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Oil and Gas Roundup — Dec. 1

December 01, 2014
TOPICS: In the news
A roundup of oil and natural gas industry news from around the state, nation and world:

Senate Dems try to move quickly on Obama energy picks ahead of GOP takeover

Senate Democrats aren't wasting any time trying to fill key energy agency vacancies before a Republican takeover next year.

With time running out before they're forced to relinquish their gavels, several key Democrats are moving quickly to win confirmations for President Obama's picks for the Federal Energy Regulatory and Nuclear Regulatory commissions. As the GOP prepares to take over the chamber in January, prospects for clearing agency nominees will become increasingly uncertain.

On tap this week in the upper chamber, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has scheduled a confirmation hearing for Colette Honorable, a regulator from Arkansas, to serve at FERC through June 30, 2017.

Honorable is known to have broad bipartisan support, and her nomination was only put on hold after the sudden death of her husband in September.

Democrats are also eyeing a host of energy-related nominees in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the panel's chairwoman, has indicated she wants to take swift action.

Boxer has scheduled a full committee business meeting tomorrow to consider the nominations of two members to the Tennessee Valley Authority and the nomination of Jeffery Baran, a former aide to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), to serve on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a longer term, through 2018. He recently was confirmed for an interim appointment.

Senate Democrats' hustle arrives ahead of what some say could be a slowdown in nominee confirmations when Republicans take control of the upper chamber, including 250 nominees picked by Obama but awaiting congressional clearance. The most high-profile of those picks is Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as attorney general. Republicans have expressed a preference to wait until the new year to consider her nomination.

— E&E Daily

Siemens boss charged up about oil field electricity

German engineering conglomerate Siemens is betting big on the United States as economic stagnation limits its opportunities to grow in Europe. In September, the company agreed to pay $7.6 billion for Houston energy equipment manufacturer Dresser-Rand, Siemens’ first big foray into the booming U.S. oil and gas business.

Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser said the deal will allow the company to combine Dresser-Rand’s oil and gas expertise with Siemens’ electrical technology. The combination is an opportunity in the oil and gas sector, where drilling equipment and pumps typically are fueled by diesel engines.

Kaeser spoke with FuelFix about the deal with Dresser-Rand and the U.S. energy picture. Excerpts, condensed and edited for clarity:

Q: For a long time, Siemens’ wind turbine business was one of its big plays in the U.S. energy space. How should we be thinking about Siemens now?

A: There are more than 60,000 people working for Siemens in this beautiful country and working in the space of energy, both renewable energy, like wind — and we have been successful in building our market share — but also in unconventional oil and gas, which we are just about to build out further.

Read more:

Washington Post editorial: Maryland's HF rules too stringent

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) plans to lift a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” next month, regulating rather than prohibiting a controversial drilling process that energy companies have used to retrieve massive quantities of natural gas from shale rock formations. But Western Maryland landowners looking for drilling royalties and local laborers looking for jobs should check their excitement. The rules that the outgoing governor plans to impose on Maryland fracking would be so tough that they would make it impossible for drilling to begin in the next two years and would diminish the likelihood that operations will happen in earnest after that.

Larry Hogan, the incoming Republican governor, has promised to review “every single one” of Mr. O’Malley’s regulations. That’s warranted — but his review should be based on the evidence. He must take care not to go too far in the other direction, scrapping many good proposed rules because some might be too strict.

The first thing to note about Mr. O’Malley’s plan is that it admits a crucial point: Drillers can conduct fracking operations with an acceptable degree of safety and environmental sensitivity. Many other states came to this conclusion years ago. But, under pressure from anti-fracking activists, Maryland’s leaders in 2011 forced an independent, three-year reevaluation. State officials reviewed several independent evaluations of various concerns, including air quality, pollution control technology and public health, and they surveyed other states’ rules. Finally, they offered recommendations that would make Maryland the toughest state in which to frack.

Read more:

Russian energy giant Gazprom accused of organising fracking protests

Protests in Eastern Europe against possible shale extraction were funded and organised by Russian energy giant Gazprom, according to politicians in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Romania.
Vlasa Mircia, mayor of a rural Romanian town, which had been prospected by energy firm Chevron, said in an interview with the New York Times that his town became a focal point for anti-fracking protesters in the country.

“We never had protesters here and suddenly they were everywhere”, said the mayor. He identifies the state owned Russian energy company Gazprom as the financial and organisational source of the protests, stating “everything that has gone wrong is from Gazprom”.

Mr Mircia’s concerns are supported by the prime minister, who blames Gazprom from driving away potential investment in the shale industry by Chevron, and officials from neighbouring state Bulgaria and Lithuania.

Iulian Iancu, chairman of the Romanian Parliament’s industry committee asserted, “it is crucial for Russia to keep this energy dependence. It is playing a dirty game,” and also accused Gazprom of spending $100 million to disrupt the prospective shale industry, although this claim was unsubstantiated with any evidence.

The Romania Prime Minister Victor Ponta has described the energy industry as the “most effective weapon today of the Russian Federation, much more effective than aircraft and tanks”.

In addition, in a statement in September, Anders Fogh Rasmussen who at the time was secretary general of NATO said, “Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called nongovernmental organizations, environmental organizations working against shale gas, to maintain dependence on imported Russian gas”.

Gazprom have denied any such activity against other companies prospecting shale, and said that its current shale programme was restricted to geological surveying rather than test drilling and as such has not been the target of protesters.

— Shale Energy Insider

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