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Gas Boom Goes Bust

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December 29, 2012
Posted by Jonathan Callahan

The current boom in drilling for ‘unconventional’ gas has helped raise US production to levels not seen since the early 1970′s. This has been an incredible boon to consumers and has kept spot prices contained below $5 per million BTU for the past year, recently dropping below $3/mmbtu. Unfortunately, this price is below the cost of production for many of these new wells. When the flood of investment currently pouring into natural gas drilling operations dries up, the inevitable bust will be as scary as the boom was exciting.

Read more: The Oil Drum

USGS Releases Survey on Utica Shale Gas Resources, USA

The Utica Shale contains about 38 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas (at the mean estimate) according to the first assessment of this continuous (unconventional) natural gas accumulation by the U. S. Geological Survey.

The Utica Shale has a mean of 940 million barrels of unconventional oil resources and a mean of 9 million barrels of unconventional natural gas liquids.

The Utica Shale lies beneath the Marcellus Shale, and both are part of the Appalachian Basin, which is the longest-producing petroleum province in the United States. The Marcellus Shale, at 84 TCF of natural gas, is the largest unconventional gas basin USGS has assessed. This is followed closely by the Greater Green River Basin in southwestern Wyoming, which has 84 TCF of undiscovered natural gas, of which 82 TCF is continuous (tight gas).

“Understanding our domestic oil and gas resource potential is important, which is why we assess emerging plays like the Utica, as well as areas that have been in production for some time” said Brenda Pierce, USGS Energy Resources Program Coordinator. “Publicly available information about undiscovered oil and gas resources can aid policy makers and resource managers, and inform the debate about resource development.”

The Utica Shale assessment covered areas in Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Some shale rock formations, like the Utica and Marcellus, can be source rocks – those formations from which hydrocarbons, such as oil and gas, originate. Conventional oil and gas resources gradually migrate away from the source rock into other formations and traps, whereas continuous resources, such as shale oil and shale gas, remain trapped within the original source rock.

These new estimates are for technically recoverable oil and gas resources, which are those quantities of oil and gas producible using currently available technology and industry practices, regardless of economic or accessibility considerations.

This USGS assessment is an estimate of continuous oil, gas, and natural gas liquid accumulations in the Upper Ordovician Utica Shale of the Appalachian Basin. The estimate of undiscovered oil ranges from 590 million barrels to 1.39 billion barrels (95 percent to 5 percent probability, respectively), natural gas ranges from 21 to 61 TCF (95 percent to 5 percent probability, respectively), and the estimate of natural gas liquids ranges from 4 to 16 million barrels (95 percent to 5 percent probability, respectively).

USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources of onshore lands and offshore state waters. The USGS Utica Shale assessment was undertaken as part of a nationwide project assessing domestic petroleum basins using standardized methodology and protocol.

USGS Releases Survey on Utica Shale Gas Resources, USA LNG World News.

Zetas gang threatens Mexico’s shale gas near border

September 26, 2012 at 12:25 am
by FuelFix.com

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico — The brutal Zetas gang poses one of the most daunting challenges to the development of Mexico’s abundant shale gas reserves near the Texas border.

The gas fields extend from the booming Eagle Ford play of South Texas deep into the ranch and coal country stretching inland from this violent border city. This is Zetas country, among the most fearsome of Mexico’s criminal badlands.

U.S. and Mexican energy companies long have been besieged by the gangsters here – their workers assaulted, extorted or murdered – despite a heavy military and federal police presence. Now, with feuding Zetas factions bloodying one another and fending off outside rivals, what has been a bad situation threatens to get much worse.

Northern Mexico’s gas production has suffered for years as gangland threats or attacks have kept workers from servicing the wellheads, pipelines and drilling rigs in the Burgos Basin, the territory between the Rio Grande and the city of Monterrey, which now provides up to 20 percent of Mexico’s natural gas.

Petroleos Mexicanos has problems with security … principally in Burgos,” Guillermo Dominguez, a senior member of the National Hydrocarbons Commission, told the Mexico City newspaper Reforma.

And now the surging Zetas bloodletting pits the gang’s top bosses – Heriberto Lazcano and Miguel Angel Treviño – against Ivan Velazquez, a former underling known as “El Taliban.” From his base in the western state of Zaca­tecas, Velazquez reportedly has allied with the remnants of other gangs to launch a challenge for control of Coahuila state, which holds most of the shale gas reserves.

Challenge to control

Banners recently hung by both Zetas factions have accused one another of treason and other transgressions that will be avenged with death. Fighting has rattled Nuevo Laredo, the Zetas stronghold that also is the busiest land port for U.S.-Mexico trade, killing scores this month alone.

Still more banners appeared in Nuevo Laredo Tuesday, reputedly written by beleaguered civilians, promising all the gangster factions further bloody vengeance.

“Zetas are pretty much in control, but they have been challenged,” said a U.S. official in Mexico who monitors the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity. “You have all these groups fighting one another, shifting alliances and internal fights … It’s a wilderness of mirrors.”

The Zetas’ spats with rivals already have turned Coahuila’s other large cities – Torreon in the west, Monclova in the center and Saltillo in the east – into fierce gangland battlegrounds. State officials are blaming the Sept. 17 escape of 131 prisoners from a Piedras Negras prison on the Zetas seeking to replenish their ranks for new battles.

The insecurity in Mexico’s gas fields contrasts sharply with the drilling and production frenzy seizing the ranchlands just north of the border. Oil field pickups and semi-trailer fuel tankers choke Highway 83, the once-desolate ranch-country highway that cuts northwest from Laredo though the lower reaches of the Eagle Ford.

Some 6,000 drilling permits have been issued for Eagle Ford shale in Texas, and 550 wells are producing there. By comparison, Pemex so far has drilled five exploratory shale gas wells, but hopes to drill 170 more in the next four years. The company plans to spend $200 million on exploration in the short term.

Those first exploratory wells have been drilled to the west of Nuevo Laredo and below the border at Piedras Negras, ranch and coal country that remains relatively violence free for now. But that tranquility may owe more to the now-threatened dominance of the Zetas bosses than to rule of law.

“They are in control,” said a U.S. official. “They are pretty much just doing their thing.”

Workers disappearing

At least eight Pemex and contract employees vanished in May 2010 near a gas facility near Falcon Lake, territory under the Zetas’ firm control. Last March, two men working for a Mexican company doing contract work for Houston-based Halliburton disappeared outside Piedras Negras.

Halliburton spokeswoman Tara Mullee-Agard said employees get regular security briefings, but the company declined to comment on the contractors’ disappearance.

“Many companies that were active in the areas have stopped until Pemex or the government can provide security,” said an employee of one Reynosa-based company. “In places where there have been incidents we don’t operate anymore. When darkness falls, we stop wherever we are.

dudley.althaus@chron.com

Britain appoints oil and gas friendly decision-makers

(Reuters) – Britain sent a clear signal of support to its oil and gas industry when it named an advocate of shale gas fracking as environment minister and a wind farm sceptic as energy minister.

The appointments in Prime Minister David Cameron‘s ministerial reshuffle on Tuesday mark a departure from his pledge to run Britain’s greenest government, in favour of the fossil fuel sector that generates billions of pounds in tax revenue.

“There is a shift away from greener ministers in posts towards less green ministers and I think that’s serious,” Alan Whitehead, a member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, said during an industry event on Tuesday.The government last year put a brake on the development of shale gas extraction due to environmental concerns after it triggered two small earthquakes near Blackpool.

But Owen Paterson, a member of Cameron’s Conservative Party who was appointed Environment Secretary in the reshuffle, has hailed the potential economic benefits of shale gas, a message likely to sway the country’s decision in favour of the drilling method.

“If developed safely and responsibly, shale gas could generate massive economic activity and a wealth of new jobs,” Paterson said in May, when he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

He said huge shale gas deposits in Northern Ireland could be exploitable, adding that discoveries in the United States had shrunk its gas price to a quarter of British levels.

“(Shale gas) has also ended America’s dependence on unreliable and dictatorial regimes,” he said.

The decision on whether Britain will resume shale gas fracking, a method of drilling through shale deposits to retrieve gas by injecting liquids and chemical, is in the hands of the energy ministry, but support from the Department for Environment could speed up a decision.

NEW ENERGY MINISTER

John Hayes replaced Charles Hendry as Energy Minister in the reshuffle.

In his final media interview as Energy Minister, Hendry said a decision on shale gas was not imminent, but that Britain could not ignore its impact on the U.S. energy market.

Hayes has been a vocal opponent of wind farms, a technology the government regards as key to meeting climate change goals.

“Such tall structures will have a detrimental impact on the quality of life for local residents, the attractiveness of the area and its potential for tourism,” Hayes said at a local council meeting, reflecting the views of his constituents campaigning against the construction of a wind farm.

He said wind farms would always be backed up by conventional power plants because of their unreliability and that they had a detrimental impact on wildlife.

“Wind power (considerably) increases the average household energy bills as the profit-hungry energy companies continue to chase the taxpayer funded subsidies and credits,” the new Energy Minister said.

(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Additional reporting by Susanna Twidale; Editing by David Cowell)

Reuters

U.S. Expected to Approve Expanded LNG Exports to Japan

The US policy of LNG exports to Japan is expected to see a significant change in near future as more export approvals are considered.

A report published by Baker & McKenzie has said that last year the US government approved exports from a second terminal, and decisions on eight other applications for export approval are expected later this year.

Implications for Japanese LNG buyers and investors

The report stressed that expanded U.S. LNG exports represents an opportunity not only for Japanese LNG buyers to diversify their supply sources with shale gas but also at more competitive pricing linked to Henry Hub prices rather than oil prices.  Japanese companies also could establish value chains in the U.S. by investing in projects to build export facilities and by acquiring interests in shale gas fields.

Since 1967 the Kenai LNG Plant in Alaska, which produced all eight of the LNG cargoes shipped from the U.S. to Japan in 2011, had been the only LNG plant with export approval.  This changed last year when the Sabine Pass facility in Louisiana obtained export approval.  Eight other applications for export approval are now pending.

Export approval process and outlook

Under the Natural Gas Act gas exports require permission from the federal government.  Such permission is only granted if the Department of Energy (DOE) determines that the proposed exports are consistent with the public interest.  Exports to 17 countries which have free trade agreements (FTAs) with the U.S. are deemed consistent with the public interest and the DOE must approve exports to these countries “without modification or delay”.  In contrast, approvals for exports to non-FTA countries, including Japan, are subject to a lengthy public interest finding process which allows for comments, protests, and motions to intervene from interested parties.

The applicable legislation does not require the DOE to take action on applications within a certain timeframe.  After Sabine Pass received approval for exports to non-FTA countries in May last year, the DOE suspended consideration of all applications pending the results of a study on the impact of exports on the domestic energy market.  This followed complaints from some U.S. lawmakers who were concerned that exports might increase domestic prices.  The domestic market impact study was initially scheduled to be completed by the first quarter of this year, but it is still pending and is now expected to be completed later this summer.  Accordingly, none of the pending applications are likely to be approved until the fourth quarter of this year at the earliest.

There are, however, some reasons to believe there is political support for expanding LNG exports to non-FTA countries such as Japan.  For example, on July 2, 2012, a bipartisan group of 21 members of Congress from states with shale gas deposits sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu urging the DOE to expedite the pending LNG export applications.  In February, Secretary Chu said he supports LNG exports, and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda also said he discussed expanding LNG exports when he met with President Barack Obama on April 30, 2012.

Actions to consider 

• Conduct preliminary due diligence on LNG projects with pending non-FTA export approval applications, as these projects are likely to be now seeking LNG buyers and equity investors.

• Monitor the DOE’s non-FTA export approval process.

• Investigate the compatibility of LNG produced from U.S. shale gas with regasification facilities and pipeline networks in Japan

Conclusion

Given the currently wide differential between the Henry Hub spot price used for trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and JCC pricing, expanded LNG exports produced from U.S. shale gas fields is a potential game changer for the gas market in Northeast Asia, and Japan in particular.  From the Japanese buyer’s perspective, it is clear that approvals for further export terminals is an important development to monitor in order to position themselves as potential buyers and equity investors.  For more information, please contact Colin Cook or Hiromitsu Kato.

Source: Baker & McKenzie via: Source

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