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Oil and Gas Roundup — Oct. 23

October 23, 2014
TOPICS: In the news
A rundown of oil and natural gas industry news from around the state, nation and world:

Tom Coburn skewers NIH in final ‘Wastebook’

Tom Coburn is going out with a bang with his final “Wastebook.”

In it, the retiring Oklahoma senator laces into the National Institutes of Health for complaining about lack of Ebola research money while NIH investigates the effect of Swedish massages on rabbits.

This particular study on rodent rubdowns cost $387,000 — a tiny fraction of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ more than $4 billion budget. But the ranking member of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee cites many “unnecessary” spending programs that continue while NIH officials argue that important disease research has slowed.

It’s not just the bunny rubs that raise Coburn’s ire in his buzzy Wastebook, an annual catalog of “stupid” government spending that’s become a linchpin of the Republican’s career-long campaign against debt. Coburn also pans an NIH probe into how much dog owners love their dogs, a study of the science of meditation and development of a video game aimed at getting kids to eat their veggies.

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Greenpeace tries (and fails) to minimize climate benefits of shale gas

Yesterday, Greenpeace released another report attempting to minimize the role of shale gas in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States. According to Greenpeace – which opposes the use of fracking – renewable energy technologies like wind and solar were responsible for more emissions reductions than the increased use of natural gas since 2006.

Of course, this erroneous claim is not a new one. In 2012, the same “experts” at Greenpeace released a similar report attempting to show that the International Energy Agency, as well as a team of Harvard and MIT researchers, had overestimated the impact of the shale revolution on emissions reductions.

Unsurprisingly, the IEA World Energy Outlook team and the leading scholars at those prestigious universities saw little need to revise their findings—or even address the criticism that came for a non-peer reviewed, clearly un-objective source.

But the activists at Greenpeace are undeterred by scientific consensus. Arguing against a headwind of facts, Greenpeace would nonetheless have us believe that it is more reliable than the IEA team that put together the World Energy Outlook — comprised of 37 interdisciplinary experts that consult with member governments, international organizations and energy companies all around the world.

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New England infrastructure dearth could lead to gas price hikes, analysis finds

HOUSTON — A Federal Energy Regulatory Commission study is warning that infrastructure constraints in New England could send the region’s natural gas prices soaring this winter from recent lows to among the highest in the world for a second year.

The commission’s Energy Market Assessment, delivered last week, noted that while forecasters didn’t expect the coming winter to be as severe as last year’s, there is a risk for a colder-than-normal season. The threat — combined with a continued infrastructure shortage — has sent an October measure of winter futures prices for gas near Boston to an average of more than $21, about 80 percent higher than traders bid them up before the last winter, according to the regulator’s analysts.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, oversees a large sector of the midstream and electricity industry.

After the briefing last week, commissioner Tony Clark laid out his interpretation of the problem: A lack of infrastructure has isolated natural gas markets in New England and the Northeast.

“That’s a huge concern,” Clark said at the presentation, “That seems to be what’s driving all this. It’s really not a supply problem that we have in this country, but we have a rather severe infrastructure problem.”

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Sen. Wyden presses DOE for study on U.S. petroleum reserve

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is requesting that the Energy Department study the size and contents of the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

In a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Wednesday, Wyden urges him to direct the Department of Energy to study the reserve, which is the largest emergency supply of crude oil in the world.

Wyden’s request comes just days after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended in a report that the DOE study the petroleum reserve.

The report also said lifting a decades-old ban on crude oil exports could cut gas prices for consumers, and boost the economy.

“I am writing to urge the Department to follow the GAO’s recommendation and begin a study as soon as possible,” Wyden said on Wednesday.

“The recent shale boom is having a profound effect on United States energy policy,” he said.

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Schlumberger CEO: Oil will recover, spur E&P spending

HOUSTON – The slow but steady global economic recovery is still intact, and absolute oil demand has changed little despite fears of oversupply that have sent crude prices hurtling downward in recent days, Schlumberger’s chief executive told investors on Friday.

“We expect Brent to recover and stabilize,” Schlumberger CEO Paal Kibsgaard said in an earnings conference call. “Oil demand is currently set to increase by 1.1 million barrels per day in 2015, which will require growth” in exploration and production investments.

Spending levels by oil and gas producers is the metric oil field services companies like Schlumberger live by, and the recent slide in international and U.S. crude prices has stoked fears that investment levels will taper off next year, as European and Chinese economic data show a picture of slowing demand.

It’s not a trivial issue for Houston: The biggest employers in the oil industry are typically the oil-field firms that provide equipment and services in oil patches across the globe.

But Kibsgaard, head of the largest oil field service firm in the world, said Friday that a recent downward revision in global gross domestic product was only a slight correction of 0.2 percent in growth for both 2014 and 2015. Forecasters believe the global economy is still on track to grow 3.7 percent this year and 3.2 percent next year, and that’s a good bet given the strength of the U.S. economy and efforts to stimulate and manage growth in Europe and China, he said.

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