Sunday, April 28, 2019

oil prices fall on Trump's BS; natural gas injection matches last week's record; rig count drops to 13 month low

oil prices ended the week lower for the first time in eight weeks, largely on a big Friday selloff that began after Trump told reporters he had “called up” OPEC and told them to bring down fuel costs, even as no-one at OPEC knew anything at all about the alleged "call" from Trump....after oil prices eked out an 11 cent increase to $64.00 a barrel last week, this week began with the last day of trading for US crude for May delivery, which spiked $1.70 or 3% higher to expire at $65.70 a barrel, after the US announced an end to waivers on Iran sanctions, demanding that buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May the same time, contracts for US WTI crude for June delivery, which had ended last week priced at $64.07 a barrel, rose $1.48 to $65.55 a barrel on Monday and became the front month, or widely quoted 'price of oil' an ongoing Iran sanctions rally, that June oil price rose another 75 cents to a 6 month high of $66.30 per barrel on Tuesday, after Iran said they'd close the Strait of Hormuz, the conduit for a fifth of the world's oil, if they were prevented from using it and oil traders expressed skepticism that Saudi Arabia would replace the lost Iranian barrels...however, oil prices opened lower on Wednesday, after a Tuesday night industry report indicated a much larger than expected build of US crude supplies, and went on to settle 41 cents lower at $65.89 a barrel after the EIA confirmed that US oil supplies had in fact risen by much more than traders had expected...after trading higher Thursday morning on the suspension of Russian crude exports to Europe due to pipeline contamination, oil prices turned sharply lower heading into Thursday’s settlement, after a number of reports convinced traders that OPEC could easily replace sanctioned Iranian crude, with oil prices ending down 68 cents at $65.21 a barrel...oil prices then fell steadily on Friday after Trump said he called OPEC and told them to bring oil prices down, with June US crude falling to as low as $62.28 a barrel before recovering a bit before the close to end the session down $1.91 at $63.30 a barrel, thus ending the week down 1.1% and derailing the longest run of weekly gains since the first half of 2015...

meanwhile, natural gas prices, which had been down 5 out of the past six weeks while falling to a 34 month low last week, managed to stage a modest rally after new 34 month lows were set again on Tuesday, and finished 3% higher on the week...quoting natural gas for May delivery all week, prices rose 3.4 cents to $2.524 mBTU on Monday, the first gain in seven sessions, on strong cash prices and the first signs of demand for cooling in the South...that brief move higher didn't hold, however, as natural gas prices fell 6.9 cents to a new 34 month closing low of $2.455 per mmBTU on Tuesday...prices managed a seven-tenths of a cent rebound on Wednesday, and then turned decidedly higher despite another record injection being logged on Thursday, as forecasts indicated colder than normal temperatures for the northern tier of states, and forecasts warm enough for those in the South to crank up the air conditioning...with that forecast indicating natural gas demand increasing both north and south, natural gas prices posted identical 5.2 cents gains on both Thursday and Friday to end the week at $2.566 per mmBTU, 7.6 cents higher than the prior week's close...

the natural gas storage report for the week ending April 19th from the EIA indicated that the quantity of natural gas held in storage in the US had again increased by an April record 92 billion cubic feet, now up to 1,339 billion cubic feet by the end of the week, which meant our gas supplies were 55 billion cubic feet, or 4.3% more than the 1,284 billion cubic feet that were in storage on April 20th of last year, while remaining 369 billion cubic feet, or 21.6% below the five-year average of 1,708 billion cubic feet of natural gas that have typically remained in storage as of the third weekend in April in recent years....this week's 92 billion cubic feet injection into US natural gas storage was in line with market expectations, while it was quite a bit more than the 47 billion cubic feet of natural gas that are normally added to gas storage during the third week of April...over the past 4 weeks, 232 billion cubic feet of natural gas have been added to storage in the lower 48 states; that is in sharp contrast to the same four weeks of 2018, when a cool end to winter meant that 96 cubic feet of natural gas had to be withdrawn from storage over the same 4 week period...

The Latest US Oil Supply and Disposition Data from the EIA

this week's US oil data from the US Energy Information Administration, reporting on the week ending April 19th, showed that due to a large increase in our oil imports, we had surplus oil left to add to our commercial supplies of crude for the fourth time in five weeks...our imports of crude oil rose by an average of 1,157,000 barrels per day to an average of 7,149,000 barrels per day, after falling by an average of 607,000 barrels per day the prior week, while our exports of crude oil rose by an average of 280,000 barrels per day to 2,681,000 barrels per day during the week, which meant that our effective trade in oil worked out to a net import average of 4,468,000 barrels of per day during the week ending April 19th, 877,000 more barrels per day than the net of our imports minus exports during the prior week...over the same period, field production of crude oil from US wells was reported to be up by 100,000 barrels per day to 12,200,000 barrels per day, so our daily supply of oil from the net of our trade in oil and from well production totaled an average of 16,668,000 barrels per day during this reporting week...

meanwhile, US oil refineries were using 16,583,000 barrels of crude per day during the week ending April 19th, 550,000 more barrels per day than the amount of oil they used during the prior week, while over the same period the EIA reported that 783,000 barrels of oil per day were being added to the oil that's in storage in the US.....therefore, this week's crude oil figures from the EIA would seem to indicate that our total working supply of oil from net imports and from oilfield production was 698,000 barrels per day short of what was added to storage plus what the oil refineries reported they used during the account for that disparity between the supply of oil and the disposition of it, the EIA inserted a (+698,000) barrel per day figure onto line 13 of the weekly U.S. Petroleum Balance Sheet to make the reported data for the daily supply of oil and the consumption of it balance out, essentially a fudge factor that is labeled in their footnotes as "unaccounted for crude oil"....with that much oil unaccounted for, we have to figure that one or more of this week's oil metrics is in error by a statistically significant amount.. (for more on how this weekly oil data is gathered, and the possible reasons for that "unaccounted for" oil, see this EIA explainer)....  

further details from the weekly Petroleum Status Report (pdf) indicated that the 4 week average of our oil imports rose to an average of 6,626,000 barrels per day last week, still 19.6% less than the 8,237,000 barrel per day average that we were importing over the same four-week period last year...the 783,000 barrel per day increase in our total crude inventories was all added to our commercially available stocks of crude oil, as the oil stored in our Strategic Petroleum Reserve remained unchanged......this week's crude oil production was reported to be 100,000 barrels per day higher at a record 12,200,000 barrels per day because the rounded estimate for output from wells in the lower 48 states was 100,000 barrels per day higher at 11,700,000 barrels per day, while a 1,000 barrel per day decrease to 477,000 barrels per day in Alaska's oil production was not enough to make a difference in the rounded national total...last year's US crude oil production for the week ending April 20th was at 10,586,000 barrels per day, so this reporting week's rounded oil production figure was 15.2% above that of a year ago, and 44.8% more than the interim low of 8,428,000 barrels per day that US oil production fell to during the last week of June of 2016...    

meanwhile, US oil refineries were operating at 90.1% of their capacity in using 16,583,000 barrels of crude per day during the week ending April 19th, up from 87.7% of capacity the prior week, but still a bit below the normal refinery utilization rate for the middle of April....similarly, the 16,583,000 barrels per day of oil that were refined this week were still a bit less than the 16,621,000 barrels of crude per day that were being processed during the week ending April 20th, 2018, when US refineries were operating at 90.8% of capacity... 

even with the large increase in the amount of oil being refined, gasoline output from our refineries was still somewhat lower, decreasing by 136,000 barrels per day to 9,781,000 barrels per day during the week ending April 19th, after our refineries' gasoline output had decreased by 252,000 barrels per day the prior week....with that decrease in gasoline output, this week's gasoline production was 1.1% less than the 9,886,000 barrels of gasoline that were being produced daily during the same week last the same time, our refineries' production of distillate fuels (diesel fuel and heat oil) rose by 241,000 barrels per day to 5,064,000 barrels per day, after that distillates output had decreased by 215,000 barrels per day the prior week...and after this week's increase, the week's distillates production was 1.7% more than the 4,977,000 barrels of distillates per day that were being produced during the week ending April 20th, 2018.... 

with the decrease in our gasoline production, the supply of gasoline left in storage at the end of the week fell for the 10th week in a row, decreasing by 2,129,000 barrels to 225,826,000 barrels over the week to April 19th, after gasoline supplies had fallen by 1,174,000 barrels over the prior week....that was as the amount of gasoline supplied to US markets decreased by 11,000 barrels per day to 9,409,000 barrels per day, after decreasing by 386,000 barrels per day the prior week, and as our imports of gasoline fell by 85,000 barrels per day 905,000 barrels per day, while our exports of gasoline fell by 53,000 barrels per day to 546,000 barrels per day...after having reached an all time record high thirteen weeks ago, our gasoline inventories are now 4.6% lower than last April 20th's level of 236,807,000 barrels, and have now fallen to roughly 2% below the five year average of our gasoline supplies at this time of the year...

even with the increase in our distillates production, our supplies of distillate fuels fell for the 23rd time in thirty weeks, decreasing by 662,000 barrels to 127,029,000 barrels during the week ending April 19th, after our distillates supplies had decreased by 362,000 barrels over the prior week...the draw on our distillates supplies was a bit greater this week because the amount of distillates supplied to US markets, a proxy for our domestic demand, rose by 443,000 barrels per day to 3,796,000 barrels per day, while our exports of distillates fell by 62,000 barrels per day to 1,608,000 barrels per day, and while our imports of distillates rose by 107,000 barrels per day to 245,000 barrels per day...but even after this week's inventory decrease, our distillate supplies were still 3.5% higher than the 122,729,000 barrels of distillate that we had stored on April 20th, 2018, even as they fell to roughly 6% below the five year average of distillates stocks for this time of the year...

finally, with that big jump in our oil imports, our commercial supplies of crude oil in storage increased for the tenth time in 14 weeks, rising by 5,479,000 barrels over the week, from 455,154,000 barrels on April 12th to 460,633,000 barrels on April 19th...that increase was enough to bring our crude oil inventories back to the recent five-year average of crude oil supplies for this time of year, while they also were also a third higher than the prior 5 year (2009 - 2013) average of crude oil stocks after the third week of April, with the disparity between those comparisons arising because it wasn't until early 2015 that our oil inventories first rose above 400 million barrels...since our crude oil inventories have mostly been rising since this past Fall, after generally falling until then through most of the prior year and a half, our oil supplies as of April 19th were 7.2% above the 429,737,000 barrels of oil we had stored on April 20th of 2018, but at the same time still 12.9% below the 528,702,000 barrels of oil that we had in storage on April 21st  of 2017, and 9.6% below the 509,311,000 barrels of oil we had in storage on April 22nd of 2016...        

since our recent crude inventory increases have concurrently been accompanied by rapidly falling oil product inventories, i'd like to include a set of bar graphs to show you what that looks like graphically...this set of inventory bar graphs was copied from the Zero Hedge report of this past week that reviewed the weekly EIA report:

April 25 2019 oil inventory bar graphs for April 19

above we have 4 similar bar graphs stacked one on top of another; from the top, the first shows the weekly change in US crude oil inventories, then the weekly change in oil inventories at the Cushing Oklahoma storage depot, then the weekly change in gasoline inventories, and lastly the weekly change in inventories of distillates...each graph has the same format: inventory increases for a given week are shown as a green bar above the zero line, whereas inventory decreases are shown as a red bar pointing down from the zero line, wherein the size of the bar in both cases is indicative of the size of the inventory increase or decrease...thus we can see in the top graph that US crude inventories have increased substantially in 4 out of the last 5 weeks, as Zero Hedge has boxed in green, and in a broader look they've increased in 10 out of the past 14 weeks...but then look at the last two graphs, which show inventories of gasoline and distillates decreasing; in the case of distillates, they're now down 6 weeks in a row and 12 weeks out of the last 14, sliding from 143 million barrels to 127 million barrels over that span, and in the case of gasoline, they're now down 10 weeks in a row, dropping all the way down to 225,826,000 barrels, from 258,301,000 barrels on February 8th, ie, heading in the wrong direction only a month before Memorial Day....many are writing off these decreases to normal spring refinery maintenance, but as we've been pointing out, refinery utilization over this period has been quite a bit below that of the same season in recent years...and as we've also been pointing out, the beginning of this sharp refinery slowdown coincides to the date with the imposition of Trump administration sanctions on importation of heavy sour Venezuelan crude, which many US Gulf Coast were optimized to use....and it has taken until this week for us to see US oil imports return to the pre-sanction level, likely heralding the first arrivals of comparable grades of heavy sour crude from the Middle East...

This Week's Rig Count

US drilling rig activity decreased for the ninth time in ten weeks, and has now slowed to a 13 month low, 3% below year ago levels, with both oil and gas drilling down by similar percentages....Baker Hughes reported that the total count of rotary rigs running in the US fell by 21 rigs to 996 rigs over the eight days ending April 26th, which was also down by 30 rigs from the 1021 rigs that were in use as of the April 27th report of 2018, and quite a bit below the shale era high of 1929 drilling rigs that were deployed on November 21st of 2014, the week before OPEC announced their attempt to flood the global oil market...note that this week's rig count is for 8 days, after last week's count was released on the Thursday before Good Friday...

the count of rigs drilling for oil fell by 20 rigs to 805 rigs this week, which was also 20 fewer oil rigs than were running a year ago, and was only half of the recent high of 1609 rigs that were drilling for oil on October 10th, the same time, the number of drilling rigs targeting natural gas bearing formations decreased by 1 rig to 186 natural gas rigs, which was also down by 9 rigs from the 195 natural gas rigs that were drilling a year ago, and way down from the modern era high of 1,606 natural gas targeting rigs that were deployed on August 29th, 2008...

drilling activity offshore in the Gulf of Mexico was down by 2 rigs to 21 rigs this week, which was still 1 more rig than the 18 rigs active in the Gulf a year ago...however, the week also saw the startup of a platformed rig drilling on an inland body of water in southern Louisiana, where there are now 4 such 'inland waters' rigs running, down from the 5 'inland waters' rigs deployed a year ago...

the number of active horizontal drilling rigs decreased by 13 rigs to 873 horizontal rigs this week, which was 28 fewer horizontal rigs than the 901 horizontal rigs that were in use in the US on April 27th of last year, and well down from the record of 1372 horizontal rigs that were deployed on November 21st of the same time, the directional rig count decreased by 4 rigs to 71 directional rigs this week, but that was still up by 3 rigs from the 68 directional rigs that were in use during the same week of last addition, the vertical rig count decreased by 4 rigs to 47 vertical rigs this week, which was down from the 52 vertical rigs that were operating on April 27th of 2018... 

the details on this week's changes in drilling activity by state and by shale basin are included in our screenshot below of that part of the rig count summary pdf from Baker Hughes that shows those changes...the first table below shows weekly and year over year rig count changes for the major oil & gas producing states, and the second table shows the weekly and year over year rig count changes for the major US geological oil and gas both tables, the first column shows the active rig count as of April 26th, the second column shows the change in the number of working rigs between last week's count (April 18th) and this week's (April 26th) count, the third column shows last week's April 18th active rig count, the 4th column shows the change between the number of rigs running on Friday and the number running before the equivalent weekend of a year ago, and the 5th column shows the number of rigs that were drilling at the end of that reporting week a year ago, which in this week’s case was the 27th of April, 2018...     

April 26 2019 rig count summary

as you can see, this week's drilling pullback was fairly widespread, with all of the major oil basins seeing rig reductions...while this was happening even as oil prices were at a 6 month high, we have to realize that there's quite a lag - maybe an average of 3 or 4 months - between the time when a exploitation company makes the decision to drill and the time they contract a drilling rig and get it deployed in the it's likely that the decisions to curtail drilling that we've seen over recent weeks were probably made at a time when oil prices were $10 to $15 a barrel below where they were at this week...

of the 9 rigs pulled out in Texas, five came out of Texas Oil District 1 in the southeast, which would include the 4 shut down from the Eagle Ford; another 2 rigs were removed from the panhandle region Texas Oil District 10, which would be the Granite Wash, and which could have thus included a rig added back in that basin on the Oklahoma side of the the Permian, two rigs were removed from Texas Oil District 8, or the core Permian Delaware, and two rigs were pulled out of Texas Oil District 7C, or the southern Permian Midland basin, while two rigs were added in Texas Oil District 8A, or the northern Permian Midland basin...with a Permian reduction of 3 rigs nationally, those Texas changes suggest that the rig that was shut down in New Mexico had also been operating in the Permian Delaware...

among rigs targeting natural gas, one was removed from Ohio's Utica shale, while one was also pulled out of the Eagle Ford in south Texas, where 8 natural gas rigs remain deployed along side of 65 rigs drilling for the same time, a natural gas rig was started up in the Rockies' Niobrara chalk for the first time in over a year, where an oil rig was concurrently shut down, but 28 oil directed rigs still continue to drill....we should also note that the lone rig which had been drilling in Indiana was also shut down this week, leaving Indiana without drilling activity for the first time since last April 20th..


Spill released 1,000 gallons — City officials said 1,000 gallons of oil were released into Conneaut’s sewer system during last week’s spill.  “It was a catastrophic failure of the oil-water separator at Love’s Truck Stop,” Sewer Superintendent Brian Bidwell told city council members Monday. On April 14, a storm hit Conneaut and the power went out at Love’s Travel stop. The tank of Love’s oil water separator filled up, and when the separator’s pump restarted, it emptied both the oil and the water into the city’s sewer system, Bidwell said. Oil reached the city’s wastewater treatment plant, where it started disrupting the micro-organisms the plant uses to treat water. “There’s no permanent damage to anything,” Bidwell said. Last week, there was some concern the oil would kill all the micro-organisms in the plant. After testing, officials know at least some of the micro-organisms are still alive.  “It was impacted, but it’s not completely gone,” Bidwell said. To help keep the micro-organisms alive, the plant will be cleaned. The plant has six tanks and a clearing basin, and all six tanks will be cleaned.  Cleaning the plant is expected to take three to four weeks, City Manager Jim Hockaday said. Bidwell said the wastewater department put oil-eating micro-organisms into the lift stations to help the cleaning process. They will help clean affected areas of the sewer as they were pumped through the system.  . There was a light sheen on the lake after the spill, but no massive discharge of oil into the lake, Bidwell said. “The plant was very effective at capturing most of everything that came to the plant,” he said. Officials couldn’t take samples from the lake on the day of the spill because of the weather conditions, Hockaday said.  People might smell oil or gas near the wastewater station, Hockaday said. They should still report it, but tests currently show the air quality is safe. In addition to the oil spill, 20 feet of sewer main under Lake Road collapsed Friday, forcing Lake Road to close for a time and creating additional work for Bidwell and his team.

Ohio shale investment hits $74 billion since 2011 Investment in the energy-rich shale sector in eastern Ohio continues to grow, reaching $74 billion since 2011, according to a report commissioned by JobsOhio. Investment in the energy-rich shale sector in eastern Ohio continues to grow, reaching $74 billion since 2011, according to a report commissioned by JobsOhio. The quarterly report, done by Cleveland State University’s Energy Policy Center at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, shows that about two-thirds of that investment has been in drilling, land acquisition, building roads and other expenses tied to the “upstream” portion of oil and gas production. The rest has been spent on activities such as collecting and gathering the oil and gas along with transmission lines and investments in natural-gas power plants and other uses. The study represents investment through the first half of 2018. It comes just weeks after researchers at IHS Markit released estimates that show by 2040, the Utica and Marcellus shale regions in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania will supply 45% of U.S. natural gas production. That’s up from 31% this year. Production of natural-gas liquids ethane, propane and butane is expected to double during this period, accounting for 19% of the nation’s total. The latest data shows production from the region, which is primarily natural gas, continues to surge. Oil production in the final three months of 2018 was 5.8 million barrels, a 38.6% increase from the same period in 2018, according to the most recent report from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Gas production hit 663.5 million cubic feet, a 32 percent increase from the final three months of 2018.

Utica Shale oil, natgas production expected to grow in '18 - — Martin Shumway and Tim Knobloch used an array of drilling data to paint pictures of Ohio’s Utica Shale and the entire Appalachian Basin in twin presentations Thursday at the 72nd annual Ohio Oil and Gas annual meeting, sponsored by the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, with roughly 700 attendees in Ohio’s capital city.   Oil production in 2018 is expected to increase by 20% from 2017, reaching 23.4 million barrels (Mmbbl), and reversing a declining trend from 2015 to 2017, he said. Ohio’s all-time oil production record was set in 1897, at 23.9 million barrels, and Ohio is likely to smash that record very soon, Shumway said. Natural gas production is projected to increase 34% from 2017 to 2018, he said, from 1.8 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), to 2.4 Tcf in 2018. Those 2018 totals are based on production totals for three quarters and estimates for Q4 2018. In 2018, Ohio’s Belmont County had the most well completions with 98. Monroe County had 95 and Jefferson County had 42. Ohio had 408 well completions in 2018, a drop of 9% from 2017. Of that total, 336 wells were producing in 2018. In addition, a total of 493 permits were issued by the state, a drop of 47% from 2017. Of those completions, 70 were by Ascent Resources, 45 were by Gulfport, 39 by Antero Resources, 36 by Rice and 35 by Chesapeake. Antero’s wells drilled increased by 77% in 2018, while most other companies showed declines, he said. To date, Chesapeake has drilled the most Utica wells in Ohio with 688, followed by Ascent with 378, and Gulfport with 304. The most linear feet were drilled in Belmont County: 1.85 million feet. It was followed by Monroe and Jefferson counties. In 2018, energy companies drilled 6.5 million feet on 371 wells. That compares to 6.03 million feet drilled on 378 wells in 2017. The top year for linear feet drilled in Ohio was 2016 with 7.95 million feet.Ascent drilled the most linear feet in Ohio in 2018: nearly 1.3 million feet. Second was Rice with 775,323 feet, Gulfport with 764,456 feet, Eclipse with 716,216 feet and Chesapeake with 644,424 feet. Ohio has 328 wells with laterals that exceed 10,000 feet, with the greatest number in Belmont, Monroe and Jefferson counties, he said.Pennsylvania has 346 laterals that exceed 10,000 feet, with the greatest number in Washington, Greene and Susquehanna counties. West Virginia has 170 laterals that exceed 10,000 feet with most in Doddridge, Ritchie and Tyler counties.Eclipse has drilled an Ohio well in Monroe County with a 20,720-foot lateral that’s the longest in Ohio

Studies link earthquakes to fracking in the central and eastern US - Small earthquakes in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas can be linked to hydraulic fracturing wells in those regions, according to researchers speaking at the SSA 2019 Annual Meeting. While relatively rare compared to earthquakes caused by wastewater disposal in oil and gas fields in the central United States, Michael Brudzinski of Miami University in Ohio and his colleagues have identified more than 600 small earthquakes (between magnitude 2.0 and 3.8) in these states. Brudzinski said these earthquakes may be "underappreciated" compared to seismicity related to wastewater disposal since they appear to happen less frequently. He and his colleagues are studying the trends related to the likelihood of induced seismicity from hydraulic fracturing or fracking, which could help industry and state regulators better manage drilling practices. The numerous fracking wells in eastern Ohio prompted Brudzinski and his colleagues to take a closer look at whether small earthquakes in the region could be connected to fracking operations. "The wells are more widely spaced when they're active, and there isn't as much wastewater disposal going on," Brudzinski explained, "so you can see a bit more specifically and directly when wastewater disposal is generating seismicity and when hydraulic fracturing is generating seismicity in the Appalachian Basin." The scientists used a technique called multi-station template matching, which scans through hundreds of seismic signals to find those that match the "fingerprint" of known earthquakes. The technique allowed them to detect small earthquakes that might have otherwise been overlooked, and to compare the more complete earthquake catalog in a region to information on the timing and location of regional fracking well operations. Seismologists identify earthquakes as being caused by hydraulic fracture wells when they are tightly linked in time and space to fracking operations. Fracking-related seismicity also tends to look different from seismicity caused by wastewater disposal, Brudzinski said. "The [fracking] seismic signature when you look at it in a sort of timeline shows these bursts of seismicity, hundreds or sometimes thousands of events over a couple of days or weeks, and then it's quiet again. You don't tend to see that pattern with wastewater disposal," he explained.

GOP Legislator Criticizing Company Behind Mariner East Pipelines As It Faces Criminal Investigation - Few legislators are more supportive of Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry than state Sen. Gene Yaw (Bradford), who serves as the Republican chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.However, when he addressed oil and gas industry representatives Wednesday at the Upstream PA Conference in State College, Yaw called out Energy Transfer for being irresponsible. It’s the company behind the embattled Mariner East project– a set of export pipelines moving natural gas liquids through the southern part of the state.“This particular company, in my opinion, rode roughshod over people,” Yaw said in his remarks. “They haven’t explained what’s gone on. They haven’t addressed issues.”The Mariner East project has resulted in dozens of violations for spills of drilling mud, which has contaminated private well water. Last year, state utility regulators temporarily shut down one of the pipelines, after sinkholes opened up in a Chester County neighborhood. Energy Transfer is now under criminal investigation by the attorneys general of Chester and Delaware counties, as well as State Attorney General Josh Shapiro.Yaw said Energy Transfer is damaging the reputations of more responsible pipeline operators, citing Williams, which recently completed the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, an expansion of its natural gas transmission line system.“You have one company in Pennsylvania that is probably being counterproductive to your interests,” Yaw said, referring to Energy Transfer. “I’ve talked to these people until I was blue in the face. I know Williams isn’t happy, because they get tarred with the same brush.” Energy Transfer did not respond to a request seeking comment Thursday, but it has previously said there is no basis for a criminal investigation. In a February conference call with investors chief executive, Kelcy Warren, acknowledged the company has “made mistakes” with its Mariner East project adding, “we are correcting those mistakes and will not make those mistakes again.”

Sunoco sends notice that it plans to restart Mariner East 1 pipeline - The Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (I&E) – the independent investigation and enforcement bureau of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) – on Friday received notice from Sunoco Pipeline LP, a/k/a Energy Transfer Partners (SPLP or Sunoco), of Sunoco’s intent to restart the Mariner East 1 (ME1) pipeline. Sunoco also will take a series of additional steps to address safety concerns regarding the Mariner East pipelines, according to a press release. Mariner East 1 (ME1) has been out of service since Jan. 20, 2019, as engineers from I&E’s Pipeline Safety Division monitored stabilization and remediation efforts undertaken by SPLP following a subsidence event or “sinkhole” that exposed a small segment of the pipeline along Lisa Drive in West Whiteland Township, Chester County, the release said.  Enhanced safety actions to be undertaken by Sunoco include:

  • I&E and Sunoco have agreed upon a plan to further remediate the Lisa Drive area surrounding ME1. The site remediation plan will contain a going-forward approach based on all data collected to date. The site remediation plan will also consider the impact of the planned or anticipated open trench excavation of the 20-inch Mariner East 2 line, and the plan will be submitted to I&E for review by I&E’s consultants.
  • SPLP will commit personnel to walk the Lisa Drive section of ME1 daily, except where inclement weather would put personnel in danger, until the grouting along ME1 is complete. SPLP will further provide I&E with summary reports describing the observations recorded during each visual inspection.
  • Sunoco will perform geophysical tests in the right-of-way area behind Lisa Drive every six months for two years, and report the findings to I&E.
  • SPLP will maintain the existing top-of-pipe elevation survey locations and strain gauges on this section of ME1 and will continuously monitor strain gauge data in its control room that is staffed 24/7, and routinely provide reports to I&E.

Energy Transfer- Mariner East 1 Pipeline Back in Service - Energy Transfer LP announced that effective today, Mariner East 1 pipeline has resumed operations. The 350-mile, 8-inch natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline transports NGLs across Southern Pennsylvania to Energy Transfer’s Marcus Hook Industrial Complex in Delaware County, PA. Energy Transfer worked closely with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (BI&E) throughout an extensive three-month investigation, through which Energy Transfer confirmed the integrity of the pipeline in the area of West Whiteland Township, Chester County, PA. The investigation also confirmed that at no time was Mariner East 1 ever destabilized in this area.  Mariner East 1 is part of Energy Transfer’s Mariner East system of pipelines designed to provide much-needed NGL takeaway capacity for the Marcellus and Utica Shale production areas in Eastern Ohio, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania.

Sinkhole opens up along ME2 route in Delaware County; no leaks or injuries - A sinkhole opened up on Wednesday along a Sunoco pipeline route in Middletown, Delaware County, state, county and township officials said. The sinkhole – called a “subsidence” by the Public Utility Commission – was in the right-of-way for a 12-inch pipeline that is part of the Mariner East system to carry highly volatile natural gas liquids and petroleum products, the PUC said in a statement late Wednesday. No leaks or injuries were reported, and Sunoco officials have been working to “stabilize and monitor” the situation, the PUC said. The regulator said its Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement has launched a safety investigation. Earlier this week, Sunoco restarted the Mariner East 1 pipeline which had been shut down for three months because another sinkhole exposed a section of the pipe on a construction site at Lisa Drive, a suburban development in West Whiteland Township, Chester County. Sunoco confirmed that the new sinkhole had opened up but said Thursday morning that the hole has been filled and that there was no interruption to pipeline operations. “A subsidence feature did occur yesterday along our right of way,” said Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman for Sunoco’s parent, Energy Transfer. “The appropriate regulatory agencies were notified and an investigation determined our pipelines in the area are safe and secure. Nothing was exposed. The area was immediately contained and grouted. We placed our personnel in the area to continue to monitor the area. Our pipelines remain in service.” 

Underground wastewater pipelines can be a big, unregulated business in Pennsylvania - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette -- Equitrans Midstream Corp. is in the gas pipeline business and a little bit in the water pipeline business. There are lots of reasons to grow that little bit, promised Thomas Karam, the CEO of the Pittsburgh-based midstream firm. He was previewing a strategy that he said would be fleshed out later this year to take advantage of shale gas’s extreme thirst for water. “Produced water services are particularly exciting because the Appalachian Basin needs a solution,” Mr. Karam said in March while announcing a $1 billion deal for control of two Ohio gas pipeline systems. Produced water is a kind of catch-all term for wastewater that comes back out of a well after chemical-laced frack fluid is pumped into it. Once fracking is over and the well starts producing gas, it also brings to the surface a salty and often radioactive brine that is now mostly trucked around Pennsylvania. There are at least several hundred miles of produced water pipelines buried in Pennsylvania, but they are largely unregulated and untracked. Environmental regulators say they’ve been hesitant to push for regulations because the pipelines haven’t been known to cause problems and because the technology — both how they’re built and how they’re inspected — has been changing faster than they can regulate. So for now, Pennsylvania has had a hands-off approach, happy that at least some wastewater trucks are taken off the roads due to pipelines.  Mr. Karam didn’t harp on the reduced truck traffic. Produced water pipelines, he told investors last month, are a juicy business opportunity. They are a service, with predictable product volumes and the potential for long-term contracts, just like gas gathering lines. “We don't have to re-create the wheel,” he said. “Produced water is piped in other basins, so that what we're going to try to do is introduce that to the Appalachian Basin with similar contractual characteristics.” It wasn’t clear if Mr. Karam was speaking specifically of buried produced water pipelines. After requesting a list of questions, Equitrans did not respond.

Shale Wastewater Pipelines in PA – The Next Big Thing? --Are underground shale wastewater pipelines the “next big thing” for the Pennsylvania midstream (i.e. pipeline) industry? According to Thomas Karam, CEO of Equitrans Midstream Corp., they just may be. Most of Equitrans’ pipeline business is flowing natural gas. A little bit of their business is dedicated to flowing wastewater. Karam wants to grow that little bit into a much bigger bit.The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a major story yesterday on the developing market for underground wastewater pipelines for the PA shale gas industry. The story’s spin is that these types of pipelines are not currently regulated by the state, and therefore are somehow dangerous. Anything unregulated is “dangerous” for leftists. They can’t conceive of an industry self-regulating. So what if there is a leak or spill? It’s salty water.The Post-Gazette article talks about water that’s “radioactive” and “laced with chemicals” from frack fluid. Yes, if you spill a bunch of produced water on the ground–which is water from the depths full of minerals making it super salty–the grass might die. And then a month later the grass will grow back. Produced water is not some highly contaminated hazardous substance. It’s water! With some minerals in it! And it’s not radioactive–at least not at any level that harms humans or the environment. Water itself has natural radioactivity in it–did you know that?One of the big positives with pipelines is that it removes thousands of truck trips from our roads–reducing traffic resulting in fewer accidents that spill produced water, and making for cleaner air (apologies to our trucking company friends, but facts are facts).At any rate, the wastewater pipeline industry in the Marcellus/Utica didn’t even exist five years ago, but does today. Big midstreamers like Equitrans are taking notice.

Study tracks Pennsylvania's oil and gas waste-disposal practices - More than 80 percent of all waste from Pennsylvania's oil and gas drilling operations stays inside the state, according to a new study that tracks the disposal locations of liquid and solid waste from these operations across 26 years. Numerous human health hazards have been associated with waste from oil and gas extraction, including potential exposure to compounds known to cause cancer. The study is the first comprehensive assessment of Pennsylvania's waste-disposal practices, tracking from 1991 - when the state began collecting waste-disposal information - through 2017. In southwestern Pennsylvania, most solid waste goes to landfills in the county where it was produced, the study also found, while in northern counties along state borders, solid waste generally moves to neighboring states of Ohio and New York. Oil and gas development produces high-salinity water that can contain strontium and radium - substances classified as known human carcinogens. Solid waste includes cuttings from drilling that can bring naturally occurring radioactive materials including uranium, radium, and thorium, up from the subsurface to the surface, creating the potential for human and environmental exposures to these toxic compounds. Previous studies have tracked only subsets of oil and gas waste-disposal data. For example, many past studies have focused just on waste from high-volume hydraulic fracturing, the process used at scale since 2008 to extract oil and gas from Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale formation. But the PSE-led study also tracks waste from conventional oil and gas development, which has taken place in Pennsylvania since records have been kept and continues today. Conventional drilling operations accounted for nearly one third of all waste, the data showed.

EPA Decides Not to Regulate Fracking Wastewater as Pennsylvania Study Reveals Recent Spike - On April 23, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told two environmental groups that it had decided it was “not necessary” to update the federal standards handling toxic waste from oil and gas wells, including the waste produced by fracking.  State regulators have repeatedly proved unable to prevent the industry’s toxic waste from entering America’s drinking water supplies, including both private wells and the rivers from which public drinking water supplies are drawn, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded in a 2017 national study. The corrosive salt-laden wastewater from fracked wells has been spread on roads as a de-icer. It’s been sprayed into the air in the hopes of evaporating the water — a practice that spreads its blend of volatile chemicals into the air instead. Oil industry wastewater has even been used to irrigate crops — in California, where state regulators haven't set rules to keep dangerous chemicals like the carcinogen benzene out of irrigation water. If equally contaminated waste came from other industries, it would usually be designated hazardous waste and subject to strict tracking and disposal rules designed to keep the public safe from industrial pollution. But in July 1988, after burying clear warnings from its own scientists about the hazards of oilfield waste, the EPA offered the oil and gas industry a broad exemption from hazardous waste handling laws.  The decision comes as a new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Science of the Total Environment, calls attention to the oil and gas waste produced in Pennsylvania for nearly that entire time. The oil and gas industry has flooded Pennsylvania with over 380 million barrels of liquid waste from 1991 to 2017, that study found — enough to fill an area the size of a standard city block with a column of wastewater over 200 feet tall.  “Pennsylvania also has the third highest cancer incidence rate of all U.S. states,” Environmental Health News reported, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Approximately half of all Pennsylvanians will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime, and about one in five Pennsylvanians will die of cancer.” Fifty-five known chemicals that fracked oil and gas operations release into the air and the water can cause cancer, a Yale Public Health analysis found last year. Oil and gas workers are routinely exposed to dangerous levels of cancer-causing chemicals like benzene, a 2014 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found.

Years after record Marcellus Shale fine was dropped, gas leak continues in Lycoming County — Josh Woda, wearing fishing waders, trudged through sparse winter woods near an ice-glazed stream and pointed to a spot where the ice had curved into a dome the width of a salad plate.Beneath it, methane gas rose from the stream bed as it had for seasons, in bubbles so frequent and persistent that it bowed the frozen water.“If you broke a hole, you could probably light it,” he said. Three years ago, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection dropped its pursuit of the largest fine it had ever tried to collect against an oil and gas drilling company — $9 million. Regulators said the methane bubbling up in this stream in Lycoming County, called Sugar Run, came from a leaking Marcellus Shale well that also damaged water quality at a dozen homes and created dead zones in farm fields.The fine was meant to send a message — to make it “clear that we take seriously our responsibility to protect residents and Pennsylvania's natural resources,” then-DEP Secretary John Quigley said at the time.  But in 2016 the well’s owner, Range Resources, had become more cooperative with DEP’s directions to fix the well — even as the Texas company maintained it was not the source of the problem — and the way that the state had proposed the fine meant its legal foundation was rickety. DEP’s reversal caused outrage. The outrage faded. Eight years after it was first detected, the leak has not been plugged and deep gas is still finding a path to the surface.  New research out of Pennsylvania State University led by Mr. Woda, a geosciences graduate student, suggests a methane plume is moving through the aquifer and causing cascading effects: feeding bacteria that interact with other elements in the water, giving the water a rotten-egg odor, and turning stream sediment and residents’ plumbing fixtures orange. Even as the years-long leak indicates a series of failures, mechanical and human, it has offered researchers a rare, prolonged look at how new sources of methane affect aquifers and the surrounding landscape. It has also meant a drawn-out ordeal for the affected homeowners. Nancy DeWire, a 76-year-old sheep farmer and recent widow, can describe a personal timeline: the day her family discovered bubbling in the creek, the day an oily looking sheen of iron bacteria appeared on the water in a dish pan, the day installers put a complex water treatment system in the basement at Range Resources’ expense and ran a white pipe up the side of the red brick house.  In January, she was one of seven area homeowners to receive a letter from DEP confirming the changes in her water were caused by gas drilling. She had been waiting for the letter since 2015, when she and her husband first noticed dead spots in their field.

Shell hires global firm for maintenance, repair work at cracker plant --— Shell Chemicals’ ethane cracker plant project hit another milestone Thursday as the company hired a firm to perform maintenance work on the plant when it becomes operational in several years. Shell announced it has awarded a contract to AECOM Energy and Construction, which will provide “skilled mechanical craft labor and supervisory maintenance” work once the plant moves into an operational phase sometime early next decade. Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed. AECOM, which has its headquarters in Los Angeles, is a global company with about 87,000 employees, including about 1,200 people in Pennsylvania. AECOM’s employees will perform maintenance on the plant to ensure it is “running safely and efficiently while minimizing downtime,” Shell said in a news release. Duties will include changing out pumps, tightening flanges, and other general repairs and maintenance. “This routine preventative maintenance will create a plant which runs more efficiently, minimize potential for downtime and preserve the asset for the long term,” Shell said. Shell said AECOM’s role will be “essential to the planning and execution of maintenance once we move into operations.” The company also called the contract agreement an “important milestone” in the project’s history.

Appalachian producers expected to report modest production gains in Q1— Appalachian-focused oil and gas producers are expected to report only modest gains in gas production in the first quarter of 2019 as they seek to hold the line on capital spending. In guidance issued toward the end of last year and earlier in 2019, most of the larger Appalachian Basin producers announced plans to scale back on capex spending on drilling, with an eye toward living within cash flow and increasing investor returns. Southwestern Energy said it had reduced planned capital investment by $200 million compared with 2019 guidance, which the company had released when it announced the sale of its assets in the Fayetteville shale last September. The company's projected 2019 capex is also $120 million lower than 2018 capex. In February, Range Resources announced a 2019 capex budget of about $756 million -- about 83% of its 2018 estimated capex budget. The company said it expects its full-year 2019 production to average between 2.32 Bcfe/d and 2.35 Bcfe/d, up only slightly from the 2.2 Bcf/d reported in 2018. Appalachian producer CNX in recent guidance said it expects 2019 average production volumes of between about 5.5 Bcfe/d and 5.7 Bcfe/d, an annual increase of about 5%, compared with 2018 volumes from retained assets of about 5.3 Bcfe/d. "Most of the companies said they expect to grow production at a modest pace while living within cash flow,"  Pennsylvania issued 35% fewer permits to drill wells in Q1 2019 compared with the same period of 2018. The state Department of Environmental Protection reports that 491 permits were issued in Q1 2019 versus 758 in Q1 2018. However, the move to slow down drilling in the basin in 2019 is not yet being reflected in the rig count, particularly the number targeting the dry gas Marcellus shale play of northeastern Pennsylvania, data from S&P Global Platts Analytics shows. Producers in that region have been increasing the number of operated rigs fairly aggressively since the beginning of the new year, averaging 65 rigs year to date compared with 54 in 2018, Platts Analytics finds. This contrasts with rig activity in the Utica Shale play, where the total number of rigs has been on the decline throughout most of 2018, with the trend continuing into the current year. The number of Utica rigs averaged 19 in 2018 and has averaged just 16 in 2019 year-to-date.

PennEast pipeline: NJ says dozen historic sites on proposed route - The state Department of Environmental Protection's Historic Preservation Office (HPO) has identified nine properties in path of the proposed PennEast pipeline that could qualify for historic preservation. The sites include the Belvidere-Delaware Railroad Historic District along the Delaware River, an 1850 house at 1155 Frenchtown-Flemington Road in Kingwood, the Hoagland Farmstead on Route 179 in West Amwell which has a stone farmhouse dating back to 1807, and farm buildings at 327 Milford-Warren Glen Road, Holland Township; 177 Gallmeier Road, Alexandria; 48 Spring Hill Road, Kingwood; 60 Stanford Road, Delaware Township; 56 Lambertville Headquarters Road, Delaware Township and 1431 Route 179, West Amwell. The HPO is recommending that more intensive research be conducted on the properties to determine their historic value. According to the HPO, the properties contain farmhouses that date back to the early to mid-19th century and most have outbuildings more than 50 years old. "PennEast has requested a meeting with the Historic Preservation Office (HPO) to gain a better understanding of the sites in question, as well as the information HPO is seeking," said Patricia Kornick, a PennEast spokesperson. The HPO's decision was seen was pipeline opponents as a welcome delaying tactic for the $1 billion project. “PennEast is trying to run around historic preservation requirements and New Jersey will not let them," Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said in a statement. "PennEast tried to get off easy by claiming only three properties in its path might be eligible for historic preservation. Now the HPO has stepped in to say that potentially nine sites in PennEast’s path should be saved."  

This proposed pipeline is fracturing New York's green new image - Rockaway peninsula is a sliver of land roughly 10 miles long and half a mile wide that juts out from the New York City borough of Queens. Locally, it’s known for its beautiful beaches, its isolation from the rest of the city, and for being especially hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Today, the Rockaways are in the news for a different reason — they are the proposed end-site of a new 23-mile pipeline that would run beneath lower New York Bay, carrying fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York City. Controversy over the Williams Pipeline has sparked something of a region-wide identity crisis. New York state is in the middle of a green makeover. Earlier this year, it was the first state to formulate its own Green New Deal. New York City is leading the U.S. in a green overhaul, passing a carbon pricing fee charging drivers in some of the most traffic-choked neighborhoods. Last week, the city council voted to pass aClimate Mobilization Act that includes bills to make infrastructure more energy-efficient.  Many activists say that, given New York’s new, greener identity, the state going forward with the Williams Pipeline doesn’t quite seem to compute. Fracking is a controversial process that involves shooting high-pressured water and chemicals deep into the earth to release hard-to-reach natural gas. It’s associated with public health threats including soil, water, and air contaminationCritics of the project say construction of the underwater pipeline could dredge up arsenic, lead, and other dangerous metals from the seafloor. They also argue that the release of methane during fracking is a powerful contributor to a warming climate. Proponents, on the other hand, say natural gas is a cleaner source of energy than oil, and that the pipeline is needed to address the state’s energy needs. Either way, the project is difficult to reconcile with the state’s own environmental policies on sourcing natural gas — Governor Andrew Cuomo imposed a statewide fracking ban back in 2014. “It’s incredibly hypocritical for us to ban fracking [in New York state] but then frack people in Pennsylvania,” said Lee Ziesche, Community Engagement Coordinator for Sane Energy Project, one of the New York-based groups leading a coalition to stop the pipeline from being built. “To be pushing for new fracked gas infrastructure, it’s the same as climate denialism really,” she contends, “You can’t say you’re a climate leader and then push these fracked gas projects.”

NYC vs Another Fracked Gas Pipeline: Notes From Activists On The Ground - The same industry that coined the term “natural” gas to package it as a “clean bridge fuel” are pushing a massive buildout of pipelines, compressor stations, power plants and export facilities to move fracked gas from shale plays like the Marcellus Shale to new markets as seen here on the interactive You Are Here map.But just as there never was a safe cigarette, there’s no safe consumption of fracked gas when it comes to our climate and health. Methane, the main component of fracked gas, is an even more potent a greenhouse gas than C02 for the first 20 years it’s in the atmosphere and if just a small percentage leaks, it’s worse for the climate than coal.(Marcellus shale map courtesy of May 16, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo will have to make a decision whether he stands with climate science or fossil fuel industry propaganda when his administration’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will decide to approve or deny permits for theWilliams NESE fracked gas pipeline. And to thicken this plot, Donald Trump recently declared he will issue executive orders — to destroy the political power that anti-fossil fuel infrastructure communities have built — to demand that Williams NESE Pipeline gets built.The proposed 23-mile long pipeline would bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania through New Jersey and NY Harbor and into New York City through an existing pipeline off the coast of the Rockaways, still working to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy 6 years ago.Construction of the pipeline would dredge up industrial toxins and heavy metals that have sunk below the seafloor threatening wildlife that has seen a rebirth since the creation of Gateway National Park in 1971 to address the New York Harbor Pollution. Locking New York into several generations of fossil fuels with the Williams NESE Pipeline is not a risk we can afford to take right now. National Grid, whose current business model is dependent on fracked gas expansion, claims the pipeline is necessary to meet growing gas demand. However, a new report, False Demand: The Case Against the Williams Fracked Gas Pipeline, proves there’s no need for it, especially when energy efficiency efforts to reduce gas usage are taken into account.

WVDEP investigates oil spill at Stonecoal Lake - An oil spill was discovered by canoers at Stonecoal Lake on the morning of April 18. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection was contacted, and an environmental cleanup company was contracted to contain and clean up the spill. Initial response began on Thursday, April 18, said Casey Korbini, acting chief communications officer, deputy director for DEP remediation programs. Korbini said officials think the spill came from a leaking residential gas line that was connected to a gathering line of a well operated by Ross and Wharton Gas Company Inc. The cause of the leak was a coupler that came apart, Korbini said. The WVDEP does not know how long the line had been leaking or the amount of oil spilled. No wildlife has been identified as exhibiting effects from the spill. The WVDEP will contact the responsible party or parties and will oversee remediation of the spill, Korbini said. As of April 18, the party had not been determined. On Tuesday, Korbini provided an update on the spill, saying that cleanup efforts are continuing on land in the area where the line separation occurred. She added that oil is being removed from the surface of the lake that ponded at the dam. “Booms have been placed in the outlet below the dam for precaution; however, these remain clean (oil free), with no indication that oil has left the lake.

DEP: 'Security concerns' hampered plans for hearing on pipeline permit -- The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection scheduled a public hearing for a pipeline permit in Jefferson County, but then canceled the hearing over “security concerns” and quietly issued the permit. Residents and lawmakers in Jefferson County had requested a public hearing for the 4.85-mile-long natural gas pipeline, which would be built by Mountaineer Gas and deliver gas to Rockwool, a controversial 460,000-square-foot coal- and gas-fired manufacturing plant being built in the City of Ranson, off Route 9. The DEP had initially scheduled a public hearing for the extension project for Feb. 21 at the Ranson Civic Center, in Jefferson County. Five days before the event, the DEP issued a press release citing logistical concerns “raised by local officials.” “The WVDEP was aware that citizens had concerns and planned a discretionary hearing accordingly. However, upon notification of security concerns, the WVDEP canceled the hearing for the safety of all anticipated attendees,” Casey Korbini, deputy director for remediation programs for the DEP, said in an email. Korbini did not answer questions about what kinds of concerns were raised. The City of Ranson also didn’t respond to questions about the concerns.  In the public notice, the DEP asked that comments be addressed to the DEP’s Charleston office, and said the public comment period would span from Jan. 25 to Feb. 25. The notice said a public hearing was scheduled for Feb. 21 at the Ranson Civic Center. A week before the hearing, the DEP issued a press release, canceling the event. Residents wrote to the DEP asking that the meeting be rescheduled. Regina Hendrix, chair of the Eastern Panhandle Sierra Club, said in a prepared statement. “The WV Department of Environmental Protection has utterly betrayed Eastern Panhandle residents with their approval of the permit for the Rockwool Pipeline Extension,” she said.

Mountain Valley Pipeline gets good and bad news on court challenges - A state regulation that delayed a key part of work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline — the crossings of more than 1,000 streams and wetlands in the two Virginias — has been revised in a way likely to benefit the project. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection wrote in a letter Wednesday to federal regulators that it has modified about 50 conditions to permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. One of the conditions was that the pipeline needed to be built across four major rivers in West Virginia within 72 hours. The Army Corps improperly bypassed that rule when it issued what’s called a Nationwide Permit 12 to the natural gas project, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in throwing out the authorization in October. Although several more steps need to be taken before water body crossings can resume, a revised condition doing away with the time restriction in certain cases was seen as a victory for Mountain Valley. However, complications from another court challenge involving a different pipeline in Virginia led one of the five partners in the joint Mountain Valley venture to say this week that completion of the project by the end of this year now “appears unlikely.” Rebecca Kujawa, chief financial officer of NextEra Energy Inc., made her comments in a report on first quarter results posted to the company’s website. Construction of Mountain Valley, which began last year, is expected to ramp up in the coming months following a winter lull, Kujawa said. But she expressed concerns about a 4th Circuit decision last year that prohibited the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from crossing the Appalachian Trail. The Mountain Valley pipeline would also cross the scenic footpath, and backers worry that the project could be jeopardized by the Atlantic Coast ruling. Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for Mountain Valley, said Thursday that there have been no announced changes to the company’s most recent goal of a late 2019 completion date. When work on the 303-mile pipeline began a year ago, plans were to have it done by late 2018. As for the Nationwide Permit process, Cox said, the next step will be for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review the modified conditions from West Virginia. Then the Army Corps will do the same. Mountain Valley still hopes to receive a new permit from the Army Corps in time to compete the project this year, she said.

Living in the trees to protest the pipeline -   Phillip Flagg pokes his head out from the tarps that make up his treetop home and looks down. He carefully lowers an empty paint bucket the 50 feet to the ground. A friend puts a Tupperware container with pigs-in-a-blanket (made with fake meat) into the bucket and Flagg pulls it back up. It’s his lunch.  “Are you bored up there?” the friend — his ground support — calls. He laughs, then says no.  His platform is slightly larger than a double-size mattress with 14 buckets hanging beneath, each with a purpose: food, books, water and other essentials. A solar panel charges Flagg’s phone. The ground crew says that he gets a better signal in the treetops than they do. The protesters took to the treetops in early September 2018, and seven months later they’re still there. “At this point we’re kind of mentally preparing for the long haul,” Flagg said. Flagg hasn’t touched the ground in more than five months, since he climbed the tree on Oct. 12 to block construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile line running from northern West Virginia to the border of North Carolina. With the announcement of a 70-mile extension into Rockingham and Alamance counties in North Carolina, called Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate, the protesters’ role has taken on new importance to North Carolinians.  The protesters sit just outside of Elliston, Virginia, 25 miles west of Roanoke in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The camp is about a mile back along the gravel road that gave them their name — Yellow Finch. They’re part of Appalachians Against Pipelines, a loose group of individuals with the same mission: fighting pipelines through the mountains they call home. The organization uses nonviolent direct action — physically blocking construction with their campsites, tree sits, and their bodies. Their goal is to delay or even stop the pipeline.

FERC Report: Still More Demand than Supply for NatGas in 2018 - Last week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its annual State of the Markets report–for 2018. The report summarizes FERC’s assessment of natural gas, electric, and other energy market developments during the past year. The revelation (for us) coming from the report was in reading that although the U.S. had record high natural gas production and demand last year (from electric generation and LNG exports), the growth in demand for natgas outpaced the growth in production.  A few other tidbits: Gas production averaged 80.7 billion cubic feet per day, up 12% from 2017. And of course the Marcellus Shale was the most productive basin, averaging 19.4 Bcf/d in 2018, up 13.5% from 2017. The following article from RTO Insider does a great job summarizing the report. The FERC report follows the article.  Record high natural gas demand and production highlighted FERC’s 2018 State of the Markets report, released last week. The report by the Division of Energy Market Oversight said gas demand was driven by electric generation and growing LNG exports. Despite big jumps in the Marcellus Shale and the Permian Basin regions, demand growth outpaced production increases. As a result, storage levels were lower than average and “at times were the lowest in more than a decade,” FERC said, contributing to higher gas and power prices. The Henry Hub benchmark averaged $3.12/MMBtu for the year, up 5% from 2017. Reduced storage inventories pushed Henry Hub prices up 31% in the fourth quarter over a year earlier. Although gas prices remained relatively low, there was increased price volatility because of storage constraints, extended winter cold and infrastructure constraints in the West. In January 2018, an East Coast cold snap pushed gas prices to $140.85/MMBtu in New York and $128.39/MMBtu in the Mid-Atlantic, with prices peaking at $78.88/MMBtu in Boston. In contrast, New York’s spot price never reached $21/MMBtu in 2017.Gas production averaged 80.7 Bcfd, an increase of 12% from 2017. The Marcellus Shale was the most productive basin, averaging 19.4 Bcfd for 2018, up nearly 13.5% from 2017.Haynesville Shale production jumped to an average of 6.5 Bcfd, a 46% increase that FERC attributed to higher gas prices and lower production costs. Rising crude oil prices were a factor in the 2.1-Bcfd increase in associated natural gas production in the Permian, a jump of 41%.  More than 689 miles of commission-jurisdictional pipelines, representing 13 Bcfd of capacity, went into service during 2018, much of it connecting Marcellus and Utica supplies to markets in the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast. There was no capacity increase in New England. *RTO Insider (Apr 22, 2019) – Record Gas Demand, Production Highlights FERC Markets Report

Why Are Natural Gas Prices Crashing? -- Shrugging off low levels of storage, natural gas prices have continued to plunge.  The U.S. entered this past winter with natural gas supplies at a 15-year low. Paltry levels of gas in storage, just ahead of the peak winter demand season, pushed prices up to the highest level in four years. A cold snap in November led to a jump of around 30 percent in a week, an increase so fast and so quick that it forced at least one trading firm out of business. By mid-November, prices had climbed as high as $4.80/MMBtu.   Gas supplies in storage were at their lowest levels in a decade and a half, and demand had steadily increased year-after-year as gas-fired power plants replaced shuttered coal plants. The surge in LNG exports and petrochemicals also amounted to a new source of demand that didn’t exist in its current form only a few years ago. To top it off, there were several rounds of extreme cold that swept across the North American continent, forcing millions of people to crank up the heat.  Yet, despite that backdrop, prices shockingly fell back rather quickly. A few weeks after the November price spike, Henry Hub spot prices dropped below $4/MMBtu. By February, prices fell below $3/MMBtu and remained there, with the market eyeing the end of the winter demand season. Now, with temperatures rising, prices recently plunged as low as $2.50/MMBtu.  However, the price decline comes even as storage remains remarkably tight. Natural gas inventories stood at 1,247 billion cubic feet (Bcf) as of April 12. Notably, despite the large increase of 92 Bcf from the week earlier, gas inventories were still 414 Bcf below the five-year average, and also at multi-year lows for the time of year.  Why are prices hovering close to their lowest levels in years, even though inventories have been decimated? The answer largely comes down to record levels of production, with output continuing to rise on an ongoing basis. Analysts and gas traders have largely shrugged off low storage levels, expecting that the “injection season” – the months between April and November when demand is seasonally soft – will see storage levels fill up quickly, replenishing depleted stocks.

Firm Cash And Slightly Higher Demand Allow Natural Gas Prices To Rise - After quite a decline in recent sessions, May natural gas prices were able to close just over 3 cents higher on the day today.  The strength, however, was limited mostly to the front of the curve, with later-dated contracts unable to move.  The rise in the front came as a result of firmer cash prices, as well as a bump up in weather demand compared to the forecasts from back on Thursday.  In terms of absolute demand, the pattern remains weak, however, despite the increase that showed up over the weekend.  There is still a lot of warmth indicated on the forecast maps, with cooling confined to the far northern parts of the U.S.   This is warm enough to generate some cooling demand across the South, though nothing major yet at this early stage of the season. Fundamentals data was mixed over the weekend, with both production as well as LNG exports climbing back to near-record high levels.  These factors essentially negated one another, which is why the later-dated contracts were unable to move today.

Natural Gas Prices Remain Stuck In Shoulder Season Rut For Another Day - After an early rally that saw May natural gas prices up as much as 3 cents on the day, much of the rally reversed, with the May contract finishing up only 7 ticks on the day.  Yesterday, cash prices were the culprit in triggering widespread selling, though today's cash prints were a little firmer.  So, if not cash, then what halted today's attempt at a rally? It was continued pressure on later-dated contracts, from summer through next winter, which then bled into the front of the curve.  The relentless selling in the later-dated contracts has not allowed us to have a true "Spring rally", which has historically been common, making this year a big outlier in recent seasonality trends.  On the weather side, we have seen some colder adjustments in the northern half of the nation, along with some warmer changes in the southern U.S.   This pattern leads to more heating demand in the north, and some early season cooling demand in the south, boosting GWDD levels back closer to normal for this time of year.   For the first time in several weeks, we also now finally see forecast GWDDs (weather demand) higher than the same dates from last year.  Is all of this enough to finally spark a rally in natural gas prices, or are the robust supply levels too much to overcome? 

Trump Considering Waiving Jones Act Mandate for Natural Gas, Sources Say - President Donald Trump is seriously considering waiving the requirement that only U.S.-flagged vessels can move natural gas from American ports to Puerto Rico or the Northeast, according to people familiar with the deliberations. The issue was debated during an Oval Office meeting on Monday, following requests from Puerto Rico and pressure from oil industry leaders to ease the nearly 100-year-old Jones Act requirements, according to three people. Although top administration officials are divided on the issue, Trump is now leaning in favor of some kind of waiver, said two of the people, who asked for anonymity to discuss the private deliberations. The move -- which would be fought by U.S shipbuilding interests and their allies on Capitol Hill -- has been promoted as essential to lower the cost of energy in Puerto Rico and ease the flow of American natural gas to the U.S. Northeast, where there aren’t enough pipelines to deliver the product from Pennsylvania. But even inside the Trump administration, there are fierce defenders of the Jones Act, a 1920 law requiring that vessels moving cargo between two U.S. ports be U.S.-built, -owned and -crewed. The law was originally designed to protect the domestic shipping industry and the country’s maritime might, and supporters argue that it’s just as essential today to ensure ships are made in the U.S. Any move to weaken or waive the requirements threatens the U.S. shipbuilding industry and the jobs tied to it, they argue. That divide was apparent during Monday’s White House meeting, where Jones Act supporters included Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, pushed for waiving the Jones Act, three of the people said. Even as the White House weighs waivers, a handful of Trump administration officials have pushed to expand the Jones Act’s reach, two of the people said. They are aiming to effectively revive a Customs and Border Protection bid to revoke rulings allowing foreign vessels to transport some equipment to offshore oil rigs. The agency withdrew the formal proposal in 2017, after the oil industry warned it could cripple production in the Gulf of Mexico. The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment. Trump faces increasing pressure to relax the shipping requirements. Puerto Rico is seeking a 10-year waiver to allow liquefied natural gas to be delivered to the island on foreign-flagged vessels.

Natural Gas Storage Stocks Move Above Year-Ago Levels After EIA Reports 92 Bcf Build - The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a 92 Bcf injection into U.S. natural gas storage for the week ending April 19, pushing inventories to a 55 Bcf surplus over year-ago levels. The reported build was in line with market expectations and compares to last year’s 20 Bcf withdrawal and the five-year average injection of 47 Bcf. Natural gas futures prices had a muted initial response to the reported injection, shifting about a penny higher after the print hit the screen, although pushing the prompt month into positive territory. By 11 a.m. ET, the May Nymex gas futures contract had tacked on additional small gains as it traded at $2.481, up 1.9 cents on the day. Ahead of the report, a Bloomberg survey of 17 analysts showed a build ranging from 69 Bcf to 98 Bcf, with a median of 92 Bcf. A Wall Street Journal poll of 13 market participants had estimates ranging from an increase of 82 Bcf to 94 Bcf, with an average build of 89 Bcf. A Reuters survey of 19 analysts ranged from a 69 Bcf to 95 Bcf build, with a median of 91 Bcf. Intercontinental Exchange EIA Financial Weekly Index futures settled Wednesday at a build of 90 Bcf. NGI’s model predicted an 82 Bcf build, slightly below consensus. The South Central continued to surprise to the upside this week, with the EIA reporting a 45 Bcf build in that region. IAF Advisors’ Kyle Cooper questioned whether part of that storage build could be attributed to local distribution companies in the Midwest and Northeast indexing gas now for the upcoming winter and passing on the cost to ratepayers. “Obviously, things have changed a lot over the years,” Cooper said on Enelyst, a chat room hosted by The Desk. “From a long-term plan, buy April/May South Central, then buy the Northeast local gas in the summer, maybe when Texas gets hot … just a theory.” Broken down by region, the EIA reported a 23 Bcf injection in the East, a 10 Bcf build in the Midwest and a 45 Bcf injection in the South Central region. Salt facilities added 17 Bcf, while nonsalts added 29 Bcf to inventories, according to EIA. Total working gas in storage as of April 19 was 1,339 Bcf, 55 Bcf above last year and 369 Bcf below the five-year average.

Natural Gas Prices Finally Halt Their Slide - After quite the decline in recent weeks, natural gas prices were finally able to put together a noteworthy upward move today, with May prices rallying over 2% on the day.  The move came after being down initially in morning trading. In our morning report, we had warned of some upside risk in prices, with our sentiment being "slightly bullish" for the day.  That worked out well, with the entire curve finishing the day with gains. Helping to spark today's rally appeared to be alleviating fears that today's EIA Report would show an injection around 100 bcf for the week ending 4/19/19. The number wound up coming in right at our estimate of 92 bcf.  While still a much larger build compared to the 5-year average, it did not represent quite as weak of a supply / demand balance as the prior two weeks.  We also have continued to see gains in forecast weather demand over the next couple of weeks, with our forecast running a little higher than normal demand levels, and much higher than demand levels on the same dates one year ago.  At this time of year, weather isn't typically as much of a player in the natural gas world, but this setup is rather unique, with enough cold weather in the north for heating demand to be enhanced, but also some heat in the southern U.S. to enhance cooling demand, as shown in the GFS Ensemble projection for the 6-10 day period.  Forecast high temperatures even this weekend are rather chilly for this time of the year from the Upper Midwest to New England.  By the middle of next week, focus shifts quickly to the South, where we will see numerous high temperatures in the 85-90 degree range, definitely enough for folks to crank up the air-conditioning.  

Catch A Wave, Part 2 - More U.S. LNG Export Projects Moving Toward FID -- 2019 is slated to be a watershed year for U.S. LNG export projects vying to catch the second wave — the first wave being the slew of liquefaction trains already operational or in the process of being commissioned or constructed. As expected, regulatory and commercial activity has heated up around the two dozen or so longer-term proposals to add liquefaction capacity along the U.S. coastlines over the next decade. Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved two of those projects — Tellurian’s Driftwood LNG and Sempra’s Port Arthur LNG — and several others, including Driftwood and NextDecade’s Rio Grande LNG, also have made progress on the commercial front. Many of these projects are targeting a final investment decision (FID) this year. Today, we continue a series highlighting the second-wave projects’ latest developments. We started our update of the “second-wave” LNG export projects in Part 1 with a discussion of the key hurdles that LNG export projects must clear before developers will take FID, i.e., make the full financial commitment to build these multibillion-dollar terminals. It’s not a quick or linear process, with different projects taking different routes to reach that point depending on their location and business model, but, generally speaking, conditions must align in two or three areas in order for project developers to pull the financial trigger: regulatory approvals, commercial agreements, and supply or pipeline capacity arrangements. On the regulatory front, U.S. projects must secure environmental approval from FERC, in addition to approvals from the Department of Energy (DOE) for exporting to free-trade-agreement (FTA) and/or non-FTA countries (or, in the case of Canadian projects, for example, from the National Energy Board or NEB). And when it comes to offshore projects, approvals from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) also come into play. On the commercial front, developers look to lock in third-party financial commitments to help finance the terminal and spread the risk. This may come in the form of offtaker sales and purchase agreements (SPAs) for LNG supply, project financing and/or equity partnerships. (As a general rule of thumb, developers aim to “pre-sell” about 75% of their liquefaction capacity, which can then attract additional investors to join the project.) And, finally, the projects (or their offtakers) must be able to secure the feedgas supply and the firm pipeline capacity to physically move it to the terminal for liquefaction and export. This may involve signing up for firm transport on existing or new third-party pipeline routes or developing their own pipeline to supply the terminal. Some may also opt to underpin their projects with upstream positions.

US exports transform NGL markets -  - U.S. propane is fanning out across the planet, with export volumes now triple those of any other country.  The global LPG market today is dominated by cargoes shipped from U.S. ports. Buyers from Mexico to South Korea can’t make a move without considering conditions on the Houston Ship Channel or pipeline constraints in Pennsylvania. But an interconnected market is a two-way street. U.S. propane prices are now influenced more by the weather in Europe and Asia than by the weather in Wisconsin or New Hampshire. And it’s not only propane. All NGLs are experiencing growth in U.S. export volumes, with huge implications for infrastructure, capacity constraints and, of course, prices. Today, we preview the deep dive into these issues on the agenda at RBN’s upcoming xPortCon conference. NGL exports have been a frequent topic in the RBN blogosphere, with our most recent series on the subject titled Between Mont Belvieu and the Deep Blue Sea posted earlier this year.  We also considered the impact of all of these exports on the U.S. domestic NGL market in Complicated - Petchem Demand, Exports. But these blogs only scratched the surface of what’s going on with U.S. NGL exports. Figure 1 puts the magnitude of U.S. LPG (propane and butane) exports to overseas markets in perspective. From less than 100 Mb/d 10 years ago (for those of you that think in metric, that’s about 3 million metric tons per annum, or MMtpa), U.S. exports have soared to more than 1.1 MMb/d (about 33 MMtpa) — an 11-fold increase. In recent years, 60% of LPG exports have been sourced from the two docks located on the Houston Ship Channel: Enterprise and Targa. Another 30% came from two other Gulf Coast facilities: Energy Transfer at Nederland and Phillips 66 at Freeport. Only about 5% moved out of the Energy Transfer dock at Marcus Hook, PA, but that is changing fast. With the completion of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in December 2018 (see It's All Wrong, But It's Alright), Marcus Hook export volumes have been hitting all-time records in early 2019. 

No emergency plan for Bayou Bridge Pipeline violates permit: environmental group - The controversial – but now complete – Bayou Bridge Pipeline has drawn another legal challenge from the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper environmental group, which questions why the pipeline was allowed to begin operating on April 1 without having an approved emergency response plan. The state Department of Natural Resources said it would investigate the complaint, but said the pipeline’s operation falls under federal law, and the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration say the pipeline is complying with federal regulations. The 163-mile Louisiana segment of the pipeline that is transporting oil from Texas to St. James Parish has been the subject of of numerous legal challenges by environmentalists concerned about its effects on swampland in the Atchafalaya Delta and by landowners whose property was crossed without their permission. The pipeline is operated by Houston-based Energy Transfer Partners, its majority owner. Phillips 66 Partners owns 40 percent of the pipeline. On Friday (April 19), the Basinkeeper filed a “citizen complaint” asking the state Department of Natural Resources to enforce a condition included in the pipeline’s state coastal use permit that the group says requires a “facility response plan” to be in place before it transports oil. A spokesman for DNR said Monday that the agency actually relies on the federal pipeline agency to regulate the day to day operations of pipelines, but that it was looking into the Basinkeeper complaint.  The Basinkeeper complaint pointed out that the federal pipeline agency had informed it on April 11 that Bayou Bridge had not yet submitted the response plan. But in an April 16 letter submitted as part of motions on behalf of DNR in a state Supreme Court case involving the pipeline, a PHMSA official said that Energy Transfer Partners had submitted a similar “Integrated Contingency Plan” that includes the 162-mile Bayou Bridge segment, but that PHMSA had not yet approved that plan.

Trump is shelving plans to open virtually all federal waters to offshore drilling - The Trump administration will not move forward with plans to open virtually all federal waters to offshore drilling, according to recently confirmed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.The administration is putting the expansion on hold after a federal judge shot down its attempt to overturn President Barack Obama’s Arctic drilling ban, Bernhardt told The Wall Street Journal. The ruling could lead to a prolonged appeals process that delays the Interior Department’s decision on which offshore areas it will put up for auction, Bernhardt said.“By the time the court rules, that may be discombobulating to our plan,” Bernhardt said in an interview with the Journal. He said he’s not sure it’s “a very satisfactory and responsible use of resources” to offer offshore blocks that may get tied up in legal proceedings.Last month, Judge Sharon Gleason for the District Court of Alaska ruled that President Donald Trump’s executive order overturning Obama’s Arctic drilling ban was unlawful and invalid. In doing so, Gleason ruled in favor of environmental groups, who argued that Congress gave the U.S. president the power to remove federal waters from consideration under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, but not the authority to overturn a previous president’s withdrawal.

Interior abruptly pauses offshore drilling action following legal setbacks and bipartisan opposition - Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the agency has abruptly paused its controversial plans to open virtually all U.S. waters to offshore drilling, a stunning reversal following more than a year of bipartisan uproar from coastal communities.The news comes as some Democratic presidential candidates have started to speak out on the issue. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recently took a strong stand against offshore drilling in South Carolina, a key primary state that has largely revolted against President Donald Trump’s coastal fossil fuel ambitions. Several others have since joined in calls against the expansion of offshore drilling.In an interview Thursday with the Wall Street Journal, Bernhardt said the administration’s long-anticipated five-year leasing plan targeting the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) has been sidelined following a federal court decision in Alaska earlier this month. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason blocked Trump administration efforts to reverse the Obama-era ban on oil and gas leasing in both the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic Ocean, determining that Trump had “exceeded” his authority in challenging the limits on drilling. The decision left DOI officials unsure of how to proceed on broader offshore drilling efforts. “By the time the court rules, that may be discombobulating to our plan,” Bernhardt said, pointing to the limits of any future efforts to expand offshore drilling in the area. DOI acknowledged Bernhardt’s comments but said there were no more updates available on the department’s offshore drilling plans. Opponents, however, cautiously greeted the news with optimism.

Houston suffers a petrochemical disaster every 6 weeks -  In the past month, Houston area-residents faced three major disasters related to oil and gas infrastructure. As a Houston resident, I was alarmed to see weekly news reports presenting the unknown dangers each fire posed to the community members living next door, and to those of us living just a few miles away. These facilities store and process various types of petrochemical products including feedstocks for plastics. Ethane, a fracked natural gas liquid, is one of the primary building blocks for plastics. In places like Houston, petrochemical facilities first crack (process) the ethane molecule into ethylene, using it to create polyethylene, today’s most commonly used plastic. Above is a map of the three locations where fires associated with oil and gas infrastructure were located.  On March 16th, Exxonmobil's Baytown refinery caught fire for over four hours. A plume was visible over the skyline Saturday afternoon. Although dark smoke came from the facility, no shelter-in-place was issued for surrounding residents.  According to historical documents on the facility, this was the 9th major incident at the site in the last 10 years.  On March 17th, a fire erupted in Deer Park, Texas at the Intercontinental Trading Company (ITC) site, which created a plume that spread over 100 miles. ITC is a storage facility for the US Gulf Coast containing 242 storage tanks that store petrochemical liquids and gasses, as well as fuel oil, bunker oil, and distillates. Ten storage tanks were on fire for almost a week, resulting in days of closed schools for thousands of students, shelter-in-place orders for several surrounding communities due to elevated benzene levels, and a breach in a dike wall leading to thousands of toxic chemicals spilling into the ship channel.   On, April 2nd, just three weeks after the Exxon and ITC fires, another fire broke out at the KMCO plant in Crosby that left one person dead and two others injured. Located just a 30-minute drive north of the previous fires, the facility caught fire and spread more toxic fumes over the Deer Park neighborhood previously contaminated by the fire at ITC. According to officials, a gas line caught fire near a tank full of isobutylene, a flammable gas used for rubbers, plastics, fragrances in fuels or pharmaceuticals. The fire resulted in emissions of over 2,300 pounds of toxic chemicals including isobutylene, toluene, and other volatile organic compounds known to cause many health issues. Crosby residents suffer from a poverty rate twice that of the US at large and live in a region with elevated cancer risks. KMCO is one of the many contributors to cancer-causing agents in the region. And, similar to ITC, has repeatedly violated the Clean Air and Clean Water Act.

Oil Producers Are Burning Enough 'Waste' Gas to Power Every Home in Texas - America’s hottest oil patch is producing so much natural gas that by the end of last year producers were burning off more than enough of the fuel to meet residential demand across the whole of Texas. The phenomenon has likely only intensified since then. Flaring is the controversial but common practice in which oil and gas drillers burn off gas that can’t be easily or efficiently captured and stored. It releases carbon dioxide and is lighting up the skies of West Texas and New Mexico as the Permian Basin undergoes a massive production boom. Oil wells there produce gas as a byproduct, and because pipeline infrastructure hasn’t kept pace with the expansion, energy companies must sometimes choose between flaring and slowing production. The amount of gas flared in the Permian rose about 85 percent last year reaching 553 million cubic feet a day in the fourth quarter, according to data from Oslo-based consultant Rystad Energy. Local prices that are hovering near zero will remain “under stress” until more pipelines come online, Moody’s Investors Service said in a note Thursday. There will always be a “mismatch” between the amount of gas produced and pipeline capacity, so some flaring is inevitable, according to Ryan Sitton, the head of the Railroad Commission of Texas. Despite what its name suggests, his agency oversees the oil and gas industry in the state and regulates flaring, allowing companies to burn gas for limited periods, or in times of emergency. Some 4 billion cubic feet of pipelines are expected come online in the next year or so, which will likely reduce, but not eliminate, the need to flare, the commissioner said in an interview. Right now, there’s about 9.5 billion feet a day of gas pipeline capacity in the basin that can reach markets that need the heating and power plant fuel, according to RS Energy Group. That’s not enough to carry the more than 13 billion cubic feet a day of gas that’s being pumped out of wells in the region. Unsurprisingly, with such an abundance of gas but also real difficulties in getting it to consumers, prices for the fuel in Permian have been cheaper than in other parts of the U.S., and earlier this month they went negative, meaning producers had to pay customers to take their gas.

Apache Shuts In Permian Gas Production As Prices Crash -- Apache Corporation said on Tuesday that it had temporarily started to delay natural gas production at its Alpine High play in the Permian in late March to mitigate the impact of the extremely low prices at the Waha hub in West Texas. Currently, the company is deferring around 250 million cubic feet (MMcf) per day of gross gas production. Natural gas prices at the Waha hub plummeted to record low negative levels in early April, as pipeline constraints and problems at compressor stations at one pipeline stranded gas produced in the Permian. Spot prices at the Waha hub plunged to a record low of minus $4.28 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in the first week of April. Gas production in the Permian has been rising in lockstep with crude oil production, and even though gas takeaway capacity has attracted less media attention, pipeline constraints for natural gas are similar to those of crude oil pipeline capacity. The natural gas takeaway capacity constraints have resulted in more gas flaring in the Permian on the one hand, and in a record-high spread between the Waha gas hub price and the U.S. benchmark Henry Hub in Louisiana, on the other hand. “We will closely monitor daily pricing and return our gas to sales when it is profitable to do so. We are carefully managing these actions so there is no adverse impact on long-term wellbore integrity or reservoir productivity and look forward to returning this production to market as soon as practical,” John J. Christmann IV, CEO and president of Apache Corporation, said in a statement today. Apache contracted two years ago more than 1 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day of long-term, firm takeaway capacity from the Permian Basin on Kinder Morgan’s pipeline projects Gulf Coast Express and Permian Highway, Apache said, noting that Gulf Coast Express is expected to be in service later this year, while Permian Highway is set to start operations next year.

Permian Oil Now Selling At A Discount - Gulf Coast refiners are having trouble swallowing up all of the ultralight oil coming out of the Permian. The Permian continues to add production, even as drilling activity slows down in Texas and elsewhere. According to the EIA, the Permian could add another 42,000 barrels per day in May, with output now well above 4 million barrels per day (mb/d). That comes even as the rig count has declined sharply from fourth quarter highs last year. The record levels of production present new challenges. The pipeline bottleneck that really became an acute problem a year ago has eased somewhat. New capacity came online in recent months, while larger pipeline projects are expected to reach completion later in 2019. That will allow more oil to reach the Gulf Coast. But from there, the flow of oil runs into other bottlenecks. U.S. oil exports continue to break new records. Although the numbers bounce around from week to week, U.S. crude exports now routinely top 2 mb/d, and even exceeded 3 mb/d at times this year. A year ago, exports above 2 mb/d would have been considered exceptionally high, and only occurred on rare occasions. As recently as 2017, exports tended to hover below 1 mb/d. Still, Gulf Coast ports are bumping up against their limits, unable to export every last barrel. That leads to another bottleneck: Gulf Coast refiners are not equipped to handle huge volumes of ultralight oil. Refineries built years ago were done so with the intention that they would import medium and heavy barrels from abroad. They can’t simply switch over to light and ultralight oil without problems. Growing supplies of light and ultralight oil come at a time when medium and heavy blends around the world are in shorter supply. Iran sanctions, Venezuela sanctions, Canadian pipeline woes, declines in Mexican heavy oil, and the OPEC+ cuts have all cut into the supply of medium and heavy oil. Light oil was already coming under pressure from soaring production at a time when medium and heavy blends were tight, but now the increasing volumes of ultralight oil have made it difficult to even put together the right specs for what is commonly known as WTI.   As such, the surplus of ultralight oil has led to discounts of a few dollars per barrel below WTI, according to Reuters. “For the past 10 years, US traders have been able to manage the wide range of crude oils coming from the various shale basins to create marketable, WTI quality barrels,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote in a report on April 18. “Recently though, this task has become more difficult due to surging output of superlight crude in the Permian.”

Is the Permian Played Out?  -  The Permian is not played out, according to Regina Mayor, global sector head of energy and natural resources for KPMG, who made the statement in a recent television interview with Bloomberg.“What the industry is proving is that the Permian is not played out yet,” Mayor said in the interview, which was published on Friday last week.“I keep getting asked ‘is the Permian played out?’ and I keep saying no. Permania is alive and well and I think it’s here to stay,” Mayor added.In a separate television interview with Bloomberg earlier this year, Fatih Birol, executive director at the International Energy Agency, said “we have not seen the full impact of the shale revolution yet”.“[There is] more to come both for oil and gas and it will have huge implications for the oil industry, gas industry and the markets,” Birol told Bloomberg in the interview.“There was a major problem in [the] United States in the Permian basin. It is a logistical problem, the pipe capacity was not enough to bring the oil to the markets. And now, as of end of 2019 this problem will be solved with the new construction of the pipelines,” he added.Last month, Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners (TIPRO) Association President Ed Longanecker told Rigzone “we will continue to see oil and natural gas employment growth in the Permian basin this year”. As of March, TIPRO was tracking over 1,000 open positions in the upstream sector in the Permian, including Texas and New Mexico. The full oil and natural gas industry in the Permian - including upstream, midstream and downstream - had approximately 2,700 open positions as of March, according to TIPRO.

Railroad Commission, Kinder Morgan sued over route of Permian Highway Pipeline - Hays County, the city of Kyle and a coalition of Hill Country landowners have filed a lawsuit to fight the route of Kinder Morgan's proposed Permian Highway Pipeline and challenge how the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industry allows companies to use eminent domain laws.During a Monday morning news conference at Kyle City Hall, the coalition released copies of a 19-page lawsuit against the Texas Railroad Commission, five agency executives, pipeline operator Kinder Morgan and a subsidiary of the Houston company overseeing the project. The lawsuit, filed in state District Court in Travis County, asks a judge to block construction of the 42-inch pipeline designed to move 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Permian Basin of West Texas to the Katy Hub near Houston. That's roughly enough gas to fuel about 10 million U.S. homes per day.Opponents claim that the Railroad Commission is allowing the 423-mile pipeline to run through residential areas of Kyle, about 20 miles south of Austin, near the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Stonewall and less than a mile away from Jacob's Well, a popular summertime swimming hole near Wimberley."A lawsuit is a regrettable event," said Clark Richards, an attorney for the project opponents. "But we believe that the Texas Constitution affords more protection to our clients than is being provided to them in the current process, and we look forward to the opportunity to present that to the court." Legal fees for the lawsuit are being paid for by the Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense Coalition, or TREAD, which represents landowners. The nonprofit advocacy organization was founded last year in response to concerns over property taxes, water rights and eminent domain issues.

Texas House panel considers controversial eminent domain reforms - Lawmakers, lobbyists and landowners sparred at a Capitol committee hearing on Thursday over a batch of bills designed to protect property owners whose land may be seized by private companies to build oil and gas pipelines.A bipartisan — though largely Republican — group of House and Senate legislators whose districts have been targeted for pipeline construction amid a historic oil and gas boom have proposed several measures this year aimed at helping landowners and local officials negotiate with deep-pocketed energy companies eager to move fossil fuels to processing and export facilities on the Gulf Coast.The reform push has put some Republicans at odds with an industry they typically champion — and one that donates significant dollars to their political campaigns — as well as members of their own party.Perhaps the most controversial legislation — proposed by Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham — would require companies to include specific provisions in agreements with landowners explaining exactly where they plan to construct pipelines and a promise that they will repair fences, gates or other infrastructure if they damage them. Senate Bill 421 — one of 11 eminent domain-related bills that the House Land and Resource Management Committee considered on Thursday — also would require private companies to offer to pay landowners fair market value and to hold public meetings if they plan to seize 25 or more tracts of land. "It’s well known that Texas property owners continue to struggle with the eminent domain process in a variety of ways and it's paramount that Texas property owners have greater assurance that the eminent domain process be fair, transparent, respectful," state Rep. DeWayne Burns, a Republican from Cleburne who filed a similar bill in the House, told the committee on Thursday.

Bill Being Considered by Texas Senate Would Let Companies Dump Fracking Waste Into Waterways - Environmental groups are warning that a bill passed by the Texas House and now awaiting discussion in the Texas Senate would give fracking companies a license to pollute the state's waterways.  House Bill 2771, which received an affirmative vote yesterday afternoon, would allow the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to grant permits to let oil and gas companies discharge water used at fracking sites into rivers and streams. The Senate is expected to take up companion legislation, Senate Bill 1585, early next week.     The bill requires energy companies to treat the water before it can be discharged, but environmental groups caution that the bill is vague about what that means. What's more, Texas law allows companies to keep the ingredients of their fracking fluids secret, making testing and follow-up tricky to say the least.  "We have no ability to confirm what chemicals are in the water," said Adrian Shelley, director of watchdog group Public Citizen's Texas office. "Without that, there's no assurance you're correctly catching everything when you test for it."  According to a recent study, wastewater from fracking sites is on the rise. Companies used 770 percent more water per well in 2016 than in 2011 across all major gas- and oil-producing regions in the United States, the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances found.

Texas-based company to address oilfield waste in the Permian  - Waste from the oilfield could be addressed as a Texas-based company secured permits to develop multiple landfills in the Permian Basin of southeast New Mexico and West Texas. Milestone Environmental Services announced on April 9 that it received a landfill permit from the Railroad Commission of Texas to build its second landfill in the area. The 7.8 million cubic yard landfill will be situated about 34 miles sound of Midland, off Texas State Highway 34, about 8.5 mils sound of the company’s existing South Midland slurry injection facility.The landfill will sit on 93 acres, serving customers in the southern portion of the Midland Basin, the Texas side of the Permian, and will accept cuttings, contaminated soil and other solid waste from oil and gas operations. Milestone President and Chief Executive Officer Gabriel Rio said the asset will allow Milestone to accept and dispose of a broader variety of waste.“The Midland Basin continues to have some of the highest density of drilling, completion, and production activity in the world, and responsible development of this important play requires a world-class oilfield waste management solution,” he said. “Located near our South Midland slurry injection facility, the addition of the Upton landfill will allow us to accept the entire spectrum of oilfield wastes from customers in the Midland Basin.”

Neighbors sue 2 Trempealeau County frac sand mines over pollution, nuisance complaints - More than three dozen western Wisconsin residents are suing subsidiaries of a frac sand mining company that spilled 10 million gallons of wastewater into the Trempealeau River last spring. In four separate complaints filed Monday by the same attorney, neighbors of Hi-Crush mines in Whitehall and Blair allege ongoing air, water, noise and light pollution from the mines. According to complaints filed in Trempealeau County Circuit Court, silica dust from the mines regularly blows onto their property, violating air-quality standards, and their well water is undrinkable because of dangerous levels of arsenic and other particles. Plaintiffs say they can’t open their windows and are subject to constant noise and light. According to the complaints, living near the mines has led to marital strife, anxiety, depression and high blood pressure. “Hi-Crush strives every day to adhere to all applicable rules, regulations and agreements with local jurisdictions,” company spokesman Steve Bell said in a written statement. “As a Green Tier company, we recognize the importance of environmental stewardship and being a good neighbor. We take these matters seriously and will present a vigorous defense based on the facts and the law.” Attorney Tim Jacobson of La Crosse said he believes these to be the first such lawsuits against Wisconsin frac sand mines, although he represented clients who sought to block two proposed mines on the grounds that they would create similar nuisances. “Our clients have had their quality of life severely diminished by the nearby presence of the frac sand operations,” Jacobson said. “It is difficult for them to live there every day.” The 40 plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages and penalties stiff enough to “punish Hi-Crush and to deter it and others … from engaging in similar wrongdoing.”

Pipeline spill in Lyon County, Minnesota -- Crews are working to cleanup a pipeline spill near Cottonwood in Lyon County, Minnesota Thursday morning. According to Magellan Midstream Partners, an oil pipeline company, the spill was confirmed around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night. The leak was diesel fuel and an estimated 200 barrels or 8,400 gallons of fuel leaked. By 10:30 p.m., the leaking had stopped. Cleanup efforts are underway Thursday to contain the fuel, which has entered a drainage ditch, from entering lake waters in the area. The cause of the leak is under investigation and all regulatory agencies have been notified. The have been no injuries, evacuations or road closures associated with the incident.

Ruptured southwestern Minn. pipeline may have been intentionally damaged — A broken pipeline that caused an undetermined amount of diesel fuel to flow into a drainage ditch and the Yellow Medicine River may have been intentionally damaged. The Lyon County Sheriff's Office said a suspect has been identified for allegedly damaging the pipeline Wednesday night near Cottonwood and causing diesel fuel to leak into downstream waters. The issue has been turned over to the Lyon County Attorney's Office for consideration of charges. The ruptured pipeline was reported at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday when operators at Magellan Midstream pipeline control center observed a pressure drop associated with their eight-inch refined products pipeline near Cottonwood. Representatives from Magellan Midstream, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, closed the valves on the system Wednesday night and fuel was found to be leaking from a small hole in the pipeline. The leak was stopped around 10:30 p.m. and crews began working to recover the product. In a news release issued Thursday afternoon, Bruce Heine, media contact with Magellan Midstream, said crews at the scene are focused on containment and recovery operations along the drainage ditch. "We have made significant progress recovering a high percentage of the available diesel fuel in the drainage ditch, which ultimately flows into the Yellow Medicine River," he said. Heine said, however, that "minor remnants of a petroleum sheen have passed through the containment areas along the drainage ditch into the Yellow Medicine River. We are continuing cleanup operations on the drainage ditch."

New Colorado Law Requires State to Consider Health Impacts of Oil Drilling - Colorado has passed a law requiring state regulators to prioritize public health and the environment in regulating oil and gas operations, drawing sharp criticism from the fossil fluel industry and praise from a group of young people who had unsuccessfully sued the state trying to force those regulations. Gov. Jared Polis signed the law on Tuesday, requiring the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize protecting public health, the climate and environment in issuing permits for oil and gas operations. The youth-led lawsuit Martinez v. COGCC had sought exactly that, but the Colorado Supreme Court rejected that argument in dismissing the case in January. Since then, Polis, a Democrat who ran on a pro-climate platform, took office and the legislation was quickly passed. As stated in the bill, Section 11 “requires the commission to protect and minimize adverse impacts to public health, safety, and welfare, the environment, and wildlife resources and protect against adverse environmental impacts on any air, water, soil, or biological resource resulting from oil and gas operations.” The law also establishes local governments’ authority to regulate siting of oil and gas development to minimize adverse impacts. The youth lawsuit, which was supported by the legal advocacy nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, was unsuccessful because the Supreme Court said previous regulations were unclear about how to balance public health concerns with the development of resource. The new law addresses this perceived ambiguity, acknowledging that the “[Oil and Gas Conservation] Act has been construed to impose a balancing test between fostering oil and gas development and protecting the public health, safety, and welfare.” But the new law clarifies that instead of a balancing test, the commission must protect public health, welfare and the environment.

EPA, Colorado reach $3.6M settlement with oil and gas company over alleged failure to control toxic emissions from storage tanks - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state health officials have reached a $3.6 million settlement with an oil and gas company that regulators allege has failed to minimize toxic emissions from storage tanks at its operations along Colorado’s Front Range. The EPA and Colorado on Friday filed a lawsuit against HighPoint Operating Corporation and a proposed settlement agreement in U.S. District Court in Denver in which the company agrees to spend $3 million improving pollution controls and pay civil penalties of $550,000 — $220,000 of which would be devoted to project to improve the environment. “We remain committed to reducing the emissions of volatile organic compounds that contribute to high levels of ground-level ozone and so endanger the public health,” Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark said in a statement from Washington, D.C. The case arose after air pollution inspectors from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment equipped with infrared cameras detected the emissions at multiple clusters of storage tanks, according to the lawsuit. The 27-page lawsuit accused HighPoint of failing to control volatile organic compounds (VOCs), precursors of ozone smog, as well as benzene, toluene, xylene and other pollutants identified under the Clean Air Act as hazardous. Storage tanks at more than a dozen sites north of Denver in Adams and Weld counties — including many that HighPoint’s predecessor the Bill Barrett Corporation had certified to the CDPHE as “controlled” — have emitted excessive pollutants since April 2014, according to the lawsuit. RELATED: Colorado’s unannounced air-pollution inspections at oil and gas sites are showing results — yet emissions are up as production increases This happened in a Front Range area where air quality for years has flunked federal air quality health standards, worsening the problem, the EPA and state attorneys said. HighPoint failed to design, run and maintain pollution control systems as required by the state to minimize leakage of the volatile organic and other chemicals to the maximum extent “practicable,” the attorneys said. “HighPoint’s failure to comply with these requirements has resulted in excess VOC emissions, a precursor to ground-level ozone. … HighPoint’s unlawful emissions of VOC into the atmosphere contribute to this exceedance of the ozone NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standards) in this area,” the lawsuit said.

Report: Oil and gas leasing under Trump bleeding into protected habitats - About one-quarter of the Western land offered in auctions to oil and gas companies under the Trump administration so far has been in state-designated priority habitat or migration corridors for big game, according to a review of public lease sales by the Center for American Progress. In Wyoming, 20 percent of leases offered in 2017 and 2018 coincided with protected areas, the reports states. The study used publicly available data to overlap parcels offered in lease sales in the last two years with acres under a number of state protections — from state-designated migration corridors to big-game winter ranges as identified in state action plans written in accordance with a secretarial order from then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke last year. Lease sales that overlap with key habitat has become a point of discord between industry development and the environment under President Donald Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda, with persistent disputes over whether more land is going to oil and gas interests as a result of the president’s federal land policy in the West. Environmental groups have pointed out that the amount of acreage leased in recent years is higher than the norm over the last decade and that leasing is happening in some of the best habitat for wildlife. Industry has downplayed the environmentalists’ point of view, arguing that federal policies — like the tighter timelines on public review of environmental analysis implemented under Trump — have helped streamline the process of development on federally managed lands. There is not a sudden or overwhelming drilling presence on public land to the detriment of other concerns, they argue. Since 2017, the administration has sold 4,500 leases in the West. In 2018, the administration leased 450 percent more acres to industry than it had in 2016, according to the report. The leasing story across the West hasn’t been uniform. In New Mexico, lease sales offering part of the Permian for oil and gas development helped drive a record $1 billion sale in September. That same month in Nevada a BLM auction of 300,000 acres sold nothing. Industry had proposed the land for sale, but none bid on it.

Produced water spill near Tioga - Nearly 400 barrels of produced water spilled near Tioga on Saturday, April 20, according to the North Dakota Department of Health. The spill happened because of a mechanical failure at a salt water disposal site owned by Hess Bakken Investments II LLC about 8 miles south of Tioga. The initial estimate is that 390 barrels of saltwater spilled, and an agricultural field was affected, according to a news release. The spill was reported on Sunday and personnel from the Health Department are inspecting the site and will continue to monitor the investigation and remediation. Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas production.

Officials discuss parameters of North Dakota oil study (AP) — A federal estimate of recoverable oil in North Dakota and the surrounding area needs to factor in more geologic formations and rapidly advancing technology, state and energy industry officials said Wednesday. The U.S. Geological Survey has begun updating its estimate of recoverable oil and gas resources in the Williston Basin in North Dakota, eastern Montana and northwestern South Dakota. It expects to wrap up the effort by the end of the year, Energy Resource Program Coordinator Walter Guidroz said during a meeting with the officials to map out the best strategy for compiling the new estimate. The USGS in 2013 estimated 7.4 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from the basin’s Bakken and underlying Three Forks shale formations, which encompass about 25,000 square miles within the Williston Basin. However, there are 17 other, smaller geologic formations that also show “significant” potential with new drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology, according to state Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms. Five have already been studied by state officials. “They’ve identified maybe a billion barrels of oil potential,” Helms said. North Dakota is already the nation’s second-leading producer of crude behind Texas, accounting for about 12 percent of U.S. production. The state saw record production in January of 1.4 million barrels daily. Almost all of that came from the Bakken and Three Forks, where technology advancements are enabling companies to extract more oil “than we ever thought possible,” Continental Resources Geologic Manager Tony Moss said. “We’ve completely replaced our top 10 (producing) wells within about the last year and a half,” he said. “We’re really just getting to the point where we feel like we’re really starting to optimize development.” Continental estimates as much as 40 billion barrels of recoverable oil from the Bakken and Three Forks alone.

Dakota Access Company Bought Up Dozens Of Anti-Pipeline URLs -- Texas-based pipeline giant Energy Transfer Partners went on a website-buying spree after months of fierce public protest over its Dakota Access Pipeline, nabbing dozens of URLs it expected pipeline opponents might use to target the company’s other projects.  The damage-control effort is related to several ongoing operations, including the company’s $4.2 billion Rover natural gas pipeline in Ohio, the $670 million Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana, and the Trans-Pecos and Comanche Trail pipelines in West Texas.  Energy Transfer Partners purchased at least 102 anti-pipeline websites between January and June 2017, according to a list compiled by the nonprofit Climate Investigations Center and shared with HuffPost. Those domain names, purchased mostly through web hosting company GoDaddy, include addresses like “,”  “,” “,” “,” “,” “” and “”  When a company buys the .sucks website for their own name, you know they have problems.Kert Davies, director of the Climate Investigations CenterEnergy Transfer Partners spokeswoman Alexis Daniel told HuffPost this website buying is “standard brand management practice for our company before we begin any major project in order to protect the brand of the project.”“During the time we had multiple projects under construction or beginning construction, all of which have been successfully completed and are operating today,” Daniel said in an email. She did not respond to questions about whether the effort was motivated by protests on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota or for how long the company plans to hold on to the sites. Kert Davies, director of the Climate Investigations Center, called the company “paranoia incorporated.”  “Every one of ETPs recent pipeline projects has created major scandal and controversy across the country — from North Dakota to Pennsylvania to Louisiana,” Davies told HuffPost via email. “This preemptive GoDaddy website effort shows that ETP is pretty self conscious and paranoid about their social license. When a company buys the .sucks website for their own name, you know they have problems.”

Will Newsom end oil drilling in California? Many environmentalists are betting yes - California’s legacy of oil drilling should be just that, many environmentalists argue — relegated to the history books. They are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to ban new oil and gas drilling in California and completely phase out fossil fuel extraction in one of the nation’s top petroleum-producing — and gasoline-consuming — states. At the least, they want the state to impose buffer zones prohibiting new oil and gas wells near schools, hospitals and residential neighborhoods and also require monitoring for potentially hazardous emissions from abandoned or plugged wells, proposals already being considered by state lawmakers. “It sure would make us happy if he made a big splash about this. It’s month four. People are being very patient. By month six, patience may wear thin,” said Sierra Club California Director Kathryn Phillips. Phillips said her organization and other groups that support curtailing oil production in California have met informally with Newsom administration officials. While Newsom has not made any promises, expectations remain high, she said. Newsom, who served on the state lands commission for eight years, says he’s well versed in the issues surrounding on-shore and off-shore oil drilling in California and said he would announce his administration’s detailed strategy on energy policy in the next few weeks. The governor was coy about core aspects of that policy, and declined to say if it would ban the controversial practice of hydraulic fracking, a process that uses drilling and large volumes of high-pressure water to extract gas and oil deposits. “I’m taking a very pragmatic look at it, in scoping this,” Newsom told The Times last week. “It’s also an inclusive scoping because it includes people in the industry, that have jobs; communities that are impacted from an environmental justice prism but also from an economic justice prism. It’s a challenging issue. There’s a reason Gov. Brown used a lot of dexterity on this issue.”

Trump fracking plan targets over 1 million acres in California - LA Times - The Trump administration on Thursday detailed its plan to open more than a million acres of public and private land in California to fracking, raising environmental concerns at a time when opposition to oil and gas drilling in the state is intensifying. The action would end a five-year moratorium on leasing federal land in California to oil and gas developers. That pause came after a federal judge ordered the Obama administration to halt similar leasing efforts until it could better evaluate the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Trump’s plan – first proposed by the administration in 2018 — targets public and private land spread across eight counties in Central California: eastern Fresno, western Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura.  The move drew immediate criticism from environmentalists, who said it would pose health risks and worsen air quality in a part of the state notorious for pollution. “The Central Valley has some of the worst air quality in the nation, and we know fracking and drilling make air quality worse,” said Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group. Lakewood said Trump’s plan would unleash a “fracking frenzy” that would endanger people and wildlife alike. Once a plan is finalized and approved, environmental groups are expected to sue to block it, as they have in the past. Proposed by the Bureau of Land Management, the plan is only the latest in a series of attempts by the federal government to open public land in Central California to fracking. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that the government had violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued oil leases in Monterey County without analyzing the environmental dangers of fracking. Three years later, another federal judge reached a similar conclusion.

In letter, Alaska governor asks Trump for help on oil, mining and other issues - In a letter to President Donald Trump last month, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy seeks fewer federal restrictions and changes he says will boost the state’s economy and efforts to mine, drill and sell timber. The governor also lays out concerns about Alaska’s relationship with the federal government, asserting that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “career employees” are sabotaging the goal that both leaders share of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The March 1 correspondence, highlighting matters of “great importance to Alaskans," suggests the state and federal government work together to achieve “economic growth and energy dominance." The letter was obtained by the Daily News through a public-records request. One request — that Trump help Alaska become the first state to receive Medicaid dollars as a block grant — made headlines earlier this month as advocacy groups in Alaska criticized the idea. “We continue to work with the Trump administration on a long list of priorities, including those identified” in the letter, he said in a prepared statement. In the letter, the governor suggests the Environmental Protection Agency should “officially announce” that it will not use a pre-emptive veto under the Clean Water Act to stop any proposed development in Alaska. The EPA has been blamed for wielding that authority in 2014 to hobble the Pebble copper and gold prospect in the Bristol Bay region. “The Pebble Mine Project is the poster child, but every potential investor must evaluate whether that pre-emptive veto could be used against their project; which results in a serious brake that chill(s) potential resource development opportunities,” Dunleavy wrote.

Polar opposites: the remote Alaskan village divided over oil drilling – Reuters - In 1968, the largest proven oil reserve in U.S. history was discovered about 175 km (110 miles) west of Kaktovik in Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope. With the completion of the Trans Alaska Pipeline in 1977, the region became a key energy source. In 1971, the U.S. government passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which paid nearly $1 billion at that time to Native Alaskans and transferred about 44 million acres of public land to indigenous-controlled corporations. With the Kaktovik Inupiaq Corporation, the two indigenous companies own 92,000 acres of surface and subsurface rights in ANWR which contains some of North America’s wildest territory. Within the refuge borders, there are no roads, established trails, or buildings of any type, and no cell phone service, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. “This is a true wilderness refuge,” the Arctic park’s website states. In the 1980s oil major Chevron drilled the only exploratory well in ANWR, the most significant step toward petroleum development in a decades-long debate about whether oil could be drilled safely in the refuge, without affecting wildlife. That debate took a new turn in December 2017 when Congress passed a tax-overhaul bill with a provision mandating two oil lease sales in the 1002 area, each offering at least 400,000 acres, within seven years. Environmental and Native groups criticized the Department of the Interior (DoI) for moving too swiftly on readying a lease sale for later this year, saying more time was needed to consult with tribes and other locals. Last December, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft environmental impact statement outlining four possible scenarios for oil drilling. In February, the DoI’s Bureau of Land Management held public meetings in several Alaskan cities and villages, including Kaktovik, as well as in Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital. Both steps are part of the standard procedure to move ahead with selling an oil lease, said Kara Moriarty, president of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, furthering her hopes that drilling will proceed under the Trump administration. “According to the schedule released by the Department of Interior, they plan to issue a final environmental impact statement later this summer or early fall,”

US total oil, natural gas rig count falls 10 on week to 1066— The combined US oil and natural gas rig count fell by 10 to 1,066 this week, S&P Global Platts Analytics data showed Thursday. The decline pushed the total number of active rigs to the lowest level seen since January 2018, and down 13.5% from the recent high of 1,233 in mid-November. The number of active oil rigs fell by eight to 846, a 14-month low, while the active gas rig count dipped by three to 215. The addition of a single cyclic steam rig pared the overall decline. The Permian Basin led the decline, falling by seven to its early March level of 462. The number of active rigs in the Eagle Ford play dipped by two to 84, a 15-month low, and drillers in the Denver-Julesburg Basin idled three rigs, taking the total number active there down to 28. The Bakken Shale rig count ticked one higher to 60, continuing a rangebound trend there that has held for most of 2019. While overall rig counts have steadily declined since last fall, Permian counts have stabilized in the 460-470 range in recent weeks. Active rigs have held in this range even as discounts for Permian crude have widened. WTI at Midland, Texas has fallen to as much of a $5.50/b discount to WTI at Cushing, Oklahoma in the back half of April. WTI Midland was priced at a premium to Cushing briefly in early March. The Marcellus Shale play rig count fell by two to 62, while operators in the Utica Shale play added four rigs for a total of 15. In the SCOOP-STACK, the rig count edged down by three to 83, the lowest since February 2017. The number of active drilling rig permits was broadly stable week on week, with the total count edging up by 13 to 1,269. But counts were significantly more volatile at the basin level. The number of active Denver-Julesburg permits plunged 165 to 83 this week while Bakken and Permian basin permits fell by 26 and 25 to 6 and 162, respectively. Eagle Ford permits were up 22 at 49 and Marcellus permits climbed by 24 for a total of 51.

US Crude Oil Inventories Up A Whopping 5.5 Million Bbls -- April 24, 2019 - EIA weekly petroleum report, link here. API reported a whopping increase of almost 8 million bbls of crude oil in its report yesterday.

  • US crude oil inventories: increased by a whopping 5.5 million bbls
  • US crude oil inventories: total inventories now stand at 460.6 million bbls; at the 5-year average, but the average has been increasing ever since the Saudi surge, 2014 - 2016;
  • refineries: operating at 90.1% capacity; much better than previous few weeks, but still very, very low; 
  • but look at this: imports increased by 1,157,000 bopd from the previous week
  • imports now average 6.6 million bopd, almost 20% less than the same four-week period last year, so the increase had to occur sooner or later, I suppose

North American drilling boom threatens big blow to climate efforts, study finds - More than half of the world’s new oil and gas pipelines are located in North America, with a boom in US oil and gas drilling set to deliver a major blow to efforts to slow climate change, a new report has found. Of a total 302 pipelines in some stage of development around the world, 51% are in North America, according to Global Energy Monitor, which tracks fossil fuel activity. A total of $232.5bn in capital spending has been funneled into these North American pipeline projects, with more than $1tn committed towards all oil and gas infrastructure. If built, these projects would increase the global number of pipelines by nearly a third and mark out a path of several decades of substantial oil and gas use. In the US alone, the natural-gas output enabled by the pipelines would result in an additional 559m tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide each year by 2040, above 2017 levels, according to Global Energy Monitor, citing International Energy Agency figures. This surge in emissions is set to take place at a time when scientists havewarned of punishing heatwaves,floods and economic damage ifgreenhouse gases are not drastically cut. A landmark UN report released last year warned that global emissions must be halved by 2030 and essentially nullified by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. “This is a whole energy system not compatible with global climate survival,” said Ted Nace, co-author of the Global Energy Monitor report. “These pipelines are locking in huge emissions for 40 to 50 years at a time, with the scientists saying we have to move in 10 years. These pipelines are a bet that the world won’t get serious about climate change, allowing the incumbency of oil and gas to strengthen.” New gas pipelines outnumber oil pipelines by about four to one, bolstered by a glut of abundant natural gas that is swiftly replacing coal as the leading electricity source for US homes and businesses. The most active area for pipelines is the Permian basin in west Texas, a sprawling formation that contains huge deposits of oil and gas. Other active zones include the shale formations in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, and the Canadian tar sands of Alberta. Several of these pipeline projects have spurred bitter protests from climate andindigenous activists, such as the Dakota Access project, which resulted inviolent clashes at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota. The extension to the Keystone pipeline, which would link the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, has also aroused opposition that Donald Trump has vowed to sweep aside by pushing the project forward.

Exxon Mobil's quarterly profits tumble on poor refining and chemicals results - Exxon Mobil reported on Friday that its first-quarter profits fell nearly 50% from a year ago, hit by poor results in its refining and chemicals segments. Shares of the oil giant were down more than 2% on Friday. Exxon reported a quarterly loss in its downstream business, which focuses on refining oil into fuels like gasoline and diesel. The company said brimming stockpiles of gasoline led to weak fuel margins during the quarter. It also continued a heavy slate of refinery maintenance. That maintenance has weighed on downstream profits in recent quarters, and Exxon warned analysts on Friday that it will continue in the second quarter of 2019. Profits in the chemicals business also tumbled $219 million from a year ago. While Exxon sold more chemicals, profit margins came under pressure because the industry has recently added capacity. The oil major’s output of crude, natural gas and other fossil fuels reached 4 million barrels of oil equivalent, up 2% from last year. Still, income in the upstream exploration and production unit fell by $621 million from last year. While crude oil prices strengthened, they still remained relatively weak, Exxon said. “Solid operating performance in the first quarter helped mitigate the impact of challenging Downstream and Chemical margin environments,” Exxon Chairman and CEO Darren Woods said in a statement.

Lower hydraulic fracturing prices continue to sting Halliburton in first quarter - Lower prices for hydraulic fracturing services in North America continue to sting Houston-based Halliburton, the second largest oilfield service company in the world. Halliburton posted a $152 million profit and earnings per share of 17 cents on $5.7 billion of revenue during the first quarter, the company reported early Monday morning. The company's first quarter earnings fell in line with Wall Street expectations of earnings per share of 22 cents and beat expectations of $5.52 billion of revenue First quarter figures also marked a dramatic improvement over the $46 million profit and earnings per share of 5 cents on $5.7 billion of revenue during the first quarter of 2018. With 58 percent of its revenue coming from onshore activities in the United States, Halliburton has high risk exposure to fluctuations in demand for horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing services in U.S. shale basins. Crude oil prices fell dramatically during the fourth quarter of 2018 sending demand and prices for hydraulic fracturing services falling through most of the first quarter. Halliburton CEO Jeff Miller believes that the worst pricing declines are over. Earlier this year, Miller predicted that new pipelines coming into service in the Permian Basin of West Texas during the second half of this year would eventually result in higher demand and prices for drilling and completion activities. "As expected, the first quarter activity levels in North America were modestly higher compared to the first quarter of 2018, and we experienced pricing headwinds throughout the quarter," Miller said. "We believe the worst in the pricing deterioration is now behind us. For the next couple of quarters, I see demand for our services progressing modestly." 

Occidental Petroleum bids $76 a share for Anadarko, trumping Chevron offer for the oil and gas driller - Occidental Petroleum bid $76 a share for Anadarko Petroleum on Wednesday, higher than a previous offer by Chevron for the oil and gas driller.The new Occidental offer, which was sent via a letter to Anadarko’s board on Wednesday, is half cash and half stock, specifically $38 in cash and 0.6094 Occidental shares. It values Anadarko at $57 billion, including debt. Chevron announced an agreement on April 12 to buy Anadarko for $33 billion in cash and stock, valuing the company at $65 a share. CNBC later reported there was another bidder for Anadarko, Occidental, which was offering mid-$70s per share before Chevron stepped in with its offer.After the new Occidental bid, Anadarko shares surged 10% in Wednesday’s premarket trading, to above $70.The Chevron offer is a 75% stock and 25% cash transaction. The breakup fee for the Chevron-Anadarko deal is said to be 3% of the deal, sources said.“Anadarko has great assets,” Occidental CEO Vicki Hollub said in a interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box ” on Wednesday. “We are the right acquirer ... because we can get the most out of the shale.”Hollub said she considers this a friendly offer, even though Anadarko may not see it that way. The offer is 20% above where Anadarko was trading on Tuesday.  Occidental shares fell more than 7 percent in Wednesday’s premarket. Chevron, whose stock was flat, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Occidental CEO says she will prevail in bidding war for sought-after oil driller Anadarko. - Occidental Petroleum CEO Vicki Hollub said Wednesday her company can squeeze the best results out of Anadarko Petroleum’s wells in the top U.S. shale basin, making Occidental a better acquirer than Chevron. Earlier Wednesday, Occidental launched a rival bid for Anadarko, which agreed to sell its business to Chevron in a deal valued at $33 billion earlier this month. Occidental is offering $76 a share for Anadarko, representing a roughly 20% premium to Chevron’s $65-per-share offer. Hollub says 75 percent of Anadarko’s value lies in its assets in the Permian Basin, the shale oil region underlying western Texas and eastern New Mexico. The Permian is the epicenter of a boom in U.S. oil production. “We are the right acquirer for Anadarko Petroleum because we can get the most out of the shale,” Hollub told David Faber on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “We have a lot more experience there. We are performing really, really well, and what hasn’t been talked about very much is that the upside in this deal is the shale play, is the shale development.” Shares of Occidental fell about half a percent on Wednesday, while Chevron’s stock price slumped 3.1%. Meanwhile, Anadarko shares surged 11.6% for the biggest daily gain in the S&P 500 stock index. Anadarko confirmed on Wednesday that it had received Occidental’s unsolicited bid. The company said its board will carefully review the proposal to determine the best course of action for shareholders. “The Anadarko board has not made any determination as to whether Occidental’s proposal constitutes, or could reasonably be expected to result in, a superior proposal under the terms of the Chevron Merger Agreement,” the Company said in a statement. Chevron is also pitching itself as an ideal steward of Anadarko’s Permian assets. The oil major says the deal stitches together a 75-mile-wide strip of continuous land in the Delaware Basin, a sweet spot within the larger Permian. That allows Chevron to bring efficient, industrial-scale production to the shale field, the company says. “We are confident the transaction agreed to by Chevron and Anadarko will be completed,” said Kent Robertson, manager for global external affairs for Chevron.

Canada Extends Deadline for Trans Mountain Pipeline Decision to June 18 -- Canada has extended the deadline for a decision on whether to push forward with the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline to June 18 from mid-May, the government said on Thursday. The Trans Mountain expansion (TMX) project would nearly triple the amount of crude flowing from Alberta’s oil sands to British Columbia’s coast, but has been beset by regulatory delays and opposition from indigenous groups, environmentalists and the government of British Columbia. Amarjeet Sohi, Canada’s minister of natural resources, said the delay would give the federal Liberal government more time to consult with indigenous groups impacted by the pipeline. “The Government has consistently said that a decision would only be made on the project once we are satisfied that the duty to consult has been met,” he said. However, Conservative shadow minister for natural resource Shannon Stubbs said the delay meant another summer construction season would likely be missed. “There is also still a very real risk that the Liberals will cancel this project for political reasons,” she said in a statement. Last August, the Canadian government bought the pipeline from Kinder Morgan Canada for C$4.5 billion ($3.37 billion) to ensure it gets built. That came after Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal overturned the Liberal government’s 2016 approval to expand the pipeline. The court ruled Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) regulator had not considered marine impacts and the government had not adequately consulted indigenous groups. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government ordered a new NEB review of Trans Mountain last September, and in February the regulator recommended the government approve it a second time.

Mapping The Countries With The Most Oil Reserves - There’s little doubt that renewable energy sources will play a strategic role in powering the global economy of the future. But, as Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins notes, for now, crude oil is still the undisputed heavyweight champion of the energy world. In 2018, we consumed more oil than any prior year in history – about 99.3 million barrels per day on a global basis. This number is projected to rise again in 2019 to 100.8 million barrels per day. Given that oil will continue to be dominant in the energy mix for the short and medium term, which countries hold the most oil reserves? Today’s map comes from and it uses data from the CIA World Factbook to resize countries based on the amount of oil reserves they hold. Here’s the data for the top 15 countries below:  Venezuela tops the list with 300.9 billion barrels of oil in reserve – but even this vast wealth in natural resources has not been enough to save the country from its recent economic and humanitarian crisis. Saudi Arabia, a country known for its oil dominance, takes the #2 spot with 266.5 billion barrels of oil. Meanwhile, Canada and the U.S. are found at the #3 (169.7 billion bbls) and the #11 (36.5 billion bbls) spots respectively.

Venezuela Imports Crude for the First Time in Five Years - Oil production in Venezuela has dipped so low that the owner of the world’s largest reserves is importing crude for the first time in five years. The nation’s output fell below 1 million barrels a day to a 16-year low in March, amid rolling blackouts and U.S. sanctions. As the power disruption shut oil fields, pipelines and ports, bringing oil infrastructure to a halt, state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA bought a cargo of crude from fellow OPEC member Nigeria, marking the first oil import since 2014. Nosedive Venezuela oil production hits 16-year low in March Source: Bloomberg survey (2002-2009), OPEC secondary data (2010-2019) Almost 1 million barrels of light, sweet Agbami crude is discharging Tuesday, after loading in early April, and may help to offset falling domestic production. PDVSA can also use the lighter oil as a diluent to thin Venezuela’s sludgy crude so it can be more easily extracted from underground reservoirs. The streams that are blended with light oil are marketed as Merey 16, the country’s top exported oil and a grade used to calculate the OPEC oil basket price. The cargo of Agbami will likely be used to make Merey as the production of domestic of light oils has been falling over the years. According to the latest official data available, production fell by half between 2006 and 2016 to 313,000 barrels daily. The last time Venezuela imported crude, in 2014, it purchased Algerian crude to mix with extra-heavy oil for a grade that became known as Blend 16. PDVSA discontinued the blend amid disagreements with Algeria’s state oil company Sonatrach and complaints from U.S. refiners, then the company’s biggest buyers.

Brazils Petrobras reports oil spill from Albacora field offshore pipeline - Brazil's Petrobras oil company reported an oil spill from its offshore oil pipeline in the Albacora field Monday, according to Reuters report. According to the company's statement, the leak has been identified around dawn Monday. Oil production at platform P-25, located some in the Campos Basin some 110 km away from the coast, has been halted shortly after the discovery of the leak, the company's statement says. "The company has promptly sent ships to the location, tasked with removal of the oil spill," Petrobras said in the statement, adding that the regulatory bodies have been notified of the incident. The spill is estimated at 941 liters.

One week to clean up Tanjung Balau oil spill, says Marine Dept - Johor Marine Department today said it will need about one week to clean up the oil spill off Tanjung Balau waters, near Kota Tinggi. That, according to its director Dickson Dollah, would also depend on the weather. "Looking at the current situation, we can estimate that the clean up job will take about one week. "If the weather permits, and the currents do not spread the spill landwards, I believe it is doable." he said when contacted. Dickson said an Oil Spill Response Team has been deployed to the site to monitor and control the spread using absorbent booms. "We are hoping that the monitoring and measures taken since yesterday will prevent the spill from spreading to the shores." he added. It was reported that foreign tankers were believed to have dumped marine fuel oil that resulted in the spill. Authorities said it was estimated that 300 tonnes of marine fuel oil had been discharged and the spill covered an area four nautical miles from the coast.

Fresh oil spills in Ogoni kill 2, as Army invades community - AT least two persons have been killed in Kegbara-Dere Community, Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, following two fresh oil spills in the area. It was gathered that there was a spill from an oil facility owned by the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, in B-Dere and Kpor communities of the same LGA. It was also gathered that Shell had tried to access the site and repair the damage before the incident occurred. However, the Chairman of Kegbara-Dere Town Council, Dornu Godswill, disclosed that one Nen-Elkpege Legbara and one other person lost their lives, while, Mr. Friday Komene and two others who sustained bullet injuries are receiving treatment. Speaking, Godswill expressed worries that their community is under siege by military men, who allegedly invaded the area. He said: “On April 18, 2019, I was returning from the hospital and I saw Shell vehicles parked at Kpor trunk line. I had to find out what the problem was. I was informed that there was an oil spill. “I was worried that they did not inform the community. Immediately, I called on the president to stay with them. “I later heard that some people obstructed their activities. They invited us to give them access to the spill site.” Godswill noted that oil thieves had set the spill at Kpor ablaze, adding that three of the thieves died at the spot. He, however, said the military that escorted Shell to the area attacked their community when the spills were not in their community. “On the 18th of April, around 10 pm, we heard a sound and we later got information that the oil spill at Kpor was on fire. It was not our boys that did it. We only heard that some oil bunkerers that were cooking products around that area caused it.” When contacted the spokesman of Shell, Mr. Michael Adande, said the firm would respond to the allegations raised against it at the appropriate time. 

Oil spill: Group urges NOSDRA to visit affected communities - A Niger Delta-based Non- Governmental Organisation, the Center for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), has called on the Director General of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Mr.Idris Musa, to visit communities and creeks in the Niger-Delta region affected by oil spill. CEPEJ, in a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Sheriff Mulade and made available to newsmen in Warri recently, noted that oil spill related environmental damages need urgent attention, adding that NOSDRA needed to be abreast with numerous oil spill in the region to enable it discharge the agency’s statutory obligations to the people. “We see reasons to redirect the attention of NOSDRA to several explosions of oil and gas facilities, pipelines resulting to severe environmental and ecological damages. “There are numerous sub-standard oil and gas transportation facilities that are often prone to leakage, spill and explosion and if NOSDRA makes it a priority to know the locations of such facilities they could give better response operations which includes detection, prevention and result oriented response,” it added. The NGO drew the attention of NOSDRA to the preventable incident of 11 persons that allegedly died in 2016 from pipeline explosion at Agip’s oilfield in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, noting that it was necessary to call on NOSDRA to plan for a familiarisation visit to oil spills affected sites particularly in the creeks and interact with host communities across Niger Delta. 

Germany, Poland suspend oil imports via Russian pipeline amid contamination worries - Several European nations have suspended oil imports from Russia after contaminated supplies were found in a major pipeline from the world’s second-largest crude exporter. The sudden suspension of imports from the Soviet-built Druzhba pipeline has disrupted supplies to European refineries. Germany, Poland and Belarus have all suspended shipments through the Druzhba line, and trading sources say the Czech Republic has also halted imports, according to S&P Global Platts. The firm estimates that 700,000 barrels per day of Russian oil that usually transits through the Druzhba line has been suspended. At least five tankers containing the contaminated oil also sailed from the Baltic port of Ust Luga. The incident will cause short-term disruptions to supply, potentially resulting in reduced activity at affected refineries, according to Chris Midgley, global head of analytics at S&P Global Platts. That should boost product prices and refinery margins in northwest Europe, but it’s not likely to significantly tighten global oil supplies or disrupt production. Russia currently plans to start pumping clean fuel through Druzhba on April 29. The Druzhba pipeline can ship up to 1 million bpd, according to data sourced by Reuters — approximately 1% of global demand. The line supplies branches north to supply Poland and Germany and forks south to deliver Russian crude to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. German plants belonging to Total, Shell, Eni and Rosneft as well as refineries belonging to Poland’s PKN Orlen and Grupa Lotos were all reportedly at risk. PKN Orlen is receiving seaborne shipments from Gdansk port, but capacity from Gdansk may be limited and cannot completely compensate for the disruption, according to S&P Global Platts. “The first thing to note is that this incident involving contaminated Russian oil is rare occurrence,” In fact, Brennock said it is the “first time I have seen anything like it.”

ExxonMobil Signs 20-year China LNG Supply Deal - China-based Zhejiang Provincial Energy Group has signed a liquefied natural gas (LNG) sales and purchase agreement with Exxon Mobil Corp. According to a written statement Monday from ExxonMobil, Zhejiang Energy should receive 1 million metric tons per annum (mtpa) of LNG over a 20-year period. “This sales and purchase agreement represents an important milestone and provides a solid foundation for our strategic partnership with Zhejiang Provincial Energy Group,” Peter Clarke, ExxonMobil’s LNG senior vice president, stated. As an Aug. 22, 2018, Reuters article posted to Rigzone notes, Zhejiang Energy is partnering with Sinopec Corp. to build a 3-mtpa LNG receiving terminal at Wenzhou in China’s eastern Zhejiang province. The initial phase of the facility reportedly is targeted to begin operations in late 2021. “ExxonMobil shares Zhejiang Energy’s vision in developing a major LNG gateway in the Ningbo-Zhoushan region,” said Clarke. “We look forward to continuing our support for Zhejiang Energy during the construction, commissioning and operation of its Wenzhou LNG receiving terminal.” 

Saudi Arabia is set to lead a trillion-dollar regional energy splurge - The energy sector in the Middle East and North Africa will amass almost $1 trillion in investment over the next five years, as countries build out energy capabilities and pivot to renewables, according to new research. The Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (Apicorp), a multilateral development bank with around $7 billion in total assets, provides an annual estimate for both planned and committed investments for 2019 to 2023. “We are seeing growth in the total amount of investments going into the energy sector,” Apicorp CEO Ahmed Attiga told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Wednesday. The group says planned investments account for the majority of the spending at $613 billion while committed investments cover the remainder. Oil remains key, but gas is rising The power sector accounts for the largest share of total investments at $348 billion. Of that, there are $90 billion worth of projects currently under execution. “The power sector is really showing tremendous growth, and this is a direct outcome of the countries of the region diversifying their energy mix and also trying to rely on renewables as a major source of energy,” Attiga said. “Most of the countries of the region are determined now to implement an energy transition regardless of the volatility of oil prices,” he added. The report said the case for switching from oil to gas and renewables remains strong in countries with sizeable gas reserves, such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq, or where the share of liquids in power generation remains significant. Total investments in the gas sector will amount to $186 billion over the five years, it said, which includes $87 billion of committed investment. Despite that, the oil sector (upstream, midstream and refining) is still a key investment driver at $304 billion, of which committed investments account for a little under 50% or $138 billion.

U.S. to announce end to Iran sanctions waivers, oil prices spike (Reuters) - The United States on Monday demanded that buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions, a move to choke off Tehran’s oil revenues which sent crude prices to six-month highs on fears of a potential supply crunch. The Trump administration on Monday said it will not renew exemptions granted last year to buyers of Iranian oil, a more stringent than expected decision that caught several key importers who have been pleading with Washington to continue buying Iranian oil sanctions-free. The United States reimposed sanctions in November on exports of Iranian oil after U.S. President Donald Trump last spring unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 accord between Iran and six world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program. Eight economies, including China and India, were granted waivers for six months, and several had expected those exemptions to be renewed. Japan expects limited impact from U.S. move to scrap Iran oil sanctions waivers Tehran remained defiant, saying it was prepared for the end of waivers, while the Revolutionary Guards repeated a threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipment channel in the Gulf, Iranian media reported. The White House said it was working with top oil exporters Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to ensure the market was “adequately supplied.” Traders, already fretting about tight supplies, raised skepticism about whether this more stringent approach, along with ongoing sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry, could backfire in the form of a major spike in prices. “It is a surprise that the requirement to cease importing Iranian oil should come at this next May deadline,” said Elizabeth Rosenberg, director of the energy, economics and security program at Washington-based Center for a New American Security. “Having only several weeks’ notice before the deadline means there are lots of cargoes booked for May delivery. This means that it will now be harder to get it out by the deadline.”

US Cancels Iran Oil Waivers for Turkey, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy, Greece— The United States announced on Monday it would no longer grant sanctions exemptions to eight countries, including Turkey, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.The White House said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — close US allies that back President Donald Trump’s hawkish stance against regional rival Iran — would work to make up the difference in oil to ensure that global markets are not rocked.“This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue,” the White House said in a statement.“The Trump administration and our allies are determined to sustain and expand the maximum economic pressure campaign against Iran to end the regime’s destabilizing activity threatening the United States, our partners and allies and security in the Middle East,” it said.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there would be no grace period for those economies to comply.“We’re going to zero. We’re going to zero across the board,” Pompeo told reporters after the White House announced the end to waivers in order to pressure Iran over its nuclear program. “There are no [oil] waivers that extend beyond that period, full stop.”Eight governments were initially given six-month reprieves from the unilateral US sanctions on Iran. They were China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece.Trump last year withdrew the United States from an accord negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama, under which Iran drastically scaled back its nuclear program in return for promises of sanctions relief. The Trump administration, backed by Saudi Arabia and Israel, has instead unilaterally imposed sanctions and demanded that other countries follow suit.

Trump's Latest Oil Market Gamble - Global oil prices started the week by spiking around 3 percent on reports that Washington was preparing to announce that all buyers of Iranian oil will have to end those imports soon or face U.S. sanctions. Reuters cited a Washington Post article and sources stating that the U.S. will announce the termination of Iranian oil import sanctions waivers on Monday.The waivers move, granted by Trump in November, shocked global oil markets and created a supply overhang that the OPEC+ group of producers is now working to eliminate.  The sanctions waivers put in place by Trump particularly caught U.S-ally, OPEC de facto leader and the world’s largest oil exporter Saudi Arabia by surprise as well. As discussed in my April 20 post, since Trump didn’t consult with Riyadh before granting Iranian oil waivers, it resulted in an uptick in global oil supply and downward pressure on prices, costing the Saudis and other major producers lost revenue. Since that time, Saudi Arabia has largely been immune to Trump’s tweets calling for the Kingdom and OPEC to pump more oil to reduce oil prices which are at five-month highs.  The Reuters report added that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will announce today “that as of May 2, the State Department will no longer grant sanctions waivers to any country that is currently importing Iranian crude or condensate.”  Other media outlets on Monday morning, Asia time, were also verifying the reports. The London-based Financial Times said that a U.S. official had told them that Pompeo would announce on Monday, U.S. time, and an end to the waivers which expire in early May. Earlier this month, the U.S., took the unprecedented step of branding Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization, the first time formally labeling part of a foreign government as terrorists. These developments underscore Trump’s apparent push to bring the Iranian economy to its knees an in-effect force regime change, a stance not lost on leaders in Tehran who claim that such a scenario is impossible.   If Pompeo does carry through with the announcement, it will put considerable upward pressure on global oil prices, even as Trump has recently called on the Saudis and OPEC, via Twitter again, to increase production to bring prices down. It will also likely cause global oil inventory levels to revert to a shortage of the commodity - in effect creating the opposite market scenario that Trump has asked for and needs as the 2020 presidential election cycle kicks in. Trump could be hedging that he is just calling in a favor again from Riyadh. However, it’s a dangerous gambit since the Saudis don’t’ always follow the same logic as Western leaders, particularly in global oil markets.

Statement from the Press Secretary on Cooperation between the United States, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates on Energy and Iran Policies -- President Donald J. Trump has decided not to reissue Significant Reduction Exceptions (SREs) when they expire in early May. This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue. The United States, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, three of the world’s great energy producers, along with our friends and allies, are committed to ensuring that global oil markets remain adequately supplied. We have agreed to take timely action to assure that global demand is met as all Iranian oil is removed from the market. The Trump Administration and our allies are determined to sustain and expand the maximum economic pressure campaign against Iran to end the regime’s destabilizing activity threatening the United States, our partners and allies, and security in the Middle East. The President’s decision to eliminate all SREs follows the designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, demonstrating the United States commitment to disrupting Iran’s terror network and changing the regime’s malign behavior. We welcome the support of our friends and allies for this effort.

Oil prices spike more than 3% on reports that US will end waivers for Iran sanctions - Oil prices spiked by more than 3 percent on Monday — past highs not seen since November 2018 — after reports that Washington is set to announce that all buyers of Iranian oil will have to end imports, or be subject to U.S. sanctions. Brent crude futures surged more than 3 percent to over $74 per barrel on Monday morning during Asia hours, while U.S. crude futures rose around 2.67 percent to $65.71 per barrel. That price spike followed a report by the Washington Post, citing two unnamed State Department officials, that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will announce that “as of May 2, the State Department will no longer grant sanctions waivers to any country that is currently importing Iranian crude or condensate.” Condensate is an ultra-light form of crude oil. Following that report, Reuters confirmed the news, citing a source familiar with the matter. Brent prices have risen by more than a third this year, while U.S. crude has soared more than 40 percent. The U.S. reimposed sanctions in November on exports of Iranian oil after U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers. Washington, however, granted Iran’s eight main buyers of oil, mostly in Asia, waivers to the sanctions which allowed them limited purchases for an additional six months. The eight buyers are China and India — Iran’s biggest customers — as well as Japan, South Korea, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Taiwan. “The sanctions (are) obviously one of the major movers, I think, which is influencing prices,” said Daryl Liew, head of portfolio management at financial services company Reyl Singapore. He also pointed to stronger-than-expected economic growth data from China last week, which could be driving demand expectations. Of the buyers of Iranian oil, he said India could suffer the most from Washington’s move. “I think India is probably one of the key potential countries that might suffer from a higher oil price, in terms of their current account deficit, for example. And that’s going to be basically putting pressures on inflationary pressures as well,” Liew said, speaking on CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Monday. “No doubt the Indian central bank has ... turned to a more dovish stance in recent meetings. But if oil prices continue to hit higher, and inflationary pressures come back into the picture again for India especially, then the central bank probably has to reverse the dovish moves,” he concluded.

Oil hits a 2019 high on the US plan to tighten squeeze on Iran - Oil topped $74 a barrel on Monday, the highest since November, with the United States set to announce a further clampdown on Iranian oil exports, tightening global supplies. The United States is expected to say later on Monday that buyers of Iranian oil need to end imports soon or face sanctions, a source familiar with the situation said, confirming an earlier Washington Post report. “This does bring a lot more uncertainty in terms of global supplies,” said Olivier Jakob, analyst at Petromatrix. “It is a bullish surprise for the market.” Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose as much as 3.3 percent to $74.31 a barrel, the highest since Nov. 1. It was up $1.94 at $73.91 at 0847 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate climbed by as much as 2.9 percent to $65.87, the highest since Oct. 31, and was last up $1.51 at $65.51. In November, the U.S. reimposed sanctions on exports of Iranian oil after President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers. Washington, however, granted waivers to Iran’s eight main buyers — China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece — that allowed them to continue making limited purchases for six months. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due make an announcement on Monday, the Washington Post said. Another drop in Iranian exports would further squeeze supply in a market already tightened through the U.S. sanctions against Iran and fellow OPEC member Venezuela, plus voluntary cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. An end to the exemptions would hit Asian buyers hardest. Iran’s biggest oil customers are China and India, both of which have been lobbying for an extension to the sanction waivers. The prospect of reduced Iranian supply brought a cautious reaction from top OPEC exporter Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally and also a driving force behind the OPEC-led supply-cut deal. A source familiar with Saudi thinking told Reuters on Monday Saudi Arabia is willing to compensate for any potential loss of crude supply but the kingdom will assess the impact on the market before raising its output.

Iran sanctions decision rewards hedge fund oil bulls: Kemp (Reuters) - Hedge fund managers added even more bullish long positions in crude oil and gasoline last week as traders bet prices will continue rising despite a sluggish economy and political sensitivity around escalating motoring costs. The Trump administration's decision to toughen sanctions on Iran's oil exports has rewarded fund managers who have been increasingly confident that the oil market will tighten significantly this year, lifting prices. Even before the latest sanctions announcement, hedge funds and other money managers increased their net long position in the six most important petroleum futures and options contracts by another 61 million barrels in the week to April 16 ( ). Fund managers have purchased a total of 564 million barrels of crude and refined products over the last 14 weeks in one of the longest and certainly smoothest and most consistent bull markets on record. Funds were net buyers last week of Brent (+22 million barrels), NYMEX and ICE WTI (+21 million), U.S. gasoline (+10 million), U.S. heating oil (+3 million) and European gasoil (+5 million). Portfolio managers now hold a net bullish position in the six contracts equivalent to 865 million barrels, nearly three times higher than in early January, although still below the recent high of 1.099 billion in late September. Long positions outnumber short ones by a margin of 7:1 across the petroleum complex but 13:1 in Brent and a record 39:1 in U.S. gasoline. From a pure positioning perspective, the crude and especially gasoline markets appear very stretched, with lopsided positioning pointing to a future reversal in the upward price trend. But the Trump administration's decision to eliminate all sanctions waivers for purchasers of Iranian oil is expected to tighten the market and could validate hedge fund bets on higher prices.

Iranian Sanctions 2.0: Oil Market Risks and Price Stakes - Oxford Institute for Energy - Before the recent announcement on Iran sanction waivers, the base case for most analysts was that the US would renew the waivers allowing a few buyers to continue importing limited quantities of Iranian oil. The logic behind this thinking was very simple: the Trump administration would not risk an oil price spike that could endanger US growth prospects and hurt motorists by tightening sanctions on Iran and disrupting oil exports further. Thus, President Trump’s latest decision not to reissue waivers caught the market off guard and caused a mini rally in the oil price with Brent prices reaching a six month high of near $75/b. Trump has been keen to emphasize that the US secured offset commitments from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and that these countries ‘along with other friends and allies, have committed to ensure that global oil markets remain adequately supplied … and that global demand is met as all Iranian oil is removed from the market’. This latest decision comes on the back of a quarter which saw market fundamentals tighten due to deep output cuts from Saudi Arabia, which exceeded the pledged target, the sharp deterioration of Venezuelan output, and demand remaining relatively healthy despite widespread pessimism about global growth prospects. As the Brent price consolidated at above $70/b in early-April, market focus quickly shifted to whether OPEC+ will relax its output cuts or even exit the deal altogether in June. The US campaign of ‘maximum pressure’ on Iran has added another layer of uncertainty to an already complex web of events; Saudi Arabia’s response, the future of the OPEC+ agreement, the success of the US in driving Iran exports to ‘zero’, as well as demand prospects on both the upside and the downside. This comment assesses these risks and discusses the market outcomes under the different choices facing OPEC and Saudi Arabia.

Trump tightens sanctions on Iran’s oil exports—How India will respond - Brookings - The Trump administration’s decision not to extend waivers from Iran sanctions will not be welcome in New Delhi. India imports over three-quarters of the oil it consumes, and Iran has long featured in the list of its top sources. Washington had previously issued it a waiver, and, since sanctions had gone into effect, India had decreased its imports from Iran.  As a U.S. strategic partner, whose cooperation the Trump administration has sought for its Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, India had hoped to get another waiver—even if that required further import reductions on its part. The administration’s decision will therefore irk Delhi, particularly since Washington has also imposed sanctions on another of India’s top suppliers, Venezuela.   Indian public- and private-sector refiners will likely find other sources—the Indian government has indicated that it has been planning for this eventuality. But this step comes at an inopportune time for the Modi government, which is seeking re-election and will likely face opposition accusations that it has caved to American pressure. For that reason, and to maintain relations with Iran, it will likely seek to continue to import some quantity of oil from Iran using the rupee payment mechanism it had developed (even though it might upset the United States). Moreover, New Delhi has other concerns about this U.S. step: the potential impact on oil prices, and on India’s development and use of the Iranian port of Chabahar to facilitate alternate connectivity with/for Afghanistan. Three broader concerns should also be kept in mind.

  • First, the Iran and Venezuela sanctions problems have come at a time when other irritants in the U.S.-India relationship have come to the fore. There are trade frictions, with the administration’s announcement that it intends to withdraw India’s benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences because of continuing concerns about Indian trade and investment policies. The 60-day deadline for a final decision on this step falls in early May, though it can be deferred until after the Indian election results are due on May 23. Moreover, Washington is unhappy with India’s defense deals with Russia, despite U.S. sanctions—not just for the S-400 system, but also a number of others. Defense deals with the United States, meanwhile, are still being negotiated or have stalled. India, in turn, is concerned about the Afghan peace talks and what Washington might cede to the Taliban—and to Pakistan for bringing them to the table.
  • Second, this step is counterproductive to the goals outlined in the administration’s National Security Strategy, giving India common cause with China and Russia.
  • Third, these developments will reinforce the very Indian instinct that American policymakers dislike: the quest for strategic autonomy, which is in no small part based on a sense that the Unites States is not a reliable partner and will not be mindful of Indian interests. Two competing instincts are constantly at play in Indian foreign policymaking: the need for alignment and the desire for autonomy. This step on Iran sanctions waivers will fuel the latter. A frustrated Delhi will see it as one more unilateral U.S. decision that hinders or harms its interests, and constrains its choices. Even though India is not their primary target, it has become collateral damage to certain U.S. actions. These include the administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs, its withdrawal from the Paris climate change agreement, its intended drawdown or withdrawal from Afghanistan, as well as the sanctions on Iran, Russia and Venezuela. These steps furthermore strengthen the voices—and hands—of those in the Indian establishment who urge caution in furthering the partnership with the United States.

What Does The End Of The Iran Sanction Waivers Mean To Asian Crude And Condensate Buyers? (Platts podcast) The US announced the end of all waivers from Iran oil sanctions when they expire on May 2. Ada Taib, Eesha Muneeb andAndrew Toh, S&P Global Platts editors in Asia, examine what this announcement means to crude oil buyers in the region, with China, India, and South Korea being among the biggest buyers of Iranian supply.

Here's why China and India will remain defiant amid threat of US sanctions for Iranian oil imports - China and India are both unlikely to completely cut off Iranian crude imports, energy analysts have said, despite the imminent threat of U.S. sanctions. President Donald Trump’s administration announced Monday that buyers of Iranian oil must stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions. The move, which took many market participants by surprise, ends six months of waivers which had allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers of crude to continue to import limited volumes. International benchmark Brent crude traded at $74.26 Tuesday afternoon, up around 0.3%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $65.93, almost 0.6% higher. “Iranian exports will not actually reach zero,” analysts at Eurasia Group said in a research note published Monday. “China, which imports approximately 500,000 bpd (barrels per day), will make considerable cuts in the near term. For Beijing, securing the trade agreement with the U.S. is the top priority, and China will not link Iran oil imports to the trade talks.” China is Iran’s largest crude oil customer, with total imports last year of approximately 29.3 million tons or about 585,400 bpd, according to customs data sourced by Reuters. That’s roughly 6% of China’s total oil imports. On Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry reportedly said it had formally complained to the U.S. over its decision to end waivers on sanctions of Iranian oil imports. Beijing said it was resolutely opposed to the move, adding its energy cooperation with Tehran is lawful and reasonable. Alongside India and six others, China was one of the eight global buyers of Iranian crude that won exemptions from the U.S. last November.

Goldman Sachs is not expecting oil to rally despite the US tightening sanctions on Iran - Goldman Sachs expects the United States’ decision to end exemptions from sanctions for countries still buying oil from Iran to have a limited impact on crude prices, even though the timing is likely to have caught energy market participants by surprise.“While we acknowledge the near-term upside price risks, we reiterate our fundamentally derived Brent price trading range of $70-75 per barrel for the second quarter of 2019,” the U.S. investment bank said in a research note published Monday, Reuters reported.The world’s largest economy said Monday that from May 1, it would eliminate all waivers allowing eight economies to buy Iranian oil without facing U.S. sanctions.These eight economies that were initially allowed to continue buying Iranian crude without facing penalties include: China, India, Japan, Turkey, Italy, Greece, South Korea and Taiwan.Oil prices jumped more than 2% in the previous session, hitting their highest level this year amid intensifying concern about global supplies after the U.S. announced a further clampdown on Iran’s oil exports. International benchmark Brent crude traded at $74.40 Tuesday morning, up around 0.5%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $65.93, almost 0.6% higher.

Oil surges as US ends Iran sanction waivers—four experts forecast what’s next - The Trump administration announced Monday that it would end exemptions to its sanctions on Iran, a move meant to significantly curb Iran’s oil output. Crude prices surged after the announcement, with the U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate crude, gaining nearly 3 percent. Here’s what experts say higher oil prices could mean for the broader market: Savita Subramanian, head of U.S. equity and quantitative strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said a significant uptick in the price of crude would likely be a double-edged sword: ”[Higher] oil is actually good for corporate profits because the S&P [500] is levered to oil, so I think this could be a source of positive earnings surprise[s] for the year where analysts are penciling in super low expectations. So I think that’s one potential silver lining of higher oil. And then … consumers are making more money, so we might not feel that energy pinch until we get to higher levels. But $5 a gallon in California is not a good environment to be in, so we’re getting to a point where this could turn ugly. ”Aperture Investors CEO Peter Kraus didn’t anticipate major changes to the status quo:“I think the oil prices are going to continue to reflect this sort of restriction in supply. And we’re not going to see a lot of new drilling based on these prices. We’re not going to see more holes being punched into the world to create more oil at these current prices. And so my guess is that economic activity stays where it is [and] oil prices will remain relatively constant. […] People predicted oil was going to go to $100, $120 a barrel, which I don’t see happening.”Alex Dryden, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan, said macroeconomic global risks could catch up to the oil market itself:“I think what you’re looking at is incoming restrictions on supply. That’s going to couple with what we’ve been seeing in Venezuela, this likely forcing the oil price up [like] we’ve seen this morning. Now, again, it’s about how sustainable that oil price is. You look at … the futures market. Go three years out — you typically go out that far when you want to take out political risk and look at how much geopolitical risk premium [is] priced into oil..” RBC Capital Markets’ head of U.S. equity strategy, Lori Calvasina, was fairly bullish on the prospect of higher oil prices for the broader market:“ I would say energy [is] this sector [that] looks super cheap to us. You’re in the middle of an earnings revision rebound in that space; 2020 earnings expectations actually look pretty good. I think, as long as that can hold up, I actually think this can help generate excitement in the space.”

Oil Prices Start Week Strong - Crude oil futures posted strong gains Monday amid a development on the US-Iran oil sanctions front. Crude oil futures posted strong gains Monday after the Trump administration announced that the U.S. will no longer grant sanctions waivers to any importer of Iranian oil effective May 1, 2019. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for May delivery added $1.70 to end the day at $65.70 per barrel. The WTI peaked at $65.92 and bottomed out at an even $64 during the early week session. June Brent crude oil futures gained $2.07 during Monday’s trading to settle at $74.04 per barrel. “Today it’s all about Iran, and the U.S. decision to eliminate waivers for China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey,” said Tom McNulty, Houston-based managing director with Great American Group. “The most critical thing to analyze is where the barrels will be replaced from. Those five users will not cut back much, if at all. They simply cannot.” McNulty also noted that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are expected to be able to replace much of the Iranian barrels. Where lighter crudes can be refined, the U.S. will boost exports, he added. “I also think the Russians will increase production as a result, killing off the so-called agreement to manage production,” said McNulty, referring to the “OPEC+” deal in which OPEC member countries, Russia and others agreed to limit output to stabilize the oil market. In a written statement emailed to Rigzone, Michael Roomberg, portfolio manager with Miller/Howard Investments, remarked that the White House has “raised the stakes” with its decision on Iran waivers. He added, however, that the move is “a calculated risk” that will not by itself lead to Brent prices at $90 or even $100 anytime soon. “We expect oil prices to remain range-bound near current levels, though upside geopolitical risk continues to rise,” Roomberg stated. “Venezuela continues to teeter, and Libya fighting intensified over the weekend. Brent crude is now roughly $74 per barrel this morning.” Roomberg added that Saudi Arabia and Russia have spare production capacity to offset lost Iranian barrels but not enough to make up for a simultaneous output collapses in Libya, Venezuela and Iran.

Trump's crackdown on Iran leaves the oil market vulnerable to price spikes - In the Trump administration’s telling, its decision to cut off Iran’s oil exports in just over a week will have little impact on crude prices. There’s enough supply to meet global demand, officials say, and the administration’s Middle East allies will ride to the rescue if the world finds itself short of fuel. But outside the Oval Office, the outlook is not so rosy. Analysts say President Donald Trump’s hardline approach injects new risks into a fragile market besieged by instability in key oil-producing nations. They say global crude supplies are already getting tight, and Trump’s surprise crackdown will leave the market with little cushion to address future disruptions. “Oil production is being curtailed at a time when Venezuelan output is rapidly falling, conflict in Libya is reviving, and OPEC spare capacity remains tight. This could nudge the oil market dangerously close to a negative supply shock,” Montreal-based macro research firm BCA Research said Monday. Oil prices surged to nearly six-month highs after the Trump administration said it will not extend sanctions waivers for several of Iran’s biggest oil customers. The exemptions allowed a handful of countries — including China and India — to import limited shipments of Iranian crude without triggering U.S. sanctions on Iran. The move aims to shrink Iran’s oil shipments from roughly 1 million barrels per day to zero, though analysts expect some countries to defy the ultimatum. Still, investment banks now expect Iranian shipments to fall by another several hundred thousand barrels per day, further tightening the market. This comes as Venezuela’s output craters under the weight of economic crisis and U.S. sanctions and a fresh round of deadly civil conflict rocks Libya. The Trump administration says Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to fill the gap left by the Iranian barrels.

Iran Raises Stakes in U.S. Showdown With Threat to Close Hormuz - Iran will close the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway vital for global oil shipments, if the country is prevented from using it, a senior military official said on Monday in what appears to be a response to the U.S. plan to end waivers on Iranian oil exports. “If we are prevented from using it, we will close it,” the state-run Fars news agency reported, citing Alireza Tangsiri, head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps navy force. “In the event of any threats, we will not have the slightest hesitation to protect and defend Iran’s waterway.” Iranian officials have threatened to close the waterway in the past amid rising tension with the U.S. and Tangsiri’s remarks could be an attempt to deter the U.S. from its plan to slash the nation’s oil exports. The price of Brent crude, already at a six-month high, was little changed after the statement. But the commander’s response comes as President Donald Trump prepares to deal a severe blow to the Islamic Republic’s economy. On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will deliver the decision that no waivers from sanctions will be renewed to importers of Iranian oil, according to four people familiar with the matter. The U.S. will also announce offsets through commitments from other suppliers such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow waterway carrying a fifth of the world’s traded oil that Iranian officials have threatened to block in retaliation for sanctions targeting the country’s nuclear program. The U.S. has said it would move to stop any Iranian attempt to block the waterway.

Could Iran close the Strait of Hormuz? Energy analysts are skeptical of Tehran's latest threat - Iran has reportedly renewed its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s busiest transit lane for seaborne oil shipments, prompting fears about the potential ramifications for oil prices and broader financial markets. President Donald Trump’s administration announced Monday that buyers of Iranian oil must stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions. The move, which took many market participants by surprise, ends six months of waivers which had allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers of crude to continue to import limited volumes. In response, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency quoted Revolutionary Guards General Alireza Tengseiri as saying that if Tehran was barred from using the Strait of Hormuz, they would “shut it down.” Analysts at Barclays said in a research note published Monday that approximately 20% of all the sea-borne crude and condensates passes through the Strait of Hormuz. “The short-term upside risk to prices is based on a) our view that Saudi Arabia’s response will likely be lower and slower compared to late last year and b) heightened risks of the closure of the Strait of Hormuz as a result of this action,” analysts at Barclays said. The bank added that the Trump administration’s decision not to reissue waivers in May did not materially impact its view on longer-term prices. International benchmark Brent crude traded at $74.17 Tuesday afternoon, up around 0.2%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $65.90, almost 0.6% higher.

IEA: OPEC’s Spare Production Capacity Reaches 3.3 Million Bpd - OPEC’s spare capacity has reached 3.3 million barrels per day, according to an International Energy Agency (IEA) statement on the global oil markets released on Tuesday. “As a result of OPEC’s high compliance rate with the agreed supply cuts in the OPEC+ group, global spare production capacity has risen to 3.3 mb/d, with 2.2 mb/d held by Saudi Arabia and around 1 mb/d by the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Kuwait,” the IEA said in its release as oil prices reached new 2019 highs. The Brent and WTI benchmarks were both trading up on Tuesday following the news that the United States would not extend Iran sanction waivers to purchasers of Iranian crude oil, leaving the original May 1 cutoff date firm. The global oil markets are now adequately supplied, the IEA said, with plenty of spare capacity to make up for any gaps in oil supplies. Iran’s April oil exports of 1.1 million barrels per day were already lower than in March. With spare capacity of 2.2 million barrels per day in Saudi Arabia, OPEC should theoretically be able to comfortably lift production to compensate for lost Iranian barrels, with Saudi Arabia currently pumping about a million less than in November 2018. The IEA cautioned, however, that global economic growth is still fragile, and urged oil consumers and producers to “take steps to avoid higher oil prices that will prove painful to all alike.” Global OECD oil inventories, too, are above the five-year average at 2,871 million barrels, according to the IEA. The API is due to release US crude oil inventory figures today at 4:30pm EST—a highly watched metric that traders use to assess the condition of the oil markets.

Saudis Pledge to Ensure Oil Supply -- Saudi Arabia will coordinate with other crude producers to ensure that adequate supplies are available and the market “does not go out of balance,” Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said, after the U.S. ended waivers for buyers of Iranian oil. The Saudis are closely monitoring oil-market developments after the U.S. announcement regarding export sanctions on Iran, Al-Falih said in a statement. “In the next few weeks, the Kingdom will be consulting closely with other producing countries and key oil consuming nations to ensure a well-balanced and stable oil market, for the benefits of producers and consumers as well as the stability of the world economy.” Any nation continuing to buy Iranian oil will face U.S. sanctions, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said Monday after announcing that temporary waivers granted to some nations late last year won’t be renewed when they expire next month. The current set of waivers -- issued to China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey -- are to expire on May 2. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will ensure an “appropriate supply” of oil along with the U.S., Pompeo told reporters in Washington. “Saudi Arabia and others in OPEC will more than make up the Oil Flow difference in our now Full Sanctions on Iranian Oil,” President Donald Trump said on Twitter. The Saudis and the U.A.E. can increase their combined production by about 1.5 million barrels a day within a short period, according to people with knowledge of the situation, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential. Iran shipped about 1.1 million barrels a day of crude and condensate in the first two weeks of April, tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show. ‘Fill the Gap’The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allied producers such as Russia “could easily come in and fill the gap caused by any reduction in Iran exports,” Ashley Petersen, senior oil market analyst at Houston-based Stratas Advisors LLC, said in an interview with Bloomberg television. The elimination of waivers will probably remove about 700,000 to 800,000 barrels a day from the oil market in the near term, according to RBC Capital Markets. Analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimate that it could cause Iran’s production to decline by 900,000 barrels from current levels. Saudi Arabia will assess the impact of the U.S. decision on the oil market before raising output, according to one of the people. The biggest producer in OPEC can pump an additional 1 million barrels a day within a short period, the person said. Saudi Arabia produced 9.82 million barrels a day in March, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 

Oil traders to Saudi Arabia: "show us the barrels" - Kemp - (Reuters) - "The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ... are committed to ensuring that global oil markets remain adequately supplied," the White House said in a press statement issued on Monday. "Oil markets are well-supplied and oil inventory levels are seasonally strong," the U.S. State Department wrote in an accompanying briefing note explaining the rationale for eliminating sanctions waivers for buyers of Iranian oil. "We have commitments from oil-producing countries, including the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to increase oil production to offset reductions in Iranian oil exports," the department announced. The department observed that oil stocks in OECD countries remain above the five-year average while U.S. oil production and exports are increasing. "Other major producers have signalled to markets a willingness and ability to increase production to compensate for additional Iranian reductions," the department added. The decision to eliminate all remaining sanctions waivers for Iran's oil buyers follows a round of top-level diplomatic contacts between the White House and leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Tougher sanctions are likely contingent on a U.S. understanding that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will make up lost Iranian barrels at least one-for-one to keep prices steady. Senior U.S. policymakers have been anxious to stress tougher sanctions will not reduce the availability of crude or lead to higher crude costs and increased fuel prices for motorists. Oil traders, however, think differently. Tougher sanctions are seen reducing oil supplies during the second half of the year, leaving the market under-supplied, inventories falling, and prices likely rising. Brent's six-month calendar spread has jumped to a backwardation of more than $3 per barrel, up from less than $2.50 before the announcement and just $1.20 a month ago ( Brent's calendar spread has been the best signal for changes in the production-balance since the late 1990s, alternating between backwardation and contango as the market cycles between under- and over-supply. Brent's backwardation is now at the highest level since March-April 2018 (when Iran sanctions were also high on the agenda) and before that June 2014 (when Libya's production was interrupted by civil war and Islamist fighters were racing across northern Iraq).

Oil Hits 2019 High On Iran Sanctions - Oil prices shot up to new highs for the year on this week after the U.S. announced that it would let waivers on Iran sanctions fully expire. In early trading on Tuesday, WTI topped $66 per barrel and Brent moved above $74.  Trump surprised the oil market on Monday, announcing that he would let U.S. sanctions waivers expire at the end of the month. The eight countries granted six-month waivers last year had hoped to obtain extensions, but the Trump administration has opted for “maximum pressure” on Iran. However, it may also mean maximum pressure on the oil market if Iran loses a significant portion of its oil exports. Oil surged by roughly 3 percent on Monday.  The Trump administration says that it has secured assurances from Saudi Arabia and the UAE that they would cover the gap leftover by lost Iranian crude. However, the Saudi oil minister was more measured, saying on Monday that Riyadh would respond after it assesses the impact to ensure the oil market “does not go out of balance.” That likely means it will wait and see before actually increasing output rather than acting preemptively.  The two top buyers of Iranian oil may not obey U.S. sanctions. “Iranian exports will not actually reach zero,” analysts at Eurasia Groupsaid in a research note published Monday. “China, which imports approximately 500,000 bpd (barrels per day), will make considerable cuts in the near term. For Beijing, securing the trade agreement with the U.S. is the top priority, and China will not link Iran oil imports to the trade talks.” Goldman Sachs acknowledged the upside risk to oil prices from Iran sanctions, but nonetheless stuck with its second quarter forecast for Brent to trade within a $70-$75 per barrel range. “Given our confidence in better supplied markets next year and the still high uncertainties around the aggregate OPEC+ production path in coming months, we are, however, not changing this forecast for now,” the investment bank said in a note.  An estimated 8.5 percent of U.S. refining capacity is set to go offline in the second quarter as facilities enter a period of maintenance. While late winter and early spring are typical times for maintenance, the volumes going offline this year are unusually high because refiners are preparing for the IMO 2020 rules on low sulfur fuels, according to Reuters.

Oil rises 1.1% to nearly 6-month high, settling at $66.30, on Trump’s Iran crackdown - Oil prices hit nearly six month highs on Tuesday, continuing to rally after U.S. President Donald Trump surprised the market with strict new measures aimed at driving Iran’s crude exports to zero. The Trump administration announced on Monday that it will not extend sanctions waivers to a handful of countries that import Iranian oil. The decision means any entity caught purchasing Iran’s barrels after May 1 risks triggering U.S. sanctions, which are designed to deprive the Iranian leadership of oil revenue. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude settled 75 cents higher at $66.30 a barrel, rising 1.1% and setting a new closing high going back to Oct. 29. WTI earlier rose as high as $66.60 on Tuesday, its best intraday price since Oct. 31. Brent crude futures were up 53 cents at $74.57 per barrel around 2:30 p.m. ET. The international benchmark for oil prices earlier rose to $74.73, its highest since Nov. 1. Brent surged 3 percent and WTI popped 2.7 percent during the previous session, driven by the change in U.S. policy towards Iran. “The decision to completely eliminate waivers was a surprise, as the market expectation was for a more gradual reduction,” Credit Suisse said in a research note. The administration issued waivers to eight countries when it restored sanctions on Iran’s energy industry in November, allowing them to purchase limited quantities of Iranian crude. Five of the countries — China, India, Turkey, South Korea and Japan — took advantage of the exemptions. The waivers allowed 1.4 million barrels per day of Iranian crude to flow to the market, down from about 2.5 million bpd last year. The new U.S. policy threatens to wipe out much of that supply at a time when the oil market is already tightening, though analysts expect some countries to defy Trump’s ultimatum. Credit Suisse thinks Iran’s exports will not fall to zero, but could drop by another 600,000 bpd. The investment bank estimates the global oil market is already undersupplied by about 300,000 barrels per day. The Trump administration says Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other allies have agreed to fill any gap left by the loss of Iranian exports. Saudi Arabia will “coordinate with fellow oil producers to ensure adequate supplies are available to consumers while ensuring the global oil market does not go out of balance,” said Khalid al-Falih, the kingdom’s influential energy minister.

Gulf OPEC members ready to raise output if there is demand: sources   (Reuters) - Gulf OPEC producers can step in to meet any oil supply shortage following a U.S. decision to end waivers on buyers of Iranian crude, but will first wait to see whether there is actual demand, OPEC and industry sources said.   The United States has decided not to renew exemptions from sanctions against Iran granted last year to buyers of Iranian oil, taking a tougher line than expected. Eight countries, including China and India, were granted waivers for six months, and several had expected those exemptions to be renewed. A senior U.S. administration official said Trump was confident Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates would fulfill their pledges to compensate for the shortfall in the oil market.

WTI Slides After Bigger Than Expected Crude Build - WTI surged once again to its highest settlement price in over six months (even as the dollar spiked) as Saudi Arabia was said to be tentative about raising output to mute the impacts of American sanctions against Iran. “It’s been made clear that Trump is very serious about enforcement of the sanctions,” said said Tyler Richey, co-editor at Sevens Report Research in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. “The question is how much will their exports fall versus how much and how quickly can Saudi Arabia and other producers increase?” American pressure on Iran’s exports won’t work, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told his parliament. “We will act wholeheartedly to break the U.S. sanctions,” he said. But for now, all eyes are on inventories... API:

  • Crude +6.86mm (+500k exp)
  • Cushing -389k
  • Gasoline +2.163mm (-1.82mm exp) - first build in 10 weeks
  • Distillates -865k (-712k exp)

After last week's surprise crude draw, expectations were for a modest build in the last week but API reported a much bigger than expected rise in inventories of 6.86mm... Gasoline also surprised with a sizable build - the first in 10 weeks

Saudi Arabia plans to keep oil output within levels of OPEC cuts, energy minister says - Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Wednesday he saw no need to raise oil output immediately after the United States ends waivers granted to buyers of Iranian crude, but added that the kingdom would respond to customers’ needs if asked for more oil. Khalid al-Falih said he was guided by oil market fundamentals not prices, and that the world’s top oil exporter remained focused on balancing the global oil market. “Inventories are actually continuing to rise despite what is happening in Venezuela and despite the tightening of sanctions on Iran. I don’t see the need to do anything immediately,” Falih said in Riyadh. The United States has decided not to renew exemptions from sanctions against Iran granted last year to buyers of Iranian oil, taking a tougher line than expected. “Our intent is to remain within our voluntary (OPEC) production limit,” Falih said, adding that Riyadh would “be responsive to our customers, especially those who have been under waivers and those whose waivers have been withdrawn.” “We think there will be an uptick in real demand but certainly we are not going to be pre-emptive and increase production,” the minister said. He said Saudi Arabia’s oil production in May was pretty much set with very little variation from the last couple of months. June crude allocations would be decided early next month, he said. The kingdom’s exports in April will be below 7 million barrels per day (bpd), while production is around 9.8 million bpd, Saudi officials have said. Under the OPEC-led deal on supply cuts, Saudi Arabia can pump up to 10.3 million bpd. Falih said there would most likely be “some level of production management beyond June” by OPEC and its allies, but it was too early to predict the output targets now.

Oil Algos Confused By Big Crude Build, Gasoline Draw - WTI is hovering unchanged from last night's surprise crude and gasoline builds reported by API as Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said the world’s biggest oil exporter sees no need to take immediate action in the crude market, signaling a cautious response to the U.S. decision to tighten sanctions on Iran.“We will see what the customers want,” Al-Falih told reporters. “I think our intent is to remain within our voluntary production limit, but at the same time to be responsive to our customers, especially those who have been under waivers, and those waivers have been withdrawn.”“We will not leave our customers scrambling,” Al-Falih said.But for now, all eyes are on DOE's official inventory data for any signs of demand growth (not just supply curtailment):“The fundamental dynamic has been one of gasoline supplies being under pressure," says Tyler Richey, co-editor and commodities analyst at Sevens Report Research. “That’s going to be supportive for prices until it stops."  DOE:

  • Crude +5.48mm (+500k exp)
  • Cushing +463k
  • Gasoline -2.13mm (-1.82mm exp)
  • Distillates -662k (-712k exp)

WTI Crude stocks were expected to rise for the 4th week in the last 5 (rebounding from last week's surprise draw) and did so, blowing out expectations with a 5.48mm build. Gasoline inventories fell for the 10th week in a row (ignoring API's build)...

Oil falls as supply still adequate despite Iran sanctions, but market tightening (Reuters) - Oil prices steadied on Wednesday near six-month highs after data that showed U.S. stockpiles rose to their highest levels since October 2017, countering fears of tight supply resulting from OPEC output cuts and U.S. sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. Brent crude futures lost 9 cents to $74.42 a barrel by 1:06 p.m. EDT (1706 GMT). The international benchmark reached $74.73 a barrel on Tuesday, highest since Nov. 1. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 49 cents to $65.81 a barrel. The contract hit $66.60 a barrel on Tuesday, the highest since Oct. 31. U.S. crude inventories rose 5.5 million barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration said, far more than analysts’ forecast of an increase of 1.3 million barrels. However, gasoline stocks fell by 2.1 million barrels, a larger-than-anticipated drop. “What we’re looking at is a headline number bearish on crude but supported somewhat by the gasoline number,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. “Because of the sanctions that are coming down on Iran and the fact that there’s going to be no waivers, it makes this number look more bullish.” Crude futures and prices for spot delivery rallied after the United States said on Monday it would end all exemptions for sanctions against Iran, demanding countries halt oil imports from Tehran from May or face punitive action. The move raised worries about tighter global oil supplies. The United States must be prepared for consequences if it tries to stop Iran from selling oil and using the Strait of Hormuz, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, warned on Wednesday.

Oil dips on well supplied markets despite tighter Iran sanctions - Oil prices slipped below six-month highs on Wednesday after signs that cushioned a rally based on fears of tight supply resulting from OPEC output cuts and U.S. sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. U.S. crude stocks rose by 6.9 million barrels last week, more than expected, data from the industry group American Petroleum Institute showed on Tuesday. Official stocks figures are due at 1430 GMT on Wednesday. “The focus will return today to the micro-picture of the U.S. data,” Petromatrix’s Olivier Jakob said in a note. Also bearish, the International Energy Agency, a watchdog for oil-consuming countries, said on Tuesday markets are “adequately supplied” and that “global spare production capacity remains at comfortable levels.” Brent crude futures were at $74.37 per barrel at 1047 GMT, down 14 cents from their last close. The benchmark is still set for its fifth consecutive weekly gain. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude future were at $65.97 per barrel, down 33 cents - not enough to steer them away from what is set to be their eighth week of gains. Crude oil prices for spot delivery rallied after the United States said on Monday it would end all exemptions for sanctions against Iran, demanding countries halt oil imports from Tehran from May or face punitive action. China, Iran’s biggest oil customer, has formally complained about the move. The spot price surge has put the Brent forward curve into steep backwardation, in which prices for later delivery are cheaper than for prompt dispatch. The United States has said it saw Saudi Arabia as a partner to balance oil markets.

Iran Vows To Bust US Crude Sanctions - Tehran officials have vowed that White House plans for taking Iran's oil exports down to zero will never materialize, as the Islamic Republic, along with its regional allies and crude customers - most notably China - plan to bust US sanctions. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told parliament on Tuesday: the “U.S. dream to cut Iran’s crude exports to zero won’t be fulfilled,” according to Bloomberg. The minister also said, “We will act wholeheartedly to break the U.S. sanctions,” and cited export deals with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq and Turkey. He described the US gamble to end the waiver program by bringing the full force of the "oil weapon" as a "big mistake" — referencing the fragility of the market and inflated claims of regional countries to have more reserves than what they actually do. Meanwhile, oil prices hit nearly six month highs on Tuesday following Monday's announcement by Trump that the US will end sanctions waivers to a handful of countries that import Iranian oil. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude rose 88 cents, or 1.3%, to $66.43 a barrel around 11:15 a.m. ET (1515 GMT), continuing to ride momentum from Monday's White House announcement, trading near their highest level since Oct. 31. Brent crude futures are also near the highest level since Nov. 1, up nearly 1%. "The decision to completely eliminate waivers was a surprise, as the market expectation was for a more gradual reduction,” Credit Suisse said in a research note, after Monday's statement that the waiver program to allow eight countries to purchase limited supplies of Iranian crude would not be extended. The dramatic policy shift saw Brent surge 3 percent on the news, and WTI popped 2.7% during the previous session. Currently China, India, Turkey, South Korea and Japan - Iran's biggest oil clients - have been taking advantage of the exemptions, and Iraq is on its own 90-day waiver program granted last month by the State Department.

Brent hits 6-month high as buyers suspend Russian oil imports - Oil prices turned lower heading into Thursday’s settlement, after Brent crude earlier touched $75 per barrel for the first time in nearly six months. Crude futures earlier drew support as quality concerns halted some Russian crude exports to Europe and the United States prepared to tighten sanctions on Iran. Wednesday’s report of a bigger-than-expected build in U.S. crude inventories last week to their highest since October 2017 was weighing on the U.S. benchmark, analysts said. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude settled 68 cents lower at $65.21 per barrel, down 1% and slipping further from this week’s 2019 high at $66.60. Brent crude futures were down 17 cents at $74.40 around 2:30 p.m. ET (1830 GMT). They earlier hit a session high of $75.60, their strongest since Oct. 31. Poland and Germany suspended imports of Russian crude via the Druzhba pipeline due to contamination. The pipeline can ship up to 1 million barrels per day, or 1 percent of global crude demand. About 700,000 bpd of flow was suspended, according to trading sources and Reuters calculations. “We consider the quality issues with Russian crude oil as a supply disruption that is happening at the same time sanctions on Iran and Venezuela are impacting supply,” said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston. U.S. attempts to drive Iranian oil exports down to zero also boosted prices. The United States this week said it would end all exemptions for sanctions against Iran. Iran has been under U.S. sanctions for more than six months, but several major buyers, including China and India, were given temporary exemptions until this week. Beginning in May, those countries have to halt oil imports from Tehran or face sanctions. The U.S. decision comes amid supply cuts led by OPEC since the start of the year aimed at propping up prices.

Trump says he called OPEC and told producer group to bring fuel prices down - President Donald Trump on Friday said he “called up” OPEC and told the producer group to take action to bring down fuel costs, making a dubious claim that gasoline prices are already falling. Crude futures extended earlier losses after Trump’s statement. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was down 3.4% at $63.01 per barrel, while international benchmark Brent crude fell 3.2% to $71.98. “The gasoline prices are coming down. I called up OPEC. I said, ‘You’ve got to bring them down. You’ve got to bring them down,’ and gasoline’s coming down,” Trump told reporters en route to a National Rifle Association event in Indianapolis. In fact, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.883 per gallon, up from $2.877 a day ago and $2.839 a week ago, according to AAA. Wholesale U.S. gasoline prices have ticked lower in recent days, but are still up about 10% from a week ago and nearly 7% from a month ago. It was not immediately clear whether Trump meant that he had contacted the OPEC Secretariat in Vienna, or whether he was referring to OPEC members and close U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. OPEC could not immediately be reached for comment. The Wall Street Journal reported that OPEC’s Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo has not spoken to Trump, citing a source. Saudi officials also told the Journal that Trump has not discussed lowering prices with them.  Earlier this week, the administration said it will not extend waivers that allow several countries to continue buying Iranian crude despite U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Oil prices surged more than 3% in the two days after the announcement.The administration said it has secured commitments from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other allies to fill any gap left by the anticipated drop in Iranian supplies. However, influential Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said earlier this week that there is no need to immediately start pumping more oil, and the kingdom will hike output only after customers ask for more supplies.Bill Farren-Price, a geopolitical analyst at RS Energy Group, said there is subtle but considerable dissonance between the U.S. and Saudi statements following the sanctions waiver announcement. “I think when you actually analyze what the Saudis have said, it’s actually just a broad restatement of their existing supply policy, which is that they will always seek to work to keep markets balanced and make up the shortfall,” he said.

Oil prices plunge 3% after Trump says he told OPEC to tame fuel costs -- Oil prices fell on Friday on expectations that some OPEC members will raise output to counter shrinking exports from Iran after sanctions imposed by the United States. The pullback on Friday threatened to derail the longest run of weekly gains in years. Oil markets have tightened amid an OPEC output cut deal, sanctions on Venezuela and Iran and unsteady production in Libya. Brent crude futures were down $1.36, or 1.8%, at $72.99 per barrel around. Brent was still up about 1.6% for the week, set for a fifth weekly price gain, the longest stretch in a year. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell $1.14, or 1.8%, to $64.07 per barrel and were roughly flat for the week. WTI had been on track for its eighth successive weekly gain, the longest weekly run since the first half of 2015. The drop followed Brent’s rise above $75 per barrel for the first time this year on Thursday after Germany, Poland and Slovakia suspended imports of Russian oil via a major pipeline, citing poor quality. The move cut parts of Europe off from a major supply route. Russia has said it planned to start supplying clean oil via a pipeline on April 29. Crude futures are up around 40 percent so far this year. Washington said on Monday it would end all exemptions for sanctions against Iran. “The end of the U.S. waivers on Iran exports will be offset by higher core-OPEC and Russia and as a result we do not expect further price upside, even if volatility is likely to increase in coming months,” U.S. bank Goldman Sachs said. Despite U.S. efforts to drive Iranian oil exports down to zero, many analysts expect some oil to still seep out of the country.

Top OPEC, Saudi officials didn't discuss lowering oil prices with Trump: report - Neither Saudi Arabia’s energy minister nor OPEC’s secretary general discussed lowering oil prices with President Donald Trump, sources told the Wall Street Journal, denying the U.S. leader’s earlier claim. Moments after the Journal reported the denials, Trump took to Twitter to double down on his earlier remark. “Spoke to Saudi Arabia and others about increasing oil flow. All are in agreement,” the president tweeted. Earlier on Friday, Trump told reporters he had “called up” OPEC and urged the producer group to take action to bring down fuel costs. “I called up OPEC. I said, ‘You’ve got to bring them down. You’ve got to bring them down,’ and gasoline’s coming down,” Trump said, inaccurately stating that gasoline prices are falling. Oil prices tumbled more than 4% following Trump’s comment. When the president made the remarks, it was not clear whether Trump meant that he had contacted the OPEC Secretariat in Vienna, or whether he was referring to OPEC members like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are close U.S. allies. But as the day wore on, it remained unclear who was on the other line with Trump. The White House did not return requests for clarification. OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo did not discuss the matter with Trump, and neither did Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, sources familiar with the situation told the Journal. Saudi officials told the Journal Trump did not speak with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The discussion did not involve Venezuelan Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo, who currently holds OPEC’s rotating presidency, one of the country’s oil officials told the paper. OPEC could not immediately be reached by CNBC for comment. The Saudi Embassy did not immediately return a request for comment.

Oil drops but finishes off session lows as traders weigh impact on Trump's OPEC plea - Oil futures declined Friday, with prices taking a hit after U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly said he told OPEC to lower oil prices. OPEC's Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo, however, said he hasn't spoken with Trump, according to news reports. That denial, along with data showing a hefty weekly decline in active U.S. oil drilling rigs, prompted prices to end off their session lows. June West Texas Intermediate oil fell $1.91, or 2.9%, to settle at $63.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after earlier trading as low as $62.28. Prices fell 1.2% for the week.

Trump’s Gulf Backups for Iranian Oil Will Not be Good Enough for Turkey -  Turkey is loath to buy more oil from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the United States looks to squeeze exports from Iran, currently the third-largest supplier of crude to the Middle East’s biggest economy, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.“Iranian oil isn’t cheap, but there is a big difference” between it and the price of Saudi and UAE crude, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said at a reception in Ankara, according to state-run TRT television. “The US is taking a decision and wants all countries to comply with it. Why should we pay the price?”The Trump administration is ending waivers that allowed a handful of countries including Turkey to continue importing oil from sanctioned Iran a year after the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he’s confident the market will remain stable as Saudi Arabia and the UAE would ensure an “appropriate supply” of oil along with the US. Turkey is resisting the idea of buying oil from America’s two anti-Iran allies, whose relations with Ankara are fraught after the murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in İstanbul last October. Turkey has also long opposed the US curbs on Iran, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan saying last year that “such sanctions are aimed at tipping the balance in the world” and violate international law and diplomacy. Iran and Turkey plan to set up a financial mechanism to circumvent US sanctions on the Islamic Republic, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said after visiting Ankara last week. Turkey has long defended the trade with its eastern neighbor as a strategic necessity, but taking on the US can be risky as Ankara struggles to secure the release of a senior banking executive convicted in New York of helping Iran evade US financial sanctions.

If US Refuses to Supply F-35s, Turkey Will Satisfy Need Elsewhere – FM - Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has reportedly said that if the US won't supply Turkey with F-35 fighter jets, Ankara would satisfy its need for them in "another place". Turkish media earlier carried reports about possible purchase by Turkey of Russian Su-57 fighters in the event the United States refuses to supply Turkey with F-35 fighters."Why do we buy S-400 [air defense systems]? Because we have an urgent need for an air defense system. We are already partners in the F-35 manufacturing program, we participate in this project, we have paid the necessary amount. There are currently no problems with this. But in the worst case scenario, we will have to satisfy our need in another place, where the best technologies will be offered," Cavusoglu said.     Mevlut Cavusoglu has also noted that Ankara had no intention to hand over S-400 air defense missile systems bought from Russia to Qatar and Azerbaijan.  "There is no talk about plans to place the S-400 in Qatar or Azerbaijan. We have never discussed such an issue," Cavusoglu said.    Turkish media earlier reported on the possible handover by Ankara of S-400 systems to Qatar and Azerbaijan. Earlier in April, Cavusoglu argued that Ankara would find a substitute for the F-35 if the United States refused to deliver the aircraft to Turkey to penalize the country for its purchase of Russia's S-400 air defence systems. Earlier in the month, the Pentagon announced that Washington halted deliveries and activities with Turkey on F-35 fighter jet program over Ankara's decision to buy the Russian S-400 air defence systems.

Saudi Arabia carries out 'chilling' mass execution of 37 people for 'terrorism offences' -- Saudi Arabia executed 37 people for terror offences on Tuesday, the country’s interior minister said, in one of the largest mass executions in recent years. Human Rights Watch described the punishment as "grotesque," and said the news represented a "day we have feared." The country’s state news agency said the Saudi nationals were guilty of “adopting extremist terrorist ideologies and forming terrorist cells to corrupt and disrupt security as well as spread chaos and provoke sectarian strife.” The individuals were found guilty of attacking security installations with explosives and killing a number of security officers, the Interior Ministry said. It added that the executions were carried out by beheading, and that authorities pinned two of the bodies to a pole as a warning to others. The killings were quickly condemned by Human Rights Watch, which said that most of the convicted were members of the country’s persecuted Shia minority. “Today's mass execution of mostly Shia citizens is a day we have feared for several years. The punishments are especially grotesque when they result from a flawed justice system that ignores torture allegations," said Adam Coogle, Middle East researcher at HRW.

Crimea Vows To Ship Oil To Syria Amid Ongoing Fuel Crisis, Thwarting US Sanctions - The President of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, vowed to help the Syrian Arab Republic amid their ongoing fuel crisis that is a result of the sanctions imposed on the country by western nations. Aksyonov told Russia’s Sputnik News that there are plans to export wheat, petroleum derivatives and power tools to Syria as well as rebuilding railways there. He pointed out that whether it is Crimea or Russia, they are willing to export products to Syria in order to help the war-torn nation.The Crimean President noted that a shipment of wheat and other industrial products is being prepared and will be heading to Syria soon.He also pointed out that a joint shipment company is being founded, adding that Syria will export citrus fruits, olive and olive oil to Russia.The fuel crisis in Syria has forced the Syrian government to issue rations on gas in order to deal with the ongoing sanctions that are greatly effecting the country. Over the last two weeks, thousands of cars in cities like Damascus, Latakia, and Aleppo are forced to wait several hours to fill up gas as the lines often stretch 3-5km long.With Iran under strict sanctions by the U.S., Syria has run into a serious fuel problem that has harmed almost the entire country. The fuel crisis is not only effecting travel, but also providing electricity to homes in several large cities, including Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs.

US-Led Bombing Campaign in Syria Killed 1,600 Civilians and Left Raqqa Destroyed - —An “unprecedented” new study released on Thursday revealed that the U.S.-led bombing campaign on Raqqa, Syria in 2017—which one military commander at the time claimed was the “most precise air campaign in history”—killed an estimated 1,600 innocent civilians while leveling the city on a scale unparalleled in recent decades.The research collated almost two years of investigations into the assault on Raqqa, the groups said in a statement,  and “gives a brutally vivid account” of the enormous number of civilian lives lost as “a direct result” of thousands of coalition air strikes and tens of thousands of US artillery strikes in Raqqa from June to October 2017.The report—”Rhetoric vs. Reality: How the ‘Most Precise Air Campaign in History’ Left Raqqa the Most Destroyed City in Modern Times“—is detailed on the interactive website created by investigative news organization Airwars and the human rights group Amnesty International-USA which carried out what they call the “most comprehensive investigation into civilian deaths in a modern conflict.” The findings confirm that the U.S.-led coalition has admitted to just a fraction of the civilian carnage it has caused in Syria, even as it has boasted of the care it’s taken in avoiding such casualties and the precision of the Raqqa offensive.

US Navy SEALs Were Warned by Commanders Not to Report War Crimes— US war crimes in Iraq in general are a well-substantiated fact. Navy SEALs say they saw some “shocking” things, which other SEALs kill children with sniper rifles, spraying civilian neighborhoods with machine gun fire, etc.Seeing such things was par for the course, in Iraq, but talking about it was another thing entirely. Several platoon members took the matter of war crimes by their platoon chief to troop commanders. They were immediately rebuked.Not only did the commander tell them not to report the crimes to him, he warned them that talking about the war crimes at all would jeopardize their careers. War crimes are meant to be seen, but not heard about. It was expected this would be the end of it, but the SEALs went around the commander, and to higher ups in the Navy that were not directly tied to the SEALs. This quickly led to a court-martial for the platoon chief. It’s broader than just the one platoon chief. The court-martial is quickly delving deeply into the underlying culture of the SEALs. That culture encouraged both the war crimes and silence about them.

State of Pakistan's Relations With Iran and India - What does Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan hope to accomplish during his Iran visit? What are the key issues bedeviling Iran-Pakistan relations? Cross-border terrorism alleged by both? Pakistan's relations with the Gulf Arabs? CPEC? Afghanistan? Gwadar? Chabahar? Indian RAW's use of Iran to launch terror attacks in Pakistani Balochistan? Who calls the shots in Iran? President Rouhani or the hardline Iranian Revolutionary Guard leaders? Why is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi continuing to threaten Pakistan with use of force, including use of nuclear weapons? Is this part of his election campaign to appeal to his base? Or will this intimidation go beyond elections if he wins a second term? Is Pakistan Prime Minister's hope of better ties with India under BJP just a mirage? Are analysts like Moeed Yusuf right about India waiting it out to achieve overwhelming superiority to eventually dictate term to Pakistan?  Viewpoint From Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq ( State of Pakistan's Relations With Iran and India - YouTube

US Gave Rogue General Haftar Green Light To Attack Tripoli - European officials as well as UN-backed leadership in Tripoli have both confirmed and angrily denounced President Trump's recent sharp reversal of longstanding US policy which recognized only the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) as the legitimate authority over Libya, with Fayez al-Sarraj as prime minister. The UN, UK and others have long backed Sarraj, while the UAE, Egypt, and France have been vocal supporters of Haftar.Late last week the White House had shocked European allies in announcing that President Trump had spoken by phone to offer support to Benghazi based commander Kalifa Haftar, at a moment his Libyan National Army (LNA) lays siege to the capital.  The White House statement at the time said Trump “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.”A prior personal call to Haftar by US National Security Adviser John Bolton had also left Haftar with the impression that he'd had a "green light" for his ongoing offensive to secure the capital, which began April 4, and has involved shelling and air power used over civilian areas. EU officials have this week urged President Trump to reverse his surprise declaration of US support for Haftar's LNA. European officials have further demanded greater clarity of the United States' position on Libya, saying Washington's policy confusion will only add fuel to the chaos, similar to recent contradictory US statements on Syria. According to The Guardian: EU officials greeted Trump’s remarks with disbelief and a fear that the White House had accepted a joint interpretation of the war by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia that underplayed its complexity.As Bloomberg reports further this week, the revelation of official US support to the renegade General Haftar came soon after a meeting between Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on April 9. Sisi has long been known as a backer of Haftar, alongside the UAE and France.

Trump’s Call to Libyan National Army Leader Increases Risk of ‘Protracted Urban Conflict,’ Experts Say  - A phone call from President Donald Trump to Libyan National Army leader Khalifa Haftar helped to escalate deadly violence in the Libyan capital of Tripoli this weekend, as well as undercutting the United Nations' hope for a ceasefire in the country. A number of airstrikes, allegedly including strikes by armed drones, hit Tripoli in Sunday's early morning hours, escalating Haftar's assault on the city as he attempts to oust the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and take control of Libya. The Libyan National Army's (LNA) attacks on Tripoli have now killed an estimated 227 people, injuring more than 1,000 and leaving at least 16,000 displaced. The airstrikes followed a conversation Trump had with Haftar last week, which the White House revealed several days later on Friday. A number of sources reported Sunday that Trump appeared to give approval to the leader, who legal experts have accused of ordering his troops to commit war crimes, to move ahead with the air campaign—going against a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire last Thursday. According to the White House's statement on Friday, Trump told the LNA leader he "recognized Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya's transition to a stable, democratic political system."  As Patrick Wintour reported in the Guardian: The airstrikes on Tripoli, first launched last week, appear to reflect the approval given to Haftar by Donald Trump in a phone call on Monday....The U.S. appears to have accepted the view from its chief Middle Eastern allies that Haftar’s assault can be seen as the act of a strong leader fighting jihadist militias in Tripoli. But many independent Libyan experts claim Haftar has no commitment to democracy. Haftar ordered his troops into Tripoli on April 4, after three years of fighting to secure control of southern and eastern Libya. The strikes in Tripoli have been backed by the United Arab Emirates, reportedly with funding from Saudi Arabia. In addition to undermining the U.N.'s hope for a ceasefire, Trump's call to Haftar also indicated a reversal in U.S. policy regarding Libya. On Friday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters, "A military solution is not what Libya needs," while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on April 7 that the U.S. "oppose[s] the military offensive by Khalifa Haftar's forces."

Slide Into Chaos - 30,000 Displaced, 300 Dead And 1,200 Wounded In Libya Fighting - African leaders met in Egypt on Tuesday in a summit addressing continuing violence and dramatic political upheavals in neighboring Libya and Sudan, with Egypt's President Sisi calling for a unified regional response in order avoid “a slide into chaos”. This as since early April fighting around Tripoli between Gen. Khalifa Haftar's advancing Libyan National Army (LNA) and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) has resulted in 264+ deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and some 1,266 people wounded, with 21 among the deceased civilians. Some media reports have cited as many as 300 killed in the violence. The United Nations has put the number of displaced due to Haftar's offensive on the capital at more than 30,000 civilians. Meanwhile in Sudan fierce protests have continue in Khartoum despite the toppling of longtime strongman Omar al-Bashir, resulting in unpopular rule by military council with emergency powers. "The principle of African solutions to African problems is the only way to deal with common challenges facing us," Sisi said in opening remarks to the summit. Concerning Libya, Sisi's fear's of a "slide into chaos" which has actually long been a reality all the way back to the 2011 NATO-led toppling of Muammar Gaddafi will be viewed as largely hypocritical considering Sisi is among Gen. Haftar's main backers.This week intense fighting has continued in the southern suburbs of Tripoli, with shelling disrupting daily life in the city's center. Reuters reports: Forces supporting Libya’s internationally recognized government pushed back troops loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar to more than 60 km southwest of the capital Tripoli on Tuesday, Reuters reporters said. The town of Aziziya was fully under the control of the Tripoli forces, with shops reopening after days of fighting, a Reuters team at the scene said.

Israel’s Elite Undercover Units Are Increasing Activities Against Palestinians — In recent weeks and months, Israel’s elite undercover Special Forces units, known as the Musta’ribeen (Mista’arvim), have increased their activities against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. The units are responsible for the arrest and assassination of Palestinian resistance members wanted by the Israeli occupation authorities. For example, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) revealed that the murder of Omar Abu Laila, who carried out an operation in Salfit, in Ramallah in late March, was a result of a Special Forces unit infiltrating the city. The soldiers posed as vegetable vendors before making the hit. In December, the Musta’ribeen killed resistance member Asem Barghouti in the same manner. In March, Special Forces disguised as journalists killed the former head of the Birzeit University Student Council Omer Al-Kiswani, within the university campus in Ramallah.  Palestinian activists have been carrying out an awareness campaign among demonstrators to protect them from the undercover units. Tips include wearing light-coloured clothing, as the Musta’ribeen usually wear dark and loose clothing to hide their weapons. This helps them to identify the infiltrators. Another tip is for protestors to tuck in their shirts because Musta’ribeen keep their shirts untucked, again in order to hide their guns. Palestinian protestors are also advised to engage in confrontations with the Israeli army in small groups in order that everyone knows each other and strangers are easier to identify. The IDF’s repeated use of the Musta’ribeen Special Forces is considered a war crime and a crime against humanity that is punishable by law, because they carry out assassinations in cold blood and in front of cameras. This requires us to document their crimes on film, to add to the International Criminal Court’s case files on the Israeli military occupation and its crimes and violations of Palestinian rights.

Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians Supported by American administration - In the Jordan Valley, the Israeli occupation authorities issued orders to seize some 51,000 dunams to the east of the Tayasir area, to the Ras Ahmar area, and the Makhol and Samra areas, in order to expand the Itammar settlement, knowing full well that 5 residential communities are living there. The residents were prevented from accessing those areas and given 14 days to reject the decision. Moreover, Israeli forces erected signs in Khirbet Yanon, a village belonging to the land of Aqraba, south of Nablus, stating that hundreds of dunams have been turned into “nature reserves”. And, entry is not allowed. A report issued by the Madar Strategic Center, for the year 2019, warned that the next step will witness a shift towards annexing the settlements over to Israeli sovereignty and accelerating their expansion, thus preventing any possibility to establish a Palestinian state. The report added that the policies accelerate the establishment of the Jewish national identity of Israel, which will negatively affect the reality of Palestinians in the territories taken in1948. The report, which was announced at the annual Madar conference, in Ramallah, said that the recent election results provided international momentum to the Israeli right, which is represented by the Trump administration, in the US, and reflected Arab failure. Within this context, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, in an interview with CNN, that he doesn’t see Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements as damaging to the Trump’s “Deal of the Century” for the Middle East. PM Netanyahu said he intends to impose Israeli law on all settlements, and hopes to do so with the consent of America. He pledged to maintain Israeli control over the West Bank, and to solidify Israeli rule among more than 400,000 settlers in the West Bank, adding that this will not only apply to the larger settlement blocs, but also to remote settlements. Furthermore, both right-wing and Haredi parties that won the Knesset elections are betting on the support of the administration of US President Donald Trump, for the Israeli annexation policy, which make up about 60% of the West Bank.

More civilians now killed by US, Afghan forces than by insurgents: UN - Afghan civilians are for the first time being killed in greater numbers by US and pro-government forces than by the Taliban and other insurgent groups, a UN report released Wednesday revealed. The bloody milestone comes as the US steps up its air campaign in Afghanistan while pushing for a peace deal with the Taliban, who now control or influence more parts of the country than at any time since they were ousted in 2001. During the first three months of 2019, international and pro-government forces were responsible for the deaths of 305 civilians, whereas insurgent groups killed 227 people, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report. The majority of the deaths resulted from US air strikes or from search operations on the ground, primarily conducted by US-backed Afghan forces, some of which UNAMA said "appear to act with impunity". "UNAMA urges both the Afghan national security forces and international military forces to conduct investigations into allegations of civilian casualties, to publish the results of their findings, and to provide compensation to victims as appropriate," the report states. UNAMA started compiling civilian casualty data in 2009 amid deteriorating security conditions in Afghanistan. It is the first tally since records began that shows pro-government forces have killed more civilians than insurgents have, though insurgents were responsible for more than twice as many injuries as were pro-government forces.