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September 2, 2015

RRC inquiry: Here’s hearing examiner’s full report

XTO Energy gets pass (so far) on Azle earthquake swarm

A Texas Railroad Commission inquiry concludes that evidence does not support, contrary to peer-reviewed findings of a scientific team at Southern Methodist University, that a disposal well operated by XTO Energy Inc. likely contributed to seismic activity in the Azle area of North Texas, according to a preliminary report from the agency’s hearings division.

That preliminary finding of hearings examiners, dated Aug. 31, 2015, isn’t final until the commission’s three elected commissioners sign off on it and doesn’t become effective until 20 days after a party is notified of the order.

Examiners recommended that the company be allowed to continue its disposal operations under a permit granted by the commission.

See Texas Energy News Clips for disappointed reaction from the Azle area, which endured a swarm of earthquakes that began in late 2013 and continued into early 2014.

The hearings examiners have not yet released findings on disposal operations of EnerVest Operating, also found by SMU researchers as likely to have caused seismic activity in the Azle-Reno area.

You can link to the full report here.

By Polly Ross Hughes

September 2, 2015

Blue-jean-clad Libertarian runs for Railroad Commissioner again

Says rules on common carrier abuse, earthquakes ‘nothing more than window dressing’

Libertarian Mark Miller, who often shows up for oil-and-gas hearings that touch everyday Texans, announced Wednesday he’s running to replace Republican Railroad Commission Chairman David Porter and pledged to watch out for interests of “all Texans.”

Miller promised to bring a new focus to “surface property rights” in a state in which longstanding law gives superior property rights to mineral owners.

The clash between the two is growing ever sharper, thanks to the shale revolution, as oil and gas operations move from sparsely populated, remote ranchland and into city limits of small towns and big cities.

With hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling technology, tapping tighter shale formations for oil and gas has been likened to an industrial process more than the legendary wildcatting, risk-taking ventures of yore.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

September 1, 2015

Oil services firm led by heavy hitters raises $16 million

Data analytics business boasts political, business luminaries

A San Antonio-based oilfield data analytics company, replete with a board boasting former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and investors including Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, announced Tuesday that it has raised another $16 million in capital.

The company, WellAware, secured its second round of funding through the U.S. subsidiary of Mitsui & Co. Ltd., a diversified trading, investment and services enterprise, and Genscape Inc., a real-time data and intelligence provider globally for energy and commodities markets.

The company said the new capital would go toward its expansion and development efforts. It comes on top of the $45 million in equity WellAware has raised since its startup in October 2013 from Activant Capital Group and Slim, recently counted as the world’s wealthiest individual, who is chief executive officer of America Movil, among the largest mobile phone carriers in Latin America.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

September 1, 2015

Abbott to Congress: Texas won’t lift Iran business bans

‘Texas law currently bans taxpayer-funded investment in Iran and with entities that do business with Iran’

Texas energy (and other) companies that are intent on forming new business ties if the Iran deal passes might as well forget doing business with the State of Texas.

That’s one of the messages contained in a letter Gov. Greg Abbott sent Tuesday to members of the Texas Congressional Delegation.

Abbott’s letter, anticipating the end of Congress’ recess next week, urges representatives from Texas to vote against the historic deal President Barack Obama and other nations struck earlier this year to lift sanctions on Iran in return for certain nuclear concessions, namely not to launch a nuclear weapons program any time soon.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

September 1, 2015

RRC takes first step in third sunset review in five years

Oil-and-gas regulators submit 213-page self-review to Sunset Commission

The Texas Railroad Commission submitted a 213-page report card on itself to the Texas Sunset Commission today, as a first step in its third sunset review to evaluate its continued operations in just five years. 

The oil-and-gas regulating agency – which also oversees pipeline safety, natural gas rate cases and lignite mining operations and reclamation – defied sunset review two legislative sessions in a row, much to the consternation of lawmakers sponsoring the agency’s sunset bills.

When lawmakers failed again to pass a bill in 2013, a meltdown centering on political ethics reforms of the three elected commissioners’ campaign contributions, they passed new restrictions for the next review to come during the 2017 session.  

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 31, 2015

Texas service firms team up for refracking shale plays

Vorpal, a technology incubator, collaborates with Enventure Global

Vorpal Energy Solutions and Enventure Global Technology said Monday they’ve formed a strategic collaboration in hopes of tapping into the “burgeoning” re-frack market.

Exploration and production companies, strapped by oil prices recently dipping below $40 per barrel, are looking at repeated hydraulic fracturing (re-frack) from previously drilled wells in order to extract more liquids at lower costs.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 31, 2015

GE Oil & Gas eliminating 176 jobs in Lufkin

Mass layoff ends work for more than 94%of foundry’s workers

GE Oil & Gas has notified the Texas officials of plans to permanently eliminate 176 jobs as part of a mass layoff at a foundry operated by Lufkin Industries LLC.

The Lufkin layoffs will begin Sept. 10 and end Sept. 23, according to a letter from Lufkin Industries’ Richard Hammel, employee human resources manager, to the Texas Workforce Commission. The notice is required under the federal WARN Act.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 29, 2015

Petition: ‘Endangered’ beetle created Keystone XL pipeline issues

Conservative Texas group joins oil interests in seeking ESL delisting

A conservative policy group in Texas announced Friday it has joined with the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and others to petition federal officials to remove the American burying beetle from a list of endangered species.

The petition, filed Aug. 18, asks the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to remove the insect from the Endangered Species List, arguing that the “best available science does not support the existence of any threats significant enough to be driving N. americanus toward extinction in the foreseeable future.”

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 26, 2015

EDF: Central Texas munis pave way to future energy savings

‘The cheapest energy is the kind we don’t use in the first place’

Austin Energy and San Antonio’s CPS Energy show that energy efficiency and demand response programs are cheaper and cleaner ways to ease stress on the electric grid, saving both energy and valuable water, two clean energy experts at Environmental Defense Fund point out.

The two municipal utilities have committed more resources to renewable energy in their fuel mix and are also paving the way in energy efficiency and demand response, write John Hall, EDF’s Texas state director for clean energy, and Sarah Ryan, clean energy consultant.

Demand response provides incentives to electric consumers to conserve during peak times – like hot afternoons in August -- when the electric grid faces its greatest demand.

In a blog post today, the two boldface this point: “The cheapest energy is the kind we don’t use in the first place.” They add, “Saving energy is more affordable than building additional power plants.”

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 26, 2015

Bush leads western states on endangered species reform

23 states ask Congress to reform law so end ‘sue and settle’ tactic

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush says his counterparts from western states have unanimously adopted his resolution calling for an end to the “sue and settle” practice of environmentalists he says are taking advantage of the Endangered Species Act.

Bush won unanimous adoption form the Western States Land Commissioners Association, according to the General Land Office, for a resolution asking Congress to reform the act and end a practice that oil and gas developers, ranchers and others find intolerable.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 25, 2015

Haynesville Shale properties switch hands for $850 million

GeoSouthern and partners purchase 112,000 net acres from Encana

The Woodlands-based GeoSouthern Haynesville LP and GSP Capital Partners LP said Tuesday they’ve jointly agreed to pay $850 million for oil and gas properties in the Haynesville Shale from subsidiaries of Encana Corp.

The properties are mostly located in DeSoto and Red River Parishes, Louisiana, and contain about 112,000 net acres and 300 operated wells in the most prolific area of the Haynesville Shale (which stretches from Louisiana into Texas).

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 25, 2015

UT System forms partnership with Mexican science council

Research opportunities in energy, Gulf of Mexico’s environment

The University of Texas System said Tuesday it has formed a research and academic partnership with Mexico that will include joint efforts in energy and the environment along with other fields in applied math and sciences.

UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven signed a memorandum of understanding in San Antonio with Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology, known as CONACYT. It provides a legal framework for the UT system’s 14 institutions to collaborate in research and graduate student funding.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 25, 2015

Uranium Energy will seek to dismiss shareholder suit

Company to defend against allegations of ‘false’ statements

Uranium Energy Corp., which operates in South Texas, vowed Tuesday to “vigorously defend” itself against a shareholder lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, the company said late today.

The law firm filing the complaint, Bronstein, Gewirtz & Grossman of New York, continued to solicit clients today with a reminder that they can join a class action suit that has yet to be certified. The firm said the suit is in behalf of investors who purchased Uranium Energy Corp. shares between Oct. 12, 2014 and June 17, 2015.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 21, 2015

Oil prices dip below psychological level of $40-per-barrel

Glut continues, demand weakens, Chevron’s Houston layoffs loom, implications for Rainy Day Fund

Oil prices dipped below $40 per barrel Friday for the first time in six years, breaching another psychological barrier amid predictions that a prolonged supply glut could push the U.S. benchmark crude, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), into the low $30s.

With China’s economy weakening and the Saudis and other OPEC nations primed to boost production still more, Texans began eyeing the future of the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which set record highs during the oil boom, with a bit more trepidation. The fund is made up of oil-and-gas severance taxes that ebb and flow along with volatile commodity prices.

I a

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By Polly Ross Hughes

August 20, 2015

Lawmaker, academic form Texas Natural Gas Foundation

Group to spread the word of natural gas as cheaper, cleaner fuel

A state lawmaker who works as a transportation consultant and an academic who frequently speaks on the benefits of natural gas-fueled vehicles announced Thursday that they’ve formed the Texas Natural Gas Foundation

The foundation, organized as a non-profit 501 C-3, bills itself as an education organization to be led by Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, and Ken Morgan, director of the Texas Christian University Energy Institute.

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By Polly Ross Hughes