions of the HBW Ollison Hydraulic Fracturing Report and other reports can be viewed on the Intelligence Tab on the HBW Resources website at: https://hbwresources.com/intelligence/. Hope you all have a great day.