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Developer puts creative names -- Mad Max, for one -- on hydro projects

Bored with naming projects after towns, dams or rivers, one hydropower developer has named about a dozen proposed projects after movies, songs and a Saturday Night Live play-dough character. A relative newcomer to the hydro industry, Hydro Green Energy, started out in 2002 as a developer of hydrokinetic devices, which derive power from underwater river currents or ocean waves. Read more

From EPRI, a window on power line robots, wireless power transfer

Snail mail at the office long ago lost any compelling aspects, but one delivery that still offers subway-reading potential is the EPRI Journal, from the Electric Power Research Institute. The newest issue doesn't disappoint. You may not be interested in on-site production of activated carbon for controlling mercury emissions. It's hard, though, not to get caught up in the possibiliti... Read more

Jon Stewart, energy historian

Jon Stewart took time on June 16 to skewer the United States' energy policy -- or, rather, the lack thereof -- over the last 40 years. "The Daily Show" pieced together clips of every president dating back to Nixon promising variations on a "clean energy future" and "breaking the addiction to foreign oil" in a fairly devastating eight-minute Read more

Marcellus boom creates revolving door in Pennsylvania

One by one, members of Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell's administration are quietly resigning and taking jobs with the state's fast-growing natural gas industry. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday that Sarah Battisti, a deputy chief of staff, has taken a government affairs position with BG Group, a British gas company that recently bought a stake in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale, whe... Read more

Pennsylvania, New York legislatures leave gas industry hanging

A few weeks ago, the legislatures of Pennsylvania and New York were considering bills legislation that would place moratoria on drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation. Here's an update on what is NOT happening. Technically, the New York Legislature has adjourned, although Governor David Paterson has called them back to address budget issues, such as Medicaid. There were seve... Read more

In Singapore, no illusions about energy independence

A dispatch from our colleague Peter Maloney, who, far from his New York base found a welcome moment of candor in Singapore: It's refreshing every once in a while to hear a politician speak candidly about energy policy. During the World Cities Summit in Singapore, MM Lee was asked whether or not Singapore could become energy independent. That's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first p... Read more

National Grid, renewing the push for biogas

National Grid believes it can help meet energy demand in the Northeast -- and reduce carbon emissions -- if it can deliver a lot more biogas to customers in its four-state service territory in the US Northeast. But the utility giant knows it has a lot of hurdles to overcome -- including getting the government to pay attention. "From a policy perspective, the biggest challenge for renewable gas... Read more

If elected attorney general, Brodsky would probe New York ISO

Can probing the New York Independent System Operator generate any buzz around the Empire State? Launching a salvo on August 2nd in his run for the Democratic nomination for state attorney general, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky picked the ISO as his target. It's true that New York voters have a better chance than most of relating to the subject of electricity, having paid among the... Read more

When it comes to investing, caveat emptor rules

The Pennsylvania Securities Commission warned this week that there are scammers out there who want to exploit the good news about Marcellus Gas shale plays and the landowners who want to reap profits from it, even though a recent survey notes that many people are reluctant to invest in oil and natural gas stocks. Edward Jones, a financial services company, said on August 3rd that its re... Read more

Rails and coal: 'A second opening of the West'

Last week's 33rd anniversary of the Surface Mining Reclamation and Control Act, also known as SMCRA, marked an important milestone in the development of the Powder River Basin coal fields, as does November's upcoming 20th anniversary of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, which mandated reductions in sulfur emissions. More often overlooked in the development of the region, which now annu... Read more

Q1 set to lose its crown as peak oil demand season

The typical drop in world oil demand between the first and second quarters of the year is disappearing, and could even be reversed as the global market increasingly takes its cue from consumption trends in non-OECD countries, according to the International Energy Agency. The established s... Read more

Will New York hearing debacle damage EPA's cred?

The Environmental Protection Agency's inability to schedule and hold the final in a series of public hearings before kicking off its much-anticipated hydraulic fracturing study may be just the ammunition industry and pro-drilling landowners need to bury the concept of federal oversight of fracking. Hearings were supposed to be held Thursday, August 12, at Binghamton University in Broome... Read more

Transmission as art, New Mexico-style

The novel transmission project may still be a proposal, but in what has to be a first-ever development, Tres Amigas is forever immortalized as bronze art. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, last month, Tres Amigas not only celebrated the opening of its corporate headquarters, but also had Governor Bill Richardson on hand to unveil a sculpture depicting the proposed energy superstation, which is the brai... Read more

Halliburton fracks it, Polish-style

The folks at Tudor Pickering Holt are not so impressed, but we kind of are: US shale-cracking techniques are making their overseas debut. Services giant Halliburton fracked the first horizontal shale well in Poland recently, the Houston company announced Thursday. The Markowola-1 well in Kozience, about 50 miles south of Warsaw Read more

Matt Simmons' death: what one segment believes

I've never been big on conspiracy theories. Let me rephrase that: I think conspiracy theories are the refuge of very small minds. I'd like to rephrase that again, but we do have rules of decency here at The Barrel. So when somebody sent me the following Read more

Disclosing mine safety penalty risks: one small step

Sometimes disasters lead to much sound and fury from policymakers, and not much else. The terrible mine collapse at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine in April generated a lot of noise, regulatory pushes, and some efforts at federal safety-crackdown laws. But one small, unglamorous effort has already resulted in something: transparency. There's a lot to be said for transparen... Read more

Oil and gas industry's safety and environmental record leaves much room for improvement

BP now holds the record for oil spills in two of the major producing regions of the US - Alaska's Prudhoe Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It was fined $20 million for the Prudhoe spill, which may seem like pocket change when the fines and economic damages for the Gulf spill are finally... Read more

No matter what elections bring, NYISO likely to get attention

We've written about New York Assemblyman Richard Brodsky slamming the New York Independent System Operator, most lately as part of his campaign for state attorney general. But even if Brodsky does not win that position in November, the man who has it now may take a look at the ISO anyway, in his new role as governor. That would be Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who has a ... Read more

Unbranded vs. branded gasoline: Is there a difference?

Gasoline by any other name still smells as sweet.   When it comes to branded and unbranded gasoline what comes out of the refinery from BP, Exxon or Citgo, may not be the same product that consumers think they are getting at the branded pump. While all gasoline... Read more

"Return to normalcy" likely difficult even if deep drill ban ends early

From the looks of it, the US' deepwater drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico, imposed in late May by federal regulators, could be lifted weeks before its slated November 30 expiration date. That would be a relief to an industry segment that has railed against the six-month ban virtually... Read more

For safety's sake, speed up investigations into M Star's mystery blast

A month has passed since the alleged attack on Japan's Mitsui OSK Lines-owned supertanker M Star took place in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping channel for the global energy supplies. Some 40% -- 16-17 million barrels -- of the world's tradeable oil transits the Strait of Hormuz, which is ... Read more

Another milestone... when do we stop counting?

I guess the next time we should probably mention another milestone in climbing US production of crude is when it has a six in the front of it, as in six million barrels per day. The number six was prominent in the most recent report of the Energy Information Administration released this past wee... Read more

Oil prices might be rangebound, but stocks keep rising

Watching oil market fundamentals has not been very exciting this year, with crude prices stuck in a $65-$85/barrel range and the underlying dynamic showing little sign of change. But while demand and supply estimates may appear fairly static, oil stock data reveal something more interesting.... Read more

OPEC won't dare to disturb the universe

Platts' latest estimate of OPEC production and that of OPEC itself are well above what the oil producer club thinks the market needs from its members, but there are no indications at this point that the October 12 ministerial meeting in Vienna will see any action on output. The monthly Pl... Read more

US Air looks at hedging and says, "No thanks"

Michael Baer is the managing director of fuel administration for US Airways, and he had a few interesting observations Monday about the question of hedging the company's exposure to the price of jet fuel. Baer was part of a panel I chaired at the Platts' Oil Trading and Risk Management forum hel... Read more

Excuse me, Congressman... that thing out there... it's an oil well

You may have heard that North Dakota is producing a lot more oil. Yeah, they've got a real boom up there. Earl Pomeroy is the at-large member of the House of Representatives from North Dakota. Somebody in Washington told me once that we had to get him on Read more

The gas-crude spread and the incentives it is providing

Given what a terrific prognosticator I am -- for example, I can probably predict within ten cents where the price of crude oil will be seven minutes from now -- I was starting to think that switching from heating oil (the primary US Northeast heating source) to natural gas might be a good thing f... Read more

MANE-VU meeting shapes up as heating oil sulfur quilting bee

A meeting planned by the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Visibility Union (MANE-VU) early in 2011 should be interesting. Especially when the regional haze-planning group discusses heating oil sulfur cuts that were passed by several states this year. MANE-VU has recommended a move to 15 ppm heating oil t... Read more

Oil = education: the alchemy of Texas' university system fund

A little-known auction in a dusty west Texas town made a splashy oil strike last week. It didn't find the black stuff in the ground, but the Texas state university system headquartered there stands to reap a financial bonanza from the latest of its twice-yearly lease sales.&nb... Read more

Chubu Electric-Donggi LNG deal full of surprises

A recent announcement from Japan's Chubu Electric Power Company about its intention to buy 1 million mt/year of LNG from Indonesia's 2 million mt/year Donggi Senoro LNG project was full of timely surprises. Chubu Electric, Japan's third largest power utility, plans to buy 1 million mt/year of LN... Read more

Around the horn with a group of execs

The Oil Council is spreading its wings into the Americas, and it announced itself in a breakfast meeting with reporters the morning of October 5 that covered a lot of ground. The group, which was described by its CEO Ross Campbell a... Read more

Finding their inner square at the annual peak oil meeting

Seen as the fringe and "out there" wing of the energy world, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas-USA shows signs of finding its inner nerd as its sets its sights on making a bigger policy footprint. This year the group held its sixth annual conference within spitti... Read more

Chicken Little and government regulations:The sky is always falling

Chicken Little took a walk in the woods when an acorn fell from a tree and hit the top of her little head. "My, oh, my," she said. "The sky is falling." For industry and business groups in Washington and thousands of lobbyists the sky is always falling.  The real threat isn't Foxey Lox... Read more

IEA raises outlook for oil demand, but not prices

In its latest reading of the oil market tea leaves, the IEA said October 13 it saw clear signs of improving oil demand, but that it did not think market fundamentals would support a rise in oil prices to $100/b by next year. Since prices broke above $80/b earlier this month, the IEA noted... Read more

CNOOC taps US again for energy after 5 year hiatus

CNOOC is back tapping the US for the country's energy needs after a five-year hiatus, and again the latest deal has generated a lot of heated discussions in the US. Remember the audacious $18.5 billion all-cash bid to acquire Unocal Oil in 2005? The deal ultimately fell through in the fac... Read more

Blame the media for Macondo coverage? Not so fast

There is widespread agreement that confusion hampered the response effort in the early days and weeks after the April 20 blowout of BP's Macondo well. There was confusion over whether there was an oil spill at all and then just how large; confusion over how quickly the gushing well would be cappe... Read more

If it's good enough for NASCAR...ethanol makes its way into racing

While gasoline retail associations and some refiners are showing caution when considering whether to sell the new government approved 15% ethanol-blended gasoline, or E15, it appears that National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, or NASCAR, has a different idea. Over the weekend, on... Read more

More conflict looms amid crippling French refinery strike

The French refining strike shows no signs of letting up, even though the controversial pension reform which has sparked the unrest is moving closer to becoming law. All of the country's refineries have been shut since the strike started on October 12, and since later the same week oi... Read more

Don't mess with the big boys; Saudi Arabia is still king of OPEC

When Iraq recently raised its oil reserve estimates by 25% to 143 billion barrels, the initial assessment by analysts was that the Iraqis were drawing battle lines with Iran, their former enemy and the country which had hitherto held second place as holder of the second largest conventional oil r... Read more

French strikes give Brent refining margins a lift

Northwest European refining margins were bolstered last week, as French refinery strikes lifted refined product prices while depressing spot crude prices, Platts data showed. And one industry analyst has argued that the price reaction to the strikes shows Europe is replacing the US as the oil pri... Read more

What's new in the shale gas revolution?

Maybe it says something when talk of unconventional gas being a game changer starts to seem like old hat. So many facets of the US shale gas revolution -- the shift in LNG shipments to European markets, the contribution to a gas glut in key consumer markets -- now get taken for granted.... Read more

Oil's money guys talk of a tighter new reality

The recession may be officially dead and many banks' balance sheets seem solvent, but a stingy borrowing climate persists after the 2007-2009 meltdown. The notion of tightwad financiers is less the oxymoron that it once was, pre-2007, and beefed up due diligence is in vogue. So runs... Read more

Nigeria resurrects its push for higher OPEC output quota

OPEC's crude production quotas are largely notional, with actual production running close to 2 million b/d higher than the 24.845 million b/d target 11 of the group's members agreed to nearly two years ago. But quotas are also political, which may go some way towards explaining why Nig... Read more

Solar project groundbreaking brings a tear to the eye

Looking for some inspiration to renew flagging enthusiasm for huge federal subsidies for renewable energy projects? There's a video for you. When BrightSource Energy and friends broke ground Wednesday for the 392-MW Ivanpah concentrating solar power project, people spared no rhetoric to make the event momentous. Putting it to a stirring musical score makes the occasion almost a tear-... Read more

BP oil spill cleanup still carries on across Gulf Coast shores

Maybe I should have been a tarball for Halloween. The BP Macondo oil spill seems to have washed away from the national state of mind, which has focused of late more on the US mid-term elections, but the oil mess is still there. Very much so. Not that it's new oil, but residual oil, federa... Read more

FERC does its part for administration's renewables push

In some recent orders the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has continued to make good on its promise to find ways to promote the Obama administration's commitment to renewable resources. Friday, FERC determined that although Southern California Edison had not proven that two transmission projects are needed to reduce congestion or ensure grid reliability, they still qualify for some form o... Read more

How increased renewable fuel standards could lead to less supply

Energy economist Phil Verleger's weekly report that he sends to journalists and clients is provocative this week, as is often the case. He traces a path from the renewable fuel standards ratcheting up relentlessly, year by year, to the possibility of refiners cutting runs just to stay in com... Read more

Wave power: one up (in the UK), one down (in the US)

In the UK, our London colleagues report, E.ON said today that its 750-kW wave energy converter in Orkney, Scotland, has delivered its first power. That is a milestone for wave power, which hasn't gotten impressively far yet in either the US or Europe, though energy authorities see enormous potential for it. In the US, meanwhile, California media reports that Pacific Gas and Electric has just s... Read more

Retail gasoline touching $3 means, to many, general inflation

Ben Bernanke may be concerned about deflation, but the American people are not going to buy that argument if they keep looking up at the signs outside the nation's retail gasoline stations. It was said by an analyst once -- can't remember who -- that the American public views the price of gasoli... Read more

New old west Texas oil fields are industry's latest glamour pin-ups

Some of industry's biggest oil companies which just a handful of years ago were vying to see who had the biggest North American natural gas portfolios, continued to ramp up their oil and liquids operations in the third quarter -- and some of their choicest plays were to be found in the ... Read more

The shale gas revolution is celebrating a birthday

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George Mitchell, the father of the fracking revolution, is said to have joked that it took him 20 years to become an overnight success. He spent years attempting to marry hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling, and finally succeeded in the Barnett Shale in the early 1980′s.

So how could today be the four-year birthday of the shale gas revolution?

Because four years ...


At the Wellhead: Abu Dhabi playing its cards for oil development hopefuls

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The futures of oil concessions in OPEC exporting countries are usually settled years before the contracts are due to expire, allowing contractors to make long-term development plans. Not so in in the United Arab Emirates, where the concession covering the major onshore fields of oil-rich Abu Dhabi will expire in 2014, with no word yet on who will operate the fields and how new contracts will be...


The ultimate sendoff for Steven Chu: The Onion pokes fun at him

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Outgoing US Energy Secretary Steven Chu may be one of the most successful energy chiefs to head the agency. No, I’m not talking about his Nobel Prize for physics, which I’ve heard is harder to get than some of the other ones. Neither am I talking about how he managed to survive a congressional firestorm over the failed federal-loan recipient Solyndra. Nor his distinction as the long...


What will become of a key Senator’s oil and natural gas ideas?

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This week, the leading Senate Republican on energy policy released roughly 200 recommendations that may become the basis for her party’s energy agenda in the 113th Congress.

But was Senator Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, pitching a new energy bill?

No, the Alaska Republican told reporters.

“There’s nothing here to c...


China’s PTA industry: a victim of its own success

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In five short years, China’s purified terephthalic acid industry has gone from boom and to bust, a victim of its own success as it expanded swiftly, confident that China’s status as the world’s largest garment exporter would not be challenged.

Demand for PTA, a key polyester feedstock, was huge before the bust. China Customs data showed that in 2008, 4.97 million mt of PTA was imported. T...


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