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April 27, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman

April 26, 2017

Texas House may reverse course on LCRA sunset review

Two years after passing a measure calling for the region’s largest provider of wholesale water and electricity to open itself to further scrutiny by the Legislature, lawmakers appear set to reverse direction. The House could vote Wednesday on a measure that would repeal a law subjecting the Lower Colorado River Authority and a host of other river authorities to sunset review. The LCRA, a nonprofit utility based in Austin, operates coal- and gas-fired power plants that provide electricity to retail utilities from the Hill Country to Bastrop County, owns thousands of miles of transmission lines, oversees the dams that form the Highland Lakes, and doles out water for more than a million Central Texans. Its budget hovers around $1 billion annually.

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Oil & Gas Stories

Oil Price

April 26, 2017

Top 5 Risks To Oil Prices

Here are the five countries that could provide an unexpected jolt to the oil market: 1. Venezuela. Venezuela’s economy has been in freefall since oil prices collapsed in 2014. The situation has deteriorated rapidly more recently, however, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets. While things could certainly drag on, the situation in Caracas definitely has the feel of some sort of final stage for the Maduro government. ... 2. Libya. The North African OPEC member has successfully brought back a huge chunk of its latent oil supply, ramping up output to 700,000 bpd earlier this year, essentially double 2016 levels. But output has seesawed back and forth in the past few weeks, with oil fields and export terminals going offline for a week or so, only to quickly resume operations. ... 3. Nigeria. Nigeria is a somewhat similar risk factor to the oil market as Libya. Both countries are exempted from the OPEC cuts and both represent both downside and upside risks to the oil market.

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Bloomberg

April 26, 2017

The Electric-Car Boom Is So Real Even Oil Companies Say It’s Coming

Electric cars are coming fast -- and that’s not just the opinion of carmakers anymore. Total SA, one of the world’s biggest oil producers, is now saying EVs may constitute almost a third of new-car sales by the end of the next decade. The surge in battery powered vehicles will cause demand for oil-based fuels to peak in the 2030s, Total Chief Energy Economist Joel Couse said at Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s conference in New York on Tuesday. EVs will make up 15 percent to 30 percent of new vehicles by 2030, after which fuel “demand will flatten out,” Couse said. “Maybe even decline.” Couse’s projection for electric cars is the highest yet by a major oil company and exceeds BNEF’s own forecast, said Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “That’s big,” McKerracher said. “That’s by far the most aggressive we’ve seen by any of the majors."

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Utilities Stories

The Statesman

April 25, 2017

Wind capacity addition to depend on bidding plans by utilities: ICRA

The investment information and credit rating agency, ICRA, in its report informed that new wind power capacity addition, in the 12-18 month, would depend on bidding route and the subsequent PPA signing by the state-owned distribution utilities or Solar Energy Corporation of India Limited (SECI). The execution of the 1,000 MW wind power capacity awarded under New and Renewable Energy Ministry (MNRE) scheme in February 2017 would also support the capacity addition to some extent in FY 2018-2019, said ICRA report. “The capacity addition in wind energy was much better than our expectations due to a bunching up of commissioning in March 2017. This was due to the removal of the generation-based incentive (GBI) benefit and reduction in accelerated depreciation (AD) benefit with effect from April 1, 2017,” said Sabyasachi Majumdar, Senior Vice President & Group Head, ICRA Ratings.

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New York Times

April 25, 2017

Today’s Energy Jobs Are in Solar, Not Coal

President Trump has promised to revive the coal industry and double down on fossil fuels, creating “so many energy jobs,” but he has not focused on the increasingly important role of renewable power in America’s energy economy. Last year, the solar industry employed many more Americans than coal, while wind power topped 100,000 jobs. Those numbers come from a Department of Energy report published in January by the Obama administration that provides the most complete picture available of American energy employment. A Department of Energy spokesperson for the current administration declined to discuss the report on the record. In 2016, 1.9 million Americans were employed in electric power generation, mining and other fuel extraction activities, according to the report – a field we’ll call power creation for short.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

CNBC

April 26, 2017

Bank of America just said there's ‘material risk’ to the long-term viability of Tesla

Bank of America Merrill Lynch cut its price forecast on Tesla shares on Tuesday, saying the electric car maker's "long-term viability" was at risk because of the acquisition of SolarCity. The investment firm now believes the stock will be nearly cut in half over the next 12 months because "positive earnings and cash flow [are] now even more elusive" in light of the combination. "We believe the SolarCity acquisition introduces material risks to the longer-term viability of TSLA, while the recent capital raise only serves to further dilute potential shareholder value," research analyst John Murphy said in a note to investors. He has an underperform rating on the stock. Murphy sees Tesla shares falling to $165, a 46 percent drop from where the stock closed Monday at $308.03 a share. Shares were unchanged in premarket trade.

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Regulatory Stories

New York Times

April 25, 2017

Trump Is Expected to Sign Orders That Could Expand Access to Fossil Fuels

After moving last month against Barack Obama’s efforts to limit fossil fuel exploration and combat climate change, President Trump will complete his effort to overturn environmental policy this week, signing two executive orders to expand offshore drilling and roll back conservation on public lands. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump will sign an executive order directing his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, to review national monuments designated by previous presidents under the Antiquities Act of 1906, aiming to roll back the borders of protected lands and open them to drilling, mining and logging. The president is then expected to follow up on Friday with another executive order aimed at opening up protected waters in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans to offshore drilling.

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April 26, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle

April 25, 2017

Railroad Commission rejects ranchers’ appeal to reconsider Hilcorp enhanced oil recovery project

The Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator, rejected on Tuesday an appeal from a Gulf Coast water conservation district to block several injection wells, which local cattle ranchers fear will pollute their groundwater supply. For years, the Texana Groundwater District has been fighting Houston-based Hilcorp Energy over an enhanced oil recovery project in Jackson County that will recover 60 million barrels of oil from an 80-year-old oilfield. Hilcorp is injecting wastewater — a by-product of fracking — and carbon dioxide underground to help force oil to the surface. Locals say unplugged and poorly plugged wells riddle the oilfield, where they have found leaks and spills of chemicals in years past. The ranchers and farmers in the area wanted the commission to require groundwater monitoring as a condition of the project, but the commission opted to let Hilcorp run its own groundwater monitoring program.

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Houston Chronicle

April 25, 2017

Letter signed by 60 Texas leaders and sent to Trump backs Ike Dike

Texas land Commissioner George P. Bush has sent Donald Trump a letter signed by more than 60 Texas leaders urging the president to include a coastal barrier in his proposed $1 trillion national infrastructure project. "We believe we have all the support necessary; what we need is the $15 billion in funds to protect this crucial part of the nation's economy," reads the letter sent Monday to the president. The White House did not respond to a request for comment. The estimate is larger than the previous one of $11.63 billion because it includes money for a ring dike around the portions of the city of Galveston behind the seawall and for a gate at the Galveston Bay entrance to Clear lake, Land Office spokeswoman Brittany Eck said. The ring dike and gate were previously proposed but not included in cost estimates, Eck said.

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Utility Dive

April 25, 2017

NextEra will ask Texas regulators to reconsider rejection of Oncor acquisition

NextEra Energy will continue to pursue its proposed acquisition of Oncor Electric, company officials said yesterday during a first quarter earnings conference call. But NextEra CEO Jim Robo also said the company would not alter its position on some key issues, including dividend disbursement and utility board independence, which Texas regulators cited in their rejection earlier this month. Regardless of the merger, NextEra expects strong performance from its renewable energy development subsidiary as baseload plant retirements open more opportunity for wind and solar growth. NextEra reported first-quarter income of $1.5 billion, or $3.37/share. On an adjusted basis, earnings were up more than 10% from Q1 2016.

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KUHF

April 24, 2017

Texas Oil Regulator Says Customs And Border Protection Proposal Would Harm Industry

Could Homeland Security slow down the oil industry? A Texas oil and gas regulator thinks so. He says a proposal from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) could get in the way of offshore drilling. CBP wants to rethink how it interprets part of a law called the “Jones Act.” It basically requires ships conducting business along the coast to be American ships, meaning American-made. For decades, the government has allowed certain ships to be exempt from the law, but a proposal from CBP issued in the last few days of the Obama Administration would crack down on the leniency. More ships in the gulf would have to be U.S. ships. Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton says that would be a big cost for oil companies that use cheaper foreign ships, a cost they couldn’t immediately absorb.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

April 26, 2017

Oil falls on bulging US crude inventories, record global supplies

Oil prices resumed their downward trend on Wednesday as data showed a rise in U.S. crude inventories and record supplies in the rest of the world cast doubt on OPEC's ability to cut supplies and tighten the market. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were trading at $49.32 per barrel at 0052 GMT, down 24 cents, or 0.5 percent from their last close, after gaining 0.7 percent in the previous session. WTI has fallen for seven of the past eight sessions. Traders said that a report late on Tuesday by the American Petroleum Institute (API) that U.S. crude oil inventories rose by 897,000 barrels in the week to April 21 to 532.5 million barrels had weighed on WTI. Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $51.88 per barrel, down 22 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close. Brent is around 8.5 percent below its April peak.

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Reuters

April 25, 2017

East Coast refiners eye Texas oil as North Dakota alternative

U.S. East Coast refiners are looking to buy increasing volumes of domestic crude oil from the Gulf Coast, two sources said, the latest twist in a trade flow upheaval in the wake of the opening of the Dakota Access pipeline. Major U.S. East Coast refiners profited from railing hundreds of thousands of barrels of discounted Bakken crude to their plants daily from 2013 until 2015. But as more and more pipelines were built in North Dakota, the discount began to disappear, and so did the rail cars. Now, at least two East Coast refiners, Phillips 66 (PSX.N) and Delta Air Lines Inc's (DAL.N) subsidiary Monroe Energy, are looking to move more crude by ship from Texas into the Philadelphia area. The Dakota Access pipeline starts up in May, giving the Gulf access to the Bakken shale play, and will likely sap any lingering economic incentive for Bakken-by-rail, which is more expensive.

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Houston Chronicle

April 25, 2017

Golden Pass LNG cleared to export

The Golden Pass LNG terminal on the Texas Gulf Coast was cleared by the Department of Energy Tuesday to begin exporting up to 2.21 billion cubic feet of gas per day. Located outside Sabine Pass, the Golden Pass terminal was built to import LNG from abroad in 2009. But following the boom in domestic gas production through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, Golden Pass, a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, shifted gears. The approval adds to a growing list of LNG export terminals under development in the United States. Cheniere Energy began exporting last year from its Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana. As of January, there were seven facilities under construction and another four that had been approved but not yet begun construction, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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Houston Chronicle

April 25, 2017

Baker Hughes trims first quarter losses

The Houston oil field services firm Baker Hughes continued to deeply cut costs and trim losses in the first quarter this year as its revenues fell. Baker Hughes posted $129 million in losses on Tuesday, compared to losses of nearly $1 billion in the first quarter last year. The company slashed expenses by more than $900 million or almost 30 percent over the year to $2.29 billion. Revenues, meanwhile, fell by $400 million or 15 percent to $2.26 billion. Losses per share improved to 30 cents from $2.22 in the first quarter of last year.

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Houston Chronicle

April 25, 2017

Valero’s profit dives in first quarter

San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp. first quarter profit plunged 38 percent as the company invested in turnaround projects, the company said Tuesday. Tjhe nation’s largest refiner earned $305 million, or 68 cents per share, down from $495 million, or $1.05 per share, during the first three months of last year. The drop was expected. Valero beat estimates by analysts, which projected earnings of 61 cents per share. “Our refining team safely executed turnarounds at the Benicia, Texas City, St. Charles, and Meraux refineries,” Joe Gorder, Valero’s CEO, said in a press release announcing the results. “With the bulk of this year’s planned maintenance behind us, our refineries should be well positioned to capture available margin opportunities.”

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Bloomberg

April 25, 2017

Exxon’s Dividend Tradition Faces Challenge as Oil Rally Sputters

Exxon Mobil Corp. has boosted it’s dividend every April for at least a decade, delivering more than $98 billion directly to shareholders. This year, the payout will likely rise again. The open question is by how much. Exxon slowed quarterly dividend growth the last two years as the industry fought through the worst price rout in a generation. Now, with oil prices stuck at around $50 a barrel and with little guarantee they’ll rise by much, analysts are debating whether the company remains conservative, boosting its free cash flow, or if it will reward investors who stuck with it through the lean times. Exxon raised its dividend 2 cents a year ago to 75 cents. Now, Bloomberg Dividend Forecasts estimates the Irving, Texas-based company will announce a 4 cent boost on Wednesday. The current payout costs $12.7 billion a year, more than at any other S&P 500 company. Each penny adds about $170 million a year.

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Associated Press

April 25, 2017

Cleanup continues at site of 19,000-gallon oil spill

A Houston-based pipeline company continued cleanup Tuesday at the site of a nearly 19,000 gallon oil spill in northwest Oklahoma that threatened a local water supply over the weekend. Crews from Plains All American Pipeline were at the site in rural Loyal, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Oklahoma City. The 450-barrel leak was reported Friday, but it's unclear when it started. Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman Matt Skinner said roughly 70 acres of farmland are affected and that the spill reached a small creek at one point. But he says the leak was contained before it flowed into a second creek that flows into the Cimarron River about 16 miles (26 kilometers) away.

This article appeared in the Brownsville Herald

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Rigzone

April 25, 2017

Valero Energy to Process More Crude Amid Strong Gasoline Demand

U.S. refiner Valero Energy Corp said it would process more crude oil in the current quarter to take advantage of robust demand for gasoline as the stockpile of refined products in the United States declines. The inventory of refined products has come down in recent months, offering a glimmer of hope to refiners, whose margins fell sharply in 2016 due to a glut of gasoline and diesel. Valero, the biggest among U.S. oil refiners, benefited, with its first-quarter results beating market expectations on Tuesday as sales in its refining business surged 40 percent. "With VLO being the first out of the gate and the bellwether for refining, we believe the stronger-than-expected (refining and marketing) results, strong export volumes and bullish market commentary could start setting the pace for improved investor sentiment towards the sector," Morgan Stanley said in a client note.

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Oil Price

April 25, 2017

Mexico Looks Overseas For New Oil Export Destinations

Two weeks ago, Mexican crude oil exports to the U.S. saw a 43 percent weekly drop to 290,000 bpd, versus a 52-week average of 561,000 bpd. The sharp drop was probably connected to the temporary suspension of operations at Mexican ports due to harsh weather, but as Bloomberg reports, it’s just part of a longer trend set to continue, prompting the country to seek alternative clients for its crude. U.S. imports of Mexican crude reached a peak of 1.89 million bpd in February 2006 and have since then steadily declined, just as Mexico’s production has been declining. This year, production is set to slide below 2 million barrels daily, but the country’s National Hydrocarbons Commission is upbeat about the future, planning to make Mexico a larger producer than Venezuela and Brazil.

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Oil & Gas Financial Journal

April 25, 2017

Noble Energy closes acquisition of Clayton Williams Energy

Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL) has closed on its acquisition of Clayton Williams Energy Inc. In conjunction with the closing, Clayton Williams Energy became a wholly owned subsidiary of Noble Energy under the name NBL Permian LLC. Acquired assets include 71,000 highly contiguous net acres in the core of the Southern Delaware Basin adjacent to Noble Energy's original Reeves county holdings in Texas, an additional 100,000 net acres in other areas of the Permian Basin, and more than 300 miles of oil, natural gas, and produced water gathering pipelines. Production on the assets totals approximately 10 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day (MBoe/d). Benefits of the acquisition for Noble Energy include: Expands scale in the core of the Delaware Basin, with the combined 118,000 net acres representing the second largest Southern Delaware position in the industry, Doubles Delaware Basin net unrisked resources to two billion barrels of oil equivalent

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Houston Chronicle

April 25, 2017

Tomlinson: Pick which crises will shake the global economy most

Lastly, Venezuelan security forces are using deadly force against pro-democracy protesters in Venezuela. The government is also deploying civilian gangs to attack opposition members. Despite dramatically lower oil production, Venezuela remains an important global supplier of crude. A complete shutdown would likely send oil prices much higher, as well as signal a complete collapse of the Venezuelan economy. A Venezuelan political and humanitarian crisis would certainly demand a great deal of Trump administration attention and hurt the region's economy. The world is full of potential crises that could impact the global economy. And that doesn't include the expected showdown between Trump and Congress over the federal debt limit and spending on a border wall with Mexico.

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Bloomberg

April 25, 2017

Oil Veteran Says OPEC Needs Year to Pull Off Elusive Mission

OPEC needs a year more to accomplish what’s at the moment proving to be mission impossible, according to a veteran oil analyst. Saudi Arabian oil minister Khalid Al-Falih acknowledged last week that the group and its allies, after three months of limiting output, have failed to hit their target of eroding oil inventories below the five-year historical average. The reductions need to be prolonged to not only until the end of 2017, but also extended through the first half of next year for the goal to be met, said Fereidun Fesharaki, the head of industry consultant FGE. While the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners began cutting output in January as part of a six-month deal, International Energy Agency data show inventories rose during the first quarter in developed nations, offsetting a decline in emerging economies.

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Fox News

April 25, 2017

Fracking isn't contaminating groundwater, study finds

A major anti-fracking argument by environmentalists may not have the facts to back it up, a new study conducted by Duke University found. Fracking has not contaminated groundwater in northwestern West Virginia, according to the peer-reviewed study published this month in a European journal. “Based on consistent evidence from comprehensive testing, we found no indication of groundwater contamination over the three-year course of our study,” explained Avner Vengosh, the professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. The growing industry could help create as many as 3.5 million jobs by 2035, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Townhall

April 24, 2017

Film Review: "Awake: A Dream From Standing Rock," is Full Scaremongering Claims and No Evidence

AWAKE, a Dream from Standing Rock is a new documentary from controversial filmmaker Josh Fox. And I'm using the “truthful” definition of “controversial filmmaker”—which apparently means that the ends justify the means and lies and omissions are acceptable as long as it helps promote the cause. I first came across Josh Fox's “controversial” (read: unethical) style of filmmaking in Gasland, the film that started the international anti-fracking movement. In Gasland, Fox claimed fracking led to people being able to light their water on fire. He promoted the shocking scene of a flaming household faucet and frightened millions in the process. Eventually, I managed to get him to answer questions and admit that fracking had nothing to do with flaming faucets. (It's a natural occurrence at hundreds of locations across the US.) But instead of living up to his “error,” Fox chose to push the lie and claimed the information and context that proved him to be an unethical journalist was simply "not relevant."

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Utilities Stories

Austin Monitor

April 25, 2017

Austin Energy proposes Value of Solar for commercial properties

Austin Energy presented a commercial Value of Solar proposal at the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee Monday morning. Danielle Murray, the Solar Energy Services manager at Austin Energy, said the proposed plan would have benefits for both present and future energy customers. One of those benefits is compensation for excess generation. According to Murray, it’s an issue that’s especially relevant for customers, such as schools, that have unusual use patterns. “Sometimes (schools) push back their solar energy onto the grid in the summer,” Murray said, “and under the current rate structure, they don’t get compensated for that.” This proposal addresses that discrepancy, she said. The proposal includes three value components for commercial customers: an energy value, a transmission and distribution value, and an environmental compliance value. Under the proposal, customers would be able to reduce their demand charges with solar.

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Houston Chronicle

April 25, 2017

Reliant 'smart house' tests the future of electrical usage

Even the washer and dryer are controlled by an app at the house Reliant has transformed into a high-tech testing ground for the company and for consumers. The refrigerator plays music from Pandora and takes pictures of its contents. The security system sends a text when someone's at the front door. The goal is to find out how emerging technologies affect electricity use and how they integrate with other home-automation products. Reliant provides some of the devices, like the thermostat and home-security system, but it tests outside products as well. Voice commands given to Amazon's Echo, for instance, can lock the back door through Reliant's security system. As homeowners generate more of their own electricity and use technology to manage their usage, Reliant wants to ensure it remains integral to customers' power needs. It is testing a variety of energy creation and storage devices at the house it owns in the Heights.

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Daily Energy Insider

April 25, 2017

Natural gas generators make up largest share of US generation capacity

In 2016, natural gas-fired generators accounted for 42 percent of the operating electricity generating capacity in the United States, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Natural gas provided 34 percent of total electricity generation in 2016, surpassing coal to become the leading generation source. The increase in the use of natural gas since 2005 has mainly been driven by the continued cost-competitiveness of natural gas as compared to coal. Natural gas-fired combined-cycle units, which are operate throughout the day as baseload generation, accounted for 53 percent of the 449 gigawatts (GW) of total U.S. natural gas-powered generator capacity in 2016. Other types of natural gas-fired technology typically run only when electricity demand is high. This includes combustion turbines, which make up approximately 28 percent of total natural gas-powered generator capacity, and steam turbines, which make up 17 percent.

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Green Tech Media

April 24, 2017

Eneco and Mitsubishi Plan Europe’s Largest Battery, Pitching Storage Against Coal and Gas

Dutch developer Eneco and Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi are developing a record-breaking battery designed for Germany’s primary reserve market, which will compete against coal and gas units. The two companies have formed a German joint venture, Enspire ME, to develop what will be Europe’s largest battery plant, with 48 megawatts and 50 megawatt-hours of capacity, in Jardelund, Schleswig-Holstein, close to Germany’s border with Denmark. The location is a nexus for offshore wind farm energy transmission. Enspire ME has already been granted a permit for the project and expects to start construction at the beginning of June. The plant is due to be up and running by December.

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Car

April 23, 2017

UK electricity grid not ready for electric car future, claims report

If you’re looking to buy a new plug-in or electric car, you could be contributing to a considerable future strain on the UK’s power grid, according to a new report by the independent Green Alliance. According to the lengthy 40-page report, the UK’s power infrastructure isn’t ready for a predicted surge in electric cars on driveways in the next couple of decades. Electric vehicles and plug-in cars are being added to more manufacturer's ranges and are becoming cheaper to buy and easier to own, so increase in electricity demand could mean expensive upgrades are needed in the near future in order for the grid to cope with more electric vehicles on charge at once.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Texas Tribune

April 25, 2017

Uber picks Dallas, Fort Worth as test cities for flying vehicle network

Uber is looking to North Texas as a testing ground for its initiative to make intra-urban flying vehicle rides a reality. The company announced Tuesday that Dallas and Fort Worth are its first U.S. partner cities for what its dubbing the “Uber Elevate Network.” The company hopes to have the first demonstration of how such a network of flying, hailed vehicles would work in three years. Uber is also working with Dallas’ Hillwood Properties to plan vertiports, sites where the aircraft would pick up and drop off passengers. Fort Worth’s Bell Helicopter is among companies partnering with Uber to help develop the actual vehicles, called VTOLs because they would vertically take off and land.

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Yahoo! News

April 25, 2017

Rising wind power growth to be led by China over next five years

China will lead growth in global wind power capacity of almost 65 percent over the next five years, with other Asian countries also developing more renewable energy, the Global Wind Energy Council said on Tuesday. Cumulative wind energy capacity was 487 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2016, a 12.6 percent rise from the year before and should grow by almost 65 percent to 800 GW by the end of 2021, the GWEC said in its annual report on the industry. While China will continue to lead the global market, other countries such as India, which set a record for new wind installations last year in an effort to meet ambitious government targets, will also play a part.

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Bloomberg

April 25, 2017

Home to World's Biggest Wind-Turbine Maker to End All Subsidies

After more than four decades of relying on subsidies, Denmark’s renewable energy industry is ready to survive on its own much sooner than anyone expected. The Danish energy minister, Lars Christian Lilleholt, says that “in just a few years,” renewable energy providers won’t need state support anymore. He says it’s a development he couldn’t have imagined as recently as last year. “We’re now very close to arriving,” he said in an interview in Copenhagen on Monday, after receiving a set of recommendations from a government-appointed panel on Denmark’s energy future.

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MarketWatch

April 25, 2017

Goggin: Wind power will keep growing rapidly — and bring economic opportunity to rural America

The future of federal policies to cut carbon dioxide pollution for existing power plants, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan rule, remains uncertain for the near term. But even with this uncertainty on carbon policy, other factors will continue to drive wind energy’s astronomical growth — benefiting in particular the rural and Rust Belt areas that are starved of economic opportunity. As leading economists from all political perspectives have argued, incorporating carbon policy into energy markets results in more efficient market outcomes. It also improves American competitiveness by maintaining our lead in developing innovative energy technologies.

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National Geographic

April 21, 2017

This boat shows the way to a clean energy future

The Race for Water, a revolutionary vessel entirely propelled by a mix of clean energies has departed for its five-year round the world odyssey. Running on a mix of solar power, batteries, hydrogen, and a high-altitude kite, the ambassador vessel to the Race for Water foundation is first heading to Bermuda at the end of May 2017, then to the Caribbean, including Cuba, before reaching California in March 2018. This journey has been termed an “Odyssey of Hope” for it will promote a fully viable alternative to fossil fuels. If we were to trace the clean energy transition on aviation history then Solar Impulse would be the brilliant demonstration of the Wright brothers in 1903 and the Race for Water would be the feat of Santos Dumont with the first powered aircraft sold in kit as early as 1908. Barely forty years separated the first biplanes from the jet plane.

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Regulatory Stories

Houston Chronicle

April 25, 2017

Online tool to track air pollution in Texas debuts

Air pollution happens every day in Houston. Sometimes, that pollution is well within permit limits, considered safe by state environmental regulators, and sometimes, it's not. So how do Houston residents who care about air quality tell the difference? Several environmental groups have recently debuted a handy new tool that notifies people when a Texas industry anticipates releasing air pollution that exceeds permitted limits. Here's how it works. Go to www.neighborhoodwitness.org and sign up for alerts. Alerts are sent when a company tells state environmental regulators that it expects emissions will exceed permit limits, usually because of planned maintenance or repairs.

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Washington Examiner

April 25, 2017

Manufacturers prod White House to leave Paris climate deal

Failure to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement would hurt American industry and upset President Trump's economic goals, an industry group argued in a letter and detailed analysis sent to the White House. The Industrial Energy Consumers of America, representing large manufacturing companies on energy policy issues, sent the analysis to the White House late Monday. "All costs of reducing [greenhouse gas] emissions, whether imposed on the electric generation sector or the oil and gas sectors, are eventually imposed upon us, the consumer," the letter read. "We are the ones who eventually bear the costs of government-imposed [greenhouse gas emissions] reduction schemes," it added. "At the same time, we are often already economically disadvantaged, as compared to global competitors who are subsidized or protected by their governments."

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Huffington Post

April 25, 2017

Energy Secretary Rick Perry Supports Paris Climate Agreement, But Wants To Tweak It

Energy Secretary Rick Perry supports remaining in the Paris climate agreement, but wants the United States to renegotiate its terms, he said Tuesday. That puts him on one side of a schism forming within President Donald Trump’s White House over how to handle the historic 195-country deal to slash emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, senior adviser Jared Kushner, support remaining in the agreement; chief strategist Steve Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt two of the more radical, far-right voices in the White House want Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to exit the agreement. Perry, in a Tuesday morning speech at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference, tempered his view. He touted decreasing emissions last year in the U.S. and China the world’s top polluters and criticized European countries, such as Germany, for not doing enough to shrink their own carbon footprint.

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Politico

April 25, 2017

Sources: EPA's Pruitt urged miners to press Trump to exit climate pact

A coal mining industry group's board of directors voted on Tuesday to press President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement — just one day after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt met with the group's leadership and urged them to push the issue, two sources told POLITICO. Pruitt personally attended a meeting of the National Mining Association's executive committee on Monday to lay out his concerns with the Paris accord, and called for the group to publicly support pulling out, according to one source. Trump has often aligned himself with coal miners, promising to revive the industry that has suffered sharp job losses over the past decade as the U.S. appetite for the energy source has waned. Just last month, Trump went to the EPA's headquarters with a group of coal miners to sign an executive order rolling back President Barack Obama's regulation curbing carbon emissions from power plants.

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The Hill

April 25, 2017

Dems introduce bill to create climate change bond program

Congressional Democrats have reintroduced a bill to create a climate change adaptation fund supported by a new federal bond program. The bill, from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) would create a Commerce Department fund that states and cities could tap to finance projects preparing their areas for the impacts of climate change. The fund would be supported by a new, annual $200 million federal bond program specifically designed to finance the adaptation work. The bill is similar to legislation introduced in the Senate last session, when supporters compared the bond program to the war bonds sold by the government during the World Wars.

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Inside Sources

April 25, 2017

Henneke, Ingram: Elimination of Clean Power Plan Restores Balance to EPA Policymaking

With his presidential executive order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, President Trump took an important first step to restore balance in environmental regulatory policymaking through his order that the Environmental Protection Agency review and withdraw the Clean Power Plan. In its stated purpose, the executive order calls for environmental regulations that “comply with the law, (and) are of greater benefit than cost.” This balance is not new policy, but dates back to the original legislative intent when federal environmental laws were first adopted. During his 1971 testimony in support of passage of the Clean Air Act, Ralph Nader testified that to “simply enforce the pollution laws” without examining the “problem of environmental layoffs or closedowns” “would be too narrow a policy and a cruel one at that for workers” and could lead to a “regime of fear and economic insecurity … spread(ing) through the blue-collar labor force.” Nader’s concern became a reality with the EPA’s adoption in 2015 of the CPP — largely considered the most sweeping regulation in EPA history. The CPP mandated overhaul of competitive electricity production in the United States by imposing aggressive new standards on power plants and prioritizing carbon content over affordability, reliability and safety. Under the premise of climate change, former President Obama sought to impose a regulatory burden that would have resulted in punishing costs to the poor and working class without achieving any substantive benefit addressing worldwide temperatures.

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New York Post

April 24, 2017

New York Post: Cuomo’s war on pipelines is crushing New York’s economy

When Team Cuomo blocked a gas pipeline this month, and another last year, we warned of the fallout. A new report out Monday puts a price tag on such bans — and points out what’s really going on. The study, by the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, found that the Northeast (New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) is paying more for natural gas, losing tens of thousands of jobs and emitting more greenhouse gases than necessary thanks to “self-imposed” local “pipeline constraints.” The projected loss to the region by 2020 adds up to 78,400 jobs and nearly $7.6 billion in economic activity and “the displacement of $4.4 billion in labor income.” New York alone would see $1.6 billion less in state GDP and the loss of 17,400 jobs. Youch.

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April 25, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle

April 24, 2017

Oil service costs could rise 15 percent this year, Wood Mac says

As crude prices stabilize and drilling rigs dig into shale plays again, oil field service costs are beginning to rise back up. That could squeeze drillers’ margins later this year. Energy research firm Wood Mackenzie believes oil field service costs could jump 15 percent this year overall, with prices for some equipment and services possibly rising as high as 40 percent, it said in a recent report. Though oil field service companies aren’t likely to charge the same prices they got in 2014, before oil prices collapsed, they will probably get back market pricing power, Wood Mackenzie said.

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Ars Technica

April 18, 2017

Energy Dept. chief Perry says coal retirements threaten to destabilize the grid

Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry ordered a review (PDF) of electricity markets and reliability late last week, saying that "certain policies" have hindered the development and use of baseload energy sources like coal. Although Perry never mentions renewable energy explicitly in his letter, he references "significant changes within the electrical system." That seems to be a direct allusion to the record amount of renewable capacity that has been added to the grid in recent years. The Obama administration had supported initiatives to increase renewable energy on the US grid given the urgency of climate change and with a mind to mitigate the health problems that come with pollution related to coal burning and mining. Although wind and solar power are intermittent resources (meaning they only produce power when there’s wind and sun), government agencies including the DOE have funded research (PDF) to improve renewable energy efficiency and energy storage.

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Houston Chronicle

April 24, 2017

In biofuels case, “Who gets to solve the craziness and how is the question,” federal judge says

After a more than decade long fight, a law requiring the blending of ethanol and other biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply could be getting some clarity. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Monday on a lawsuit arguing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is failing to live up to Congress’s intention when it approved the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005, creating specific mandates for biofuels that increase year by year through the early 2020s. Only the EPA has not followed the mandates laid down in the law, arguing the demand for biofuels is simply not there and following the letter of the law would needlessly create a glut of ethanol and biofuels that would weaken the overall fuel market.

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Bloomberg

April 25, 2017

Indonesia Bets on $200 Billion Investment to Boost Energy Output

Indonesia plans to overhaul its energy policy to attract investment of as much as $200 billion over the next decade as the former OPEC member seeks to reverse a decline in its crude oil production. The amendments to the energy policy, once approved by President Joko Widodo, will allow explorers various financial incentives including tax-free import of drilling equipment and technology and easier cost-recovery, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan said in an interview in Jakarta on April 22. The nation is offering 14 unexplored oil and gas blocks, mostly offshore fields, to investors and expect both foreign and domestic companies to actively participate, he said. Southeast Asia’s biggest economy is seeking to lift production of oil and gas as a supply deficit widens, deepening the nation’s reliance on imports. Indonesia suspended its membership of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in November after just one year of rejoining the group as it struggled to stem a decline in crude and gas production caused by aging fields and a lack of investment in exploration for years.

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Bloomberg

April 24, 2017

Saudi Arabia to Offer 1 Gigawatt of Renewable Contracts in 2017

Saudi Arabia will offer as much as 1 gigawatt of contracts to buy renewable electricity by the fourth quarter of this year, a government official said, putting more detail on a program designed to stimulate the kingdom’s wind and solar industry. The government will auction power-purchase agreements covering 620 megawatts of photovoltaic installations and 400 megawatts for wind farms in its second round of tenders for the technologies, said Turki al-Shehri, head of renewable energy project development at the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources. The oil exporting nation’s goal is to install 3.45 gigawatts of renewable by 2020 and 9.5 gigawatts by 2030, about 10 percent of its current electricity generation capacity. With a growing population, the kingdom is consuming more of its own oil and natural gas resources to feed its utilities.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

April 25, 2017

Oil edges up after 6 days of straight losses

Oil prices inched up on Tuesday but markets remain under pressure following six consecutive sessions of declines as traders lose confidence that pledged output cuts by major producers will rein in oversupply in a world awash with fuel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures added 24 cents, or 0.5 percent, by 0305 GMT, but remained below the $50 mark pierced late last week, at $49.47 a barrel. Brent crude rose 26 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $51.86 per barrel. Traders said the gains were a counter-reaction to consecutive price drops in the previous six sessions.

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Victoria Advocate

April 23, 2017

Oilfield equipment rentals on the rise

CUERO - Business started to pick up for Polly and Kirk Laging, owners of Certified Oilfield Rentals Inc., in November. The Cuero-based business rents surface oil field equipment all over Texas including on-site offices and living quarters, water and septic systems, light plants, generators, cooling trailers, trash trailers and more. This time last year, about 30 percent of their rental equipment was on drilling sites, and now close to 70 percent of equipment is rented. "We're on a steady increase right now," Kirk Laging said. "It's significant compared to what it was this time last year. Our employees, they were hardly getting their hours or making any over time. This time around, the guys are happier because they're now back on making over time."

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Platts

April 24, 2017

Williams: US onshore rig day rates jump as glut fades

Perhaps the most surprising sign of a recovery in the US onshore drilling industry has been the abrupt about-face for day rates, an analysis by RigData, a unit of S&P Global Platts, showed Friday. The first quarter has seen a 3.5% spike in the average day rate to $14,600, according to RigData. While that is still down from a record $19,015 in Q4 2014, it is the biggest quarter-to-quarter jump since the previous post-bust recovery in 2010. A major contributing factor to the day rate recovery has been the erosion of the rig glut, which can be monitored by tracking the available rig ratio. The ratio is calculated by dividing the number of available rigs by the number of marketed rigs. Once this ratio has sustained above a certain threshold, then day rates soften; when it trends below that threshold, day rates begin to rise.

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Palm Beach Sun Sentinel

April 24, 2017

Texas company defeats challenge to Big Cypress oil exploration plan

A Texas company on Monday won a court fight over its plans to look for oil at Big Cypress National Preserve, a vast wilderness that’s home to Florida panthers, black bears, alligators and other wildlife. Burnett Oil Co. plans to use seismic testing to reveal the presence of oil under 110 square miles of the preserve, which straddles Alligator Alley west of the Broward County line. The plan calls for sending heavy off-road vehicles through the preserve to pound the ground with 7-inch-thick steel plates, creating vibrations to reveal the presence of the geological structures that could contain oil. In a decision issued Monday, Senior U.S. District Judge John E. Steele ruled against six environmental groups that had filed suit to prevent the project, finding that an extensive federal environmental review had been sufficient to establish that the work’s impact on the preserve would be minimal, temporary and localized.

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Wall St. Journal

April 24, 2017

Halliburton Helped by Drilling Boost in U.S.

Stepped-up drilling for oil in the U.S. may have global producers on edge about oversupply, but the increased activity in the domestic energy sector is a boon for oil-field services firm Halliburton Co. HAL -0.66% The Houston company reported its first quarterly increase in revenue since the fourth quarter of 2014, when oil prices fell off and started to pressure production. The company said its results in the first three months of 2017 reflected more activity in its pressure-pumping and well-construction services. Shares, which are down 17% in the past three months but still sit 15% higher than a year ago, added 1.3% to $47.65 in premarket trading Monday.

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Bloomberg

April 23, 2017

Oil Investors Raise the Bet on Higher Prices and Lose

While hedge funds raised their bets on rising prices, the market tanked. Money managers boosted wagers on higher West Texas Intermediate crude for a third week as of April 18, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. The next day, futures tumbled after a report showed U.S. output rose for a ninth straight week. Prices continued to fall even after Saudi Arabia said exporters have reached an initial deal to extend production curbs past June. "Based on what happened the rest of the week, this will be the last hurrah," said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York-based hedge fund that focuses on energy. "There was a narrative that the OPEC/non-OPEC cuts would be effective and balance the market. The narrative unraveled by the end of the week."

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The National

April 24, 2017

Rival storylines duel in the global oil market

Oil ministers from the Arabian Gulf producers have been making the point strenuously: there is too much focus on the rebound in US output and not enough on what is happening elsewhere. Prices sank last week on news that US oil drilling was continuing its strong recovery, particularly in the Texas shale oil province. ... "The market looks very delicate at the moment and it really seems to be grasping for direction," said Ed Bell, commodities research analyst at Emirates NBD. "The supportive factors for crude, such as an extension of the Opec deal or involuntary output restrictions, are being matched by the market’s view of how the US will react." The involuntary output restrictions include the countries within Opec that were exempted because of their special circumstances. Nigeria remains 400,000 bpd below last year’s export level, at less than 1.7 million bpd, as it struggles to recover from sabotage by militants. Venezuela’s political crisis has resulted in an inability to pay for tankers, restricting its oil exports.

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Bloomberg

April 23, 2017

Space May Be Next Frontier for Earth's Crude Oil Giants, Analyst Says

The Middle East has an outsize impact on energy here on Earth. One analyst thinks some regional powerhouses may leverage that role into the development of natural resources in space. Countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are developing space programs and investing in nascent private space commodity initiatives, said Tom James, a partner at energy consultant Navitas Resources. Doing so could give them a foothold in building extraterrestrial reserves of water -- a substance likely to fuel travel within space -- and other resources that could be used for in-space manufacturing. “Water is the new oil of space,” James said in Singapore. “Middle East investment in space is growing as it works to shift from an oil-based to a knowledge-based economy.” Prospecting satellites can be built for tens of millions of U.S. dollars each and an asteroid-harvesting spacecraft could cost $2.6 billion, in line with mining operations on Earth, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts including Noah Poponak said in an April 4 research note.

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Arab News

April 24, 2017

US businesses getting hammered by Venezuela crisis

The political and economic crisis in Venezuela is costing US companies dearly, as General Motors (GM) can attest following the unexpected nationalization of its plant there. The big automaker shut down its operations in Venezuela and laid off its 2,700 workers after the government on Wednesday seized the plant, which had been idle because of the chaotic market environment. The group had been operating in the South American country for 69 years. GM is not the only US business to be walloped by Venezuela’s crisis. Kimberly-Clark, a personal-care paper group, had its factory taken over last July and posted a charge of $153 million to deconsolidate its Venezuela operations. Biscuit-maker Mondelez — behind America’s well-known Oreo brand — also took a one-time charge of $778 million to reconfigure its Venezuela operations as an investment in its accounts, to prevent them dragging the group’s earnings down. ... The country was once considered one of the juiciest markets for US businesses, boasting the biggest oil reserves in the world, a free-spending middle class with a taste for American products, and proximity. But a slump in global crude prices coupled with mismanagement has devastated the country’s economy.

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Utilities Stories

KXAS

April 24, 2017

Oncor Proposes Rate Increase for Solar, Wind Customers

The latest example in the struggle of going green is Oncor’s requested monthly minimum charge that the electric utility wants to put on customers who have installed what the company calls residential distributed generation, including rooftop solar panels or micro wind turbines. The request will be addressed by the Texas Public Utility Commission at a hearing on July 31. About 10,000 Oncor customers, approximately .00029 percent of the 3.4 million customers Oncor serves in North Texas, have installed solar or wind power at their homes. Man Serving Time for Murder Found Guilty of Another Oncor is required to distribute electricity along its 122,500 circuit miles of transmission and distribution lines, and claims that the grid it maintains is designed to meet the peak demand needs of each of its customers – the maximum amount of electricity any one customer may require at any one time.

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Green Tech Media

April 24, 2017

How a Cold Day in Texas Exposed the Value of Grid Flexibility

As the sun rose over Dallas on March 3, 2014, thermometers read 15° Fahrenheit. Across the state, Texans turned their heaters on full blast as they prepared to head to work. Meanwhile, at the operations center for Texas’ electricity system, ERCOT, operators saw the price of electricity skyrocket. Around 8 a.m. prices jumped to nearly $5,000 per megawatt-hour, more than 100 times the average price of electricity. Though the unusually cold weather caused electricity demand to increase well above historical levels, the power market behaved as intended. Many power plant owners, who know their capacity is typically not needed during this time of year, had their plants offline for maintenance. Thus, when a period of unusually high demand on March 3 combined with relatively low supply, prices skyrocketed, demonstrating the fundamentals of supply and demand. Power plants that were available and able to turn on quickly -- to be flexible -- were rewarded handsomely. As the renewables transition continues apace, flexibility will become increasingly important. Policymakers and investors will need to watch carefully how flexibility is paid for. In a market design like Texas’ “energy-only” market, price spikes are a normal and important event that, assuming no market manipulation, properly reflect the marginal cost of electricity at that specific time.

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KVUE

April 24, 2017

Bluebonnet members to get capital credits beginning in May

Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative members will get their share of $3.14 million in capital credits beginning in May, the utility announced Monday. The credits will be reflected on their May electric bill, and will be similar to dividends that for-profit companies pay to investors. Bluebonnet’s board of directors voted unanimously during its April meeting to return the credits to members. “Bluebonnet’s primary goal is to provide safe, reliable, competitively priced power for our members, and we do an outstanding job,” said Ben Flencher, Bluebonnet’s board chairman in a statement. “Returning $3.14 million in capital credits to our members is icing on the cake and what sets Bluebonnet apart from other electric utilities.”

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Clean Technica

April 24, 2017

US Coal Plant Closures Likely To Eliminate 30 Million Tons Of Annual Coal Demand

The United States is closing 46 coal-fired generating units at 25 electricity plants across 16 states over the next few years, transitioning to natural gas or intentionally closing them, and a new report shows that this will likely result in eliminating about 30 million tons of annual coal demand by the end of 2018. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) published its new research brief last week, working step-by-step through the implications inherent in the expected coal-fired generating closures over 2017 and 2018 (the full list can be seen at the bottom). The brief concludes that the expected closures will eliminate about 28.2 million tons of annual coal demand by the end of 2018, worth nearly $1.1 billion (2016 prices). The plant closures currently expected over the next few years are across 16 states — Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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The Japan News

April 24, 2017

Britain has day without coal power

Britain had its first full day without burning coal to make electricity since the Industrial Revolution more than a century ago, according to grid operator National Grid PLC. “April 21, 2017, was the first 24-hour period since the 1880s where Great Britain went without coal-fired power stations,” the National Grid control room said in a Twitter post confirming the achievement announced earlier. The country is getting half of its electricity from gas power plants, 30 percent from renewables and interconnectors and the remainder from nuclear plants, according to Duncan Burt, head of operate the system at National Grid.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Engineering

April 24, 2017

Houston Has No Problem with Renewable Energy

Many US cities are increasing their green energy goals, with some, like Chicago, shooting for 100% renewable energy by the year 2025. Further south, Houston says, "We have NO problem," with nearly 90% of its municipal electricity already being generated by renewable sources. Part of that comes from the recently constructed SolaireHolman plant, which saw "first light" in the spring of 2017. The 50MW solar powerhouse provides electricity to the city of Houston through a power purchase agreement (PPA). Additionally, the plant delivers wholesale power to ERCOT, the Texas state power grid. (The US is divided into three main power grids: Eastern, Western, and Texas. Why does Texas have its own grid? Because it's Texas, I suppose.) Covering 360 acres of land, the array contains more than 200,000 solar panels arranged into 26 blocks.

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AgriLife Today

April 23, 2017

Genome sequence of fuel-producing alga announced

The genome of the fuel-producing green microalga Botryococcus braunii has been sequenced by a team of researchers led by a group at Texas A&M AgriLife Research. The report, in Genome Announcements, comes after almost seven years of research, according to Dr. Tim Devarenne, AgriLife Research biochemist and principal investigator in College Station. In addition to sequencing the genome, other genetic facts emerged that ultimately could help his team and others studying this green microalga further research toward producing algae and plants as a renewable fuel source. “This alga is colony-forming, which means that a lot of individual cells grow to form a colony. These cells make lots of hydrocarbons and then export them into an extracellular matrix for storage,” Devarenne said. “And these hydrocarbons can be converted into fuels – gasoline, kerosene and diesel, for example, the same way that one converts petroleum into these fuels.”

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Wisconsin State Journal

April 24, 2017

How Major Oil Compnay Total Could Be Building a Renewable Energy Giant

Total has made three big moves toward renewable energy and they may be a slow moving train that will eventually transform the business. 1. Total bought two-thirds of solar panel manufacturer SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR) in 2011. The relationship has been rocky financially, but solar energy is now one of the few growth markets for Total and SunPower has leading technology in the industry. With Total supporting the company financially, look for this relationship to get closer and closer over time. 2. In 2016, Total bought battery maker Saft for $1.1 billion. The move gives Total exposure to batteries in military, aircraft, and industrial applications, but energy storage for electricity is really the end game. If Total can integrate Saft batteries into SunPower installations at homes, businesses, and utility-scale projects it could give the company a lead in the emerging solar and storage business that will likely be booming for at least the next decade. 3. Project ownership is where I would expect Total to grow most in the next few years.

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Washington Post

April 23, 2017

Wadhwa: Self-driving cars should leave us all unsettled. Here’s why.

Driving is a combination of continuous mental risk assessment, sensory awareness, and judgment, all adapting to extremely variable surrounding conditions. Not long ago, the task seemed too complicated for robots to handle. Now, robots can drive with greater skill than humans — at least on the highways. Soon the public conversation will be about whether humans should be allowed to take control of the wheel at all. This paradigm shift will not be without costs or controversies. For sure, widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles will eliminate the jobs of the millions of Americans whose living comes of driving cars, trucks, and buses (and eventually all those who pilot planes and ships). We will begin sharing our cars, in a logical extension of Uber and Lyft. But how will we handle the inevitable software faults that result in human casualties? And how will we program the machines to make the right decisions when faced with impossible choices — such as whether an autonomous car should drive off a cliff to spare a busload of children at the cost of killing the car’s human passenger?

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All About Circuits

April 20, 2017

Solar Roads: Emerging Tech or Looming Disaster?

A solar road is a concept where solar panels are embedded into materials used to either replace or rest atop of pathways and roads. There are several major solar road projects presently being developed and/or tested, all sharing the same core principle of roads that collect solar energy. The first solar road to be implemented, "SolaRoad", was a solar bicycle path installed in Krommenie, the Netherlands, in 2014. The path is 70-meter long (just under 230 feet). It cost over $3 million to install. Over the past year, this installation has yielded 9800 kWh of energy (Dutch language link). It's been considered a success and may be expanded in the coming months. Another solar bike path was unveiled in Pruszków, Poland in October of 2016 with a hook of glowing blue in the night. ... Solar Roadways promise a lot but their feasibility is dismal from an engineering perspective. It is at this point that some readers will flock to the comment section and start defending Solar Roadways as the future roadway system. Some may even make comments such as “people thought x was stupid or y was unfeasible but we made it happen”. However, true science relies on hard evidence and rational thinking. So before coming to any conclusions, please consider the following issues.

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Solar Industry Magazine

April 22, 2017

Ranking Shows Both Blue And Red States Lead On Clean Energy

A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) ranks the clean energy progress of all 50 U.S. states and finds success spans political party lines, as both red and blue states are making the switch to cleaner energy. Unsurprisingly, the study says California is doing the best job transitioning away from fossil fuels to clean energy alternatives, but the report notes a number of unexpected states are also leading the way. “Our analysis found there’s a lot of momentum for clean energy, including in states where you might not expect it,” comments John Rogers, senior energy analyst at UCS and lead author of the report. “State leadership has been a consistent and powerful force for progress. While the federal government has played an important role in encouraging renewable energy, efficiency and vehicle electrification, states that have shown real leadership are reaping economic and environmental benefits like new jobs, cleaner air and reduced public health risks.”

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Regulatory Stories

Austin American-Statesman

April 24, 2017

Fuller: Funds for Texas Gulf restoration are finally flowing

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded almost seven long years ago, but this month marks the first time the Gulf states —including Texas — will receive money from BP’s Deepwater Horizon 2016 settlement. In total, the state will ultimately receive nearly $1 billion that can be used for Gulf coast restoration from all the different penalty funds. The sum is enormous and yet not nearly enough to tackle all of the myriad problems facing the Texas Gulf. The question facing state decision-makers is: How can we use these dollars to get the biggest bang for our restoration buck? With its 367 miles of shoreline, the Texas coast is an economic powerhouse for the entire state. Coastal tourism supports more than 168,000 jobs and draws in more than a quarter of all travel dollars spent in Texas each year, according to data from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism. Meanwhile, commercial fishing creates roughly 22,000 jobs and generates more than $1.3 billion in sales, according to figures from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

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KERA

April 21, 2017

In Fort Worth, Railroad Commissioner Gets An Earful About Proposed Lake Arlington Disposal Well

At a community forum on Thursday night, Fort Worth and Arlington residents voiced concerns about a proposed saltwater injection well near Lake Arlington. The residents made their case to an audience of one: Ryan Sitton, one of three Texas Railroad Commissioners who regulates the oil and gas industry in the state. The company behind the proposal, Tulsa-based Bluestone Natural Resources, says it needs the well to dispose of wastewater from nearby gas wells. But about 150 people who packed an East Fort Worth community center for the forum asked blunt questions and made their concerns clear to the commissioner: Putting a disposal well on the edge of a vital water resource strikes them as a terrible idea. “Why are they trying to build an injection well just 9,000 feet from Lake Arlington dam?” asked Jane Lynn of Arlington. “We have our homes there, we have our businesses there, our schools. This seems reckless, in my opinion.”

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San Antonio Express News

April 23, 2017

Lewis: More funds coming for Texas roads

The Texas Transportation Commission recently approved an update of the Texas Department of Transportation’s $70 billion Unified Transportation Program. The UTP represents a 10-year project-funding outlook that includes plans to add or improve more than 1,200 miles of roadways to enhance safety and mobility, and reduce congestion. Seventy billion dollars is a historic amount of funding and includes more than $38 billion in additional funding, which Gov. Greg Abbott and the Legislature presented to the public in 2015 for approval as Proposition 7 and the ending of diversions of highway funds for other purposes. Texas is a dynamic state with a robust economy. With more than 27 million people — a number expected to double by 2050 — this transportation funding is not only welcome, it’s crucial to our quality of life, economic health and global competitiveness.

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Business Insider

April 22, 2017

Harrington: Scott Pruitt came to Earth Day Texas, and the whole thing was pretty weird

When he arrived to speak nearly an hour late, Pruitt took the stage with Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton for a "fireside chat." As the administrator spoke, his staff and security detail of eight-or-so people watched the crowd, positioned on the edges and in the aisles of the auditorium. The two discussed Pruitt's "back to basics" approach to managing the EPA that focuses on the agency's "core mission" of protecting the nation's air, land, and water. "Regulation — and this is a very profound statement — regulation ought to make things regular," Pruitt said. "I think what's happened over the last several years is we've been told as a country that we have to choose between jobs and protecting the environment, and I think that's a false choice." About a third of the way through the talk, three protesters interrupted. One by one, they stood up and accused Pruitt of committing environmental atrocities.

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Courthouse News

April 20, 2017

Jukam: Press Freedom Under Attack in Texas Legislature

A Texas Republican introduced bills in the state House that would make it easier for public officials to sue journalists for libel, force reporters to reveal their sources and prevent media outlets from publishing stories about public officials. State Rep. Ken King, a gas and oil man from the small town of Canadian in the Panhandle, last week introduced House Bill 3387, which would make it easier for public officials to sue reporters for libel, and House Bill 3388, which undermines Texas’s shield law, which allows reporters to keep their records and sources confidential. Both bills stem from an unsuccessful libel suit brought by a millionaire hedge fund trader, who also lives in Canadian. Opponents decried both bills as unconstitutional last week, at a public hearing in the Texas House State Affairs Committee.

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Bloomberg

April 24, 2017

Republican Cracks Emerge in Trump's Coal-Heavy Energy Plan

For all Donald Trump’s efforts to revive coal, market forces and some of his own supporters are vying to write their own version of America’s energy future. Divisions persist among the president’s supporters -- and even within his own cabinet -- about whether to continue subsidies for wind and solar power, enact a carbon tax, remain party to the Paris climate accord and plenty of other issues that will shape the U.S. energy landscape. “Seventy five percent of Trump supporters like renewables and want to advance renewables,” Debbie Dooley, a Tea Party organizer and solar energy activist, said at a Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York on Monday. “The conversation has changed. You have to have the right message. Talk about energy freedom and choice. The light bulb will go off.”

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EcoWatch

April 24, 2017

EPA to Shut Down Open Data Service Friday

Opendata.epa.gov—the U.S. government's largest civilian-linked data service, storing crucial information on climate change, life cycle assessment, health impact analysis and environmental justice—could face shut-down this Friday, according to people familiar with the plan. "Last week, after numerous conversations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Information (OEI), and various technical contractors who support them, we were notified that funding is not available to continue operation U.S. EPA's flagship Open Data Web service," wrote open data scientist Bernadette Hyland—the CEO and co-founder of 3 Round Stones, a platform for publishing data on the web—in a Medium post on Sunday.

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April 24, 2017

Lead Stories

Rigzone

April 21, 2017

Texas Adds Thousands of Oil, Gas Jobs in March

Texas oil and gas extraction employment increased in March to 92,500, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data that has been seasonally adjusted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Jobs in support activities for mining (which includes oil and gas) also increased in March, now totaling 119,200. Combined, Texas oil and gas employment increased to 211,700 in March, which is an increase of 3,400 jobs since February. “The increase in employment likely signifies that activity is continuing to pick up in the industry and that there is demand for jobs as more rigs are put back to work,” Kunal Patel, senior research analyst for the Dallas Fed, told Rigzone.

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Midland Reporter Telegram

April 22, 2017

Dallas Fed sees continued oil and gas recovery

A snapshot of the Federal Reserve’s Eleventh District energy industry shows continued recovery from the oil price downturn. “OPEC provided that confidence in the sector,” said Kunal Patel, senior research analyst with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. The Dallas Fed’s new Energy Indicators report found Permian Basin production rose by 57,700 barrels per day in March to 2.21 million barrels a day, while Eagle Ford production rose by 13,200 barrels a day to 1.15 million barrels. “A lot of rigs have gone back to work in the Permian; more rigs means more production,” Patel said, forecasting further production increases in both areas this year. The state rig count climbed to 411 rigs as of the end of March from a low of 173 last May. The counties showing the largest increases during that time are all in the Permian Basin: Reeves, which added 31, Martin, which added 15, and Howard, which added 14.

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Motley Fool

April 23, 2017

Residential Solar Giants May Not Be Low Cost After All

National solar installers Tesla, Vivint Solar, and Sunrun have long promoted themselves to investors as the low-price options for going solar. And the company with the lowest prices would have a significant competitive advantage in the growing rooftop solar segment. But a new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that large installers may not offer buyers a cost advantage at all. In fact, large installers charge significantly higher prices than smaller competitors for solar power systems, which may explain why they have been losing market share over the past year. The full study by NREL can be seen here, but the big takeaway is that systems from large installers costs significantly more than those installed by their smaller competitors.

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Dallas Morning News

April 23, 2017

Request denied: U.S. won't waive sanctions for Exxon Mobil to drill in Russia

The Trump administration has denied a request from Exxon Mobil to waive U.S. sanctions against Russia to allow the company to resume oil drilling around the Black Sea. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday in a brief statement that the administration "will not be issuing waivers to U.S. companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions." Exxon did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The decision comes just two days after it was reported that Exxon was seeking a waiver to resume a joint venture with Rosneft, a Russian state-owned oil company.

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Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

April 23, 2017

Back in Texas, Rick Perry warns of ‘gnarly’ oil and gas regulation

Dressed in a dark jacket and collarless shirt and talking at times like an evangelical preacher, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry had a simple message at an energy conference Friday: Innovate, don’t regulate. Perry was the keynote speaker at the first Responsible Shale Energy Extraction conference at Fair Park, where energy industry executives, scientists and journalists came together to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of getting oil and natural gas from shale, a process perfected in the Barnett Shale in North Texas. Perry, who served as Texas governor for 14 years, bragged about how the Lone Star State experienced a population explosion — adding about 4.5 million people during those years — while watching pollution decline and alternative forms of energy like wind energy bloom because government didn’t stand in the way.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

April 24, 2017

Oil recovers lost ground, but market remains under pressure

Oil prices recovered ground on Monday following last week's big losses, driven by expectations that OPEC will extend a pledge to cut output to cover all of 2017, although a relentless rise in U.S. drilling capped gains. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures added 26 cents, or 0.5 percent, by 0401 GMT, but were still below the $50 mark pierced on Friday at $49.88 a barrel. Brent crude futures rose 30 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $52.26 per barrel. Oil prices fell steeply last week on the back of stubbornly high crude supplies, despite a pledge by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and some other producers to cut production by almost 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) for six months from Jan. 1 to support the market.

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Washington Post

April 24, 2017

U.S. Oil-Rig Count Rises by 5

The number of rigs drilling for oil in the U.S. rose by five in the past week to 688, according to oil-field services company Baker Hughes Inc. BHI -3.06% The U.S. oil-rig count is typically viewed as a proxy for activity in the sector. After peaking at 1,609 in October 2014, low oil prices put downward pressure on production and the rig count receded. However, the oil rig count has generally been rising since the summer. The nation’s gas-rig count rose five to 167 in the past week, according to Baker Hughes. The U.S. offshore-rig count fell one rig from last week to 20, which is down six rigs year over year.

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Wall St. Journal

April 22, 2017

U.S. Oil Drilling Growth Shows First Signs of Cooling Off

U.S. oil drillers slowed the pace of a months-long expansion as investors worry that growing shale production will ruin OPEC’s efforts to prop up prices. Drillers added 5 rigs targeting crude this week, bringing the total to 688, according to Baker Hughes Inc. data reported Friday. While all four of the biggest oil basins boosted activity this week, the handful of rigs added is the smallest amount of growth in nearly two months. The number of working rigs has more than doubled from a 2016 low of 316 in May, often expanding weekly by double digits, with as many as 29 rigs added during one week in January. Crude dropped below $50 Friday on concerns that surging U.S. production could undermine OPEC’s efforts to reduce global supplies.

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San Antonio Express News

April 23, 2017

Valero Energy’s profit expected to drop 40%

San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp., the country’s largest refiner, is expected to post a 40 percent drop in profit when it releases its earnings Tuesday morning. Justin Jenkins, an analyst for Raymond James, said market conditions will weigh on Valero’s first-quarter results. But despite its profit drop, the company will be a “bright spot” in what will be an “ugly quarter for refiners,” he said. One of the factors making it a rough quarter for refiners is that their costs for crude surged 56 percent from first-quarter 2016. Data from the Energy Information Administration shows that oil prices in the first quarter of 2017 averaged $51.77 a barrel for West Texas Intermediate, compared with 2016’s first-quarter average of $33.18.

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Houston Chronicle

April 23, 2017

Schlumberger's U.S. fracturing business ramps up activity

A big boost in U.S. oil company spending this year will unleash Schlumberger's full fleet of hydraulic fracturing equipment by the fourth quarter, CEO Paal Kibsgaard said after the company reported Friday that it swung back to a profit in the first three months of the year. The world's largest oil field services company has begun hiring new workers to man its new trucking fleet to haul large payloads of sand, used in fracking fluids that blast open shale rock as they boost domestic oil production. Even as drillers extract oil, Schlumberger, based in Houston, Paris and The Hague, has been pouring money into sand production from its own mines, as well as rail cars, loading facilities and trucks in the United States, as domestic revenues increase.

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Houston Chronicle

April 23, 2017

Even in bankruptcy, oil bosses are promised riches

Six years ago, Houston oilman Floyd Wilson struck it rich with the blockbuster sale of Petrohawk Energy, making billions for investors and earning a reputation as a farseeing wildcatter. His next venture, Halcón Resources Corp., fell prey to the oil bust. The company slashed more than a third of its workforce, wrote down billions in assets and filed for bankruptcy, almost completely wiping out shareholders. But when the Houston company finished a six-week trek through bankruptcy court in September, Wilson emerged enriched again, with new shares in the reorganized company that would push the value of his annual compensation package up to $24.1 million, a figure that dwarfed his pay packages in previous years, worth $3.4 million on average, according to regulatory filings.

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Houston Chronicle

April 20, 2017

After IPO, Cadence execs ring in new era on NYSE

For Houston's newest public bank, timing was everything. Cadence Bancorporation executives were forced to table their initial public offering for more than two years as they waited for oil prices to stabilize and the market to improve. "We probably could have gone public, but it would have been really hard," said the chairman and CEO, Paul Murphy. ... As of Dec. 31, Cadence had $939 million in energy loans, representing 12.6 percent of its total portfolio. It had $113 million in nonperforming energy loans at the end of last year, but Murphy said 90 percent of them were paying in accordance with contractual terms. He said the bank got a lot of questions about its energy exposure as bank executives pitched Cadence to investors. But the largest portion of its energy exposure is to customers in the midstream sector, and he said that segment of its loan portfolio has reported zero net losses in the past five years. There has been stress - and some losses - for loans in the exploration and production and the oil field services segments, he said, though that exposure has been manageable. Last year's net income fell short of the $73 million that was expected.

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Bloomberg

April 21, 2017

Distressed-Debt Titans Take $1 Billion Hit From Texas Rebuff

The largest distressed-debt investors were hoping for closure and a big payday from the decade’s biggest U.S. bankruptcy. What they got instead was a $1 billion hole in their pocket. That’s what happened to Energy Future Holdings Corp. creditors after Texas regulators blocked a sale of its key unit that was designed to pay them off. The ensuing meltdown in bond prices ensnared a Who’s Who of risk-takers, such as Jamie Dinan’s York Capital Management, Marc Lasry’s Avenue Capital Management and GSO Capital Partners, people with knowledge of the matter said. Another firm that suffered losses, Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, is doubling down on its bet, snapping up debt discarded by rivals to gain control of negotiations, the people said.

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San Antonio Express News

April 22, 2017

Oil field flares and lights creeping closer to the famed McDonald Observatory

In the high mountains of a wild desert, day drains from the sky and night lights appear like halos on the horizon. There’s no moon. Just Mercury chasing the setting sun in the west, Jupiter rising to the east and another golden light emerging on the northern horizon. The view from the McDonald Observatory, considered the crown jewel of the University of Texas system, includes the glow from the Permian Basin oil field, incandescent with the work of 24-hour drilling, fracking and gas flaring. Four in every 10 drilling rigs working in the U.S. are in the Permian Basin, and the prolific oil province is creeping closer to the observatory, where astronomers depend on the veil of desert night in the Davis Mountains of the Big Bend region.

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Oil Price

April 20, 2017

Will BP Be The Next Big Player To Exit The Canadian Oil Sands?

Three Canadian oil sands projects could be losing their British Petroleum backing soon, according to anonymous sources that spoke to Reuters on Thursday. The British oil and gas company is reducing its role in non-core sectors of its business. Its 50 percent stake in the Sunrise project near Fort McMurray, Alberta, holds the highest value. The town was “ground zero” for the large forest fires that shut down one million barrels of output in the North American country last year. BP owns another 50 percent stake in the Pike field, which is operated by Devon Energy. The firm’s third project is the Terre de Grace oil sands pilot project.

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New York Times

April 21, 2017

Saudi Arabia, a kingdom built on oil, plans a future beyond it

Ever since oil was discovered in the Arabian desert in 1938, Saudi Arabia has been the world’s premier petro-state and the dominant force within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Flush with oil revenue, the country has had neither income taxes nor corporate taxes while bestowing on its people heavy subsidies for food and fuel. And the royal family has built spacious palaces at home while buying swanky houses abroad in places like London and yachts in the south of France. But now the oil-rich kingdom wants to look beyond oil. The crash in crude oil prices that began in 2014 has left the country with a gaping budget deficit. And while oil prices have recovered, climate activists have tried to bring the end of the hydrocarbon age closer and many analysts have predicted the approach of “peak demand” that would mark the end of a long climb in global oil consumption.

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MarketWatch

April 21, 2017

Here’s what Venezuela’s deepening crisis means for oil prices

Venezuela and its worsening economic and political crisis may be an underappreciated wild card when it comes to the outlook for oil prices. The nation, which has the world’s largest oil reserves, is suffering an economic collapse that has sparked massive protests against the government of President Nicolás Maduro. “The country is in [its] worst shape in two decades,” said James Williams, energy economist at WTRG Economics. “More corruption, more violence, little food and almost no medicine.” Adding to the nation’s woes, oil shippers are now seizing cargoes and going to litigation over Venezuela’s apparent failure to pay for shipping, said Williams. Recent news reports said that a Russian shipper held up a shipment of oil by Petróleos de Venezuela SA, or PdVSA, because the Venezuela state-run oil company owes millions of dollars in unpaid shipping fees.

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Wall St. Journal

April 21, 2017

General Electric, Still Weighed by Energy, Boosts Profit Amid Cost Cutting Plan

General Electric Co.’s GE -2.38% first quarter showed strength driven by its core industrial businesses as its oil and gas segment continued to drag on results. Under pressure to cut costs and boost returns, the conglomerate reported higher profit and a 7% jump in organic revenue in the typically sluggish period. Organic revenue excludes currency swings, acquisitions and divestments. Industrial orders—which give a glimpse at future demand for equipment like jet engines, power turbines and oil-related equipment—exceeded expectations, rising 7% excluding deals.

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Motley Fool

April 22, 2017

This OPEC Country Has the Largest Proven Oil Reserves (and It's Not Saudi Arabia)

Most people just assume that Saudi Arabia is the world's oil king. While it's true that the Middle Eastern nation is the leading oil producer in OPEC, it's not the undisputed leader for global oil output, as that title has rotated between Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the U.S. in recent years. Meanwhile, when it comes to proven oil reserves in the ground, Saudi Arabia comes in second among its OPEC peers. Instead, the real oil kingpin in OPEC is Venezuela, which has 300.88 billion barrels of proved oil reserves, according to OPEC's data. That's 24.8% of OPEC's total and ahead of Saudi Arabia's 266.46 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, which is 22% of the organization's reserves. However, despite being OPEC's largest reserve holder, Venezuela hasn't been able to leverage its massive reserves to threaten Saudi Arabia's control of the group. The bulk of Venezuela's oil is in the Orinoco Belt, which is in the northern part of the country. In fact, according to some estimates, there are as much as 1.2 trillion barrels of oil in the region. That said, this is heavy oil, which like the oil sands of Canada is more expensive to extract.

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Oxford Business Group

April 21, 2017

Qatar gets serious about solar

Qatar will be looking to maintain this momentum in renewable power generation as it continues to pursue its long-term strategy plan, Qatar National Vision 2030, which aims to fill an expected growth in power demand while simultaneously increasing the sustainability of the country’s energy mix. Between 2006 and 2016, power and water consumption recorded average growth rates of 10.4% and 7.7% a year, respectively, according to data released by Qatar Electricity and Water Company (Kahramaa), the country’s main utilities regulator. Furthermore, research conducted last year by the Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation shows that Qatar will need to attract $9bn in its power sector between 2016 and 2020 to keep pace with electricity demands.

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Houston Chronicle

April 22, 2017

Rising oil production could mean better days for pipelines

Pipeline projects have had a tough few years, protested, blocked and canceled. But they may have better days ahead. Gulf Coast refineries and fuel exporters are looking to take advantage of rising production in Texas' Permian Basin and Canada's oil sands. That, in turn, is creating demand for new pipelines to get the product to markets. Two projects, for example, are proposed to move crude from the Permian, which straddles West Texas and New Mexico, to the Corpus Christi coastline. Houston-based pipeline company Buckeye Partners has proposed a 400,000 barrel-per-day line from Wink and Midland to refineries, storage and export facilities in Corpus Christi.

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CNBC

April 21, 2017

LaKamp: Gas stations are going away sooner than you think

When new technology comes to market, the first deployment tends to emulate the closest comparable iteration. So, it makes sense that people would expect electric vehicle charging to start as a new "pump" at existing gas stations. But, the truth is, traditional city gas stations will not be where/how we "energize" our cars in the future. And all but the most necessary ones on highways may eventually go away. To really jump start electric vehicle use, we need to stop focusing on wired super charging at gas stations and focus more on wireless charging everywhere else. Because people aren't going to go a place to charge. They're going to charge at the places they go. Let's talk numbers to frame this assertion. Coming out of 2017, with the Tesla 3 and the Chevy Bolt, we'll have two electric vehicles priced in the mid-range that feature well over 200-mile range. The number of models with comparable range will certainly grow, and we'll see range improvements to boot.

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Utilities Stories

Reuters

April 20, 2017

Panda Temple power plant, Suniva solar firm file for Chapter 11

Two energy companies, power plant operator Panda Temple Power LLC and solar panel manufacturer Suniva, have both cited adverse market conditions in filing for Chapter 11 protection in Delaware late Monday. Panda Temple said in court papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware that its natural-gas-fueled power plant has faced rising competition from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, rendering its facility uneconomical.

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Bloomberg

April 23, 2017

Denning: Texas Power -- No Country for Old Thinking

Wholesale power prices -- meaning what the plant sells it for, not what you pay as a householder -- are depressed despite demand hitting a record in Texas in 2016. As I explained here, a big reason for this is the proliferation of windmills in the state. Once renewable power sources get built, their fuel costs are free, so they tend to drag down power prices in general and take market share from traditional plants running on stuff like ... natural gas.As analysts at CreditSights point out, what's striking about the Temple bankruptcy is that the plant only got up and running less than 3 years ago. It is modern and efficient, burning only 7,000 BTUs worth of natural gas to generate a kilowatt-hour of electricity (by way of illustration, a typical coal-fired plant might need 10,000 BTUs of fuel to do that).Based on the Bloomberg Terminal's spark-spread function, a plant like that selling into Houston should make a gross margin of $14.34 per megawatt-hour (MWh) using current forward electricity prices for 2018 of $35.65 per MWh.

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Houston Chronicle

April 22, 2017

Osborne: Has electricity deregulation hit a wall?

Did she say that right? Cheryl LaFleur, the acting chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, last week raised a possibility that would have seemed impossible nearly two decades ago in the midst of the deregulation craze. "Door number three," LaFleur told lawyers gathered at a luncheon of the conservative Federalist Society, "is an actual change to the regulatory paradigm, not just an adjustment, reregulation." Such a term might sound like heresy in the state Capitol in Austin, where public officials regularly extoll the virtues of Texas' decision to deregulate electricity markets in 2002, part of a grand national experiment to see if by breaking up the old utility monopolies the government could spur innovation and bring down power costs. ... While there is little sign the Texas Legislature or the Texas Public Utility Commission are hanging around with the reregulation crowd, discontent around deregulation does show up in Texas from time to time. Last year the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, which represents a coalition of more than 150 municipal governments across Texas, released a report showing that customers in deregulated regions in Texas paid about 15 percent more than customers in regulated regions like Austin and San Antonio.

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ReNew Economy

April 21, 2017

Kentucky coal company to build state’s largest solar farm on old coal mine

Berkeley Energy Group is a coal company located in eastern Kentucky, one of the areas of America hit hardest by declining coal production. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, coal extraction in Eastern Kentucky fell from 23 million tons in 2008 to about 5 million tons last year. Over the same period of time, mining employment dropped from 14,373 to 3,833. Now Berkeley Energy says it will build the largest solar farm in Appalachia. The solar panels will be erected on land reclaimed at the end of strip mining operations. In partnership with EDF Renewable Energy, the company is currently conducting feasibility studies for the project on two reclaimed strip mines, both located in the eastern part of the state. It estimates the solar farm could produce up to 100 megawatts of electricity — ten times the size of Kentucky’s largest solar farm today.

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WCBS

April 21, 2017

Major Power Outages In New York City, San Francisco Come Amid Worries About Failing Infrastructure

Major power outages caused chaos on mass transit systems in both New York and San Francisco Friday, with parts of both cities’ systems still suffering ongoing outages or delays into the pre-weekend afternoon commute. The outages occurred on the heels of an Infrastructure Report Card that gave poor grades to both mass transit and power systems across the country. In New York, platforms were packed and riders were stuck underground in the dark when an outage in Midtown Manhattan backed up trains all over the city Friday morning. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a Con Edison equipment failure knocked out signals, escalators, communications and lights at the station. ... The organization’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card noted that much of the U.S. energy system dates back before the turn of the 20th century, and most electric transmission and distribution lines were constructed in the 1950s and ’60s with a now-exceeded life expectancy of 50 years. “Without greater attention to aging equipment, capacity bottlenecks, and increased demand, as well as increasing storm and climate impacts, Americans will likely experience longer and more frequent power interruptions,” the report warned.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Green Tech Media

April 21, 2017

Donald Trump May Be the Only Hope for Struggling US Solar Manufacturers

In his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week, President Trump abruptly changed course on forcing China to discipline North Korea. “After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” he told The Wall Street Journal. He may find that further disciplining China on solar trade practices also may not be so easy. But he could get a shot at it -- and soon. Suniva, the Georgia-based crystalline-silicon solar producer, finally filed for bankruptcy protection this week. It didn't come as a great surprise, given the current pricing environment. Last year alone, global module prices declined by 38 percent. And although domestic solar production doubled from 2012 to 2016 after tariffs on Chinese and Taiwanese products were established, imports from other regions surged -- and the American market share continues to fall. Suniva blamed Chinese producers for setting up shop in other Asian countries not covered by the tariffs: "These tariffs have not been effective in preventing dumping of Chinese solar products into the United States."

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Bloomberg

April 21, 2017

Gigantic Wind Turbines Signal Era of Subsidy-Free Green Power

Offshore wind turbines are about to become higher than the Eiffel Tower, allowing the industry to supply subsidy-free clean power to the grid on a massive scale for the first time. Manufacturers led by Siemens AG are working to almost double the capacity of the current range of turbines, which already have wing spans that surpass those of the largest jumbo jets. The expectation those machines will be on the market by 2025 was at the heart of contracts won by German and Danish developers last week to supply electricity from offshore wind farms at market prices by 2025. Just three years ago, offshore wind was a fringe technology more expensive than nuclear reactors and sometimes twice the cost of turbines planted on land. The fact that developers such as Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg AG and Dong Energy A/S are offering to plant giant turbines in stormy seas without government support show the economics of the energy business are shifting quicker than anyone thought possible -- and adding competitive pressure on the dominant power generation fuels coal and natural gas.

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Energy and Environment Management

April 21, 2017

Green light for 50MW solar power plant in Jordan

The US$76 million Mafraq 1 solar power plant, one of four solar schemes approved by the Jordanese government in the second round of its solar independent power producer initiative, has attained financial closure. The 50MW solar photovoltaic plant near Al Mafraq, 80km north of Amman, will be the country’s first utility-scale solar plant of this size. The project is one of several initiatives to help the country increase its renewable energy capacity and reduce its reliance on costly hydrocarbon imports, with a target of developing 1,600MW of renewable energy by 2020. When it becomes operational, Mafraq I is expected to reduce Jordan’s carbon footprint by displacing over 80,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, the equivalent of removing 17,000 cars from the country’s roads. The project will also open new employment opportunities.

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All Africa

April 21, 2017

Kenya: Home Owners Face Jail for Not Installing Solar Power

Owners of large residential and commercial buildings who have not installed solar water heaters risk jail or a Sh1 million fine beginning next month when the energy sector regulator begins to enforce compliance with a law that came into force five years ago. The law requires owners of residential and commercial houses, whose hot water needs exceed 100 litres per day, to include solar water heating systems in their building designs. The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said in a notice that it will begin enforcing the Energy (Solar Water Heating) Regulations 2012 on May 27 when the grace period it provided last year comes to a close.

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Regulatory Stories

CultureMap

April 21, 2017

Environmental group takes on Dallas smog with high-tech gadgets

Dallas environmental group Downwinders at Risk is committed to clean air and is taking matters into its own hands. The group has purchased two ozone monitors, to the tune of nearly $10,000, and will initiate a citizen-based monitoring campaign in Wise County, an area where state officials refuse to measure DFW smog. The new toys will be on display at Earth Day Texas, happening April 21-23 at Fair Park, where they will be featured at the group's information booth. Downwinders chair Tamera Bounds says that the technology is brand new. "With the purchase of these brand-new high-tech monitors, which reached the market only a few months ago, we become the first group in Texas to have the capability to go out in the field and do the job the State of Texas isn't willing to do," she says.

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Politico

April 23, 2017

Trump to sign executive orders on drilling, cybersecurity and a rural America task force

The orders come in the run-up to the president’s 100th day in office. By Friday, Trump will have signed 32 executive orders, the most signed by a president in the first 100 days since World War II, according to the White House.One order will mark the administration’s first steps this week toward expanding oil and gas drilling in waters off the U.S. coast. The order will call for a “review of the locations available for offshore oil and gas exploration and of certain regulations governing offshore oil and gas exploration,” the White House said. Former President Barack Obama put large portions of the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic and dozens of underwater canyons off the East Coast permanently off limits for drilling during his final weeks in office. His administration had previously shelved plans that would have opened up other parts of East Coast and Arctic waters to oil exploration in the coming years.

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Daily Caller

April 21, 2017

Wind Turbines Create Big Problems For Small Planes

The proliferation of unmarked wind turbines in recent years poses a huge risk to thousands of pilots flying over farms every day, according to a top lobbyist for crop-dusters. Crashing into wind turbines has killed at least four crop-duster pilots in the U.S. since 2003, including one in Minnesota last August. The spinning blades of the turbines poses several risks for pilots, the problem will likely get worse as wind power continues to expand, fueled by government subsidies. “You’ve got two issues with wind turbines,” Dominique Youakim, president of the National Agricultural Aviation Association, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “One is the field in which the wind turbine is located. If you have to work a field and a turbine is adjacent to it you can’t fly around it. You can’t pull up because you’ve got a 200 foot tower in the middle of the field.”

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Austin American-Statesman

April 23, 2017

PolitiFact: What happens to oil from Keystone pipeline

President Donald Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline brought protests from opponents who say it won’t benefit the United States. “I’ve opposed the Keystone strategy for a long time because it is an export strategy,” U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told the Press-Republican newspaper in Plattsburgh. “It doesn’t even have any oil for America to make our gas prices cheaper.” ... Experts say the oil will not be exported straight to other countries, as Gillibrand said. It is true that exports of petroleum products from Gulf Coast refineries have increased considerably in recent years. That’s part of why PolitiFact rated a similar statement by Obama Mostly False in 2014. While the trend adds a grain of truth to her claim, it doesn’t mean all of the oil that will come from the Keystone XL pipeline will be immediately exported. We rate Gillibrand’s claim Mostly False.

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Houston Chronicle

April 23, 2017

What cuts? Perry promises Energy Department will keep innovating

The U.S. must innovate in the energy sector, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Friday, and his department will continue to drive some of that innovation. Perry, speaking at Earth Day in Dallas, lauded the work of the energy department’s national laboratories and promised the labs would continue to break technological ground, even as his staff in Washington prepare for steep cuts to come. RELATED: Trump budget would hit Texas hard “Those 17 national labs are the most extraordinary jewels in the world,” Perry said. “A lot of places wish they had just one.”

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April 21, 2017

Lead Stories

Bloomberg

April 21, 2017

Natural Gas Moves to the Naughty List

Think coal’s got it bad in the fight against climate change? Watch what happens to natural gas. Power plants around the world are stepping up their use of gas as a fuel because it burns cleaner than coal—and in the U.S., at least, it’s cheaper. Gas now supplies about a third of the country’s power, up from just 17 percent a decade ago. But U.S. environmentalists have vowed to go after gas-fired power plants with the same vengeance they’ve used to force the retirements of hundreds of coal facilities. Even coal miners are warning their fossil fuel kin to beware. Gas producers “will be next on the list of the industries to be destroyed,” says Robert Murray, chief executive officer of U.S. coal miner Murray Energy Corp. ... Green groups that once celebrated gas as a “bridge fuel,” helping the world transition from dirty coal to zero-emission energy such as wind, solar, and other renewable sources, are now fighting it. Lena Moffitt, a program director at the Sierra Club, says there’s a “growing recognition that it’s a fuel we’ll have to leave behind.”

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Houston Chronicle

April 21, 2017

Report ranks Texas industrial markets among nation's weakest

Online real estate marketplace Ten-X ranked four Texas industrial real estate markets, including Houston, among the five weakest in the country. San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth and Indianapolis also make the list of markets where conditions are most likely to motivate investors to sell industrial properties, according to the latest U.S. industrial market outlook put out by Ten-X. Christopher Muoio, senior quantitative strangest with Ten-X in New York, stressed that the outlook was generally positive for industrial markets nationwide, and that the ranking was relative.

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World Oil

April 20, 2017

Exxon gets backing of GOP-led states in fight over climate probe

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and 10 of his Republican counterparts are joining forces in court to help derail a probe into whether Exxon Mobil Corp. misled investors about climate change. The investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his Massachusetts counterpart, Maura Healey, is an attempt to censor scientific opposition to the theory that human activity is warming the planet, the group said in a filing this week in federal court in Manhattan. Schneiderman and Healey, both Democrats, "falsely presume that the scientific debate regarding climate change is settled," the group said, adding that the state probes are using government power to chill free speech. New York and Massachusetts have been investigating since 2015 whether Exxon misled the public and investors for years about climate change by withholding information about how it could impact the company’s finances.

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Dallas Morning News

April 20, 2017

Why Americans are using less electricity

For more than a century after the advent of commercial electrical power in the late 1800s, electricity use in the U.S. rose and rose and rose. Sure, there were pauses during recessions, but the general trajectory was up. Until 2007, it appears. The initial drop in electricity use in 2008 and 2009 could be attributed partly to the economic downturn. But the economy grew again in 2010, and every year since. Electricity use in the U.S., meanwhile, is still below its 2007 level, and seemingly flatlining. The change is even more dramatic if you measure on a per-capita basis. Per-capita electricity use has fallen for six years in a row. We're now back to the levels of the mid-1990s, and seemingly headed lower.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

April 21, 2017

Oil prices set for biggest weekly drop in a month

Oil traded steady on Friday, though it was set for its biggest weekly drop in about a month over doubts that an OPEC-led production cut will restore balance to a market that has been dogged by oversupply for more than two years. Brent crude futures were at $52.99 per barrel at 0323 GMT, flat from their last close. Brent futures are set for a 5.2 percent weekly drop, the most since the week of March 10. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were also almost unchanged, at $50.74 a barrel. WTI is set for a 4.6 percent weekly decline, also the most since March 10. Reuters' technical analyst Wang Tao said that WTI had support just above $50 per barrel, while Brent had support around $52.55.

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Oil Price

April 20, 2017

Exxon Mulls Big Investment In Argentina As Part Of Shale Strategy

ExxonMobil is betting on shale development not only on its home turf. The supermajor is also planning to speed up investment plans for shale gas drilling in Argentina’s prized Vaca Muerta formation in the Neuquen province. Exxon will start drilling Vaca Muerta in May, by drilling horizontal wells with laterals of 2,500-3,000 meters (8,202-9,843 feet), Neuquen province governor Omar Gutiérrez said on Monday. The U.S. major’s total investments in developing Vaca Muerta will have reached $750 million by the end of this year, said Gutiérrez, who discussed Exxon’s plans with executives of Exxon and its subsidiary XTO in Houston last week. ExxonMobil Exploration Argentina (EMEA) has been present in Vaca Muerta since 2010. Last year, following the successful initial exploration results in the Bajo del Choique-La Invernada block, EMEA launched a pilot project to continue to assess the productivity and recovery of horizontal wells in Vaca Muerta. The project includes drilling five wells, as well as early production facilities and a gas pipeline.

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UPI

April 20, 2017

Texas oil and gas sector expanding, but pressures remain

Recovery in the Texas oil and natural gas sector is evident, though yearly indicators suggest there's still ground to make up, an economist in the state said. Texas is the No. 1 oil producer in the United States. The latest survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas found mostly upbeat sentiment over the past three months on the back of the increase in permits issued for new oil and gas wells. Karr Ingham, an economist for the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, said energy sector developments in the state are in an expansionary cycle because of gains in commodity prices from last year. Elsewhere, however, the sector is still behind where it was last year. "We still have a long way to go, but 2017 is going to be a year of recovery and expansion in the Texas statewide oil and gas exploration and production economy," he said in a statement. "Activity levels will continue to expand, jobs will continue to be added, and the industry will support the broader state economy again, rather than acting as a drag on growth as it has for the prior two years."

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KUHF

April 19, 2017

NRG’s Carbon Capture System Doing Its Job, But Is It Enough?

At a recent ribbon-cutting of the Petra Nova carbon capture system at NRG’s W.A. Parish coal power plant near Sugar Land, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott compared it to the first Texas oil boom in 1901. “116 years after Spindletop, Texas is once again the epicenter of energy innovation,” he said. “We see that innovation right here at Petra Nova.” NRG and its partners developed the first carbon capture system at a commercial coal power plant. It captures about 40 percent of the CO2 that’s produced by one of the plant’s four carbon power units. That CO2 is piped to the West Ranch oil field 80 miles southwest of here. There, it’s injected into the ground and used to extract oil in a method called Enhanced Oil Recovery.

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Reuters

April 20, 2017

ConocoPhillips takes slow, steady route in race for oil profits

ConocoPhillips (COP.N) has beaten its 2017 asset sales target less than four months into the year, after shedding $30.8 billion worth of energy assets in six years. But instead of a chorus of cheers on Wall Street, Chief Executive Ryan Lance is facing investor skepticism that the company can deliver growth from remaining oil and gas fields. ConocoPhillips' most recent sales of Canadian oil-sands properties and U.S. natural gas wells for a combined $16 billion will part with nearly 30 percent of its proved reserves in order to deliver near-term shareholder payouts and pare debt. Lance told Reuters the sales to Cenovus Energy (CVE.TO) and Hilcorp Energy Co will fulfill promises to reduce long-term debt by 42 percent to $15 billion, fund $6 billion in share purchases and help reshape the company for an era of low and volatile energy prices.

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Houston Chronicle

April 20, 2017

Houston man pleads guilty to role in ‘pump and dump’ stock scheme

A local businessman charged with conspiring to manipulate the market price and demand for shares of Chimera Energy Corp. pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and promised to cooperate with prosecutors. Thomas Massey, who entered his plea Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore, faces up to five years in prison and up to $1 million in restitution to victims who bought shares at inflated prices. Sentencing is scheduled in June before Gilmore. Until then, Massey is free on an unsecured $50,000 bond, said his attorney Houston criminal defense lawyer Mike DeGeurin Sr. Massey also agreed to cooperate with federal and state authorities including testifying about the “pump and dump scheme,” according to the plea agreement Massey signed, referring to the process of artificially inflating the price of stock and then selling it to unwitting investors.

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Bloomberg

April 20, 2017

Goldman Says Ignore the Technical, Savor the Fundamental on Oil

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. says there’s no fundamental evidence in the oil market to justify this week’s selloff in prices. The bank finds the pace of declines in U.S. crude inventories encouraging, with an acceleration in draw downs expected through the second quarter as OPEC cuts output and demand grows, according to a report dated April 20. Meanwhile, a mid-week slide in prices was driven by crude trading through its 50-day and 100-day moving averages, Goldman said. Goldman is reiterating its confidence in oil at a time when investors are fretting over whether U.S. production, which has climbed to the highest since August 2015, will undermine curbs by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies. After posting three straight weekly gains on expectations OPEC will extend its supply cuts, crude is now set for a drop this week following a decline of more than 3.5 percent on Wednesday.

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Dallas Morning News

April 20, 2017

Why oil and gas pioneer George Mitchell was a conservationist

The late George P. Mitchell was a pioneer of more than oil and gas production from shale. He also insisted that oil and gas extraction be conducted responsibly. On his own ranch, Cook's Branch Conservancy, north of The Woodlands, Mitchell oversaw natural gas production. He demanded that industry practices respect the conservation value of Cook's Branch. He famously warned that if the production company "didn't do it right, I'll kick them out." As oil and gas production increases in West Texas, landowners and communities in the Trans-Pecos region of the Permian Basin would do well to adopt Mitchell's worldview.

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Bloomberg

April 21, 2017

BP Gulf Oil Spill Damage Valued at $17.2 Billion in New Study

BP Plc’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused damage to beaches, animals, fish and coral that the public values at $17.2 billion, according to a financial accounting released on the seventh anniversary of the disaster. The tally, published Thursday in the journal Science, is based on a survey of thousands of Americans that asked what they’d be willing to pay to prevent the kind of impacts unleashed by the spill, which began with an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20, 2010. The worst oil spill in U.S. history killed 11 rig workers, spewed 134 million gallons of crude, soiling birds and marine life across the Gulf. BP, which contracted the rig, was forced to sell off billions of dollars in assets to pay for damages. The latest study, ordered by the U.S. government, is the most comprehensive attempt yet to put a value on the environmental losses, said Kevin Boyle, one of the lead researchers.

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Dallas Morning News

April 18, 2017

T. Boone Pickens says he's ready to meet his maker ... as a Methodist

Ten years ago, T. Boone Pickens gave $18.4 million towards Dallas’ first stand-alone inpatient and residential hospice center. At the time, it was little more than the vision of Godwin Dixon, recently retired president and CEO of Presbyterian Communities and Services. On Tuesday, the legendary oilman got his first view of what his largess had created -- the T. Boone Pickens Hospice and Palliative Care Center owned by Presbyterian Communities. Pickens was blown away. “Every aspect of the facility is impressive,” he said in an interview after his tour.

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Bloomberg

April 19, 2017

OPEC Faces Surprise Outcome After Oil Cuts: Higher Stockpiles

When OPEC and Russia meet next month to assess the impact of their oil cuts they face a surprising outcome: stockpiles are even higher than when they started. Inventories have started to decline, but by the time ministers gather in Vienna on May 25, developed nations still won’t have burned through the big stockpile increase caused by a surge in OPEC output just before the cuts came into force, data from the International Energy Agency indicate. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has been “hoisted by its own petard” by agreeing in principle to reduce production last September while allowing members to keep boosting sales until the deal took effect on Jan. 1, Citigroup Inc. said. While the group has fully implemented its pledged cuts, that’s being offset by U.S. shale oil producers buoyed by price gains, according to Commerzbank AG.

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Nikkei

April 20, 2017

Beijing may cut crude oil to Pyongyang, says Chinese expert

China likely will halt crude oil exports to North Korea should Pyongyang conduct its sixth nuclear test, a prominent Chinese expert told The Nikkei, signaling a tougher attitude by Beijing toward its rogue neighbor. A nuclear test or the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles would violate United Nations Security Council resolutions, and China is certain to respond with additional sanctions, said Zhang Liangui, a professor at the Chinese Communist Party's Central Party School and noted authority on North Korea. The option to cut off the North's crude supply will be put on the table, Zhang said, while stressing that the Chinese government will ultimately decide its course of action. North Korea relies almost entirely on China for oil. The Asian giant shipped about 500,000 tons of crude to the North each year until 2013, according to the Chinese customs agency.

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CNBC

April 20, 2017

World's top rig builder Keppel says no rescue in sight for offshore oil services

Singapore's Keppel Corporation, the world's largest offshore rig builder, said it expects an extended slowdown in the offshore sector even though oil prices have recovered from their historically low levels a year ago. "This is due to, among other factors, the oversupply of rigs and support vessels. It will take some time before the industry fully recovers," Loh Chin Hua, Keppel's chief executive, said during a Thursday evening webcast to announce the company's first quarter earnings. His remarks are a testament to challenges that the oil support services sector still faces. The recovery in oil prices have yet to translate into greater oil exploration and production activities, which will help to shore up demand for rigs and support vessels.

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Utilities Stories

Houston Chronicle

April 21, 2017

Where will your power come from? Big decisions ahead for Texas

Something has got to give when it comes to how Texas generates, transmits and sells electricity. In particular, Texas lawmakers need to reconsider how generators get paid for wholesale electricity by ERCOT, the semi-governmental agency that manages the grid in most of Texas. Prices have dropped so low that electric companies say they cannot afford to invest in the new power plants the state will eventually need to keep the lights on. What these changes should look like, though, depends a lot on whether the company offering an opinion uses coal, natural gas or wind. It also depends on whether the company constructs transmission lines or sells retail electricity to customers. That's what makes NRG CEO Mauricio Gutierrez's perspective more interesting than most. The $5.6 billion company is the largest electricity retailer in Texas, with 2 million customers. But NRG is also the second-largest electricity generator, with a mix within ERCOT that is 55 percent natural gas, 33 percent coal, 7 percent nuclear and 5 percent wind.

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PV-Tech

April 20, 2017

El Paso Electric sells out community solar subscriptions in just one month

Texas utility El Paso Electric has completely sold out of subscriptions for its community solar programme, just one month after enrolment opened. The US$6.7 million 3MW facility located at the Montana Power station complex in El Paso will be completed this spring. Once it is complete, some 1,400 customers who managed to sign up for a solar subscription will be eligible for solar generation in 1kW blocks at a monthly fixed rate of US$20.96/kW, with solar and fuel credits offsetting the price, according to the utility. The El Paso Times is reporting that of those 1,400 customers, around 1,395 are residential and small commercial customers enrolled for an average of 2kW of solar per month, and the remaining five are large commercial customers enrolled for an average of 8-9kW per month.

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Austin American-Statesman

April 20, 2017

Hebner: We can lead the way to a nuclear renaissance

Creative destruction has hit the electric power industry. This process typically occurs when lower-cost, better technology becomes available. In electric power, renewables and natural gas are displacing nuclear power and coal-fired power plants. With respect to coal plants, many would say “Good riddance. Coal is too expensive, too dangerous and too dirty anyway.” But when it comes to nuclear power, what many don’t understand is that there is a chance that we can reinvent it to be clean, safe and reliable. In the U.S., our kneejerk reaction is to let industry fix it. But that only works when there is sufficient cash flow in the system to achieve the needed improvement. In our government-regulated energy market, the required cash is not being produced.

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Breaking Energy

April 19, 2017

Microgrids May Not Promulgate Renewable Energy

Microgrids are one of the hottest trends in energy recently, so much so that many have been speculated as the future for the country in which microgrids are supplying everyone with clean energy. Microgrids, however, should not necessarily be associated with clean energy. In fact, many microgrids actually rely on fossil fuels. As per usual, microgrids running on, say natural gas, are much cheaper than those which run on solar.NREL Microgrid testing Given how young markets tend to work, we should expect the microgrid market to be largely gas-driven – not one in which renewables dominate. This research comes from a new study by researchers at the University of California at San Diego. Localized grids, however, can prove to be more efficient than their centralized counterparts, especially when energy is being transmitted over longer distances.

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Bizjournals

April 20, 2017

Duke Energy CEO doubts coal industry ‘revival’

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good says despite talk of “reviving the coal industry” in the Trump administration, coal remains economically and environmentally challenged — and Duke won’t change its move away from the fuel. “We have to look through the changes of administration, the changes in politics and set our vision on where we want our company to be and what strategy we are pursuing,” she told more than 70 attendees during the Hood Hargett Breakfast Club luncheon at The Palm Wednesday. “Our strategy will continue to be to drive carbon out of our business.” She said the economics of coal “are really challenged” and that it would prove more important than any government position. Referring to public policy, she said, “So when I think about administrations, the only person running Duke Energy for 2025, 2030 and 2035 is Duke Energy.”

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Power Engineering

April 19, 2017

Study: World Could Generate Up To 10,000 GW of Solar By 2030

A variety of solar experts have indicated somewhere between 5,000 GW and 10,000 GW of solar capacity could be installed worldwide by 2030. Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, their counterparts in Japan and Germany and researchers at various universities and industry organizations announced that assessment in a new paper, Solar Power World reported.

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Regulatory Stories

Houston Chronicle

April 20, 2017

Pipeline CEO Kelcy Warren approved for Texas Parks & Wildlife seat

A committee of the Texas Senate narrowly approved Kelcy Warren’s nomination to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission on Thursday, despite months of environmental protests and marches against his pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners. All three Democrats on the Senate’s Nominations Committee voted against the move; four Republicans voted in favor. A full Senate vote with a two-thirds majority is now needed to approve Warren’s appointment. Gov. Greg Abbott appointed the billionaire CEO to the sought-after post 18 months ago. Warren has since been the subject of regular activism at the parks department, at his offices and at his home.

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Wall St. Journal

April 21, 2017

WSJ: Offshore Drilling Blowout Preventer -- A new rule would damage Trump’s plans for more U.S. energy.

President Trump is filling out his Administration, but too slowly, and an offshore drilling proposal shows why having personnel to mind the store is so important. Barring a late reversal, Mr. Trump may abet his predecessor’s goal of undermining American energy production. Two days before President Obama left office—the encyclopedia definition of a midnight regulation—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) rolled out a new rule on the Jones Act. Under this 1920 law, all ships transporting goods between U.S. ports must be U.S.-flagged, constructed in the U.S., owned by U.S. citizens and crewed by U.S. citizens. Most ships in the offshore oil and gas industry like crewboats or platform-supply vessels already comply with the Jones Act in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and elsewhere. But Customs now wants to extend the mandate to certain specialized drilling, construction and engineering vessels. Currently, about 30 CPB regulatory precedents stretching back 40 years exempt these ships from the Jones Act.

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Dallas Morning News

April 19, 2017

Campbell: We must protect Texas' military installations from encroaching wind turbines

In Texas, we value our military and the role military bases serve our communities. According to the governor's Texas Military Preparedness Commission, they contribute more than $136 billion annually to our economy. Our military is among the leading industries in the state, and as vital to Texas as the $170 billion oil and gas industry, according to Texas Comptroller calculations, and the $100 billion economic impact provided by agriculture. The 15 military installations spread across Texas help keep us secure and employ almost 900,000 Texans, both directly and indirectly, according to the governor's commission.

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KVUE

April 20, 2017

Concern over methane released on land owned by UT

Around 150 members of University of Texas' faculty have expressed concern over the amount of methane being released from oil and gas facilities operating on land owned by the University of Texas. They signed a letter that was sent to Chancellor William McRaven Wednesday asking him to reduces methane emissions leaks at the oil production facilities operating on more than 2 million acres of UT owned land. They believe this can be done by using technology that reduces methane leaks. "It's an opportunity show that faculty can not only teach but lead," University of Texas at San Antonio lecturer David Matiella said.

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Houston Chronicle

April 17, 2017

Business group takes aim at Culberson over border tax

A conservative business group is launching ads Tuesday targeting Houston Republican John Culberson and three other GOP lawmakers, urging them to oppose a controversial border adjustment tax favored by House Republican leaders. The $500,000 digital and TV ad buy comes amid a deepening divide within GOP ranks over the proposed tax, which could increase the cost of imported goods by as much as 20 percent. Republican backers of the plan, including House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of The Woodlands, say it would help boost domestically produced goods. The new ads, sponsored by the Club for Growth, appear to target lawmakers who could help tilt the balance within the House GOP caucus. Democrats appear to be solidly opposed. Besides Culberson, the ads take aim at Reps. Diane Black of Tennessee, Martha Roby of Alabama, and Tom Rice of South Carolina.

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Ozy

April 19, 2017

The Lone Star State's head honcho lobbyist

Texas Lobbyist Andrea McWilliams’ whole life has revolved around one building: the Texas State Capitol. She grew up across the street in the ’70s. Her dad owned a modest burger joint on S. Congress Ave, above which the family of four lived. Her father later took over a cafeteria that was directly across the Capitol lawn in a state building; the favored lunch spot for elected Texas officials was known for its homemade German bread and fresh sweet rolls. “It was always a tradition that the first day each governor would take office, they would come eat at my dad’s place to show they were accessible to everyone,” McWilliams recalls. At 15, she took a job as a messenger at the big white dome. Later, the Capitol would serve as the site for a meet-cute with her now-husband Dean, who was a fellow staffer. Today, she has the closest consultancy office to the Capitol, she says, in the whole state. It sits just across the street.

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The Hill

April 20, 2017

Poll: Voters support controversial border-adjustment tax

A majority of registered voters support a proposal to impose a new 20 percent tax on imports, according to a new poll. The Harvard-Harris Poll survey found that 62 percent of Americans would support a 20 percent tax on all goods made outside the United States. The idea is backed by 77 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of independents and 51 percent of Democrats, according to the poll. A new tax on imports is a key part of the tax-reform plan from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The border-adjustment tax would impose the 20 percent tax on imports and reduce taxes on exports.

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Grand Forks Herald (ND)

April 19, 2017

McFeely: Dakota Access pipeline execs among Rep. Cramer's oil campaign donors

FARGO— The company that built the Dakota Access Pipeline is a major campaign contributor to North Dakota U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer. The congressman, as expected, is wholly unapologetic. Optics be darned. "Frankly, I'd be surprised if they didn't support me," Cramer said. Cramer was a strong and vocal supporter of the controversial pipeline, which drew national attention when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protested its crossing of the Missouri River south of Bismarck, N.D. He blasted the Obama administration for halting the pipeline and praised newly elected President Donald Trump for allowing construction to be completed. Oil began flowing through the pipeline in March.

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April 20, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman

April 19, 2017

Plans for West Texas high-level radioactive waste site halted

An effort to collect and store high-level radioactive waste from around the country in West Texas has been suspended by a Texas company because of apparent money troubles. Waste Control Specialists on Tuesday asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to suspend its safety and environmental license review for the facility. In a letter to federal regulators, company President Rod Baltzer asked that the license review be paused until the completion of the sale of company to EnergySolutions, which the company estimated would be closed by the late summer. But the fate of that deal remains uncertain as the company grapples with a lawsuit by the U.S. government seeking to block the sale on antitrust grounds.

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Dallas Morning News

April 19, 2017

Exxon, Saudis pick South Texas site for world's largest ethylene plant

Petroleum giant Exxon Mobil Corp. says it wants to build the world's largest ethylene cracker plant in San Patricio County in South Texas. Exxon, with project partner Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corp, ended months of speculation by announcing Tuesday it plans to build the $10 billion plant near Portland in the Corpus Christi area. Other sites in Victoria and two Louisiana parishes were scouted. Company officials said the 1,300-acre parcel at Farm-to-Market Road 2986 and U.S. Highway 181 stood out. Its deep-water access and ready-made pipeline and railway infrastructure were too good to pass up.

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Reuters

April 20, 2017

Dakota Access Pipeline already changing oil industry

Philadelphia Energy Solutions Inc, the largest refiner on the U.S. East Coast, will not be taking any rail deliveries of North Dakota's Bakken crude oil in June, a source familiar with delivery schedules said on Tuesday - a sign that the impending start of the Dakota Access Pipeline is upending trade flows. At its peak, PES would have routinely taken about 3 miles' worth of trains filled with Bakken oil each day. But after the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline begins interstate crude oil delivery on May 14, it will be more lucrative for producers to transport oil to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast. The long-delayed pipeline will provide a boost for Bakken prices and unofficially end the crude-by-rail boom that revived U.S. East Coast refining operations several years ago. "It's the new reality," said Taylor Robinson, president of PLG Consulting. "Unless there's an unforeseen event, like a supply disruption, there will be no economic incentive to rail Bakken to the East Coast."

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Austin American-Statesman

April 19, 2017

Orrenius, Phillips: Without globalization, adios ‘Texas miracle’

Texas’ outsized economic success is sometimes referred to as the “Texas miracle.” Since 1990, the state has added over 5 million jobs, growing nearly twice as fast as the nation. The numbers for 2017 show Texas growing at an annual rate near 3 percent. Today’s Texas economy rose out of the ashes of the 1980s oil bust and banking crisis and has been one of the biggest economic success stories in the nation. Though tere is no shortage of factors contributing to the state’s emergence, none has been more significant than trade and Texas’ role in globalization. The state’s exports have risen 270 percent in real terms since 1994, the year the North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented. By 2002, Texas was the No. 1 exporting state in the nation. Texas exports totaled $233 billion in 2016, exceeding No. 2 California by $71 billion.

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Wall St. Journal

April 19, 2017

Investors Welcome a Break From Punishing Oil Price Swings

The wild price swings that characterized the oil market for much of the past two years have faded in 2017, a welcome development for stock and bond investors whose holdings tend to suffer when crude turns volatile. U.S. oil prices traded in a range of $50.82 to $54.45 a barrel for most of the past four months. No 60-day trading range has been that tight in nearly 14 years. Two opposing forces have trapped oil prices in that narrow band: Production cuts by the major producing nations have limited price declines while growing U.S. supply has held rallies in check. That doesn’t mean the market is free from the occasional big price swing.

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Oil & Gas Stories

NASDAQ

April 20, 2017

Oil prices claw back some losses, but oversupply still weighs

Oil prices regained some ground on Thursday after steep losses the previous day, with a slight drop in U.S. crude inventories stoking hopes that a global supply overhang might slowly retreat. Brent crude futures were at $53.08 per barrel at 0430 GMT, up 15 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their last close. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 12 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $50.56 a barrel. Traders said that the slight gains came on the back of a reduction in commercial U.S. crude stocks, which fell by 1 million barrels last week to 532.34 million barrels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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San Antonio Business Journal

April 19, 2017

Shale gas was key factor in landing "game changing" Exxon Mobil plastics plant

Natural gas from the Eagle Ford Shale was key in landing a $10 billion plastics plant that will be built just north of Corpus Christi, where it is expected to be a game changer for the South Texas economy. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday that Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) and Saudi Basic Industries Corp. chose San Patricio County to build a plant that will make ethylene and other chemicals used to make polyester, anti-freeze, plastic bottles and food packaging products.

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Austin American-Statesman

April 19, 2017

Dallas Fed: Oil recovery adds momentum to region’s growing economy

The energy sector’s continued stabilization, an increase in retail sales and solid demand across a wide spectrum of industries boosted regional economic activity in recent weeks, according to a report Wednesday from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. In its chapter of the Beige Book, an anecdotal survey of the economy compiled every six weeks by the Federal Reserve banks, the Dallas Fed said the economic activity in its district “expanded moderately … with a slight acceleration from the prior reporting period.” The Dallas Fed’s district includes all of Texas and parts of New Mexico and Louisiana. Texas accounts for more than 95 percent of the region’s economic activity.

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Houston Chronicle

April 19, 2017

Oil and gas numbers boom; ‘A new cycle of expansion,’ expert says

The oil and gas industry is well into its recovery and embarking on “a new cycle of expansion,” according to the Texas Petro Index released Wednesday. The rig count is up 40 percent over the first quarter last year. Drilling permits have doubled. Employment has risen by 9,000 from the trough. First quarter highlights include an average rig count above 360, more than 40 percent better than the same quarter last year, a doubling of drilling permits to 3,250, and a more-than-50 percent increase in average crude prices to almost $48.50 a barrel and natural gas to $3 per thousand cubic feet. The factors together mark the first industry expansion in three years, since crude oil prices began to tank in 2014, falling by more than three-quarters to about $26 last year.

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Houston Chronicle

April 19, 2017

Kinder Morgan boosts natural gas sales, profits in Q1 earnings

A boost in natural gas sales helped fuel an increase in profits for pipeline giant Kinder Morgan last quarter. The company posted first quarter profits of $401 million, up $125 million or 45 percent over the first quarter of 2016. Revenue rose $229 million or 7 percent to $3.4 billion. Costs rose just $65 million or 3 percent to $2.4 billion. Natural gas sales boomed 232 billion Btus or 10 percent to 2.6 trillion. Crude oil and condensate gathering volumes, a smaller portion of Kinder Morgan’s business, dropped 60,000 barrels per day or 18 percent to 272,000.

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Dallas Morning News

April 19, 2017

Dallas company behind Dakota Access pushes back on Trump's 'Buy American' pipelines mandate

The Dallas-based pipeline giant that’s benefited big league from the Trump administration’s energy policies is nevertheless pushing back hard on one of the president’s signature proposals to boost domestic manufacturing. Energy Transfer Partners - builder of the contentious Dakota Access pipeline - wrote this month to the Commerce Department to warn about “significant adverse” impacts that could result from the White House’s demand that pipelines built in the U.S. be made with American steel. “The impacts of such a restriction are expected to severely delay project schedules, drive up costs, decrease availability and lower quality,” wrote the company, which in February received a final federal permit for the Dakota Access project. And Energy Transfer Partners, run by GOP mega-donor Kelcy Warren, is far from alone in that thought.

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New York Times

April 19, 2017

Exxon Mobil Seeks U.S. Sanctions Waiver for Oil Project in Russia

Exxon Mobil is pursuing a waiver from Treasury Department sanctions on Russia to drill in the Black Sea in a venture with Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, a former State Department official said on Wednesday. An oil industry official confirmed the account. The waiver application was made under the Obama administration, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity, and the company has not dropped the proposal. The proposal is now before the Trump administration at a delicate time in Russian-American relations, with rising tensions over the war in Syria and a looming congressional inquiry into reports of Russian efforts to influence the United States presidential election.

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Proactive Investors (UK)

April 19, 2017

Oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell blighted by Citigroup rating downgrades

Oil majors BP PLC (LON:BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell PLC (LON:RDSB) both fell back this morning under pressure from comment by Citigroup, which downgraded its ratings for both. In a note to clients, the US bank cut its stance on BP to ‘neutral’ and chopped its rating for Shell to ‘sell’ after scrutinizing recent annual reports. Citigroup’s analyst said: “Fine-print of 2016 annual reports indicates that most Big Oil companies still believe in 70-80s [dollar] oil prices longer term.” They added: “This is not to say companies can’t manage at lower prices (as strategic updates all claim), but does suggest the sweet-spot of financial firepower – and therefore higher returns to shareholders – still requires significant price recovery.

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Houston Business Journal

April 14, 2017

Houston oil storage facility is up and running

Houston-based Fairway Energy Partners LLC has opened part of its Pierce Junction crude oil storage facility, the only independent salt dome crude oil storage terminal in the Houston area. The project aims to serve the "significant growth" of pipeline-delivered crude oil into and through the Houston market, according to a release. It was first announced in 2015 after the company raised funds from Virginia-based private equity firm FBR & Co. The Pierce Junction project converted three underground salt caverns near the intersection of the 610 Loop and state Highway 288 into crude oil storage that holds millions of barrels of crude oil.

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Oil & Gas Investor

April 19, 2017

LNG Developer NextDecade To Merge With Blank-Check Company

LNG developer NextDecade LLC is set to become publicly-listed following its merger with a blank-check company, also known as a special purpose acquisition company or SPAC. NextDecade, based in The Woodlands, Texas, said April 18 it agreed to combine with Harmony Merger Corp. (NASDAQ: HRMN, HRMNU, HRMNW) in an all-stock transaction. At closing, the combined entity is expected to be valued at more than $1 billion. Founded in 2010, NextDecade is a developer of LNG projects that is currently focused on a land-based U.S. Gulf Coast export project called Rio Grande LNG in Brownsville, Texas. The 27 million tons LNG per annum project is located in close proximity to the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale, according to the company release.

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Marketplace

April 18, 2017

Why boom-bust oil prices may be here to stay

Crude oil prices fell today following a government report predicting the biggest increase in U.S. production in two years and the Saudi Arabian energy minister publicly doubting whether that country will keep cutting production as promised. Once again, oil is the global economic wild card. Energy analyst Robert McNally's book on the topic is called “Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices.” He talked with Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation. Kai Ryssdal: Why is oil so different? Robert McNally: Think about if the price of beer fell in half. What would happen to consumption? Ryssdal: Yeah, we'd all be buying beer. McNally: Right. It would soar. What happens in the price of oil drops? Are you going to get in your car and drive around in the school parking lot just for the joy of consuming gasoline? No. Consumption really doesn't increase that much.

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Financial Times

April 19, 2017

Russian energy companies embark on an Arctic enterprise

His fur coat heavy with snow and protecting him from temperatures of minus 18C, Igor Sechin, the chief executive of Russian oil company Rosneft, clutched the radio in his thick gloves and relayed to his engineers the simple order he had just been given by Russian President Vladimir Putin: “Start drilling.” A rig operator confirmed his request. Moments later, a drill began its 5,000m journey downwards, in search of oil deposits that the country is banking on to provide more than a quarter of its future output. Perched on the edge of a peninsula deep in the Arctic Circle, Tsentralno- Olginskaya-1 will be Russia’s northernmost oil well. Closer to the North Pole than to any city, it is a feat of engineering that uses equipment shipped 3,600km through icy waters navigable only for two months of the year.

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Center for Public Integrity

April 19, 2017

Donald Trump inauguration bankrolled by corporate giants

Billionaire Texan Kelcy Warren, whose company is building the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline for which the Trump administration in February gave final approval, sent $250,000 to Trump's inauguration committee in December. Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder who spoke at the Republican National Convention, added $100,000. ... The next most-generous companies listed are Quicken Loans ($750,000), Wynn Resorts ($729,217), Chevron ($525,000), American Financial Group ($500,000), Intel ($500,000) JPMorgan Chase and Co. ($500,000), Citgo Petroleum ($500,000), oil comapny BP Corporation of North America ($500,000), casino developer and Ultimate Fighting Championship parent Fertitta Entertainment ($500,000), Manhattan real estate investment firm Tahl Propp ($500,000) and the MacAndrews and Forbes Group ($500,000), which owns military contractor AM General, among other companies.

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Yahoo! News

April 19, 2017

Chevron to Divest Downstream Assets to Parkland for $1.5B

California-based integrated energy company Chevron Corporation CVX is planning to divest its stake in downstream fuel business to Canada’s fast growing independent fuel distributor, Parkland Fuel Corporation. This is Parkland’s third and biggest acquisition deal with Chevron. The transaction involves the sale of 129 retail gas stations in Vancouver as well as Chevron’s Burnaby refinery in British Columbia. Additionally, the deal includes the sale of 37 commercial cardlock and three marine fuelling locations. Parkland will also acquire three terminals in British Columbia and a wholesale business which includes aviation fuel sales to Vancouver International Airport. Parkland plans to fund the deal – valued at $1.5 billion –through a mix of equity offering, debt and cash.

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Oil Price

April 18, 2017

BP And Monroe Energy Lock Horns Over Oil Supply Contract

BP has filed a lawsuit against Monroe Energy in a federal court, claiming the refiner wrongfully terminated a contract last year. This has become the latest in a string of lawsuits involving the Pennsylvania refinery that Monroe Energy operates, brought about, according to some authors, by the fall in oil prices since 2014. In the BP case, the UK-based major accused the refiner of using an “unfounded pretext” to cancel the three-year contract that has caused BP damages worth $59 million, its own estimates showed. From Monroe’s perspective, things look differently. The refiner agreed back in 2014 to buy 185,000 bpd of crude produced by BP in the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale plays, both at a premium to the Brent benchmark: $8.35 for Eagle Ford crude and $7.35 for Bakken crude.

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Utilities Stories

KRGV

April 19, 2017

AEP Requesting $28M in Distribution Cost Recovery

AEP Texas is asking the state’s public utility commission to increase their distribution rates. This means people across the Rio Grande Valley could soon pay more for electricity. AEP Texas filed a distribution cost recovery factor with the Texas Public Utility Commission. This would allow the company to get back money they spent on their electric distribution infrastructure. The amount the company is requesting from the Rio Grande Valley is $28 million. If they commission approves such request, that money could mean higher bills for consumers. AEP said bills could go up by more than $1 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours. But cities across the Valley are standing up to AEP by filing resolutions against the rate hike. Harlingen assistant manager Gabriel Gonzalez said the city voted against the rate Wednesday night.

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Oakridger (TN)

April 19, 2017

Will climate change impact power delivery?

How will a warmer climate affect the supply of and demand for electricity? Will the reduced need for heating buildings lower electric bills? No, said Melissa Allen, in her recent luncheon talk to the Friends of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. A staff scientist at the Climate Change Science Institute at ORNL, she said that results of climate modeling show that “the need for more power to cool buildings is not offset by less need for electricity for heating.” Will carbon-containing fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – be totally replaced by carbon-free energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar cells? "Modeling of different scenarios that address the impact of human-induced climate change on future U.S. electricity supply and demand suggests that “renewable energy technologies, such as wind and solar power, are not able to generate as much electricity as fossil fuels,” Allen said. ORNL’s partners in modeling include groups at Argonne, Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories. “Fossil fuels will still be around because they are less expensive than renewables.

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Inside Energy

April 19, 2017

IE Questions: Super Grid! Spanning Continents In A Single Bound!

Somewhere in the world, the sun and wind are always shining and blowing, and people are always using electricity. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get renewable power from the windy and sunny places to the power hungry places? That was presumably the thinking behind a question posed by an Inside Energy audience member: Would transmission losses be too high to sustain an international green power electrical grid? The short answer: Yes. An international power grid would sustain huge transmission losses and would therefore be too expensive to be feasible, right now. But in some situations, regional or continental grids do make financial sense and are already under development. The longer answer: To fully understand this issue, we need to dive into the anatomy of the power grid, high-voltage transmission technology, and the politics of electric utilities…Here we go!

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Bloomberg

April 20, 2017

Europe’s Coal Power Is Going up in Smoke -- Fast

The long goodbye for coal in Europe is accelerating as the cost of shifting to green energy plunges. Companies including Drax Group Plc, Steag GmbH to Uniper SE are closing or converting coal-burning generators at a record pace from Austria to the U.K., made obsolete by competition from cheaper wind and solar power. After more than 500 years of using the carbonaceous rock -- which fueled the industrial revolution even as emissions warmed the atmosphere -- the continent simply can’t afford it anymore and is moving on. “It’s an entirely different fuel-price world,” said Johannes Truby, an analyst at the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Dallas Morning News

April 19, 2017

Earth Day Texas organizers want investors to see the green in clean tech companies

Each year, Earth Day Texas draws families, kids and adults from around the Dallas-Fort Worth area to Fair Park. This year, event organizers are aiming for an additional audience: Investors. For the first time, Earth Day is hosting a forum specifically geared toward family offices, high-net-worth individuals and foundations that may be interested in early-stage clean technology startups. The E-Capital Summit, an invitation-only event, will teach potential investors about the emerging areas of green and energy-efficient technology. Earth Day organizers said they hope the forum persuades attendees to bet on the future of clean tech by investing in startups.

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Wall St. Journal

April 14, 2017

Apple Secures Permit to Test Autonomous Vehicles in California

Apple Inc. AAPL -0.53% on Friday secured a permit for??autonomous-vehicle testing in California, the clearest sign to date of progress in the company’s secretive efforts to develop self-driving car technology. The permit, awarded by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, is Apple’s first for autonomous cars and allows it to test drive vehicles on public roads in the largest U.S. state by population, adding it to a list of rivals that includes Google parent Alphabet Inc. GOOGL -0.15% and Tesla Inc. TSLA 2.41% The move indicates Apple is going beyond testing on private tracks and in simulators as it works to improve artificial-intelligence systems that must learn to interact in the unpredictable world of human drivers.

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Daily News Egypt

April 19, 2017

International banks agree to finance solar energy projects worth $3bn

Solar energy companies are looking forward to getting approvals of international banks to finance the second phase of feed-in tariff solar energy projects before 28 April, with investments of up to $3bn. The approval of international banks came after visiting the site of solar energy projects in Benban, Aswan, and following up on the preparatory processes that have been conducted on site, as well as the establishment of substation transformers to transmit energy from power plants to the national grid. The head of operations at Solar Shams, Faisal Eissa, said that his company is negotiating with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to obtain the initial approval for the financing of a solar power plant with a capacity of 50MW in the second phase of the feed-in tariff.

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USA Today

April 19, 2017

Tesla's Autopilot self-driving system slammed in lawsuit

Tesla's Autopilot partial self-driving system is flawed, causing cars to steer erratically when it is engaged, and the electric automaker hasn't been timely in delivering promised safety features, a lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges. "Autopilot capabilities that consumers paid $5,000 extra to obtain are anything but 'safer' and 'stress free,'" alleges the lawsuit on behalf of three Tesla owners. "Many owners report the Autopilot is essentially unusable and demonstrably dangerous." The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., seeks class-action status. Tesla, based nearby in Palo Alto, Calif., had no immediate comment.

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Clean Technica

April 19, 2017

Casey: Trump Admin. Outlines Global Solar Plan: 10 Terawatts By 2030

President Trump talks a great game when it comes to US coal miners and coal jobs but he sure is walking the renewables walk. The latest item in the flood of renewable energy news pouring from the Energy Department since Inauguration Day is a new study that charts a do-able path for global energy producers to harvest 5-10 terawatts of solar power by 2030. That’s quite a big feat considering that the current scope of global solar generation is still measured in gigawatts, but then again President Trump is known to be a huge fan of the bigly. For those of you keeping score at home, a terawatt is 1,000 gigawatts. A gigawatt is 1,000 megawatts or one billion watts. So yes, 10 terawatts is a heckuva lot of electricity. It’s not enough to fulfill global demand, which hung around 15 terawatts as of 2015, but wind power and other renewables could fill in the rest. By way of comparison, last fall the International Energy Agency issued a report that pegged global renewables at only 153 gigawatts in 2015, including wind and other sources as well as solar.

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Regulatory Stories

Austin American-Statesman

April 19, 2017

As Tesla bills stall, Lege weighs loophole for Buffett

The latest effort by Tesla Inc. to sell the electric cars that it makes directly to Texas consumers appears to have stalled in the Legislature, even as a bid by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. to win an exception to the strict regulations preventing automobile manufacturers from also owning dealerships is racing forward. Senate Bill 2279 — filed Tuesday by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills — would allow manufacturers to own dealerships “so long as the vehicles they sell or service are not the same type of motor vehicle that they manufacturer or distribute.” It has been scheduled for a Thursday Senate committee hearing. Berkshire Hathaway Automotive, which has 85 dealerships in 10 states and is based in Irving, needs the exception to avoid violating existing Texas law because its parent company owns recreational-vehicle maker Forest River Inc., as well as a large stake in Chinese electric-car maker BYD Co.

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Austin American-Statesman

April 19, 2017

Texas bill would grant auto ownership exemption for Berkshire Hathaway

A bill has been filed in the Texas Senate that potentially would enable Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. to navigate around regulations that currently prevent automobile manufacturers from also owning dealerships in Texas. Senate Bill 2279, filed Wednesday by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, would allow car makers to own dealerships “so long as the vehicles they sell or service are not the same type of motor vehicle that they manufacturer or distribute.” Berkshire Hathaway owns automobile dealerships in Texas and other states, and it also owns a large stake in Chinese electric-car maker BYD Co., seemingly putting it in violation of the current rules.

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Austin American-Statesman

April 19, 2017

UT investment company’s name, board to take on more of an Aggie flavor

You wouldn’t know it at first blush, but the University of Texas Investment Management Co. doesn’t just oversee stocks, bonds and other assets for Longhorn Nation. The $18 billion Permanent University Fund endowment it manages also benefits Aggieland. The investment company’s name and the makeup of its board of directors will soon take on more of an Aggie flavor. On Wednesday, the UT System announced that Chancellor Bill McRaven has decided to relinquish his seat on the nonprofit investment company’s nine-member board of directors so that the UT System Board of Regents can name a representative of the A&M System to the position. The A&M System would thus have three representatives or appointees rather than two on UTIMCO’s board.

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Phys Org

April 19, 2017

Hazardous chemicals go unregulated in routine oil and gas operations

California and more than two dozen other states require oil and gas producers to disclose the chemicals they use during hydraulic fracturing activities, enabling scientific and public scrutiny of the environmental and human health hazards these substances may pose. But all existing disclosure regulations cover chemical use only in hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, and, in California, two other types of well-stimulation treatments. Many of the same chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing go undisclosed when they are used in numerous routine, unregulated oil- and gas-field activities such as the drilling, cleaning and maintenance of wells, according to a study published in PLOS ONE today (April 19). The study, conducted by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of the Pacific and the California-based energy science and policy institute PSE Healthy Energy, is the first published research to investigate chemicals used in unregulated routine oil- and gas-field activities, including the overlap between chemicals used in both regulated and unregulated activities.

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Reuters

April 20, 2017

Trump's EPA to reconsider oil and gas emissions rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will reconsider a rule on greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas operations and delay its compliance date, the agency said on Wednesday in the Trump administration's latest move to reduce regulations. Oil interest groups, including the American Petroleum Institute and the Texas Oil and Gas Association, had petitioned the EPA a year ago to reconsider the rule limiting emissions of methane and other pollutants from new and revamped oil and gas wells and systems. The EPA said in a statement that it would delay the rule's June 3 compliance date by 90 days and take public comments during that period. Under Democratic President Barack Obama, the EPA released the first methane limits on the facilities in May 2016, saying it would cost energy companies $530 million, but would lead to $690 million in benefits, including lowering medical bills.

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