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Obama said ready to push partial Keystone XL approval

Obama will be in Cushing, Okla., the start point of the pipeline’s southern half on Thursday

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The Keystone XL project will extend TransCanada Corp.‘s Keystone pipeline that carries oil from northern Alberta to refineries in the United States. (TransCanada Corp.)

U.S. President Barack Obama is reportedly set to announce in Oklahoma this week that he’s expediting the permit process for the southern half of TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Citing a senior administration source, CNN reported on Tuesday that Obama wants to slash several months off a permit approval process that can ordinarily stretch on for as long as a year.

The administration wants to speed things up to deal with a glut of oil in Cushing, Oklahoma, where crude from the Midwest runs into a logjam on its way to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama will make the announcement Thursday at a storage yard in Cushing, the starting point of the pipeline’s southern half.

Pipes that will be used to build Keystone XL to the Gulf Coast are being housed at the facility.

Gas prices rising

The announcement comes as prices at the pump continue to soar. Republicans are blaming Obama’s energy policies for rising gas prices and continue to attack him for rejecting Keystone XL in January.

The U.S. average price for a gallon of gasoline rose for the 11th straight day on Tuesday to $3.85 US, and soared to $4 a gallon in some states. That would amount to a little over a dollar a litre in Canada.

Millions of barrels of unrefined crude are sitting in storage facilities in North Dakota, in particular, but there’s a lack of pipeline capacity to carry it to the Gulf Coast and a limited number of rail cars that can transport the oil south. The state is currently in the throes of a major oil boom thanks to the discovery of the so-called Bakken Shale.

Obama’s recent praise of Calgary-based TransCanada’s decision to proceed with the construction of the southern segment of the pipeline signalled a shift in attitude from the White House after it rejected the pipeline outright in January.

The entire length of the proposed, $7.6 billion pipeline would stretch from Alberta’s oilsands through six U.S. states to the Gulf Coast.

No decision from State Dept.

The U.S. State Department has yet to make a decision on the pipeline, saying it needs more time to conduct a thorough environmental review of a new route around an environmentally sensitive aquifer in Nebraska. State department officials are assessing the project because it crosses an international border.

In November, under mounting pressure from environmentalists, the State Department deferred making a decision on Keystone until after this year’s presidential election, citing concerns about the risks posed to the aquifer.

Pipeline proponents cried foul, accusing Obama of making a cynical political move aimed at pacifying the environmentalists of his base and improving his chances of re-election.

Republicans then held the administration’s feet to the fire, successfully inserting pipeline provisions into payroll tax cut legislation in late December.

Within a month, facing a mid-February deadline imposed by that measure, Obama nixed TransCanada’s existing permit outright, saying there wasn’t enough time to thoroughly review a new route before giving it the green light.

But Obama also assured Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the decision did not reflect on the pipeline’s merits, but was merely necessitated by Republican pressure tactics. He welcomed TransCanada to propose another route.

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Seaway pipeline creates contango with oil glut

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Enbridge Inc. and Enterprise Products Partners LP haven’t just reversed the way benchmark oil flows in the U.S. They also changed the price relationship in the futures market by creating a temporary glut in the main delivery point for crude contracts.

The reversal of the 500-mile (805-kilometer) Seaway pipeline from the trading hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, to refineries on the Gulf Coast is intended to clear a supply build-up that depressed prices of West Texas Intermediate oil traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The shift is attracting more oil to Cushing to meet demand once crude flows change direction. Inventories grew 6.4 percent to 32 million barrels in the past seven weeks, according to U.S. Energy Department data.

Increased stockpiles depressed crude for next-month delivery, making it less expensive than later futures so that investors have to pay more for each successive contract. January oil traded in contango, or at a discount to August crude, on Nov. 22 for the first time in a month, following the action by Enbridge and Enterprise six days earlier.

“We expect the WTI contango to increase in coming months as Cushing inventories rise in anticipation of the reversal,” David Greely, head of energy research at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in New York, said Nov. 23 in a phone interview. “After the reversal of the Seaway, these barrels would move down to the U.S. Gulf Coast, drawing Cushing inventories back down and reducing the contango.”

Oil for January delivery gained 0.8 percent to $97.53 at 12:46 p.m. on the Nymex. That compares with $97.68 for the February contract, a premium of 15 cents, down from 20 cents on Nov. 23.

Backwardation, Contango

Over the past five years, oil for front-month delivery was in contango versus the contract for the next month 82 percent of the time. The front month was in backwardation, or more expensive than the next month, on 18 percent of trading days.

U.S. crude rose relative to Brent for January settlement last week on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange as Brent prices dropped $1.38, or 1.3 percent, to $106.40 a barrel on Nov 25. Between 2001 and 2010, WTI traded at a premium of 87 cents a barrel to Brent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. With an influx of oil at Cushing, that flipped to a record discount of $27.88 on Oct. 14. The gap has since narrowed 63 percent to $10.38 today.

Refiners on the Gulf Coast have been forced to pay higher prices for imported oil because of a lack of transport from Cushing. Oil used on the Gulf has been linked to Brent, which is the benchmark for more than half of the world’s oil.

The Seaway line will operate with a capacity of 150,000 barrels a day by the second quarter of 2012, according to Enterprise and Enbridge. Pump modifications expected by early 2013 will boost that to 400,000 barrels.

Pipeline Capacity

Currently, there is 1.64 million barrels a day of pipeline capacity into Cushing and only 995,000 out, according to Martin Tallett, founder of EnSys Energy & Systems Inc., a Lexington, Massachusetts, consulting company.

Additional lines may be needed to handle increased production. Canadian output will jump 37 percent to 2.16 million barrels a day in 2015 from 1.58 million this year, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said in June.

North Dakota, which produces oil from the Bakken field, almost doubled output in the past two years and pumped a record 464,129 barrels a day in September, according to the state government. Production may grow to between 1.5 million and 2 million barrels a day within five years, Katherine Spector, a New York-based analyst with CIBC World Markets Corp., said Nov. 22 at The Energy Forum in New York.

Canceled Projects

The Seaway reversal is replacing Enbridge and Enterprise’s Wrangler pipeline proposal, which would have carried as much as 800,000 barrels a day from Cushing to the coast by mid-2013, Rick Rainey, a company spokesman, said Nov. 16.

Enterprise and Energy Transfer Partners LP said Aug. 19 they wouldn’t move forward with plans to construct a separate 584-mile line from Cushing to Houston.

The State Department announced Nov. 10 it was delaying a decision on TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline to study an alternative route for the $7 billion project that avoids environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska.

Further study “could be completed as early as the first quarter of 2013,” said the department, which has jurisdiction over the line because it crosses an international border.

“Because of all the euphoria around Seaway, we’ve lost a lot of other news in the background,” said Amrita Sen, a London-based analyst with Barclays Plc. “A lot of key pipelines have actually been canceled.”

Lower Prices

For now, January futures on the Nymex are cheaper than every contract through June, when prices turn lower than previous months. Oil for delivery in December 2012 trades at $97.58 a barrel, falling to $93.50 the following December and $91.08 in the same month of 2014.

The months closest to delivery will remain in contango until next year because of ample stockpiles at Cushing and a slowing economy, Harry Tchilinguirian, the London-based, head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas SA, said Nov. 25 in a phone interview.

Oil for sale at a later date is lower, reflecting the concern of hedge funds about bullish bets when there is “uncertainty in the global economic outlook,” he said.

by Bloomberg

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Ironically Texas May Be Forced To Export Unrefined Crude By 2012

The US oil industry is in a bit of a quandary. The Houston & Louisiana refining area is the largest in the world. It has just had tens of billions of dollars thrown at it, to prepare it to run heavy sour sources. These heavy sour grades are typically cheaper, and contain lots of secondary products during the refining process.

In simple terms, we have spent the last twenty years preparing to make more out of lower quality oil. It was a great idea, when the handwriting on the wall said these would be the only real sources of future growth in hydrocarbon volumes.

This is now a problem for some companies, as their own refinery’s need the heavy sour crude’s to fuel these their product runs. What are they to do with a flood of light to super light sweet crude’s?

If they ran this stuff, they would  have to turn off a significant number of units at their refinery’s that are designed to capture and crack the heavy sludge. This leave the US refining patch in a bit of a jam.

The new Eagle Ford shale oil is coming online in large volumes. Rumors are that Eagle Ford production will crack 500,000 barrels by the end of 2012, if they can get around localized shipping constraints.

Right now it is the gathering of the stuff in quantities that are easy to ship/export that is the issue.The crude is so light in some places, they need specialized trucks to collect it and bring it to a gathering location. There isn’t the capacity to pick up the crude and bring it to market available right now.

We are talking about 100,000 barrels of oil production behind pipe right now, and growing daily as people rush to install new smaller capacity pipelines around Texas to help haul it away.

The number of companies that believe they can growth their domestic production by 100,000 barrels of oil in the next couple of years is growing.

The irony is that the new supply is super light & sweet. A mix never expected in the US again.

Platts had an article on this exact topic in June of 2011.

The US could resume exporting some of its domestic crude oil production in 2012 when the output from Eagle Ford Shale in Texas ramps up.

Eagle Ford shale crude’s gravity ranges from 42 API to 60 API with very low sulfur content, which in the US Gulf Coast refining terminology is considered a super light crude.

But that’s the problem for US refiners: they aren’t built to process that type of crude. So the highest value for it may be outside the country.

The US exports may be to the US East Coast first. The refinery’s based on the east coast tend to have a higher sweeter demand over their Southern units.

In fact, the blow out in Brent prices has severely affected their profits due to sourcing costs increasing significantly this spring with the Libya revolution. There have been at least 3 refinery’s put up for sale or being put into mothballs until a cheaper source of crude is available.

“U.S. east coast refining has been under severe market pressure for several years. Product imports, weakness in motor fuel demand and costly regulatory requirements are key factors in creating this very difficult environment,” ConocoPhillips said when it put Trainer on the auction block.

If the three refineries on the block shut down, what does this mean for oil markets?

In the case of the US, if Texas starts to export light sweet crude by large barges to the east coast. You could see a Renaissance in US exports of refined products as these units produce above domestic demand needs.

The irony is that in the US we have removed the demand for the lighter sweet crude’s, so much so we will soon be exporting it from our primary refining center due to excess capacity in supplies. NOT DEMAND.

The energy crisis of 2005 is not the supply crisis everyone was looking for. I wonder how long it will take society to catch up to the new reality. The US is going to become an energy exporter, even if its Texas shipping crude to those Yankees up north.

Before you fall out of your chair laughing, look at this chart, conceptualize it, and then leave me a comment in the section below. I look forward to your thoughts on this chart.

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It’s a chart of barrels of oil produced per year from a specific zone in Texas. It will double every year for the next few. Then think about other new zones like it coming online in the next few years. Its a small amount today, but a not so small amount by tomorrow.

Oil in New York Surges Above $100 on Reversal of Seaway Pipeline

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By Mark Shenk

Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) — Oil in New York climbed above $100 a barrel to a five-month high as Enbridge Inc. said it would reverse the direction of the Seaway pipeline, opening an outlet for crude from the central U.S. and Canada.

Futures rose much as 2.7 percent after Enbridge agreed to acquire ConocoPhillips’s share of the pipeline that runs between Cushing, Oklahoma, and the Gulf Coast and announced the reversal. The change may alleviate a bottleneck at the Cushing storage hub that had lowered the price of West Texas Intermediate, the grade traded in New York, versus other oils.

“In the short term, this will definitely clear some of the crude out of Oklahoma,” said Francisco Blanch, head of commodities research at Bank of America Corp. in New York. “This may not be enough to eliminate the glut in the Midwest because output is growing by hundreds of thousands of barrels a year. We still need additional transportation capacity.”

Crude oil for December delivery rose $2.08, or 2.1 percent, to $101.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures reached $102.06, the highest level since June 10. The contract traded at $99.70 before the Seaway announcement.

Brent oil for January settlement dropped $1.39, or 1.2 percent, to $110.79 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London. The European contract’s premium to West Texas crude narrowed to as little as $8.32 a barrel, the smallest spread since March 9. The spread surged to a record high of $27.88 on Oct. 14.

Initial Pipeline Capacity

The pipeline will operate with an initial capacity of 150,000 barrels a day by the second quarter of 2012, according to a statement from Enbridge. Enterprise Products Partners LP also owns a share of the link.

The pipeline will enable more oil from Canada and North Dakota to reach the Gulf Coast, home to about half of U.S. refining capacity.

The reversal “will definitely reduce the amount of rail and barge that is needed,” said Hussein Allidina, the head of commodity research at Morgan Stanley in New York. “You are still going to evacuate some crude via some of these higher costs transportation means” as Canadian and U.S. output rises.

An Energy Department report today may show U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell 1.2 million barrels last week, according to the median of 13 analyst responses in a Bloomberg News survey. Supplies increased 1.3 million barrels last week, the American Petroleum Institute said yesterday.

The industry-funded API collects stockpile information on a voluntary basis from operators of refineries, bulk terminals and pipelines. The government requires that reports be filed with the Energy Department for its weekly survey.

–With assistance from Aaron Clark in New York. Editors: Richard Stubbe, Charlotte Porter

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Shenk in New York at mshenk1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net

Enbridge, Enterprise Products To Reverse Seaway Crude Oil Pipeline

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(RTTNews) – Enbridge Inc. (ENB.TO: News ,ENB: News ) and Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (EPD: News ) agreed to reverse the direction of crude oil flows on the Seaway pipeline to enable it to transport oil from Cushing, Oklahoma to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Pending regulatory approval, the line could operate in reversed service with an initial capacity of 150,000 barrels per day by second quarter 2012.

Patrick Daniel, President and Chief Executive, Enbridge Inc., said, “A Seaway reversal will provide capacity to move secure, reliable supply to Texas Gulf Coast refineries, offsetting supplies of imported crude.”

Meanwhile, Michael Creel, President and Chief Executive of Enterprise’s general partner, noted, “We believe that reversing the direction of crude oil movement on Seaway and the construction of additional infrastructure will accelerate access to Gulf Coast markets, reduce transportation costs, improve both producer and refiner economics and hasten the development of North America’s crude oil reserves.”

Following pump station additions and modifications, anticipated to be completed by early 2013, the capacity of the reversed Seaway Pipeline would be up to 400,000 barrels per day in mixed service, the company noted. Enbridge and Enterprise anticipate that the reversed Seaway pipeline would be fully contracted. After reversing the direction that crude oil flows on the 500-mile, 30-inch diameter, long-haul pipeline, Seaway would deliver crude from Cushing into the Houston-area market by utilizing existing affiliate and third-party pipelines as well as its Texas City local pipeline system.

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