Sunday, May 2, 2021

refinery utilization rate highest in 57 weeks; gasoline output at a 58 week high; imports of distillates at a 35 week low

oil prices moved higher this week as strong economic reports and rising product demand overshadowed the Covid disaster unfolding in India....after falling 1.6% to $62.14 a barrel last week on rising global Covid cases and on a surprise increase in US crude supplies, the contract price of US light sweet crude for June delivery opened lower and fell over 2% early Monday amid soaring coronavirus cases in major oil importer India but recovered to settle just 23 cents lower at $61.91 a barrel on Monday, as other news, particularly from the U.S., was looking a lot better, lending to traders' optimism...oil prices continued higher on Tuesday after OPEC and its allies projected a strong recovery in global oil demand this year, and finished with a $1.03 gain at $62.94 a barrel even after OPEC, Russia and other producers agreed to stick to plans to raise output slightly starting May 1...oil prices dipped early Wednesday after the API reported a surprise build of crude supplies, but then surged to the highest level in over a month as declining oil product supplies and signs of stronger demand buttressed expectations for a revival in global consumption, and settled 92 cents, or 1.5% higher, at $63.86 per barrel....oil prices jumped to a six week high with the release of the US GDP report on Thursday morning, and held most of the early gains to end $1.15 higher at $65.01 a barrel, even as India continued to struggle with another rise in Covid-19 cases...oil prices dropped early on Friday as profit-taking and a strengthening U.S. dollar brought a end to the week’s rally, with oil closing $1.43 to $63.58 a barrel as investors unloaded positions after weak Japanese crude import data and on concern about fuel demand in India, but still ending with a gain of 2.3% on the week and of more than 7% for the month...

natural gas prices also finished higher this week, on record exports and on declining gas field output... after rising 1.9% to $2.730 per mmBTU last week on an outbreak of record cold east of the Rockies, the contract price of natural gas for May delivery opened lower on Monday but gradually reversed course to close 6.0 cents higher at $2.790 per mmBTU, as continuously strong export demand pushed prices into positive territory...prices then jumped 8.3 cents to a nine-week high of 2.873 per mmBTU on record exports and lower gas output on Tuesday, and then rose another 5.2 cents on Wednesday as traders speculated that the much colder-than-usual weather last week might have led utilities to have pulled gas from storage, as trading in the May contract expired with May natural gas priced at $2.925 per mmBTU...with natural gas price quotes now referencing the contract price of natural gas for June delivery, prices reversed on Thursday and fell 4.9 cents to $2.911 per mmBTU, after EIA storage data showed natural gas inventories grew more than expected....natural gas prices then recovered 2.0 cents on Friday settle at $2.911 per mmBTU on forecasts for cooler weather over the next two weeks+, record exports and a small decline in output, and hence managed to end the week more than 7% higher, while the May contract, which had closed last week at $2.818 per mmBTU, posted a 4.0% gain...

the natural gas storage report from the EIA for the week ending April 23rd indicated that the amount of natural gas held in underground storage in the US rose by 15 billion cubic feet to 1,898 billion cubic feet by the end of the week, which left our gas supplies 302 billion cubic feet, or 13.7% below the 2,200 billion cubic feet that were in storage on April 23rd of last year, and 40 billion cubic feet, or 2.1% below the five-year average of 1,938 billion cubic feet of natural gas that have been in storage as of the 23rd of April in recent years....the 15 billion cubic feet that were added to US natural gas storage this week was more than the average forecast of a 9 billion cubic foot addition from an S&P Global Platts survey of analysts, but measured well below the average addition of 67 billion cubic feet of natural gas that have typically been injected into natural gas storage during the same week over the past 5 years, as well as well below the 66 billion cubic feet added to natural gas storage during the corresponding week of 2020...

The Latest US Oil Supply and Disposition Data from the EIA

US oil data from the US Energy Information Administration for the week ending April 23rd showed that because of a big increase in our oil imports, we had surplus oil to add to our stored commercial crude supplies for the seventh time in ten weeks and for the 15th time in the past fort​y​ weeks....our imports of crude oil rose by an average of 1,211,000 barrels per day to an average of 6,616,000 barrels per day, after falling by an average of 448,000 barrels per day during the prior week, while our exports of crude oil fell by an average of 7,000 barrels per day to an average of 2,541,000 barrels per day during the week, which meant that our effective trade in oil worked out to a net import average of 4,075,000 barrels of per day during the week ending April 23rd, 1,218,000 more barrels per day than the net of our imports minus our exports during the prior week...over the same period, the production of crude oil from US wells was reportedly 100,000 barrels per day lower at 10,900,000 barrels per day, and hence our daily supply of oil from the net of our trade in oil and from well production appears to total an average of 14,975,000 barrels per day during this reporting week... 

meanwhile, US oil refineries reported they were processing 15,018,000 barrels of crude per day during the week ending April 23rd, 253,000 more barrels per day than the amount of oil they used during the prior week, while over the same period the EIA's surveys indicated that a net of 194,000 barrels of oil per day were being pulled out of the supplies of oil stored in the based on that reported & estimated data, this week's crude oil figures from the EIA appear to indicate that our total working supply of oil from net imports, from storage, and from oilfield production was a rounded 150,000 barrels per day more than what our oil refineries reported they used during the account for that disparity between the apparent supply of oil and the apparent disposition of it, the EIA just plugged a (-150,000) 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 they label in their footnotes as "unaccounted for crude oil", thus suggesting there must have been a error or errors of that magnitude in this week's oil supply & demand figures that we have just transcribed.....furthermore, since last week's EIA fudge factor was at +887,000 barrels per day, there was a 1,038,000 barrel per day balance sheet difference in the unaccounted for crude oil figure from a week ago, which renders the week over week supply and demand changes we have just transcribed meaningless....however, since most everyone treats these weekly EIA reports as gospel and since these figures often drive oil pricing and hence decisions to drill or complete wells, we'll continue to report them as they're published, just as they're watched & believed to be accurate by most everyone in the industry....(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) indicate that the 4 week average of our oil imports fell to an average of 6,034,000 barrels per day last week, which is now 10.7% more than the 5,448,000 barrel per day average that we were importing over the same four-week Covid impacted period last year... the 194,000 barrel per day net withdrawal from our crude inventories included a 207,000 barrel per day withdrawal from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve, space in which has been leased for commerical purposes, which was slighly offset by a 13,000 barrel per day addition to our commercially available stocks of crude oil....this week's crude oil production was reported to be 100,000 barrels per day lower at 10,900,000 barrels per day because the rounded estimate of the output from wells in the lower 48 states was 100,000 barrels per day lower at 10,500,000 barrels per day, while a 3,000 barrel per day decrease in Alaska's oil production to 442,000 barrels per day did not impact the rounded national total....our prepandemic record high US crude oil production during the week ending March 13th 2020 was at a rounded 13,100,000 barrels per day, so this reporting week's reported oil production figure was 16.8% below that of our production peak, yet still 29.3% above 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 85.4% of their capacity while using those 15,018,000 barrels of crude per day during the week ending April 23rd, up from 85.0% the prior week, and the highest refinery utilization rate in 57 weeks, reflecting the refinery utilization level during the last week before the ​pandemic related slowdown...while the 15,018,000 barrels per day of oil that were refined this week were 17.7% higher than the 12,761,000 barrels of crude that were being processed daily during the week ending April 24th of last year, they were still 8.7% below the 16,446,000 barrels of crude that were being processed daily during the week ending April 26th, 2019, when US refineries were operating at a still low 89.2% of capacity...

with this week's increase in the amount of oil being refined, the gasoline output from our refineries increased by 243,000 barrels per day to a fifty-eight week high of 9,629,000 barrels per day during the week ending April 23rd, after our gasoline output had decreased by 229,000 barrels per day over the prior week...while this week's gasoline production was 43.0% higher than the 6,735,000 barrels of gasoline that were being produced daily over the same week of last year, it was still 3.5% lower than the March 13th 2020 pre-pandemic high of 9,974,000 barrels per day, and 3.0% below the gasoline production of 9,927,000 barrels per day during the week ending April 26th, 2019....meanwhile, our refineries' production of distillate fuels (diesel fuel and heat oil) increased by 71,000 barrels per day to 4,626,000 barrels per day, after our distillates output had decreased by 89,000 barrels per day over the prior week... but since the onset of the pandemic ​last year ​didn't appear to impact distillates' production, this week's distillates output was still 7.1% lower than the 4,982,000 barrels of distillates that were being produced daily during the week ending April 24th, 2020...

with the increase in our gasoline production, our supply of gasoline in storage at the end of the week increased for the eighteenth time in twenty-four weeks, and for 22d time in 41 weeks, but only rose by 92,000 barrels to 235,074,000 barrels during the week ending April 23rd, after our gasoline inventories had increased by 85,000 barrels over the prior week...our gasoline supplies managed to increase this week because the amount of gasoline supplied to US users decreased by 227,000 barrels per day to 8,877,000 barrels per day while our imports of gasoline fell by 98,000 barrels per day to 1,021,000 barrels per day, and while our exports of gasoline fell by 73,000 barrels per day to 604,000 barrels per day....but even after four straight inventory increases, our gasoline supplies still were 9.4% lower than last April 24th's gasoline inventories of 259,565,000 barrels, and about 3% below the five year average of our gasoline supplies for this time of the year... 

meanwhile, even with the increase in our distillates production, our supplies of distillate fuels decreased for the 9th time in 19 weeks and for the 23rd time in thirty-five weeks, falling by 3,342,000 barrels to 139,049,000 barrels during the week ending April 23rd, after our distillates supplies had decreased by 1,073,000 barrels during the prior week....our distillates supplies fell by more this week because the amount of distillates supplied to US markets, an indicator of our domestic demand, rose by 476,000 barrels per day to 4,330.000 barrels per day, while our imports of distillates fell by 27,000 barrels per day to a 32 week low of 135,000 barrels per day, and while our exports of distillates fell by 108,000 barrels per day to 908,000 barrels per day....after this week's inventory decrease, our distillate supplies at the end of the week were 2.1% below the 141,972,000 barrels of distillates that we had in storage on April 24th, 2020, and just about at the five year average of distillates stocks for this time of the year...

finally, with the big jump in our oil imports, our commercial supplies of crude oil in storage rose for the 11th time in the past twenty-four weeks and for the 26th time in the past year, but only by 90,000 barrels, from 493,017,000 barrels on April 16th to 493,107,000 barrels on April 23rd...after this week's nominal increase, our commercial crude oil inventories were close to the most recent five-year average of crude oil supplies for this time of year, and at about 42% above the average of our crude oil stocks as of the fourth weekend of April over the 5 years at the beginning of this decade, with the disparity between those comparisons arising because it wasn't until early 2015 that our oil inventories first topped 400 million barrels....since our crude oil inventories had jumped to record highs during the ​Covid​ lockdowns of last spring, our commercial crude oil supplies as of April 23rd are now 6.5% less than the 527,631,000 barrels of oil we had in commercial storage on April 24th of 2020, but still 4.8% more than the 470,567,000 barrels of oil that we had in storage on April 26th of 2019, and also 13.1% more than the 435,955,000 barrels of oil we had in commercial storage on April 27th of 2018...     

This Week's Rig Count

The US rig count rose for the 29th time over the past 33 weeks during the week ending April 30th, but is still down by 44.5% from the pre-pandemic rig count....Baker Hughes reported that the total count of rotary rigs running in the US was up by 2 to 440 rigs this past week, which was also up by 32 rigs from the pandemic hit 408 rigs that were in use as of the May 1st report of 2020, but was still 1,489 fewer rigs than the shale era high of 1,929 drilling rigs that were deployed on November 21st of 2014, the week before OPEC began to flood the global oil market in their first attempt to put US shale out of business....

The number of rigs drilling for oil was down by 1 to 342 oil rigs this week, after falling by 1 the prior week, still leaving us with 17 more oil rigs than were running a year ago, but less than 21% 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 was up by 2 to 96 natural gas rigs, which was also up by 15 natural gas rigs from the 81 natural gas rigs that were drilling a year ago, but still just 6.0% of the modern era high of 1,606 rigs targeting natural gas that were deployed on September 7th, addition, a rig started drilling in  the Permian basin in Midland county Texas that was classified as 'miscellaneous' this week, while a "miscellaneous" rig also continued to drill in Lake County, California, thus matching the "miscellaneous" rig count of two a year ago..

The Gulf of Mexico rig count was up by 2 to 13 rigs this week, with 12 of those rigs now drilling for oil in Louisiana's offshore waters and 1 rig continuing to drill for oil in Alaminos Canyon offshore from Texas...that was 3 fewer Gulf of Mexico rigs than the 13 rigs drilling in the Gulf a year ago, when all 16 Gulf rigs were drilling for oil offshore from Louisiana...since there are no rigs operating off of other US shores at this time, nor were there a year ago, this week's national offshore rig totals are equal to the Gulf rig counts...​however, ​in addition to those ​rigs ​offshore, a rig continued to drill through an inland lake in St Mary parish Louisiana, while a year ago there were no rigs deployed on inland waters...

The count of active horizontal drilling rigs was up by 1 to 398 horizontal rigs this week, which was also up by 24 rigs from the 374 horizontal rigs that were in use in the US on May 1st of last year, and less than a third of the record of 1372 horizontal rigs that were deployed on November 21st of the same time, the directional rig count was up by 4 rigs to 23  directional rigs this week, ​which was ​the same number of  directional rigs that were operating during the same week a year ago....on the other hand, the vertical rig count was down by 4 to 19 vertical rigs this week, but those were up by 8 from the 11 vertical rigs that were in use on May 1st of 2020....

The details on this week's changes in drilling activity by state and by major shale basin are shown in our screenshot below of that part of the rig count summary pdf from Baker Hughes that gives us those changes...the first table below shows weekly and year over year rig count changes for the major oil & gas producing states, and the table below that 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 30th, the second column shows the change in the number of working rigs between last week's count (April 23rd) and this week's (April 30th) count, the third column shows last week's April 23rd active rig count, the 4th column shows the change between the number of rigs running on Friday and the number running on the Friday before the same 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 1st  of May, 2020..    

April 30 2021 rig count summary

as you can see, there were again just a few changes this week, with all of those in the South....checking first for the details on the Permian basin in Texas from the Rigs by State file at Baker Hughes, we find that that four rigs were pulled out of Texas Oil District 8, which is the core Permian Delaware, and that three rigs added in Texas Oil District 7C, ​which ​encompas​ses the southern counties of the Permian Midland..​.​.since the Texas Permian was thus down by 1 this week, that means that the rig that was pulled out of New Mexico must have been targeting the farthest west reaches of the Permian Delaware to accounting for the national loss of two Permian rigs..​.​.elsewhere in Texas, we had single rigs added in Texas Oil District 1, Texas Oil District 3, and Texas Oil District 4, one of which was an oil rig that was added in the Eagle Ford, while the other two had to be natural gas rigs ​targetting a Texas basin not tracked by Baker Hughes, since the two Louisiana additions were oil rigs offshore, and other than the 'miscellaneous' rig addition, all other Permian changes also involved oil rigs..


Local woman testifies on environment - Martins Ferry Times Leader— Jill Hunkler of Barnesville testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Environment on Thursday — Earth Day 2021 — opposing government subsidies to the natural gas and oil industry. Also speaking were representatives of Harvard University and Stockholm Environmental Institute’s Climate Policy Program, along with Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg, who is known around the world for her efforts. Hunkler has long opposed the fossil fuel industry and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” — a process that uses high-pressure water, sand and chemicals to fracture the bedrock and release gases trapped within it. On Thursday, she described her experience of living in Appalachia.“Continuing to subsidize the fossil fuel industry will not only perpetuate the climate crisis, but the plastics pollution, environmental justice and public health crises as well,” she said. “I’m a fracking refugee. I was forced from my home at the headwaters of the historically pristine Captina Creek watershed … after being surrounded by oil and gas infrastructure and its associated pollution, including a compressor station, 78 fracking wells, an interstate and gathering pipelines — all within a 5-mile radius of my home.”Hunkler said air pollution from the industry “hovers in the hollows” of the local region. She said people living in the hills have health issues as a result, and that residents must deal with unsafe roadways due to industry traffic, air and noise pollution and spring and well water contamination. She also referred to the 2018 well pad explosion near Powhatan Point and a 2017 brine truck spill outside Barnesville.“I never imagined that my quiet country and healthy way of life would disappear. The negative health impacts we experienced were too much to bear,” she said. “Belmont County is the most heavily fracked within the state, with over 595 producing wells.” Hunkler is also worried about fracking wastewater being transported via barges on the Ohio River and opposes the PTT Global Chemical America ethane cracker plant proposed for the Dillies Bottom area along the river and Ohio 7.“In the years since the fracking boom began, Belmont and other Eastern Ohio gas producing counties haven’t gained jobs,” she said. “In fact, we have lost more than 6,500 jobs according to the data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the region’s population has declined by more than 13,000 people according to research by the Ohio River Valley Institute.” In answer to a question from U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, Hunkler said she had experienced odors, headaches, body aches, rashes and mental confusion. She said little action from the state came in response to complaints.“Now the petrochemical industry wants to invade and create even more toxic air pollution. The industry will require even more fracking in our region to make feedstock for plastics. The regulatory agencies are already failing to protect communities from air pollution from fracking, and now they have granted air permits to the PTT Global Chemical ethane cracker plant,” she said, adding she fears the facility would emit tons of hazardous contaminants into the air if constructed. She also expressed concerns about the proposed Mountaineer Natural Gas Liquids storage facility planned near the Ohio River in Monroe County, which would develop salt caverns to store materials such as ethane in proximity to the Ohio River.

Tomechko v. Garrett - Ohio's Seventh District Holds Adverse Possession of Shallow Gas Covers All Gas - Tomechko involved a 60.24-acre tract in Beaver Township, Noble County, originally owned by Herbert Garrett and John Garrett as tenants in common.[2] Herbert died in 1965 and devised his interest to his wife, Mary. In 1977, Mary conveyed it to Coralee Garrett, the wife of John Garrett, but reserved “one-half interest all the minerals in and under” the property and other lands (hereinafter, the “1977 Reservation.”).[3] …[…]…The amended complaint asserted, inter alia, that the 1977 reservation of “all minerals” did not actually include oil and gas, and that the shallow gas production adversely possessed all the oil and gas on the tract.[12] With regard to the question of whether “all minerals” in the 1977 deed included oil and gas, the trial court relied uponSheba v. Kautz and held that, because oil and gas development was common by this point, “all minerals” included oil and gas.[13] As to adverse possession, the trial court held that, as to the shallow rights, adverse possession was established because the Tomechkos’ actual production met the exclusivity requirements.[14]However, because the deep rights were not produced, exclusivity was not established, and adverse possession was not established as to the deep oil and gas on the property.[15] On appeal, the Seventh District agreed with the trial court: the reservation of “all minerals” in the 1977 deed included oil and gas.[16] In short, oil and gas development was common by 1977 and because there was no language compelling otherwise, oil and gas was included. As to adverse possession, however, the Seventh District disagreed. Acknowledging that neither party cited any cases addressing the “vertical limits of an adverse possessor’s rights to minerals[,]” the Seventh District discussed Diederick v. Ware, 288 S.W.2d 643, (C.A. Ky. 1956). The Kentucky court held that two wells producing on a 56-acre parcel that met the requirements for adverse possession “modified the subterranean structure under the large tract of land and this constituted constructive possession of all of the minerals underlying the entire 56-acre estate.”[17] The Kentucky court said this was because of the “fugacious nature of oil and gas and how it alters property and the strata upon withdrawal of oil and gas by drilling.”[18] Finding the facts before it similar enough, the Seventh District drew the same conclusion: “The Court finds that appellee possesses the deep rights in this case based upon the adverse possession of the shallow rights, the permeating nature of the drilling and production of oil and gas, and the lease with Trans Atlantic which provided for drilling to all strata.”[19]

Utica Oil Production to Inch Forward in May, Gas Output to Decline - Oil production from the Marcellus and Utica-Point Pleasant shale plays is expected to increase slightly in May, while natural gas output is anticipated to decline, according to the latest report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.The EIA’s monthly survey of oil and gas drilling production in the country’s shale plays shows that oil production in Appalachia – considered eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia – should increase by 1,000 barrels per day throughout May.The region encompasses the Utica-Point Pleasant and Marcellus shale ranges, rock formations that produce mostly dry and natural-gas liquids.According to the EIA, the region’s wells produced 127,000 barrels of oil per day in April. That number is projected to increase to 128,000 barrels in May.Natural gas production, however, is expected to continue to decline as warmer months set in across this part of the country.EIA reports that natural gas output should drop to 34.14 billion cubic feet per day in May, a decline of about 65 million cubic feet from April.That’s still less a drop from earlier this year, the EIA reports. In March, natural gas production was estimated to decline by 260 million cubic feet per day, while production was expected to be down by 118 million cubic feet per day in February.Of the seven major shale plays in the United States, just two – the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico, and the Haynesville in Texas and Louisiana – are expected to increase natural gas production in May, according to EIA.In addition to Appalachia, only the Permian is expected to increase oil production in May, the EIA reported.Meanwhile, drilling activity in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties remains quiet. This week, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources reported a single permit issued to Hilcorp Energy Co. to deepen its Elkrun-Baker 7H well in order to drill a new horizontal leg. Hilcorp continues to be the most active driller in the northern tier of the Utica-Point Pleasant formation

CNX Still Sees Utica Shale in Longer-Term Growth Plan - CNX Resources Corp. got a lift from stronger first quarter commodity prices as it continued executing on a broader seven-year plan it laid out in 2020. The company said free cash flow (FCF), up for the fifth consecutive quarter, came in at $101 million. It has also increased its full-year FCF guidance to $450 million from a previous target of $425 million. Between 2020 and 2026, the company is aiming to generate $3 billion in FCF.  The gains helped the company to cut net debt by $70 million and repurchase 1.5 million shares at a total cost of $18 million under an existing buyback program. COO Chad Griffith said the Appalachian pure-play producer also expects costs to continue coming down as unused firm transportation (FT) capacity comes off the balance sheet and interest expenses are reduced. He said $10 million of unused FT would roll off this year, along with a modest amount in 2022, and another $20 million from 2023-2025 as contractual obligations expire. CNX turned five Marcellus Shale wells to sales during the first quarter and plans to bring another 13 online in the coming weeks at an average cost of $650/lateral foot. That compares to deep Utica Shale well costs in southwest Pennsylvania of $1,420/lateral foot. Griffith said the company brought online two deep Utica wells during the quarter. CNX has only four additional Utica wells planned in southwestern Pennsylvania through 2026, It also plans about a pad every year in the Utica window of central Pennsylvania. However, Griffith said the company is “excited about the deep Utica’s potential as either a growth driver if gas prices improve, or as a continuation of our business plan years into the future,” as costs for the wells continue to decline.CNX produced 140.6 Bcfe in the first quarter, up from 134.4 Bcfe in the year-ago period.  The company said its average realized commodity prices during the first quarter, including hedges, were $2.73/Mcfe, up from $2.59 in the year-ago period. Revenue also increased over the same time to $473 million, compared with $416 million in the year-ago period.

CNX's chief excellence officer talks about the driller's big moves in ESG - CNX Resources Corp., one of the region’s largest natural gas producers, unveiled initiatives that will dramatically reduce methane emissions and prevent leakage into the air. CNX (NYSE: CNX) was the first in the Marcellus and Utica Shale to employ all-electric hydraulic fracturing machinery, which removed diesel emissions and saved money during the natural gas drilling and completions process. It recycles 98% of its produced fluids that eliminate water withdrawals and disposal, as well as using pipelines instead of trucks. It has reduced scope 1 and scope 2 tier emissions, two measures of emissions in the industry, over 90% since 2011. Now, said CNX Chief Excellence Officer Olayemi Akinkugbe, it’s moving ahead with plans to make even further gains: The team, along with commercially available technology, have developed a method to minimize methane leaks from blowdown and pneumatic devices that CNX says makes up about half of its emissions. Instead of using gas on this equipment to move things along, it’ll be using compressed air. Pipelines are cleaned and maintained via a process known as pigging that allows work to go on even while the pipeline is maintained. But the traditional process requires venting of a portion of the pipeline during the pigging process, which allows an amount of methane to escape into the air. Instead, CNX’s innovation is to capture the methane before it escapes into the air and put it back into the pipe. That’s good for the environment and good for CNX’s bottom line because methane is sellable natural gas. “We’ve designed a system that allows us to have zero emissions from pigging, and we’re building around that right now,” Akinkugbe said. “Our goal is to make it the standard operational protocol for the team, where emissions from pigging could be a thing of the past for CNX.” That’s a significant development, not only because of the emissions at the well pad, but also because CNX is virtually alone among the larger gas companies because it owns its own midstream pipeline and compression system that brings natural gas from the well pad to the transmission pipelines or processing plants. And innovation for that whole chain is very much key to the whole process, he said. 

Ohio Valley Natural Gas Counties Get Small Piece Of National Economic Pie - An analysis of natural gas production in the Ohio Valley finds that the biggest gas producing counties in the region suffered economically over the past decade compared to the rest of the country, although natural gas production was high. The report released Wednesday by the Ohio River Valley Institute, a nonprofit think tank, shows that 22 counties in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania produced more than 90% of the region’s natural gas, but saw declines in their share of income, population, and jobs between 2008 and 2019. Personal income and job growth in those counties lagged far behind the national average, and population declined.The report includes Belmont, Carroll, Guernsey, Harrison, Jefferson, Monroe, and Noble Counties in Ohio. The West Virginia counties include Doddridge, Harrison, Marshal, Ohio, Ritchie, Tyler, and Wetzel. Eight Pennsylvania counties are also included. Over 10 years ago, studies from industry and supporters said that natural gas production would boost local economies by providing new jobs and revenue. But according to the report titled, “Appalachia’s Natural Gas Counties: Contributing more to the U.S. economy and getting less in return”, job growth in the 22 counties only increased by 1.7%. Nationally, job growth grew by 10%. “It’s quite evident that not only among the public but even among policy makers, people in a position to know, they really don’t,” O’Leary said. “They really do imagine that there are more jobs and more development going on out there than in fact is the case.”Economic output in the 22 counties increased by 60%but there was little input into local economies. Jobs decreased by 7.5%, population fell by 9.6 %, and personal income decreased by 6.3%. O’Leary said that while money is being invested in the counties to produce gas and gas is being sold to produce revenue, very little of that is landing in the 22 counties. “While the facilities are located in these counties, the people who build them, the material with which they are built, various professional services that are required to do all this, are for the most part acquired from outside of the region,” O’Leary explained.

Infrastructure funding could be 'opportunity of a lifetime' to plug thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette -By some accounts, Pennsylvania has the worst accumulation of old, unplugged, ownerless oil and gas wells in the nation. There are an estimated 200,000 of them, and the cost to plug them could exceed $6 billion. The state’s orphan well plugging program has been underfunded for decades, but it is primed to take advantage of an influx of cash.Part of President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion proposal to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure would dedicate $16 billion to reclaiming abandoned wells and mines across the U.S.Cementing shut wells that were left behind during more than a century of drilling has emerged as a popular policy in the past year. It bridges environmental groups — who want to cap scattered hazards that leak brine, oil and methane, a powerful greenhouse gas — and oil and gas companies — who see it as a growth area for their business as drilling declines.It isn’t certain that every item in the Biden administration’s sweeping infrastructure proposal will end up in final legislation before Congress or that a broad infrastructure bill will pass.But “there appears to be bipartisan coast-to-coast support for stimulus for orphan well plugging and remediation,” said Adam Peltz, a senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund.“There’s good reason for optimism that it will occur at some point this year.”Pennsylvania environmental regulators and the state’s conventional oil and gas industry have spent years drawing attention to the dire need for more funding and studying ways to plug vastly more abandoned wells.The Department of Environmental Protection has lined up 500 priority and nearby wells that could be bid right away when stimulus funding arrives.The federal money, if it comes through, would be “the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Seth Pelepko, environmental program manager at the oil and gas bureau. “A lot of what we do right now is looking for sources of money, looking for partnerships,” he said. Instead, his six-person team could turn to executing a plugging program for the 8,700 verified wells on Pennsylvania’s abandoned wells list and identifying the several hundred thousand wells that are believed to be scattered around the state but not yet on the list. Bills introduced in the U.S. House and Senate in recent weeks would dedicate between $5 billion and $8 billion to plugging orphan wells, with the bulk of the funds dispersed to states through grants administered by the Department of the Interior. Both proposals include initial grants of up to $25 million to states with established well cleanup programs, like Pennsylvania, that can quickly sign contracts to use a surge of funding within months. Even a fraction of the proposed cash would be more money than Pennsylvania’s well plugging program has ever seen.

Third producer makes move toward responsibly sourced natural gas - Another Appalachian natural gas producer will seek environmentally friendly natural gas certification from the two accreditors that EQT Corp. announced a partnership with earlier this month, the third move by a Marcellus and Utica shale producer to commit to methane-reduction standards. Northeast Natural Energy, which has about 100 wells and 115 billion cubic feet of natural gas production along the Pennsylvania border in West Virginia in and around Morgantown, announced early Thursday that it would work toward MiQ and Equitable Origin certification. Those are the same two organizations that struck a deal for certification of methane emissions standards with EQT (NYSE: EQT), the nation’s largest independent natural gas producer. This MiQ/Equitable Origins announcement marks another milestone in the certification of what is being called responsibly sourced natural gas. EQT was the first deal the two organizations made in North America. Thursday’s announcement with Northeast Natural Energy is the first private equity-owned company to reach a deal with MiQ and Equitable Origin. “Our team has always focused on operating with the highest environmental standards in the industry, and we have been exploring new technologies and certifications for several months,” said Northeast Natural Energy CEO Mike John in a statement. It will be using a technology from Baker Hughes subsidiary Avitas, Lumen Terrain, to reach the standards by the fourth quarter of 2021. Equitable Origins is a nonprofit that has started the EO100 Standard for Responsible Energy Development, which provides certification that natural gas producers are focusing on methane reduction and other ESG measures. MiQ, which is a nonprofit venture of the Rocky Mountain Institute and SystemIQ, has a grading program for methane intensity and sets a goal to continue to remove it from natural gas operations. Methane, which is the sellable component of natural gas, is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. There’s wide agreement that methane leaks have to be removed, and natural gas producers are seeing the certification not only as a way to meet environmental standards, but also as a potential premium market that is currently a price-sensitive commodity. “Methane abatement in the oil and gas sector is an urgent and vital action in the fight against climate change,” said Georges Tijbosch, senior adviser at MiQ. “The commitment made by NNE and others to diligently monitor and abate methane, which has 84 times the global warming potential of CO2, is a big step in the right direction.”>

Pipeline Developer Takes on New Jersey in Supreme Court Fight --The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case pitting states’ rights advocates against energy companies. New Jersey and backers of the $1 billion PennEast natural gas pipeline face off over developers’ effort to seize state land along the project’s route. It’s the latest in a series of pipeline cases to reach the Supreme Court in the past year, an outgrowth of sweeping litigation surrounding a nationwide expansion of oil and gas infrastructure over the past decade. The justices heard an Atlantic Coast pipeline case a year ago, and fielded a flurry of filings involving Keystone XL last summer. Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s Paul Clement, a former solicitor general and powerhouse Supreme Court advocate who successfully argued the Atlantic Coast case, represents PennEast. The Biden administration is maintaining Trump-era support for PennEast’s arguments, a decision that disappointed many pipeline opponents. Some justices might find it challenging to weigh New Jersey’s asserted state property rights against pipeline lawyers’ claims of broad industry impacts in the case, University of Minnesota energy law professor Alexandra Klass said. “It tees up that issue directly in a way that some of these other cases have not,” she said. “Here is a situation where you have a state who is opposed to this particular pipeline and has actual land, saying a private party can’t use delegated eminent domain authority to take state land.” Backed by Enbridge Inc., Southern Co., and other companies, PennEast would stretch 116 miles across Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Construction hasn’t started, and PennEast faces other permitting and legal hurdles even if it prevails at the Supreme Court. The dispute centers on PennEast’s attempt to use eminent domain authority delegated under the Natural Gas Act to take state-owned lands and conservation easements along the pipeline’s proposed route in New Jersey. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit blocked the effort in 2019, ruling that New Jersey’s sovereign immunity bars a private company from bringing land condemnation proceedings against it. The Supreme Court agreed to review the case after PennEast and its allies across the oil and gas industry argued that the decision would disrupt pipeline development by giving states “veto authority” over federally approved projects. “The scope of that veto is nearly boundless given the extent of state property holdings,” PennEast said in its final brief this month, noting that states generally hold title to streambeds and other land. PennEast spokeswoman Patricia Kornick points to broad support the company has received from industry and labor groups, along with both the Trump and Biden administrations.

U.S. Supreme Court tackles pipeline company's bid to seize New Jersey land (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday wrestled with a bid by a group of energy companies seeking to seize land owned by New Jersey to build a $1 billion natural gas pipeline, as the state argues that its rights would be trampled. The justices heard arguments in an appeal by PennEast Pipeline Company LLC, a joint venture backed by energy companies including Enbridge Inc, of a lower court ruling in favor of New Jersey's government, which opposes the land seizure. Other companies in the consortium for the 116-mile (187-km) pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey include South Jersey Industries Inc, New Jersey Resources Corp (NJR), Southern Co and UGI Corp. At issue in the case is a 1938 U.S. law called the Natural Gas Act that lets private energy companies seize "necessary" parcels of land for a project if they have obtained a certificate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). It effectively gives private companies the power of eminent domain, in which government entities can take property in return for compensation. A ruling in favor of New Jersey would weaken the Natural Gas Act by allowing states to object to any attempts to seize their land. Although some justices appeared sympathetic to the state's legal arguments, they also seemed cautious about issuing a ruling that would overturn the longstanding understanding of the law and potentially imperil the PennEast project and others like it. Chief Justice John Roberts said that it is "quite extraordinary" that private entities have the power normally vested in the federal government to go to court to seize a state's land. But Roberts also noted that New Jersey opposes the project, meaning that if it does win the case there would be a "significant practical problem."

Appeals court rejects environmentalists’ call to halt Pinelands pipeline - A state Appellate Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by two environmental groups to halt construction of a natural-gas pipeline in South Jersey, saying there’s no evidence that the nearly complete project will hurt groundwater quality, damage endangered species or conflict with the principles that govern management of Pinelands preserve.The court dismissed arguments by the New Jersey Sierra Club and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance that the Pinelands Commission, which manages the region, was wrong in 2017 to approve the Southern Reliability Link — a 30-mile New Jersey Natural Gas pipeline that runs east from Chesterfield to near Lakehurst.The court upheld the commission’s arguments that the pipeline would not conflict with the Comprehensive Management Plan, a document that governs land use, development and natural resources protection in the Pinelands, rejecting claims by the environmentalists.A three-judge panel also supported the commission’s conclusions that there was no alternative route for the pipeline through the Pinelands; that building the pipeline through about 10 miles of the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst would be consistent with the base’s functions; and that the pipeline would not damage forested wetlands.And it accepted the commission’s finding that the pipeline poses no threat to the sickle-leaved golden aster, a rare plant, if construction avoided horizontal directional drilling, and used conventional bore drilling instead. “After considering all of NJNG’s submissions, including surveys, maps, and changes to the planned construction, the commission’s staff concluded, ‘that the proposed-natural gas pipeline will be constructed almost entirely within existing rights-of-way and roads, the proposed project will not result in irreversible adverse impact on the survival of the local population of this  species,’” the court wrote, in a 39-page opinion.

Leaky collection pipe causes small crude oil leak on West Branch— The state Department of Environmental Conservation responded Monday night to a crude oil spill on a lease along West Branch Road in the town of Allegany. An undetermined amount of crude oil leaked from a rusty 3-inch collection line onto the ground. The smell of crude oil filled the air around the spill on Wednesday. DEC staff and the operator of the lease, who was not identified by DEC staff, worked into the night to stop the flow of oil through a leaking pipe and keep more oil out of the nearby stream. A member of the DEC Oil Spill Response Team was at the scene on Wednesday. The DEC planned to cover the area of the spill in tarps before rain forecast for Wednesday afternoon arrived. The operator has volunteered to clean up the oil spill, according to state Environmental Conservation Police.

Compressor station coming back online after April 6 shutdown— The energy company that owns the natural gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River plans to start the facility back up, several weeks after the third unplanned gas release at the site since September. Enbridge, the Canadian-based energy company that built the compressor station, notified the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection this week that it may vent gas from the facility between April 29 and May 5 while it brings it back into service. Enbridge spokesman Max Bergeron said in an email that the process will take a few days and involve " controlled venting of natural gas through a stack specifically designed" for venting. "We are planning to use advanced specialized equipment to minimize the volume of natural gas vented into the atmosphere," he said. "In order to ensure awareness, we have notified state and local officials of these activities. We are proceeding with public health and safety as our priority." The compressor station is part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge project, which expands the company’s natural gas pipelines from New Jersey into Canada. Since the station was proposed in 2015, residents have argued it presents serious health and safety risks. On April 6, the compressor unit had an issue and shut off to prevent equipment damage, Bergeron said. The facility then vented natural gas, which Enbridge was required to report to MassDEP. Bergeron said Enbridge has revolved the issue.

Appalachian Natural Gas, Coal Produce Most Methane in U.S., Kayrros Says --New measurements released last week by Kayrros quantifying emissions across the Appalachian Basin show the region is the biggest source of methane in the United States. emissions by basin Kayrros, which uses satellites and other methods to track emissions, said methane from Appalachia exceeds even the country’s most active oil and gas fields in the Permian Basin. But Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky are home to prolific natural gas and coal production. Methane emissions from the resources combine to outweigh those from other extraction states. Kayrros said recent data show emissions from fossil fuel production in the Appalachian Basin hit 3 million tons (Mt) in 2019 and 2.4 Mt in 2020. Excluding emissions from coal mines, emissions from natural gas produced largely from the Marcellus, Utica and Upper Devonian shales declined from 1.9 Mt in 2019 to 1.4 Mt in 2020. Methane from oil and natural gas production in the Permian declined from 2.7 Mt to 2.0 Mt over the same time. Across both basins, Kayrros said emissions fell by 20% in Appalachia and by 26% in the Permian last year, “largely due to the impact of the Covid pandemic on energy demand.” The company added that the “variation in the percentage decreases can be traced to the differing energy mixes within each basin.” Oil and gas representatives in Appalachia were quick to point out that Kayrros’ measurements also include coal emissions. The company, which monitors and measures energy and natural resource activity worldwide for customers analyzing industrial and environmental performance, did not release specifics on its data. Another analysis released last week by Rystad Energy found that operators in Appalachia had the lowest carbon dioxide emissions intensity of any onshore fields across the country. Rystad found that Scope 1 emissions, or those directly controlled by producers, were 7.1 kilograms per boe in 2020. “Such a level of CO2 intensity performance brings Appalachia to the top quartile among all oil and gas fields globally,” said Rystad analyst Emily McClain. “As the basin becomes more mature and modern, and environmental, social and governance best practices are implemented, we anticipate Appalachia to improve further in its CO2 intensity dimension in the next three to four years.” Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Operators across the basin are working to better monitor and curb their emissions by transitioning to all electric hydraulic fracturing fleets and implementing special measures.

60+ Groups Urge Biden Administration to Suspend Mountain Valley Pipeline Permits — More than 60 conservation and environmental groups are calling on top Biden officials to suspend permits and approvals by the previous Trump administration for the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline, contending it poses a grave threat to clean water, local communities, the environment, and the climate. If the administration follows the groups’ recommendations, it could result in blocking construction of the pipeline.“MVP’s construction impacts to date have already caused irreparable harm to landscapes and clean water — West Virginia and Virginia have assessed MVP more than $2 million in penalties for more than 350 environmental violations, mostly related to improper erosion control and stormwater management, and there are allegations of even more,” the groups write in a letter sent this week. “Yet there is much more high-risk construction still planned.“All this devastation is completely unnecessary,” they further write. “MVP is one of the last mega-gas pipelines promoted as part of the shale gas boom in our nation — a remnant of a dirty and destructive fossil fuel history that should be left in the past. There has never been any genuine documented need for this pipeline.”The groups urge Biden officials take “aggressive action” to implement an executive order President Biden signed on his first day in office to protect public health and the environment, restore science and tackle climate change. Because the Mountain Valley Pipeline project is inconsistent with the order’s goals, the groups argue, an environmental impact statement and other environmental approvals by the previous administration should be reversed and a pending application for a clean water permit should be closely reviewed.The groups note that the project still has to construct several hundred waterbody crossings; 74 percent of its proposed route would pass through more than 225 miles of high landslide risk terrain. That raises concern of more environmental damage.In addition, if completed and operated, the Mountain Valley Pipeline would add nearly 90 million metric tons of carbon pollution per year to the atmosphere — equivalent to the emissions from 23 U.S. coal plants, or more than 19 million passenger vehicles driven every year.

Living with natural gas pipelines: Appalachian landowners describe fear, anxiety and loss - More than 2 million miles of natural gas pipelines run throughout the United States. In Appalachia, they spread like spaghetti across the region.  Many of these lines were built in just the past five years to carry natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where hydraulic fracturing has boomed. West Virginia alone has seen a fourfold increase in natural gas production in the past decade. Such fast growth has also brought hundreds of safety and environmental violations, particularly under the Trump administration’s reduced oversight and streamlined approvals for pipeline projects. While energy companies promise economic benefits for depressed regions, pipeline projects are upending the lives of people in their paths. The region has a long and complicated history with extractive industries, including coal and hydraulic fracturing. However, it’s rare to hear firsthand accounts of the long-term effects of industrial infrastructure development in rural communities, especially when it comes to pipelines, since they are the result of more recent energy-sector growth.  For all of the people we talked to, the process of pipeline development was drawn out and often confusing.  Some reported never hearing about a planned pipeline until a “land man” – a gas company representative – knocked on their door offering to buy a slice of their property; others said that they found out through newspaper articles or posts on social media. Every person we spoke with agreed that the burden ultimately fell on them to find out what was happening in their communities. One woman in West Virginia said that after finding out about plans for a pipeline feeding a petrochemical complex several miles from her home, she started doing her own research. “I thought to myself, how did this happen? We didn’t know anything about it,” she said. “It’s not fair. None of this is fair. … We are stuck with a polluting company.”  If residents do not want pipelines on their land, they can pursue legal action against the energy company rather than taking a settlement. However, this can result in the use of eminent domain. Through this process, residents can be forced to accept a sum that doesn’t take into consideration all effects of pipeline construction on their land, such as the damage heavy equipment will do to surrounding land and access roads. One woman, the primary caretaker of land her family has farmed for 80 years, found herself facing significant legal fees after a dispute with a gas company. “We were the first and last ones to fight them, and then people saw what was going to happen to them, and they just didn’t have – it cost us money to get lawyers. Lawyers ate us up,” she said. The pipeline now runs through what were once hayfields. “We haven’t had any income off that hay since they took it out in 2016,” she said. “It’s nothing but a weed patch.”

Groups ask Virginia environmental officials to reopen Chickahominy Power permit - Three groups are asking Virginia to reopen an air permit issued to Chickahominy Power in 2019 for a proposed natural gas plant in Charles City County, contending that the state’s analysis of the facility’s environmental justice impacts “contains many of the same defects” of a state air permit struck down by a federal court in January 2020. “The similarities are just so shocking,” said Taylor Lilley, an attorney with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which penned the letter along with the Southern Environmental Law Center and Concerned Citizens of Charles City County. “It seems the process was just repeated. And that process was found to be faulty.” While the March 22 letter asked the State Air Pollution Control Board to reopen the permit, Chair Roy Hoagland said at meeting earlier this month that the board “does not have the authority to decide to reopen a permit.” Instead, he said, that authority lies with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The two environmental groups and the Concerned Citizens argue that three “defects” plague the permit drafted by DEQ and approved by the air board in June 2019. First, they say, DEQ relied on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s EJSCREEN tool to determine that the communities surrounding the proposed facility did not have a greater proportion of minorities or low-income residents than Charles City as a whole despite “conflicting evidence in the record.” Second, they contend the agency “rested its environmental justice analysis” solely on compliance with federal and state air quality standards “without evaluating the risks to specific nearby communities.” And third, they say DEQ deferred to a local zoning approval “instead of independently determining whether the proposed location was suitable.” All three of these approaches were challenged in Friends of Buckingham v. State Air Pollution Control Board. In that case the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals eventually struck down an air permit from DEQ and the Air Pollution Control Board that allowed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to build a natural gas compressor station in the majority-Black Union Hill community in Buckingham County. In its ruling, the 4th Circuit noted that the state had “erred” by failing “to make any findings regarding the character of the local population at Union Hill, in the face of conflicting evidence” and “to individually consider the potential degree of injury to the local population independent of (National Ambient Air Quality Standards) and state emission standards.”

As it takes up another contentious permit, air board wrestles with public engagement - Just months after an eight-hour meeting to consider a controversial air permit for the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board is readying itself for another marathon session to consider granting an air permit to a compressor station that would be built in Chatham as part of a planned offshoot of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “This permit may have received as many as 400 comments,” Chair Roy Hoagland told the board at its April 23 meeting. “So take a guess: If you have 50 percent of them, that’s 200 people who would have an opportunity to speak up to three minutes apiece.” Consideration of the so-called Lambert compressor station comes as the air board, smarting from a federal judicial rebuke over its issuance of a permit to the now-canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Union Hill compressor station, has been working to revamp how it approaches public engagement. In the wake of yet another charged permit decision in June 2019, one related to the proposed Chickahominy Power Station in Charles City County, the board convened an ad hoc Committee on Public Engagement. “The same old, same old we know doesn’t work,” Hoagland told the Mercury over the summer. “Same old, same old may be legal, but it’s not sufficient.” Now, the committee’s work may face its first big test as the Lambert compressor station permit is scheduled to come before the citizen body this June. Officials expect the meeting where the board will render its decision of whether or not to grant the project an air permit to be heated. Mountain Valley Pipeline has been contested by environmental groups and local landowners alike since its inception.  Opponents say the 303-mile natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia is not only unnecessary as the state and nation move away from fossil fuels but environmentally destructive. Erosion and sedimentation problems have plagued the pipeline’s construction, leading Virginia to eventually collect $2.15 million in fines from developers. And courts have repeatedly stripped the pipeline of necessary permits, citing inadequacies in agency approvals.

Pipeline Run; MVP Opponents Continue the Protests - People who oppose the Mountain Valley Natural Gas Pipeline project are continuing the fight to stop it. This week, three women set out on a relay run through parts of Virginia and West Virginia.  They’re protesting the project with their feet, with a goal to highlight the sensitivity of potential water crossings along the pipeline’s route.It’s really hard to put into words all of the experiences we’ve had so far. We’ve been overwhelmed by the incredible community of folks who have come to our side to help us on this journey. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to meet locals who have been fighting this pipeline from the very beginning. Hearing their stores and learning about their struggles, say Sarah HodderGrace Tuttle is with the group POWHR, which stands for, ‘protect our water, heritage rights.’ She says the run is to remind people, the pipeline is still not a done deal and that this is also a fund raiser for communities along the route, affected by the construction project.“The runners blew by their $6,000 fundraising goal before even hitting the pavement. And they've thus set a new goal of $10,000 and their first day of running, they encountered roads that were no longer in use and other challenging navigation issues, but it was nothing they were not equipped for what their bravery and some local expertise they were back on the road and continuing with their mission.”  Mercedes Walters, Sarah Hodder, and Katie Thompson began running and cycling April 25th along sections of the Mountain Valley pipeline construction path.  You can follow the run’s progress at

Group protests expanding pipeline into NC. Critics say it will dig up burial grounds — A group of activists in Charlotte gathered in Marshall Park on Thursday in protest of extending the Mountain Valley Pipeline from Virginia into North Carolina.  “We’re just kind of tired of being pushed aside,” said Crystal Cavalier-Keck, founder of the indigenous advocacy organization 7 Directions of Service.The proposed extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline would run 40 miles into North Carolina from Virginia."It's going through Rockingham County, North Carolina and ending in Alamance County North Carolina,” Cavalier-Keck said. The project would allow for more natural gas transportation for energy companies, but Cavalier-Keck said it would dig up sacred burial grounds."These are the bones of our ancestors that are being disturbed, that are being dug up,” Cavalier-Keck said.Cavalier-Keck believes it could also contaminate bodies of water in the state."We know these pipelines corrode over time, these things will leak into the rivers and then you know, after like years people start developing these weird cancers and it's because we have all these environmental degradations that are happening,” Cavalier-Keck said.Corine Mack, president of the Charlotte NAACP, led the protest against the pipeline at Marshall Park on Thursday."We must believe in people over money and profit,” Mack said.Activist Freeda Cathcart came all the way from Virginia to speak."The North Carolina state government needs to do everything you can to fight to protect the water, to fight to protect the families,” Cathcart said.

N.C. regulators again reject proposed Mountain Valley extension - For the second time, environmental regulators in North Carolina have rejected a proposed extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline into their state. The decision Thursday by the Department of Environmental Quality came less than two months after a federal appeals court sent the case back for additional review, ruling that the department had not adequately explained its reasons for denying a water quality certification for the controversial project. The North Carolina DEQ initially turned down the request for a 75-mile extension of the pipeline, called MVP Southgate, in large part because of uncertainties that remain with the main project, a 303-mile natural gas pipeline under construction from northern West Virginia to Pittsylvania County. Should the main project fail, its extension “would be a pipeline from nowhere to nowhere, incapable of carrying any natural gas,” Daniel Smith, director of the department’s division of water resources, wrote in a letter Thursday that reissued the earlier denial. The letter addressed questions raised by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals about why the state had denied approval outright, rather than issuing a conditional certification based on Mountain Valley regaining all of its permits that were earlier suspended for environmental reasons. Mountain Valley’s next move was unclear Thursday. The joint venture of five energy companies building the main pipeline has previously run into trouble with stream crossings, leading it to change methods of water body crossings that will require different approvals.

North Carolina once again rejects Mountain Valley Pipeline extension -- North Carolina environmental regulators have once again denied a request by the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Equitrans Midstream Corp. for a water quality permit for a proposed pipeline extension called MVP Southgate. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Division of Water Resources denied an appeal by MVP that followed a ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that said that the state had authority on impact to streams, lakes and wetlands by the pipeline but also had to clarify why the DEQ denied the permit instead of providing a conditional certification. “DWR (Division of Water Resources) concludes that a conditional approval in these circumstances does not provide the reasonable assurance of compliance with water quality requirements,” the DEQ said in a statement late Thursday. MVP Southgate is an extension planned for the Mountain Valley Pipeline that would bring Marcellus and Utica Shale gas from southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia through West Virginia and Virginia and then, with the extension, to North Carolina. MVP itself hasn’t been completed, as it has been mired in regulatory and legal challenges, but it’s expected to be on line by late this year or early next year. But it’s still under a Federal Energy Regulatory Agency stop-work order. In the denial letter issued Thursday, DWR Director S. Daniel Smith noted the concerns over the status of the main MVP. "Mere issuance of federal permits does not provide sufficient assurance that the Mainline Project will in fact move forward and, consequently, that impacts from the Southgate Project will not be unnecessary and avoidable," Smith wrote. He said that DEQ won't issue the 401 Water Quality Certification and another authorization on a buffer for Jordan Lake, until they get more information. Mountain Valley Pipeline and Equitrans expressed disappointment with the ruling. "The MVP Southgate project met every North Carolina water quality standard required for state approval, and we strongly disagree with the NCDEQ's decision to deny," said spokesman Shawn Day. "A conditional approval, as the state's hearing officer recommended, would have satisfied the NCDEQ's concerns about the separate Mountain Valley Pipeline project while recognizing the significant collaborative work by the project team and the NCDEQ staff over the past two years to protect natural resources while meeting North Carolinians' demand for natural gas."

Clean-up continues from massive gas spill in Huntersville — Signs of life are returning to Oehler Nature preserve in Huntersville, eight months after the Colonial Pipeline cracked, causing the largest gas leak of its kind in decades. The spot where the massive excavation of the pipe tore through the earth is now beginning to grow grass. But dozens of work trucks exposes pipes and massive frac tanks show the work to clean up the spill is far from complete. New estimates suggest the leak was much larger than initially anticipated. New data from imaging below the surface reveal the leak was at least 1.2 million gallons of petroleum, according to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. On-site Thursday, Angie Kolar, vice president of operational services for Colonial Pipeline, said the impact was greater and deeper than they initially thought. “We’re continuing to use the science and the data to learn more and more information about the site as we proceed,” Kolar said. “We continue to revise our estimate based on the best available data at the time.” For the latest breaking news, weather and traffic alerts, download the WCNC Charlotte mobile app. Colonial Pipeline has installed a network of 241 wells for monitoring and recovery of the product. Kolar said the company remains hopeful that the existing network in place will be sufficient to reach the new depths of the leak. The new discovery is in the same general vicinity as the original, Kolar said. “We may need to tweak it or to install additional wells to capture it, we don’t know that yet,” she said. Meanwhile, the wells continue pumping petroleum from the leak at a rate of 3-5,000 gallons per day, Kolar said. Large blue frac tanks then transport the recovered product off-site. There are air quality monitors lining the property. Scientists are also testing to ensure the safety of drinking well water that supplies the residents. To date the company has performed more than 600 tests on 22 wells, Kolar said. Thus far, they have not discovered any spillage in the water, she said.

Lower 48 Production Down on Maintenance as Natural Gas Futures Press Higher Early --Estimates showing a day/day drop in production helped natural gas futures extend their recent gains in early trading Tuesday. After picking up 6.0 cents in the previous session, the May Nymex contract was up 3.0 cents to $2.820/MMBtu at around 8:45 a.m. ET.The latest daily production estimate from Wood Mackenzie Tuesday showed a 2.4 Bcf/d day/day decline in Lower 48 supply, with output dropping to 89.1 Bcf/d from 91.5 Bcf/d as of Monday. “The largest impacts are concentrated in the Northeast, where there is planned pipeline maintenance as well as what appears to be unannounced operator field maintenance,” Wood Mackenzie analysts Nicole McMurrer and Laura Munder wrote in a note to clients. Flows in Northeast Pennsylvania were down 0.6 Bcf/d early Tuesday, according to the firm’s estimates. This coincides with planned maintenance on the Millennium Pipeline, the analysts said. McMurrer and Munder also pointed to maintenance events on the Nexus Gas Transmission and Rockies Express pipelines that were expected to restrict flows on Tuesday in Ohio. Meanwhile, weather models overnight continued to show colder trends for late this week over the Great Lakes and Northeast, according to NatGasWeather.

Natural Gas Futures Prices Start Week on Solid Footing as Exports Still Strong --Natural gas futures struggled to gain traction early Monday, but continuously strong export demand eventually pushed prices into the green. With options and the May Nymex contract’s expiration looming, the prompt month settled at $2.790, up 6.0 cents from Friday’s close. The June contract picked up 5.6 cents to land at $2.874. storage snapshot Spot gas prices were mixed as the East and West coasts put up notable gains, while the rest of the country softened. NGI’s Spot Gas National Avg. climbed 3.5 cents to $2.605. After last week’s late-season cold snap provided the futures market with a final blast of heating demand and boosted prices, weather models reflected a “quite bearish” pattern for most days through mid-May, according to NatGasWeather. Forecasts showed daytime temperatures mostly in the 60s to 80s across the United States, with only spotty areas of chilly overnight lows. However, export demand has continued to be robust, helping to stave off any significant declines for Nymex futures. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) feed gas came in not far below record highs over the weekend and on Monday, near 11.5 Bcf, according to NGI data. The strong LNG export demand has repeatedly aided in the resilience of Nymex futures. Further strength is likely in the coming months as more of the super-chilled fuel is needed to replenish storage inventories overseas, according to analysts. European stocks, for example, finished the traditional withdrawal season about 11% below the five-year average, but late-season cold expanded the deficit to about 23%.

U.S. natgas hit 9-week high on record exports and lower output   (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures rose 3% to a nine-week high on Tuesday, buoyed by record exports and declining production, despite forecasts for milder weather and lower heating demand over the next two weeks. Traders also noted that colder than usual April weather last week boosted heating by so much that utilities may have taken the unusual step of pulling gas from storage. The last time utilities pulled gas from storage in April was in 2018. With summer fast approaching, meteorologists forecast demand for air conditioning would exceed heating use over the next two weeks for the first time since last autumn. Most parts of the country, however, will use little air conditioning or heat during that time. On its second to last day as the front-month, gas futures NGc1 for May delivery rose 8.3 cents, or 3.0%, to settle at $2.873 per million British thermal units, highest close since Feb. 23. That increase pushed the front-month into overbought territory with a Relative Strength Index (RSI) over 70 for a second day in a row for the second time this month. The contract was also in overbought territory for two days last week. Data provider Refinitiv said gas output in the Lower 48 U.S. states has averaged 91.3 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in April, down from 91.5 bcfd in March. That compares with a record monthly high of 95.4 bcfd in November 2019. Refinitiv projected average gas demand, including exports, would slide from 89.9 bcfd this week to 86.7 bcfd next week as the weather turns milder. Those forecasts were lower than Refinitiv projected on Monday. The amount of gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants has averaged 11.5 bcfd so far in April, compared with a monthly record of 11.2 bcfd in March.

US gas storage injection measures well below average as East region withdraws: EIA | S&P Global Platts -US natural gas storage fields injected well below the five-year average for the week ended April 23 as cooler weather prompted a net withdrawal from the East region, Energy Information Administration data showed April 29. Storage inventories increased 15 Bcf to 1.898 Tcf for the week-ended April 23, EIA data showed. The build was more than the 9 Bcf addition expected by an S&P Global Platts survey of analysts, but measured well below the five-year average build of 67 Bcf, according to EIA data. Storage volumes now stand 302 Bcf, or 13.87%, less than the year-ago level of 2.200 Tcf and 40 Bcf, or 2.1%, less than the five-year average of 1.938 Tcf. The Midwest and Northeast drove a large share of the demand gains and on certain days inventories flipped to a net withdrawal, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics. As a result, inventories in the East region posted a 6 Bcf withdrawal compared to the five-year average build of 17 Bcf for the corresponding week. The NYMEX Henry Hub June contract fell 7 cents to $2.89/MMBtu in trading following the release of the weekly storage report. The prompt-month contract has still managed to gain more than 20 cents over the past two weeks. In its first day holding prompt-month position, the June Henry Hub NYMEX contract saw heavy selling pressure the morning of April 29 along with the rest of the balance-of-2021 strip as a slightly larger-than-expected storage injection last week likely cast a light on possibly over-bought conditions in the near-term futures market. June through August all traded lower by about 7 cents the morning of April 29 following the EIA report, while September through December followed closely behind, dropping 6 cents. Downward pressure has even extended out through 2022, with the entire calendar year next year falling by 2 cents in a collective, albeit slight, downward price correction after several weeks of heating up. Platts Analytics supply and demand model currently forecasts a 45 Bcf injection for the week ending April 30, which would measure nearly 40 Bcf less than the five-year average, further growing the storage deficit. Total demand this week is down by 6.1 Bcf/d to an average 89.6 Bcf/d, with a massive drop in residenial-commercial and industrial demand partly offset by a 1.6 Bcf/d uptick in power burn demand. Upstream, production is once again showing signs of life, with onshore receipts rising by 500 MMcf/d and offshore lending another 100 MMcf/d to the mix. Notably, the sharp increase in net Canadian imports seen during the reference week has gone essentially unchanged, leaving supply in a far more robust position than it was the previous week during a time of falling demand.

Natural Gas Futures Prices Slide After EIA Storage Data Falls Short of Expectations -- After a three-day run, natural gas futures screeched to a halt Thursday after the latest round of storage data showed inventories grew more than expected. On the first day in the prompt position, the June Nymex futures contract settled at $2.911/MMBtu, off 4.9 cents day/day. July fell 5.0 cents to 2.961. Spot gas prices also retreated across most of the country. NGI’s Spot Gas National Avg. dropped 9.5 cents to $2.680. The mild weather pattern on tap for the next couple of weeks has done little to aid in the recent price rally along the Nymex curve. However, traders looking to the latest storage data for justification of the rise in prices — or for a reason to pull back — were not disappointed. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Thursday inventories during the week ending April 23 rose by 15 Bcf, larger than what the market had been expecting. Ahead of the report, major surveys had clustered around a high single-digit build, though injection estimates were as high as 28 Bcf. The 15 Bcf build was much smaller than historical figures, expanding the deficit to the year-ago level and flipping the surplus to the five-year average to a deficit. However, traders were not impressed and immediately sent prices lower. Another surprise in the latest EIA data was the 6 Bcf withdrawal in the East. “It was much colder than normal over the interior U.S., slightly cool over the East, while warm over the West Coast,” NatGasWeather said of temperatures in the EIA report reference period. Elsewhere, Pacific inventories rose by 7 Bcf, while Midwest stocks increased by 6 Bcf, according to EIA. The Mountain region reported a 1 Bcf increase in stocks. Total working gas in storage as of April 23 was 1,898 Bcf, 302 Bcf below year-ago levels and 40 Bcf below the five-year average, EIA said.

U.S. natgas hits 9-week high on cooler forecast, record exports -(Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures climbed to a nine-week high on Friday on forecasts for cooler weather and higher heating demand over the next two weeks than previously expected, record exports and a small decline in output. Front-month gas futures NGc1 rose 2.0 cents, or 0.7%, to settle at $2.931 per million British thermal units, their highest close since Feb. 22. That kept the front-month in overbought territory with a Relative Strength Index (RSI) over 70 for a fifth day in a row for the first time since August 2020. For the week, the contract was about 7% higher, putting it up for a third week in a row for the first time since February. For the month, the contract was up about 13% after falling around 6% last month. Data provider Refinitiv said gas output in the Lower 48 U.S. states slipped to an average of 91.3 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in April from 91.5 bcfd in March due to routine spring pipeline maintenance. That compares with a record monthly high of 95.4 bcfd in November 2019. Refinitiv projected average gas demand, including exports, would slide from 89.5 bcfd this week to 87.5 bcfd next week and 86.0 bcfd as the weather turns seasonally milder. The forecast for next week was slightly higher than Refinitiv estimated on Thursday. The amount of gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants averaged 11.5 bcfd so far in April, putting it on track to top the monthly record of 11.2 bcfd in March.

USA Set for Gas Boom --Natural gas production in the United States is set to grow to a new record of 93.3 billion cubic feet per day (Bcfd) in 2022 and will continue to rise thereafter, exceeding 100 Bcfd in 2024. That’s according to a new Rystad Energy analysis, which highlighted that the performance of the country’s key gas basins is going to attract increased interest from investors and markets, “with CO2 emissions intensity, capital efficiency, and potential bottlenecks drawing close scrutiny”. United States natural gas output hit a record 92.1 Bcfd in 2019, but production declined to 90.8 Bcfd last year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Rystad outlined. The company said it expects 2021 volumes will fall to 89.7 Bcfd but added that the trend will quickly change as the effect of the pandemic subsides and activity builds up across the country’s major gas basins. Rystad said the Haynesville play will offer the largest gas output growth going forward, risking bottlenecks unless more pipelines are approved. The Haynesville is forecasted to add about 10 Bcfd from 2020 to 2035, growing by 86 percent during that timeframe, Rystad highlighted. The region is projected to account for about 21 percent of the country’s gas production in 2035, compared to 13 percent in 2020, Rystad revealed. The company forecasts that associated gas from the Permian’s Delaware and Midland regions will account for more than five Bcfd of growth from 2021 to 2035, driven primarily by the Delaware, and anticipates a growth of about 16 percent in Appalachian gas production before a final plateau is reached, with the Marcellus and Utica forecasted to add five Bcfd over the next two decades. The company’s analysis showed that the Appalachian basin was best-in-class in the U.S. in 2020 when it comes to CO2 emissions intensity, with 7.1 kg of CO2 per barrel of oil equivalent (boe). The Appalachian region is said to be followed by the Haynesville shale, with a CO2 intensity of 7.5 kg of CO2 per boe, Niobara with 10.6 kg of CO2 per boe, the Permian Basin with 10.9 kg of CO2 per boe, south Texas’ Eagle Ford with 11 kg of CO2 per boe, and the Bakken play with 20.7 kg of CO2 per boe. “Such a level of CO2 intensity performance brings Appalachia to the top quartile among all oil and gas fields globally,”

Public response prompts DOT to host its own public pipeline hearings --The Georgia Department of Transportation says it will hold its own public hearing on the necessity for a petroleum pipeline in Coastal Georgia and its potential benefits to the state. GDOT’s announcement follows public outcry over hearings held by the company proposing to build the pipeline, Houston-based Kinder Morgan Energy Partners. “Due to the fact there were some Georgia citizens who were not happy with the process, we will be holding our own public hearing,” said Jill Nagel, GDOT spokesperson. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners held several hearings in coastal counties and in the Augusta area earlier this month to hear what the public had to say about the proposed Palmetto Pipeline project. The company plans to use the pipeline to transport gasoline, diesel and ethanol products underground for 360 miles, from Belton, S.C., to Jacksonville. The Palmetto line would connect to Kinder Morgan’s existing Plantation Pipeline that runs from Louisiana to Virginia. A preliminary path has the pipeline running through 24 miles of Glynn County, 18 miles of Camden County and 17 miles of McIntosh County. Nagel said the state began planning the hearing after consulting with the Attorney General’s office. Satilla Riverkeeper Ashby Nix was among those put off by public hearings held by the company on the issuance of a certificate of public convenience and necessity. If granted, the certificate could provide Kinder Morgan the power to use eminent domain, if necessary, to build its pipeline. “It’s suspicious when it’s the company and their lawyers taking the comments,” Nix said of the hearings she attended. She and other environmental watchdogs were befuddled after a meeting March 12 in Brunswick. Nix said it was more informational than anything else. Her concern now is that the one meeting that is planned may be difficult to get to for some coastal residents, depending on where it is held. She would like to see at least two meetings to ensure everyone has a chance to comment.

OIL AND GAS: Fla. lawmakers revive push to spare coast from drilling -- Wednesday, April 28, 2021 -- While Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill continue to fight with each other over President Biden's energy agenda, Florida's bipartisan congressional delegation remains united in opposition to drilling off the state's coastline.

‘They gave people kibbles and bits’: Black Memphis residents are fighting oil pipeline land grab -The only things Karmen Johnson-Tutwiler has left to remind her of her mother are a few photographs and just under a quarter acre of land covered in bramble and wildflowers that backs up to a railroad track. When their mother, Sharon Watson, passed away in 2010, she and her sister inherited it. “She always told me it was important to have a piece of property as your own,” Johnson-Tutwiler said. The land is on the edge of a neighborhood called Boxtown, a community built by formerly enslaved people and annexed by the city of Memphis during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Boxtown is surrounded by industrial facilities, including a Valero oil refinery. Since February 2020, Byhalia Pipeline, a joint venture of Valero Energy Corporation and Plains All American Pipeline, has been trying to gain control of part of Johnson-Tutwiler’s land, which is along the route of the proposed 49-mile Byhalia Connection oil pipeline. The route would run through multiple majority-Black neighborhoods in southwest Memphis, and researchers and activists say a spill could threaten the city’s public water source: an aquifer the size of Lake Michigan. Johnson-Tutwiler does not currently reside on the stretch of land the company wants — .08 of an acre temporarily and .11 of an acre permanently — but it would prevent her or other family members from ever building a house. “That was the only thing that I had that my mom left with us that we could pass down through the lines of the family,” she said. The legal battle over the proposed pipeline has become a flashpoint in a national conversation about environmental justice and eminent domain, a right of the government to seize private property for public use that is increasingly being used by oil and gas companies to take private land. Johnson-Tutwiler and her sister are among at least 10 southwest Memphis families who have already lost or stand to lose some property rights to Byhalia Pipeline. The company has been trying to buy easements, or rights to pieces of property, from Shelby County landowners since 2020. If they refuse, the company has been taking them to court using eminent domain, a power embedded in the Fifth Amendment and conferred to states through the Fourteenth Amendment. The federal government and states have allowed energy companies, including oil and gas pipeline builders, to use it for over 100 years; since fracking was commercialized in 2007, fossil fuel companies have used it more often to build projects including the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines.

Company asks for pause in Memphis oil pipeline dispute (AP) — A company facing resistance to its plans to build an oil pipeline over an aquifer that provides drinking water to 1 million people has asked for a “mutual pause” in its dispute with city officials in Memphis, Tennessee. Plains All American Pipeline sent a letter to the Memphis City Council about a proposed city law that could make it harder to construct an underground oil pipeline through wetlands and neighborhoods in south Memphis and north Mississippi. Plains is part of a joint venture with Valero Energy to build the Byhalia Connection, which would link the Valero refinery in Memphis with another larger pipeline in north Mississippi. The council’s ordinance would establish a board to approve or deny construction of underground pipelines that transport oil or other potentially hazardous liquids near wells that pump millions of gallons of water daily from the Memphis Sand Aquifer. The ordinance is backed by pipeline opponents who fear an oil spill would endanger the aquifer. The council made no mention of the Plains letter during a vote Tuesday to delay a vote on the ordinance for two weeks. Councilors said they decided to postpone a decision so they could address questions they themselves had and allow input from the mayor’s office and the local water company. In the letter, Plains said Byhalia Connection is willing to suspend development activities and address city council and community concerns “if the City is willing to suspend consideration, adoption, or final reading of the existing or any new ordinance that could affect the pipeline or refinery.” “We very much appreciate your willingness to talk with us and receive our feedback and work to resolve any differences,” the letter said. “It’s in this light that we would like to propose a ‘mutual pause.’” Byhalia has threatened to sue if the ordinance passes. In a statement, project spokeswoman Katie Martin called the proposed law “an example of ill-conceived local government overreach that is preempted by state and federal law.”

$238,450 for gas is 'gouging,' Hot Springs exec says-- The Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission has paid the $238,450.96 monthly gas bill it received for the Hot Springs Convention Center after February's winter storm, but filed a complaint against its natural gas supplier with the Arkansas attorney general's office accusing the supplier of "price gouging." Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison said the bill for February was paid "under protest" April 14. Little Rock attorney Randall Bynum with Dover Dixon Horne PLLC filed a formal complaint on behalf of the convention center with the attorney general's office April 19, saying the center's natural gas supplier may have violated Act 367 of 1997. The gas supplier, Symmetry Energy Solutions, denies the allegations, stating that they are "unfounded and reflect a misunderstanding of how the natural gas markets work." The Hot Springs Convention Center received the bill at the end of March, one month after record cold temperatures gripped the region. It was more than 2,000% what the center usually pays for one month and stemmed from using an independent gas supplier. Arrison told The Sentinel-Record on March 26 that the ad commission would not pay the bill. On Tuesday, he said the commission plans to get back most of the money paid under protest. "The main thing is we want to get our money back," Arrison said. "Hopefully we get this to a logical conclusion, and if not we will sue, but hopefully we won't have to." "Winter Storm Uri severely disrupted natural gas supplies at the very same time that demand was very high because of the record-setting frigid temperatures," a Symmetry Energy spokesperson said in an email Tuesday. "This high demand coupled with severely limited supply caused the market price of natural gas to rise to unprecedented levels," the email said.

Suit filed says sand operation polluting --Two Doddridge residents are suing companies in connection with a sand mining and fracking business nearby. The suit was filed in Miller County circuit court on behalf of 86-year-old Lottie Paige and 77-year-old Mary Bennett by Texarkana lawyer Bruce Flint. Named as defendants are 29 trucking and other companies doing business at the River Ridge Sand Flat owned by Performance Proppants. Performance Proppants is named as a defendant.   Paige lives on property on Miller County 4 that has been in her family for more than 100 years and Bennett owns property on Miller County 187. Both properties are located near the same road as River Ridge Sand Flat, which Performance Proppants purchased in 2019. "As a result of defendants' fracking business, 18-wheeler trucks drive right up against plaintiffs' properties 24 hours per day," the complaint states. The complaint refers to an article published in the Texarkana Gazette in February 2019 which estimates that 200 trucks per day will travel to and from the sand plant around the clock on Miller County 4. Paige alleges that the fracking and sand mining business has contaminated and dried up her well water. "Defendant's actions have prevented plaintiff from using any running water, including, but not limited to, flushing her toilets, taking baths and/or showers, and/or getting water from her faucets," the complaint alleges. Paige has been forced to buy bottled water and consider leaving her home during a global pandemic, it says. Paige and Bennett allege that air pollution created by the plant traffic and activities has caused them to develop asthma. The suit accuses the defendants of negligence and of creating a nuisance which has diminished the plaintiffs' property values and quality of life. Both women are seeking an award of monetary damages.

Lake Charles industry to pay $5.5 million over contaminating Calcasieu River estuary --Nine Lake Charles area chemical companies and oil refineries have agreed to pay the federal government $5.5 million for their contamination of much of the northern Calcasieu River estuary, the result of improper disposal practices over the past century. The settlement, announced this month by the Justice Department, is the latest in a series of federal and state legal actions against more than a dozen industrial plants in Lake Charles, Sulphur, Westlake and Mossville for polluting the river basin with toxic chemicals and heavy metals, including dioxin and mercury.  The amount of the settlement is not for cleaning up the pollution, only for the Environmental Protection Agency's response, and it's less than half of EPA's actual response costs. There's no estimate available on how much the industries have paid on cleanup, but even today parts of the estuary are still posted with health warnings against eating fish, crabs or shellfish swimming in the water, or even touching underwater sediment. A complaint filed with the settlement details how the companies were responsible for pollutants that flowed from discharge pipes at levels either in violation of federal and state permits or before such limits were set. The chemicals entered the water through accidents and seeped into groundwater from unlined waste disposal impoundments at some plants that began operating as early as 1920. Wilma Subra, a New Iberia chemist and science adviser to the Louisiana Environmental Action Network organization, which represents environmental groups in the area, said Lake Charles area residents first met with EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality about water contamination in the early 1980s, after blood samples from some residents indicated unsafe levels of dioxin and other chemicals. Dioxin is a highly toxic contaminant created during the manufacture of other chemicals, and is one of the chemicals identified as coming from several of the plants listed in the settlement. “We had residents with levels of dioxin in their blood at three times the national average, and those people were fishing in the estuary, in the main Calcasieu River and in all the bayous,” Subra said. “They still are.” The Louisiana Department of Health has posted health advisories on almost 350 miles of the river.

Several petrochemical companies to pay  $5.5 million for years of pollution in area waters  (KPLC) - Several petrochemical companies will pay $5.5 million to the federal government for costs incurred while investigating and addressing contamination of the Calcasieu Estuary Site.The pollution occurred over a number of years as the plants released chemicals into area waterways, according to the complaint filed in federal court.As part of the consent decree, the companies do not admit liability. The consent decree was filed on April 12.The $5.5 million will go to the EPA Hazardous Substance Superfund. The complaint states that the federal government has spent more than $13 million cleaning up the site.The Calcasieu Estuary Site encompasses Bayou Verdine, Bayou d’Inde, Coon Island Loop, Clooney Island Loop, Prien Lake, Lake Charles, and the Calcasieu River from the saltwater barrier to Moss Lake.The nine companies (some of which have merged) paying the $5.5 million are:

  • · Axiall Corp.
  • · CITGO Petroleum Corporation
  • · Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC
  • · Bridgestone Americas, Inc.
  • · Firestone Polymers, LLC
  • · Occidental Chemical Corporation
  • · OXY USA Inc.
  • · PPG Industries, Inc.
  • · Westlake Polymers LLC

Environmental Justice and Refinery Pollution:: Benzene Monitoring Around Oil Refineries Found More Communities at Risk in 2020 - A 2015 federal Clean Air Act rule requires oil refineries to install air pollution monitors at their boundaries to identify benzene emissions escaping into surrounding neighborhoods. Benzene is a well-known carcinogen that contributes to cancer of the blood cells (leukemia) and respiratory ailments, and high concentrations indicate the presence of other air pollutants dangerous to human health.1 Whenever the monitoring results show that benzene levels at refinery fencelines average more than nine micrograms per cubic meter above background levels over a year, the 2015 rule requires the refinery to investigate and take action by cleaning up the emission sources causing the problem. 2 The regulation is designed to keep benzene and other toxins from drifting into communities adjacent to refineries, many of which are lower-income communities of color. Thirteen refineries exceeded EPA’s “action level” in 2020 for the 12 months ending on December 31, 2020, reporting annual benzene concentrations that range from 9.36 micrograms to more than 31 micrograms for the year.3 More than 530,000 people live within three miles of these refineries, with 57 percent being people of color and 43 percent living below the poverty line, according to U.S. Census Bureau and EPA data. 4 The number of facilities over EPA’s action level last year represents more communities at risk from benzene than in 2019, the first year for which data are available, when 11 refineries exceeded EPA’s action level. A refinery owned by the Delek corporation in Krotz Springs, Louisiana, about 45 minutes west of Baton Rouge, topped the 2020 list with benzene concentrations at its fenceline averaging more than 31 micrograms per cubic meter last year. That was more than three times EPA’s action level, and 29 percent worse than the previous year. A public library and a daycare center that serves lowincome children are located a quarter mile from the refinery (see map on page 20.)

Louisiana is home to 5 of the 13 U.S. oil refineries emitting high levels of this carcinogen - A new effort to measure the levels of benzene, a cancer-causing air pollutant, along the perimeters of U.S. refineries found that five of the 13 facilities with the highest levels are in Louisiana. What's more, the refinery with the worst emissions was Delek USA's Krotz Springs refinery, located 45 minutes west of Baton Rouge along the Atchafalaya River, according to the report by the Environmental Integrity Project, a national environmental nonprofit. There, fenceline monitors measured an average net concentration of 31.1 micrograms per cubic meter of benzene. That's more than triple the level allowed before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency steps in.A 2015 EPA rule requires oil refineries to install air pollution monitors on their fencelines to measure how much benzene is escaping into surrounding areas. If the annual average exceeds 9 micrograms per cubic meter, refineries must search for the cause and take steps to fix it.Benzene is a component of oil and gasoline, and Eric Schaeffer, the nonprofit's executive director, said it's not surprising to see it leak out of industrial plants."You're always going to have some, a little bit of benzene in the air around refineries and chemical plants," he said. "But it's also a very potent carcinogen."Studies have found that lifetime exposure to heightened levels of benzene can cause respiratory issues. Air containing more than 13 micrograms per cubic meter presents a heavily increased risk of cancer such as leukemia.

175 Groups Urge Banks Not to Fund Massive 'Cancer Alley' Chemical Plant in Louisiana --Calling a planned petrochemical manufacturing complex in Louisiana's "Cancer Alley" a "textbook case of environmental racism," 175 organizations from around the world sent a letter to financial institutions Tuesday urging them not to fund, underwrite, or invest in the project, which could cost up to $12 billion.The letter — led by the faith-based grassroots group RISE St. James — says that Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group's 2,400-acre Sunshine Project, which is slated to be built in a vulnerable floodplain amid intensifying climate-driven hurricanes and tropical storms," presents an unnecessary burden for our already-polluted community.""We are fighting to protect ourselves from Formosa Plastics' disastrous environmental and human-rights record in the United States and around the world," the letter states.Residents of St. James Parish — nearly half of whom are Black — and environmental advocates strongly oppose the plant, which, if built as planned, will release carcinogenic chemicals and, according to one environmental watchdog, produce 13.6 million tons of planet-heating emissions annually. Formosa Plastics has also come under fire for failing to follow through on a promise to alter the plant's layout to lessen the exposure of nearby residents and schoolchildren to toxins, and for its failure to notify the community of the discovery of a burial ground for enslaved Black people.According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the cancer risk in predominantly Black areas of St. James Parish is as high as 105 per million, compared with 60 to 75 cases per million in majority white areas. The EPA's Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators database reported an 800% cancer hazard increase due to petrochemical facilities in the parish between 2007 and 2018. The Sunshine Project has drawn the attention and condemnation of environmental and racial justice groups,United Nations human rights experts, progressive lawmakers, and others. Last month, Democratic U.S. Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Donald McEachin (Va.) urged President Joe Biden to deliver on his campaign promises to reduce pollution in frontline communities by blocking the project.

GLDD charged with causing oil spill in 2016 -Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company (GLDD) has been charged with violating the Clean Water Act in connection with an oil spill in 2016. According to the Bill of Information, GLDD negligently discharged and caused to be discharged a harmful quantity of oil into a navigable water of the United States, upon adjoining shorelines, and affecting natural resources. The spill took place on September 5, 2016, on the edge of Bay Long near the Chenier Ronquille barrier island, which is east of Grand Isle. If convicted, GLDD faces a possible term of probation and a fine of up to $200,000 or twice the gross gain to the defendant or twice the gross loss to any victim. “A bill of information is merely a charge, and the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” the official statement reads. The case was investigated by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, and the Department of Commerce’s Office of Inspector General.

$302M in BP oil spill money budgeted to restore ecosystems (AP) Texas can get up to $79 million in BP oil spill restoration money, Mississippi nearly $69 million, and Florida almost $74 million for ecosystem recovery projects and programs approved or extended this week. Nearly $80 million more in work crossing state lines is listed among the RESTORE Council''s $302 million worth of projects and programs made public Wednesday as part 2 in a group of proposals that brought $130 million last year to Louisiana, and $26.9 million to Alabama. However, less than half of Wednesday''s total will be provided immediately. Nine of the 20 projects and programs are getting only planning money. The council said it is budgeting $161.5 million in longterm spending to put those plans into action, but they will need more evaluation and later votes. The council, which allocates money from Clean Water Act fines paid by BP and others after the catastrophic 2010 spill, is made up of officials from the five Gulf states and several federal agencies. Gulf-wide programmes OK''d on Wednesday include $11.9 million to continue the Gulf of Mexico Coast Conservation Corps and $927,000 to continue the Tribal Youth Coastal Restoration Programme. “Both seek to enhance the environmental vitality of the area''s natural resources while also building the local coastal restoration workforce and giving young adults the skills and experience needed to find jobs in this field,” the council''s report said. The Nature Conservancy, which runs GulfCorps with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says its grant will create more than 400 jobs for young adults over four years.

US ends oil, gas lease sales from public land through June (AP) — The U.S. Interior Department is cancelling oil and gas lease sales from public lands through June amid an ongoing review of how the program contributes to climate change, officials said Wednesday. The action does not affect existing leases, and the agency has continued to issue new drilling permits during the open-ended review ordered by the White House, said Nada Culver, deputy director of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management. The petroleum industry and its Republican allies in Congress have said the oil and gas moratorium will harm the economies of Western states without putting a significant dent in climate change. There is no end date for the review, but an interim report due this summer could reveal the Biden administration’s long-term plans for lease sales. Sales had been tentatively scheduled in seven states and regions — Nevada, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and the bureau’s eastern region, spokesperson Jeffrey Krauss said. Officials had previously postponed or suspended lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and many of the same states covered in Wednesday’s move.

BLM Scraps 2Q Oil and Gas Lease Sales - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced that it will not hold oil and gas lease sales in the second quarter (2Q) of 2021. The BLM said the decision does not impact existing operations or permits for valid, existing leases, which it said continue to be reviewed and approved. It also noted that it remains committed to managing its programs in a way that restores balance on public lands, creates jobs, and provides a path to align the management of America's public lands with the nation's climate, conservation, and clean energy priorities. The decision to scrap 2Q lease sales comes amid the Interior Department’s ongoing review of the federal oil and gas program. This review is assessing, among other issues, whether the current leasing process provides taxpayers with a fair return for extraction of the nation’s oil and gas resources, how to ensure it complies with applicable laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, and the United States’ trust responsibilities, and how it will take into account climate change and environmental justice, according to the BLM. The organization highlighted that, in recent years, courts have found the current leasing process in violation of various governing laws, invalidating both the BLM’s guidance and a number of lease sales. In connection with the review, the BLM said it will analyze and ensure that any future leasing complies with applicable law— including requirements for evaluating greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts—to better withstand administrative and judicial review. The BLM stated that the Trump administration conducted a fire sale of public lands and waters, offering more than 25 million acres onshore during the past four years. Just 5.6 million of these were purchased, the BLM highlighted. Offshore, more than 78 million acres were offered for lease to oil, gas, and mineral development, and only five million acres were purchased, the BLM noted. Part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. It also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Last month, the senate voted to confirm Debra Haaland to lead the Department of the Interior.

Before U.S. Senate Committee, Critics Blast Biden’s Moratorium on Federal Oil, Gas Lease Sales -Oil and natural gas industry leaders and politicians railed against President Biden’s decision to freeze oil and gas lease sales on federal lands and waters through at least June during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Tuesday.  Government officials, meanwhile, defended the pause as a necessary step as they review the program to identify inefficiencies as well as the benefits of the program versus its impact on climate change.   “Retaining clarity for continuing operations is important while we aggressively work toward a collective transition plan,” said Occidental Petroleum Corp. CEO Vicki Hollub in her testimony. “To that end, administration action should provide regulatory certainty in the short- and long-term,” rather than a moratorium with no stated end date.  In remarks prepared for the hearing, Hollub noted that, like an increasing number of oil and gas companies, the Houston independent, better known as Oxy, is diversifying and committing to using carbon capture technology while working toward a goal of net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050.  However, Hollub said, oil and natural gas will play key roles in the transition between now and then, and drilling on federal land is an important component of the industry’s efforts to meet current energy needs.  Federal onshore drilling permits can take up to a year to earn approval, she explained, which requires operators like Oxy “to plan 18 months ahead of drilling operations. This long lead time means that as we evaluate our completions and geology, well design changes often result in the need to re-permit the same areas,” Hollub said. “Lack of clarity or permitting guidance can extend these times, often increasing the cost and the surface disturbance.”  Hollub and others who spoke at the hearing argued that the Biden administration review could be conducted without halting lease sales. The moratorium not only complicates matters for operators but also costs state governments income they rely upon, said Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma.  From a “small impact on federal lands, the oil and natural gas industry generates about $4.2 billion in federal royalties and leasing revenue” – which is shared with states – “while delivering 288.6 million bbl of oil and 3.4 Tcf of natural gas to meet Americans’ energy needs,” Sgamma said in her prepared remarks. For every dollar spent managing the federal onshore program, Sgamma said the industry “returns 29 times that back to the federal government, an excellent return that funds education, public safety, and other vital health and human services in the West.”Additionally, “we have saved consumers hundreds of billions of dollars by making energy more affordable,” Sgamma said.

U.S. oil lease pause will not hit states' income near term, official says - (Reuters) - Revenues disbursed to states from federal oil and gas leasing are not expected to decline significantly in the near term due to the Biden administration's review of the program, an official said on Tuesday. Nada Culver, deputy director of policy and programs for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, told a Senate committee that no timeline had been set for completing the review, but that the agency did "not anticipate a significant effect on income to states and the Treasury in the near future during this current pause." Most revenues to states come from existing production, Culver said, rather than the new leasing the administration paused earlier this year. "We have thousands of permits available for drilling and millions of acres of land that can be developed right now," Culver said before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee at a hearing on the oil and gas leasing program.

Emails Show Oil Lobby Mobilized Democratic Governors' Opposition To Biden Energy Order --Fossil fuel trade groups in Louisiana and New Mexico rallied Democratic governors in opposition to President Joe Biden’s executive order pausing new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and in offshore waters, newly released emails show. The Biden administration paused new leases on Jan. 27 and launched a major review of the federal oil and gas leasing program. Interior Department officials have said the program currently is “not serving the American public well.” The behind-the-scenes lobbying included the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association (LMOGA) introducing top energy officials in Louisiana and New Mexico to each other. LMOGA also provided the Louisiana official with industry talking points about how restricting oil and gas development would hurt the state’s economy, and it helped ghostwrite a letter that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) sent to Biden arguing, among other things, that confronting climate effects depends on continued offshore fossil fuel development.The communications highlight the growing role regional industry associations play in fighting climate action as pressure mounts on big-name companies and highly visible national groups to put a softer face on regulatory obstruction.Edwards and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) have both spoken out against the Biden administration’s leasing freeze, publicly and in letters to the president. Louisiana joined more than a dozen other states in suing the administration over the executive order, and Lujan Grisham requested New Mexico be exempt from the pause because of its climate change initiatives and greenhouse gas emission reductions. Both states are major oil and gas producers and rely heavily on revenue from fossil fuel development.“These documents show that the Lujan Grisham and Bel Edwards administrations are valuable assets in the oil industry’s fight against President Biden’s public lands policies,” said Jesse Coleman, a senior investigator with the watchdog group Documented.

Enterprise Products sues Texas municipal utility over $100 mln gas bill --(Reuters) - Oil and gas supplier Enterprise Products Partners on Monday sued CPS Energy, a Texas gas and power utility, alleging failure to pay nearly $100 million for natural gas delivered during the state's February winter storm. The lawsuit is the latest to emerge from a severe cold snap that drove prices and demand for natural gas and electricity to hundreds of times their pre-storm levels. Houston gas prices hit $400 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) from about $4.50/mmBtu a week earlier. Enterprise is suing San Antonio municipal utility CPS Energy over payment disputes for sales during the freeze. The suit, filed in a state court in Harris County, Texas, claims CPS owes $99.7 million for gas after paying $36.5 million towards the month's fuel bill. "CPS Energy is now engaging in a coordinated plan to avoid paying its bills," the lawsuit claimed, adding the utility has offered it $38.83/mmBtu for the gas. CPS Energy CEO Paula Gold-Williams said Enterprise had engaged in "egregious price gouging" and that the lawsuit came after it had tried to negotiate the dispute. "CPS Energy is committed to protecting its customers from unconscionable prices charged by certain natural gas suppliers," Gold-Williams said. A spokesman for Enterprise declined to comment, saying it would let the lawsuit speak for itself. CPS Energy, owned by the city of San Antonio, previously sued grid operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas seeking to block it from issuing a default for unpaid power charges. Enterprise next month is expected to report first-quarter earnings that analysts say will benefit from the storm-driven gas price run-up. Kinder Morgan last week reported a roughly $1 billion boost to earnings from selling high-priced natural gas to utilities. Enterprise could post an around $475 million profit from the storm in its coming report, analysts from consultancy East Daley Capital said in a note last week.

Pipeline operator Kinder Morgan posts $1 billion windfall from Texas winter storm -- Kinder Morgan Inc. surprised investors with a $1 billion dollar windfall from the historic winter storm that crippled Texas and boosted natural gas and power prices. The deadly mid-February storm swelled first-quarter results, President Kimberly Dang said during a conference call with investors on Wednesday. The gain was so outsized that the pipeline operator results surpassed the average estimate by almost three times. Kinder Morgan “was not really on anyone’s list of potential winners from Winter Storm Uri,” said Gabriel Moreen, an analyst at Mizuho Americas LLC. “Shame on us.” Kinder disclosed a $116 million net gain from voluntarily curbing power use during the disaster and reselling it at sky-high prices, which implies an $880 million windfall from gas sales. A Kinder Morgan spokesperson declined to comment on the figures. Power producers and utilities across the Lone Star state incurred billions of dollars in losses when the Arctic blast hobbled the electricity grid and disrupted gas deliveries, pushing prices to unprecedented levels. On the other side of that market, Kinder and drillers such as Comstock Resources Inc. reaped fat profits. Investors and analysts will be closely watching for similar positive surprises among Kinder’s pipeline-sector peers as they disclose first-quarter results in coming weeks. “Our storage assets performed exceptionally well, allowing us to deliver gas into the market throughout the storm,” said Chief Executive Officer Steve Kean. “These storage withdrawals, along with gas we purchased before and during the event, enabled us to deliver significant volumes of gas at contractual or prevailing prices.” Much of the extra gas Kinder sold went to power generators whose normal suppliers were shut down or blacked out as the catastrophe intensified, Kean said. The storm may have long-term ramifications for Kinder if costumers pay up to guarantee uninterrupted gas deliveries, which in turn would elevate the value of the company’s conduits and storage facilities, Moreen said in an interview.

BP likely made at least $1 billion during the Texas power crisis - BP likely made more than $1 billion from its energy trading business when natural gas prices skyrocketed during the February winter storm. The British oil major, which has one of the largest trading hubs in North America, on Tuesday said the business had an “exceptional” first quarter in which the company posted a $2.6 billion profit on $6.1 billion of revenue. Analysts had expected BP to report a first-quarter profit of $1.4 billion. BP said it doesn’t disclose trading numbers, but Citigroup analyst Alastair Syme said he estimates the company made a large profit during the storm. “Gains from trading in gas and power are not quantified, but the move in (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) suggest these easily topped $1 billion,” Syme said in a research note to clients. “Although not mentioned by name, we think positioning around the February storm in Texas, Storm Uri, has been the biggest driver of these gains.” An accounting of the energy industry’s winners and losers has emerged in the weeks since the storm and power grid collapse killed nearly 200 Texans and caused billions of dollars in damage. Vistra, the largest power generator in Texas, on Monday said it took a $1.6 billion financial hit as a result of the storm and crisis. Houston pipeline operator Kinder Morgan last week said it earned $1.6 billion after it was able to keep natural gas flowing through its pipelines, in large part because it had invested in safeguards to protect equipment from brutally cold temperatures. Natural gas prices skyrocketed as the winter storm plunged Texas into frigid darkness, causing gas production to fall by nearly half during the storm. Operators of gas-fired power plants said inadequate natural gas deliveries brought some of their operations to a halt, resulting in a cycle in which power outages took out more natural gas production that led to more blackouts. Vistra said it was forced to spend $1.1 billion on natural gas in the spot market at a price of $700 per million British thermal units to keep its natural gas-fired power plants operating during the storm. The company typically contracts for gas at about $3 per million British thermal units. BP said it generated surplus revenue of $1.7 billion during the first quarter, helping it to meet debt reduction targets a year ahead of schedule.

Southern Sells Gas Unit That Made $200 Million Off Freeze - Power provider Southern Company signed an agreement to sell its wholesale gas trading and services business after the unit brought in $200 million during the power crisis in Texas earlier this year.The sale of the utility’s Sequent Energy Management unit was disclosed in an earnings presentation Thursday, but the buyer and the terms of the deal were not revealed.“We did sell our wholesale gas trading business in Houston,” Chief Financial Officer Andrew Evans said in an interview with Bloomberg Thursday, adding that the sale reduces Southern’s risk, and was at book value so the company won’t see material gains or losses.Companies have begun to report profits and losses related to the arctic blast in February that caused widespread power outages across Texas. Last week, Kinder Morgan Inc. divulged a $1 billion gain due to wildly profitable gas sales during the freeze. Others weren’t so lucky. Utility Atmos Energy Corp. racked up $2.5 billion in fuel costs during the disaster.Southern, one of the biggest power providers in the U.S., donated about $75 million of the income made during the energy crisis to its community partners, Evans said on a conference call with analysts Thursday.Meanwhile, the Sequent deal was reached Wednesday evening, said Southern Chief Executive Officer Tom Fanning in the interview. The deal has been signed, but hasn’t closed yet. Both Evans and Fanning declined to name the buyer.

TEXAS BLACKOUTS: Energy CEO: 'We have to fix' natural gas -- Tuesday, April 27, 2021 -- Vistra Corp., Texas' largest power producer, singled out natural gas yesterday as the leading cause of a projected $1.6 billion financial hit to the company after February's winter storm and power outages.

$7B Gasoline Manufacturing Facility Planned for Texas --The Odessa Development Corporation and Nacero Inc have announced plans to build a $6.5 billion to $7 billion lower carbon gasoline manufacturing facility at a site in Penwell, Texas. The facility will be built in two phases, with phase one producing 70,000 barrels per day of gasoline component ready for blending and phase two increasing that capacity to 100,000 barrels per day, a statement posted on Nacero’s website revealed. The gasoline produced at the facility will contain no sulfur and will have half the lifecycle carbon footprint of traditional gasoline, according to the company, which said the gasoline will be made from a combination of natural gas, captured bio-methane, and mitigated flare gas. Construction of the Penwell facility, which is scheduled to begin before the end of the year, will employ a peak of 3,500 skilled workers during the four years of phase one construction, Nacero revealed. When fully operational, the plant will employ 350 full time operators and maintenance personnel in three shifts with a forecast annual salary of approximately $85,000 per person, the company noted. All of the plant’s electricity will come from renewable sources, according to Nacero, which said the plant will be the first in the U.S. to make gasoline from natural gas and the first in the world to do so with carbon capture and sequestration. The Odessa Development Corporation and the Economic Development Department of the Odessa Chamber of Commerce led negotiations that resulted in Penwell being chosen for the facility. “Ector County is the ideal location for us,” Nacero President and Chief Executive Officer Jay McKenna said in a company statement. “From a geographic and logistics standpoint you can’t beat it. We will be a major new market and beneficial home for the natural gas that is currently flared in the Permian Basin,” he added. Odessa Development Corporation Chairman Tim Edgmon said, “this project proves once again that West Texas in general, and Odessa in particular, leads the nation in energy innovation and production”.

ExxonMobil prepares to lock out hundreds of workers at Beaumont, Texas refinery ---Oil workers are heading into a major class battle as ExxonMobil prepares to lock out 650 workers at its Beaumont, Texas, refinery on Saturday unless they capitulate to its demands for further givebacks. The US-based multinational is already hiring potential strikebreakers to man its refining and packaging plant, which is located 85 miles east of Houston. In the face of this, the United Steelworkers (USW) has left the refinery workers isolated and has also signaled its willingness to abandon workers’ elemental demands for improved staffing levels and safety standards. The stage was set for ExxonMobil’s attack by the USW’s betrayal of the 2015 strike by more than 6,550 workers at 15 facilities. Throughout that months-long struggle, the USW kept tens of thousands of other oil workers on the job, including Beaumont workers, despite their willingness to join in a common struggle. It is clear the USW plans to acquiesce to ExxonMobil’s demands. On Wednesday evening, the USW agreed to an “orderly transfer” of the refinery to temporary workers if ExxonMobil locks out union-affiliated workers on Saturday. Union representative Richard “Hoot” Landry said union officials met with the company as early as Monday to discuss the possibility of a transfer. “We are communicating and preparing communications to the company because the union is ready and able to do whatever is necessary to meet with them and work toward a new agreement,” Landry told the Enterprise . USW Local 13–243 has 650 members at the oil refinery and adjacent lubricants blending and packaging plant. The complex has a production capacity of 369,024 barrels per day and is in the middle of an expansion project that could make it the largest refining facility in North America. The company and union have been negotiating since January on a contract to replace the agreement the USW forced through in 2015, when the refinery’s expansion began.

Big Oil Sees Cash Rolling In-- After one of the most difficult years in the oil industry’s history, crude prices have recovered and major producers are finally generating spare cash. Investors really want to get their hands on it, but most are likely to be disappointed. That’s because the pandemic has created a legacy of debt for the world’s biggest international oil companies, many of which borrowed to fund their dividends as prices crashed. For Exxon Mobil Corp. and Total SE, which bore the financial strain of maintaining shareholder payouts last year, any extra cash will go to easing debt. Chevron Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc have said they want to resume buybacks, but not yet. Only BP Plc is dangling the possibility that shareholder returns could improve soon, after a year and a half of flip-flopping over its payout policy. The coming week’s first-quarter results should show a significant improvement in both profit and cash flow after a dire 2020, but probably nothing that will change investors’ disenchantment with the oil majors. “They have limited appeal as long-term investments because they can’t demonstrate that they can deliver cash flow on a sustainable basis and return it on a sustainable basis,” said Christyan Malek, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s head of EMEA oil and gas. “The key is consistency. We haven’t had any.” The first quarter will be an inflection point for the industry, according to JPMorgan. Company data and estimates compiled by Bloomberg show free cash flow -- what’s left after operational spending and investment -- is set to rebound to $80 billion for the five supermajors this year, compared with about $4 billion in 2020. Shell will be the top of heap with about $22 billion, Exxon will total $19 billion and even lowest-ranked BP will have about $11 billion. That will be enough for each of the five majors to cover their planned 2021 dividends and together have more than $35 billion left over.

Chevron Posts Bumper Cash Flow   -- Chevron Corp. generated the most free cash flow since the pandemic emerged as economies clawing their way out of more than a year of lockdowns and paralysis burn more fuel. The oil, natural gas and refining titan posted $3.4 billion in first-quarter cash flow on Friday, more than enough to cover its recently increased dividend, which is a closely watched metric for the oil supermajors. A key driver of the bonanza was a 43% spending cut as Chevron retreats from costly mega-projects to focus on less-risky endeavors such as shale drilling. The shares dropped 2% in pre-market trading. Despite the cash-flow increase, the company said it’s waiting for market conditions to improve before reinstating share buybacks. Chevron disclosed adjusted per-share profit of 90 cents, according to a statement, matching the average of analysts’ forecasts compiled by Bloomberg. Chevron followed European peers Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc in signaling the worst may be over from the dual menace of a worldwide glut and demand-killing Covid-19 lockdowns. Amid the brightening outlook, significant challenges remain. Chevron’s U.S. refining network lost money for the third time in four quarters, while its overseas fuel-making plants slashed crude-processing by 16% to cope with anemic demand for transportation fuels. The company also cited the negative impacts of the deadly winter storm that afflicted Texas in mid-February. Chevron flexed its financial might earlier this week by becoming the first Western supermajor to raise dividends above pre-pandemic levels. BP, Shell and Total SE all posted better-than-expected results in recent days, largely on the back of the crude-market rebound. Combined cash flow of the European giants exceeded $25 billion for the first time since late 2019. BP said it would begin buying back shares while Shell flagged a dividend increase.

Mich. lawmakers propose $250M natural gas fund  The Michigan Legislature is considering allocating $250 million to help utilities build out natural gas infrastructure, while a separate proposal would require the state to study the use of biogas, which the utilities have branded “renewable natural gas.” The subsidy, which was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday and will likely be voted on Tuesday, is strongly opposed by environmental groups and some Democrats. “This is crony capitalism at its worst and this is not what the government should be doing with these dollars,” said Democratic Minority House Leader Yousef Rabhi. “The utilities have raked in $2B in profits during the pandemic, and they should be spending that money to ensure more people have access to gas. It shouldn’t be up to the taxpayers.” The bill is largely designed to expand natural gas infrastructure to areas of the state’s Upper Peninsula with homes that are now predominantly heated with propane. With the impending shutdown of the Line 5 gas pipeline, which delivers propane to about 15% of the region’s homes, propane suppliers will soon be forced to truck in propane, which may slightly increase costs. The shutdown order sparked a conversation about energy delivery in the Upper Peninsula. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force on March 31 delivered ideas on how to improve energy delivery and reliability in the region. Among its suggestions are electrification, increased coordination among utilities, and investment in energy efficiency projects. The task force did not call for expanding infrastructure for natural gas, which heats about 57% of the peninsula’s buildings and homes. The legislation would create a “natural gas expansion fund.” The state’s private utilities could pull from the $250 million pot for projects that expand service to currently “underserved or unserved” areas. The bill claims that the program would help improve “reliability and stability of energy delivery” to those parts of the state while lowering customers’ energy costs.

Michigan regulators will consider climate change in Line 5 decision - - The fate of the Line 5 pipeline is officially a climate issue in the eyes of Michigan regulators.The Michigan Public Service Commission on Wednesday ruled that it must consider evidence on greenhouse gas pollution caused by petroleum flowing through Line 5 as it decides whether Canadian oil giant Enbridge energy can relocate the pipeline inside of a tunnel designed to extend the pipeline’s life span in the Straits of Mackinac. Pipeline opponents called the decision historic: It’s the first time Michigan regulators have factored greenhouse gas emissions into their scrutiny of a project’s environmental impacts under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act.“It makes clear that our understanding of what counts as pollution changes over time, and our agencies and courts need to change with that,” said Margrethe Kearney, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which fought to include a consideration of climate change as a factor in the commission’s ruling. Enbridge, which had fought to keep climate change off the table, issued its own statement that did not address the commission’s climate findings. The statement said the company is “pleased” that commissioners rejected other attempts by its opponents to turn the commission’s deliberations into a review of the company’s entire pipeline system.“Our aim is simple,” a company statement read. “To replace the two pipelines in the Straits with an even safer pipeline encased in a concrete tunnel well below the lakebed.”The decision comes just weeks ahead of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s May 13 deadline for Enbridge to stop transporting petroleum through the existing lakebottom pipes  — an order Enbridge has vowed to defy.In hopes of extending the pipeline’s life amid public concern about the risk of an oil spill in the Straits from the 68-year-old lakebottom line, Enbridge wants to relocate a 4-mile segment of Line 5 inside of a concrete tunnel deep below the lakebed.The commission, which regulates pipeline siting in Michigan, must decide whether Enbridge can move the pipeline into the proposed tunnel. Enbridge is also awaiting permits to build the tunnel itself. As commissioners considered how broadly to scope their review of the relocation plan, environmentalists pushed them to weigh broad impacts of the pipeline, including its role as a conduit for environmentally damaging greenhouse gases. Enbridge, meanwhile, had urged the commission to take the narrowest possible view, considering only the immediate consequences of moving the pipeline.

Tribal Nation Challenges Pipeline Permit Approval -The Bay Mills Indian Community has challenged a permit issued to Enbridge Energy by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) that would allow Enbridge to build a massive tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac to house a new segment of its Line 5 pipeline. EGLE, despite recommendations from the MI State Historic Preservation Office and opposition from Tribal Nations, granted the permit before the key cultural and archaeological studies were completed — studies that were required by law as part of EGLE’s evaluation of the tunnel permit application.“It is incredibly disturbing to learn that EGLE approved this permit without performing sufficient analysis into this pipeline’s far-reaching impacts on our cultural resources and treaty-protected fish and plant populations,” saidWhitney Gravelle, President and Chairwoman of the Bay Mills Indian Community. “Side-stepping the concerns of Tribal Nations and rubber-stamping this project before the necessary studies were completed signals a deeply concerning indifference to Tribal sovereignty.”Earthjustice, in partnership with the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), represents the Bay Mills Indian Community in the Tribe’s fight to protect the Straits and the Tribe’s treaty rights throughout waters in Michigan.“EGLE sidelined the concerns of the Tribal Nations and the State Historic Preservation Office, a sister agency with expertise over historic preservation and cultural landscapes in Michigan, and ignored its statutory obligation to evaluate the Project’s effects on historic and cultural resources,” saidEarthjustice Attorney Adam Ratchenski.“Enbridge has failed to justify how this pipeline tunnel will be in the public interest while disturbing an area of such historic and cultural significance as the Straits of Mackinac”, said Native American Rights Fund attorney David Gover. “This permit was granted without the adequate information necessary to address the grave concerns of the Tribal Nations who stand the most at-risk from its approval.

Frustrated Canada presses White House to keep Great Lakes oil pipeline open (Reuters) - Canada is pushing on several diplomatic fronts against the U.S. state of Michigan's efforts to close a cross-border oil pipeline, the second such dispute since Joe Biden became U.S. president in January, complicating the governments' efforts to work together to lower carbon emissions. The conflict over the aging but key pipeline highlights the disruptions caused by a global shift away from fossil fuels. Both governments are working to accelerate the energy transition, but their oil industries are interdependent, so a policy shift in one country can affect energy supply, and the political balance, in the other. The United States imports more crude from Canada than any other nation, at about 3.7 million barrels per day, or about 80%of Canada's crude output. Ottawa's strategy, according to four sources familiar with the government's thinking, is to repeatedly raise the issue of Enbridge Inc's Line 5 with numerous U.S. counterparts - including Biden - to get them to pressure Michigan's Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer to keep the pipeline open. Last November, Michigan ordered Line 5 to shut by May 13, citing the environmental risk of a possible leak in the four-mile (6-km) stretch of the 540,000-bpd line passing under the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes. The White House has shown no sign of responding to Canadian entreaties, so Ottawa is considering more drastic options, including a threat to invoke an obscure bilateral treaty to keep Line 5 operating or intervene in the legal dispute currently playing out in U.S. courts. Line 5, which flows crude oil and refined products from Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario, via Michigan, has been in operation for nearly 70 years, but officials in Michigan are increasingly alarmed by its advanced age. The line has never leaked into the straits but there have been at least eight other spills since 1980, according to U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration data. The imbroglio over Line 5 comes just three months after Biden angered the Canadian oil and gas industry by cancelling a permit for the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline project on his first day in office. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government reluctantly accepted that decision, even though it killed thousands of construction jobs and further soured Ottawa's relationship with the main energy-producing province of Alberta. Ottawa has resolved to fight publicly to keep Line 5 open, which - unlike Keystone - is already operating and a vital link in Enbridge's export network that ships the vast majority of crude from Canada's western oil patch to the United States.

Oil pipeline disputes raise tensions between U.S. and Canada (AP) — Months after President Joe Biden snubbed Canadian officials by canceling Keystone XL, an impending showdown over a second crude oil pipeline threatens to further strain ties between the two neighbors that were frayed during the Trump administration. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a top Biden ally, ordered Canadian energy company Enbridge last fall to shut down its Line 5 — a key piece of a crude delivery network from Alberta’s oil fields to refineries in the U.S. Midwest and eastern Canada. Whitmer’s demand pleased environmentalists and tribes who have long considered the pipeline, which reaches 645 miles (1,038 kilometers) across northern Wisconsin and Michigan, ripe for a spill that could devastate two Great Lakes. A section roughly 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) long crosses the bottom of Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The area is a popular tourist destination, and several tribes have treaty-protected commercial fishing rights in the straits. But with the governor’s May 12 shutdown deadline approaching, Canadian officials are lining up behind Enbridge as it contests the order in U.S. court and says it won’t comply. The Calgary-based company says Whitmer is overstepping her authority and that the 68-year-old pipeline is sound. “Our government supports the continued safe operation of Enbridge’s Line 5,” Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s minister of natural resources, told The Associated Press in an email. “It is a vital part of Canadian energy security, and I have been very clear that its continued operation is non-negotiable.” A Canadian House of Commons committee this month warned of dire consequences from a shutdown: job losses, fuel shortages and traffic nightmares as 23 million gallons (87 million liters) of petroleum liquids transported daily through Line 5 are shifted to trucks and rail cars considered more susceptible to accidents.

Could an ancient, submerged cultural site stop Enbridge's Great Lakes pipeline? - The battles over Enbridge Energy's Line 5 pipeline and proposed tunnel project continue to escalate. For more than a year, archaeological discoveries in the Straits of Mackinac have caused concerns not only among field experts and environmental activists, but especially among Indigenous tribes because the history of their cultures is potentially at stake. At its basis are laws provided to multiple tribes under the umbrella of the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, as part of the 1836 Treaty of Washington. The tribes include Bay Mills Indian Community, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Odawa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Andrea Pierce, chair and founder of the Anishinaabek Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party and member of Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, joined tribal members and environmentally conscious brethren to investigate. The caucus, with the aid of water advocates like Terri Wilkerson and Little Traverse Bay Bands citizen Fred Harrington, Jr., conducted side-scan sonar to see if something was amiss. Video footage and photographs taken during the excursions revealed a circle of stones thought to be part of a cultural site from as far back as 10,000 years ago, near the end of the Ice Age. "It's not just one little circle we're talking about," says Wilkerson, a retired real estate broker from Pinckney. "It's quite expansive. We're not talking about a 20-by-20-foot area." Similar rock formations have been located near Grand Traverse Bay and Beaver Island.

Nearly 50% of spring hearing respondents oppose new Line 5 (AP) — Almost half of the respondents to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress’ spring hearings questionnaire say they would support the organization if it opposes reconstructing Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 pipeline across northern Wisconsin. The company decided to reroute the pipeline after the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa sued to force removal of the line from its reservation. The company is seeking permits from the Department of Natural Resources and state utility regulators to reroute the line. The Conservation Congress is a group of influential outdoor enthusiasts that advises the DNR on policy. The congress’ spring hearing questionnaire earlier this month said the line is aging and should be decommissioned. The questionnaire asked respondents if they would support the congress should it oppose construction to replace the portion of line that runs across the reservation. Respondents could file their answers online from April 12 through April 15. ADVERTISEMENT Nearly half of Wisconsin residents who responded during the three-day virtual response period — about 48% — said they would support the congress’ opposition. A little more than a third — about 38% — said they would not support a stance opposing the reconstruction and 16% were undecided. About 49% of all respondents, including those from outside Wisconsin, said they would support congress opposition. Thirty-four percent said they would not support opposition and about 17% were undecided. Only 165 respondents were from outside the state. The breakdown was the same to a question asking if respondents would support congress opposition to DNR permits for the reconstruction, with about 47% saying they would support opposition and about 34% saying they wouldn’t with about 18% undecided. The percentages were the same for both Wisconsin residents and all respondents.

Labor union study says St. Paul Park refinery becoming less safe - A large labor union said Marathon Petroleum has increasingly compromised safety at its St. Paul Park refinery, including dismantling part of its in-house fire department. Marathon, which bought the refinery in 2018, bristled at the allegations, saying that its firefighting capabilities are "robust" and that it has an "outstanding safety record." The report issued by the Laborers Union comes three months after the start of an ongoing labor dispute at the Marathon St. Paul Park refinery. The Laborers are not directly involved in that dispute, but they represent workers at union contractors that have been replaced by nonunion contractors at Marathon. Ohio-based Marathon, the nation's largest oil refinery company, has continued operating the plant with management employees from St. Paul Park and its other refineries. Marathon acquired the St. Paul Park refinery in 2018 as part of its $23 billion buyout of Andeavor LLC. Since then, union leaders said Marathon has increasingly relied on nonunion contractors — from repair projects carried out by pipe fitters to cleaning work by laborers. "It has moved from overwhelmingly union contractors to nonunion contractors from out of state," At the same time, Marathon has let safety slip at St. Paul Park, according to the report, which is largely built on interviews with striking in-plant employees and workers from outside contractors. Workers provided "multiple examples" of "hydrocarbon" — oil and gas — releases or chemical releases due to contractors' errors, the report said. They also told of unsafe work conditions, including improper handling of flammable chemicals. And workers brought in to replace union tradesworkers had an "obvious lack of experience and training," the Laborers' report said.M

Worker group alleges unsafe practices at Marathon Minnesota refinery (Reuters) - Inadequate safety standards at Marathon Petroleum's St. Paul Park refinery in Minnesota have caused avoidable hydrocarbon and chemical releases that pose a threat to the community, a local worker advocacy group said in a report on Sunday, as a lockout of unionized plant workers extends into its third month. The report by Local Jobs North, a union-backed organization, said that lax safety standards at the plant led to mistakes that could have ignited volatile hydrocarbons. It also cited inadequate installation of safety controls for pipe repair operations and use of poorly constructed scaffolding. The report, which was reviewed by Reuters, said that Marathon eliminated dedicated safety positions and removed experienced maintenance contractors to save on costs after taking over the plant in 2018. The report was based largely on information from employees who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation, according to its co-author Kevin Pranis, marketing manager for the Laborers' International Union of North America branch in Minnesota and North Dakota. Despite a general improvement in safety metrics at U.S. refineries, there have been some incidents at these facilities in recent years that have killed and injured workers as a result of aging equipment and human error, often by untrained employees. Marathon said it selects contractors through a comprehensive evaluation process, that they receive training for specific roles and meet federal and state regulations, and that independent auditors vet contractor health and safety programs.

DOE: Granholm enters Line 3 debate with call for 'clean' pipelines -- Monday, April 26, 2021 --Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm gave a thumbs-down at a CNN climate town hall to a Minnesota oil conduit environmentalists have targeted, though she acknowledged that the project isn't in her department.

PUC rejects investigating increased Enbridge oil shipments -  The oil flow through Enbridge's pipelines across northern Minnesota has grown significantly since the company set out to build its new Line 3. Honor the Earth, an Indigenous environmental group, in October asked for the state's utility regulators to investigate that change in volume, saying it negated the need for the $3 billion replacement for the existing Line 3. The Public Utility Commission (PUC) on Thursday declined to investigate in a 5-0 vote. The commissioners agreed with Enbridge that the panel lacked jurisdiction because its approval of the Line 3 project is now in front of the Minnesota Court of Appeals. "I don't want the court to somehow look at us as trying to interfere with its jurisdiction," said John Tuma, a PUC commissioner. "If we start monkeying around with the record, it could cause a delay at the Court of Appeals." Paul Blackburn, an attorney for Honor the Earth, said the record for the appeal is already set and wouldn't be reopened just to account for the group's complaint about Enbridge. Honor the Earth and other environmental groups, along with three Ojibwe bands, appealed the PUC's 2020 approval of Line 3. They said, among other things, that Enbridge's demand forecasts for the pipeline were faulty. The Minnesota Department of Commerce also has appealed the PUC's Line 3 approval on the oil demand issue. The appeals court held oral arguments on March 23. A decision, which could halt work on the pipeline, is due by June 21. Oil volume on Enbridge's Minnesota system rose steadily in the late 2010s, climbing past an annual average of more than 2.8 million barrels per day as the company increased its operating efficiency. The new Line 3 would add about 375,000 barrels per day of capacity to Enbridge's corridor of six pipelines across Minnesota. During the hearings for Line 3, Enbridge had reported that the system's effective capacity was just over 2.4 million barrels per day, meaning the company has added 400,000 barrels per day in capacity. Thus, Honor the Earth claims Enbridge provided incorrect information to the PUC during the Line 3 hearings.

Appeals court denies new hearing over Dakota Access pipeline permit - A federal appeals court on Friday declined to rehear a ruling against the Dakota Access pipeline after it agreed in January that its permit violated federal law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld its January decision, which agreed with a lower court that the pipeline’s federal easement was a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. The court declined without explanation to review that earlier decision. Dakota Access, the pipeline company behind the project, will likely seek to have the case heard by the Supreme Court, although the federal government has dropped its backing of the company. In its January decision, the appeals court ruled the pipeline’s easement was not subject to sufficient environmental review. In a separate case, a federal district court is considering a request from pipeline opponents, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, to shut down the pipeline over the easement issues. Although President Biden rescinded the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline as one of his first acts in office, the Justice Department has so far declined to halt the Dakota Access pipeline during the regulatory review process. This has caught the ire of a number of environmental groups that backed Biden in the presidential race, including the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. “President Biden campaigned and was elected on the boldest climate platform ever. Minutes after being sworn in, Biden began taking real, meaningful climate action,” Sierra Club Director Michael Brune said in a statement earlier this month. “Yet, President Biden’s actions today fail to live up to the climate and Tribal commitments he made, nor is it in line with the bold action he has taken since taking office.” The Hill has reached out to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for comment.

Dakota Access loses appeals bid, setting the stage for a second shutdown showdown in Boasberg's court --Dakota Access has lost its bid for an appeal of a decision that vacated their permits last year and required more environmental study of the crossing 90 feet under Lake Oahe. That means things are still on track for a second shutdown showdown. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday declined to reconsider its decision upholding a lower court decision that vacated permits for Dakota Access and required the Corps to conduct additional environmental study due to the pipeline’s controversial nature. The appeals court’s order denying DAPL’s appeal offers little insight into the court’s reasoning. The decision leaves Dakota Access with dwindling options for appeal — the Supreme Court, which does not always take such cases up. This sets the stage for a second hearing into the shutdown question, which has already been proceeding concurrently with the appeals process. Dakota Access filed an updated estimate of economic harm caused by a shutdown in Boasberg’s court on that question Monday. The statement is a key metric Boasberg will have to consider in his decision, and it now includes the sworn testimony of MHA Nation’s Chairman Mark Fox, who said his tribe would lose $160 million in a one-year period and $250 million in a two-year period if the pipeline shuts down. Fox has also sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seeking one-on-one consultation on the pipeline’s continuity, in which he states that Dakota Access carries more than 60 percent of the Fort Berthold Reservation’s oil to market. A response to DAPL’s updated estimate are expected Monday from the Standing Rock Sioux and other parties opposing the pipeline, which will be another key metric in Boasberg’s consideration. North Dakota on Monday also filed a motion to intervene in the case, saying that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has abandoned its leadership role and no longer adequately represents the interests of the state. The motion followed a status report earlier this month in which the Biden administration said oil could continue to flow on the Dakota Access pipeline. That irked environmental and tribal groups, who had pressed the President to take direct action to shut the pipeline down. North Dakota, however, was also irked that the Corps didn’t take a strong stand defending their permit, and indicated its defense of the permit might not be as vigorous as before. The federal agency also said it is constantly evaluating the situation and could at any time change its position. North Dakota in its motion to intervene said it has a vital interest in defending its permitting processes, which were responsible for 358 miles of the Dakota Access pipeline’s 1,172-mile route. The Corps is responsible for just the 1.73 mile crossing 90 feet below Lake Oahe.

Judge orders Army Corps update on Dakota Access pipeline by May 3 -- A federal judge ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide an update by May 3 on when it plans to complete an environmental review of the Dakota Access oil pipeline and whether it recommends the line should shut during the review process, court records showed on Monday. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is considering a request by Native American tribes to shut the 557,000 barrel per day crude oil line out of North Dakota while the review is carried out. The Army Corps at a hearing earlier this month said it expects the review would be completed by March 2022, but it has not made a recommendation about whether to close the line during that process.

Judge gives U.S. 2nd chance to offer Dakota Access pipeline opinion -  — A federal judge faced with a motion on whether the Dakota Access oil pipeline north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation should be shut down during an environmental review is giving the Biden administration another chance to weigh in on the issue.U.S. District Judge James Boasberg held a hearing earlier this month to give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers an opportunity to explain whether oil should continue to flow during its study, after an appeals panel upheld Boasberg's ruling that the pipeline was operating without a key federal permit. The Corps instead told the judge it wasn't sure if it should be shut down.The decision not to intervene came as a bitter disappointment to Standing Rock, other tribes involved in the lawsuit and environmental groups. Even the judge appeared to be taken aback when the Corps opted to shrug its shoulders."I too am a little surprised that this is where things stand 60 days later," Boasberg said at the hearing, referring to the three months he gave the Biden administration to catch up on proceedings. "I would have thought there would be a decision one way or another at this point."Boasberg said in a one sentence order filed late Monday that the Corps has until May 3 to tell him when it expects the environmental review to be completed and give "its position, if it has one," on whether the pipeline should be shut down. The Corps said earlier it expected the review to be done by March 2022. Attorneys for the pipeline's Texas-based owner, Energy Transfer, have argued that shuttering the pipeline now that economic conditions are improving would cause a major financial hit to several entities, including North Dakota, and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation located in the state's oil patch.

Oil-rich Bakken Shale shows promise of natural gas growth despite fewer rigs --Although oil production in most US shale basins is not expected to reach pre-coronavirus levels until at least late 2023, additional processing and higher gas-to-oil ratios might still lead to natural gas growth in the oil-rich Bakken. Oneok increased its first-quarter natural gas and natural gas liquids volumes processed in the Williston Basin and plans to bring another 200 MMcf/d of processing capacity online before year-end, which will further reduce flaring in North Dakota. Gas volumes processed in the Rocky Mountain region increased 5% while NGL raw feed throughput volumes grew 20%, the company reported in its first-quarter 2021 earnings call on April 28. This occurred despite winter storm production freeze-offs in February and lower year-over-year drilling activity in the region. "The Williston Basin continues to surpass our expectations," Oneok CEO Terry Spencer said. "Our increased operations were not reliant on increased rig activity or commodity prices. Instead, it is based on DUC inventory, rising gas to oil ratios and increased ethane demand." Oneok chief operations officer Kevin Burdick said: "There are 350 DUC wells on our dedicated acreage. With eight completion crews, there is no need for additional drilling or completion crews to maintain our volumes throughout the year. Any additional activity would provide upside." With more than 200 MMcf/d of natural gas still being flared in the Bakken, according to the latest data by the North Dakota Industrial Commission, more volumes of gas can still be captured even if production stagnates for the foreseeable future, especially with wells demonstrating higher gas-to-oil ratios. The company is moving forward with its 200 MMcf/d Bear Creek natural gas processing plant expansion and related infrastructure in the Williston Basin, which is slated for completion in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Continental Resources ramping up Bakken operations, adds rigs to Powder River Basin -- (Reuters) - Shale oil producer Continental Resources on Thursday said it will ramp up activity in North Dakota’s Bakken shale field this year as it shifts more of its production operations to crude oil from natural gas.  The company said roughly 70% of its well completions in the second half of the year will be focused on the Bakken versus about 50% of completions at the start of the year. The shift comes as the company is re-orienting its production portfolio to focus more heavily on oil, Chief Executive Officer Bill Berry told investors during an earnings call. U.S. oil prices have rebounded as coronavirus vaccine roll-outs pick up pace, and were trading around $64 a barrel on Thursday, versus around $15 a barrel a year ago as coronavirus lockdowns crushed fuel demand and battered the oil market. “We see supply and demand is coming back into balance and that bodes well for commodity prices in the future,” Continental Executive Chairman Harold Hamm told investors. There remains a supply overhang in the market, and upward momentum in oil prices largely depends on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) “functioning as they do and have been,” he said.

Senate votes to restore Obama-era regulation of methane, a climate-warming gas --The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted to reverse former President Donald Trump's move to weaken Obama-era regulations designed to reduce climate-changing methane emissions from oil and gas fields. The 52-42 vote sets up the first official reinstatement of one of more than 100 climate regulations dismantled by the Trump administration. Regulating methane, a primary component of natural gas, is critical for advancing President Joe Biden's goal to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half from 2005 levels over the next decade and achieve a net-zero economy by 2050. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, Angus King, I-ME, and Edward Markey, D-Mass., introduced the resolution under the Congressional Review Act, a law which allows Congress to quickly overturn a previous administration's regulations with a simple majority vote and a signature from the president. The Democratic-held House is expected to approve the measure and send it to President Joe Biden. The White House supports the passage of the bill, according to a statement on Tuesday from the Office of Management and Budget. Passing the bill would reinstate the 2012 and 2016 Oil and Natural Gas New Source Performance Standards set by the Obama administration. The Trump administration's rollback last year eliminated federal requirements for oil and gas companies to monitor and repair methane leaks from pipelines, storage facilities and wells. Three Republican senators voted for the bill: Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rob Portman of Ohio. Trump's effort to dismantle the rule was a victory for the oil and gas industry, which comprises nearly 30% of U.S. methane emissions. Smaller oil and gas companies and fossil fuel lobbyists who supported Trump's rollback have argued that methane regulations are too expensive. Major oil and gas companies like BP, Shell and Exxon, who have promoted natural gas as a cleaner fuel than coal, have voiced support for methane regulation. A spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry's largest trade group, said the group is working with the Biden administration "in support of the direct regulation of methane for new and existing sources through a new rulemaking process."

California governor seeks ban on new fracking by 2024 (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday said California will stop issuing fracking permits by 2024 and halt all oil drilling by 2045, using his authority to take on the state’s powerful oil and gas industry in a year he will likely face voters in a recall election. Newsom’s order is the beginning of a lengthy rule-making process that, if successful, would make California the largest state to ban fracking and likely the first in the world to set a deadline for the end of all oil production. “California needs to move beyond oil,” Newsom said in a news release, arguing it would “create a healthier future for our children.” California was once one of the largest oil-producing states in the nation, with a robust industry centered in the Central Valley just north of Los Angeles. But by 2020, the state’s oil production fell to its lowest level in state history, down 68% from its peak in 1985. Now, one of the state’s top exports is electric cars. The state has ordered automakers to sell more electric work trucks and delivery vans and, last year, Newsom ordered state regulators to ban the sale of all new gas-powered cars by 2035. Still, California is the seventh-largest oil producing state in the country, with an industry that directly employs about 152,000 people and is responsible for $152.3 billion in economic output, according to a 2019 study commissioned by the Western States Petroleum Association. Friday, WSPA President and CEO Catherine Reheis-Boyd vowed “to fight this harmful and unlawful mandate.” “Banning nearly 20% of the energy production in our state will only hurt workers, families and communities in California and turns our energy independence over to foreign suppliers,” she said. Eliminating California’s oil and gas industry won’t be easy. The state has more than 60,000 active oil wells, and industry executives and their allies have lots of influence at the state Capitol. But in the first quarter of 2021, permits for all types of oil drilling in California plunged 90%, according to an analysis of state data by FracTracker Alliance, an environmental advocacy group.

California's New Fossil Fuel Pledge Is Still a 'Half-Measure,' Say Climate Advocates --Climate campaigners on Friday cautiously applauded California Gov. Gavin Newsom's moves to cut off new hydraulic fracturing permits by 2024 and evaluate phasing out oil production by 2045, while also stressing that the timeline still needs to be accelerated.The embattled Democratic governor of the world's fifth-largest economy directed the state Department of Conservation's Geologic Energy Management (CalGEM) Division to initiate regulatory action to stop new fracking permits and requested that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) analyze how to stop extracting oil statewide."It's historic and globally significant that Gov. Newsom has committed California to phase out fossil fuel production and ban fracking, but we don't have time for studies and delays," said Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement."Californians living next to these dirty and dangerous drilling operations need protection from oil industry pollution today," she added. "Every fracking and drilling permit issued does more damage to our health and climate."Food & Water Watch California director Alexandra Nagy agreed that the governor's steps were significant andshared Siegel's frustrations with Newsom's refusal to immediately ban fracking by executive action."This announcement is a half-measure as it allows continued drilling and fracking for the next two-and-a-half years," Nagy said. "Directing his regulatory agencies to do the work over two-and-a-half years that the governor can do today is more of the dodging we've seen from Newsom during his entire tenure." Since taking office in January 2019, he has approved 8,610 oil and gas well permits, according to Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker's "Newsom Well Watch" website.

End fracking exemptions, a threat to maternal and public health - Chelsea Clinton, et al -  The adoption of safe, clean, renewable energy is an essential element for sustaining the U.S. economy and maintaining the health of its citizens. There are many paths to these goals. Hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, is not one of them. To protect communities across the country today — from the Santa Maria Basin in California to the Appalachian Mountains in northern New York — as well as future generations, the country must rapidly phase out harmful fracking. Environmental pollutants caused by fracking are known risk factors for congenital heart defects, hormonal disruption, maternal stress, and preterm birth. Fracking rigs have become so abundant in the U.S. that their flares can now be seen from NASA satellites. An estimated 17 million Americans live within 1 mile of a fracking site.At a time when the world is grappling with the imminence and enormity of climate change, the continuation of fracking operations moves the U.S. away from its climate goals, not toward them. More immediately, the industry’s ability to avoid federal environmental regulation — and harm the health of the communities where fracking is being conducted — is alarming. In 2005 under the Bush-Cheney administration, the Energy Policy Act freed fracking from regulations required by the Environmental Protection Agency’s underground injection control program, which is designed to protect underground drinking water sources. This set of exemptions became known as the Halliburton loophole, named after the first fracking company, Halliburton, for which then-Vice President Dick Cheney was the former CEO.  The frightening reality of the Halliburton loophole is that it allows companies to inject massive amounts of potentially harmful chemicals into the earth and pollute the air without disclosing what they are doing. The fracking industry has sidestepped an astonishing list of federal regulations, including the Clean Water Act; the Clean Air Act; theResource Conservation and Recovery Act; the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory Program; theCERCLA Superfund bill, which makes polluting parties liable for cleaning up injected fluids used in fracking; the Toxic Substances Control Act; and most state water-use regulations. “This means that for fracking, the suite of regulatory protections normally in place to reduce hazardous environmental exposures and protect public health do not apply,” explains Joan Casey, a colleague of ours who is an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University. Because companies conducting fracking operations don’t have to report to the Toxic Release Inventory Program, it is left to scientists to evaluate the impact of fracking on the air, waterways, and human health.

EPA, U.S. Virgin Islands officials launch second probe after Limetree Bay refinery releases noxious fumes - The Washington Post - Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Virgin Islands officials are investigating a second accident at a controversial refinery in St. Croix after it emitted noxious fumes that prompted some schools and a vaccination site on the island to close Friday. The release of sulfuric gases from the facility, which caused nausea and eye irritation in some residents and comes shortly after the Limetree Bay refinery showered oil on a neighboring community, has raised fresh questions about the operation. The company and territory officials gave differing accounts of what emanated from the plant. Jean-Pierre Oriol, U.S. Virgin Islands planning and natural resources commissioner, said in a statement Friday that the refinery had released hydrogen sulfide, which can cause serious health impacts at high exposure levels during a short period. The company, however, said the hydrogen sulfide had been converted to sulfur dioxide before entering the atmosphere. Oriol, said that his office was “aware of a foul, gaseous smell permeating through-out the Frederiksted area for the past few days” and is looking into the matter. He urged vulnerable residents to stay indoors until the fumes had dissipated.“[The Department of Planning and Natural Resources] is advising the public that persons with respiratory ailments such as allergies, lung disease and asthma should consider taking protective actions,” Oriol said. “Protective actions include staying indoors or relocating to areas less affected.”The fumes also forced the island’s covid-19 vaccination center on the University of Virgin Islands campus to close Friday. An official there said it was slated to reopen on Monday.The company confirmed in a statement that it had experienced an accident that began Thursday night and lasted until early Friday morning, “which created a strong odor detectable outside the facility. Limetree has corrected the problem and will continue to monitor any additional impact to the outside community.”On Saturday, it clarified that the upset had triggered a pressure relief valve that sent “an unusually high amount of sulfur-containing gases” into a flare, where they were burned before being released into the air.High levels of sulfur dioxide can not only irritate the eyes, nose and throat, but cause inflammation of the respiratory system. Over time, it can contribute to lung and heart disease. The refinery, which restarted operations nearly three months ago after the plant had been shuttered for nearly a decade, is already under scrutiny for a Feb. 4 accident that sent a fine mist of oil over broad swaths of the island, settling on houses as far as three miles away. The oil settled on cars, gardens, rooftops and cisterns filled with rainwater that residents use for drinking, cooking and bathing.

EPA to Send Investigators to Probe 'Distressing' Incidents at the Limetree Refinery in the U.S. Virgin Islands -The Environmental Protection Agency will send investigators to the U.S. Virgin Islands as early as this week, the agency announced Tuesday, as part of a larger probe into a series of accidents at a St. Croix oil refinery that residents worry has exposed them to dangerous levels of noxious fumes and poisoned their drinking water.The investigation, which will be done in conjunction with U.S. Virgin Islands officials, will look into recent mishaps at the Limetree Bay refinery, including an accidental flare last week that released large amounts of sulfuric gases, causing three schools to shut down on Friday and prompting local officials to issue a warning for those with breathing issues to stay indoors.The fumes also forced the island’s Covid-19 vaccination center on the University of the Virgin Islands campus to close Friday, the Washington Post reported last week.“We smell it outside, we smell it inside. It irritates your eyes, your throat,” said Olasee Davis, an ecology professor at the university, which is located about two and a half miles west of the refinery. “People are concerned about their health.”  It’s the second flaring incident, in which a refinery burns off gases or releases steam as a safety precaution, since the plant reopened in February under new ownership. An accidental flare on Feb. 4 covered more than 130 homes in the nearby Clifton Hill neighborhood with specks of oil and contaminated the drinking water for dozens of residents.  EPA’s announcement Tuesday was a sign that the agency may be ramping up its investigation into possible violations by Limetree and is the latest in a series of developments that have cast doubt on the future of the refinery. In March, the agency withdrew a key air pollution permit for the plant that would have allowed the company to expand its refining operations in the future, citing environmental justice concerns and a need to further review how to best safeguard the community. The refinery also shut down operations for about three weeks earlier this month due to an undisclosed mishap, and several top Limetree executives announced they were stepping down, according to reports from Reuters.

Alberta Environment investigates oil spill - Alberta Environment and Parks has now identified the source of a recent oil spill in Stony Plain, that was classified as an environmental disaster. Clean up crews with ProNorth Environmental Services Inc. in Sturgeon County were on scene last week for several days securing the area and cleaning up the oil from a nearby creek. In the early afternoon on April 7, Alberta Environment informed the town of an oil spill in the North Business Park, where a used oil drum was found leaking into a nearby creek, west of the Stony Plain Lions RV Park & Campground. A ministry spokesperson provided an update and additional information, following an investigation. “Alberta Environment and Parks has tracked the source to a tipped over used oil above ground storage tank, outside of the fence line of a light industrial park,” said Paul Hamnett, press secretary to Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks. tAt this time it is unknown who the owner of the tank is or how it tipped over and leaked. The total tank volume was 2,300 litres and it is unknown exactly when the spill occurred, noted Hamnett. “The oil travelled approximately 300 metres and goes through one culvert and then is contained by a hanging culvert that has been fortified with boom and an underflow weir to prevent further spread,” he said. “None has travelled past this point.” Hamnett noted that environmental contractors continued clean up at the site this week, at the direction of the Town of Stony Plain. About 1,500 litres of used oil have been collected and disposed of at an approved facility. Vac trucks were skimming the product and gently flushing stained vegetation and wildlife deterrents have been installed on the site. “A waste storage container has been mobilized to site to store contaminated soil prior to disposal,” said Hamnett. “Sampling continues to occur at the site and the downstream containment point is secure.”

BP beats first-quarter estimates on stronger commodity prices, improving oil demand — British energy major BP on Tuesday reported better-than-expected earnings for the first quarter, following a period of stronger commodity prices and a brighter demand outlook. It comes as oil and gas majors seek to prove to investors that they have gained a more stable footing amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis. BP's first-quarter underlying replacement cost profit, used as a proxy for net profit, came in at $2.6 billion. That compared with a profit of $115 million in the fourth quarter and $791 million for the first quarter of 2020. Analysts had expected BP to report first-quarter profit of $1.4 billion, according to Refinitiv. The London-based energy giant said the result was driven by "exceptional" gas marketing and trading performance, "significantly" higher oil prices and stronger refining margins. Net debt fell $5.6 billion to $33.3 billion at the end of the first three months of the year, meaning BP hit its target of reducing net debt to $35 billion. The company said it would now retire this goal, subject to maintaining a strong investment grade credit rating. Looking ahead, BP said it intends to resume share buybacks at a cost of around $500 million in the second quarter.

Shell raises dividend for second time in six months after first-quarter earnings beat forecasts — Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday reported slightly better-than-expected first-quarter earnings, amid stronger commodity prices and growing expectations of a fuel demand recovery. Shell also raised its dividend by around 4%, its second increase in six months, as the oil major seeks to reassure investors it has gained a more stable footing. It comes after Shell slashed its payout for the first time since World War II in April last year. The Anglo-Dutch company reported adjusted earnings of $3.2 billion for the three months through to the end of March. That compared with $2.9 billion over the same period a year earlier, and $393 million for the fourth quarter of 2020. Analysts had expected first-quarter adjusted earnings to come in at $3.1 billion, according to Refinitiv. Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, said in a statement that the company had made a "strong start" to the year and was "ideally positioned to benefit from recovering demand." Shell confirmed the massive winter storm that engulfed Texas in February had an aggregate impact of around $200 million on first-quarter adjusted earnings. It had warned this was likely to be the case in an update published April 7. Shares of Shell rose around 1.3% during morning deals in London. The firm's stock price has climbed more than 9% year-to-date, having tumbled nearly 40% in 2020. Net debt was reduced by $4 billion over the first three months of the year, falling to $71.3 billion. The company has targeted reducing its whopping debt pile to $65 billion as part of its plans for a sustainable future. Shell has urged investors to take part in an advisory vote on its climate plans at the group's annual shareholder meeting on May 13. Shell's van Beurden has previously said the firm's energy transition strategy, which sets out plans to become a carbon neutral company by 2050, is "designed to bring our energy products, our services, and our investments in line with the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement and the global drive to combat climate change." Activist shareholder group Follow This has criticized the firm's energy strategy, saying it is not consistent with the Paris Agreement — a landmark accord considered critically important to reduce the risk of a climate catastrophe. In its outlook for the second quarter, Shell warned of persistent "significant uncertainty" in economic conditions, with an anticipated negative impact on the oil and gas industry. The energy giant said sales volumes could be adversely impacted and it may need to take measures to curtail oil and/or gas production. "Such measures will likely have a variety of impacts on our operational and financial metrics," Shell said.

Marine Rescue Service performed oil spill response activities in Vanino port -- Marine Rescue Service says it is completing oil spill response activities in the port of Vanino (Khabarovsk Territory). The incident happened during the operation conducted by the Siziman tanker homeported in Vanino (owned by Far East Tanker Company) to bunker the Chios Trinity (flag of Panama, owned by Venture Shipping & Trading S.A.). Rescue forces of MRS Sakhalin branch’s Vanino subdivision conducted oil response activities upon the request of the Harbour Master. According to the operation control department, the spill of heavy fuel oil was caused by the fuel hose collapse. 200 liters were spilled on the deck of the Chios Trinity with 100 of the product spilling on the water. Boom-laying boat Spasatel Aleksyuk with a rescue team was sent to the incident site. They conducted oil spill containment having placed 200 meters of booms around the vessel and having collected the spilled oil products. The water area is currently being cleared with sorbents. Environment monitoring is underway.

Total Declares Force Majeure on Mozambique LNG  --Total declared force majeure on its Mozambique LNG project on Monday. In a statement posted on its website, the company noted the evolution of the security situation in the north of the Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique and confirmed the withdrawal of all Mozambique LNG project personnel from the Afungi site. “Total expresses its solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique and wishes that the actions carried out by the government of Mozambique and its regional and international partners will enable the restoration of security and stability in Cabo Delgado province in a sustained manner,” Total said in the statement. In August last year, Total revealed that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Government of Mozambique regarding the security of Mozambique LNG project activities. The MOU provided that a joint task force would ensure the security of Mozambique LNG project activities in Afungi site and across the broader area of operations of the project, Total noted in a company statement at the time. In July 2020, Total announced the signing of a $14.9 billion senior debt financing agreement for the Mozambique LNG project, which is the country’s first onshore LNG development. Mozambique LNG represents a total post-financial investment decision investment of $20 billion, the company outlined in July last year. Total E&P Mozambique Area 1 Limitada, a wholly owned subsidiary of Total, operates Mozambique LNG with a 26.5 percent participating interest.

Bayelsa community Bemoans impact of oil spill from Shells pipeline -Residents of Ikarama community in Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa State, have lamented the adverse impact of an oil leak from a nearby Shell’s oilfield, calling for the immediate remediation of the situation. The oil pollution is from the April 7, 2021 leak from Shell’s 14-inch Okordia-Rumekpe pipeline which discharged crude into the area. The Okordia-Rumemkpe crude trunkline is part of the Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP), operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and conveys crude to the oil firm’s crude export terminal at Bonny in Rivers State. LEADERSHIP gathered that a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) was conducted and the report confirmed that the leak was traced to equipment failure which emanated from a rupture on the 14-inch crude delivery pipeline. The JIV exercise, which is a statutory probe into the cause of any recorded spill incident involving the oil firm, regulators, host communities and state ministries of environment, discovered that some 213 barrels which had no impact on the environment outside SPDC’s right of way leaked from its asset, while approximately 110 barrels polluted 1.34 hectares of land. Residents near the spill impacted site told LEADERSHIP that they have suffered untold hardship from the pollution of land, air and lakes near the area due to the evaporation of the leaked crude by the scorching sun. Mr Education Ikiowori, who works at the Ikarama oilfields and witnessed the JIV, said the spill was as a result of corrosion. He said that Shell and the regulators had visited and they excavated the place in search of the cause of the spill. “They all saw that the rupture was caused by corrosion, yet Shell disagreed. “Normally SPDC when they come even if the spill was caused by corrosion, they would try to influence it in their favour by saying it was caused by third party so as to avoid responsibility to the land owners. For this one, thank God that it was very obvious that it was equipment failure as the government representatives and regulators and all who were here confirmed it,” he said. Chief Washington Odoyibo said that residents have been experiencing the antics of Shell, attributing every spill incident to sabotage times without number.

Exxon Strikes More Oil Offshore Guyana   Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) on Tuesday reported another oil discovery in the Stabroek Block offshore Guyana. Located some 6.8 miles (11 kilometers) south of the Uaru-1 well, the most recent Uaru-2 well encountered approximately 120 feet (36.7 meters) of high-quality oil-bearing sandstone reservoir that includes newly identified intervals below Uaru-1, ExxonMobil noted in a written statement emailed to Rigzone. The company noted the latest discovery augments Stabroek’s previous recoverable resource estimate of approximately 9 billion barrels of oil equivalent. “The Uaru-2 discovery enhances our work to optimally sequence development opportunities in the Stabroek Block,” remarked Mike Cousins, ExxonMobil’s senior vice president of exploration and new ventures. “Progressing our industry-leading investments and well-executed exploration plans are vital in order to continue to develop Guyana’s offshore resources that unlock additional value for the people of Guyana and all stakeholders.” ExxonMobil affiliate Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited operates the Stabroek projects and owns a 45% interest in the block. Other stakeholders include Hess Guyana Exploration Ltd. (NYSE: HES) (30%) and CNOOC Petroleum Guyana Limited (HKG: 0883) (25%). “We expect to have at least six FPSOs on the Stabroek Block by 2027, with the potential for up to 10 FPSOs to develop the current discovered recoverable resource base,” commented Hess CEO John Hess in a separate written statement.

DENR to investigate possible oil spill in Manila Bay --The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is investigating a possible oil spill in Manila Bay.According to a report on "24 Oras Weekend" on Sunday, yellow stains can be seen in the water surrounding a yacht moored beside the sea wall of the Manila Yacht Club.The DENR said the possible oil spill spread about 500 meters.The DENR took samples of the water which were sent to the Environmental Management Bureau to determine if it was oil. The water has yet to be cleaned by authorities.

Crews start clean-up of oil spill off Chinas Qingdao port - Clean-up crews worked on Wednesday to contain an oil spill in the Yellow Sea near the Chinese port city of Qingdao, a day after a collision between a tanker carrying around a million barrels of bitumen mix and a bulk vessel in thick fog. A preliminary study estimated about 500 tonnes (3,420 barrels) of oil had been spilled but this needs to be assessed further, a Shandong Maritime Safety Administration official who declined to be identified told Reuters by phone. The safety administration had said on its Weibo account on Wednesday morning that the collision caused a “minor” spill. The Liberia-flagged tanker A Symphony, which was at anchor at Qingdao port, was involved in the collision with shipping vessel Sea Justice on Tuesday during heavy fog. The impact caused a breach in its cargo tanks and ballast tanks. Visibility in the area is improving and is at about 500 to 1,000 metres, the Shandong Maritime Safety Administration official said, adding that when the accident took place on Tuesday it had been less than 200 metres. He added that 12 vessels have been dispatched to deal with the accident and cleanup but did not say whether the leak had been contained. “The accident took place about 11 nautical miles south-east of Qingdao port and so far there has been no direct impact on the operation of Qingdao port,” said the Shandong official. “There are oil spill experts on the scene that have started clean-up operations,” said a spokesman for Goodwood Ship Management, manager of A Symphony on Wednesday. The two ships were in stable condition, there were no casualties and a probe into the cause of the accident was under way, the safety administration said.

China says Yellow Sea oil spill is small - China said Wednesday that an oil spill caused by a collision the previous day between an oil tanker and a cargo ship in the waters of the Yellow Sea is “a small amount.” “The collision damaged the cargo compartments of the tanker and a small amount of oil spill was found in the sea,” the Maritime Safety Authority of eastern China’s Shandong province said today through social network Weibo. It said “the two ships are stable” and emergency work continues, although the crash did not cause injuries. After the accident, a security perimeter was created “to prevent secondary accidents,” the authority added. The event occurred at about 09:00 local time (01:00 GMT) on Tuesday, when the Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier Sea Justice collided with the Liberian-flagged tanker A Symphony anchored in waters near the important port of Qingdao, in eastern China. The A Symphony tanker, 272 meters long and almost 46 meters wide, was built in 2001 and is managed by Singaporean company Goodwood Ship Management. The company confirmed the event in a statement sent Tuesday to EFE. “The force of the impact on the front of the port side caused a crack in the cargo and ballast tanks, with a quantity of crude oil spilled into the ocean,” it said. According to Goodwood Ship Management, poor visibility off Qingdao Port has hampered emergency operations, which are continuing at the moment.

Ships steer clear as oil spill clean-up continues off China’s Qingdao port -(Reuters) – Ships steered clear of A Symphony on Thursday as an oil spill clean-up in the Yellow Sea near the Chinese port city of Qingdao continued, two days after a collision between the tanker and a bulk vessel in thick fog. A preliminary study estimated about 500 tonnes (3,420 barrels) of oil had been spilled but this needs to be assessed further, a Shandong Maritime Safety Administration official who declined to be identified told Reuters by phone on Wednesday. The Liberia-flagged tanker A Symphony was at anchor off Qingdao port with a cargo of around a million barrels of bitumen mix on board when it was involved in the collision with shipping vessel Sea Justice on Tuesday. The accident took place about 11 nautical miles south-east of Qingdao port and the impact caused a breach in its cargo tanks and ballast tanks. Ships have been instructed to stay at least 10 nautical miles away from the A Symphony. Hong Kong-based fuel trading company Run Cheng International Resource (HK) Co has said it was the owner of the 150,000-tonne cargo of bitumen blend on board the A Symphony. Bitumen mix, a blend of heavy crude oil and residue, is used by China’s independent refiners as an alternative refining feedstock as it often incurs a lower import tax than crude oil. It is also used for road surfacing and roofing.

Tanker collision spilt 400 tonnes of oil off China coast: Authorities, Around 400 tonnes of oil spilt into the Yellow Sea after a tanker collided with another ship off China's largest crude-receiving port earlier this week, maritime authorities said Thursday. "The amount of oil spilt from the ship into the sea is about 400 tonnes, and the emergency disposal work is being carried out in an orderly manner," said Shandong Maritime Safety Administration in a social media post. "The collision incident has had no impact on ships entering and leaving Qingdao port." It added that 12 decontamination vessels were deployed to clean up the oil spill, which took place around 40 nautical miles (75 kilometres) off-shore from Qingdao port in northeast China. Panamanian bulk carrier "Sea Justice" struck the Liberian oil tanker "A Symphony" near Qingdao around 9 am Tuesday, causing the tanker to lose "a quantity of oil", according to a previous statement from vessel managers Goodwood Ship Management. "All crew members have since been accounted for, and there are no injuries." Also read | Oil spills off China's Qingdao port after ship collision An unnamed official with the Maritime Safety Administration told Chinese state newspaper Global Times on Thursday that the cargo was labelled as "bitumen solution" but its specific content requires further testing. "The oil leak is in full disposal now and if technological controls are in place, it will certainly keep the impact on the environment to the minimum," the official was quoted as saying. After the collision, vessels were told not to go within ten nautical miles (18.5 kilometres) of the area, according to a separate notice by the Maritime Safety Administration. Goodwood Ship Management said Thursday that "managers are continuing to work closely with the MSA on the clean up operation and the investigation into the incident." It previously said poor visibility in the area was hampering oil spill clean-up efforts.

Bohai spill shipowner says it follows sanctions -- Greek shipowner NGM told Argus today it has no knowledge if crude that spilled from one of its vessels off China's coast this week originated in Venezuela, a longtime target of US sanctions. "The cargo onboard the A Symphony was loaded in Asia," the company said. "NGM Energy's strict compliance policy continues to be that the vessels it manages do not carry Venezuelan cargo absent authorization from US sanctions authorities. NGM screens all shipment details and documentation for sanctions compliance. NGM has not knowingly loaded any unauthorized cargoes of Venezuelan origin, either in Venezuela or abroad." Chinese authorities are working to clean up around 400t (3,000 bl) of oil that spilled from the 20-year-old Suezmax tanker following a collision with another vessel earlier this week. The Liberia-flagged tanker collided with the Panamanian flagged bulk vessel Sea Justice on 27 April, causing an oil spill in the Bohai sea near Qingdao port in Shandong province. Shandong's maritime safety administration (MSA) said it has dispatched 12 vessels to help clean up the oil and the emergency response work is proceeding smoothly. The incident happened around 40 nautical miles (75km) from Qingdao. Vessel arrivals and departures are continuing as normal at Qingdao, the MSA said. Malaysia loading Vortexa data indicate the A Symphony loaded its cargo in Malaysia in early April, but it is not clear where the crude originated. The A Symphony was due to discharge around 1mn bl of crude in Qingdao on 27 April, according to data from Vortexa. Details of the charterer are unavailable. The cargo was booked by a local trading firm and destined for an independent refiner in Shandong province, market participants said. The cargo was classified as bitumen blend. Despite US sanctions meant to keep Venezuelan oil out of the market, supplies of bitumen-rich 16°API Merey blend routinely make their way to China through obscure intermediaries, often undergoing ship-to-ship operations in southeast Asia.

Oil Market Spoiled by OPEC+   -- The oil market has frequently been spoiled by OPEC+, as the alliance has stepped in several times since the start of the pandemic to save prices when the demand outlook was worsening. That’s what Rystad Energy’s head of oil markets, Bjornar Tonhaugen, said in a statement sent to Rigzone on Tuesday, adding that the group’s technical committee is now looking at India and other countries with concern. “The market boosted prices today as it expects that OPEC+ will address the developments in India and, since the country is among its major clients, it may reconsider its output policy,” Tonhaugen said. “Traders do not want to miss out on a potential bullish OPEC+ meeting so a limited optimism is reflected in prices. Should OPEC+ turn a blind eye to India though, the gains may quickly evaporate,” he added. Tonhaugen noted that news from India set off a loud alarm on trader floors this week and that oil prices have taken a hit on expectations that oil demand will crash in a country that is among the commodity’s largest consumers globally. The Rystad Energy representative said Covid-19 infections in India are already out of control and that the country’s healthcare system is insufficient to handle the population’s needs, therefore things will likely get much worse before they get better, with severe consequences for all commodities including oil. The 16th OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting is due to be held via videoconference on Wednesday. In a statement posted on OPEC’s twitter account on Tuesday, the organization’s secretary general noted that the global economy continues to show positive signals of recovery but also underscored the need to continue with vigilance as uncertainties remain going forward. India has seen more than 300,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and more than 2,000 deaths, every day since April 22, according to the latest information from the World Health Organization (WHO). The country has administered more than 130 million vaccine doses as of April 20, WHO’s latest data shows.

Oil Prices Falter Under Virus Surge Cloud  -- Oil slipped with the rapid resurgence of Covid-19 in India and other countries casting a cloud around a return to normal consumption, even as OPEC+ projected a strong global demand recovery this year. Futures in New York closed 0.4% lower on Monday. While an OPEC+ technical committee raised its global oil demand growth forecast for 2021 to 6 million barrels a day and said most of the fuel inventory glut accumulated during the pandemic will have depleted by the end of this quarter, the group cautioned that virus cases in India, Brazil and Japan may have a negative impact on economic growth. In India, signs of strain on the nation’s refiners are emerging. Indian Oil Corp. is looking to sell gasoline into the spot market -- a potential indication of weak domestic demand. The country’s refiners are being forced to postpone planned shutdowns for maintenance at some plants as workers are either fleeing or falling ill. “India poses a significant risk to the global recovery, especially as more information comes out as to how widespread the virus is there,” . While U.S. demand appears to be picking up, the market need to “see a continuation of the easing of Covid restrictions and the actual summer travel season kick into full gear.” Despite signs of a recovery in demand in the U.S. and the U.K., the patchy rebound worldwide poses a risk to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, which have agreed to start adding more supply from May. OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo told officials at the start of the online meeting that there are “positive signals” in the global economy, but also pointed to factors in the oil market that require ongoing vigilance. “The news, particularly in the U.S., is looking a lot better, making people optimistic” on the demand recovery, said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research. “But there’s still so much trouble in India, it’s uncertain how far prices can really go.” The OPEC+ panel’s global demand growth estimate for 2021 is up from its projection of 5.6 million barrels a day last month, though in line with a report published by OPEC’s secretariat a couple of weeks ago. The committee sees global oil inventories declining by 1.2 million barrels a day this year on average. West Texas Intermediate for June fell 23 cents to settle at $61.91 a barrel. Brent for June settlement slipped 46 cents to end the session at $65.65 a barrel. Among the worrying signs for India’s demand recovery, IOC has not yet issued an expected tender to purchase West African crude and Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd. has cut processing rates. The world’s third-largest oil importing country has been a particular area of concern for the oil market in recent days as it faces record daily coronavirus case counts and renewed restrictions in some parts of the country.

Oil Rises Despite OPEC+ Sticking to Output Hike Amid India COVID Surge -  (Reuters) -Oil prices edged higher on Tuesday as OPEC, Russia and their allies agreed to stick to plans to raise output slightly from May 1, suggesting they don't see a lasting impact on demand from India's coronavirus crisis. OPEC+, as the producer group is known, has also ditched plans to hold a full ministerial meeting on Wednesday, sources said. A technical meeting on Monday had voiced concern about surging COVID-19 cases but kept its oil demand forecast unchanged. The panel decided to stick to policies broadly agreed at a previous April 1 meeting of OPEC+, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said after the talks. Brent crude ended the session up 77 cents, or 1.2%, at $66.42 a barrel after climbing to a session high of $66.51. U.S. oil gained $1.03, or 1.7%, to settle at $62.94. Prices gave up some gains in post-settlement trade after U.S. crude stockpiles rose by about 4.32 million barrels last week, sources said, citing data from the American Petroleum Institute. OPEC+ was set to slightly ease oil output cuts from May 1, under a plan agreed before the coronavirus surge in India. India, the world's third-largest crude importer, has recorded a daily rise of more than 300,000 cases for several days. It has also reported a total of almost 200,000 deaths. "The possibility that increasing OPEC+ production could be intersecting with weakening Asian oil demand suggests a possible end to the reduction in the global oil supply surplus that has been supporting the complex during the past year,"

WTI Settles Near $63 Amid Robust Signals   Rigzone -- Oil climbed by the most in nearly two weeks with the OPEC+ alliance and BP Plc pointing to signs of a robust demand recovery taking shape in parts of the world. Futures in New York jumped 1.7% on Tuesday. An OPEC+ committee decided this week to move forward with a planned gradual crude production increase, anticipating a strong demand rebound this year, even as coronavirus cases rise in countries such as India. The producer group decided to skip a Wednesday meeting and instead gather in early June. In the U.S., where a demand recovery is seen outpacing much of the world, President Joe Biden said that he intends to send new vaccines to India. Meanwhile, BP Plc Chief Executive Officer Bernard Looney said China’s oil demand is above pre-pandemic levels. The OPEC+ decision to “skip the ministerial meeting shows that the energy market is in pretty good shape right now. But if new risks emerge, we’ll see how sensitive the market is.” U.S. benchmark crude futures are up more than 6% so far this month amid signs of a consumption recovery in some parts of the world. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Tuesday that there is optimism in the global oil market and global mobility is increasing. Meanwhile, shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S raised its earnings guidance citing surging demand for its services, underscoring a boom in global trade. The uneven pace at which the world’s economies are emerging from their pandemic-driven slump has given rise to dislocations in crude flows. Canadian oil sellers have sent exports on rare voyages to the U.S. West Coast this month as the U.S. makes progress in its vaccine rollout. But at the same time, West African crude exports to Asia are poised to drop to their lowest since October as shipments to India slump. “You’re seeing incredibly strong demand in America and China,” said BP CEO Bernard Looney in a Bloomberg Television interview. “America is almost back to where it was. The vaccines are going to kick in now in Europe. Then of course the question is what happens in the rest of the world.” West Texas Intermediate for June rose $1.03 to settle at $62.94 a barrel. Brent for the same month gained 77 cents to end the session at $66.42 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange. Gains in U.S. benchmark crude futures on Tuesday outpaced those of its global counterpart. Brent’s underlying market structure softened, with the premium of the nearest contract narrowing against the following month. Meanwhile, the discount of WTI’s front-month contract to Brent’s was the smallest in more than a week.

WTI Dips After Surprise Crude Build -- Oil prices rallied today, with WTI back above $63 as the OPEC+ Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee came and went without issue (discussing the desire to gently raise production as demand comes back... as expected). The group confirmed it will not hold a full ministerial meeting on Wednesday as planned, delegates at the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) agreed at their meeting on Tuesday, signaling confidence in the current plans to ease the production cuts While India fears remain, many remain confident in the recovery in the rest of the world...“You’re seeing incredibly strong demand,” BP Plc Chief Executive Officer Bernard Looney said in a Bloomberg TV interview on Tuesday. China’s oil demand is above pre-pandemic levels, the U.S. is almost back there and “vaccines are going to kick in now in Europe.”  For now, the next clue will come from inventories...  API

  • Crude +4.319mm (-200k exp)
  • Cushing +742k
  • Gasoline -1.288mm
  • Distillates -2.417mm (-1.2mm exp)

After the prior week's surprise crude build (albeit small), analysts expected a small draw last week but were likely shocked when API reported a big surprise 4.319mm crude build... WTI hovered around $63.20 ahead of the print and dipped modestly after  Not everyone is excited:“If the grim trend continues, the oil demand loss India will experience could be the single largest reduction in absolute terms that any country has suffered since the beginning of the pandemic,” Rystad Energy said in a note. The firm added that there is some optimism around the plans by OPEC+. “Should OPEC+ turn a blind eye to India though, the gains may quickly evaporate,” Rystad added.

WTI Extends Gains, Above $64, As Gasoline Demand Hits Pre-Pandemic Levels -- Oil prices are higher this morning, after dipping on API's reported - and unexpected - crude build last night, as expectations strengthened for a revival in global consumption despite the resurgent pandemic in India and Brazil. “The market expects a major revitalization for global oil demand from this summer onwards,” said Bjornar Tonhaugen, head of oil markets at Rystad Energy.“As vaccination campaigns progress and as lockdowns are set to soon be lifted in Europe and other recovering economies, the need for road and jet fuels will increase and the result will be felt.”  All eyes for now on Crude stocks after last night (and the prior week's) surprise build.  DOE

  • Crude +90k (-200k exp)
  • Cushing +722k
  • Gasoline +92k
  • Distillates -3.342mm (-1.2mm exp)

After the prior week's surprise crude build (and API's surprise crude build for this week), analysts continued to expect official data to show a modest draw... but instead we saw a very modest 90k build. Distillates saw a 3rd straight week of draws...

Oil surges with U.S. demand bump driving global rebound optimism -— Oil advanced to the highest in over a month as a combination of declining U.S. petroleum product supplies and signs of stronger demand buttressed expectations for a revival in global consumption. Futures in New York jumped 1.5% on Wednesday, posting the largest back-to-back daily gains in two weeks. A U.S. government report showed total petroleum stockpiles dropped last week, led by the biggest weekly decrease in distillate inventories since early March. A gauge of demand for overall petroleum products rose to the highest in more than two months. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is forecasting an unprecedented jump in global oil demand as vaccination rates rise. The hefty decline in U.S. distillate supplies comes as robust freight demand drives a trucking boom, providing another sign of the recovery underway in the world’s largest oil-consuming country. At the same time, retail gasoline prices in California rose to $4 a gallon for the first time in a year and a half as restrictions ease in the most-populous U.S. state. Still, a resurgence of the pandemic in countries such as India and Brazil are raising concerns around how long it will take to see a full-fledged demand rebound take hold worldwide. West Texas Intermediate for June delivery rose 92 cents to settle at $63.86 a barrel. Brent for June settlement gained 85 cents to $67.27 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange, posting the largest daily gain since April 14. Both benchmarks were at the highest since March 17

Oil Jumps To Six-Week High On Stronger Economic Outlook --Oil prices rose early on Thursday to their highest level in six weeks as a brighter outlook on the American economy and oil demand offset bearish demand prospects from the COVID crisis in India. As of 11:03 a.m. EDT on Thursday, WTI Crude was up 1.50 percent at $64.87, after touching $65 earlier in the day, and Brent Crude prices had risen 1.61 percent to cross the $68 a barrel mark, at $68.41.   A weaker U.S. dollar today also added fuel to the oil rally this week, which had accelerated on Wednesday when the EIA reported a small inventory build of 100,000 barrels for the week to April 23 and an average gasoline production of 9.6 million bpd, up from 9.4 million bpd in the previous week. In middle distillates, the EIA estimated an inventory draw of 3.3 million barrels for the week to April 23. U.S. refinery utilization rates also rose last week, to 85.4 percent from 85.0 percent in the previous reporting week, as per EIA data. The oil market saw another bullish factor for oil demand in the Federal Reserve’s statement from Wednesday that the U.S. economy is accelerating. “Amid progress on vaccinations and strong policy support, indicators of economic activity and employment have strengthened,” the Fed said in its FOMC statement, adding that it would continue with its easy monetary policy to support the economy and the flow of credit to U.S. households and businesses. The signs of strengthening the U.S. economy and oil demand trumped on Thursday concerns about the health crisis in India, which could offset some of the demand rebound elsewhere. Rystad Energy warned on Wednesday that the COVID crisis in India could disturb the nearly balanced global oil market, which could see a surplus of oil supply of as much as 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in May amid a sizeable loss of demand from the world’s third-largest oil importer. Goldman Sachs, however, continues to believe that the market will take India’s crisis in its stride and will realize the biggest jump ever over the next six months.

Oil Slips On Profit Taking, Stronger U.S. Dollar - Oil prices dropped early on Friday as profit-taking and a strengthening U.S. dollar put a stop to this week’s rally that saw prices hitting a six-week high on Thursday.As of 10:14 a.m. EDT on Friday, WTI Crude was trading down below $64 a barrel, at $63.43, down by 2.32 percent. Brent Crude prices were down by 1.87 percent on the day at $67.26.On Thursday, oil prices had jumped to their highest levels in six weeks as a brighter outlook on the American economy and oil demand offset bearish demand prospects from the COVID crisis in India.But on Friday, the rally took a breather as market participants turned to profit-taking. A rising U.S. dollar also weighed on oil prices on Friday, as a stronger U.S. currency makes crude buying more expensive for holders of other currencies.Continued concern over the worsening COVID crisis in India outweighed the bullish factors on Friday, but oil prices were still on track to post a monthly gain of 6-7 percent in April—the fifth rise in monthly oil prices in the past six months.On Friday, oil was dragged down by concerns that the health crisis in India could offset some of the demand rebound elsewhere. While the United States and parts of Europe such as the UK are already re-opening and seeing increased economic activity, travel, and consumer revenge spending, major economies such as India and Brazil are suffering under the COVID resurgence. The situation in India, the world’s third-largest oil importer, is particularly concerning. Some analysts, such as Rystad Energy, warned this week that the COVID crisis in India will result in a surplus of oil supply of as much as 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in May.

India demand fears, weak Japan crude imports knock oil prices 2% (Reuters) - Oil prices were down 2% on Friday, falling from six-week highs as investors unloaded positions after weak Japanese crude import data and on worries about fuel demand in India, where COVID-19 infections have soared. U.S. crude and global benchmark Brent were set for their biggest daily drops in about three weeks, but were still on track for monthly gains of about 8% and 6%, respectively. Fuel demand worldwide is mixed but consumption is rising in the United States and China. Brent crude fell by $1.30, or 1.9%, at $67.26 a barrel by 12:48 p.m. EDT (1648 GMT), the last day of trading for the front-month June contract. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for June was at $63.67 a barrel, down $1.34, or 2.1%. "The tug of war between summer demand growth prospects and worsening COVID infections is still in full swing," JBC Energy analysts wrote on Friday. India, the world's third largest oil consumer, is in deep crisis, with hospitals and morgues overwhelmed, as the number of COVID-19 cases topped 18 million on Thursday. Japan's - another major crude oil importer - imports fell 25% in March from a year earlier to 2.34 million barrels per day, according to government figures. However, the country's factory activity expanded at the fastest pace since early 2018. "There are still several major countries struggling mightily with the COVID-19 and of course there is a humanitarian crisis developing in India," said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital. "These are two big sources of demand that are taking a hit." OPEC oil output rose in April due to more supply from Iran, countering the cartel's pact with allies to reduce supply. A Reuters survey forecast that Brent would average $64.17 in 2021, up from last month's consensus of $63.12 per barrel and the $62.3 average for the benchmark so far this year.

Oil Prices Show Monthly Increase  | Rigzone  -- Oil rose this month with a slew of positive economic data and signs of a budding fuel consumption revival in key economies offsetting a worsening coronavirus crisis elsewhere. Futures in New York rose this week, extending its monthly gain to 7.5%. The near-certain likelihood of higher fuel consumption in the U.S., China and the U.K has brightened the overall demand outlook, even as a resurgent pandemic in countries such as India, Brazil and Japan cloud those prospects. OPEC and its allies see world consumption rebounding by 6 million barrels a day this year, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc. this week said demand could post a record jump as vaccination rates increase.  Green shoots of a revival in fuel consumption are sprouting around the world. Travel across China is expected to pick up over an extended Labor Day holiday. In the U.S., a string of real-time data pointing to an economic rebound taking hold in the world’s largest oil consumer has stoked optimism around demand in coming months. Oil’s overall advance is in keeping with a broad-based surge in interest in commodities this week, driven by optimism in key economies and tightening supplies of raw materials. That’s pushed the Bloomberg Spot Commodity Index to the highest level since 2012 in previous sessions. West Texas Intermediate fell $1.43 to settle at $63.58 a barrel, but rose 2.3% this week. Brent for June settlement, which expires Friday, lost $1.31 to $67.25 a barrel. The contract is up 1.7% this week, and climbed 5.8% for the month. The more-active July contract declined $1.29 to $66.76. Still, it will likely be a bumpy road ahead for prices as the world’s economies reopen at varying paces. U.S. benchmark crude futures on Friday posted their largest daily loss in almost four weeks, with raw materials and U.S. equities cooling from a scorching rally. Further weighing on prices was a strengthening dollar, which makes commodities priced in the currency less attractive. A viral onslaught in India is the most notable threat to a worldwide oil recovery. Imports from the South Asian country could fall by over 1 million barrels a day in the coming weeks, if not three times more, consultant Kpler said in a report Friday. The loss of demand is showing up in U.S. physical markets, where sour crude differentials have weakened this week amid lower demand from India.

USA and Saudis Team up for Net Zero Project - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has revealed that a net zero producers forum between the energy ministries of the United States, Canada, Norway, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia is being established. Collectively representing 40 percent of global oil and gas production, the countries will come together to form a cooperative forum that will develop pragmatic net-zero emission strategies, according to a joint statement from the project participants. The strategies include methane abatement, advancing the circular carbon economy approach, the development and deployment of clean-energy and carbon capture and storage technologies, the diversification from reliance on hydrocarbon revenues, and other measures in line with each country's national circumstances, the statement noted. “There is no greater challenge facing our nation and our planet than the climate crisis. That’s why President Biden has laid out the boldest climate agenda in our nation’s history – one that will spur an equitable clean energy economy and cement the United States on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050,” the DOE said in a statement posted on its website. “To achieve our global climate goals we need cooperation from all major emitters, including oil and gas producing nations, to identify and act on solutions to phase out unabated fossil fuel emissions, while reducing emissions to the maximum extent possible in the interim,” the DOE added. “For this reason, the U.S. Department of Energy has led on creating a new international forum dedicated to developing long-term strategies to reach global net-zero emissions,” the DOE continued. The net zero producers forum is part of a series of new initiatives announced recently by the DOE that will expand international cooperation around tackling the climate crisis, boosting clean energy innovation, and advancing an equitable transition to a net-zero future, the organization outlined. Other initiatives include a new partnership with India on speeding up clean energy deployment and joining a new public-private consortium to cut power sector emissions by at least 50 percent over 2020 levels in the next 10 years.

Saudi in Talks to Sell Aramco Stake to Energy Co  - -- Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said the kingdom is in talks to sell a 1% stake in state oil giant Saudi Aramco to a “leading global energy company” as he forecast an economic rebound after the coronavirus pandemic. The kingdom is looking at the potential sale -- which could be worth about $19 billion, based on the company’s market value -- as a way to lock in customer demand for the country’s crude, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said in a rare interview on a Saudi television channel late Tuesday. While providing few details on which company is involved in the talks, he said the sale could take place in the next two years. “I don’t want to give any promises about deals finalizing, but there are discussions happening right now about a 1% acquisition by one of the leading energy companies in the world,” Prince Mohammed, the country’s de facto ruler, said. “I cannot mention the name but it’s a huge company. This deal could be very important in strengthening Aramco’s sales in the country where this company resides.” China is the largest buyer of Saudi Arabian oil. Almost 30% of the kingdom’s crude exports went to the Asian country last month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Japan, South Korea and India were the next biggest importers. As well as China, Aramco is keen to make further inroads into India, the fastest growing market for oil consumption before the pandemic hit. But the company faces strong competition from other suppliers and Indian refiners are among the most price-sensitive in the world. The crown prince is increasingly leaning on Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, to help finance his plan to transform and diversify the Saudi economy -- an initiative dubbed Vision 2030. That effort has faced hurdles in recent years, with investors spooked by the kingdom’s domestic political crackdown and the killing of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, and then with the Covid-19 pandemic last year. Aramco’s 2019 initial public offering -- in which it sold about 2% of its stock on the Riyadh bourse -- raised almost $30 billion. The money was transferred to the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund and was meant to support investments to shift the biggest Arab economy away from a reliance on oil sales. Since then, Aramco has also taken on debt and started selling off some non-core assets to maintain a $75 billion dividend, most of which goes to the state.

Fire at COVID-19 hospital in Baghdad kills at least 82 people - After an accident caused an oxygen tank to explode, eyewitness accounts and video clips of the terrible scenes of the fire at the hospital treating COVID-19 patients have provoked shock and anger throughout Iraq. A hashtag demanding Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi be sacked was soon trending on Twitter. Saturday’s fire at the Ibn Khatib hospital, an intensive care facility dedicated to COVID-19 patients in the Diyala Bridge neighbourhood, one of Baghdad’s poorer districts in the southeast of the city, has killed at least 82 people and injured 110. At least 28 patients with severe symptoms of the virus who were on ventilators were among the dead. This tragedy is but the latest horrific example of the devastating impact of decades of sanctions, illegal invasions, occupations and the deliberate stoking of a sectarian civil war orchestrated and led by successive US administrations that have reduced a once prosperous country, with one of the most advanced health and social infrastructures in the Arab world, to utter poverty and degradation. To this day, Iraq suffers from political violence, kidnappings and extortion at the hands of numerous militias, while accidents resulting from neglect and decrepit infrastructure have compounded the plight of the Iraqi people. In 2019, to cite but one example, at least 90 people drowned when an overloaded ferry carrying families on an outing sank in the Tigris River in the northern city of Mosul. The World Socialist Web Site has described the consequences of Washington’s onslaught on the Iraqi people as “sociocide,” the deliberate destruction of the entire infrastructure of a modern civilization (See: “The US war and occupation of Iraq—the murder of a society”). The blaze spread rapidly because without smoke detectors, sprinkler system or fire hoses, “the hospital had no fire protection system, and false ceilings allowed the flames to spread to highly flammable products,” said Maj. Gen. Khadim Bohan, the head of Iraq’s civil defence forces. He told the state-run Iraqiya TV, Officials said that some of the victims were older patients on ventilators who could not move from their beds when the fire started. Reuters news agency quoted an eyewitness as saying that patients and medical workers had jumped out of second-story windows to escape the flames.

Scores of Palestinians injured in Jerusalem as Jewish supremacists march chanting “Death to Arabs”’More than 100 Palestinians were wounded in violent clashes with the police that broke out in East Jerusalem after a march by hundreds of far-right Jewish supremacists chanting, “Death to Arabs! Death to Arabs! All the people want revenge!” on Thursday night. The clashes followed days of mounting tensions in the city. The police used water cannon and stun grenades on the Palestinians, many of them in family groups with young children dressed in their holiday clothes. They had gathered outside the Damascus Gate at the end of the day’s fast during Ramadan, which started on April 12. At least 20 Palestinians, injured by the security forces’ sponge-tipped bullets and stun grenades, had to be taken to hospital. One Israeli driver, slightly wounded in an attack by young Palestinians, and a police officer were also hospitalised. Dozens of Jews and Palestinians were arrested. The Damascus Gate, one of the entrances to the Old City, is the most important gathering place for East Jerusalem’s Palestinian community, with tens of thousands of people passing through or sitting there every evening. The plaza outside the Gate has witnessed multiple clashes between Palestinians and the police in the last days over barriers installed by the police to prevent people sitting there during the month of Ramadan. The authorities gave no valid reason for the barricades, precipitating largely peaceful demonstrations at the Gate and calls to “Open the barriers” that were aggressively dispersed by mounted police and torrents of foul-smelling “skunk water,” turning the plaza into a battlefield. Further fuelling tensions, the authorities disconnected the Al-Aqsa mosque’s loudspeakers so that the call to prayer would not disrupt Israel’s Memorial Day ceremony for fallen soldiers at the Western Wall and restricted the number of West Bank Palestinians attending Ramadan services at the compound to just 10,000, subject to vaccination, far fewer than the numbers wanting to attend. When young Palestinians posted videos of themselves assaulting Jews on social media, amid flare-ups in Jaffa where Palestinian Israelis beat up the head of a yeshiva (a religious seminary) leading to violent clashes with the police, right-wing Jewish extremists seized the opportunity to fan the flames and demand vengeance. On Sunday evening, legislators from the fascistic Religious Zionism party, accompanied by provocateurs singing songs of anti-Palestinian hatred and vengeance, demanded the police take tougher action to “protect Jewish dignity.” Shortly after, Mohammed Abu Ziyadeh, 17, was attacked at the light rail station on Jaffa Street. Then on Monday, assaults on Palestinians escalated as dozens of young Jewish racists went on a rampage through the city chanting “Death to Arabs” and attacking passersby with stones and tear gas. The police made a show of arresting six suspects, later releasing all of them, and allowed similar provocations to continue in the days that followed.

Crush at Israeli religious festival kills 45 (Reuters) -Medical teams worked on Friday to identify 45 people crushed to death in a stampede at a religious festival on the slopes of Israel's Mount Meron, with children among the dead. Witnesses spoke of seeing a "pyramid" of people who were asphyxiated or trampled in a passageway around 3 metres (10 feet) wide at the crowded event in the Galilee. Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews had thronged to the tomb of 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for the annual Lag B'Omer commemorations that include all-night prayer, mystical songs and dance. The festival was segregated by gender, and medics said the injuries and deaths were concentrated in the men's section. Police asked family members of those who were still missing to provide pictures and personal information to help with the identification process. By late afternoon, the Health Ministry said 32 of the dead had been identified. As sunset neared on Friday the process was halted for 24 hours in observance of the Jewish Sabbath, and would resume on Saturday evening. Videos posted on social media in the minutes after the crush showed Ultra-Orthodox men clambering desperately through gaps in sheets of torn corrugated iron to escape the crush. People who stayed on the scene through the night questioned how the situation so quickly spiralled out of control, though there had been concern for years about safety risks at the annual event. "There was some kind of mess, police, screaming, a big mess, and after half an hour it looked like a scene of a suicide bombing attack, numerous people coming out from there on stretchers," said 19-year-old festival-goer Hayim Cohen. "We were going to go inside for the dancing and stuff and all of a sudden we saw paramedics from (ambulance service) MDA running by, like mid-CPR on kids," 36-year-old pilgrim Shlomo Katz told Reuters. An injured man lying on a hospital bed described how the crush began when a line of people in the front of the surging crowd simply collapsed. "A pyramid of one on top of another was formed. People were piling up one on top of the other. I was in the second row. The people in the first row - I saw people die in front of my eyes," he told reporters. The Mount Meron tomb is considered to be one of the holiest sites in the Jewish world and is an annual pilgrimage site. The event was one of the largest gatherings in Israel since the coronavirus pandemic began more than a year ago. The Justice Ministry said investigators would look into whether there had been any police misconduct connected to the tragedy.

Israel stampede: Religious festival crush kills 45: Live updates -- A stampede at a religious festival is Israel this morning killed at least 45 people and left some 150 others injured.Israeli investigators are examining exactly how the crush happened at Israel's Mount Meron. In the meantime, here's what we know so far:

  • What happened: A stampede broke out at Israel's Mount Meron, killing at least 45 people. Worshipers had gathered at the mountain to mark the Lag B'Omer holiday, an annual event where participants sing, dance and light fires in homage to second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai at his burial site.
  • Americans among the dead and injured: A State Department spokesperson said "multiple" US citizens were among those killed and injured in the stampede. Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke with his Israeli counterpart on Friday to offer his condolences on the deadly incident.
  • Event allowed during Covid-19 pandemic: Israel's health ministry had urged people not to attend the festival, warning of the risk of another coronavirus outbreak. However, case numbers have been low, and Israel has already fully vaccinated more than 58% of its population, so the event was allowed to proceed. Dov Maisel, vice president of operations at the volunteer-based emergency organization United Hatzalah, told CNN that around 100,000 people were in attendance.

Multiple US citizens were among those killed and injured at a religious festival in Israel overnight, a State Department spokesperson said Friday."We can confirm that multiple U.S. citizens were among the casualties," the spokesperson said, but did not provide details on numbers of wounded or how many were killed. “The U.S. Embassy is working with local authorities to verify whether any additional U.S. citizens were affected, and is providing all possible consular support to affected U.S. citizens and their loved ones,” the spokesperson added.“Out of respect for the families at this difficult time, we have no further comment,” the spokesperson said.“We offer our sincerest condolences to the families and loved ones of those injured and who perished in the tragedy at Mt. Meron during the Lag Ba’omer commemorations,” they said.

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