Thursday, November 20, 2008

Politics and the Pipeline

"Even in my own energy producing state, we have hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of clean green natural gas, and we're building the nearly forty billion dollar natural gas pipeline, which is North America's largest and most expensive infrastructure project."
Governor Sarah Palin - Vice Presidential Debate - 10/2/08

Andrew Halcro's blog | read more

Saturday, October 25, 2008

AP INVESTIGATION: Palin's Pipeline Terms Netted 1 Viable Bid, From Firm With Inside Ties

AP INVESTIGATION: Palin's Pipeline Terms Netted 1 Viable Bid, From Firm With Inside Ties


Palin's team was led by Marty Rutherford, a widely respected energy specialist who entered the upper levels of state government nearly 20 years ago. Rutherford solidified her status when, in 2005, she joined an exodus of Department of Natural Resources staff who felt Murkowski was selling out to the oil giants.

What the Palin administration didn't tell legislators _ and neglected to mention in its announcement of Rutherford's appointment _ was that in 2003, Rutherford left public service and worked for 10 months at the Anchorage-based Jade North lobbying firm. There she did $40,200 worth of work for Foothills Pipe Lines Alaska, Inc., a subsidiary of TransCanada.

Foothills Pipe Lines Alaska Inc. paid Rutherford for expertise on topics including state legislation and funding related to gas commercialization, according to her 2003 lobbyist registration statement.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sarah Palin, energy expert?

Remember those times in college when instead of doing the reading for your class the next day, you went out partying with your friends? And remember how when your professor asked you about the material you didn't read, you stammered, and hemmed and hawed, and finally just said whatever came to your mind, hoping beyond hope that it was at least mildly coherent?

Apparently, six colleges later, Sarah Palin does too.

At a town hall on Wednesday night, Palin was asked how she would keep domestically produced oil and coal in the U.S. Here's her answer:

Of course, it's a fungible commodity and they don't flag, you know, the molecules, where it's going and where it's not. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So, I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it's Americans who get stuck holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It's got to flow into our domestic markets first.

One courageous blogger, Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings, attempted to decipher Palin's response. Hilzoy thinks, with good reason, that Palin might have been suggesting a ban on oil exports.

That seems like a bad idea.

While Canada and Mexico are the two largest importers of U.S. crude oil and petroleum products, they're also our two largest suppliers. It's probably not smart to risk a trade war with them.

So perhaps John McCain overstated the case just a bit when he said that his running mate "knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America."

― Vincent Rossmeier

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Congressional craziness

Congressional craziness keeps United States in much hot water

WE KEEP LOOKING for an expert to explain why the economy is such a mess, but haven't seen anything thoughtful and comprehensive yet. So we'll offer our own. At least two big problems can be blamed in large part on foolish government decisions.

Why are energy costs so high, triggering inflation throughout the marketplace? Why, indeed, since the United States has huge untapped energy resources in oil, gas, coal and tremendous potential in nuclear energy. Then there are renewable sources like hydroelectric, wind and moving water energy.

Some of the problems are in developing technologies, but the nation's vast oil, gas and coal resources are largely off limits to exploration and production because Congress (with a little help from presidents like Bill Clinton) made them that way.

That makes the nation dependent on foreign sources, especially the Middle East, which is now an economic lifeline and must be defended with the lives of young soldiers and the fortunes of average taxpayers.

Many politicians have sold their souls to environmental activists and fight to block oil and gas drilling and coal mining within and around the country's borders. When the subject comes up of drilling in ANWR, a huge oil and gas reservoir, critics argue that it will take 10 years to tap ANWR. "That won't help today," they say. But legislation opening ANWR was passed by Congress in 1995, more than 13 years ago. The field could easily have been in production by now.

And why does it take 10 years to get a new field into production? Mostly government regulation and red tape. It's impossible to believe that process couldn't be speeded up and due consideration still given to environmental protection and public opinion.

Then there are the stock market gyrations triggered by a collapse in the mortgage lending field. Why did that happen? Because Congress mandated that poor people should be able to buy houses whether they could afford them or not. And the rules were loosened enough that liar's loans allowed even middle class people to buy larger and better houses than they could really afford if they wanted to bet that their income was going to go up later on.

Those who sold mortgages to people who couldn't afford the payments or were at risk of defaulting made their money on the paperwork. Afterward they laid off the loans on larger lenders who tried to make their money by buying mortgage paper in large amounts. It should be no surprise that eventually the system collapsed.

These things are all craziness, folks. They just should not be. The United States could be a wise shepherd for its natural resources and still extract them in a timely fashion without damaging the environment. Doing so would create millions of jobs as well as provide the nation with major sources of energy on its own soil.

America needs reform, all right. Most of these problems stem from congressional idiocy. How you fix that is a difficult question. We don't have the answer, just the question.
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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Palin requests a conference call with oil executives

Governor Sarah Palin has requested a conference call this week with the CEO's of the major oil companies playing a role in the potential development of Alaska's natural gas pipeline.

The requested participants include Tony Hayward from BP, James Mulva from ConocoPhillips, Rex Tillerson from Exxon along with others. According to my source, no one knows exactly what the purpose of the call is, but some have never the less speculated.

Last week in her address to the nation, Palin stepped far over the line of truthiness (thanks Steven Colbert) when she told the country, "I fought to bring about the largest private-sector infrastructure project in North American history. And when that deal was struck, we began a nearly forty billion dollar natural gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence."

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact the state has done little more to move the gas pipeline forward over the last twenty months than to grant a Canadian company $500 million to push paperwork with no guarantee a pipeline will be built.

Anchorage Daily News reporter Wesley Loy reported last month;

Palin said in her press conference that the state never before had commitments to build this line. Now we do. That's incorrect.

TransCanada has not promised to actually build the gas line, one of the state's grandest and most frustrated economic development dreams.

The state license, awarded under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, or AGIA, which the Legislature passed at Palin's request last year, is not a construction contract and does not guarantee a pipeline will be built."

Since becoming Alaska's governor in December of 2006, Palin's administration has had a very combative relationship with the oil & gas industry in Alaska and has ignored any attempts to communicate with them on development issues.

When the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA) was introduced and passed by the legislature in 2007, the administration refused to entertain suggestions from the producers to make the process more commercially viable. At the end of the day the state had crafted a proposal that ignored all legal and fiscal realities.

So instead of negotiating with the producers, the administration said they'd rely on public and share holder pressure to force three of the largest oil companies in the world to commit to paying for the most expensive privately financed project in the history of the United States.

Even United State Senator Ted Stevens raised serious concerns about the process back in March saying; "financing terms won't be set by the legislature, the governor or the Congress. They're going to be set by the people who manage the money."

Today, the state has awarded a $500 million inducement and exclusive rights to TransCanada, while their CEO is on record as saying that they cannot order one piece of steel pipe without first gaining the financial support from the oil companies. "Nothing goes ahead unless Exxon is happy with it," CEO Hal Kvisle told the Toronto Globe and Mail in August.

So what could the agenda be on this requested phone call by Governor Palin?

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Oil reserve totals depend on price


If you had to bet whether the price of oil would be higher or lower 10 years in the future, what would you say?

Some argue that the world is running out of low-cost oil and that oil prices will get higher and higher. Others argue that the current high price of oil will cause a flood of new oil, much of it from nonconventional sources; hence, prices will fall significantly (provided the political class in Washington, D.C., does not continue its energy and environmental death march policies).

The case for much lower oil prices is as follows. There are hundreds of years of oil supplies (at present and projected consumption levels) if oil in oil sands and shale is properly included in reserves. In some places, such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq, there is still much low-cost oil ($15 a barrel or even less) that can be produced for decades, but not in an amount sufficient to meet the world's demand; hence, much higher-cost oil is also pumped. This higher-cost oil includes much of the offshore oil (the huge cost of the mammoth drilling rigs has to be amortized over each barrel of oil produced) and on-shore oil in hard-to-reach places and/or produced from low-production wells.

Oil reserves are largely a function of price. Global proven reserves of conventional oil obtainable at prices of less than $40 per barrel are estimated at more than 1.3 trillion barrels, with much of it concentrated in the Middle East. Additionally, reserves of so called "heavy oil," the largest reserves of which are in Venezuela's Orinoco area, are estimated at 1.2 trillion barrels, and most of this . . .

could probably be recovered for less than $50 per barrel.

The reserves of oil sands, which are actively being mined in Canada's Alberta Province, are estimated to be 1.8 trillion barrels. Experts estimate that much of this can be produced for $45 per barrel or less. Global reserves of oil shale are estimated at more than 3.3 trillion barrels, with 70 percent in the United States (primarily in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming).

Shell Oil Co. last year announced it has developed a process for extracting the oil from the shale, without mining, at a price of roughly $35 per barrel. The United States also has the world's largest reserves of coal — enough for hundreds of years of production at present levels. Coal also can be turned into liquid petroleum (as the Germans and South Africans proved decades ago). Current estimates of the conversion cost are as low as $35 per barrel.

Does it seem a bit odd that the current price of oil is more than twice the cost of producing all the oil the world presently needs and will need long into the future? The reason the price is so high is that the supply has been artificially constrained by governments. Most (88 percent) of the conventional oil reserves are owned by governments, and these governments have underinvested in new production. As is well-known, the U.S. government has restricted offshore and onshore drilling, shale development, and coal conversion.

Some politicians argue, even if the U.S. government started to allow increased production, that it would be seven to 10 years or more before there would be additional output. This is nonsense. Oil wells can be drilled at an average rate of 1,000 feet or so per day, which means that the average U.S. well can be drilled in a week. It does take a few weeks to set up the pump and install the separation tanks, etc., but new land wells can be producing within months, even if the product has to be trucked rather than piped away.

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska would not take all that long for some production to get started. Politicians often confuse the time it takes to get peak production from a field as compared to some production — each additional well takes time, plus the necessary new piping collection infrastructure for each additional well.

Offshore wells do take a lot longer, but most of the time involved is the government permitting process, not the physical production of the rigs, drilling and so forth. If the government gave a full green light to production of oil shale in the Rocky Mountains, it might take several decades to reach full production, but some production would be accomplished in the next couple of years.

The very same politicians who claim we cannot increase oil production quickly are often the same ones who tell us we need to move to alternative forms — windmills and solar, etc. — without seeming to understand these desirable technologies will take far more time to meet the goals of "energy independence" than ramping up oil production. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said she would not allow a vote on more drilling because she wanted "to save the planet," without seeming to understand, if increased oil production does not take place in the United States with all its environmental safeguards, it will take place where U.S. environmental law cannot be enforced — and that is not healthy for the planet.

Fortunately, the people are beginning to understand they are paying twice more for a gallon of gasoline than is necessary, and the global environment is not benefiting. Less expensive energy and a cleaner environment are most likely to be achieved quickly not with alternative energy sources but with an alternative set of congressional leaders.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Interesting Times for Alaska

ANOTHER ITEM from the Globe and Mail interview with TransCanada CEO Hal Kvisle got lost in the smoke and steam resulting from Kvisle's comment that "nothing goes ahead until Exxon is happy with it."

Kvisle also suggested in an interview last Sunday with the Toronto-based newspaper that Denali and TransCanada are likely to join forces sometime in the next two years.

At least that is the apparent implication of his statement . . .

that it's unlikely more than one open season will be held in 2010. "This is not about TransCanada dreaming up the project we think will work," he said. "It's about the five key parties getting together and crafting something here." The five parties are apparently the three big producers, TransCanada and the state of Alaska.

Kvisle noted that plans at this point call for both Denali, the company formed by ConocoPhillips and BP to build a gas pipeline, and TransCanada to hold open seasons in 2010. The open season is when customers are solicited to ship their gas through a pipeline.

The Globe and Mail reporter said Kvisle told him it's unlikely two open seasons will be conducted. That makes sense, since TransCanada couldn't really compete with a line being built by the companies that control North Slope gas — nor could it woo the companies away from using their own pipeline.

But it would mean at least one of the two entities would either delay an open season — TransCanada is obligated by its contract with the state of Alaska to hold an open season in 2010 and Denali is ahead of TransCanada — or Kvisle expects both sides to join forces sometime in the next two years.

So unless natural gas prices go in the tank sometime soon, which doesn't seem likely, the next two years should be an interesting time in Alaska.

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The true economically viable option Denali Alaska Gas pipeline

Monday, August 4, 2008

2 Days after Alaska's incompetent Legislators pass AGIA

ENERGY- Alaska Goofs It Again

Exxon key to Alaska pipeline

August 4, 2008

VANCOUVER -- TransCanada Corp. has won support from Alaska to build a $26-billion natural gas pipeline, but ground won't be broken until Exxon Mobil Corp. signs on, says TransCanada chief executive officer Hal Kvisle.

Calgary-based TransCanada, which secured Alaska's official backing Friday, is in competition with BP PLC and ConocoPhillips Co. to build a pipeline that would connect large untapped gas reserves on the north slope of the state to consumers in the continental United States.

But Exxon, the company that controls the most gas in Alaska, hasn't yet backed either of the competing proposals, though it has an active Alaska team monitoring the pipeline race.

"Nothing goes ahead until Exxon is happy with it," Mr. Kvisle said in an interview yesterday.

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For TransCanada to proceed, it will also need to attract the shipping business of rivals BP and Conoco, which control part of the natural gas.

"This is not about TransCanada dreaming up the project we think will work, it's about the five key parties getting together and crafting something here," Mr. Kvisle said.

That presents some big challenges. All of the companies would likely seek a longer-term deal with Alaska on such issues as taxes before deciding to make a long-term commitment to a pipeline.

Reaching such a deal could be an uphill battle because the relationship between the firms and Alaska is frayed after a previous pipeline proposal fell through two years ago. Further, while it looks like it's BP-Conoco versus TransCanada in Alaska, the relationships are much more tangled.

London-based BP is TransCanada's largest customer on its sprawling gas pipeline network, and Conoco, based in Houston, and TransCanada are partners on a major new oil sands pipeline.

In this foggy and seemingly fractured picture, Calgary-based TransCanada is positioning itself in the role of intermediary, hoping to own part of the pipeline while getting closely involved in its design and construction by pitching its pipeline expertise as an important card.

An ownership stake in any pipeline is something the producers want if they are to sign long-term contracts, Mr. Kvisle said.

But TransCanada also has the right, under federal Canadian legislation from the late 1970s, to build the Canadian portion of the line, the company says.

Mr. Kvisle said he thinks TransCanada can figure out a deal that will work for everyone and offer advantages such as savings amounting to several hundred million dollars with technology that eliminates the need for pressure-testing the pipeline.

Late Friday, the Alaska Senate approved a licence for TransCanada to start preliminary work with $500-million from the state - but also a long list of requirements to ensure that the line benefits Alaskans. The licence was issued under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, a process that Exxon, BP and Conoco rejected as unreasonable, and led BP and Conoco to independently propose a $30-billion pipeline called Denali.

TransCanada's new pipeline licence does not affect Denali, said Bud Fackrell, a BP executive who is now president of the venture, in an interview with Bloomberg News on Friday.

Mr. Fackrell added that an open season for contracts to ship gas on Denali will be conducted in 2010. It's the same year that TransCanada plans to do the same, as required by its licence, but Mr. Kvisle said it's unlikely two open seasons will be conducted.

While Alaska inches ahead, the proposed $16-billion Mackenzie Valley pipeline - whose lead backer is Exxon - in the Northwest Territories is much further along and is nearing the end of a long regulatory review.

Mr. Kvisle doesn't think the two ventures are in competition and said construction on Mackenzie could begin in 2010 while Alaska likely won't break ground before 2015.

And in Alaska, Exxon remains the deciding factor.

"Things aren't always as they seem," Mr. Kvisle said. "Exxon is not the front-and-centre party in the press but I know for a fact that they've got very hard work going." Rean More

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Energy Rhetoric vs. Reality

Energy Rhetoric vs. Reality
Policymakers are talking a lot about energy and energy policy. Some of the debate is thoughtful. But much of it displays a lack of understanding of energy markets and the factors that influence price. Many of the proposals offered fail to address the critical question we face: How do we meet growing energy demand both in America and around the world?

API has compiled some of the most frequently heard claims and proposals, along with the realities that need to be considered when evaluating them.

Policymakers are talking a lot about energy and energy policy. What follows are some of the most frequently heard claims and proposals emanating from the campaign trail, along with realities that need to be considered when evaluating these claims.

RHETORIC: Oil Companies are to blame for the high price of gasoline.

REALITY: There are many factors affecting the price of gasoline.

More than 80 cents of every dollar spent at the pump goes to the price of crude and taxes. The price of crude oil is set on global markets, not by oil companies, and it accounts for more than 70 cents of every dollar of gasoline price. And the government takes nearly twice as much in taxes (13 cents) as the industry makes in profit (fewer than 8 cents).
While gasoline prices have increased dramatically this year, the price of crude oil has increased by $1.21 per gallon in 2008, compared with the price of gasoline, which is up 80 cents per gallon.
Demand is strong in both mature economies and the developing world, especially in China, India and the Middle East. The market impact of tight supplies has been exacerbated by political instability, resource mismanagement and weather. Finally, the decline in the value of the dollar against other currencies has put American consumers at a disadvantage.

RHETORIC: Oil and natural gas companies are demanding greater access to America’s resources even though they own leases on millions of acres of federal lands that are already open to drilling. They would rather sit on these idle leases and make record profits than increase production. If they’re not willing to produce on these idle leases, they should hand them over to someone who will.

REALITY: Just because a lease is not producing oil or natural gas doesn’t mean it’s idle. Companies are actively exploring and developing the majority of their leases, but the entire process takes years and requires many steps, including securing government permits, analyzing seismic data and installing the machinery needed for drilling and production. Many leases prove not to contain enough oil and natural gas to be commercially viable, and companies can’t produce oil and natural gas where it does not exist. Over the past five years, American companies have paid billions to obtain federal leases, and if they don’t develop leases within a certain period of time, they return them to the federal government, forfeiting all investments.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Oil and Natural Gas 101

Related Video
Building Block of Everyday Life
From our livelihoods to our lifestyles, the oil and natural gas industry improves the lives of Americans every day. This video highlights the uses of petroleum in our daily lives, as well as the many applications of petrochemicals. More >>

From the ground to the pump… or the playing field… or the medicine cabinet... each and every day Americans rely on the products created by oil and natural gas. And behind this vital product is an important story that needs to be told. Whether it’s:

Learning the value of oil and natural gas in fueling our way of life,
Recognizing that energy efficiency has its benefits,
But a rapidly growing world still needs greater supply; or
Developing a better understanding of how company performance contributes to the average American’s retirement portfolio;
We should all know the intangibles of this irreplaceable product.

In just one 24-hour period, the oil and natural gas industry delivers:

Enough energy to heat 80 million homes
382 million gallons of gasoline to service stations, enabling 200 million drivers to get to work, take their kids to school, and take vacations-- traveling 7.5 billion road miles every day
67 million gallons to airport terminals, enabling 30,000 flights to travel around the world
Every day, the industry employs 1.9 million people directly, and many more indirectly.