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September 21, 2017

Oil & Gas Stories

Houston Chronicle

September 20, 2017

Hurricane Harvey delays parts of Chevron Phillips petrochemical expansion

Chevron Phillips has completed its new plastics plants, but a large portion of the $6 billion expansion in the Houston area is being delayed until next year after Hurricane Harvey's floodwaters created additional problems. The Woodlands-based Chevron Phillips Chemical, a joint venture of Chevron and Phillips 66 of Houston, said it just finished building its two new polyethylene plastics units southwest of Houston in Old Ocean by Phillips 66's Sweeny complex. The company said it is initiating the startup process for the plastics units. The larger Baytown portion of the expansion project, which was originally expected to be finished by now, won't be completed until next year, Chevron Phillips said. The project involves a massive ethane cracker - on a plot the size of 44 football fields - that will separate a component of natural gas called ethane, which will provide the feedstock for some 1.5 million metric tons a year of ethylene, a common building block of plastics.

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Regulatory Stories

Houston Chronicle

September 20, 2017

Houston FEMA flood map missed 75 percent of flood damages, says new study

FEMA's 100-year flood plain map doesn't have the best reputation in Bayou City – just ask any Houstonian whose home was outside the flood risk zone yet still filled with water during one if the city's many and recent flooding events. Still, a new study by Rice University and Texas A&M-Galveston suggests FEMA's hazard mapping may be even less accurate than most people think. Researchers examined flood damage claims from several southeast Houston suburbs between 1999 to 2009 and found that FEMA's flood predictive maps failed to show 75 percent of flood damage.

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September 20, 2017

Lead Stories

Reuters

September 18, 2017

Exxon Beaumont refinery may restart most units this week – sources

ExxonMobil Corp may restart most of the production units at its 362,300 barrel per day (bpd) Beaumont refinery in Texas, by the end of this week, said sources familiar with plant operations on Sunday. Exxon spokeswoman Charlotte Huffaker said restart activities were progressing at the Beaumont refinery, which was shut down on Aug. 30 after Hurricane Harvey slammed Texas. The refinery’s two crude distillation units restarted on Friday, sources told Reuters. The refinery has also restarted its 40,000 bpd diesel hydrotreater. Exxon restarted the 65,000 bpd hydrocracking unit on Sunday, said energy industry intelligence service Genscape.

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Austin American-Statesman

September 19, 2017

Some question decision to keep Texas nuclear plant open during Harvey

Days before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, workers at the South Texas Project nuclear power plant ensured the backup generators had fuel in case the power went out. They obtained enough food and supplies to board the 250-person storm crew for three days. They cleared the site of any potential “missiles,” equipment that might be picked up by the wind and hurled at the two reactors. But they didn’t prepare for Harvey — which made a slow, drenching loop around the plant near Bay City — to keep them sequestered at the site for nine days. “We went from, ‘We’re going to be here for a couple days,’ to, ‘Guys, we need to start thinking like we’re going to be here for a week on an island,’” said Mike Schaefer, the plant’s general manager. “I remember saying, ‘Not only are we running a power plant, we’re running a hotel and a restaurant.’”

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Bloomberg

September 18, 2017

Fickling: The Next Big Renewable Fuel? Accountants

For all the advances made by engineers that cut the cost of solar modules and new wind generation by more than half in five years, the true heroes of the renewables revolution may be a group that's rarely recognized: accountants.To see why, consider the headlong growth of corporate power-purchase agreements -- contracts where major consumers strike deals with generators to buy a fixed quantity of electricity over a decade or so.From humble beginnings around 2008, when the likes of Alphabet Inc., Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. starting taking out PPAs to power their vast data centers, these agreements grew by leaps and bounds. In the latest, between Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and Enel SpA last week, a wind farm in Oklahoma will supply half of the brewer's U.S. electricity demand, sufficient to produce 20 billion beers a year.

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New York Times

September 17, 2017

The Rare, Potent Fuel Powering North Korea’s Weapons

When North Korea launched long-range missiles this summer, and again on Friday, demonstrating its ability to strike Guam and perhaps the United States mainland, it powered the weapons with a rare, potent rocket fuel that American intelligence agencies believe initially came from China and Russia. The United States government is scrambling to determine whether those two countries are still providing the ingredients for the highly volatile fuel and, if so, whether North Korea’s supply can be interrupted, either through sanctions or sabotage. Among those who study the issue, there is a growing belief that the United States should focus on the fuel, either to halt it, if possible, or to take advantage of its volatile properties to slow the North’s program.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

September 20, 2017

Oil rises after Iraq signals possible OPEC cut extension

Oil prices rose on Wednesday after Iraq's oil minister said OPEC and other crude producers were considering extending or even deepening a supply cut to curb a global glut, while a report showed a smaller-than-expected increase in U.S. inventories. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 33 cents, or 0.7 percent, at $49.81 a barrel at 0419 GMT. Brent crude futures climbed 23 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $55.37. While options being considered by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers include an extension of cuts in output by months, it is premature to decide on what to do beyond March, when the agreement expires, Iraqi oil minister Jabar al-Luaibi told an energy conference in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday.

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San Antonio Express News

September 19, 2017

San Antonio’s Valero backs off deal to buy California terminals

San Antonio-based refiner Valero Energy Corp. announced Monday it would not buy two storage and distribution terminals owned by Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline in California. The move was made months after California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed suit against Valero over the sale, saying it would “suffocate open competition in the area and raise gas prices for hardworking Californians.” Becerra said “it’s our responsibility to combat threats to our state’s thriving and competitive marketplace” in a news release Monday. In a statement posted to their websites, Valero and Plains All American said they had “mutually agreed” to terminate an agreement that would have allowed Valero’s subsidiary to buy the terminals.

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Rigzone

September 19, 2017

BP's Thunder Horse Platform Shut Temporarily On Power Issue

BP Plc halted production at its Thunder Horse platform in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico on Monday following a power outage, a company spokesman confirmed on Tuesday. The benchmark for sour crude rallied to its strongest in more than two years on the disruption. BP evacuated its workforce of about 300 people from the facility after the power outage as a precaution, according to the statement.

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Houston Chronicle

September 19, 2017

Oryx building new 220-mile Permian pipeline

Oryx Midstream Services said it will build a 220-mile crude pipeline system in the Permian Basin that will run from New Mexico to Midland. Midland-based Oryx, which primarily is owned by Houston private equity firms, said the 400,000-barrel-a-day network will run through Carlsbad, New Mexico and into West Texas to crude oil delivery points in Crane and Midland. Oryx's plans will add to a boom in pipeline projects competing to service all of the growing oil production from the Permian, which accounts for most of the nation's oil growth.

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Forbes

September 14, 2017

Texas Frac Sand In Demand

Millions of pounds of sand are pumped down each shale well in the hydraulic fracturing process, and while Wisconsin Northern White is still dominant, it is now used in only two-thirds of US fracs. That’s a lot of displaced market share, sources told Mergermarket. Regional Texas sand mines have become an attraction as companies bank on “Permian headlines” and a diversity of sand types. Tens of new mines are starting up in Texas and surrounding states, with sand that varies in quality but is closer and logistically simpler to procure. Vista Sand, Preferred Sands, Unimin, Black Mountain, Hi-Crush Partners, US Silica and Alpine Silica are some private and public companies with Permian Basin mines slated to be producing by the first quarter of 2018.

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Dallas Morning News

September 19, 2017

Watch: Fire at Texas refinery sends black plume sky high

Officials in in the Southeast Texas city of Port Arthur are asking people who live near a refinery to shelter-in-place after a fire broke out there, sending black plumes of smoke into the air. Valero Energy Corp. spokeswoman Lillian Riojas told The Associated Press in an email Tuesday that the company's response teams were on the scene. She says the company has also contacted local authorities and is cooperating with public agencies. She said that was all of the information she currently had.

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KBTX

September 19, 2017

Grimes County neighborhood fed up with flare

A Grimes County community is making a desperate plea for peace and quiet. The residents on and near Roese Road in Iola claim their serenity has been shattered by ETX Energy, an Oklahoma-based energy company. Nearly two years ago, the oil well that flares casinghead gas was added to a small piece of land right in the middle of the neighborhood. It's approximately 600 feet from the nearest home, and homeowners say the well and flare can both be noisy and produce a bad smell. They also say the flare is bright at night, and they speculate black soot that sometimes covers vehicles and homes comes from the flare.

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Houston Chronicle

September 19, 2017

Fluor cutting nearly 275 Corpus Christi jobs on Jumbo plastics project

Irving-based energy engineering and construction firm Fluor said it's terminating almost 275 employees working on the financially struggling and much delayed "Jumbo" plastics plant project in Corpus Christi. The $1 billion, pending M&G Jumbo plastics plant, owned by Italy's Mossi & Ghisolfi Group, owes money to a lot of contractors. Fluor said it's stopping its work at the site after it was informed that M&G's engineering arm, Chemtex, also is ceasing its operations, according to a letter Fluor filed with the Texas Workforce Commission.

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Wall St. Journal

September 20, 2017

The North Sea Is Suddenly, Surprisingly, an Oil Hot Spot

For more than a decade, the North Sea’s once-booming oil sector was mired in decline. Against the odds, it has emerged as an unlikely bright spot in today’s stormy global energy industry. Investors have sunk more than $16 billion so far this year into European deals for assets mostly located in the North Sea, a flurry that far outstrips energy deal activity in all but American shale country and Canada’s oil sands, according to Edinburgh-based energy-consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. The biggest deal came last month, with Total SA’s TOT 0.41% $5 billion purchase of A.P. Moeller-Maersk ’s AMKBY 0.84% North Sea-focused oil-and-gas business. The deal was a sign major oil companies are still willing to invest significant amounts in the region, where confidence is reviving as oil prices stabilize and costs come down. Many are refocusing on relatively new areas. Meanwhile, private-equity funds are buying up aging assets and infrastructure, seeing opportunity in operations that have become more marginal for some of the bigger players.

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World Oil

September 19, 2017

BP supplies natural gas to Mexico under energy reform measures

BP Energía México, BP’s natural gas marketing and trading arm in Mexico, has started to deliver approximately 200,000 MMBtu a day of natural gas to industrial users, local distribution companies and independent power producers in eight states in Mexico, making BP one of the first private companies to supply natural gas to the domestic market under the country’s energy reform measures. The announcement comes after BP Energía México was awarded pipeline transportation rights at an auction hosted earlier this year by CENAGAS, Mexico’s national center for natural gas control. BP Energía México has also executed a firm transport agreement with CENAGAS in addition to agreements with other transporters and local distribution companies in order to offer bundled services for delivery of natural gas. Delivery has begun across eight states - Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, San Luis Potosi, Veracruz, Mexico State, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas and Queretaro.

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The Economist

September 14, 2017

Global LNG giants turn to poor countries for new markets

WHEN it comes to liquefied natural gas (LNG), the supermajors have supersized appetites. The likes of Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and BP make discoveries described as “elephants”; their cost overruns alone can run into the tens of billions of dollars; and projects take the best part of a decade to complete. For years, the industry has demanded fixed, long-term contracts from their customers to justify the size of these megaprojects. The producers also have pretty big problems. They are in the midst of a vast expansion in Australia and elsewhere just as the shale revolution and the start of American LNG exports has brought an unexpected burst of gas onto markets, clobbering prices for the foreseeable future and forcing producers into concessions. Demand in rich countries such as Japan and much of western Europe appears to be in long-term decline.

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Bloomberg

September 19, 2017

Trump Warned Saudis Off Military Move on Qatar

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates considered military action in the early stages of their ongoing dispute with Qatar before Donald Trump called leaders of both countries and warned them to back off, according to two people familiar with the U.S. president’s discussions. The Saudis and Emiratis were looking at ways to remove the Qatari regime, which they accused of sponsoring terrorism and cozying up to Iran, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions were confidential. Trump told Saudi and U.A.E. leaders that any military action would trigger a crisis across the Middle East that would only benefit Iran, one of the people said. More recently, the Trump administration has quietly sent high-level messages to Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. to try to defuse the quarrel.

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Harvard Courant

September 14, 2017

Thorson: End Relief For Self-Inflicted Natural Disasters

For decades, I've been cringing as the leaders of our petroleum industry, based in Texas, argued that climate change wasn't occurring, and that the potential intensification of storms was statistical fiction. Then came the wettest storm on record that dropped an astonishing 52 inches of rain in places. This storm was literally off the charts because the charts based on past flood statistics no longer apply. Things are different. The atmosphere holds more moisture because it's warmer — because we've warmed it. Having the oil mogul Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and Rick Perry as secretary of energy reveals how little American voters have learned. ... But in the future, I suggest we reserve federal disaster relief for truly natural disasters, not to those of our own making.

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Investors Business Daily

September 14, 2017

Weinstein: Two Cheers For America's Energy Infrastructure

Yes, about a half-million gallons of gasoline leaked from a dozen storage tanks in Houston, but these spills were along the ship channel far away from the city's fresh water supply. Keep in mind that there are more than 4,500 storage tanks in the Houston area. So 99.7% of Houston's storage tanks didn't rupture. By contrast, Hurricane Katrina littered the coast with tens of thousands of drums, storage tanks, and other containers holding oil, chemicals, and other hazardous materials. This didn't happen with Harvey. ... The untold story is that after Hurricanes Rita, Katrina and Ike the energy industry spent billions upgrading their facilities along the Gulf Coast so they could withstand future catastrophic storms. With huge investments in new chemical plants, refinery expansions, industrial facilities and export terminals currently underway in Texas and Louisiana, even more resources will be expended by industry and public entities to protect this infrastructure, so critical to America's economic prosperity, from future natural disasters.

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Politico

September 19, 2017

Trump says U.S. prepared to take further action in Venezuela

President Donald Trump said Monday that the “growing crisis” in Venezuela was unacceptable and that the U.S. was ready to take further action to ensure democracy was restored in the Latin American nation. “The Venezuelan people are starving. … ” Trump said, speaking at a dinner with leaders from the region on the sideline of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. “The country is collapsing, their democratic institutions are being destroyed.” Trump called the situation “totally unacceptable.” The president laid blame at the feet of Venezuela’s leader, Nicolas Maduro, who he said was propelling the nation’s collapse and destroying its democratic pillars. He said the United States had to “take important steps to hold the regime accountable.”

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Utilities Stories

Houston Chronicle

September 19, 2017

What happens when the coal and nuclear plants close?

When future policy makers go back and study the U.S. energy industry in the 2010s, one of the defining trends will be the sudden decline of coal and nuclear plants. Whether this is the beginning of a great new era of American energy or a disaster in the making is the subject of much debate. And now add another voice to the mix, as the research firm IHS Markit warned in a report released Tuesday that the shift away from coal and nuclear is likely to leave the U.S. grid overly reliant on natural gas and renewable forms of energy and prone to more expensive and volatile electricity prices than we currently enjoy. .. The report is funded by the trade groups U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Edison Electric Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute - groups that have a lot at stake in what the power grid becomes in the decades ahead.

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Bloomberg

September 15, 2017

India’s Biggest Electricity Producer Almost Triples Gas Use

NTPC Ltd., India’s biggest electricity producer, has boosted natural gas-fired generation as a drop in hydropower, nuclear and wind energy increases demand for thermal power, according to company officials with knowledge of the situation. Plant utilization at NTPC’s gas-fired stations has almost tripled to 60 percent in the past three to four days, said the officials, who asked not to be identified, citing company policy. That compares with an average plant utilization of about 24 percent for NTPC’s gas-fired stations in the three months ended June, when summer demand peaks. To meet the sudden increase in demand, NTPC is buying about 10 million cubic meters re-gasified liquefied natural gas daily from the state-run gas distributor, GAIL India Ltd., on a spot basis, the people said. GAIL imports the fuel as liquefied natural gas.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Bloomberg

September 19, 2017

Clean Energy Is Approaching a Tipping Point

The cost of renewables is plunging faster than forecasters anticipated just a few years ago as as technologies like gigantic wind turbines arrive on the market. That’s the conclusion of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, whose founder Michael Liebreich estimated that clean energy will reap 86 percent of the $10.2 trillion likely to be invested in power generation by 2040. In a presentation to the research group’s conference in London on Tuesday, Liebreich said technology that’s slashing the costs of wind and solar farms makes it inevitable that clean energy will become more economical than fossil fuels for utilities in many places.

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The Guardian

September 14, 2017

The entrepreneurs turning carbon dioxide into fuels

In an industrial greenhouse about 30km from Zurich, plump aubergines and juicy cherry tomatoes are ripening to perfection. Growing Mediterranean crops in Switzerland would traditionally be energy intensive but these vegetables are very nearly carbon-neutral. The greenhouse uses waste energy from a nearby refuse plant, and carbon dioxide from the world’s first commercial direct air capture plant. The facility, designed by Zurich-based start-up Climeworks, pumps the gas into greenhouses to boost the plants’ photosynthesis and increase their yield, it hopes, by up to 20%. Climeworks says it will extract around 900 tonnes of CO2 a year from the air. The company’s end game is not plumper tomatoes but something far more ambitious – proving that carbon dioxide can be recycled from the atmosphere and turned into something useful. If this installation is a success, Climeworks wants to sell its concentrated carbon dioxide to companies producing carbon-neutral hydrocarbon fuels.

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Austin American-Statesman

September 16, 2017

Self-driving boats: The next tech transportation race

Self-driving cars may not hit the road in earnest for many years — but autonomous boats could be just around the pier. Spurred in part by the car industry’s race to build driverless vehicles, marine innovators are building automated ferry boats for Amsterdam canals, cargo ships that can steer themselves through Norwegian fjords and remote-controlled ships to carry containers across the Atlantic and Pacific. The first such autonomous ships could be in operation within three years.

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Reuters

September 14, 2017

With high-performance cells, China takes aim at high-end solar market

China, blighted by pollution and long known for churning out cheap manufactured goods, is looking to dominate the high-end of a major growth market: solar power. Under a new program, China is pushing the industry to mass market high-performance solar cells so far used mainly in high-tech products like satellites. Making these cells more affordable will likely further boost a sector that has already disrupted global electricity generation. It will also put pressure on international solar cell makers such as Canadian Solar, REC Solar, Sharp and Sunpower which compete with Chinese leaders including LONGi Green Energy Technology, Trina Solar and JA Solar Holdings.

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North American Windpower

September 15, 2017

Survey: What’s Driving Corporate Renewables Purchases?

Apex Clean Energy and GreenBiz Group have released a new report highlighting the current drivers and barriers to the corporate and industrial procurement of renewable energy. The research, conducted in August, shows that while the continually improving economics of utility-scale wind and solar are helping convert corporate commitments into a decision to buy, companies are determining their own definition of value in the procurement process. Thus, according to the report, the cheapest option is not necessarily the best strategic fit. ... More than 150 respondents from companies with annual revenues of greater than $250 million participated in the 2017 “State of Renewable Energy Procurement” survey. In addition, 12 in-depth, one-on-one interviews were conducted with executives from companies helping lead the maturation of the direct renewable energy procurement market.

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Regulatory Stories

Houston Chronicle

September 16, 2017

Falkenberg: As support for Ike Dike grows, we still need stubborn boosters

It's been a long, hard slog for Bill Merrell since he first proposed the concept of an "Ike Dike" nine years ago. At times, the Texas A&M oceanographer probably could have used his own dike of sorts to keep all the dismissiveness at bay. Merrell's fight isn't over just because political leaders in the weeks after Harvey are calling for action on his concept, but he says it's heartening to finally see progress. His plan, a "coastal spine" composed of a system of floating gates, is intended to protect Galveston Bay and much of the Houston region from a killer wall of water known as a surge that could accompany a direct-hit monster storm. "The parade is forming," the 74-year-old professor said in an interview last week as he sat in a maroon swivel chair in his office overlooking the Galveston channel.

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Associated Press

September 19, 2017

Nominee for EPA chemical safety post has deep industry ties

President Donald Trump's nominee to oversee chemical safety at the Environmental Protection Agency has for years accepted payments for criticizing studies that raised concerns about the safety of his clients' products, according to a review of financial records and his published work by The Associated Press. Michael L. Dourson's nomination as head of EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention was to be considered by a Senate committee Wednesday, but was postponed when the Senate adjourned early for the week. If confirmed, ethics experts said, Dourson's past writings and the money paid to him and a nonprofit he founded could represent potential conflicts of interest. Past corporate clients of Dourson and of a research group he ran include Dow Chemical Co., Koch Industries Inc. and Chevron Corp.

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Dallas Morning News

September 19, 2017

Meet the Dallas urban planner behind Texas' pursuit of the hyperloop

Flat geography. A booming population. And a business-friendly environment. Those are just three reasons why Dallas urban planner Steven Duong says Texas is an ideal place for the hyperloop, a futuristic mode of travel that would use levitating pods to shuttle people and goods across hundreds of miles in minutes. Duong is a senior urban designer for the Dallas office of AECOM, a Fortune 500 engineering, design and construction company. He led the Texas proposal that made it onto the short list of possible routes for Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles company that wants to have at least one operational route somewhere in the world by 2021. Now, the hyperloop company will explore other factors, such as economic conditions and customer demand.

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Texas Tribune

September 19, 2017

Railroad commissioner to chair: "This isn't a dictatorship" (video)

In a livestreamed Tuesday meeting, Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton and the board's chair, Christi Craddick, sparred over questions about the fate of the agency's executive director, Kimberly Corley. Sitton accused Craddick of trying to oust Corely, who has been in her post since late 2015, without consulting the commission's two other members. "This isn't a dictatorship," he told Craddick at one point.

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New York Times

September 15, 2017

O'Sullivan: How Trump Can Harness the U.S. Energy Boom

The new energy abundance in the United States has given President Trump a historic opportunity not just to expand the country’s economy at home, but also to expand its leadership globally. To maximize this opportunity, he should think about energy as more than a driver of economic growth, overcome the powerful political forces favoring isolationism and retrenchment, and rein in his tendency to alienate countries that should be energy allies of the United States. The embrace of new technologies to extract oil and natural gas at an unprecedented rate has transformed one of America’s enduring vulnerabilities into a strategic asset. Thanks largely to fracking — hydraulic fracturing of rock — the United States is now the largest producer of oil and gas combined in the world.

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Wall St. Journal

September 17, 2017

Trump Administration to Brief Officials on Emissions Goals

President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser is expected to outline the administration’s proposals to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while restating that its stance on the Paris climate accord has not changed, White House officials said, following signals over the weekend that the U.S. was exploring ways to remain in the 2015 pact. White House economic chief Gary Cohn’s planned breakfast discussion on energy and climate matters in New York follows a similar meeting led by Canada, China and the European Union in Montreal on Saturday, when U.S. officials broached revising Washington’s goals under the Paris accord to avoid pulling out of it, according to officials at the event.

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Washington Post

September 15, 2017

Trump administration working toward renewed drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Trump administration is quietly moving to allow energy exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for the first time in more than 30 years, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post, with a draft rule that would lay the groundwork for drilling. Congress has sole authority to determine whether oil and gas drilling can take place within the refuge’s 19.6 million acres. But seismic studies represent a necessary first step, and Interior Department officials are modifying a 1980s regulation to permit them. The effort represents a twist in a political fight that has raged for decades. The remote and vast habitat, which serves as the main calving ground for one of North America’s last large caribou herds and a stop for migrating birds from six continents, has served as a rallying cry for environmentalists and some of Alaska’s native tribes.

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The Hill

September 17, 2017

Tillerson: Trump open to Paris climate deal 'under the right conditions'

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday suggested President Trump would be open to remaining in the Paris climate deal under the right conditions. "I think under the right conditions, the president said he's open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation." Tillerson was asked about a report that the Trump administration is no longer looking to withdraw from the agreement, although Trump announced in June the U.S. would withdraw.

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Washington Post

September 19, 2017

The Energy 202: FERC is up and running again. That means Trump gets more of the pipelines he wants.

Leaders of blue states such as New York and California have positioned themselves as bulwarks against Trump administration efforts to roll back environmental regulations. Where the federal government steps away, these governors say, states will step in. After President Trump announced he would pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord, for example, New York's Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, recommitted his state to fulfilling its emissions-cutting share of the Paris deal after what Cuomo called “the White House’s reckless decision.” But governors like Cuomo are learning that state power has its limits.

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September 19, 2017

Lead Stories

Bloomberg

September 18, 2017

Far From the Texas Coast, Hurricane Harvey Hits Oil Refiners

Harvey knocked out almost one-quarter of U.S. refining capacity in late August, sending gasoline and diesel prices soaring. The storm hit a few weeks before most of the nation’s fuel makers were set to begin seasonal shutdowns. Demand usually slows at this time of year, so it’s a good time to make repairs and install new equipment at plants that typically run all day every day. But at least 13 refineries from Louisiana to Montana with a combined 3.27 million barrels a day have delayed maintenance for weeks or months, according to company statements and people familiar with the situations. Some are churning out more fuel to take advantage of strong margins, while others simply don’t have the personnel because workers were dispatched to help repair and restart storm-hit facilities along the Gulf of Mexico. ... The largest U.S. refinery, owned by Motiva Enterprises LLC in Port Arthur, Texas, is said to have pushed back maintenance on a crude unit to April from September, while Exxon Mobil Corp. said it delayed work at three refineries to divert workers to Texas, where it’s trying to restart its Beaumont and Baytown refineries.

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Houston Chronicle

September 16, 2017

Private air quality monitoring detects high levels of pollution following Harvey

As Hurricane Harvey barreled into Houston, the state shut down 50 stationary air quality monitors that track pollution levels to protect the sensitive devices from the high winds and torrential rains that swamped the region. The timing, while perhaps unavoidable, couldn't have been worse. Over the week - longer in some neighborhoods - that the air monitors were out of commission, record floods triggered spills from refineries, chemical plants, pipelines and storage tanks that released volatile chemicals into the air. The extent of exposure to these pollutants, some known to cause cancer, may never be known, but since the skies cleared and floods receded, a small corps of private air monitors have spread out into the neighborhoods near the spills and found that emissions likely reached dangerous levels - in some cases more dangerous than environmental regulators initially acknowledged. On Aug. 27, for example, Valero Energy said a collapsed roof at its East Houston refinery led to a small release of cancer-causing chemical benzene, a particularly dangerous and volatile component of oil and gasoline that evaporates quickly.

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San Antonio Express News

September 18, 2017

Kansas company sues former FourWinds CEO Bates

Legal troubles continue to dog Stan Bates, who next month is scheduled to stand trial with State Sen. Carlos Uresti on criminal fraud charges relating to a bankrupt oil field services company. Bates and his latest venture, Bates Energy Oil & Gas, are accused by a Kansas company of backing out of a deal to lease 170 rail cars to transport frac sand — used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to produce oil and gas. On May 18, the day after Bates and Uresti were arrested for their involvement in defunct frac sand company FourWinds Logistics, Bates informed Caldwell-Baker Co. of Gardner, Kansas that he was scrubbing the deal for the rail cars.

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Bloomberg

September 18, 2017

Little-Known Lender's Stand Threatens a $29 Billion Solar Market

A little-known Wall Street lender with a background financing dump trucks and helicopters is bankrolling a trade case that’s threatening the $29 billion U.S. solar industry. SQN Capital Management typically finances and leases crucial, if prosaic, business equipment: think cement mixers, office furniture, honey-production machines, farm equipment. A $50 million loan to Suniva Inc. was one of its biggest ever, and when that loan went south with Suniva’s April bankruptcy filing, SQN joined the Georgia-based solar manufacturer’s improbable plan: ask President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on cheap imports from Asia. ... The move required filing a complaint under a U.S. trade law that hasn’t been successfully invoked since George W. Bush was president. SQN extended Suniva a $4 million credit line, setting in motion a case that’s scheduled for a U.S. International Trade Commission decision Friday.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

September 19, 2017

Oil stable on lower Saudi exports, but rising US shale output caps market

Oil markets were stable on Tuesday, supported by a fall in Saudi Arabian crude exports but capped by an expected rise in U.S. shale output. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $50.00 per barrel at 0043 GMT, 9 cents, or 0.2 percent, above their last settlement. WTI has been loitering around $50 per barrel since late last week, supported by rising demand from the restart of many refineries knocked out by Hurricane Harvey, but prevented from breaking away from that level by rising U.S. crude output.

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Bloomberg

September 19, 2017

Hedge Funds Bet on Fuels Over Crude as Storm Trade Persists

The post-Harvey buzz over fuels is making U.S. crude look like the poor stepchild of hedge funds. Since the storm battered the heart of America’s refining industry last month, bets on rising gasoline and diesel prices have surged for three straight weeks to the most bullish in years. But when it comes to West Texas Intermediate crude, skepticism is prevailing. It all boils down to where the supply glut is. While U.S. fuel stockpiles have plummeted -- with a record draw from gasoline storage tanks -- oil inventories rose as crude-processing plants in Texas struggled to get back on their feet. That’s prevented WTI from closing above $50 a barrel even though last week was the best for the U.S. benchmark since July.

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Platts

September 15, 2017

Eagle Ford Shale's big operators getting output back to pre-Harvey levels

Three weeks after Hurricane Harvey slammed into the lower Texas coast and caused widespread production shut-ins, although little actual damage, in the Eagle Ford Shale play, several big upstream operators say they are at or nearly at pre-storm levels. Devon Energy said Friday its production is at pre-storm levels in the South Texas play. The Oklahoma City-based company produced 63,000 b/d of oil equivalent in the second quarter, including 36,000 b/d of crude oil and 96,000 Mcf/d of natural gas. ... According to one reported estimate by IHS Markit, at one point a third of the Eagle Ford's 1.254 million b/d of August crude oil production and 4.835 Bcf/d of gas output -- figures projected by Platts Analytics -- was shut in. Platts now estimates September Eagle Ford production at 1.273 million b/d of oil and 4.896 Bcf/d of natural gas. On Thursday, SM Energy said its Eagle Ford production had also returned to pre-storm levels. The company produced 88,000 b/d of oil equivalent in the Eagle Ford in the second quarter.

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Bloomberg

September 18, 2017

Big Oil Becomes Greener With Progress in Cutting Pollution

It’s no secret that oil majors are among the biggest corporate emitters of pollution. What may be surprising is that they’re reducing their greenhouse-gas footprints every year, actively participating in a trend that’s swept up most corporate behemoths. Sixty-two of the world’s 100 largest companies consistently cut their emissions on an annual basis between 2010 and 2015, with an overall 12 percent decline during that period, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance released ahead of its conference in London on Monday. The findings suggest the most polluting industries had started fighting climate change before President Donald Trump took office and signaled he’d back out of U.S. participation in the Paris accord on limiting fossil fuel emissions. Now, as European officials say the White House may water down its commitment to Paris instead of scrapping the deal, the BNEF report suggests industry is scaling back the emissions.

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CNBC

September 18, 2017

US shale oil growth to slow in October as Harvey takes a toll, Department of Energy reports

Surging production from U.S. shale fields is set to moderate next month, the Department of Energy's information arm forecast on Monday. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projected crude oil output from several shale oil- and gas-producing regions will grow by 79,000 barrels a day in October. That marked the first time in seven months EIA's growth forecast came in below 100,000 barrels a day. Total production for October is set to reach 6.08 million barrels a day, according to EIA. Production from the Eagle Ford, a prolific oil-producing region in Texas, was revised down due in part to impacts from Hurricane Harvey. The storm forced some drillers to idle rigs last month as the devastating storm approached southeastern Texas.

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Forbes

September 13, 2017

O'Brien: Lawyers Return With Lawsuit Blaming Earthquakes In Oklahoma On Fracking

A lawsuit that blames the fracking industry for increased earthquake activity in Oklahoma is back. Class action attorneys who are targeting a group of natural gas companies will now ask a federal court to send the case back to the state court in which it was filed. It was because their previous case would have been heard in federal court that they dropped it more than a year ago. “By disposing of fracking wastewater deep into the earth, Defendants introduced contaminants into the natural environment that caused an adverse change to it in the form of unnatural seismic activity,” says the second complaint of Lisa Griggs and April Marler, filed in August in Logan County District Court.

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Platts

September 15, 2017

US Haynesville gas production hits 4-year high

Natural gas producers in the US Southeast are beginning to yield dividends from a bid to reverse declining production in one of the region's seemingly forgotten shale plays. Recent data from the Haynesville of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas show production there at its highest since mid-2013. As output continues to rebound from a record low in August 2016, production from the Haynesville is already up by nearly 15%, Platts Analytics data shows. That spectacular turnaround comes amid a rapid expansion in drilling activity which has rivaled that of even the Utica or the Marcellus. In just 12 months, rig count in the Haynesville has more than tripled.

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San Antonio Express News

September 18, 2017

Texas Power Brokers: Abraxas CEO Watson from football field to oil field

When San Antonio-based Abraxas Petroleum Corp. suspended work in all its oil fields at the height of the most recent bust, CEO Bob Watson admitted he was “kind of bored.” Oil was coming off of its $26-per-barrel low in early 2016, and the industry was reeling. It was the first time in years that Watson, who founded publicly traded Abraxas in 1977, didn’t have a drilling rig at work. Times have turned around for the oil business. Everyone is busier, Watson included, and oil is hovering around $50 per barrel. Last week, there were 936 drilling rigs at work in the U.S., up 430 from the same week in 2016, according to service company Baker Hughes.

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Houston Chronicle

September 14, 2017

Harvey had minimal impact on depth of Houston Ship Channel

Mud and silt washed into the Houston Ship Channel during Hurricane Harvey did not make the waterway significantly shallower, a Coast Guard official said Thursday. The ship channel can usually accommodate vessels with draft of 45 feet. The portion of the ship channel just below Bayport is accepting vessels with a draft of 42 feet. The official said that is the most significant draft restriction throughout the ship channel. Galveston and Texas City don't have draft restrictions, and dredging is occurring to restore other sections of the ship channel to typical operating depth.

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San Antonio Business Journal

September 18, 2017

Lone Star State tops the rankings for best business climate by a Texas-sized margin

Texas ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for best business climate, according to a new survey of corporate executives released today at the International Economic Development Council’s annual conference in Toronto. The survey, conducted every three years by the Development Counsellors International, tracks trends in economic development and for the first time this year also includes findings about how the current political climate is impacting business perceptions. It’s called the “Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing” survey.

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Houston Chronicle

September 15, 2017

BP among energy firms wrestling with fallout from Harvey

By the time the storm lifted, floodwaters nearly crested over the top of the turnstiles in the lobby of BP's main office tower in Houston. Water filled the basement and brought down the electrical systems. Contract workers had to pile thousands of sandbags around the 949,000-square-foot building before they could begin pumping out the rushing water. Two weeks after one of the costliest storms in U.S. history moved out of the Houston area, BP executives don't know the full extent of the damage. But they do know this: Their Westlake One office in Houston's Energy Corridor won't reopen until early 2018 and more than 2,000 of the British oil major's 5,500 local employees will work from home as the company makes repairs.

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Upstream Online

September 18, 2017

Democratising the science of multiphase flow modelling

The PipeFractionalFlow programme includes a component called Leak Signatures that monitors pressure in the pipeline at different stations and compares those numbers with the expected, or predicted, pressure signature. “It’s not enough to find out you have a leak. You need to know approximately where your leak is occurring and how big the leak is,” Nagoo says. In one hilly-terrain wet gas pipeline case history, he says, the software was used to detect the location and change of magnitude of different leaks on a 24.5-inch diameter, 21.5-mile long Middle Eastern hydrocarbon dew point pipeline, sourced from the American Gas Association (AGA) Project PR-148-110. In simulating a high leak rate of 800 MMscfd and a low leak rate of 200 MMscfd, the programme determined the distinct leak pressure signatures that would occur at different locations in the pipeline.

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Raleigh News & Observer

September 16, 2017

Hurricanes increase demand for North Dakota oil

North Dakota Bakken sweet crude oil is seeing increased demand and is temporarily priced at a premium due to recent hurricanes that hit Texas and Florida. North Dakota Pipeline Authority director Justin Kringstad says refineries on the Gulf Coast are trying to make up for shortages of gasoline and diesel fuel. He says Bakken runs well through refineries to maximize the yield, and the price of Bakken oil should stay up "in the near term" before going back down.

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Utilities Stories

Bloomberg

September 18, 2017

Garbage From Irma Will Fuel Florida’s Power Grid

When it comes to garbage, geography is destiny. Look at Texas and Florida, recovering from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Homeowners and businesses not incapacitated by the storm have begun the arduous and emotional work of separating destroyed possessions and materials by type and placing them curbside. Cities have begun the intimidating logistics of picking it up and transporting it to its final destination. And what is that destination? Texas’s waste-disposal strategy takes advantage of the state’s vast land. Harris County alone, which includes Houston, has 14 active landfills. Florida, by contrast, is a peninsula with a longer coastline than any state other than Alaska, and much less room for trash. Many coastal Florida counties burn theirs, with waste incinerators particularly common around the state’s populous southern lip and up the Gulf Coast. It’s a two-fer. Combustion reduces the solid waste to ash, and the heat that’s produced runs steam generators. Much of the waste left in Irma’s path will burn, the energy released adding to local communities’ electricity.

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Midwest Energy News

September 18, 2017

Q&A: Going beyond decoupling to drive utility investments in energy efficiency

Clean energy advocates, utilities and policymakers frequently tout the benefits of energy efficiency and demand-side management. But driving utilities to invest in such programs at a meaningful scale is not easy in a marketplace where profits are still often largely driven by volume of sales. Doug Lewin is vice president of regulatory affairs and market development for CLEAResult, an Austin, Texas-based company that helps utilities nationwide design and implement these demand-side management programs. Lewin was also the founding executive director of the South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER), which was recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as the regional energy efficiency organization for Texas and Oklahoma. Lewin also worked at the Texas legislature for five years on clean energy issues. Midwest Energy News talked with Lewin about how utilities and policymakers are dealing with the expanding frontier of energy efficiency and demand-side management, including in states like Illinois and Michigan, and Lewin’s recent paper on the issue.

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Phys Org

September 18, 2017

New approach boosts performance in thermoelectric materials

Thermoelectric materials are considered a key resource for the future - able to produce electricity from sources of heat that would otherwise go to waste, from power plants, vehicle tailpipes and elsewhere, without generating additional greenhouse gases. Although a number of materials with thermoelectric properties have been discovered, most produce too little power for practical applications. A team of researchers - from universities across the United States and China, as well as Oak Ridge National Laboratory - is reporting a new mechanism to boost performance through higher carrier mobility, increasing how quickly charge-carrying electrons can move across the material. The work, reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, focused on a recently discovered n-type magnesium-antimony material with a relatively high thermoelectric figure of merit, but lead author Zhifeng Ren said the concept could also apply to other materials.

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Utility Dive

September 14, 2017

Utilities see benefits in energy storage, even without mandates

The fact that California’s three investor-owned utilities were at the top of the Smart Electric Power Alliance’s recent rankings is not surprising, but the presence of utilities in Indiana and Ohio is notable. California has been a leader in energy storage, with a 2010 law that requires the state’s IOUs to procure 1.3 GW of storage capacity by 2020 and then a 2016 law requiring each IOU to procure another 166 MW of storage. There has been no similar legislative push in either Indiana or Ohio and yet Indianapolis Power & Light and Duke Energy Ohio were third and fifth, respectively, in SEPA’s rankings of utilities that connected the most energy storage to their systems in 2016. IPL installed 20 MW in 2016, and 16 MW were connected to Duke Energy Ohio last year.

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Miami New Times

September 14, 2017

Why Didn't FPL Do More to Prepare for Irma?

Four days after Irma, millions of Floridians are still stuck without power in the sweltering summer heat. Those outages have now killed eight elderly people trapped in a Hollywood nursing home without air conditioning, due to circumstances that FPL was warned about at least two days before the tragedy. ... But many Floridians wonder if the large number of residents without power and flubbed website are just the latest signs that the company has spent way too much on lobbying and government affairs and not nearly enough on hurricane-proofing the power grids it maintains in some of the most storm-prone areas of the world. FPL and its parent company, NextEra Energy, have for years heavily influenced state and local politics through donations, making billions in profits each year ($1.7 billion alone in 2016) thanks to favorable state laws that are sometimes literally written by the power company's own lobbyists.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Green Biz

September 18, 2017

Anheuser-Busch, Kimberly-Clark amp up wind power commitments

For a gut check on the complexity — and the opportunity — for companies interested in buying renewable energy, ponder this: Brewer Anheuser-Busch evaluated 75 projects and held talks with 15 possible partners before signing its massive power purchase agreement disclosed last week for an Oklahoma wind farm owned by Enel Green Power. The deal will cover about 50 percent of the power used by Anheuser-Busch's operations across North America, according to top executives from both companies. Meanwhile, personal care products company Kimberly-Clark has orchestrated arrangements with the developers of two projects, one in Oklahoma and one in Texas, that together represent about one-third of electricity used by its North American manufacturing operations for brands such as Kleenex and Huggies. The aggregate amount across the farms is 245 megawatts in capacity, or about 1 million megawatt-hours.

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Wall St. Journal

September 15, 2017

Solar Power Death Wish

Billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies haven’t made the U.S. solar industry competitive, and now two companies want to make it even less so. Suniva Inc., a bankrupt solar-panel maker, and German-owned SolarWorld Americas have petitioned the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to impose tariffs on foreign-made crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells. Solar cells in the U.S. sell for around 27 cents a watt. The petitioners want to add a new duty of 40 cents a watt. They also want a floor price for imported panels of 78 cents a watt versus the market price of 37 cents. In other words, they want the government to double the cost of the main component used in the U.S. solar industry. Solar electricity prices could rise by some 30% if the ITC says they’ve been injured by foreign competition—a decision is due by Sept. 22—and the Trump Administration goes along with the tariff request.

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Fast Company

September 13, 2017

During Irma’s Power Outages, Some Houses Kept The Lights On With Solar And Batteries

When Hurricane Irma blew out a transformer on his block in Orlando on the night of September 10, Andy Green–like most of the people on his street, and millions of people throughout Florida–lost power from the grid. But Green, who installed Tesla’s Powerwall home battery storage in early August, kept his lights on. “We didn’t have full power–we couldn’t have the whole house running–but we cut it down to the bare minimum, like air conditioning, refrigeration, internet, that sort of thing,” says Green. Though power is still out in parts of Orlando, electricity on his block came back from the grid 21 hours later. While it was off, Green’s Powerwall, connected to the solar panels on his roof, kept going. When the clouds parted the next day, the battery started recharging.

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The Conversation

September 13, 2017

How solar power can protect the US military from threats to the electric grid

As the U.S. military increases its use of drones in surveillance and combat overseas, the danger posed by a threat back at home grows. Many drone flights are piloted by soldiers located in the U.S., even when the drones are flying over Yemen or Iraq or Syria. Those pilots and their control systems depend on the American electricity grid – large, complex, interconnected and very vulnerable to attack. Without electricity from civilian power plants, the most advanced military in world history could be crippled. The U.S. Department of Energy has begged for new authority to defend against weaknesses in the grid in a nearly 500-page comprehensive study issued in January 2017 warning that it’s only a matter of time before the grid fails, due to disaster or attack.

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Regulatory Stories

Houston Chronicle

September 15, 2017

Hurricanes show need to shore up nation's energy systems, Perry says

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the damage reaped by hurricanes Harvey and Irma on power lines, pipelines and other components of the nation's energy system necessitate greater investment in shoring up those assets against storms. "As round-the-clock efforts continue to help communities recover from the devastation of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the need to continue strengthening and improving our electricity delivery system to withstand and recover from disruptions has become even more compelling," Perry said in a statement. Nearly 7 million customers in Florida and neighboring states lost power as did some 120,000 customers of the Houston utility CenterPoint.

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Austin American-Statesman

September 18, 2017

UT System regents commit up to $4.5M for a bid to run Los Alamos

The University of Texas System Board of Regents on Monday authorized spending up to $4.5 million to prepare a bid to operate Los Alamos National Laboratory, a key part of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex. The UT System board also elected Regent Sara Martinez Tucker to chair the board, which oversees 14 academic and health campuses. She succeeds Paul Foster, who has led the board through a sometimes-fractious four years. The spending vote was not a surprise, as the board encouraged its staff last month to explore development of a bid. The regents still would have to vote again before submitting a proposal to the federal government to operate Los Alamos, which is tucked into the mountains of northern New Mexico.

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KHOU

September 18, 2017

Harvey Recovery Czar Faces Limits To ‘Future-Proofing’ Texas

The man tasked with overseeing Texas’ Hurricane Harvey rebuilding efforts sees his job as “future-proofing” before the next disaster, but he isn’t empowered on his own to reshape flood-prone Houston or the state’s vulnerable coastline, which has been walloped by three major hurricanes since 2006. Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp will face the same political and bureaucratic challenges that have long stalled meaningful improvements in storm protections, and some doubt that even Harvey’s record flooding and huge price tag will bring about real change. ... Sharp, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, follows a line of fix-it men charged with picking up the pieces following major storms in recent years, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

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Associated Press

September 18, 2017

Regulators Take Step to Ban Fracking Near Delaware River

A commission that oversees drinking water quality for 15 million people took an initial step Wednesday to permanently ban drilling and hydraulic fracturing near the Delaware River and its tributaries, drawing criticism from the natural gas industry as well as from environmental groups worried that regulators would still allow the disposal of toxic drilling wastewater inside the area. The Delaware River Basin Commission voted 3-1, with one abstention, to begin the lengthy process of enacting a formal ban on drilling and fracking, the technique that's spurred a U.S. production boom in shale gas and oil. Besides other locales, the watershed supplies Philadelphia and half of New York City with drinking water. The resolution approved by the commission says that fracking "presents risks, vulnerabilities and impacts to surface and ground water resources across the country," and directs the staff to draft regulations to ban it.

The article appeared in US News

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Newburgh Gazette (IL)

September 15, 2017

US EPA postpones power plant effluent guidelines

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulators will reconsider portions of an Obama administration rule regulating coal ash, a byproduct of fossil fuel-fired power plants. In 2015 the Obama administration developed new limits on metals including lead, mercury, and arsenic in coal-fired plants' wastewater, set to go into effect in 2018. But the former Oklahoma attorney general also has stated his concerns about the financial health of the coal industry and his desire to help coal companies recover from their long period of decline. This is especially relevant when considering the massive flood devastation by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and the numerous coal ash pits in both Florida and Texas.

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Bloomberg

September 17, 2017

Superpower India to Replace China as Growth Engine

India is poised to emerge as an economic superpower, driven in part by its young population, while China and the Asian Tigers age rapidly, according to Deloitte LLP. The number of people aged 65 and over in Asia will climb from 365 million today to more than half a billion in 2027, accounting for 60 percent of that age group globally by 2030, Deloitte said in a report Monday. In contrast, India will drive the third great wave of Asia’s growth – following Japan and China -- with a potential workforce set to climb from 885 million to 1.08 billion people in the next 20 years and hold above that for half a century. ``India will account for more than half of the increase in Asia’s workforce in the coming decade, but this isn’t just a story of more workers: these new workers will be much better trained and educated than the existing Indian workforce,’’ said Anis Chakravarty, economist at Deloitte India.

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September 18, 2017

Lead Stories

Wall St. Journal

September 18, 2017

Hurricanes Stir Up Profits for Refiners

U.S. fuel prices are poised to remain elevated for the rest of the year in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, costing consumers billions but providing a profit boost to some refining companies. Harvey knocked out 25% of the nation’s fuel-making capacity at the height of the storm’s flooding in Texas. More than 12% is still shut, with three plants idle and 11 struggling to resume operations. A week later, Irma compounded fuel shortages in the Southeast, as millions of people fled in a mass evacuation that emptied gasoline stations. A record amount of fuel was pumped out of storage tanks in the week ended Sept. 8, according to federal data, to keep East Coast gas pumps working. It was the largest one-week drawdown in U.S. gasoline stockpiles since 1990.

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Bloomberg

September 15, 2017

Forget Oil, Water Is New Ticket for Pipeline Growth in Texas

The torrent of dirty water coming out of almost every American oil well is the next big bet for a former fund manager for billionaire Paul Allen. Getting rid of wastewater from onshore wells has become an increasingly costly problem for oil producers as U.S. crude output surged in recent years, especially in the new shale fields from Texas to North Dakota. Drillers typically get about seven barrels of water for every one of oil, and some struggle to deal with the overflow that is mostly sent by truck to disposal sites miles away. David Capobianco, a former managing director for Allen’s Vulcan Capital, is trying to change that by building pipelines to get wastewater out. His newly formed WaterBridge Resources LLC aims to be a water-management company for oilfields. The firm is considering a public share listing within a year to 18 months, taking advantage of a U.S. shale boom that the government expects will boost crude production close to 10 million barrels a day next year.

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Austin American-Statesman

September 15, 2017

Hurricane Harvey’s pollution toll on air, water slowly comes into focus

Fifty-five refineries and petrochemical plants in the Houston, Corpus Christi and Beaumont areas collectively emitted 5.8 million pounds of benzene, ammonia and other pollutants to the air in connection with Hurricane Harvey, according to reports filed by the companies with state regulators. In addition, more than 560,000 gallons of crude oil, gasoline, saltwater and other contaminants spilled from wells, pipelines and storage tanks into coastal or inland waters, including the Colorado River southeast of Austin in Fayette County. Meanwhile, 19 public drinking water systems serving 14,000 people remain inoperable and 77 other systems have warned consumers to boil tap water before drinking it, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Thirty-one sewage treatment systems are inoperable, with some treatment plants needing to be rebuilt from the ground up.

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Texas Observer

September 14, 2017

‘Los Zetas Inc.’ Author on Why Mexico’s Drug War Isn’t About Drugs

In her compelling new book Los Zetas Inc., Correa-Cabrera follows the rise of the Zetas, Mexico’s first paramilitary cartel, and the government’s military response. Authorities responded to the Zetas by unleashing thousands of soldiers into the streets, which only spurred greater acts of violence. Correa-Cabrera, an associate professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, spent seven years researching and conducting interviews for the book in some of the most dangerous regions of the country, including Tamaulipas and Veracruz. Correa-Cabrera looks at organized crime from an economic perspective and argues that the term “drug cartel” is outmoded: The Zetas and groups like them have morphed into transnational corporations with interests in everything from coal mining and the extraction of oil and gas to cornering the market on avocados. Los Zetas Inc. also asks: Who benefits from the chaos of the drug war?

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

September 18, 2017

Oil markets firm on rising refinery demand, falling US rig count

Oil prices dipped early on Monday but remained near multi-month highs reached late last week as the count of U.S. rigs drilling for new production fell and refineries continued to start up after having been knocked out by Hurricane Harvey. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $49.83 barrel at 0021 GMT, 6 cents below their last settlement, but still close to the more than three month high of over $50 per barrel briefly reached late last week. Brent crude futures, the benchmark for oil prices outside the United States, were at $55.58 a barrel, down 4 cents but still not far off the almost five-month high of $55.99 from late last week.

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Longview News Journal

September 15, 2017

Rig count dwindles again as oil holds close to 5-month highs

The number of U.S. rigs exploring for oil and natural gas fell again this week as oil prices continued to rally to near five-month highs. In its weekly report Friday, Baker Hughes Inc. said the combined total of rigs at work was down eight to 936. Though still up significantly from a year ago, the pace of increase slowed in the second quarter and have reversed in the third as concerns about oversupply weighed on prices. Baker Hughes data showed the oil rig count decreased by seven this week to 749, while the natural gas rig count fell by one to 186.

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Houston Chronicle

September 15, 2017

Valero says benzene plume may have come from other plants

A toxic plume of cancer-causing benzene detected last week in East Houston's Manchester neighborhood next to a Valero Energy oil refinery may not have originated from Valero after all, the company contended Friday. Some of the chemical compounds detected by the city aren't present in Valero's failed storage tank, the company said, although benzene was in the tank. The different compounds though indicate the plume may have come from somewhere else, Valero argued. Valero's response comes a day after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said San Antonio-based Valero "significantly underestimated" the amount of benzene and other volatile compounds leaked from its Houston refinery during Hurricane Harvey's torrential rains.

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Reuters

September 15, 2017

Oil and chemical spills from Hurricane Harvey big, but dwarfed by Katrina

More than 22,000 barrels of oil, refined fuels and chemicals spilled at sites across Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, along with millions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of tons of other toxic substances, a Reuters review of company reports to the U.S. Coast Guard shows. The spills, clustered around the heart of the U.S. oil industry, together rank among the worst environmental mishaps in the country in years, but fall far short of the roughly 190,000 barrels spilled in Louisiana in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina - the last major storm to take dead aim at the U.S. Gulf Coast.

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Wall St. Journal

September 16, 2017

Trump Administration Seeks to Avoid Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord, International Climate Officials Say

Trump administration officials said Saturday the U.S. wouldn’t pull out of the Paris Agreement, offering to re-engage in the international deal to fight climate change, according to multiple officials at a global warming summit. The U.S. position on reviewing the terms of its participation in the landmark accord came during a meeting of more than 30 ministers led by Canada, China and the European Union in Montreal. In June, President Donald Trump said the U.S. would withdraw from the deal unless it could find more favorable terms. U.S. officials in Montreal, led by White House senior adviser Everett Eissenstat, broached revising U.S. climate-change goals, two participants said, signaling a compromise that would keep the U.S. at the table even if it meant weakening the international effort.

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Houston Chronicle

September 15, 2017

Koch Industries opens new Texas-to-Mexico fuel export route

A Koch Industries subsidiary said it's opened a new fuel export route from Corpus Christi to Mexico without involving Mexico's national oil company. Koch Supply & Trading, which is part of the Koch brothers private business empire, said it is making the first waterborne delivery of motor vehicle fuel into Mexico by private parties since the Mexican petroleum industry was nationalized nearly 80 years ago. The primary new route goes from Koch's Flint Hills Resources refining system in Corpus Christi through the Port of Veracruz to a newly revamped terminal owned and operated by Dutch-based Royal Vopak, which obtained the first regulatory approval for an independent party to store and handle petroleum liquids in Mexico. However, Koch also can deliver from other U.S. ports to Veracruz.

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Upstream Online

September 15, 2017

Increased capacity in the Permian pipeline

Using drilling and completion techniques honed over the past decade, operators are significantly increasing oil and gas production in the Permian basin. The increased volumes are challenging the area’s carrying capacity and spurring a minor infrastructure building boom. After nearly a century of exploration and production, the US Permian basin still holds technically recoverable reserves of 20 billion barrels of oil, 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 1.6 billion barrels of hydrocarbon gas liquids according to a 2016 report from the US Geological Survey. That is largely due to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology, which increased output from the basin before a levelling off in the face of lower oil prices in 2015.

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Wall St. Journal

September 17, 2017

How Traders Are Making Money as Oil Prices Go Nowhere

A placid oil market is emboldening traders to adopt strategies that reap modest gains on small price moves, while risking big losses in the event of larger ones. U.S. oil futures have spent much of 2017 in a range around $50 a barrel—their least-volatile period in three years. The stalemate reflects expectations that crude will be supported by production cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and limited by the capacity of nimble U.S. shale producers to boost output when prices rise. U.S. crude settled flat Friday at $49.89. Many traders are adapting by pursuing what is known on Wall Street as a mean-reverting strategy, generally one that wagers prices will fall when oil is above a certain level and rise when it declines below a threshold.

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Associated Press

September 17, 2017

Strengthening Hurricane Maria a threat to Irma-hit Caribbean

The islands of the eastern Caribbean prepared Sunday to face another potential disaster, with forecasters saying newly formed and likely to strengthen Hurricane Maria was headed for a hit on the Leeward Islands by Monday night. Hurricane or tropical storm warnings were posted for many of the islands, including those already coping with the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma, such as St. Barts and Antigua and Barbuda. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Maria was expected to gain power and could be near major hurricane strength while crossing through the Leeward Islands late Monday on a path aiming toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

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Bloomberg

September 15, 2017

Two Weeks After Harvey, Cheniere Runs More Gas Than Ever

Two weeks after Hurricane Harvey flooded the U.S. Gulf Coast, brought shipping to a halt and knocked out power to millions, the only company sending U.S. shale gas overseas is back in business. In fact, Cheniere Energy Inc.’s flagship Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana is liquefying more natural gas for export than ever. Cheniere fully restored operations at the complex this past weekend. And a few days after that, the company brought in and liquefied a record 3.1 billion cubic feet of gas, said Doug Shanda, senior vice president of operations. With another expansion nearing completion, the Houston-based company expects to extend that record this winter, he said in a phone interview Thursday.

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Texas Observer

September 15, 2017

The Largest Harvey-Related Oil Spill Went Unknown for Weeks

On August 31, floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey triggered an oil spill at a Magellan Midstream Partners facility near the Houston suburb Galena Park. According to the Houston Chronicle, when workers first noticed gasoline leaking from two fuel tanks, they evacuated the area, called 911, and notified federal and state agencies of the spill. A statement by Magellan on September 1 states that “clean-up work and inspections continue at the partnership’s Galena Park marine facility, but a restart timetable is not yet available,” but makes no mention of the size of the leak. An initial estimate of the amount of the spill was 1,000 barrels of oil. It wasn’t until weeks later, on September 5, that Magellan reported that was oil spill amount actually totaled 11,000 barrels, or 460,000 gallons, making it the largest Harvey-related oil spill.

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Huffington Post (HuffPost)

September 12, 2017

Neill: What Would A Redesigned Houston Look Like?

Houston is a city based on a 19th century paradigm of unlimited growth in the name of consumption enabled by fossil fuels; its identity has been formed by oil, chemicals, port operations, and other manifestations of the industrial revolution. Houston has grown exponentially with limited planning, regulation, and foresight, reveling in its freedom, a wildcat mentality that has made its citizens wealthy and made lives better. But that paradigm is now bankrupt, in that the consequences of its application outweigh the benefits. Houston was not concerned with these consequences of culture—the emissions from its refineries, the leaks from its networked pipelines, the toxic waste from its manufacturing, the inadequacies of its water management and treatment systems—and the potential disaster should anything confront these conditions, such as a hurricane with record rainfall, storm surge, or any other natural climate phenomenon in a rapidly changing world. The question today is not so much explanation or blame, rather on what premises to rebuild. The evidence of the storm and flooding provides an outline for a different, perhaps preventative response, not to reconstruct the city as it was, but to redesign it in the face of what surely will be comparable events to come.

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Tulsa World

September 3, 2017

One of the nation's oldest pipelines, Transco matters more than ever

The storm named Harvey put not just people but key pieces of the country’s energy infrastructure in harm’s way. The infrastructure impacted by the storm included a portion of Tulsa-based Williams Cos.’ key asset, the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line. Transco begins in Texas with facilities in Houston and Corpus Christi. Those facilities have historically been the starting point for imported natural gas’s journey north and east. It’s critical to millions of people thousands of miles away who rely on the gas for heating homes and generating power. Williams, like many other energy companies, has spent the past week worried about the safety of employees while focusing on keeping its Gulf operations working and safe, which is not only critical for its business but the country’s economy.

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Bloomberg

September 13, 2017

Fickling: OPEC's Closing-Down Sale

Like a retailer whose mid-season sale shades into an end-of-season clearance, and then into pre- and post-Christmas discount drives, OPEC's production cuts are becoming less an exception than the norm.The latest reductions were pushed through by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and several other producers last November. They'll now be extended by at least three months from their planned end next March and possibly into the second half of 2018, people familiar with the matter told Javier Blas, Wael Mahdi and Grant Smith of Bloomberg News. It's not hard to see why. A sharp recovery over the past three months has done little more than bring crude prices back to where they were when the cuts were first agreed upon. Curtailing output is meant to lift prices, not leave them standing still -- but maybe another crack at starving the market will succeed.

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Wall St. Journal

September 10, 2017

Saudis Stress Commitment to Economic Change Despite Challenges

Saudi Arabia sought to reassure citizens and potential investors of its commitment to revamp the country’s oil-dependent economy after a series of setbacks that slowed the effort. The government has backtracked on some politically-sensitive moves in recent months, postponing an increase in fuel prices and reinstating some government employee perks. It is now redrafting part of the plan to allow more time for implementation. “It is important to adjust and adapt to unexpected situations,” Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information said Saturday. “Such flexibility should not undermine the stability and predictability needed to allow the private sector to plan its new investments and expansions.”

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Bloomberg

September 17, 2017

Algeria to Lean on Central Bank to Plug Deficit Amid Oil Slump

Algeria’s prime minister laid out a sweeping plan to plug the budget deficit that would include direct borrowing from the central bank, as the OPEC member looks to compensate for lower oil revenue without tapping international debt markets. The five-year plan presented by Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia aims to balance the budget by 2022, and reverse a deficit that ballooned with the plunge in global crude prices, which also cut foreign reserves by nearly half. “If we turn to external debt, as the IMF suggests, we will need to borrow $20 billion a year to repay the deficit and within four years we will be unable to repay the debt,” Ouyahia said. “This is what made the government look at non-traditional financing.”

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Utilities Stories

Daily Energy Insider

September 15, 2017

Hurricane Harvey caused transmission system outages, decreased electricity demand, EIA report says

At its peak, Hurricane Harvey forced outages of more than 10,000 megawatts of electrifying generating capacity in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid and distribution lines, according to recently released data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The report noted that power plant outages were largely caused by rain or flooding affecting generator fuel supplies, outages of transmission infrastructure connecting generators to the grid, and personnel not being able to reach generating facilities. The storm also damaged hundreds of high-voltage transmission lines, including six 345 kilovolt lines. Most of the damaged transmission facilities were located along the Gulf Coast of Texas and within the city of Houston.

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Gilmer Mirror

September 14, 2017

Where Atmos, CenterPoint, Texas Natural Gas Rank in the J.D. Power 2017 Gas Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study

According to the J.D. Power 2017 Gas Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study that was just released, customer satisfaction has increased for the sixth consecutive year on a nationwide basis. ... Perception of safety is key to customer satisfaction: Gas utility efforts to advocate for safety have a positive impact on customer satisfaction, with satisfaction 88 index points higher among customers who had a safety inspection conducted by their utility than among those who did not receive an inspection. Likewise, satisfaction among customers who say their gas utility was “very helpful” or “somewhat helpful” in preparing for a safety issue is 150 points higher than among those who say their utility was “not very helpful” or “not at all helpful.”

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RTO Insider

September 17, 2017

DOE Panel Hears Results of Academies’ Resilience Study

Even before its release last month, the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) grid study generated dozens of headlines due to expectations that its focus on “resilience” might provide a policy foundation for subsidizing financially struggling coal and nuclear generators. But a month earlier, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s DOE-funded report, “Enhancing the Resilience of the Nation’s Electricity System,” went virtually unnoticed. Last week, one of the leaders of the study briefed the department’s newly reconstituted Electricity Advisory Committee (EAC) on the report, which recommended ways to prepare for “large-area, long-duration” outages. “A lot of folks have as a primary responsibility worrying about reliability. Almost nobody really has primary responsibility for resilience,” Carnegie Mellon University engineering professor Granger Morgan, chair of the committee that prepared the report, told the EAC on the first day of a two-day meeting at the headquarters of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

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Fox News

September 16, 2017

Frustration mounts for Floridians still lacking power after Irma

Duke Energy’s unit in Florida has told its customers that it will be calling them Saturday to confirm whether electrical service has been restored in their area following Hurricane Irma. The company said on its website that it had already restored service to 96 percent of customers in Pinellas and Pasco counties, and planned to have power restored to all other customers in those counties by midnight Saturday. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the company missed a self-imposed Friday deadline for restoring power to all customers. That was frustrating for many of the company’s customers, the newspaper reported.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

New York Times

September 11, 2017

China’s Electric Car Push Lures Global Auto Giants, Despite Risks

Volkswagen, the German auto giant, is preparing for a swift expansion in its output of electric cars next year — and the biggest jump in production will be in China. General Motors is making China the hub of its electric car research and development. Renault-Nissan, the French and Japanese carmaker, and Ford Motor have hustled to set up joint electric-car ventures in China. Global automakers see the future of electric cars, and it looks Chinese. The biggest players are shifting crucial scientific and design work to China as the country invests heavily in car-charging stations and research and pushes automakers to embrace battery-powered vehicles. China underscored that ambition over the weekend, when it said it would eventually ban the sale of gasoline- and diesel-powered cars at an unspecified date.

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Texas Monthly

September 15, 2017

Electric Vehicles Have an Energy Problem—Hydrogen May Be the Answer

Globally, during the past decade, there has been significant investment to improve performance and reduce the cost of batteries. At the 2017 meeting of the World Economic Forum, thirteen companies including automakers Toyota, Honda, BMW, Daimler, and Hyundai, as well as oil companies Shell and Total, promised to invest about $1.5 billion per year to help drive down the cost of hydrogen. Texas’s natural resources make it a natural fit for hydrogen energy and vehicles. Our natural gas resources are an economical feedstock for hydrogen production. Curtailed wind power in West Texas could power the production of hydrogen for use in vehicles and other applications. And miles of hydrogen pipeline already exist along the Texas coast, which would ease distribution.

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Atlanta Business Journal

September 15, 2017

UPS inks deal as first U.S. customer of new all-electric truck fleet

UPS is charging forward on its green path, into the realm of electric vehicles. The Atlanta-based package delivery company is the U.S.'s first commercial customer for Daimler AG's new battery-powered FUSO eCanter, described as the world’s first series-produced all-electric light-duty truck. The United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS) announcement came during a global launch event Thursday in New York City. Daimler, a German multinational automotive corporation, said UPS will deploy three of the eCanter trucks, while four New York-based nonprofits will use eight electric trucks, each of which has a range of about 62 miles. The trucks are expected to be delivered to customers starting this year in the US, Europe and Japan.

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WTOP (Washington DC)

September 13, 2017

How solar power can protect the US military from threats to the electric grid

As the U.S. military increases its use of drones in surveillance and combat overseas, the danger posed by a threat back at home grows. Many drone flights are piloted by soldiers located in the U.S., even when the drones are flying over Yemen or Iraq or Syria. Those pilots and their control systems depend on the American electricity grid – large, complex, interconnected and very vulnerable to attack. Without electricity from civilian power plants, the most advanced military in world history could be crippled. The U.S. Department of Energy has begged for new authority to defend against weaknesses in the grid in a nearly 500-page comprehensive study issued in January 2017 warning that it’s only a matter of time before the grid fails, due to disaster or attack. A new study by a team I led reveals the three ways American military bases’ electrical power sources are threatened, and shows how the U.S. military could take advantage of solar power to significantly improve national security.

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Regulatory Stories

Houston Chronicle

September 15, 2017

EPA demands Valero records on Houston refinery emissions release

The enforcement division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is demanding Valero Energy's records and maintenance history related to a storage tank roof failure after Hurricane Harvey that released cancer-causing benzene and other volatile compounds into the air. The EPA records request to Valero - a response is legally required - comes as the EPA said San Antonio-based Valero Energy "significantly underestimated" the amount of benzene and other compounds leaked during Harvey's torrential rains. The letter shows the EPA is choosing to further investigate the accident near East Houston's Manchester neighborhood. Valero initially reported the Aug. 27 leak from a partially collapsed roof of a storage tank released an estimated 6.7 pounds of benzene and more than 3,350 pounds of unspecified volatile compounds. The EPA now says Valero believes it significantly underestimated the volumes leaked near the Manchester neighborhood.

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Dallas Morning News

September 15, 2017

Rick Perry: Harvey showed need for emergency oil stockpile that Trump wants to slash

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Friday that the recent hurricanes that battered the U.S. are a "good example of why we need an SPR" — the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that was tapped for millions of barrels of oil in the storms' aftermath. And the former Texas governor hinted that he may have doubts about a Trump administration proposal to slash that emergency stockpile in half. Perry said that President Donald Trump had asked "very, very good questions" about whether the reserve was properly structured and if its nearly 700 million barrels was the right amount. But the Texan also stressed that he "didn't write that budget" that proposed halving the stockpile.

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Reuters

September 15, 2017

U.S. majority backs military action vs. North Korea: Gallup poll

A majority of Americans support military action against North Korea if economic and diplomatic efforts fail, according to a Gallup poll released on Friday amid rising tension over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and recent missile launches. The survey of 1,022 U.S. adults last week found that 58 percent said they would favor military action against North Korea if the United States cannot accomplish its goals by more peaceful means first. Such support, however, was largely split along political party lines. Among Republicans, 82 percent would back military action compared with 37 percent among Democrats. Among political independents, 56 backed such action.

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Wired

September 15, 2017

Where do they put all that toxic hurricane debris?

Craft and other environmental advocates met with representatives of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality this week to talk about debris disposal. “It sounded like [the state] was relying on landfill operators to be vigilant,” Craft says. “The state does not do the best job of active surveillance. It’s nice to think that everyone is doing the right thing, but sometimes they don’t.” Case in point: Versailles, Louisiana. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Louisiana state environmental officials were so overwhelmed with construction debris that they opened up a new landfill next to the low-income Vietnamese community of Versailles.

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The Hill

September 15, 2017

Trump officials eying replacement for key Obama climate rule

The Trump administration is planning to pursue a less ambitious, more industry-friendly climate change rule for coal-fired power plants as it works to scrap the one written under former President Obama. Multiple sources familiar with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans say that as soon as next month, the EPA could put out a preliminary proposal for a rule to replace the Clean Power Plan. President Trump, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and others in the administration have long been critics of the Obama climate rule and are skeptical that human-produced emissions are changing the climate.

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September 15, 2017

Lead Stories

Politico

September 15, 2017

How Man-made Earthquakes Could Cripple the U.S. Economy

Dubbed the “Pipeline Crossroads of the World,” Cushing is the nexus of 14 major pipelines, including Keystone, which alone has the potential to transport as much as 600,000 barrels of oil a day. The small Oklahoma town is also home to the world’s largest store of oil, which sits in hundreds of enormous tanks there. Prior to this recent spate of natural disasters, Cushing oil levels were already high. They’ve increased nearly a million barrels, to nearly 60 million barrels, since Harvey hit. This concentration of oil, about 15 percent of U.S. demand, is one reason the Department of Homeland Security has designated Cushing “critical infrastructure,” which it defines as assets that, “whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.” The biggest potential cause of that incapacitation? According to Homeland Security, it’s not terrorism or mechanical malfunction. It’s natural disaster.

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San Antonio Express News

September 14, 2017

Valero, Magellan announce an $820 million fuels terminal

San Antonio-based refiner Valero Energy Corp. announced Thursday it will make a $410 million investment in a fuels terminal on the Houston Ship Channel. The $820 million project will be jointly paid for by Valero and Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Magellan Midstream Partners. The project will be jointly owned by Valero and Magellan through a limited liability company. The terminal is expected to be complete in early 2020 and will include 5 million barrels of gasoline and other fuels storage, two marine docks and truck loading facilities. “Demand for refined products from the Gulf Coast continues to grow, and together, we are well-positioned to continue expanding our marine capabilities to meet this demand from both domestic and international markets,” said Magellan Chairman and CEO Michael Mears in a press release.

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Wall St. Journal

September 14, 2017

Valero Houston Plant Underestimated Harvey Benzene Leak

The chemical plant that released a cloud of a carcinogenic chemical amid Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath in Houston’s Manchester neighborhood in August emitted far more of the chemical than it had previously disclosed, environmental regulators said Thursday. The plant, Valero Energy Partners ’ Houston refinery, suffered a hurricane-related spill Aug. 27 from the damaged roof of a light crude storage tank, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded in an investigation. Valero initially reported to the state that because of the spill, seven pounds of the carcinogenic chemical benzene were released into the air. Subsequently, Valero “has informed the EPA that it believes it significantly underestimated the amount of [volatile organic chemicals] and benzene released in its original report to the State of Texas Environmental Electronic Reporting System,” a state official said in an emailed statement Thursday.

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Politico

September 14, 2017

Trump may replace Obama's big climate rule — not just repeal it

The Trump administration is opening the door to offering its own replacement for former President Barack Obama's landmark climate regulation — rather than just erasing it altogether. A mend-it-don't-end-it approach on Obama's 2015 rule could appease power companies that say the EPA needs to impose some kind of climate regulation — even if it’s much weaker — to avoid triggering courtroom challenges that would cloud the industry in years of uncertainty. But it would run afoul of demands from some conservative activists, who have pressured EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to reject the idea that climate change is a problem requiring federal action. ... Myron Ebell, a climate skeptic from the Competitive Enterprise Institute who led Trump’s EPA transition team, has pushed for Pruitt to undo the agency’s 2009 determination — known as the “endangerment finding” — that climate change is a threat it’s obligated to regulate. But he said a replacement rule might be an "adequate stopgap." He said that if the courts ultimately find that a coal-plant-focused rule isn't enough to fulfill EPA's legal obligation, then "in order to keep the president's promise that we're going to get rid of these economically destructive rules, the only alternative they will have is to reopen the endangerment finding."

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

September 15, 2017

Oil prices holding gains as demand outlook brightens

A pump jack operates at a well site leased by Devon Energy Production Co. near Guthrie, Oklahoma. Nick Oxford | Reuters A pump jack operates at a well site leased by Devon Energy Production Co. near Guthrie, Oklahoma. Oil prices were lower on Friday but largely held gains that had prices flirting with multi-month highs, as the cleanup after hurricanes in the United States gathered pace and the outlook for demand took on a firmer tone. ... U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was down 15 cents, or 0.3 percent,at $49.74 a barrel at 0012 GMT. It briefly broke above $50 to a four-month high on Thursday and finished 1.2 percent higher at $49.89, its highest close since July 31. Brent crude futures were down 20 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $55.27 a barrel. They gained 0.6 percent to settle at $55.47 the previous session, the highest close since April 13.

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Dallas Morning News

September 14, 2017

Irving rattled by second earthquake in less than a month

A 2.6 magnitude earthquake that shook North Texas on Thursday morning was the second earthquake in Irving in less than a month, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake's epicenter was recorded at 11:45 a.m. off Luna Road, just south of Luna Vista Golf Course, according to data from Alexandros Savvaidis, a research scientist at the University of Texas' Bureau of Economic Geology who operates TexNet, the state's seismic network. North Texas' most recent earthquake before Thursday, with a measured magnitude of 3.1, happened Aug. 25 in the same vicinity.

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Reuters

September 14, 2017

Venezuela state oil firm's credit woes spread to U.S. unit Citgo

Washington’s recent sanctions against Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA have started to ensnare its U.S. unit, Citgo Petroleum, making it harder for the refiner to obtain the credit it needs to purchase crude, according to six traders and banking sources. Fewer oil providers are willing to sell cargoes to Citgo on open credit, instead requiring prepayment or bank letters of credit to supply its 749,000-barrel-per-day refining network, the sources said. Two sources at Canadian suppliers said their companies are no longer allowed to trade with Citgo directly, and have begun selling cargoes through third parties to avoid the credit risk. Citgo’s three U.S. refineries in Illinois, Texas and Louisiana account for about 4 percent of domestic fuel capacity, and are major suppliers of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

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Houston Chronicle

September 14, 2017

Magellan partners with Valero for Pasadena marine terminal near Houston

Magellan Midstream said it's partnering with Valero Energy to expand and own its new Pasadena marine storage terminal along the Houston Ship Channel. Oklahoma-based Magellan and San Antonio's Valero are two of the biggest energy players in the Houston area and both had issues with leaks or spills after Hurricane Harvey in the region. The $820 million Pasadena terminal mostly will store and handle fuel products like gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and more. The facility will be owned jointly by Magellan and Valero to initially include 5 million barrels of storage, truck-loading facilities and two ship docks.

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San Antonio Business Journal

September 12, 2017

Sentencings of Four Winds employees postponed as Uresti cases proceed

A federal judge has postponed the sentencings of three former employees of a defunct frac sand company linked to a criminal case involving Texas State Sen. Carlos Uresti. In a series of recent decisions, U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra postponed the sentencing of three former Four Winds employees — Shannon Smith, Eric Nelson and Laura Jacobs. Smith and Nelson were set to be sentenced on Monday while Jacobs was supposed to be sentenced later this month. Under Ezra's orders, Jacobs will be sentenced in December, Smith will be sentenced in April and Nelson in June.

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San Antonio Express News

September 14, 2017

Uresti, Alamo City Comic Con square off

State Sen. Carlos Uresti and Alamo City Comic Con creator Alfredo “Apple” De La Fuente are squaring off in a super slugfest. Bam! Kapow! Lawsuits! Alamo City Comic Con, which hosts an annual comics and pop-culture event that attracts thousands to the Convention Center — including many clad in costumes of their favorite characters, such as Wonder Woman and Darth Vader — sued Uresti last month for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty relating to legal and consulting services he provided the company. The San Antonio Democrat fired back last week with his own lawsuit, alleging fraud and breach of contract against Comic Con and De La Fuente. The legal fireworks come as Uresti fends off criminal charges in two unrelated federal cases. In the first, Uresti is charged in an 11-count indictment involving a now-defunct oil field services company accused of defrauding investors. Uresti served as FourWinds Logistics’ legal counsel for a short time and recruited investors.

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Oil & Gas Investor

September 13, 2017

Chevron Sells Shard Of Permian Basin Monolith To Sabinal Energy

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) has agreed to sell 64,500 net acres in the Central Basin Platform and Northern Shelf of West Texas—about 5% of its total Permian basin holdings—to private-equity backed E&P Sabinal Energy LLC. Sabinal Energy, backed by the Kayne Private Energy Income Fund LP, said Sept. 12 it acquired the assets producing about 7,500 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) in Hockley, Terry and Gaines counties, Texas. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but analysts estimated the acreage and production are worth roughly $400 million. Chevron has said it wants to sell up to 200,000 Permian acres—about 13% of its 1.5 million acres in the Midland and Delaware basins.

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San Antonio Express News

September 13, 2017

San Antonio pipeline company files to go public

San Antonio-based natural gas pipeline and storage company Howard Midstream Partners plans to go public with a $200 million initial public offering. Howard Midstream operates natural gas, natural gas liquids, and refined product midstream services in South Texas, Northeastern Pennsylvania and along the Texas Gulf Coast. It operates over 800 miles of natural gas and natural gas liquids pipelines. Most of them — 690 miles — are located in South Texas.

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Reuters

September 14, 2017

Shell Deer Park refinery production may resume by Friday - sources

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSa.L) may begin resuming production at its 325,700-barrel-per-day (bpd) joint-venture Deer Park, Texas, refinery as early as Friday, sources familiar with plant operations said on Thursday. Shell plans to begin putting crude oil into the 270,000-bpd DU-2 crude distillation unit, the larger of two at the plant, as early as Friday, the sources said. The refinery was shut on Aug. 27 by Tropical Storm Harvey. A Shell spokesman wasn’t immediately available to comment. Other production units will come on-line after DU-2 successfully resumes production, according to the sources.

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Houston Chronicle

September 14, 2017

Energy firms wrestle with setbacks from Harvey

By the time the storm lifted, floodwaters nearly crested over the top of the turnstiles in the lobby of BP's main office tower in Houston. Water filled the basement and brought down the electrical systems. Contract workers had to pile thousands of sandbags around the 949,000-square-foot building before they could begin pumping out the rushing water. Two weeks after one of the costliest storms in U.S. history moved out of the Houston area, BP executives don't know the full extent of the damage. But they do know this: their Westlake One office in Houston's Energy Corridor won't reopen until early 2018 and more than 2,000 of the British oil major's 5,500 local employees will work from home as the company makes repairs. "We just got back into the basement a few days ago," said John Mingé, chairman and president of BP America. "There are still pockets with water."

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Associated Press

September 14, 2017

Coast Guard: Most fuel spilled from tank farm unrecoverable

Less than 20 percent of a 461,000-gallon (1.7-million-liter) gasoline spill in Texas during Hurricane Harvey was recovered by the company responsible, while the rest evaporated or soaked into the ground, a U.S. Coast Guard official said Thursday. Only a minor amount of the spill appeared to have escaped past containment berms at the Magellan Midstream Partners storage tank farm in the Houston suburb of Galena Park, said Coast Guard Lt. Commander Jarod Toczko. It's the largest spill reported to date from the storm that made landfall in Texas last month. The Oklahoma-based company reported recovering about 2,000 barrels, or 84,000 gallons (320,000 liters), of gasoline in the days after the Aug. 31 spill, Toczko said. It's unknown how much of the fuel evaporated and how much seeped into the ground.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

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Houston Chronicle

September 13, 2017

Anxiety rising over fate of Mexico's energy reforms

After decades of banishment from Mexico's oil and gas fields, American companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron are becoming a presence there again. But just four years after Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto invited foreign companies into his country to help modernize its struggling energy industries, the rise of populist politics in Mexico is driving concerns about the future of reforms that ended the national oil company's monopoly and opened markets to competition. With the U.S. and Mexican governments renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, oil and gas companies, as well as the Pena Nieto administration, are pressing for protections in the treaty against any future efforts in Mexico to push out foreign oil companies.

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San Antonio Express News

September 14, 2017

Valero CEO calls last three weeks “pretty brutal” for Valero

The CEO of San Antonio-based refiner Valero Energy Corp. said Thursday that Hurricane Harvey caused “a pretty brutal three week period for us.” Joe Gorder said Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi on August 25, and moved up the Texas Gulf Coast to Houston and Beaumont-Port Arthur, affected operations at five of the company’s refineries, shutting down three and leading two to run at reduced rates. Gorder spoke at the first CEO Leadership Luncheon hosted by the Free Trade Alliance at Valero’s headquarters. Gorder commended the efforts of Valero’s employees who worked to protect the company’s refineries from storm related damage, including those that tried to and ultimately failed to prevent flooding at the Valero’s Port Arthur refinery.

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Houston Chronicle

September 5, 2017

Tomlinson: After Harvey, Houston needs petrochemicals more than ever

Imagine cleaning up after Harvey without plastic garbage cans, plastic bags, chlorine bleach or diesel fuel. How about rebuilding a house without insulated copper wire, wet-space drywall, paint or power tools. The explosions and fires at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby were a terrifying reminder of the dangerous chemicals and processes involved in making plastics and coatings. The flames jetting from the flare stacks along the Houston Ship Channel are menacing, and the black smoke billowing into the sky is ominous. Those facilities, though, make the building blocks for our homes, and without them, recovering from a hurricane would be impossible. Yet we take them for granted.

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San Angelo Standard-Times

September 12, 2017

San Angelo becomes new home to manufacturing corporation

Dragon PES Inc. announced Monday, Sept. 11, its acquisition of a 19-acre production tank manufacturing plant in San Angelo, bringing new manufacturing jobs to the area. The plant, previously owned by National Oilwell Varco, has sat empty for nearly two years, following NOV’s exit from San Angelo after oil prices dropped dramatically in late 2014. Michael Looney, economic development vice president for San Angelo’s Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber began working closely with the listing agent to fill that space and is excited to bring Dragon to the community. He said bringing in a fabrication company like Dragon will be more beneficial to the city’s economy than a drilling company would be.

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KOSA

September 13, 2017

Halliburton hiring hundreds as oil prices stay low

The price of oil is struggling to reach $50 per barrel, but that's not stopping oil companies across the basin from hiring hundreds of employees. Oil service company Halliburton says they’ve hired 100 employees each month from the beginning of the year until now. For the company, that’s a 35% increase in employees in the Permian Basin. "They're taking their drilling budgets from elsewhere in the country and concentrating in the Permian Basin," Financial expert Mickey Cargile said.

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Associated Press

September 14, 2017

Higher gas, housing costs lift U.S. consumer prices 0.4% in August

Higher gas and housing costs boosted U.S. consumer prices 0.4% in August, the most in seven months. The increase suggests inflation could be picking up, but the figures may have been distorted by Hurricane Harvey. Consumer prices climbed 1.9% last month compared with a year earlier, the Labor Department said Thursday, up from an annual gain of 1.7% in August and the second straight increase. Excluding volatile energy and food costs, prices rose 0.2% in August and 1.7% from a year earlier. The government said Harvey had a "very small effect" on its ability to gather data. But it would not say whether last month's gas price increase resulted from the storm. Harvey disrupted oil refineries on the Gulf Coast and pushed up average gas prices nationwide, though the increase occurred at the end of the month. The government collects price data throughout the month.

This article appeared in USA Today

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Bloomberg

September 6, 2017

Ashworth: No Oil, No Credit History, No Problem

Tajikistan, the poorest state in central Asia, is trying for its first international bond deal. After a few false starts over the years, this time it might pull it off -- showing emerging market investor caution is being thrown to the wind. Or in this case, water.The deal will finance construction of the world's tallest dam and the largest hydroelectric power station in central Asia. That could lead to energy independence and overseas income from electricity exports to neighboring Pakistan and Afghanistan. Excellent news for the issuer.The country has said it wants to issue benchmark bonds maturing in 10 years. If the order book is sufficient for $1 billion of debt, the deal would almost certainly enter J.P. Morgan's Emerging Market Bond Index. That would make it a must-buy for most emerging-focused funds.

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Fronteras

September 8, 2017

Mexico Fishermen Concerned About How Natural Gas Pipeline Will Impact Their Livelihood

On a fishing raft, just off a small port city in the Gulf of Mexico called Tuxpan, is Joel Franco Cruz.. He’s 70 years old. He says he’s been fishing his whole life, and he’s gonna keep on doing it until he can’t. His gear includes a rubber overall to guard himself from the mud. And his crew is his brother, his son and his grandson. Their raft is called The Friendly. Because we’re friendly with everybody, he says. He’s a lot less enthusiastic about the current construction of an underwater pipeline to transport natural gas from Texas to Mexico’s central gulf coast.

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American Security News

September 11, 2017

Hurricane Harvey raises questions about Gulf Coast concentration of energy infrastructure

Hurricane Harvey could have been worse for energy refining and distribution, and would have been if it hit a decade ago, according to an activist with a veterans' group that lobbies for increased energy independence. Retired U.S. Army Capt. James McCormick, program director of Vets4Energy, said fracking and shale energy has provided the U.S. with alternative sources, but more is needed to be done to beef up oil refining and pipeline infrastructure, he told American Security News. A Wall Street Journal article said the U.S. has 141 operable oil refineries today, 79 fewer than three decades ago, and noted that many of the facilities are concentrated on the Gulf Coast. One of the reasons for this concentration of refining capacity is because Texas and Louisiana are so welcoming to energy companies. "A decade ago, such a storm would have taken a much larger toll on our country’s energy supply," McCormick said. "Hydraulic fracturing and shale energy have given us alternative choices as parts of Texas temporarily went offline."

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Utilities Stories

Amarillo Globe News

September 12, 2017

Study shows Xcel Energy pricing is below state average

The price gap between Texas’ competitive and non-competitive energy areas is shrinking, but Xcel Energy rates remain lower than the statewide average. A Texas Coalition for Affordable Power study found energy prices have risen in single-provider areas over the last 10 years while dropping in the 85 percent of the state that is deregulated. Residential power is still about 1.8 cents per kilowatt-hour more expensive in deregulated markets than in the Texas Panhandle, down from a 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour difference in 2006. Deregulated areas comprise most of Texas outside of the Panhandle, South Plains and certain cities such as El Paso and Austin. They allow energy companies to vie for customers’ business in a free market overseen by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT.

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Platts

September 12, 2017

Natural gas supplies half of ERCOT demand in August; nuclear share rises

Natural-gas fired generation took up half of the fuel mix in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in August after topping 50% in July, an almost two-year high, with more nuclear generation in the stack due to fewer nuclear outages than in July, according to ERCOT's monthly demand and energy report. Natural gas-fired generation supplied 50% of the total demand in August, after reaching 50.6% in July, compared with the year-ago level of 49.1%. Before July, the last time natural gas supplied half or more of ERCOT's power was in August 2015, at 51.2%. Natural gas has topped in the fuel stack for six of the first eight months of the year, second to coal only in January and April, ERCOT said in the report, issued Monday.

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Daily Caller

September 13, 2017

Ukraine Just Got Its First Shipment Of US Coal

Ukraine received its first shipment of anthracite coal from the U.S. Wednesday, part of an $80 billion deal between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. This shipment carried 62,000 tonnes of the total 700,000 tonnes set to be delivered to Ukraine by the end of the year, the Financial Times reports. “As agreed with President Trump, first American coal has reached Ukraine. It is a significant contribution to our energy security and a vivid proof of mutually beneficial strategic cooperation between our two nations,” Poroshenko wrote in a Facebook post. “While it continues to steal Ukrainian coal from Ukrainian Donbas, Russia has lost yet another tool for its energy blackmailing.”

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Renewables Now

September 14, 2017

Shell closes buy of US power firm MP2

Shell Energy North America (SENA) has closed the acquisition of US retail electricity and power management services provider MP2 Energy LLC, the buyer said on Wednesday. MP2 provides consulting, development and installation services for renewable energy projects, mainly wind and solar, and supplies power in the states of Texas, Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania. It also offers power plant management and asset management solutions for the power market.

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Reuters

September 12, 2017

Citing cost drop, U.S. government shifts focus of solar funding

The cost of solar energy has hit a U.S. government target three years ahead of schedule, prompting the Energy Department to change the focus of its solar program to integrating higher levels of the renewable power technology with the power grid. The DOE’s SunShot Initiative, launched in 2011 by the administration of President Barack Obama, set a goal of reducing the price of utility-scale solar to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2020. The cost at that time was about 28 cents per kwh. On Tuesday, DOE officials said its target has been met, largely due to a sharp drop in the cost of solar panels. Residential and commercial solar are about 90 percent of the way toward meeting their cost reduction targets.

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Inverse

September 12, 2017

How Drones Could Shape the Next Generation of Solar Power Cells

Sam Stranks and his team at the University of Cambridge hope they’re on the brink of a revolution in solar technology. For decades, silicon has been the most popular material used to make solar power cells, successfully moving solar from alternative energy into the mainstream. But it’s not a perfect material: It’s heavy and rigid, limiting its potential uses, not to mention it’s expensive to produce. That’s where Stranks hope a common mineral called perovskite can change the game for solar energy. “Perovskite has the potential to be a very low-cost replacement for silicon,” he tells Inverse. “You can do a lot more with these perovskites than you can do with silicon. It opens up a whole new range of applications.” Its flexibility and light weight mean perovskite could turn the solar roof market into one for solar tarps, but Stranks sets his sights higher — literally.

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Philadelphia Inquirer

September 5, 2017

Can this giant turbine turn the tide for ocean energy?

SAINT JOHN, New Brunswick — The next great hope for renewable energy is moored to a dock in this Canadian port city. It resembles a beached Ferris wheel. Designed to capture the power of the legendary tides of the Bay of Fundy, the 52-foot-diameter Cape Sharp Tidal turbine endured the winter and spring on the seabed in Nova Scotia, generating electricity. Now in port for upgrades, the 1,100-ton machine looks as if it has survived a couple rounds with a powerful adversary. Its paint is slightly worn. Fierce Fundy currents ripped away the metal anodes attached to the machine’s rotating rim. But the turbine survived, which is an improvement over an earlier model’s performance. “This was the first machine that was able to generate power for that amount of time in that environment, so it was a resounding success,” said Christian Richard, director of Cape Sharp Tidal, a joint venture between Nova Scotia energy company Emera Inc. and the Irish turbine manufacturer OpenHydro.

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The Hill

September 8, 2017

Peacock: Eliminating renewable energy subsidies is key to increasing prosperity

Residential electricity prices have steadily increased for years, up more than 15 percent in the United States (not including Texas) since 2004. A newly released U.S. Department of Energy report on electricity markets and reliability makes it clear that renewable energy subsidies are contributing significantly to the increasing cost—and the decreasing reliability—of the national electric grid. Yet the report stops short of making the most obvious recommendations to address this challenge—eliminating the subsidies and forcing renewable energy generators to pay for the costs they impose on the grid because of their intermittency and unreliability. Unless the federal government and the states eliminates these policies, we will find ourselves suffering through energy poverty—a sharply reduced standard of living caused by high energy costs—in the future.

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Regulatory Stories

Houston Chronicle

September 14, 2017

Abbott announces home repair plan as Turner names recovery czar

Former Shell Oil Co. president Marvin Odum, a Houston native, will lead the city's recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Thursday. Turner said he wants Odum to push local leaders out of their comfort zones, not only coordinating with public officials and leaders from the business and nonprofit sectors, but also highlighting what steps the city must take before the next storm strikes. "I'm not looking for a report. We have a whole lot of reports," Turner said. "What I'm asking Marvin to do is to push us forward, to be a part of the rebuilding process, to push us to do more at all levels, to push us to make this city more resilient." Meanwhile, in Austin, Gov. Greg Abbott tapped Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush to head the state's housing recovering from Harvey.

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Texas Tribune

September 15, 2017

Ahead of 2019 session, Speaker Joe Straus orders Texas House to research Harvey issues

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus ordered House committees Thursday to research a list of issues related to Hurricane Harvey so lawmakers could be prepared to tackle them during the next legislative session. The Legislature meets every two years for 140 days and isn't scheduled to meet again until 2019. In the periods in between sessions, the House speaker and lieutenant governor typically direct committees of the House and Senate, respectively, to research a list of policy issues. "We know that this is not going to be a normal legislative interim," Straus said in a statement. "Hurricane Harvey has devastated our state and upended the lives of millions of Texans.

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NASDAQ

September 14, 2017

Six companies buy oil from U.S. emergency crude reserve

Six companies bought 14 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve in a sale required by law to help fund medical research and the federal government, said the Department of Energy on Thursday. BP Oil Supply, Exxon Mobil Corp, Phillips 66, Shell Trading, Valero Marketing and Supply Company, and Macquarie Commodities Trading bought oil from the reserve, which is held in salt caverns on the Texas and Louisiana coasts.

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Texas Tribune

September 14, 2017

Independent Monitors Found Benzene Levels After Harvey Six Times Higher Than Guidelines

As a longtime resident of Manchester, Guadalupe Hernandez is used to the chemical smells that waft through his southeast Houston, Texas neighborhood, a low-income, predominantly Hispanic community near a Valero Energy refinery. But when Hurricane Harvey blew in the weekend of Aug. 26, the stench became noticeably stronger for about five hours, a scent like “glue or boiled eggs,” he said. The Environmental Protection Agency has assured the public they looked into complaints in the area a week after the storm hit, and spent several days taking air pollution measurements with a mobile laboratory. The agency didn’t release any specifics, but said concentrations of several toxic chemicals, including the carcinogen benzene, met Texas health guidelines. Now, environmental advocacy groups have shared their own, detailed data with ProPublica and the Texas Tribune, based on air sampling from the same Manchester streets over six days. It shows a more nuanced picture than the one given by the EPA: in numerous locations, benzene levels, though under the Texas threshold of 180 parts per billion, far exceeded California’s guidelines, which is 23 times more stringent and is well-respected by health advocates nationwide.

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Dallas Morning News

September 14, 2017

Could futuristic travel end up in Dallas? Hyperloop company is considering it

Dallas has one more mode of futuristic transportation to dream about, along with bullet trains and flying Uber cars. It's made the short list for Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles-based company that wants to replace long flights and road trips with a quick ride through a low-pressure tube. The Texas route is one of 10 routes that the company is considering, according to a Thursday news release. It would cover about 640 miles and connect Dallas-Fort Worth to Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Laredo. Hyperloop One launched a contest in May 2016, asking individuals, universities, companies and governments to submit proposals for routes in their region. The company narrowed the field from hundreds of applicants to 10 teams.

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Washington Examiner

September 6, 2017

Hanna: The federal government's myopic energy strategy is still picking winners and losers

While President Trump promotes a much-needed agenda of lower taxes and job creation, Congress must do its share by addressing a critical issue regarding tax incentives. In 2015, Congress decided to change course on tax incentives for promising energy technologies by picking winners (primarily solar businesses) while taking away incentives from other industries, including fuel cells powered by refined natural gas and hydrogen. This was a very short-sighted decision, as fuel cell technology could revolutionize the way American power is generated within a few years. The time has come for Congress to fix the practice of arbitrarily picking winners and losers between energy sectors such as solar at the expense of an even more promising energy future. Yet in December 2015, Congress passed legislation which extended investment tax credits for solar companies until 2024 while letting incentives for other technologies such as fuel cells lapse. This short-sighted policy decision has unfairly punished fuel cells and other energy technologies to the benefit of an industry that has been dominated by China and contributes a negligible amount to our national power grid.

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NextGov

September 14, 2017

Energy doles out $33 million to help grid withstand cyber and physical attacks

The Energy Department announced a roughly $33 million investment Tuesday in seven projects aimed at securing the electric grid against cyberattacks, physical attacks and weather disasters. The projects are designed both to make grid systems more secure against cyberattacks and to improve their ability to withstand a cyberattack, according to a department fact sheet. One project, the Grid Resilience and Intelligence Platform, or GRIP, uses artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to help grid systems recover more quickly from cyber and physical destruction.

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Bloomberg

September 15, 2017

North Korea Puts Guam in Range With Missile Launch Over Japan

North Korea’s second missile launch over Japan in as many months flew far enough to put the U.S. territory of Guam in range, a provocation that comes days after the United Nations approved harsher sanctions against Kim Jong Un’s regime. The intermediate-range missile fired from Pyongyang at 6:57 a.m. on Friday flew over the northern island of Hokkaido, reaching an altitude of 770 kilometers (478 miles) before landing in the Pacific Ocean. It traveled 3,700 kilometers -- further than the 3,400 kilometers from Pyongyang to Guam, which North Korea has repeatedly threatened. “The range of this test was significant since North Korea demonstrated that it could reach Guam with this missile, although the payload the missile was carrying is not known,” David Wright, a co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in a blog post.

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Houston Chronicle

September 7, 2017

HC: Let Crosby be a lesson: Chemical plants need to reveal their inventories

Crosby is a community where people are accustomed to living around industrial plants, but now even these usually tolerant Texans are downright mad about the catastrophe caused by a chemical plant explosion that happened in the middle of the biggest natural disaster in their town's history. Amid last week's flooding, everybody living within a 1.5 mile radius of Crosby's Arkema chemical plant was forced to evacuate just before at least two tons of volatile organic peroxides exploded and caught fire. The whole world watched on television as flames shot up from the floodwaters that inundated Crosby. That calamity was bad enough, but company officials ignited their own firestorm by cloaking their plant's inventory in secrecy. And the blame for keeping the public in the dark is shared by our state's top elected leader.

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Utility Dive

September 11, 2017

DOE grid study offers no panaceas to struggling nuclear and coal plants

Ignore all the sectarian sniping and prepackaged posturing so far. The DOE Staff Report on Electricity Markets and Reliability did something remarkable in an age of ideologized energy policy: It made modest observations about the difficulties in electric markets, and made modest suggestions about how things might be improved. The report identified no panaceas to save nuclear, coal and other high-fixed cost baseload plants under current market rules; nor did it pronounce the end of renewables and demand-side efficiency mandates. It provides a service, however, by showing that the nation’s energy policy goals contradict each other and, are, indeed, often at cross-purposes. The problems arise in energy regulatory policy that presumes to have consonant goals of affordability, reliability and sustainability, but in fact does creates problems. This issue occurs both in the organized markets and vertically integrated regions.

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Dallas Morning News

September 6, 2017

Loftis: Was Harvey caused by climate change? Maybe

A hurricane is a crowded canvas that still has blank spaces where we add our own personal pictures. We must paint them. We do it to reconcile our usually ordered lives with the killing chaos of a massive storm. When all seems filled with doom, we still find room for accounts of heroism amid loss and hope against despair. Humanity can't just shrug and accept all destruction as inevitable if unfair — especially if we can find better answers. If there's a way around it, we need to find it. It's our way. We try to find solutions. A storm like Hurricane Harvey — and Harvey's approaching sibling, Hurricane Irma — should get us thinking anew about controlling floods, the places where we live and work, keeping our coasts safe and how we respond when emergencies come. And climate change.

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Bloomberg

September 13, 2017

Flynn Omitted a Saudi Nuclear Project in Filing, Democrats Say

Two top House Democrats allege that retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn illegally omitted reporting a 2015 Middle East business trip and other foreign contacts on his security clearance forms. Flynn, President Donald Trump’s initial national security adviser, apparently failed to disclose private travel and meetings tied to a plan financed jointly by Russia and Saudi Arabia to build nuclear power plants across the region when he applied for government clearance, the lawmakers said. “It appears that General Flynn violated federal law by omitting this trip and these foreign contacts from his security clearance renewal application in 2016 and concealing them from security clearance investigators who interviewed him as part of the background check process,” Representatives Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Eliot Engel of New York wrote in a letter released Wednesday.

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September 14, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle

September 13, 2017

Like Strait of Hormuz, Gulf Coast energy hub is now “too important to fail,” IEA says

Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma could cut U.S. oil demand up to 800,000 barrels a day in September, even as the Gulf Coast's shuttered refineries bring petroleum product stockpiles in a large swath of the world closer to normal levels. In a monthly report released Wednesday, the International Energy Agency examined how the second-costliest U.S. storm impacted the global energy complex, arguing the effects of shutting down the Texas refining industry for several weeks could soon all but evaporate the world's glut of gasoline and other fuels. The Paris-based agency noted fuel inventories in OECD counties are only 35 million barrels above the five-year average and said it believes the current constraints on fuel supplies in the United States could bring that figure below that level soon.

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Oil Price

September 10, 2017

The U.S. Oil Patch Has A Serious Cybersecurity Problem

Cybersecurity firm Symantec reports that dedicated hackers have been able to control operational software at American and European oil and gas companies, according to a new report by CNBC. The hackers’ tactics include a variant of malicious software we are all familiar with: phish-friendly emails with a malevolent true purpose. So far, companies in the United States, Turkey, and Switzerland have already been targeted by the email campaigns, Symantec said. Dragonfly is likely the main culprit behind these attacks. The report said a foreign government is hiring the hacker group’s services to target energy hotspots as part of underground geopolitical warfare. The attacks began in late 2015, but have become more frequent, especially during April of this year, Symantec researcher Eric Chien told an interviewer on Wednesday.

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Bloomberg

September 7, 2017

We’re Going to Need More Lithium

Starting about two years ago, fears of a lithium shortage almost tripled prices for the metal, to more than $20,000 a ton, in just 10 months. The cause was a spike in the market for electric vehicles, which were suddenly competing with laptops and smartphones for lithium ion batteries. Demand for the metal won’t slacken anytime soon—on the contrary, electric car production is expected to increase more than thirtyfold by 2030, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Rest assured, Earth has the lithium. The next dozen years will drain less than 1 percent of the reserves in the ground, BNEF says. But battery makers are going to need more mines to support their production, and they’ll have to build them much more quickly than anyone thought.

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Texas Tribune

September 13, 2017

Houston's 'flood czar' says Harvey has brought the city to a decision point on flood control

When we caught up with Houston's newly-appointed "flood czar" last year, he told us he had no money and no staff. That's still largely the case, Stephen Costello told us in an interview on Tuesday at his Houston City Hall office. He now has one paid staff member. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey's record floods, the city of Houston is poised to receive billions — maybe even tens of billions — of recovery dollars in the coming years that may cover significant improvements to the city's woefully inadequate drainage system as well as other projects to reduce flooding. And Costello said on Tuesday that he expects to play a key role in deciding how that money will be spent.

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KUT

September 13, 2017

3 Ways Texas Could Safeguard Against Toxic Emissions During The Next Major Storm

A lot of the spilled fuel came from Magellan Midstream Partners storage tanks that were damaged in the storm near the Houston Ship Channel. Kara Cook-Schultz, director of the toxics program at the Texas Public Interest Research Group, says flood-proofing could be the most effective policy change going forward. “Oil and gasoline tanks are not required to be flood-proofed,” she said. She argues that if the state or federal government mandated flood-proofing for fuel storage tanks, it would be “a legal requirement that every company has to follow.” Cook-Schultz and others say flood-proofing might have been useful in the Arkema plant explosion, as well.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

September 14, 2017

Oil holds gains, buoyed by hopes for robust demand

Oil prices on Thursday held most of their gains of around 2 percent from the previous session, buoyed after the International Energy Agency raised its forecast for growth in global oil demand. London Brent crude for November delivery was down 11 cents at $55.05 a barrel by 0035 GMT, after settling Wednesday up 89 cents, or 1.6 percent. NYMEX crude for October delivery was down 4 cents at $49.26, after ending the last session up $1.07, or 2.2 percent.

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MarketWatch

September 13, 2017

EIA reports smaller-than-expected rise in U.S. crude supplies, output climbs

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration Wednesday showed that domestic crude supplies climbed by 5.9 million barrels for the week ended Sept. 8. That's below the forecast for a rise of 10.1 million barrels by analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts. The American Petroleum Institute had reported late Tuesday an increase of 6.2 million barrels, according to sources. But the EIA also reported that total domestic crude output rose by 572,000 barrels a day to 9.35 million barrels.

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Wall St. Journal

September 13, 2017

Global Oil Supply Edged Lower in August

Global oil supply fell in August for the first time in four months, a result of Hurricane Harvey, declining OPEC output and summer production maintenance, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday. In its closely watched monthly report, the IEA said oil supply had come down by 720,000 barrels a day last month from July, to 97.7 million barrels a day. However, that was still 1.2 million barrels a day more than during the same period a year prior. Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in the U.S. Gulf Coast late last month before being downgraded to a tropical storm, disrupted around 200,000 barrels a day of crude oil production in August, the report said. The agency expects that figure to rise to 300,000 barrels a day in September.

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Houston Chronicle

September 13, 2017

CenterPoint's Enable Midstream buying Dallas company for $300M

CenterPoint Energy's Enable Midstream joint venture said it's buying a Dallas pipeline company, Align Midstream, for $300 million. Oklahoma City-based Enable is the pipeline and processing joint venture controlled by Houston's CenterPoint and Oklahoma's OGE Energy. Enable is buying Align from the Dallas private equity firm Tailwater Capital.

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NASDAQ

September 13, 2017

ConocoPhillips (COP) Restores Texas Production Post Harvey

Upstream player ConocoPhillips COP has fully recovered from the after effects of tropical storm Harvey and production from its Eagle Ford field has been restored to previous level of about 130 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day (MBOED). Earlier the company had forecasted production for third quarter and full-year 2017 in the range of 1,170-1,210 MBOED and 1,340-1,370 MBOED, respectively. These projections, which exclude Libya and reflect expected impacts from the San Juan, Barnett and Panhandle dispositions, remain unaltered.

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Houston Chronicle

September 13, 2017

Galena Park gasoline spill dwarfed other Harvey leaks, but stayed out of public eye for days

Federal and state agencies took almost two weeks to publicly acknowledge the extent of the spill that had occurred in a storage tank complex operated by Oklahoma pipeline company Magellan Midstream Partners. Magellan employees notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Coast Guard, the Railroad Commission of Texas and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, but the only public record were entries in databases available on the internet. Both the Railroad Commission and Commission on Environmental Quality said they were aware of the spill, but did not publicize it. The Railroad Commission said it did not include the Galena Park release on its list of spills attributed to Hurricane Harvey because it was within the jurisdiction of other agencies. The Galena Park spill was more than five times as big as all the other reported spills in Texas combined.

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Dallas Morning News

September 13, 2017

Dallas energy company sells for $300 million to OKC firm

A Dallas-based midstream company is being sold by its private equity owner for $300 million to an Oklahoma City firm. Tailwater Capital announced the sale of Dallas' Align Midstream LLC on Tuesday. The buyer is Enable Midstream Partners LP, a pipeline and processing joint venture between CenterPoint Energy of Houston and OGE Energy of Oklahoma. Align operates primarily in East Texas and North Louisiana. Its assets include a natural gas processing plant in Panola, Texas, and 190 miles of pipelines across Rusk, Panola and Shelby counties in Texas and DeSoto Parish in Louisiana.

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Morningstar

September 13, 2017

Meats: All Roads Point to Crude Oversupply in 2018

Crude oil fundamentals look healthier than they’ve been for years, largely thanks to voluntary curtailments from OPEC and its partners. By giving up 1.8 million barrels a day, this group has engineered a supply shortage to realign global inventories with the long-term average before the cuts expire in March 2018. But the decline will be short-lived if the cartel restores full production after that, as we expect in our base case. The alternative--another extension--is risky for the cartel. It would encourage additional growth from rivals, like the United States, that are willing and able to fill the void. So even if full compliance can be assumed--hardly a foregone conclusion--then extending the cuts again only kicks the can down the road.

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Oil Price

September 13, 2017

The Most Bullish Oil Report This Year

Despite the huge uncertainties related to the two massive hurricanes that hit the U.S., the global oil market looks tighter than it has in a long time, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. Global oil supply fell in August for the first time in four months, the IEA said, a result of a dip in OPEC’s oil production, combined with refinery maintenance and sizable outages from Hurricane Harvey. World oil supply fell by 720,000 barrels per day (bpd) in August compared to July, a significant decline that will aid in the market’s progress towards rebalancing. Multiple outages contributed to the decline in global output. Hurricane Harvey resulted in U.S. oil production falling by 200,000 bpd in August—outages that occurred mostly in the Eagle Ford shale and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. But OPEC also saw its collective output fall by 210,000 bpd in August, mainly from disruptions in Libya.

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San Antonio Express News

September 13, 2017

NuStar’s terminal in the Caribbean damaged by Irma

San Antonio-based pipeline and storage company NuStar Energy LP said Wednesday that its St. Eustatius terminal took damage from Hurricane Irma, which ripped through the Caribbean and devastated the neighboring island of Barbuda. NuStar spokesman Chris Cho said Wednesday that a number of tanks and other equipment sustained damage from Irma. “Despite the damage and major clean-up effort, we feel like we fared very well considering the significant power of the storm,” Cho said by email. He added that there were no spills and that all employees were safe and accounted for. The company does not yet have reopening date for the terminal.

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Wall St. Journal

September 12, 2017

Hurricanes Add to Problems for Oil Bulls

The havoc wreaked by major summer storms stands to deepen a global crude-supply glut that has depressed oil prices for more than three years. By paralyzing giant swaths of the southern U.S. ranging from Texas to South Carolina for days at a time, hurricanes Harvey and Irma will dent energy demand from consumers and refiners even as drilling continues and crude in storage is abundant. The effect, analysts say, will be to push millions more barrels of crude oil into oil caverns and floating tankers at a time when storage is already in heavy use. That will undermine efforts by producers such as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to “rebalance” the market by cutting output.

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Dallas Morning News

September 8, 2017

Webber: How the Texas energy industry should move forward after Harvey

Over the course of a few days and several feet of rain thanks to Hurricane Harvey, we learned a lot about how our energy situation has changed in Texas. Because of the Shale Revolution, we've shifted from being the world's largest importer of crude oil and refined products, such as gasoline, to being the world's largest exporter of it. And recently we even started exporting crude oil after a four-decade pause, and we flipped from being an importer of liquefied natural gas to being an exporter of it. That means impacts have also shifted. When we were the world's largest importer, global risk became a local problem. Our prices would spike here because of a storm or civil unrest elsewhere. But today it's the other way around: Flooding in Texas affects energy supplies elsewhere.

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Brownsville Herald

September 9, 2017

LNG company says concerns are misplaced

Industrial Energy Consumers of America, a trade group representing U.S. manufacturers, says exporting too much domestically produced natural gas to countries that don’t have free-trade agreements with the United States will jeopardize this country’s supply of natural gas and cause prices to skyrocket. However, curtailing those exports runs counter to the stated intentions of the Trump administration to approve all non-FTA export applications and the wishes of companies planning to build liquefied natural gas export terminals at the Port of Brownsville. A spokesman for Rio Grande LNG, the largest of those companies, characterized IECA as a special interest group whose criticism is misplaced and ignores the overall economic benefits of increasing LNG exports.

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Energy Business Review

September 11, 2017

Santa Fe Midstream breaks ground on natural gas facility in Permian Basin

Santa Fe Midstream has broken ground on a natural gas facility in the San Andres formation in the Permian Basin in West Texas. The natural gas facility, which will come up near Denver City, will be used for natural gas gathering, treating and processing. Santa Fe says that the initial natural gas facilities will commence operations by the second quarter of next year. The Texas-based Santa Fe is also building a crude oil gathering system in the region. Its natural gas and crude oil midstream facilities will be built in the Texan counties of Yoakum, Cochran and Gaines along with Lea County in New Mexico.

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Bloomberg

September 13, 2017

Seadrill Files for Bankruptcy in Bid to Shrink Debt Burden

Seadrill Ltd., the offshore driller controlled by billionaire John Fredriksen, filed for bankruptcy protection after working out a deal with almost all its senior lenders to inject $1 billion of new money into the company. Under the proposal, lenders will extend the maturity on $5.7 billion in debt, with no amortization payments due until 2020. Should lower-ranking creditors join the proposal, $2.3 billion in unsecured bonds would be converted into a 15 percent stake in the company, Seadrill said in a statement. “The deal gives us a great liquidity cushion,” allowing Seadrill to survive the “mother of all downturns,” Chief Executive Officer Anton Dibowitz said by phone. The new capital is “underpinned” by top shareholder Hemen Holding Ltd. and more than 40 percent of bondholders support the plan along with 97 percent of Seadrill’s secured bank lenders, he said. Dibowitz expects more bondholders to sign up to the deal.

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CNBC

September 13, 2017

US shale oil and gas investors are on a 'road to ruin,' warns renowned short seller Jim Chanos

Jim Chanos' Kynikos Associates is betting against a number of U.S. shale oil and gas stocks, saying Wall Street analysis of the sector is deeply flawed. Investors are taking for granted accounting methods that mask problems with the fundamental business model in the U.S. shale patch, Chanos warned during a speech Tuesday at CNBC's and Institutional Investor's Delivering Alpha conference. Their focus on certain metrics is causing them to overlook hidden threats that will leave drillers with skimpier returns than investors are anticipating, he said. "In our view, people have been looking at this industry through the rose-colored glasses of Wall Street. And this is the inherent problem with the North American shale business," he said.

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Modesto Bee

September 13, 2017

Oil sanctions against Venezuela less likely after Harvey and Irma, sources say

The White House has now tabled, at least temporarily, any discussion of oil sanctions against Venezuela, due in part to worries that cutting fuel supplies would only hurt Americans struggling after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, according to two sources familiar with the planning. “The White House is eager to tighten the noose on Maduro, but not at the expense of American motorists,” said a former National Security Council official familiar with the planning. According to a senior administration official, Trump’s team wants see how the last round of sanctions affects Caracas. And before moving on oil sanctions, that official said Washington also would need to determine how such a punishment would hurt the U.S. oil industry and gasoline consumers, still reeling from Harvey and Irma.

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San Antonio Express News

September 8, 2017

Facebook, Twitter fuel Texas #gasshortage as social media fans fears

Last week’s run on gas in Texas was rooted in an old fashioned disruption in supply, exacerbated by modern technology as news of a #gasshortage spread like wildfire across Twitter and Facebook. What began as a relatively minor supply issue as the last remnants of Hurricane Harvey hung over Houston on Aug. 30, exploded into full-blown panic buying that helped propel national prices up by an average of 27 cents a gallon and left more than 91 percent of all gas stations in San Antonio empty within three days. ... “San Antonio is tight on infrastructure any way,” said Alan Cerwick, a former Valero Energy Corp. executive and owner of VP Racing Fuels, a local company that makes 80 specialty fuels. Most of San Antonio, Austin and Waco get their fuel from refineries in Corpus Christi, he said. As stations ran out of fuel in the real world, word of the gas shortage spread like wildfire online and sent people in droves to buy gas. “A little bit of a supply shortage, with a lot of hoarding, makes for a big problem here in San Antonio. It will take a while to catch up,” Cerwick said.

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Oil Price

September 13, 2017

Unknown Oil & Gas Deal Just Changed The Global Energy Balance

One of the biggest energy stories this year has been Russia’s Rosneft buying India’s Essar Oil — giving the Russian company a firm grip on one of the world’s biggest emerging oil and gas markets. And this past week, that story got more complex. With Rosneft striking another big deal — drawing in another heavyweight energy nation. China. Rosneft announced Friday it is selling a significant chunk of its equity to Chinese investors. In this case, little-know exploration and production firm CEFC China Energy. Although few investors know CEFC, the company is bringing significant capital to the deal. With the firm agreeing to pay $9 billion to acquire a 14.16 percent stake in Rosneft.

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San Antonio Express News

September 7, 2017

Qatar giving $30 million to help Harvey victims in Texas

Qatar is donating $30 million to help people in Texas recover from Harvey, its ambassador said Thursday, as the Persian Gulf nation works to show it's a constructive global player amid a diplomatic crisis with its neighbors. The contribution appears to be the largest from a foreign government to assist with the hurricane that devastated stretches of the Texas coast. It came the same day that the United Arab Emirates, one of Qatar's opponents in the Persian Gulf dispute, announced its own $10 million to help Harvey victims. Both donations were announced as the leader of Kuwait, which has been mediating the Qatar crisis, was in Washington discussing the dispute with President Donald Trump and other American officials.

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Associated Press

September 8, 2017

In 'Gasland' community, new tests revive old drilling debate

The well water at Ken Morcom and Kim Grosso's house is laced with so much explosive methane that a Pennsylvania environmental regulator who went there to collect samples this summer decided it would be safer to coast her SUV down the driveway. Morcom and Grosso want to leave but doubt they could sell a house with tainted water. So, a few weeks ago, they asked the gas driller they blame for polluting their well to buy them out. "I was hoping they'd fix it. But I've given up hope," said Morcom, 49, who supports drilling but has become disillusioned with Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. "Just let us out of the box." "The box" is the couple's 8-acre spread in rural Dimock Township. But Morcom could have been talking about Dimock itself.

This article appeared on the ABC News website

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Utilities Stories

Houston Chronicle

September 13, 2017

Kury: Should we bury our power lines?

In terms of reliability, it is not correct to say that burying power lines protects them from storm damage. It simply shifts the risk of damage from one type of storm effect to another. Undergrounding power lines may make them more susceptible to damage from corrosive storm surge and flooding from rainfall or melting ice and snow. Areas with greater vulnerability to storm surge and flooding will confront systems that are less reliable (and at greater cost) as a result of undergrounding. It is true that undergrounding can mitigate damage from wind events such as flying debris, falling trees and limbs, and collected ice and snow. But alternatives, such as proper vegetation management practices, replacing wood poles with steel, concrete or composite ones, or reinforcing utility poles with guy wires, may be nearly as effective in mitigating storm damage and may cost less.

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The Energy Collective

September 11, 2017

News About What Went Wrong at VC Summer Gets Worse

If you can tear yourself away from the news about twin giant hurricanes leaving huge swaths of destruction and chaos in their wake in Texas and Florida, there is a man-made disaster taking place in South Carolina. It is the failure of one of the largest capital construction projects in the U.S. Every time another newspaper headline appears about what went wrong at the V C Summer project, the dark implications of what it all means for the future of the nuclear energy industry get all the more foreboding. What we have learned this week is that it appears that some, if not all, of the principals at both SCE&G and Santee Cooper knew and documented to greater or lesser degrees as long as three years ago that the project was a train wreck in the making that was racing towards a derailment of epic proportions. Now instead of looking forward to a triumph for completion of two massive nuclear reactors generating 2300 MW of CO2 emission free electricity, the nation will get endless political fallout, and lawsuits, which will dominate the the complex contractual debris, left behind like storm damage from a hurricane, for years to come.

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Bloomberg

September 14, 2017

Coal Seeks New Life as Carbon Fiber for Submarines

The 30-foot hull of an experimental mini-sub is helping to show how the U.S. may be able to redeploy the mountain of coal that power plants are no longer burning. Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee used carbon fibers to build the submersible for the U.S. Navy with a 3-D printer, demonstrating the promise of new manufacturing techniques that are faster, cheaper and more flexible. But it also offers inspiration to scientists looking to turn America’s vast reserves of coal into advanced materials, including carbon fibers now made using petroleum-based polymers. The search for alternative uses has intensified as utilities switch to cleaner options for generating electricity, like natural gas, wind turbines and solar panels. While no one expects the research to revive all the coal-mining jobs that disappeared in recent years, experts say new sources of demand are emerging for the carbon-rich rock, from battery electrodes to car parts.

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Inside Sources

September 12, 2017

Hanger, Spitzer: States Have the Power to Keep Nuclear in the Mix

July 2017 saw two court rulings both significant and positive for the future of clean energy. Federal courts in New York and Illinois ruled that states have the authority to place an economic value on the zero-emission production of electricity. More important, these rulings establish a precedent for other states to achieve their own goals to use clean energy credits for sources of electricity that don’t emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The noteworthy outcome of the policies upheld by the two courts is that nuclear facilities will continue to operate in New York and Illinois. A paper we co-authored, “Nuclear Energy as Foundational to Low Carbon Future,” elaborates on why this result is so critical right now. The United States has made great progress in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Since 2005, our country diminished its carbon dioxide output by 14 percent. And there is a sweeping consensus on the need to continue this momentum. Twenty states have issued goals or mandates to reduce carbon emissions.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Interesting Engineering

September 6, 2017

Solar Power to Rival Nuclear Energy by the End of This Year

Between solar power and wind power both surpassing more traditional forms of energy, the future of renewable resources continues to look brighter. A recent report from Green Tech Media suggests that solar power could rival nuclear power as early as the end of this year. The GTM study combines data from the Nuclear Energy Institute as well as other information from global studies regarding solar power. The Nuclear Energy Institute reports 391.5 gigawatts of nuclear plants around the world. Some researchers think that number could be on a slight decline given total investment numbers. GTM research estimates that by the end of 2017, there will be close to 390 gigawatts of solar PV plants across the globe. GTM said that the figure could be even larger given China's boom in solar energy. One major challenge, however, comes from the capacity difference between the two energy types.

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CNBC

September 11, 2017

Nearly 2.4 gigawatts of solar installed in the US during second quarter of 2017

The U.S. installed almost 2.4 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaics in the second quarter of 2017, an increase of 8 percent year-on-year, according to a new report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Breaking the figures down, a total of 2,387 megawatts (MW) were installed in the second quarter with total installed capacity in the U.S. hitting 47.1 GW, enough to power just over nine million homes. Looking forward, the U.S. Solar Market Insight report forecast that this year would see the solar industry add 12.4 GW of new capacity, down from GTM Research's prior forecast of 12.6 GW.

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Eric Peters Autos

September 11, 2017

Peters: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em . . . Ban ‘Em

Since they can’t sell electric cars – not enough of them, anyhow – and not without subsidies so huge they amount to outright bribes – the solution appears to be to outlaw all cars except electric cars. This is no joke. There are IC engine No Go Zones in Germany and France. The Brits have just decreed a ban on the sale of internal combustion-engined vehicles period, beginning in 2040 – which sounds like a long time from now but isn’t – because car companies begin designing cars about ten years before they see the light of production and so this fatwa means the car companies are on notice that the current generation of cars they are selling is either the last or the second-to-last generation of cars they will be selling . . . at least insofar as they are powered by internal combustion.

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Digital Journal

September 11, 2017

New battery technologies getting venture investors charged up

For the past two decades, venture investors have embraced clean energy technologies. Now, with the search for better battery technologies, these same investors are turning to battery businesses. As more and more vehicles become electrified, the need for new energy storage solutions will continue to grow. And with the energy revolution adding larger amounts of renewable energy to the electrical grid, it doubles the need for reliable, cost effective energy storage batteries. According to data from cleantech investment and advisory services firm Mercom Capital, battery companies have raised $480 million in the first half of 2017. the major portion of that capital was raised by Texas-based Microvast Power Systems (MPS), a subsidiary of HUZHOU, China-based Microvast.

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San Antonio Express News

September 12, 2017

Electric cars dominate the buzz at Frankfurt auto show

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Carmakers at the Frankfurt auto show are unveiling the low-emissions vehicles and technology strategies they hope will let them profit from the sweeping changes expected to hit the auto industry in the next few years. Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz on Tuesday unveiled a compact electric vehicle under its EQ sub-brand that showcases its efforts to make connected, electric, shared and autonomous vehicles. The EQA has two electric motors that can give it different driving characteristics depending on which mode the driver chooses. The Stuttgart-based automaker also had the GLC F-Cell, a "pre-production" model of a battery-fuel cell hybrid SUV that can run on hydrogen and emits only water vapor.

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Regulatory Stories

Kallanish Energy

September 13, 2017

Texas drilling permits increase 70.4% in August

The Railroad Commission of Texas issued a total of 1,125 original drilling permits in August, Kallanish Energy reports. That compares to 660 permits in August 2016 — a 70.4% increase. The August 2017 total includes 987 permits to drill oil-gas wells, 14 to re-enter plugged bore wells and 124 for re-completions of existing well bores. The breakdown for those permits include 298 oil, 74 gas, 666 oil or gas, 64 injection, two service and 21 other. In August 2017, the agency processed 401 oil, 115 gas, 38 injection and three other completions. That compares to 545 oil, 223 gas, 46 injection and eight other completions in August 2016, it said.

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Houston Chronicle

September 13, 2017

Houston EPA lab set to close

Conservationists and labor union officials argued Wednesday that the potential closing of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional lab in Houston, which is expected to play a key role in Hurricane Harvey recovery, is among harmful impacts of the Trump administration’s drive to slice staff and mission in the agency. The EPA’s Region 6 Environmental Services Laboratory, which serves a five-state region, is scheduled for closing when the lease on its rented, 41,000 square-foot space in southwest Houston expires in 2020, officials of the American Federation of Government Employees said they were told. What happens after that, the EPA isn’t saying. The lab employs roughly 50 people, including chemists and biologists. Much of its work has been focused on testing samples from Superfund sites in the region.

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Politico

September 11, 2017

Is China leaping past us?

This August, China successfully tested the world’s first quantum satellite communication – relying on the physics of quantum entanglement to send and receive provably secure messages. While the United States faces a regulatory morass around the world-shaking potential of CRISPR gene editing technologies, China last year announced seven human trials to treat cancer and other ailments. As coal finds itself again at the center of the American energy policy debate, China’s photovoltaic capacity has surged. In just the first six months of 2017, China added new solar energy generation capacity equal to half of the United States’ entire installed solar base at the end of 2016. These largely overlooked “Sputnik Moments” have thus far failed to galvanize a U.S. response.

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Electrek

September 9, 2017

Tesla is under attack by same ‘merchants of doubt’ behind tobacco industry and climate change denial

Despite most automakers admitting that the future of the auto industry is electric, there are still several efforts to slow down the EV revolution. Whether by the automakers themselves who virtually all (except for Tesla) lobbied to block EPA’s new fuel consumption standard or with special interest groups launching media campaigns trying to discredit the technology or its proponents. As part of these continued attacks, Tesla is now the target of attacks by the same “merchants of doubt” behind tobacco industry lobbying and global warming deniers. We are talking about “The Heartland Institute”. The organization presents itself as a conservative and libertarian public policy think tank, but they are better known for being used by companies to push ideas based on profit rather than scientific facts, like when they took money from Philip Morris to question or deny the health risks of secondhand smoke or with some disgusting campaigns to deny climate change.

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Los Angeles Times

September 12, 2017

Driverless-car rules loosen: U.S. regulator stops demanding safety assessments

Go for it! In essence, that’s the Trump administration’s new directive on driverless-car development. Under that directive, automakers and technology companies will be asked to voluntarily submit safety assessments to the U.S. Department of Transportation, but they don’t have to do it. And states are being advised to use a light regulatory hand. At a driverless-car test track in Ann Arbor, Mich., outside Detroit, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao unveiled a document titled “Vision for Safety 2.0.” Her speech was strong on vision and light on regulation. She painted a near-future of greater safety, fewer deaths, higher productivity and more time spent with loved ones as robots increasingly take over the tasks of driving and commuters are freed for other activities. “More than 35,000 people perish every year in vehicle crashes,” she said — 94% of those through driver error. After years of decline, fatalities are growing, she said. “Automated driving systems hold the promise of significantly reducing these errors and saving tens of thousands of lives in the process.”

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Bloomberg

September 12, 2017

Obama's Solar Goal Has Been Met, Trump's Energy Department Brags

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that former President Barack Obama’s goal of slashing the cost of solar power has been achieved early, taking credit for milestone even though the new administration is skeptical of renewable power. “With the impressive decline in solar prices, it is time to address additional emerging challenges,” said Daniel Simmons, the Energy Department’s acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. Simmons previously worked for the Washington-based Institute for Energy Research and has said that solar and wind "is more expensive and will increase the price of electricity." The group called for the abolition of the office Simmons now heads. And President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal called for cutting solar energy funding within the Energy Department by 71 percent to $70 million.

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Washington Post

September 12, 2017

The Energy 202: Hurricanes Harvey and Irma renew calls to ax obscure shipping law

Passed in 1920, the Jones Act requires that all ships transporting goods between U.S. ports be owned and manned by U.S. citizens, and to be built within U.S. shores. Sponsored by then-Sen. Wesley Jones (R-Wash.) as a boon to shipbuilders and longshoremen in the port of Seattle, the law is lambasted today by free-trade proponents who regard it as a relic of the country's protectionist past. Defenders of the law -- which include unions and some national-security experts -- say the Jones Act protects U.S. jobs and ensures the nation has the shipyards to build naval fleets if necessary. The debate over the arcane law also stresses the tendons holding together the two halves of Trump's political thinking. With his “energy dominance” agenda of encouraging more fossil-fuel extraction in the United States, Trump has identified himself as an ally of the oil and gas industry, which wants to rein in the shipping law that it argues raises domestic fuel prices.

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The Hill

September 9, 2017

Henry: Trump stacks administration with climate change skeptics

President Trump has stacked his administration with officials who doubt the scientific consensus behind man-made climate change, underscoring a growing divide within the Republican party. Even as leading scientists, environmentalists and most Democrats accept research that shows climate change accelerating — and as some see it contributing to the two mammoth hurricanes that have threatened the United States this year — some in Trump’s administration have openly raised doubts. The rise of climate change skeptics has been most pronounced in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which helped lead then-President Obama’s efforts to regulate climate change-causing pollutants.

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