WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The American Petroleum Institute oil and gas industry group said on Wednesday that it does not see a significant threat to the U.S. energy supply chain from the coronavirus pandemic.
Oil and gas companies are implementing contingency plans focused on ensuring continuity of supplies to market and preventing the spread of the virus to workers and the public, Suzanne Lemieux, API’s head of operations security, told reporters in a conference call with representatives of several energy industry trade groups.
“The supply chain is operating as normal now and you’re going to see that continuing unless there is any additional … shelter-in-place restrictions or larger outbreaks,” Lemieux said. “This is not a new planning scenario for a lot of our member companies, but we are trying to be as cautious as possible,” she said, adding that many of its members have dealt with previous outbreaks such as Ebola, SARS and H1N1.
Troutman Sanders, a law firm that advises pipeline companies, said in a blog this week that coronavirus may cause issues with “maintaining sufficient adequately trained and qualified staff for control rooms or field positions responsible for inspection and maintenance” and that the federal government has issued compliance waivers to companies in the past.
John Stoody, a vice president at the Association of Oil Pipelines, said companies were working with the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration on whether waivers would be necessary for work rules on pipeline control rooms.
Stoody said such communications with federal officials are normal during hurricanes and other emergencies. “So far our partners have been great in acknowledging the potential need,” for waivers, or other measures, he said.
Lemieux said the API would work with the Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency on whether waivers to environmental regulations were needed to help get fuel to market.
“We’re still speaking with our members to understand what their limitations are,” she said.
The energy groups also said many companies have ability to move workers from other parts of states or across states if employees in one place get coronavirus or are quarantined by it.
Andrew Lu, a managing director of operations at the American Gas Association, said that natural gas utilities can move employees and are also looking at the possibility of using contractors to backfill positions if needed, or calling on mutual personnel or equipment assistance from other utilities.
Several natural gas pipeline upgrades are either planned or under construction in New England, which will increase deliverability into the region over the next several years, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)
TC said in a filing with U.S. District Court in Montana that in February it would start mobilizing heavy construction equipment in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, and aim to begin building a 1.2-mile (1.93 km) segment spanning the U.S.-Canada border in April.
(P&GJ) — Several natural gas pipeline upgrades are either planned or under construction in New England, which will increase deliverability into the region over the next several years, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
According to the EIA’s tracking of natural gas pipeline projects, four pipelines are expected to increase compression in their system by 2023, adding more than 350 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of natural gas pipeline capacity into the region.
As of the end of 2019, EIA estimates pipeline capacity into New England from both Canada and New York was 5,200 MMcf/d. During days of peak demand in the winter, most of this capacity is fully utilized, which can lead to spikes in spot natural gas and, in turn, electricity prices. These projects aim to ease the pipeline constraints into New England.
The largest of these pipeline upgrade projects, which submitted its application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on February 4, is Iroquois pipeline’s Iroquois Enhancement by Compression Project. By increasing the horsepower at three compression stations in New York and Connecticut, Iroquois pipeline will increase its capacity by 125 MMcf/d.
The border crossing at Waddington in upstate New York, which connects to the TransCanada Mainline, is already designed to supply these additional volumes.
If approved, the project is expected to start construction in spring 2023 and be placed in service by November of that year.
On the Portland Natural Gas Transmission System, two projects will increase the volumes of Canadian natural gas imports received from the TransQuébec and Martimes pipelines at Pittsburg, New Hampshire: Portland Xpress Project Phase III, adding 24 MMcf/d capacity in 2020, and the Westbrook Xpress Project Phase II, adding 63 MMcf/d after its expected completion in 2021.
The previous phases of both projects have already entered service, and both projects only require modifications or upgrades at existing compressor stations.
In addition, two other projects will increase natural gas deliverability to New England from New York:
Algonquin’s Atlantic Bridge Phase II project will add 92.7 MMcf/d of additional capacity further into New England when the Weymouth compressor station is completed in Massachusetts. The project, which has faced numerous delays, is expected to enter service either later in 2020 or in 2021.
Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s Station 261 Upgrade Projects will provide an additional 72 MMcf/d of capacity. This project is expected to enter service in 2020 and involves upgrading compressor station 261 and 2.1 miles of looping adjacent to the site.
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) — Canadian pipeline company TC Energy Corp said it planned to start pre-construction work in February for its Keystone XL oil pipeline, the start of what it expects to be a busy work schedule for the long-delayed project.
TC said in a filing with U.S. District Court in Montana that in February it would start mobilizing heavy construction equipment in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, and aim to begin building a 1.2-mile (1.93 km) segment spanning the U.S.-Canada border in April.
Work on the border-crossing segment is subject to receiving federal approvals, including a right-of-way and temporary use permit, TC said.
The $8 billion Keystone XL project would carry 830,000 bpd of oil sands crude from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest and then on to the Gulf Coast. It has been delayed for more than a decade by opposition from landowners, environmental groups and tribes, and after former U.S. President Barack Obama rejected the project.
The State Department has yet to issue a final environmental impact statement. A judge ruled in November 2018 the agency had not conducted an adequate review of the pipeline.
U.S. President Donald Trump in March last year signed a new permission for the pipeline, a move in his administration’s pursuit of “energy dominance,” or maximizing production of oil, gas and coal for domestic use and exports.
Congested pipelines have resulted in lower Canadian prices and government-ordered production curtailments in the province of Alberta.
“Keystone XL is crucial in building market access for Alberta, ensuring high-quality Canadian oil that can be relied upon throughout North America,” Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a statement, adding that she is pleased with TC’s construction schedule.
TC said it plans to start building pumping stations along the pipeline route in June. Work on a pipeline segment in Nebraska would also start in June, followed by the start of construction of segments in Montana and South Dakota in August.
The schedule hinges on starting to mobilize equipment in February, TC said. Work will continue in 2021.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled a plan to speed permitting for major infrastructure projects like oil pipelines, road expansions and bridges, one of the biggest deregulatory actions of the president’s tenure.
The plan, released by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), would help the administration advance big energy and infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL oil pipeline or roads, bridges and federal buildings that President Donald Trump and industry groups complained have been hampered by red tape.
“For the first time in over 40 years today we are issuing a new rule under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to completely overhaul the dysfunctional bureaucratic system that has created these massive obstructions,” Trump said at the White House on Thursday.
The proposal to update how the NEPA, the 50-year bedrock federal environmental law, is implemented is part of Trump’s broader effort to cut regulations and oversight to boost the industry.
“This proposal affects virtually every significant decision made by the federal government that affects the environment,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said, adding that the NEPA reform would be the “most significant deregulatory proposal” of the Trump administration.
The proposed rule says federal agencies would not need to factor in the “cumulative impacts” of a project, which could include its impact on climate change, making it easier for major fossil fuel projects to sail through the approval process and avoid legal challenges.
CEQ chair Mary Neumayr told reporters that the agency will weigh feedback during the rule’s comment period on whether or how to more explicitly address climate impacts.
The proposal would also put one federal agency in charge of overseeing the review process, instead of giving multiple agencies oversight of the process and set a two-year deadline for environmental impact studies to be completed and a one-year deadline for less rigorous environmental assessments.
Trump’s efforts to cut regulatory red tape have been praised by the industry. But they have so far largely backfired by triggering waves of lawsuits that the administration has lost in court, according to a running tally by the New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity.
Over the last few years, federal courts have ruled that NEPA requires the federal government to consider a project’s carbon footprint in decisions related to leasing public lands for drilling or building pipelines.
Other proposed changes include widening the categories of projects that can be excluded from NEPA altogether. If a type of project got a “categorical exclusion” from one agency in the past, for example, it would automatically be excluded from review by other agencies, according to the plan.
According to CEQ, the average length of a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement is currently 600 pages and takes 4.5 years to conclude. U.S. federal agencies prepare approximately 170 such assessments per year.
Trump, a commercial real estate developer before becoming president, frequently complained that the NEPA permitting process took too long.
“It’s big government at its absolute worst,” Trump said of NEPA.
Some of the country’s biggest industry groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute, also have complained about lengthy permitting delays.
Environmental groups warned the plan will remove a powerful tool to protect local communities from the adverse impacts of a hastily designed and reviewed project.
“Today’s destructive actions by Trump, if not blocked by the courts or immediately reversed by the next president, will have reverberations for decades to come,” said Rebecca Concepcion Apostol, U.S. program director at Oil Change International, an environmental group.
The plan will go through a 60-public comment period before being finalized.
Environmental groups are expected to challenge the final proposal.
“If the regulations announced today drive agencies to diminish the extent or quality of their reporting, federal courts may very well conclude that their reports do not comply with the law,” said Notre Dame Law School Professor Bruce Huber.
Tumbleweed Midstream, LLC (“Tumbleweed”) today announced it has acquired the Ladder Creek Helium Plant and Gathering System from DCP Midstream, LP (NYSE: DCP). The plant is located just west of Cheyenne Wells, Colorado, near the Colorado-Kansas border. The Ladder Creek system is supported by long-term acreage dedications across a 1,000-square-mile area that spans Cheyenne, Kit Carson and Kiowa counties in Colorado and Hamilton, Greeley, Wichita, Kearney, Wallace and Finney counties in Kansas. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. See system map here.
The Ladder Creek Helium Plant and Gathering System serves natural gas producers operating in eastern Colorado and western Kansas, which includes the Morrow, Mississippian, Spergen, Chester and Marmaton formations. The natural gas produced in the region has a high helium content, with average concentrations as high as three percent. The plant was built in 1997 by Union Pacific Resources (“Union Pacific”) to separate helium from the natural gas stream and liquefy it for transport to market. DCP Midstream acquired the Ladder Creek system from Union Pacific in 1999.
Tumbleweed Midstream was established in 2019 to focus on the acquisition, operation and growth of the Ladder Creek Helium Plant and Gathering System. The company is supported by capital commitments from management and Tumbleweed’s founders.
Tumbleweed is led by CEO Durell Johnson, who has a unique history with the Ladder Creek plant. He served Union Pacific as the plant’s project engineer and project manager from 1997 to 1999. In this role Mr. Johnson hired and trained all employees, commissioned the plant in 1997 and managed operations until the plant was sold to DCP. Mr. Johnson started his 35-year career in the energy industry as a reservoir engineer with Exxon in Corpus Christi, Texas. Some of his more recent positions include director of engineering for Energy Transfer Company; vice president of engineering and operations for Regency Gas Services; vice president of engineering and operations for Clear Springs Energy; and senior vice president of engineering and operations for Stakeholder Midstream.
The Ladder Creek Helium Plant Current processing capacity at the Ladder Creek cryogenic processing plant is 40 million cubic feet of natural gas per day (MMcf/d), expandable to 50 MMcf/d. The plant has the capacity to extract and liquefy 1.5 MMcf/d of helium, with extraction and liquefaction to purity levels of 99.999 percent. The plant also produces NGLs and residue gas. NGLs are transported via pipeline to the DCP Wattenberg pipeline for transportation to Conway, Kansas, for fractionation. Residue gas is sent via pipeline to CIG Rockies or to regional producers for use as fuel.
“The acquisition of the Ladder Creek Helium Plant and Gathering System represents a significant opportunity for Tumbleweed Midstream,” said Tumbleweed CEO Durell Johnson. “The U.S. is the world’s largest helium producer. At the same time, the world supply of helium is suffering from a multiyear shortfall. This has boosted prices for natural gas with a high helium content and has begun to raise red flags in industries that depend on helium. The growth of Ladder Creek’s helium operations starts with delivering our current customers superior economics with the highest level of service. The helium is there, it’s highly valuable and by extracting it Tumbleweed can return premium netbacks to the producers in the region.”
Helium is used in cryogenics, MRI machines, welding, deep sea diving, manufacturing of fiber optic cables and semiconductors, and retail sales of helium-filled balloons.
Ladder Creek Gathering System The gathering and distribution infrastructure associated with the Ladder Creek system includes approximately 730 miles of pipeline, divided as follows:
190 miles of FERC-regulated interstate pipeline;
23 miles of residue gas pipeline;
15 miles of pipeline to carry fuel gas back to producers;
42 miles of NGL pipeline;
460 miles of gas gathering pipeline; and
10 compressor stations.
About Tumbleweed Midstream, LLC Tumbleweed Midstream, LLC is a privately held, independent natural gas gathering and processing company whose primary business is focused on the separation and production of liquefied helium, NGLs and residue gas from the incoming gas stream as well as the purification and liquefaction of crude helium from third parties. The company’s operations are centered at the Ladder Creek Helium Plant and Gathering System located near Cheyenne Wells, Colorado, just west of the Kansas-Colorado border. Tumbleweed Midstream is supported by capital commitments from the company’s management team and founders. For more information, please visit tumbleweedmidstream.com.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court has thrown out a permit needed by developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to build a natural gas compressor station in a historic African American community in Virginia.
The unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a victory for opponents of a proposal to build the station in Union Hill, an unincorporated community that was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War.
Lead developer Dominion Energy said the compressor station would have far fewer air emissions and more air control monitoring than any other station in the country. But opponents argued that the State Air Pollution Control Board and Dominion did not carefully consider the project’s potential health effects on Union Hill residents.
During oral arguments before the 4th Circuit in October, lawyers for opponents of the project said the state failed to consider the “unequal treatment” of people who live near the proposed site for the compressor station. Opponents said they were concerned that exhaust from the station could cause harmful health effects on nearby residents, most of whom are African American.
Union Hill is in rural Buckingham County, about an hour’s drive west of Richmond.
During the October hearing, Deputy Solicitor General Martine Cicconi said the Air Pollution Control Board “absolutely grappled” with the issue of environmental justice and carefully considered any adverse health impacts on residents. She said the emissions will fall well below emissions from other compressor stations in Virginia and will meet national ambient air quality standards.
The pipeline, which would run 600 miles (965 kilometers) and carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina, has been mired in legal challenges by environmental and conservation groups. Construction has been halted since December 2018.
In its written ruling, the three-judge panel said it agreed with opponents that the board failed to assess the station’s potential for disproportionate health effects on the community of Union Hill. The panel also said it agreed that the board failed to consider electric turbines as zero-emission alternatives to gas-fired turbines in the compressor station.
The 4th Circuit panel sent the case back to the Air Pollution Control Board.
Dominion said it will immediately begin working with the state to resolve the issues identified by the court.
Chesapeake Utilities has announced that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued an order approving the Company’s proposed Del-Mar Energy Pathway Project.
The order, which was applied for in September of 2018 by Eastern Shore Natural Gas Company, Chesapeake Utilities’ interstate natural gas transmission subsidiary, approves the construction and operation of new infrastructure facilities in Kent and Sussex counties in Delaware, and Wicomico and Somerset counties in Maryland.
The project will add approximately 12 miles of natural gas infrastructure in Kent and Sussex counties and nearly seven miles of infrastructure in Wicomico and Somerset counties. Construction of the Del-Mar Energy Pathway Project is expected to commence within the first quarter of 2020. The estimated completion date will be the fourth quarter of 2021.
According to a recent study from the Regional Economic Studies Institute of Towson University, the infrastructure project would bring the following economic benefits to the region:
Direct employment – individuals who are directly associated with the construction project
In-direct employment – companies that benefit from increased demand and sales of their local services
Induced employment – increased revenue for local employers and more discretionary spending for local residents
“The FERC’s approval enables our Company to continue to meet the growing customer demand for natural gas service in the region,” said Jeff Tietbohl, Vice President of Eastern Shore Natural Gas Company. “This project further expands our partnership in the local communities in which we live and work, bringing natural gas service to Somerset County for the first time.”
Once in service, the new natural gas infrastructure will provide approximately 11.8 million cubic feet per day of additional natural gas firm transportation service and 2.5 million cubic feet of off-peak transportation service to Chesapeake Utilities’ natural gas distribution subsidiaries on the Delmarva Peninsula and one industrial customer.
The estimated cost of the project is approximately $37 million.
PIPELINE PROJECT SPOTLIGHT
Phillips 66, Bridger Pipeline
Project includes construction of an oil pipeline from the Bakken and Rockies production areas to Corpus Christi, TX
Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have been very vocal about their efforts to reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. But as the Wall Street Journal and Gizmodo have reported, these same companies are currently teaming up with the fossil fuel industry to help them squeeze as much oil and gas out of the ground as possible.
Oil has always been hard to find and hard to extract, and so the industry has teetered precariously on the edge of profitability several times throughout its history. Over and over again, experts have predicted that we’ll soon run out of accessible, affordable oil — but so far, they’ve been wrong. Just when things look bleakest for black gold, new technology swoops in to keep the industry afloat.
In the early days, that technology came in the form of better drills and pumps. As we explain in the video above, today’s technological savior is artificial intelligence. Computer algorithms that perpetually improve themselves can automate the discovery of new reserves and streamline fossil fuel extraction — a big boost for companies that now have to compete with wind and solar.
In 2018, the oil and gas industries spent an estimated $1.75 billion on AI — a sum that is projected to balloon to $4 billion by 2025. To get their piece of that pie, big tech companies are developing AI for oil companies, even as they publicly celebrate their sustainable initiatives.
We reached out to Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Total for comment on this piece. None of them responded.
Oil prices spiked after U.S. air strikes in Iraq killed a top Iranian commander, heightening geopolitical tensions.
Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force and top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed early on Friday in a U.S. air strike on their convoy at Baghdad airport, the Pentagon said
While equity markets turned lower, oil prices surged on news of Soleimani’s death, with global benchmark Brent crude shooting 3.02% higher to $68.25 per barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude jumping 2.75% to $62.86 per barrel.
News of the strikes came after U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Thursday there were indications Iran or forces it backs may be planning additional attacks after Iranian-backed demonstrators hurled rocks at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad following American strikes on Sunday against bases of the Tehran-backed Kataib Hezbollah group.
Esper warned that the “game has changed” and it was possible the United States might have to take preemptive action to protect American lives.
In currency markets, the dollar weakened as investors snapped up safe-haven Japanese yen but was flat against the Euro. The dollar index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of six major rivals, was down 0.09% at 96.758.
U.S. energy regulators approved Tellurian’s request to start site preparation work at its proposed $27.5 billion Driftwood LNG export project in Louisiana.The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said Driftwood could start vegetation clearing and grading, demolition and removal of existing buildings, and dredging of marine berths, among other activities.
The company plans to source natural gas from the Permian Basin to Driftwood via its proposed Permian Global Access Pipeline (PGAP), Tellurian said drew strong interest during an open season from West Texas natural gas producers seeking delivery to the rapidly growing natural gas market in Southeast Louisiana.
The $3.7 billion PGAP is a proposed 625-mile, 42-inch interstate natural gas pipeline originating at the Waha Hub in Pecos County, Texas, and terminating at Gillis, Louisiana, north of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Construction could begin as early as 2021, and the project could begin service as early as 2023 with a capacity of 2 Bcf/d.
PGAP is one of three proposed pipelines that would comprise the estimated $7.3 billion Tellurian Pipeline Network, which is integral to its planned $15.2 billion Driftwood LNG export project near Lake Charles.
The pipeline network also includes the proposed Haynesville Global Access Pipeline (HGAP) and the Driftwood Pipeline. HGAP would be a 200-mile, 42-inch pipeline with capacity to transport 2 Bcf/d to the same interstate pipelines near Gillis. The 96-mile, 48-inch Driftwood Pipeline would provide 4 Bcf/d transport from Gillis to the Driftwood LNG facility.
“With FERC’s approval, we are doing some preliminary work on the site,” Tellurian spokeswoman Joi Lecznar said in an email, noting “we have progressed to completing over 27% of our engineering, and we have ordered some equipment in order to prepare for construction.”
Driftwood is designed to produce 27.6 mtpa of LNG or about 3.6 Bcf/d of natural gas. Tellurian has said it plans to start building the liquefaction plant in early 2020 and produce the first LNG from the facility in 2023.
Driftwood is one of about a dozen LNG export projects in North America that said they could decide to build their plants in 2020. Together those plants, which analysts said will not all be built, would produce over 160 mtpa of LNG.
Several of those projects, including Driftwood, had previously said they could make that final investment decision in 2019.
The U.S.-China trade war and a global oversupply of the fuel that caused gas prices in Europe and Asia to fall made it difficult for several LNG developers to sign enough long-term customer agreements this year. Those agreements are needed to secure financing for their billion dollar projects.
Total world demand for LNG reached a record 316 mtpa in 2018 and is projected to soar by around 100 mtpa by 2023, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Unlike most proposed U.S. LNG export projects that will liquefy gas for a fee, Tellurian is offering customers the opportunity to invest in a full range of services from production to pipelines and liquefaction.