Texas Energy Report - Mobile



July 26, 2017

Lead Stories

Business Recorder

July 21, 2017

World’s first Solar-Powered Windows

In order to make our home energy neutral, a tech startup has recently created the world's first commercial, completely transparent solar-power-generating windows. A startup named Physee designed the windows in a way that they have solar cells installed in the edges at such particular angles that permits the incoming solar light to be successfully modified into electricity. The CEO of the startup Ferdinand Grapperhaus exclaimed, “Large commercial estates consume a lot of energy. If you want to make these buildings energy neutral, you never have enough roof surface. Therefore, activating the buildings' facades will significantly contribute to making the buildings energy neutral.” These solar-powered windows are able to generate approximately 8 to 10 watts of power. Grapperhaus informed Live Science, “This enables the user to charge a phone per every square meter (11 square feet) two times a day.”

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Utilities Stories

El Paso Times

July 22, 2017

Pickett's bill seeks to stop higher electric rates for solar homes

Texas state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, doesn't think El Paso Electric should charge residential customers with solar systems more for electricity than non-solar customers. So, Pickett on Tuesday, the first day of the state Legislature's special session, filed a bill to forbid Texas electric utilities from charging a higher rate or special fee for residential customers with solar systems. The bill won't likely go anywhere in the 30-day special session. Special session rules only allow lawmakers to vote on items identified as priorities by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Pickett's legislation does not fall under those priorities. But, Pickett said, he wants to stir further debate on the company's proposal. "If not this special session, perhaps the next regular session a discussion about this inequity needs to take place," Pickett wrote in a letter he sent Wednesday to Mary Kipp, El Paso Electric chief executive officer, notifying her of his bill filing and his opposition to charging solar customers extra for electricity.

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Houston Chronicle

July 20, 2017

Tomlinson: Houston company helps H-E-B keep the lights on

The next time the wind blows and the lights go out along the Texas coast, odds are your local H-E-B will be open for business, providing food, ice and a place to cool down, thanks to a new power player in Houston. After years of struggling with finicky diesel generators, the grocer has contracted with Enchanted Rock Energy to provide backup power from on-site natural gas generators at 50 locations in Houston and will eventually in introduce them at stores across the state. Using an innovative business model, Enchanted Rock will operate the generators from a control room in downtown Houston and will make money using them to back up the state's electric grid almost every day. The company's patent-pending generators, digital control room and ability to sell power to the grid could transform the electric reliability industry.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Reuters

July 20, 2017

China seen making 25 percent more solar panels in 2017

China's solar industry is expected to produce 25 percent more panels in 2017 than last year, supported by domestic sales and demand from the United States and emerging markets, the head of a Chinese industry association said. China was expected to produce solar panels with a combined capacity of 60 gigawatts (GW) this year, said Wang Bohua, secretary general of China's photovoltaic industry association. China produced panels with capacity of 48 GW in 2016. Despite growing global demand, China's solar industry faced challenges ranging from possible tariffs abroad to inadequate grid connections at home, Wang told an industry gathering.

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Solar Power Portal (UK)

July 20, 2017

Solar PV fires predominantly caused by installer error, government report concludes

Fires involving solar panels are most commonly caused by errors in the installation process rather than any particular technological faults, a new report by both the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the government has concluded. And the UK solar industry has leapt to solar’s defence, arguing that it has an “exceptional” safety record compared to other, far more mainstream consumer electronics. This morning the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a series of reports it commissioned to the BRE on fire safety in solar panels. While fire safety in buildings has come to prominence following last month’s Grenfell tower fire and later brought into a solar PV context by a much-publicised fire in Bow Wharf – the cause of which has still not been confirmed – the report has been years in the planning.

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Duke Chronicle

July 23, 2017

Smoggy skies: Why solar energy isn't as efficient as it could be

According to a new study, air pollution may have yet another harmful effect—reduction of solar energy production. Researchers from Duke, the Indian Institute of Technology at Gandhinagar and the University of Wisconsin at Madison performed the research, which appeared last month in Environmental Science & Technology Letters. The investigators—including Mike Bergin, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Drew Shindell, professor of climate sciences at the Nicholas School of the Environment—found that solar energy production was reduced by about 17 to 25 percent in India, China and the Arabian Peninsula due to particulates in the air. “The main reason we care is that [pollution] kills people because it's toxic to breathe, but it also damages our food supply—and now, we find yet another thing,” Shindell said. “If you really did the economic analysis of these things, you would find that this is yet another reason why the apparently cheap, but very dirty fossil fuels are actually not so cheap.”

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Regulatory Stories

Texas Monthly

July 21, 2017

New Energy in the Senate Republican Primary

Houston energy lawyer Stefano de Stefano announced that he will run against Ted Cruz in the Texas primary race, according to the Houston Chronicle. De Stefano will be tabling his legal career with Diamond Offshore Drilling, a deepwater drilling contractor that posted a $1.6 billion revenue in 2016, to focus on the race. The political novice says that he will “leverage his private sector leadership and negotiation acumen” to help small business owners and entrepreneurs in Texas. As a senator, he said he would focus on “supporting the economic engines of the state by simplifying regulations that limit competitiveness.” ... It’s unclear if Texas’s energy giants will choose to back one of their own, but they’ve been steadily pumping black gold into Cruz’s coffers for years. According to OpenSecrets, the oil and gas energy gave more money to Cruz than any other candidate in any national race in 2016, coming in at $1,457,628 in total contributions. In his 2012 Senate race, oil and gas gave Cruz $780,282, more than any other congressional candidate that year.

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July 25, 2017

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express News

July 24, 2017

SEC investigation of FourWinds Logistics revealed in Uresti case

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating FourWinds Logistics, a San Antonio oil- field services company that imploded in 2015 and triggered a criminal probe into six individuals — including state Sen. Carlos Uresti The agency revealed the almost year-long probe in a court document Friday seeking to quash a subpoena from Uresti, a San Antonio Democrat. Uresti has asked the SEC to turn over documents it has provided the Justice Department, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Services. The SEC’s Fort Worth office opened the investigation Aug. 23, two days after the San Antonio Express-News first reported on FourWinds’ demise and allegations by some investors that the company had defrauded them. Uresti testified in the SEC’s FourWinds investigation June 28, providing authorities more than 340,000 pages of documents that he mostly received from the U.S. Attorney’s office in the criminal case, the SEC disclosed in its filing. Mikal Watts, a lawyer for Uresti, said the senator gave eight hours of testimony.

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Midland Reporter Telegram

July 24, 2017

Water management becoming increasingly significant issue

Technology has unlocked billions of barrels of crude and natural gas underneath the Permian Basin. But a perhaps unintended consequence of those technological advances is they have also created an expanding need for water to be used in oil field operations. The average well requires between 500,000 and 700,000 barrels of water — that’s more than 21 million gallons — to be hydraulically fractured, a figure that is expected to only continue climbing as operators drill longer laterals and complete their wells with bigger fracturing jobs, requiring even more water. Where will that water come from? Operators are increasingly focused on reducing or eliminating their demand for fresh water by recycling and reusing produced or flowback water. Wells in the Delaware Basin alone are producing enough water to support fracturing operations, said Bridget Scanlon, senior research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology.

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Austin American-Statesman

July 24, 2017

PEC director disputes claim that ‘retaliation’ led CEO to resign

The Pedernales Electric Cooperative board member at the center of controversy regarding his racially tinged Facebook post last November said Monday that there was never any retaliation against co-op employees who complained about it, contradicting allegations from the utility’s former chief executive before he resigned in protest in May and received $1.1 million in separation pay. James Oakley, who also serves as Burnet County judge, told the American-Statesman he doesn’t believe John D. Hewa resigned because of retaliation against employees who spoke out about perceived racism at the co-op, as Hewa initially stated. Oakley implied that other factors were at play in Hewa’s abrupt exit, raising the issue of Hewa’s “performance” unprompted. “I am not authorized to comment on the performance of former CEO John Hewa,” Oakley said. He declined to elaborate, saying “it’s up to the reader to imply what they want” from the comment.

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Bloomberg

July 24, 2017

Barclays Oil Sale Triggers a Huge Number of Trades in Exotic Options

Barclays Plc sold the last part of its oil book to an unidentified buyer, triggering a surge in trading of exotic options written in the era of higher crude prices, according to people familiar with the matter. The sale was signaled by several large options trades at 9:35 a.m. in London in some of the world’s major oil markets including West Texas Intermediate crude, where 48 million barrels of contracts changed hands. That represents more than a quarter of the entire volume on an average trading day. Barclays flagged in December that it was winding down the energy business, housed in its macro-trading unit. Monday’s transaction marked the final sale of the business, the people said. Many of the contracts traded on Monday were suggestive of a bygone era of oil prices above $100 a barrel. The strike prices for some of the options were far from today’s prices, suggesting they may have been part of deals struck years ago. Three of the 4 largest trades would profit if crude rises above $90, $95 or $125 a barrel by the end of this year.

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Phys Org

July 21, 2017

Researchers work to improve recovery from tight shale reservoirs

A significant amount of U.S. domestic oil production comes from shale. Extracting oil and gas from these unconventional reservoirs normally requires drilling horizontal wells and using hydraulic fracturing techniques. Yet predicting the full effect of these techniques is still uncertain because the understanding of how fluid flows through shale is still evolving. Dr. David Schechter's research group has developed a new type of simulator that better illustrates and predicts the effects of these techniques. This robust simulator draws on data from laboratory experiments and combines it with known geologic data on fractures. Then it uses unstructured gridding and newly developed coding to create models that improve the understanding of how fractures affect reservoir flow, how fracturing fluids with added surfactants (soaps) affect oil recovery, and which enhanced oil recovery processes are best for different reservoir situations

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

July 25, 2017

Oil extends gains as OPEC moves to cap Nigeria output

Oil prices extended gains on Tuesday after OPEC moved to cap Nigerian oil output and Saudi Arabia pledged to limit exports next month to help rein in global oversupply. London Brent crude for September delivery was up 7 cents at $48.67 a barrel by 0039 GMT after settling up 54 cents or 1.1 percent on Monday. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 10 cents at $46.44. OPEC member Nigeria had been exempt from the cartel's deal with non-OPEC producers led by Russia to cut oil output by a combined 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) from January 2017 to March 2018.

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UPI

July 24, 2017

Texas energy sector facing slight headwinds

Strong job growth in Texas was apparent, though some energy sector indicators are still presenting headwinds, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said. A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas found job growth in the state was 3.6 percent and the overall forecast for the year was 2.8 percent, an upward revision from 2.6 expected in its last forecast. "Strong job growth in June and a rebound in the leading index pushed the job forecast to its highest level this year," Keith R. Phillips, the fed's assistant vice president, said in a statement. "Growth in the second quarter was 2.8 percent, the fastest we have seen since the end of 2014."

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Houston Chronicle

July 24, 2017

Houston's Layne Christensen finishes water pipeline

The Houston water well company Layne Christensen has laid its last segments of 22-inch polyethylene pipe in the Delaware Basin, and is just days from opening its 20-mile pipeline to oil and gas operators here. The Delaware, the southern lobe of the prolific Permian Basin, is a desert, full of thorny mesquite trees and pesky agave lechuguilla — also called shin daggers — a cactus that trips up horses and pierces skin. Oil and gas companies must find water here for hydraulic fracturing operations to work. Layne, based in The Woodlands, has landed some big fish as its first customers.

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Bloomberg

July 24, 2017

Halliburton Sees Drillers `Tap the Brakes' on Shale Boom

Halliburton Co., promising to be disciplined in adding more fracking gear to the oilfields, says U.S. explorers are "tapping the brakes" on drilling as the price of oil struggles to breach $50 a barrel. The comments come days after Baker Hughes data found that explorers reduced the number of U.S. rigs for the second time in four weeks. The decline and the statements by Halliburton, the world’s biggest provider of fracking services, could bolster confidence that spending by the shale industry may be slowing as efforts by OPEC and its allies to raise oil prices have faltered. ... "Today, rig count growth is showing signs of plateauing and customers are tapping the brakes," Halliburton Executive Chairman Dave Lesar said on a call. "This demonstrates that individual companies are making rational decisions in the best interest of their shareholders. The comments came after Halliburton reported that it swung to a profit in the second quarter as revenue rose 29 percent from a year earlier to $4.96 billion. That’s more than $1 billion higher than the company reported a year earlier.

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Bloomberg

July 24, 2017

Abramowicz: Goldman Rallies Bears on Energy Junk Debt

For years, bond traders have been hard-wired to "buy the dip." This has often worked well in a world awash in central bank cash, when any sell-off has quickly been answered by a rally.But this time may be different when it comes to junk-rated debt of energy companies. These securities have been rebounding in force from a painful 2014 and 2015, even as the fundamental backdrop deteriorates. Bullish investors seem to be betting that oil prices have stabilized, are heading higher and that the lower-rated companies that rely on these prices are in relatively healthy condition. But these buyers may very well be wrong.Energy companies still have too much debt and will struggle if oil prices fall. This adds up to a potentially toxic combination for some oil companies, especially those with excessive leverage.

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San Antonio Express News

July 24, 2017

Texas Power Brokers: Uresti attorney Watts once again plays defense

Speaking at a San Antonio Trial Lawyers Association luncheon earlier this month, high-powered attorney Mikal Watts recounted the federal raid at his law firm in 2013, his subsequent indictment, trial and exoneration on charges that he made up fake clients to sue BP over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. A large screen off to Watts’ right trumpeted the title of his presentation, “Skinned Alive: An innocent man’s persecution by the U.S. Department of Justice.” Watts contends the charges against him, his brother David and a paralegal were politically motivated. The Democratic mega-donor most notably hosted a $38,800-a-plate fundraiser in 2012 at his Dominion estate for President Barack Obama. Watts is a highly successful local trial lawyer whose firm has won more than a combined $4 billion in settlements and jury verdicts against some major corporations, including Ford Motor Co. and the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. over the Explorer SUV rollovers. He said he’s convinced he was put through his own criminal case “so that I would be prepared to counsel my friend.”

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Rigzone

July 24, 2017

ETP's $4B Rover Line Hits Another Snag, This Time In W. Virginia

Energy Transfer Partners LP's Rover pipeline, the biggest natural gas pipeline under construction in the United States, received more bad news after West Virginia told the company to stop some work, citing environmental violations, regulators said on Monday. The $4.2 billion pipeline already faces sanctions for violations in Ohio and a federal ban on drilling activity that has delayed the anticipated startup of the project's first phase to the late summer from July. West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued the order to stop activity in certain areas on July 17, which was made public on Monday in a U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission filing. The state, in the filing, noted sediment deposits and improper erosion controls, along with other violations.

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Houston Chronicle

July 24, 2017

Tomlinson: Showdown in Venezuela to hit oil markets and Houston

President Donald Trump issued a statement last week warning that if Maduro goes through with his plans, "the United States will take strong and swift economic actions," which could include suspending the importation of 700,000 barrels of oil a day. But such an oil embargo would have major implications for China, Russia, Texas and Houston. Finding a solution to Venezuela's political and economic crisis will not be easy. The majority of Venezuelans have turned against Maduro since his ruling party nationalized every major industry, jailed opposition leaders, mismanaged oil assets and impoverished the country. Maduro and his top generals have allegedly resorted to corruption and drug trafficking to keep the regime afloat. Now they fear criminal prosecution, both at home and abroad, should they give up power. Efforts to negotiate a power-sharing deal have repeatedly failed.

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Longview News Journal

July 19, 2017

Plains All American sets Permian pipe expansion

Plains All American will continue to grow its pipeline capacity coming out of West Texas' prolific Permian Basin, adding 120,000 barrels a day to a pipeline between Midland and Cushing, Oklahoma. The Houston company said it has sufficient commitment from shippers to expand the Sunrise pipeline by 180 miles between the Texas towns of Colorado City and Wichita Falls. The pipeline system connects to terminals in Cushing. Pending regulatory approval, the additions are expected to be in use by mid-2019.

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Austin American-Statesman

July 24, 2017

First Reading: Why haven’t the Wilks brothers given Gov. Abbott so much as a straw of deer semen this election cycle?

I think this is a question worth contemplating, not only because it is interesting in its own right, but because, when we find the answer, we may understand why it is that Greg Abbott, and not Ted Cruz, is more likely to be next (Republican) president after Donald Trump, assuming that we have another (Republican) president, after Donald Trump. First some background. If Tom and Ray Magliotti of Massachusetts were Car Talk’s Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, Farris and Don Wilks of Cisco are the frick and frack of right-wing fracking money in Texas and nationally. The Wilks bothers first burst on the national scene two summers ago. From Teddy Schleiffer of CNN on July 27, 2015. Washington (CNN) – Two low-profile Texas brothers have donated $15 million to support Sen. Ted Cruz, a record-setting contribution that amounts to the largest known donation so far in the 2016 presidential campaign. Farris and Dan Wilks, billionaires who made their fortunes in the West Texas fracking boom, have given $15 million of the $38 million that the pro-Cruz super PAC, Keep the Promise, will disclose in election filings next week, according to sources outside the super PAC with knowledge of the giving.

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Houston Chronicle

July 22, 2017

Eisinger: Enron investigation steeled Mueller for the long road ahead

It seems safe to assume that nobody read Donald Trump Jr.'s damning emails with a Kremlin-connected lawyer more closely than Robert Mueller. Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, will surely be looking into the now-infamous meeting, including the president's son; the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and his campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort. As he does, will Mueller be able to build a case that goes all the way to the top? That could depend on what lessons he learned from overseeing the task force that investigated one of the biggest fraud cases in American history: the collapse of the energy giant Enron.

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UPI

July 20, 2017

India starts path to cut oil, gas exports

The government of India said it held its first advisory council meeting to lay out an ambitious road map to cut oil and gas imports by 10 percent. Indian Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan chaired the first meeting for the body tasked with cutting oil and gas dependency. During the meeting, the ministry said expanding domestic oil and gas developments, including shale reserves, and coal-bed methane could help the country achieve its goals for the start of the next decade. ... Nearly half of India's energy comes from oil and natural gas. GE estimated that India could exhaust its proven resources within the next 25 years, but added that barely a quarter of the country's reserves have been explored.

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London Evening Standard (UK)

July 24, 2017

Oil and gas skills crisis ‘bringing back retirees’ says top recruiter SThree

A shortage of maths and science graduates entering the energy sector has forced ex-contractors to come out of retirement to fill the skills gap, one of the country’s biggest recruiters said on Monday. Sthree chief executive Gary Elden said the lure of quick riches in the start-up tech industry meant it was harder to fill technical roles in the oil and gas sector and traditionally attractive routes like banking. “If you look at the oil and gas market people are coming out of retirement to take up contract roles because of the shortage,” he said. “You can’t find experienced people with the skills.” ... Around 9% of the company’s profits come from the energy division, based in Houston, Texas, compared with its biggest sector IT, which accounts for 44%.

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Bloomberg

July 24, 2017

America's Biggest Oil Port Wants to Be a Two-Way Street

The biggest U.S. oil-import hub wants to grab a piece of surging North American crude exports. Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the only terminal along the U.S. Gulf Coast able to handle a fully laden supertanker, is gauging interest from shippers in sending crude overseas on the world’s biggest ships by early next year. The port would continue to take in foreign oil, LOOP LLC said in an emailed statement Monday. Ports are competing to fill the needs of domestic oil producers looking for outlets for their growing supply. At the same time, the boom from U.S. shale fields and Canadian oil-sands mines has reduced refiners’ need for imported oil. LOOP’s ability to handle tankers capable of carrying 2 million barrels in their holds would reduce shipping costs for companies looking to send crude to refiners in Asia. ... “LOOP is the most obvious place for U.S. crude exports since as a deepwater port it makes it more manageable to load up a large ship such as a VLCC,” Sandy Fielden, director of commodities and energy research at Morningstar Inc., said by phone from Austin, Texas.

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Huffington Post (HuffPost)

July 19, 2017

Boss Of Coal-Hauling Railroad Says ‘Fossil Fuels Are Dead’

The CEO of freight railroad CSX Corp., one of the largest U.S. haulers of coal, warns that the days of transporting and burning coal are numbered. “Fossil fuels are dead,” Hunter Harrison told analysts Wednesday, according to media reports. “That’s a long-term view. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to be two or three years, but it’s going away in my view.” For that reason, he said, CSX will cease making investments in coal. “Unless something changes drastically in the market, we’re not going to go out and put a double track in, or buy locomotives or anything for coal,” Harrison said, according to E&E News. “Having said that, the last carload of coal that’s shipped out of this country, I want to be the carrier that shipped it.”

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Utilities Stories

Utility Dive

July 24, 2017

Texas muni to shut Gibbons Creek coal plant for most of the year

The Texas Municipal Power Agency (TMPA) told the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) that it plans to operate the 470 MW coal-fired Gibbons Creek power for only five months of the year. TMPA said it is not economical to run the plant in Anderson, Texas, except during the hottest months, from June through September. The agency must sell the plant by Sept. 2018 or its board will have to decide whether to shutter it completely. TMPA says the plant cannot effectively compete with generation fueled by low cost natural gas and against an influx of wind power in ERCOT, a trend the grid operator expects to push up to 10 GW of coal-fired generation offline by the next decade.

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Denton Record Chronicle

July 22, 2017

Is Denton's electric rate relief a live wire?

Denton Municipal Electric has proposed a slight rate decrease next year, a change that could save $1.33 on the average homeowner's $116 monthly electric bill. Commercial customers could save more, from $20 to $500 or more each month, depending on their electric usage. The rate decrease may signal a new era for DME, where ratepayers finally enjoy the savings coming from renewable energy generated at wind and solar farms. Or, it could be the lull before the storm. Denton's Public Utilities Board is scheduled to review the proposed rate change Monday; the Denton City Council's review comes Tuesday. Then, behind closed doors, both bodies will be briefed on contracting irregularities at DME.

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Dallas Morning News

July 24, 2017

Thousands near Greenville and in West Texas are about to get much cheaper electric bills

About 54,000 Texans can expect significantly lower electric bills thanks to a $400 million deal struck between Texas' largest regulated utility, Oncor, and Sharyland, a Hunt family-owned utility. The agreement gives Sharyland $380 million worth of power transmission lines in west Central Texas and $20 million. In exchange, Oncor gets 54,000 Sharyland customers, which is estimated to be worth $400 million. Geoff Bailey, an Oncor spokesman, said Sharyland residential customers could see their electric bills drop by at least $50 or $60 per month. The transaction announced Monday is subject to Public Utility Commission approval.

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Los Angeles Times

July 24, 2017

Warren Buffett is building up a 'recession resistant' energy powerhouse

From California to the Midwest, billionaire investor Warren Buffett is steadily building an energy powerhouse. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary has gobbled up utilities and natural gas pipelines and tapped into clean energy production, including from Southern California’s abundant geothermal resources. The latest move by Berkshire Hathaway Energy is the planned $9-billion purchase of Dallas-based Oncor, a regulated electricity service provider with 10 million customers and more than 3,700 employees. It’s one of the nation’s largest power transmission companies. ... Berkshire Hathaway appears to be doing all it can to counter a purported death spiral of economic harm that power companies face because of growing energy efficiency regulations, consumers generating their own power with rooftop solar panels and the advent of electricity storage options in homeowners’ garages.

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Denver Post

July 24, 2017

New power accord likely to be struck soon in mountain states

Utilities in the mountain states are edging closer to joining forces with electricity providers stretching from North Dakota to northern Texas in a move that backers say could save Colorado households $68 a year on average. “From my perspective, it is highly likely,” Southwest Power Pool president and CEO Nick Brown said of the highlanders joining forces with the lowlanders. An informal alliance of utilities in the region known as the Mountain West Transmission Group, which includes Xcel Energy Colorado, Black Hills Energy, and Tri-State Generation & Transmission, began evaluating whether to join the Southwest Power Pool in January.

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Bloomberg

July 22, 2017

Japan Captures More Photographs of Likely Melted Fukushima Fuel

A trove of new images captured in the past few days show what is likely to be melted nuclear fuel from inside one of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima reactors, a potential milestone in the cleanup of one of the worst atomic disasters in history. Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., Japan’s biggest utility, released images on Saturday of mounds of black rock and sand-like substances at the bottom of the No. 3 reactor containment vessel at Fukushima, which is likely to contain melted fuel, according to Takahiro Kimoto, an official at the company. A survey on Friday found black icicles hanging from the above pressure vessel, which was “highly likely” to contain melted fuel. Kimoto noted it would take time to confirm whether this debris contains melted fuel.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Houston Chronicle

July 24, 2017

Krishnamoorti: Welcome to 'all of the above' transportation

Electricity generation has moved in dramatic fashion toward an "all of the above" strategy, especially in Texas and other states where wind and solar are responsible for an increasing amount of power flowing through the grid. Wind energy accounted for about a quarter of power generation in Texas during the first quarter of 2017. Transportation, on the other hand, is still largely dependent on gasoline and diesel from crude oil, despite attempts to use hydrogen, biofuels and natural gas as cleaner alternatives. Recent announcements from Volvo and Tesla, however, signal a sea change. Volvo has pledged to become the first major car manufacturer to go electric, with every new model starting in 2019 equipped with an electric motor – all electric, hybrid or plug-in hybrid. Tesla will deliver the first of its Model 3 all electric cars later this month, priced at about $35,000.

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Oil Price

July 15, 2017

Tesla Faces Stiff Competition In Energy Storage War

A week after Tesla announced it had won a tender for the installation of the world’s biggest battery storage system in Australia, Siemens and AES launched a joint venture that focuses exclusively on battery storage systems. The first comments from observers suggest that this joint venture, called Fluence, could turn into stiff competition for Tesla, and there are facts to support this suggestion. Tesla has 300 MW worth of battery-powered storage systems across 18 countries. AES and Siemens boast a combined 463 MW of such projects across 13 countries. Tesla has a gigafactory and plans to build three more. AES has a decade of experience in energy storage systems, and Siemens has more than a century of experience in all things energy technology as well as an established presence in over 160 countries around the world. It certainly looks like the energy storage sector just got a lot more exciting. Bloomberg’s Brian Eckhouse quotes AES’ chief executive, Andres Gluski, as saying that energy storage is “the holy grail for renewables.”

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Regulatory Stories

Dallas Morning News

July 24, 2017

Congress' deal on Russia sanctions features changes sought by Big Oil and key Texas Republican

Texas Rep. Pete Sessions went to bat for Big Oil. And won. The Dallas Republican led the charge in raising concerns that portions of a bill to toughen sanctions on Russia would harm energy companies like Irving-based Exxon Mobil by preventing them from pursuing some major projects across the globe. And a new bipartisan deal to advance the sanctions now features changes to address those worries. While an earlier version passed by the Senate would've banned U.S. businesses from working on international oil projects that involved any sanctioned Russian partners, the new one would bar U.S. companies only from projects that include at least a 33 percent stake by those Russians.

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San Antonio Express News

July 23, 2017

SAEN: Texas should do more to punish air polluters

The Legislature should raise the maximum fine for violating air permits from $25,000, which is not a deterrent for these companies. The TCEQ should make it policy to always pursue the maximum fine. The TCEQ should fine polluters by the numbers of chemicals released into the air. Many emissions events involve multiple chemicals, so the fines would stack. Finally, the TCEQ should be challenging the repeated industry claim that these emission events are unavoidable. Critics say the TCEQ rarely does this. This isn’t a question of reducing emissions. It’s a question of following the rules to protect the health and safety of Texans.

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Bloomberg

July 21, 2017

U.S. Owns 700 Million Barrels of Oil. Trump Wants to Sell It

The weather was hot and humid on July 21, 1977, the day the U.S. government began stockpiling oil. It started small. Just 412,000 barrels of Saudi Arabian light crude stashed in a Southeast Texas salt cavern. In the wake of the Arab oil embargo, which sent prices through the roof and forced Americans to ration gasoline, creating a national reserve seemed like an obvious way to protect U.S. consumers from global supply shocks. “It’s hard to imagine if you weren’t there,’’ said John Herrington, the Energy secretary under President Ronald Reagan, who pushed to expand the reserve in the 1980s. “We were lining up at gas stations. We were turning down our thermostats.’’ Forty years later, the world has changed, and Washington is torn on whether the Strategic Petroleum Reserve has outlived its usefulness. The U.S. is awash in crude, imports are declining, yet the stockpile remains the largest in world, ballooning to nearly 700 million barrels of crude, enough to offset U.S. production for more than two months, stored in some 60 caverns in Texas and Louisiana.

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Washington Post

July 24, 2017

Trump leaves Sessions twisting in the wind while berating him publicly

President Trump and his advisers are privately discussing the possibility of replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and some confidants are floating prospects who could take his place were he to resign or be fired, according to people familiar with the talks. Members of Trump’s circle, including White House officials, have increasingly raised the question among themselves in recent days as the president has continued to vent his frustration with the attorney general, the people said. ... Another scenario is that Trump could make a recess appointment, said Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. Under that plan, Trump could choose an attorney general during the August recess who would serve until the end of the next Senate session, which would run to Jan. 3, 2019. That person would have the same authority as someone who is confirmed by the Senate, Vladeck said. Among the names being floated as possible Sessions replacements are Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, according to people familiar with the conversations.

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The Hill

July 24, 2017

Trump administration seeks to repeal Obama fracking rule

The Trump administration is proposing to completely repeal Obama-era standards governing hydraulic fracturing on federal land. The proposal from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is due to be published Tuesday in the Federal Register. The landmark 2015 regulation set standards in areas such as disclosure of fracking chemicals and integrity of well casing. It was the Obama administration’s attempt to update decades-old regulations to account for the explosive growth in fracking for oil and natural gas in recent years. The repeal is the latest in a long string of environmental regulations from Obama that Trump is working to undo.

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July 24, 2017

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express News

July 21, 2017

More frac sand woes for Uresti co-defendant Bates

The latest venture for ex-FourWinds Logistics CEO Stan Bates, who was indicted with state Sen. Carlos Uresti in a criminal fraud case in May, apparently has run into some troubles. Bates’ San Antonio-based Bates Energy Oil & Gas this week sued a Utah company for refusing to accept delivery on more than 40,000 tons of frac sand, which is used in fracking to extract oil and gas from shale rock. Like Bates Energy, FourWinds traded frac sand. But FourWinds imploded in 2015, with some investors saying they were defrauded. A federal grand jury indicted Bates, Uresti and company consultant Gary Cain on a combined 22 charges in May. Uresti recruited a couple of the investors and served as FourWinds’ outside general counsel for a short time. Bates, 45, hasn’t let the FourWinds fiasco sidetrack his efforts to reap profits in the oil patch. He started a similar company, Bates Energy, where he is CEO and president.

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Dallas Morning News

July 21, 2017

NextEra suing Texas regulators who rejected its offer to buy Dallas' Oncor

There's a new skirmish in the long-running battle over the future of Dallas-based Oncor, the state's largest regulated utility. The company's old suitor — NextEra Energy — is suing the Texas Public Utility Commission over its rejection of an $18.7 billion offer for Oncor. Texas regulators determined in April that the deal wasn't in the "public interest" and also rejected two subsequent appeals. The lawsuit, filed in Austin state court last week, comes as Berkshire Hathaway and Wall Street hedge fund Elliott Management are in a race to buy Oncor. It's not clear how the litigation might affect that. ... NextEra officials are asking a judge to review the PUC's final order rejecting its offer to buy Oncor. The court filing repeated some of NextEra's earlier claims that the PUC erred in its ruling, which overstepped its authority and was an "abuse of discretion."

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Austin American-Statesman

July 21, 2017

Giovanetti: How Abbott could introduce regulatory agencies to reality

While the TABC is the focus of unwanted attention for its profligacy, the most harmful temptation for regulators is omniscience — and for that we turn to the Public Utilities Commission, which has twice denied bids to purchase Oncor, Texas’ massive electric utility. In 2016, the commission rejected an $18 billion offer from Hunt Consolidated — two years after Oncor’s majority shareholder filed for Chapter 11 protection. This April, the commission rejected an $18.4 billion offer from NextEra Energy that had already been approved by the Obama administration. When regulators come to believe themselves omniscient, they think they know how an industry or a transaction should work — and they insist that companies bend to their regulatory will. ... The Public Utilities Commission thought Oncor’s new owner should not control Oncor’s board. That’s right: In their delusions, three appointed bureaucrats at the commission imagined that someone should be willing to pony up $18 billion for the company — but should not be able to control it.

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Houston Chronicle

July 23, 2017

Texas oil fields fuel meth boom

MIDLAND - Eddy Lozoya never failed a drug test in the three years he hauled water and sand across the West Texas oil patch, even though he used at least $200 a day in cocaine to keep his eyes open on brutally long days behind the wheel of a Kenworth T600 semi-truck. Lozoya, like his fellow truckers, found ways to beat the tests and keep driving. Earning six-figure salaries, they consumed cocktails of drugs to push themselves to their physical limits on trips between scattered drilling sites that could last 36 to 48 consecutive hours. They would drive their 35-ton vehicles in tight, single-file formations, blowing air horns when the sleepiest among them began drifting off the road. "We always had cocaine," he said. Lozoya, a recovering addict at 23, is among the thousands of oil field workers who have succumbed to the mix of money, boredom and drugs that often accompanies energy booms.

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Politico

July 23, 2017

Republicans brewing Russian scandal to target greens

Republicans are trying to conjure up a Russian scandal they can get behind. GOP House members and at least one Trump Cabinet member are pushing years-old allegations from conservative activists that Russia has funneled money to U.S. environmental groups to oppose fracking. The story has reappeared in conservative circles in recent weeks — a respite, perhaps, from the steady drip-drip of news reports about dealings between Russians and President Donald Trump’s inner circle. Allegations have circulated for years that Moscow has sought to discourage European countries from developing their own natural gas supplies as an alternative to Russian fuel. And conservatives have sought to extend those concerns to the U.S. — though there’s little but innuendo to base them on.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

July 24, 2017

Oil steady after fall ahead of OPEC/non-OPEC meeting

Oil prices were little changed on Monday following a steep fall in the previous session amid growing expectations that the joint OPEC and non-OPEC ministerial meeting later in the day would address rising production from Nigeria and Libya, two OPEC members exempted from the cuts. Six OPEC and non-OPEC ministers will meet on Monday in St Petersburg to discuss the market outlook and compliance with output cuts. They may recommend a conditional cap on Nigerian and Libyan oil production, sources familiar with the talks said. The joint OPEC/non-OPEC ministerial committee could also discuss a deeper cut in production, but more studies are needed, according to one of the sources. London Brent crude for September delivery was unchanged at $48.06 a barrel by 2228 GMT on Sunday.

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24/7 Wall St.

July 21, 2017

Oil Rig Count Up by 393 From Year Ago; Crude Oil Price Inches Higher

The number of rigs drilling for oil in the United States in the week ended July 21 totaled 764, up by 393 from a year ago. Including 186 other rigs drilling for natural gas, there are 950 working rigs in the country, up by 488 the same from last year. The data come from the latest Baker Hughes North American Rotary Rig Count released on Friday. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil for August delivery settled at $46.79 a barrel, down 0.7% on Thursday, the contract’s final day of trading. WTI for September delivery traded down 2.4% on Friday at $45.75. Crude prices added a few cents to trade at $45.83 after the rig count data were released.

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Bloomberg

July 21, 2017

These Billionaire Texas Brothers Are Buying Canadian Fracking Shares

Calfrac Well Services Ltd. surged after Texas investment firm Wilks Brothers LLC boosted its stake in the fracking company in a bet on a rebound in Canada’s beaten down oil patch. Calfrac rose 4.5 percent at 1:20 p.m. in Toronto to its highest intraday since June 14, even as U.S. oil prices fell. The company’s shares have risen more than 40 percent since a low on June 26, despite lagging commodity prices. Closely held Wilks Brothers said after market close on Thursday it holds about 16.4 million shares in Calfrac after raising its stake to 12 percent from 10 percent. That would make the firm the second-largest shareholder behind Matco Investments Ltd., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Wilks Brothers is also the top holder of Calgary-based Trican Well Service Ltd. with about a 7.3 percent stake, according to the data.

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Midland Reporter Telegram

July 21, 2017

Midland County rig count surges

The Permian Basin rig count edged one higher as a whole this week, but Midland County saw a significant jump. Midland County, which sits at the heart of the Midland subbasin, added six rigs, for a countywide total of 47. By count, it’s second behind Reeves County in the Delaware subbasin, which lost two rigs this week and had 66 rigs total. The Permian had 374 rigs; Midland and Reeves counties accounted for 30 percent of all activity in the nation’s most active basin. Other counties with double-digit rig counts were Lea, New Mexico. (30); Eddy, N.M. (25); Loving (25); Howard (23); Martin (23); Culberson (17); Upton (16); Pecos (15); Glasscock (14); Reagan (12); Sterling (12); and Andrews (10).

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Lafayette Advertiser

July 21, 2017

Permian Basin, Gulf to lead U.S. to '18 production record

U.S. daily crude oil production in 2018 may shatter a record established nearly a half-century ago, the Energy Information Administration has suggested. The average production will be 9.9 million barrels per day next year, the federal agency revealed this week, up from 9.3 million barrels this year and more than the 9.6 million barrels produced in 1970, the landmark year. Leading the U.S. production charge will be Permian Basin operations in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico and operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Amarillo Globe News

July 22, 2017

TCEQ: Phillips 66 Borger Refinery leads state in particulate emissions

Phillips 66’s Borger Refinery emitted more particulate matter than any other oil refinery from 2012 to 2016, according to data from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The refinery exceeded its allowed particulate threshold 34 times over those five years, spewing more than 300 tons in total. Emission outbursts ranged from six minutes and 20 pounds to more than two weeks and 124,000 pounds. Particulate matter is a mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets that get into the air. The smaller particles are easier to inhale and can lead to lung and heart disease, especially in children and seniors.

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WFAA

July 24, 2017

Battle over wastewater injection wells in Lake Arlington

An Arlington citizens group promises it's ready to resume battle to oppose any wastewater injection wells near Lake Arlington. A proposal to drill such a well close to the lake was recently withdrawn by Oklahoma-based Bluestone Energy. "We wanted this outcome," said Ranjana Bhandari, founding member of citizens group Liveable Arlington. "We hope that Bluestone withdrew its application in the face of community pressure." In paperwork filed with the Texas Railroad Commission to withdraw its application, the company did not explain its reasoning. But the decision came after loud public complaint and opposition from city leaders in Arlington and in Fort Worth, where the well would have been physically located.

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Houston Chronicle

July 22, 2017

Local company gives 'man camps' an upgrade

The name "man camp" doesn't exactly instill imagery of luxurious hotel accommodations. But, as the West Texas oil patch booms again, so does the need for temporary worker housing in remote Permian Basin locations. The leaders of The Woodlands-based Target Logistics admittedly cringe at the "man camp" name made infamous in isolated North Dakota locales across the Bakken Shale. They prefer the corporate-sounding "turnkey workforce lodge," or something more akin to a small workforce village.

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Dallas Morning News

July 22, 2017

Texas leads nation in employment growth, adds 40,200 jobs in June

Texas led the nation in employment growth in June, adding 40,200 jobs to the state's economy, its biggest gain in a single month since January. The state's unemployment rate inched downward to 4.6 percent, slightly higher than the nation's jobless rate, which is at 4.4 percent. Texas was one of 10 states where the unemployment rate fell. Economists say the Lone Star State's jobless rate is at a healthy level, given the huge volume of new residents.

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Dallas Morning News

July 20, 2017

The private world of T. Boone Pickens: Get an exclusive look at oil magnate's massive Panhandle ranch

By 8 a.m., T. Boone Pickens has finished his cereal on the screened-in porch at the Mesa Vista Ranch. He looks out at the parklike setting that surrounds the 23,000-square-foot main house in this remote corner of the Panhandle. For those who think of Pickens as a Bick Benedict oil giant, the scene is a revelation. “I laugh at myself in a cowboy hat,” he says. At the office and at the ranch, he wears sneakers and a country club sweater. The house is called the lodge and it sits in the middle of acres of manicured fescue grass, shaded by hundreds of trees -- cottonwoods, pear oaks, native hackberries and Pickens’ favorite, sycamores.

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Washington Post

July 24, 2017

Schlumberger CEO Blames U.S. Investors for Stagnant Oil Prices

U.S. investors are driving down the price of oil by shoveling too much money into American shale companies, the chief executive of Schlumberger Ltd. SLB -0.73% , the world’s largest oil-field service firm, said Friday. Paal Kibsgaard, an outspoken energy executive based in Paris, blamed the surge in U.S. drilling for crude prices that are mired below $50 a barrel. “What we are currently witnessing is that the U.S. equity investors and U.S. companies have spooked the market," he told analysts and investors on a call to discuss the company’s second-quarter earnings.

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North Austin Patch

July 17, 2017

Oil Exposure Impairs Coral Fish Behaviors, Texas Researchers Find

The ingesting of just a few drops of oil can impact the higher-order thinking of coral fish, causing them to make poor decisions, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found. They liken this altered behavior to decisions made by adult humans after one too many cocktails. In a paper published Monday in Nature Ecology & Evolution, a team of fisheries biologists led by Jacob Johansen and Andrew Esbaugh of The University of Texas Marine Science Institute have discovered that oil impacts the higher-order thinking of coral reef fish in a way that could prove dangerous for them — and for the coral reefs where they make their home.

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Washington Post

July 18, 2017

Catholic nuns in Pa. build a chapel to block the path of a gas pipeline planned for their property

COLUMBIA, Pa. — The end of the road, where the street suddenly stops and the towering wall of corn begins, always called out to Linda Fischer. She would pedal her bike there slowly as a child, back before they built any houses on the road, when it was just the cornstalks growing thick toward the sky. It was the silence she found there, the holiness she felt in that stillness, that led her to dedicate her life to God. Fischer has always known this land as sacred. Now the 74-year-old nun and her sisters in their Catholic order suddenly find themselves fighting to protect the land from an energy company that wants to put a natural gas pipeline on it. “This just goes totally against everything we believe in — we believe in sustenance of all creation,” she said. The pipeline company first sought without success to negotiate with the nuns. Now as Williams Cos. tries to seize the land by eminent domain, the order is gearing up for a fight in the courtroom — and a possible fight in the field, as well. There, smack in the path of the planned pipeline, the nuns have dedicated a new outdoor chapel.

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Forbes

July 20, 2017

Mexico´s Oil And Gas Reform Gains Momentum

For the first time in almost eight decades, Mexico carried out a bid round to auction oil and gas blocks to private firms on July 15, 2015. Twenty-five bidders showed interest (18 individual firms and 7 consortiums) but low prices of crude put off most of them. With the price for the Mexican blend averaging at $49.71 per barrel in the first 6 months of 2015, down from $95.10 per barrel in the first semester of 2014, only 2 out of the 14 blocks were awarded. However, this context did not discourage the international consortium of Sierra Oil & Gas (Mexico), Talos Energy (U.S) and Premier Oil from (UK), which narrowly outbid Texas’ Hunt Overseas Oil Company for Block 2 and Norway’s Statoil for Block 7. On July 12, 2017, almost two years after placing a winning bid on Block 7, the consortium made public that “estimates for the Zama-1 well are in excess of 1 billion barrels”, which according to Pablo Medina, an industry analyst for Wood Mackenzie, “is one of the 20 largest shallow-water fields discovered globally in the past 20 years”.

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Houston Chronicle

July 21, 2017

Schlumberger reports big U.S. revenue gains onshore

The world's largest oilfield services company said Friday it's continuing to grow its revenues In North American shale and even internationally as the industry slowly creeps toward a rebound. Schlumberger's second-quarter progress is primarily driven by the booming U.S. onshore market, especially in West Texas' Permian Basin. The company's onshore North American revenue jumped a whopping 42 percent from the first quarter of the year. That compares favorably to a 23 percent increase in the active U.S. drilling rig count during the same period, noted Schlumberger Chief Executive Paal Kibsgaard. But despite Schlumberger's second-quarter revenues of $7.46 billion showing positive growth, the energy giant still posted a quarterly loss of $74 million because of $510 million in one-time impairment charges, primarily from its work in Venezuela, which remain mired in political and economic turmoil.

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Houston Chronicle

July 20, 2017

DePillis: Whatever oil and gas companies are doing to recruit women, it's not working

The tech industry gets a lot of attention these days for being unfriendly to women, with sexual harassment seemingly running rampant and the small share of women in computer science declining. Well, guess which industry also has a serious — and perhaps worse — gender gap. That's right: Oil and gas, where women make up only 14.5 percent of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to 25.5 percent of computer and mathematical occupations and 47 percent of the workforce overall. The reasons those gender divides exist are different across the two industries. But the remedies, according to a comprehensive study by the consulting firm BCG, are similar: Upper management needs to be dead serious about the problem, and convey it's a priority to people doing the hiring.

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Amsterdam News

July 20, 2017

First woman to head OPEC snared in multibillion dollar fraud scheme

Lavish lifestyles are nothing out of the ordinary in New York City, home of the rich and glamorous. But some recent over-the-top purchases set off alarm bells at the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI’s International Corruption Squads in two cities, the IRS-Criminal Enforcement Division and the aptly named Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. The purchases included a $50 million condo located in one of Manhattan’s most expensive buildings, One 57 at 157 W. 57th St., as well as the Galactica Star, a yacht with an $80 million price tag. The buyers were no ordinary hedge fund Wall Street types. They were oil dealers, signing “oil swap” contracts—buying crude, selling refined—with Nigeria’s state-owned oil company. One of the conspirators included the former oil minister herself.

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Bloomberg

July 19, 2017

The Fossil Fuels Project That Pits Trump’s Base Against Itself

For a landmark fossil-fuel program deep in Trump country, it’s not environmentalists who are the biggest threat. It may be Donald Trump himself. The $3.8 billion project in Lake Charles, Louisiana, would take waste from oil refining and turn it into synthetic natural gas while capturing emissions. Those products would be turned into high-value chemicals like methanol and hydrogen. Carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas blamed for global warming, would be injected into the Earth to stimulate oil production. For the promoters, the project could spur 1,000 jobs, use General Electric Co.-licensed equipment and showcase cutting-edge machinery to help decarbonize oil. The catch: the technology isn’t broadly proven, so banks won’t yet finance it. That means there are few sources of project debt. The most obvious lender would be a U.S. Energy Department program that some Republicans are intent on neutering.

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Utilities Stories

Texas Standard

July 17, 2017

In El Paso, going off the electric grid could cost you

An electric company in West Texas wants users of alternative energy to pay for the privilege of living off the grid. El Paso Electric has set up a separate rate structure to bill customers using alternative energy sources like solar panels. Those customers would be required to reimburse the utility company the amount of money they’re saving from using alternative energy sources. Ryan Maye Handy reports on utilities, oil and gas for the Houston Chronicle, and has been following the story. She says that utility companies are trying to find a way to deal with customers they see as competitors. “They are trying to charge these customers for the electricity they use, but the customers are also using their own electricity and putting it back into the grid. So it’s like there are mini-generators out there that the utility now has to compete with,” Handy says.

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Associated Press

July 23, 2017

Robot finds likely melted fuel heap inside Fukushima reactor

Images captured by an underwater robot showed massive deposits believed to be melted nuclear fuel covering the floor of a damaged reactor at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. The robot found large amounts of solidified lava-like rocks and lumps in layers as thick as 1 meter (3 feet) on the bottom inside of a main structure called the pedestal that sits underneath the core inside the primary containment vessel of Fukushima's Unit 3 reactor, said the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. On Friday, the robot spotted suspected debris of melted fuel for the first time since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused multiple meltdowns and destroyed the plant. The three-day probe of Unit 3 ended Saturday. Locating and analyzing the fuel debris and damage in each of the plant's three wrecked reactors is crucial for decommissioning the plant.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Austin American-Statesman

July 21, 2017

A Texas hyperloop? ‘For sure,’ Elon Musk says

If Elon Musk’s plans work out, Texans might have to find something other than traffic to complain about. The Tesla, SpaceX billionaire got Twitter talking Thursday when he tweeted he had “just received verbal govt approval” for an underground hyperloop, a high-speed tube transportation system. According to the Hill, a hyperloop could shuttle passengers from New York to Washington D.C. in half an hour or less. When another Twitter user inquired about the possibility of building a hyperloop in Texas, Musk’s response was promising: "Can Texas haz hyper loop too? Dallas - Houston - San Antonio - Austin (a girl can dream...)" Musk wrote "For sure. First set of tunnels are to alleviate greater LA urban congestion. Will start NY-DC in parallel. Then prob LA-SF and a TX loop."

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Dallas Morning News

July 22, 2017

Teens turn up the heat in annual solar car race

At the annual Solar Car Challenge, the sun is your friend — even when that means a ride in 152-degree heat. High schools from throughout the country — and beyond — wrapped up four days of competition Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway. While the day's official high hit 101 degrees, racers encountered beyond-sweltering temperatures on the track and in the pit. They took the heat in stride, though, because a cloudy day could ruin a shot at racing cars that take months — sometimes more than a year — to build. "We call this 'the brain sport,'" said volunteer Matthew Tunnell, who competed in the challenge throughout high school. "It's weirdly grueling, and it's all about thinking ahead."

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Houston Chronicle

July 21, 2017

Canada to install electric car charging stations along Trans-Canada Highway

The Canadian government plans to install 34 battery-powered charging stations for electric vehicles along eastern stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway, using technology from a Dallas-based subsidiary of Swiss company Leclanché North America. The Canadian government will spend more than $25 million funding the project, which will install the stations in early 2018 along a 1,860 mile stretch through the provinces of Ontario and Manitoba. The installation will be overseen by Leclanché and eCAMION, a Toronto-based energy storage company. The lithium ion battery stations will be able to charge three electric vehicles at a time. The batteries offer faster charging for cars -- cars will be fully charged in 20 minutes, instead of after six to eight hours.

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Regulatory Stories

Washington Post

July 23, 2017

Why even foes of Venezuela’s government are wary of U.S. oil sanctions

It’s the “nuclear option” against Venezuela — a U.S. oil embargo that would hit the government of President Nicolás Maduro where it most hurts: the wallet. As the crisis in Caracas intensifies, that lever has never been closer to being pulled. The Trump administration confirmed this past week that “all options are on the table” — including a ban on Venezuelan oil — if a July 30 vote aimed at changing the Venezuelan constitution isn’t called off. Venezuela's political opposition is portraying the ballot as illegal, as well as a pivotal step on the path to turning the country into a dictatorship. Protests have been going on for three months. The United States has imposed sanctions on Venezuelan officials before. In February, the Treasury Department froze Vice President Tareck El Aissami's U.S. assets over his alleged involvement in narcotics trafficking. (El Aissami denies the charges.) But an oil embargo is a far more powerful tool.

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Houston Chronicle

July 22, 2017

The next big idea in the fight against climate change

How many of you remember when the closures of iron and steel plants and the related industries occurred in the states bordering the Great Lakes, leading to what is known as the "Rust Belt"? How many remember the legions of fans rooting for Detroit and Pittsburgh and New York at Rockets and Oilers and Astros home games? An economic wave similar to the one that hit the iron and steel and coal industries lies ahead for the oil and gas industry, and Houston is at the center of the bull's-eye. The tsunami is climate change, and the global response to it. There are solutions, but we must identify and begin to implement them. The Earth's climate is changing, and humans are at the center of it. You can argue about it all you want, but the reality is that the facts keep piling up, and the world is responding.

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Forbes

July 19, 2017

Silverstein: Green Energy Advocates May Now Have Energy Secretary Perry's Ear

Renewable energy is expected to get a green light from the U.S. Department of Energy — the same agency whose head has questioned whether wind and solar power has displaced coal plants that typically run around clock. Renewable energy has long had its detractors, or those who feel that it would be uneconomical without subsidies and those grid operators who worry that it is intermittent — the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine — and therefore it is unreliable. Energy Secretary Rick Perry indicated last April he may fall into this camp — odd because Texas, where he served as governor, has the country’s largest share of wind generation. He thus ordered a study on the issue, which could come out as early as today — one that Bloomberg is reporting will contradict the positions taken by President Trump and the words spoken earlier by Perry.

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Houston Chronicle

July 21, 2017

E15 bill stalls in Senate, as oil state senator pushes back

Efforts by oil lobbyists to squelch legislation expanding the sale of gasoline with higher concentrations of ethanol seems to be working. The bill, introduced earlier in March by a bipartisan coalition of Midwestern lawmakers, is still sitting at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It was not included on a list of bills to be debated next week, because it "does not have the support necessary to pass the committee," a spokesman for the committee said Friday. With time winding down in the Senate, ethanol advocates say they do not expect a vote on the legislation before the Senate goes on recess in August. "We will continue to work with our bipartisan sponsors to enact this bill to provide drivers across the country cleaner fuel options year-round," said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor.

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Texas Public Radio

July 20, 2017

GOP Effort To Make Environmental Science 'Transparent' Worries Scientists

Groups that represent industries from farming to fracking are supporting a legislative push to rewrite how government handles science when drawing up regulations. And the whole effort has scientists worried. Consider, for example, the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act, or HONEST Act, which passed the House in the spring and now is with the Senate. Just how "honest" it is depends on whom you ask. The HONEST Act says the EPA can't take a particular action based on scientific research unless that research is "publicly available online in a manner than is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results."

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KUOW

July 21, 2017

Climate warrior? Champion of 'Big Oil'? Canada's leader wants to be both.

For a lot of Americans these days, Justin Trudeau is the anti-Donald Trump, especially on things like climate change. While President Trump moves to pull America out of the Paris climate accords, Canada’s prime minister describes carbon pollution as one of the globe's biggest dangers. And not long after taking office in 2015, Trudeau unveiled a sweeping national plan to pivot Canada to a new economy based on renewable energy. He called it a “down payment on [a] cleaner future.” Trudeau’s plan is bold. He wants to end Canada’s use of coal to generate electricity. He’s proposed a national tax on carbon pollution, and he wants to make big investments in clean energy technology. This is the Justin Trudeau who grabs headlines in the US — green and progressive.

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