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August 1, 2014

Libertarian for Railroad Commission issues debate challenge

Oil, gas regulator viewed increasingly with ‘distrust, even disgust’

The Libertarian candidate for Texas Railroad Commission called Friday for a series of public policy debates that examine the oil and gas regulator’s role in preserving individual liberties, such as the rights of surface landowners, among other things.

A petroleum engineer with 42 years’ experience in the oil and gas, including 18 teaching the subject at the University of Texas at Austin, Mark Miller stressed that the current oil and gas boom has thrust the commission’s increasingly important work into the public spotlight.

And, he says in an open letter, the people of Texas are getting far too little substance from Republican Ryan Sitton, an energy engineer, and Democrat Steve Brown, former Democratic Party Chairman of Fort Bend County.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


July 31, 2014

Texas paves way in oilfield water recycling, spreads the word

In D.C., Tintera shares which energy /water policies can help

WASHINGTON DC – More than 60 people attended an off-the-record briefing on sustainable water management in the oil & gas industry at the Atlantic Council on Monday, signaling the high level of interest around the best practices of managing and recycling water in the red-hot sector of hydraulic fracturing operations.

Geologist John Tintera, former executive director of the Texas Railroad Commission and a current principal of Sebree & Tintera, presented the Atlantic Council white paper, which he called the result of state and federal stakeholder input to provide a summary of potential best practices in water recycling that can apply both in the national and international arenas.  Tintera is also the president of the recently formed Texas Water Recycling Association.

Few topics are more volatile in Texas than water rights, even when it comes to the profitable oil & gas boom. Texas has talked rights of capture and groundwater districts, regional planning efforts and junior water rights, not to mention a $2 billion state-wide water plan approved by voters that still hangs in the balance.

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By Kimberly Reeves


July 30, 2014

Eagle Ford shale acquisitions skyrocketing

Mega deals in oil, gas send values, volumes up sharply

The Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas, the most active nationally for big mergers and acquisitions, sent shale deals skyrocketing in the second quarter to $20 billion nationally, according to PwC US, the domestic arm of the global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Overall, a wave of oil and gas mega-mergers and acquisitions pushed the value and volume of U.S. deals to new highs in the second quarter of 2014 compared to the first quarter and the same quarter last year, PwC US reports.

Deals also shot up based on continuing activity from foreign and domestic buyers interested in gobbling up someone else’s divested assets, PwC said.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


July 29, 2014

Updated: Water woes and fracking: Texas leaders face complex issues

Atlantic Council hosts Texas experts, releases in-depth report which can be found at conclusion of this story

The Texas Legislature faces a host of thorny issues when it reconvenes next year over how to sustain a historic oil and gas boom in the state’s key energy sector amid growing competition for freshwater from a surging population coping with a prolonged drought.

Consider this: Who exactly can claim ownership of brackish water, one resource needed to keep a hydraulic fracturing (fracking) boom going while preserving freshwater for other uses?  

And, will the public’s fears of a suspected link between fracking wastewater disposal wells and earthquakes prompt lawmakers to give the budding oilfield water-recycling industry a tax incentive?

These questions and more are tackled in an in-depth report released late this afternoon in Washington D.C., by the Atlantic Council, a global affairs organization that played host Tuesday to Texas energy and water experts who shared their expertise with other states officials and federal agency staffers.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


July 28, 2014

Watch out, water thieves!

LCRA cracking down on illegal takings

So you think the Highland Lakes and lower Colorado River are there to help water your lawn? Think again, says the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA).

With water supplies tight during a severe drought, your neighbor along the lakes or river could answer the government’s call to report illegal diversions of water. If you don’t have a valid contract, you’ll be busted.

It might sound petty, since the water diversions are small, compared to the amount of water in the lakes and lower Colorado River, but hey. It’s the drip, drip, drip of it. And, every drip counts.

Got it?

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By Polly Ross Hughes


July 25, 2014

Eagle Ford oil output exceeds Bakken, also on an upswing

High rates of return keep both shale plays active, says Platts

Eagle Ford Shale oil has fetched an average $104.43 per barrel so far this year, with oil production soaring 37.6 percent higher in June, compared to June last year, according to Platts, a global information provider on energy.

The Bakken shale formation in North Dakota’s Williston Basin, meanwhile, has averaged $92.78 per barrel this year, while oil production rose nearly 29 percent in June, compared to the same month a year ago.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


July 24, 2014

Texas Petro Index: Oil boom keeps setting records

Oil prices stay strong as geopolitical tensions rise

Unexpectedly strong oil prices this summer, driven by conflicts in Ukraine and Iraq, sent the Texas Petro Index to a record high in June for the 18th rise in the past 19 months.

The index, created and tracked by economist Karr Ingham for the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, shows the upstream oil and gas sector is still growing after four and a half years of expansion, and shows no signs of slowing. The index is made up of various economic indicators of upstream oil and gas activity.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


July 24, 2014

Merger forms largest oil-driven master limited partnership

Breitburn Energy buys QR Energy in $1.6 billion deal

A California-based energy partnership is buying Houston’s QR Energy for about $1.6 billion, in a merger the companies said Thursday would create the nation’s largest master limited partnership directed mostly at oil.

Breitburn Energy Partners of Los Angeles said the combined value of the merged companies will be about $7.8 billion and its average daily production would total about 57,000 barrels of oil per day.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


July 24, 2014

SXSW Eco keynotes to explore promise of sustainable jet fuels

Seawater-irrigated plants to provide biofuel feedstock

A duo of keynote speakers at this fall’s South by Southwest Eco conference in Austin plan to discuss the development of sustainable jet fuel, which could reduce carbon emissions by 50 to 80 percent compared to petroleum-based fuel.

Julie Felgar at Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Alejandro Rios G., director of the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, plan to share breakthrough research on the use of desert plants that can be irrigated with seawater, as a biofuel feedstock.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


July 23, 2014

Blue Alpha Energy was a Ponzi scam, investors learned

FW man pleaded guilty to felony wire fraud Wednesday

A Texan accused of running an oil and gas Ponzi scheme and fleeing to Oregon as it began to crater, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a felony count of wire fraud, according to U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.

Jeffrey Watts, a 41-year-old man from Fort Worth, faces up to 20 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution for the victims of his fraud, authorities said. He has been held in Eugene, Oregon since his arrest in early May of this year. His sentencing is set for Dec. 9.

Watts told investors he was the founder and principal of Blue Alpha Energy, which supposedly had invested in oil and gas wells in Texas that were owned and/or operated by Arrowhead Productions. The latter is a legitimate but unrelated company based in Fort Worth, according to documents filed in the case.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


July 23, 2014

Quote du jour: State shale regulators urged to collaborate

“It is most productive for all parties in a room to have direct conversations abut these important issues that we must get right. It is clear that we need to continue to work in a concerted effort to accomplish the major tasks at hand, so that this viable industry is not only sustained, but continues to flourish.” --- Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick, speaking this week at the Aspen Institute’s Modern Shale Gas and Oil Production Forum in Aspen, Colorado.

By Polly Ross Hughes


July 23, 2014

GDF SUEZ joins collaborative innovation, financing network

Broadscale Group aims to speed clean energy ideas to market

GDF SUEZ announced this week that it has joined other major energy companies as a network member of the Broadscale Group, an investment firm that helps commercialize innovative technologies by aligning interests of major power players.

Other network members include Duke Energy, General Electric, Johnson Controls and National Grid. GDF SUEZ said its membership would give it access to investment and commercialization opportunities along with other growth-stage companies. The network is designed to overcome hurdles that have stood in the way of energy innovation.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


July 22, 2014

RRC quietly proposes overhaul of notorious T-4 pipeline form

New rule calls for more scrutiny of claims to common carrier status

A quiet overhaul of the Texas Railroad Commission’s notorious one-page, T-4 form, in which a pipeline could gain common carrier status by simply checking a box, is undergoing a public comment period until noon, Aug. 25.

The commissioners voted unanimously earlier this month on proposed new requirements that would hold pipeline operators to tougher standards in order for them to declare a pipeline is a common carrier.

The issue carries big consequences during the state’s oil and gas drilling boom as private landowners increasingly question whether pipeline operators have the power seize private land by waving the “common carrier” banner.

The Texas Supreme Court earlier shone a critical light on the T-4 form, which gave pipelines the power to gain private land for right-of-way easements simply by checking a box and declaring themselves common carriers. The longstanding practice has involved no public scrutiny of those claims, short of demanding a court review with an expensive lawsuit.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


July 22, 2014

Partners to finance, build 1,500 MW of power for ERCOT grid

Combined-cycle gas turbines promise efficient, cleaner power

Houston-based FGE Power LLC, an energy infrastructure development firm, and its subsidiary, FGE Texas LLC, announced a partnership Tuesday with Starwood Energy Group Global LLC to finance and build nearly 1,500 megawatts (MW) of power generation using low-emitting natural gas.

The project involves two phases to construct identical 747 MW combined-cycle gas turbines near the communities of Westbrook and Colorado City in Mitchell County, according to FGE.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


July 21, 2014

Oil and gas workers in high demand, but hiring managers challenged

Qualified candidates demanding more money, leaving positions unfilled

Half of energy companies say they’re hiring in the next six months, but it’s the job seekers holding the best cards when it comes to negotiating pay and benefits, according to a semi-annual hiring survey from Rigzone.

The online source that tracks talent recruitment trends in the oil and gas industry said Monday that companies seeking employees dipped slightly from the 53 percent that reported doing so in the first half.

However, it also found that hiring managers are finding their talent searches increasingly tougher as job seekers take advantage of a competitive market for their skills.

“Oil and gas professionals today recognize the energy job market is theirs for the taking,” Rigzone President Paul Caplan said in a statement announcing the survey results. “It’s up to companies to offer the right position for the right compensation package or risk losing candidates to firms and industries competing for the same in-demand talent.”

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By Polly Ross Hughes


July 21, 2014

Major oil firms pool resources for joint subsea technology

FMC Technologies to build systems for deepwater production

Four major oil and gas companies – BP, ConocoPhillips, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Shell – have signed an agreement with FMC Technologies Inc. to jointly develop production systems for producing in deepwater reservoirs, FMC announced Monday.

The cooperative industry program aims to standardize subsea production equipment to deal with pressures of up to 20,000 psi (pounds per square inch) and temperatures reaching 350 degrees Fahrenheit at the mud line, FMC said.  

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By Polly Ross Hughes


July 18, 2014

Oil employees reportedly aboard downed flight

ExxonMobil, Shell workers among 298 presumed dead

Citing multiple reports, the Houston Chronicle reports that employees of Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil Corp. were among passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines flight that crashed yesterday in eastern Ukraine.

Shell confirmed to several news outlet that Shell employees were onboard the fight, although it has not yet said how many.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss of our colleagues and friends, and we mourn their loss and the loss of the lives of everyone onboard flight MH17,” Shell said in a statement.

ExxonMobil has not confirmed that one of its employees was on the flight that was believed shot down by pro-Russian rebel forces.

The Malaysian Insider, however, reported that an internal communication sent to ExxonMobil employees said that one of its employees in Malaysia was on the flight.

“He was a dedicated and long-serving employee with 29 years of service with ExxonMobil,” the Insider quoted from the memo.

By Polly Ross Hughes


July 18, 2014

Oil employees reportedly aboard downed flight

ExxonMobil, Shell workers among 298 presumed dead

Citing multiple reports, the Houston Chronicle reports that employees of Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil Corp. were among passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines flight that crashed yesterday in eastern Ukraine.

Shell confirmed to several news outlet that Shell employees were onboard the fight, although it has not yet said how many.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss of our colleagues and friends, and we mourn their loss and the loss of the lives of everyone onboard flight MH17,” Shell said in a statement.

ExxonMobil has not confirmed that one of its employees was on the flight that was believed shot down by pro-Russian rebel forces.

The Malaysian Insider, however, reported that an internal communication sent to ExxonMobil employees said that one of its employees in Malaysia was on the flight.

“He was a dedicated and long-serving employee with 29 years of service with ExxonMobil,” the Insider quoted from the memo.

By Polly Ross Hughes