HBW Resources: Ollison Hydraulic Fracturing Report
Below is a summary of publicly available activities currently underway at the federal, state and international levels that could impact the use of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas extraction. With numerous state legislatures now in session, HBW Resources is monitoring these activities to ensure that responsible and feasible policies based on sound science are advanced.
State Legislative Update: Please see linked spreadsheet for an updated listing of state legislation dealing with hydraulic fracturing.
ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips and TransCanada have selected the Alaskan town of Nikiski for a proposed LNG plant and terminal for a huge project to export natural gas from the North Slope. The companies are looking to acquire more than 600 acres to develop a large-diameter gasline and gas liquefaction plant that together could help restore Alaska as an energy powerhouse. The projects anticipated cost is between $45 billion to $65 billion or more. As the current proposal stands, natural gas will be piped from the North Slope to Nikiski, where it would be converted into liquid form and shipped via massive, refrigerated tankers for export to Asia.
If anyone had lingering doubts about where California Gov. Jerry Brown stands on fracking, the state’s top oil and gas regulator removed them. Speaking at a panel discussion on fracking, the head of California’s Department of Conservation, Mark Nechodom, said the governor backs the controversial oil-production technique. His comment came after the moderator asked each of the panel’s participants to spend five minutes discussing his or her organization’s position on fracking. “I can probably save us five minutes,” Nechodom replied. “Gov. Brown supports hydraulic fracturing.” He then stopped talking, letting his statement sink in with the audience.
Hydraulic fracturing operations in the waters off California’s coast break multiple environmental laws, a green group warned in a letter to two federal agencies. The Center for Biological Diversity asked the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to halt offshore operations that use unconventional drilling, including the process known as fracking. Oil and natural gas company operations in the Pacific Ocean need to go through a supplemental National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis, the letter said. That would look at potential threats to environment and wildlife in the area, “which hosts the world’s densest summer concentrations of blue whales,” Center for Biological Diversity said. The Associated Press in August reported that companies including Venoco Inc. and Chevron Corp. have fracked offshore wells. Federal regulators have permitted at least a dozen instances of hydraulic fracturing in the Pacific Ocean since the late 1990s, AP reported, citing federal documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. The letter sent to the agencies said that under NEPA, agencies not only must perform analyses prior to taking federal action but must conduct supplemental review whenever “[t]here are significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts.”
A new series of U-T San Diego reports that illustrate in detail how fracking could change the future of California’s economy is the latest installment in a U-T San Diego-led, bipartisan effort aimed at addressing the most pressing issues facing the Golden State. “The Golden State is home to enormous oil reserves in sedimentary rock formations thousands of feet below ground known as shale. The Monterey Shale formation, beneath the Central Valley and a coastal and offshore chunk of the Los Angeles Basin, contains more than 15 billion barrels of oil that can be accessed using fracking, according to a 2011 U.S. Energy Information Administration analysis. That’s nearly two-thirds of the total oil shale reserves in the entire nation.” The main goal of the bipartisan project is to offer insights into the issues that continue to plague the state and to ignite a dialogue on how to repair these problems – from city and state financial crises to school reform, neglected infrastructure, a challenging business climate, and environmental policies.
The Fort Collins City Council is formally opposed to a ballot issue that would impose a five-year moratorium on fracking within the city. Council members approved a resolution stating the proposal is not in the city’s best interests on a 4-3 vote. Members Lisa Poppaw, Bob Overbeck and Ross Cunniff were in opposition. All three said their opposition to the resolution wasn’t based so much on the controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, but on whether the council should take any position on a citizen-initiated ballot issue.
Protect Our Loveland filed a motion for preliminary injunction in 8th Judicial District Court seeking an order that would require the City Council to put an initiative related to hydraulic fracturing to the voters as soon as possible through a special election. The Protect Our Loveland initiative sought a Nov. 5 ballot measure to ask voters whether or not to impose a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, within city limits. In court documents, Protect Our Loveland argued that the City Council’s inaction on Sept. 3 went against state statues that call for the initiative to either be adopted by the council or placed on the ballot once a final determination of petition sufficiency had been established. With a vote of 5-4, the City Council moved to defer the decision on ballot placement until a case related to the City Clerk’s approval of the petition for the initiative was resolved, an option that had been presented among four others in a council memo from City Attorney John Duval. Deadlines to place the measure on the Nov. 5 coordinated election with Larimer County have passed, but in court documents requesting preliminary injunction from the court, Protect Our Loveland seeks a special election no later than Jan. 24, 2014.
The Lafayette City Council unanimously approved three resolutions outlining the city’s stances on the local items set to appear on the November ballot. Council members reserved their disdain for Ballot Question 300, which deals with oil and gas extraction within city limits. Council members, who said they don’t support the practice of hydraulic fracturing that Question 300 aims to ban, overwhelmingly opposed the ballot question based on what they described as fundamental flaws in its language. The resolution passed in opposition to Question 300 states that the question’s language illegally “attempts to effectively amend both the Colorado and United States Constitutions regarding the status of ‘persons.'” The resolution questions both the timing and need for Question 300’s objectives. The resolution acknowledges the three-year moratorium implemented by Lafayette City Council this summer on new oil and gas wells in the city, as well as the fact that no new oil and gas wells have been established in the city since it adopted comprehensive regulations in 1994. The resolution also points out that the ballot question takes away property rights, which might force the city to compensate oil and gas companies for millions of dollars in profits they could – rightfully, through state law — make from wells in the city.
As residents prepare to vote in November on a five-year fracking ban in Broomfield, another pro-fracking action group has joined the mix. Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition, or BBEC, is a bi-partisan group that stated it wants to bring balance to the discussion by supporting fracking while also supporting Broomfield’s new oil and gas safety regulations. Led by former state Rep. Don Beezley, a Republican, and former RTD board member Lee Kemp, who last year ran for state Senate as a Democrat, the group plans to speak out against a fracking ban while supporting other energy methods, such as wind and solar. The group also supports Broomfield’s new agreement with oil and gas drilling company Sovereign, which imposes strict environmental and regulatory standards in order for the company to continue drilling within city limits. Similar to Broomfield’s other pro-fracking group, It’s Our Broomfield, Too, the BBEC said it opposes a fracking ban. Yet the group also wants to show that fracking is not a partisan issue.
A bill aimed at prohibiting enhanced geothermal power systems has received initial support from the Hawaii County Council. The Council voted 7-0 in support after amending the legislation to increase penalties. The Council must vote on the bill one more time, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported. The bill was drafted to prohibit enhanced geothermal systems, but it would apply to all forms of hydraulic fracturing.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is moving along with implementation of the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act. DNR has activated a new website that allows companies to register with the Department. As you may recall, Section 1-35(a) of the HFRA requires a permit applicant to first register with the Department at least 30 days prior to submitting a permit application. The website and registration information can be found at www.dnr.illinois.gov/mines/Pages/HydraulicFracturing.aspx. Once the registration is accepted, companies will then be able to apply for individual fracturing permits which should occur early next year. In terms of rule making, DNR is about two months ahead of their original time frame and draft rules are being reviewed internally. They are planning to allow interested parties to review these rules before they are officially filed. If DNR remains ahead of schedule, it is possible that the first permits could be issued in April, ahead of the previous June 2014 deadline.
The Catskill, NY Town Board has been asked to prohibit use of fluids containing hydraulic fracturing materials as highway deicing agents. The request was made during a meeting, when members of the grassroots group Green Renewable Energy and Environmental Network said the ban would help protect the environment from radioactive material.
Unshackle Upstate has released a five-point plan for job growth and lower taxes in the parts of the state that aren’t New York City. The plan focuses primarily on eliminating or changing certain taxes and surcharges. But Unshackle officials are also highlighting the potential benefits fracking the Marcellus Shale. According to the report, developing the Marcellus Shale in New York would generate approximately $78 million in state revenue in 2014-2015 and revenues would grow in future years as natural gas development activity increases.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 80-minute lecture and discussion at upstate Hamilton College on Friday touched on dozens of issues. Late into her lecture, Sec. Clinton referred to a report that the U.S. was on track to surpass Russia in domestic oil and gas production. That’s good news, Clinton said. “What that means for viable manufacturing and industrialization in this country is enormous,” she said to the crowd of 5,800 in Hamilton’s athletic field house.
The government shutdown has thrown a wrench into management activities at the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota and stalled oil development on federal lands across the region. The state Department of Mineral Resources reports that Fort Berthold, located atop the resource-rich Bakken Shale in western North Dakota, had 1,004 active oil and gas wells in July. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs can no longer manage leasing and compliance without funding from the federal government, according to Interior Department spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw. Additionally, Kershaw said the federal Bureau of Land Management “will not process applications for permits to drill and will only maintain minimal staff for inspections and enforcement on currently producing wells.”
Leaders from the Northwest Territories are touring the booming Bakken region of Saskatchewan and North Dakota to get a taste of what might be in store if the territory’s own shale oil play takes off. David Ramsay, the minister in charge of resource development in the territory, said that the economic impact has been apparent, from the brand new trucks driving around Estevan, Sask., to the homes, roads, hotels and offices under construction south of the border. The potential jobs created by developing the Canol shale formation in the Central Mackenzie Valley would be welcome in a region plagued by high unemployment. But there are challenges well, such as a higher cost of living and increased pressure on government services.
The Salem City Council voted down a zoning amendment that would have restricted shale drilling within city limits. Council agreed that the issue should be returned to the Rules and Ordinance Committee after Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey explained that council has no legal authority to restrict the drilling which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural Resources through state level legislation. She said she believed passing the amendment would leave the city vulnerable to lawsuits that could cost the city significant money. She added that if council was passing the amendment only as a statement that may never be acted upon, then the amendment is a “waste of time and effort, and a little misleading to the citizens of Salem.”
Steve and Lea Harper, property owners near Seneca Lake in Guernsey County, filed suit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to stop the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) from leasing public land and selling public water for horizontal, hydraulic, high-volume slick water fracturing. The “final straw” came last February, when the conservancy district approved the lease of Seneca Lake, the third largest inland lake in Ohio, to Antero Resources for fracking. The MWCD subsequently approved a pipeline to siphon two million gallons a day of reservoir water to sell for fracking, thus destroying the water forever to reap conservancy district profits. So far, the MWCD has made $78 million in bonus payments for leasing and projects to make hundreds of millions more in royalties plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in windfall profits by selling reservoir water. In a final attempt to avoid the lawsuit, environmental organizations and concerned citizens organized to testify to the MWCD Conservancy Court, which has a governing role over the MWCD staff and board. The court declined to hear the pleas of those organized to protest the conservancy district’s decisions. After exhausting all attempts to avoid litigation, the Harper family has petitioned for a declaratory judgment from the court asking for a determination of the legitimacy of the MWCD to engage in the risky and poorly-regulated industrial practice of fracking. The lawsuit also seeks a ruling on whether the conservancy district has violated the terms of the deed which gave federal land to the MWCD for public stewardship, and whether the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has a legal responsibility to consider environmental effects likely to be caused from fracking. The lawsuit also names the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Antero Resources Appalachian as defendants.
A spending oversight panel approved a $257,287 contract yesterday for the purchase of additional seismic equipment designed to monitor activity near fracking-waste disposal wells. The state Controlling Board asked Tom Johnston, chief financial officer of the state Department of Natural Resources, a few questions before approving the deal. Once the devices are installed, he said, monitoring is a continuous process mainly done through text messaging, which alerts the department if an event occurs.
Ashtabula is about to benefit from the Utica shale boom, as a Texas energy company and a technology firm from Columbus plan to build a gas-to-liquids processing plant in the city. Houston-based Pinto Energy said it will spend about $300 million to build the plant, which is expected to be completed and online in early 2016. The plant would take processed natural gas from the Utica and Marcellus shale plays and convert it into diesel fuel, high-end lubricants and industrial waxes used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and other products. Once finished, the plant will employ about 30 people, but Pinto said it expects to employ about 400 construction workers to build it. Pinto figures the plant also will support more than 100 jobs among suppliers, contractors and others not directly involved with on-site construction.
Onshore US-focused junior explorer Northcote Energy reported that it plans its first horizontal well targeting the Mississippi Lime formation on its wholly-owned Mathis lease in Oklahoma before the end of the year. Northcote said the first well location has been estimated as containing proved, undeveloped (P1) reserves of 200,000 barrels of oil along with 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
Approximately 78 percent of the producing horizontal-drilled Marcellus Shale natural gas wells already have paid for themselves, a Penn State professor says. Terry Engelder, a professor of geosciences, said his calculations include royalty payments and are based on an average well cost of $5 million and the price of natural gas being at $3.50 per thousand cubic feet. It shows the Marcellus is not a financial disaster that some have made it out to be, he said. “Once the well is paid off, gas production greatly adds to the future cash flow of a company,” he said. As of June 30, the Department of Environmental Protection website listed 3,693 producing natural gas wells in Pennsylvania. Over the past five years, at least 4.8 trillion cubic feet of gas has come out of the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, Engelder said. According to DEP statistics of the top wells, six in Susquehanna County are producing more than 20 million cubic feet of gas a day. There is an impression activity in the Marcellus has slowed down but many wells are non-producing because they are not connected to infrastructure, Engelder said. He stands by his estimate that 489 trillion cubic feet of gas is recoverable in the Marcellus Shale but he said at the present low price of natural gas it will not be economically feasible to extract all of that.
Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett’s latest campaign ad, Planet, focuses on the benefits of the Marcellus Shale to the state. The ad states that the Marcellus Shale industry has given back to the state in the form of more than 200,000 jobs, $1.7 billion in corporate taxes and $400 million returned to local communities.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has awarded a contract to Penn State University to review and provide a summary of the publicly available existing geophysical data for the South Newark Basin, the shale that lies beneath most of Bucks and Montgomery counties. The contract began July 1 and will be completed by June 30, 2015. Natural gas development in this region hinges on this governmental study. The South Newark Basin was ranked the third-highest region of untapped natural gas resources on the East Coast in a United States Geological Survey report. Shortly after that report was issued in June 2012, Bucks County lawmakers, led by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, tucked a measure into the state budget that places a moratorium on natural gas drilling within the South Newark Basin. The moratorium says the state Department of Environmental Protection cannot issue permits to drill in the South Newark Basin until the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources can study the area or until Jan. 1, 2018. During the past year, local officials and environmental leaders have been critical of DCNR, arguing that state agency has not responded to requests for an update on when a study would begin and how input from township officials and environmental groups might be included.
A delegation of 163 Colorado business and nonprofit leaders and government types are exploring Pittsburgh for three days to learn about how the city has revitalized itself and is taking advantage of its new economy, particularly energy, medical, technology and arts and entertainment. The energy discussion was topical for the Colorado leaders — most of whom were from the Denver metro area — because, like Pennsylvania, the state is developing its own shale resources.
Hilcorp Energy Co. has taken legal steps to access natural gas beneath the 14.6 acres Bob Svetlak owns near the Ohio border without his consent, arguing a law more than five decades old gives it the right to combine his land with others into a drilling unit. If Hilcorp succeeds, it would be the first time in Pennsylvania’s shale boom that a driller used the tactic, and it could lead to more widespread use. Hilcorp is using a legal maneuver known as forced pooling, in which neighboring plots of land are combined into a single unit for drilling. In geologic formations deeper than the Marcellus shale, the 1961 law allows drillers to combine gas rights into pools, even if property owners oppose. Any use of forced pooling likely will ignite a public outcry. Attempts to extend broad pooling powers to Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale drillers have been met with swift opposition — even Gov. Tom Corbett, a supporter of gas drilling, opposed the idea in 2011, calling it “private eminent domain.” Svetlak’s property is part of 3,267 acres in Pulaski and neighboring Shenango in Mercer County where Hilcorp wants to drill. The area has not attracted much drilling, but Hilcorp wants to tap the Utica shale, a geologic layer thousands of feet below the Marcellus. The company acquired the right to drill on all but 35 acres, which includes at least four properties whose owners don’t want to lease or who leased with another company, according to the Aug. 26 filing Hilcorp made to the state Environmental Hearing Board.
Shale-gas drilling has potential to affect aspects of life in America from immigration and trade policy to education, experts gathered in Pittsburgh said. But the government, industry and labor experts cautioned that public policy debates involving a spectrum of stakeholders need to occur in order for the United States to reap the full potential of its shale gas. “With the return of affordable natural gas and natural gas liquids in the United States, the whole world picture has changed. This is probably the single greatest opportunity we have to restore the middle class in America,” Peter Molinaro said at the Consumer Energy Alliance’s Pennsylvania Energy and Manufacturing Summit. Molinaro, vice president and senior advisor for government affairs for Dow Chemical Co., said Dow reversed a decision to close an ethylene cracker plant on the Gulf Coast and began planning for a second plant when company officials realized the wealth of shale gas discoveries. The shale boom has put Pennsylvania in competition with Alaska and Louisiana to be the country’s second-biggest gas producer. Pennsylvania drillers produced 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from the shale in the first half of 2013, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. State records show companies drill about 100 horizontal wells a month into the Marcellus, and they are now targeting the Utica shale, a deeper geologic layer. The industry has 36,100 employees in Pennsylvania. In addition to the chemical sector, industries such as aluminum, fabricated metals, fertilizer, foundries, glass, iron and steel “have been advantaged by this,” Molinaro said. A manufacturing rebound and the need to build infrastructure could require the United States to reconsider immigration policies to fill workforce needs, industry and labor experts said.
Stabilis Energy and Flint Hills Resources have announced plans to build up to five natural gas liquefiers to serve oil field operations, with the first facility planned to launch in the Eagle Ford Shale in January 2015. The first liquefied natural gas production facility will be located in George West, Texas and produce up to 100,000 gallons of liquefied natural gas per day, the companies said. They also plan to launch facilities in North Dakota and West Texas in 2016 and 2017, pending land procurement agreements. Additional facilities would come online by 2017.
More than a third of all new natural gas wells since 2005 were drilled in Texas, and the state uses almost four times as much water for hydraulic fracturing as any other state, according to a study by a Texas environmental group.Operators in Texas drilled 13,540 wells in 2012, and have drilled more than 33,000 since 2005, according to an Environment Texas report, which focuses on potential hazards and pollution associated with the drilling technology.
West Virginia severance tax collections are running about 15 percent ahead of last fiscal year while most other general fund revenue streams are lagging behind. Through Sept. 20, the state had collected $95.4 million in severance taxes compared with $82.9 million at the same time last year, Mark Muchow, deputy secretary of the state Department of Revenue, told more than 200 people assembled for the annual West Virginia Economic Outlook Conference. This year’s growth comes even as taxes in fiscal year 2013 were down $63.55 million from 2012, Muchow said. Severance taxes from coal were down in 2013 while taxes from natural gas were up, he said. The same pattern was evident in the first two months of this fiscal year. Severance taxes accounted for 10 percent of the state’s general fund revenues in 2013, up from 6 percent in 2003, he said.
General Electric has announced that it has technology which can help reduce the chances of toxic waste spills during the fracking process. This technology, it claims, has the potential to cut the costs of water treatment in half. The technology is based on membrane distillation, a type of desalination. It is believed it could make it unnecessary to dilute millions of gallons of wastewater, or to transport the water for treatment or disposal. Companies reuse this water after it has been pumped underground and picked up chemicals. GE researchers estimate from pilot-scale tests that they will be able to cut fracking wastewater treatment costs by as much as 50%, but only in places where the wastewater is too salty for current methods or in very dry regions.
The U.S. boom in natural-gas production is luring investment from foreign manufacturers eager to tap a cheap, abundant supply of fuel and feedstocks. Companies from the U.S. and abroad have invested or are planning to invest billions of dollars through the rest of the decade in plants that would churn out chemicals, fertilizers, plastics, metals and fuel from gas. Many foreign companies, alone or in joint ventures with U.S. partners, are taking advantage of gas that costs a fraction of what it does in Europe or Asia to expand production in the U.S. Boston Consulting Group estimates that international companies will invest at least $50 billion through the end of the decade on projects that take advantage of low-price natural gas.
The U.S. is overtaking Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, a startling shift that is reshaping markets and eroding the clout of traditional energy-rich nations. U.S. energy output has been surging in recent years, a comeback fueled by shale-rock formations of oil and natural gas that was unimaginable a decade ago. A Wall Street Journal analysis of global data shows that the U.S. is on track to pass Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and gas combined this year—if it hasn’t already. The U.S. produced the equivalent of about 22 million barrels a day of oil, natural gas and related fuels in July, according to figures from the EIA and the International Energy Agency. Neither agency has data for Russia’s gas output this year, but Moscow’s forecast for 2013 oil-and-gas production works out to about 21.8 million barrels a day.
The energy director with The Grattan Institute says opposition to the natural gas industry doesn’t make environmental sense. Tony Wood says the boom in coal seam and shale gas has affected the renewable energy sector, but he says that’s likely to be relatively short term. “What’s happened is there is a lot more gas than anyone thought and in the short term, at least in the USA, they’re using an enormous amount of gas as a way of reducing their emissions. Tony Wood says despite being a fossil fuel, gas has a vital role to play environmentally. “The objective isn’t to get rid of gas, or get rid of coal, or introduce renewable energy. “The objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to do that at the lowest possible cost over time. “And if we can meet our environmental objective, if gas has a role to play, that should be fine.”
Environment America released a report, “Fracking by the Numbers, Key impacts of dirty drilling at the state and national level” that claims to quantify the impacts associated with oil and gas development in the United States, including production of toxic wastewater, water use, chemicals use, air pollution, land damage and global warming emissions.
More than half of Americans don’t know the recent oil boom has increased domestic energy production, according to a new poll, which also showed increased opposition to fracking. Fewer than half of respondents to the national Pew Research Center poll — 48 percent — correctly said U.S. energy production has increased in recent years. The poll also found that from March to September, opposition to the increased use of hydraulic fracturing grew from 38 percent to 49 percent.
North Africa may be “the next big opportunity” after North America for oil and gas production from shale, if drilling costs can be reduced, said Repsol (REP) SA Geological Studies Director Eduardo Negri. “The current drilling and completion costs are still high in North Africa,” Negri said. “This is something that can be worked on if service companies take special effort in preliminary evaluation steps in order to show how they can reduce costs, thinking about massive operations in the future.”
Argentina is investing heavily in shale oil, hoping to ride it to energy self-sufficiency and end dependence on imports that cost billions of dollars each year. Argentina is a pioneer in shale oil exploration and now the third biggest producer of it after China and the United States, according to US figures. Its state oil concern YPF two years ago started production at Loma la Lata, a windswept Patagonian plain under which lies clay-rich soil that contains shale oil. It is part of a larger shale-rich expanse called Vaca Muerta, or dead cow. To produce it for market, unconventional oil requires the same hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques as shale gas. And now, YPF is using its shale oil know-how to speed into operation about 200 unconventional wells in the Loma la Lata, Vaca Muerta area every year. It plans to spend $15 billion in a decade, reaching 1,500-2,000 of these wells.
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) to put forward policy initiatives to help the country maintain its international competitiveness. The Canberra-headquartered organization, which represented the country’s oil and gas production industry, stated in its “2013 Policy Priorities” that the major challenge to continued growth in Australia’s oil and gas industry is a “high-cost local environment and the emergence of new liquefied natural gas (LNG) competitors in East Africa, North America and elsewhere [which] will make it much harder to win market share and attract investment.” APPEA called for a market-based energy policy. For the industry to deliver substantial, economy-wide benefits in terms of investment, jobs, and regional development, the government “must resist calls for policy interventions that force non-commercial outcomes.” Australia’s LNG industry is a “source of comparative advantage that should be harnessed, not hindered.” Another policy priority concerns the industry access to resources. Continued development of the energy sector depends on uninterrupted access to oil and gas resources onshore and offshore and any restriction must be consistent with an “evidence-based, scientifically driven policy approach,” APPEA said. APPEA called for a reduction in red tape and green tape as Australia’s oil and gas industry suffers from duplicative and inefficient regulatory approval processes, often due to an overlap between federal and state government regimes. These cause unnecessary project delays and increased costs without bringing additional environmental benefit. APPEA noted the overlap and duplication of responsibilities between offshore regulator for environmental and safety issues National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) and the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. The association suggested accrediting NOPSEMA as the approving authority to improve regulatory inefficiency.
The Australian Government’s intentions to become a ‘one-stop shop’ to aid the continued development of the country’s energy and resources industry has been welcomed by key oil and gas producer BHP Billiton. Minister for industry Ian Macfarlane, who took over the role following last month’s federal election, outlined these plans during a speech at the Australian National Conference of Resources and Energy (ANCRE) in Canberra. Macfarlane described the newly created department of industry as a “one-stop shop” for several sectors in Australia, including oil and gas. He urged government and industry to now “work together collectively” and turn Australia into an energy and resources superpower.
The Belarusian industrial group Belorusneft and the British company Toros will set up a joint venture to prospect and possibly extract shale oil and shale gas in the Pripyat oil-and-gas bearing basin, Belorusneft’s press service told BelTA. The source underlined the importance of the project. If successful at extracting the Belarusian company’s first shale oil and gas, the project will help determine prospects of shale oil and shale gas extraction in the country as a whole more precisely. BelTA has been told that the Belarusian-British joint venture will be set up by March 2014: time is needed to register the enterprise and get a license for the land.
Quebec isn’t entirely sure about this whole fracking thing. Amid reports from across the continent of groundwater pollution, air pollution, deforestation, and other environmental side effects of hydraulic fracturing, the Canadian province has placed a moratorium on the practice beneath the St. Lawrence River. That doesn’t sit well with Lone Pine Resources, a Delaware-based company that has long eyed the gas and oil that’s locked up in the Utica shale beneath the grand waterway. The company claims it spent millions to get the appropriate permits to drill, and now that the fossil fuels seem out of reach, it says Canadians need to pony up more than $250 million in compensation. The company last month submitted a claim to an international arbitration system seeking damages because of “Quebec’s arbitrary, capricious, and illegal revocation” of its “valuable right to mine for oil and gas under the St. Lawrence River.” The claim is based on Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which allows private companies to sue governments when laws hurt their expected profits.
Malaysia’s state oil firm Petronas plans to spend $35 billion to develop shale gas assets in Canada and build a liquefied natural gas export terminal linking the country to energy hungry Asian markets, company officials said. The estimate is $15 billion higher than the figure previously announced, since it includes costs associated with drilling wells in British Columbia and taking over Canadian explorer Progress Energy Resources for $5 billion, they said.
Negotiations aimed at ending a week-long blockade of Route 134 in Rexton by shale gas protesters are scheduled to resume in Moncton. Premier David Alward, three members of his cabinet, and Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Aaron Sock met with about 15 representatives of the protesters for three hours Sunday in a Moncton hotel. “People had an opportunity to voice their concerns we had an opportunity to discuss what we’re focused on doing as a government,” said Alward after the meeting.
Lawmakers in Ecuador authorized the extraction of oil from Yasuni National Park, a pristine Amazon reserve. After a 10-hour debate, a loyalist congress approved President Rafael Correa’s plan by a 108 to 25 margin, with four legislators absent. Correa in August announced that he was abandoning a unique plan to persuade rich countries to pay Ecuador not to drill in the Yasuni, saying wealthy nations had failed to pledge enough money.
U.S.-based energy firm Schuepbach Energy is asking the French government for 1 billion euros ($1.36 billion) in compensation for blocking its shale gas exploration permits in France, an industry newsletter said, citing unnamed sources. French President Francois Hollande has repeatedly ruled out shale gas exploration during his presidency, confirming a ban on hydraulic fracking introduced by his Conservative predecessor. France’s top court said this summer it would examine the challenge to the ban by Schuepbach Energy, which held two exploration permits that were cancelled when the law was passed in 2011. The ruling is expected on Oct. 11.
State-run explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) aims to commence commercial drilling for shale gas next year, its chairman said. “We hope to take up at least 10 wells for parameters this year and to start commercial drilling next year,” Sudhir Vasudeva told reporters. Govt approved a policy to allow state-owned companies to start exploration for shale oil and gas last month, as the world’s fourth-biggest energy consumer moves slowly to seek alternatives to expensive oil imports. Of about 356 blocks held by ONGC and Oil India Ltd, India’s upstream regulator has said 176 could hold shale resources. India could be sitting on as much as 96 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of recoverable shale gas reserves, equivalent to about 26 years of its gas demand, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
U.S. natural gas exports to Mexico will more than double in 3 years — from an average of 2 Bcf/d in 2013 to 4.5 Bcf/d in 2016, according to a report from Barclays Capital. The expected increase comes as natural gas demand in Mexico has been strong and is poised to accelerate further, driven by new power generation and industrial use, and enabled by “a massive expansion of the country’s pipeline network,” said the report. Eight major pipelines with a total capacity of 5.6 Bcf/d are scheduled to start operations within Mexico from 2013 to 2017, the report said. Several will deliver gas to areas currently lacking sufficient distribution infrastructure, and will spur new demand. Three of these pipelines will connect directly to the U.S. pipeline grid, and are mirrored by US expansions. Mexican demand for gas is expected to increase by 2.7 Bcf/d by 2018, of which 1.4 Bcf/d will be for gas-fired generation, according to Platts unit Bentek Energy. Mexican demand last year stood at 8.1 Bcf/d, up from 5.9 Bcf/d in 2005. To meet this demand, U.S. pipeline export capacity to Mexico is expected to increase by 4.3 Bcf/d over the next five years. Meanwhile, a report by Goldman Sachs earlier this year put the jump in export capacity at 4.8 Bcf/d by 2015.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that his government was formulating a new policy to harness abundant shale gas reserves to address the country’s acute energy shortage. Pakistan was keen to have investment from foreign companies in energy ventures, Sharif said.
Some 72 percent of Poles living near shale gas exploration areas support the fuel’s extraction, according to a poll carried out by TNS Polska for the Ministry of the Environment. The poll also found that 60 percent of the respondents approve of shale gas extraction close to where they live. Shale gas extraction is opposed by 7 percent of the respondents. There were 105 valid exploration licenses as of September 1, 2013, held by 35 Polish and foreign entities. So far 48 exploration boreholes have been made. Altogether the licensees plan to make 335 boreholes by 2021.
Gazprom has increased its investment program for the current year by 46 percent to $32 billion, Interfax news agency reported, citing sources, heightening concerns about the state-run company’s ability to rein in rising costs. The news agency said that Gazprom has increased its planned investments to 1.03 trillion roubles ($32.01 billion) from 705 billion roubles envisaged previously, mainly due to burgeoning long-term financial costs. The new budget is to be reviewed by the board of directors on October 29. It was not immediately clear where the rise in investments came from but earlier this year Gazprom acquired 90 percent of Moscow power generation company MOEK, with a bid of around $3 billion.
A second regional council in Ukraine approved a government draft for a $10 billion shale gas production-sharing agreement with U.S. energy major Chevron, clearing the way for it to be signed. Deputies in Lviv region voted by 66-to-3 in favor of the draft, which calls for shale exploration in the Olesska field in the west of the country. A council in the neighboring Ivano-Frankivsk region, whose approval was also necessary, backed the deal last month. The Olesska deal with Chevron will be the second shale agreement in Ukraine, following one signed earlier this year with Royal Dutch Shell for exploration in Yuzivska in the east. Speaking to the council, Energy and Fuel Minister Eduard Stavytsky said that Chevron would spend several years and $350 million to assess reserves at Olesska which covers 5,260 square kilometers. Total investments including extraction after exploratory drilling could reach $10 billion, he said.
France’s Total SA is looking at shale gas opportunities in Britain, Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie said Tuesday in the first strong sign of interest from an oil major in the U.K.’s nascent industry. Mr. de Margerie said the company is in talks to take a stake in a project in the U.K. and is also considering bidding in next year’s onshore licensing round. Inspired by the U.S. shale boom, the U.K. government is keen to boost the nation’s energy security in the face of declining domestic natural gas output.
UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon has said that the country could see up to 40 wells being set up in the coming years to explore shale gas potential, adding that it would be irresponsible not to let companies find out the commercial viability of the reserves, despite the worries of many environmentalists about the impact of fracking. The minister also said that he wants the UK to focus on local energy supplies as the UK has not been self-sufficient for gas since 2004.
The energy industry must emphasize lower bills as well as job creation if it wants UK public support for fracking, according to a consumer survey published by market research firm Viewbank. The research, conducted in the wake of high-profile protests against possible fracking for shale oil in West Sussex, England, by Cuadrilla Resources, shows that 67 percent of adults would support fracking if it delivered lower bills and 64 percent would support it if it created jobs. Around 65 percent of those surveyed would back fracking if it was proved to be important for delivering future energy needs. However, the research also showed that only 39 percent of consumers believe fracking will cut household energy bills and 42 percent believe the activity will cause environmental damage. A telling statistic from the survey was that only 16 percent of respondents would definitely support fracking near to where they live, although another 41 percent said they would need to find out more before accepting fracking in their area.
British shale gas driller Cuadrilla said it had quit a potential exploration site in northern England over concerns that its operations would disrupt bird life and will select an alternative site nearby. The decision to leave the site at Westby, Lancashire, means the company will consult with local residents on another suitable site to drill for shale gas deposits that could be hydraulically fractured.
The UK’s reserves of shale gas are not enough to make it self-sufficient in gas and will also “not be a panacea for bringing down energy bills.” That’s the conclusion of a new report that is being sent to the UK Parliament’s House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee. Conducted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the analysis states that the UK cannot hope the mimic the success of the shale gas boom in the US. It shows that the costs of shale gas extraction in UK fields such as Bowland in Lancashire are likely to be between $7.10 and $12.20 per MMBtu, compared to $5-6 per MMBtu for large US fields such as Marcellus and Barnett. The report states: “Our conclusion is that even under the most favorable case for shale gas production, with production reaching 4.5bn cubic feet per day in the mid-2020s, and low demand driven by a power sector emissions target of 50gCO2/kWh, the UK will not be self-sufficient in gas. “The reliance on continued imports will ensure that UK gas prices remain tied to European and world markets and so the direct impact of shale on the cost of electricity in the UK will be limited.”
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