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Oil and Gas Roundup — Feb. 14

February 14, 2017
TOPICS: In the news
A roundup of oil and natural gas industry news from around the state, nation and world:

Corporate spending shows Oklahoma oil fields among nation's hottest plays

As oil and natural gas companies attempt to claw their way out of the deepest industry downturn in a generation, spending plans appear to vary widely based in part on both size and location.

We're in the heart of budget season when companies throughout the oil patch announce their planned spending for the rest of the year.

Companies often adjust their budgets throughout the year, especially if commodity prices change significantly or based on drilling results in various fields. But early budgets announced this time of year reveal clues about what executives expect to see from their companies and the broader industry as the year progresses.

So far, independent oil and natural gas producers have indicated plans to boost spending, especially in the country's two hottest oil fields — the Permian Basin in west Texas and southeast New Mexico and central Oklahoma's SCOOP and STACK portions of the Anadarko Woodford play. We should get more details soon, with several Oklahoma companies scheduled to announce their 2016 earnings and 2017 budgets over the next two weeks.

While independent oil producers appear likely to increase spending, major integrated oil and natural gas companies generally have announced modest 2017 budgets.

Read Adam Wilmoth’s story at NewsOK.

GOP's favorite bills could bolster Trump's 2-for-1 order

President Trump's executive order on regulatory reform could gain sharp teeth if Congress manages to pass a number of reform measures GOP lawmakers have been pushing for years.

The order directs agencies to toss two rules for every new one to offset costs, and it establishes a regulatory budget through which the president can cap how much is spent on rulemaking each year. But even then, its full and practical effect is not altogether clear.

"Nothing in [the order] is intended to supplant the law or tell agencies they have to go against anything within existing law," said Jerry Ellig, senior research fellow at the free-market Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

"This executive order is going to largely apply to new regulations that agencies have complete discretion about developing," Cary Coglianese, director of the University of Pennsylvania Law School's Penn Program on Regulation, said in a recent interview.
Trump's executive order has all kinds of caveats that narrow its impact.

Guidance from the Office of Management and Budget clarifies the order only applies to "significant" rules and excludes independent agencies; it cannot stop agencies from issuing statutorily mandated regulations; and it cannot force agencies to take cost into consideration for rules whose underlying laws prohibit it.

For example, under the Clean Air Act, U.S. EPA may not consider costs when establishing national ambient air quality standards for ozone, soot and other air pollutants. EPA is required to update those standards every five years. This means the executive order would have little to zero impact on the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

— E&E News

Judge refuses to block work on Dakota Access pipeline

A federal judge on Monday denied a request to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said he would not grant a temporary restraining order against the project sought by a South Dakota tribe who argues the pipeline threatens their religious waters.

The Cheyenne River Sioux tribe says the oil pipeline threatens to "imbalance and desecrate" Lake Oahe on the Missouri River, which is sacred to the tribe. They asked for a temporary restraining order blocking construction of the project, which runs under the lake.

"The mere presence of the oil in the pipeline renders the waters religiously impure," Cheyenne River Sioux lawyer Nicole Ducheneaux said Monday.

But a government lawyer said there is no reason to block construction right now because of a "lack of immediate, irreparable" harm to Lake Oahe during construction of the pipeline itself.

Boasberg agreed, ruling that construction of the pipeline doesn't threaten the water. He said he wouldn't issue a restraining order against the project, but vowed to rule on the tribe’s religious challenge to the pipeline before oil runs through it. He set a hearing on the matter for later this month.

"If you are worried it's going to flow before I rule on the injunction, that's not going to happen," he told the tribe’s lawyers.

Read more at The Hill.

More drilling permits issued in Texas

The number of new drilling permits issued in Texas last month was more than 80 percent higher than the previous year, state data show.

Texas is the No. 1 oil producer in the state and accounts for about half of all the drilling activity in the country. Preliminary data from the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state oil and gas overseer, show 81.5 million barrels of oil produced in November, about 1 million barrels less than the previous month.

The Texas energy sector, as well as the state economy, was under pressure for most of last year because of a downturn in crude oil prices. Since late last year, crude oil prices recovered in response to a decision from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to control production levels and overall spending in the energy sector has increased in kind.

Data from oilfield services company Baker Hughes show Texas added seven rigs for the week ending Feb. 10, a sign that energy companies are spending more on exploration and production.

In January, the Railroad Commission issued 956 original drilling permits, compared with 510 in January 2016. Nearly all of those were for new oil or gas wells.

Read more at UPI.

Mexico and Middle East buying ‘record amounts’ of U.S. natural gas

The only liquid natural gas (LNG) export facility in the U.S. sold a record amount of gas to Mexico and the Middle East last month, according to data from the energy firm Platts Analytics.

Thanks to production gains attributable to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the Louisiana facility went from exporting 0.941 billion cubic meters of natural gas in November, to 1.476 billion cubic meters in January — an increase of almost 57 percent, according to the firm. The facility’s biggest customers are Mexico, the Middle East and India, which account for a 41 percent of its business.

Mexico relies on natural gas to generate 60 percent of its electricity. The Middle East is also using natural gas to meet soaring electricity demand. Countries like Kuwait and Dubai are some of the largest importers of U.S. gas.

Demand for LNG is also rising in Asia, with the first gas shipment from U.S. fracking arriving in Japan last month. Analysts accept that Asia will eventually account for the biggest market growth in demand for gas, largely because LNG prices have sharply risen in Japan, due to the suspension of the country’s nuclear power plants following the Fukushima disaster.

U.S. natural gas is also flowing into Europe, where LNG exports have sharply limited Russia’s ability to use state-controlled companies, such as Gazprom, as a political weapon against America’s allies in the region. Russia used interruptions in the natural gas supply in 2006, 2009 and 2015 to put political pressure Eastern European countries like Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states.

About half of Europe’s imported natural gas comes from Russia. American LNG exports directly compete against Russian gas, forcing the country to rethink how it treats American allies who can now have gas options.

Read more at The Daily Caller.
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