Friday, February 28, 2020

Two New State-of-the-Art Gas-to-Liquids Plants Coming to Jefferson County

From the Herald-Star:
A locally organized industrial development company says it will build two state-of-the-art gas- to-liquids plants on a 500-acre parcel in Saline township.

Hammondsville-based Orin Holdings said the property is “adjacent to the Ohio River.” 
“This parcel of land will be slated for industrial development housing two state-of-the art gas to liquids plants in the Ohio Valley,” the company said in a brief notice posted on its website. 
Jefferson County Port Authority Incentives Manager Evan Scurti Wednesday stressed the project is still in a “very preliminary” stage, but said there’s “great potential.” Prior to posting that notice, Scurti said Orin Holdings had insisted on confidentiality. 
“We’re ready to work with them, to hear what their needs might be as they go through the permitting process,” he said. 
Orin founder Donald Brown said this morning that the site had been chosen after about three years of searching. 
“We’re very pleased to find 500 acres of isolation and are happy to have the privacy the location offers,” he said.
Read the rest of that article by clicking here. 

EQT Posts $1.2 Billion Loss in 2019, Plans to Greatly Reduce Debt in 2020

From Nasdaq:
EQT Corp EQT.N, the largest producer of natural gas in the United States, on Thursday reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss and cut its 2020 capital outlays, joining peers in curbing spending as investors seek higher returns. 
The company now expects 2020 capital expenditure between $1.15 billion and $1.25 billion, compared with a prior outlook between $1.25 billion and $1.35 billion. 
U.S. natural gas prices are trading at their lowest in nearly two decades, with record-high levels of production outpacing domestic consumption and leading to a global glut. 
As a result, several large gas producers like CNX Resources, Noble Energy have reduced the value of their production assets.

EQT also took an impairment charge of $1.12 billion in the fourth quarter, which led the company to post a bigger quarterly loss.
Click here to continue reading. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Rig Count Drops, Permitting Picks Up a Bit in Utica Shale

WEEK ENDING 02/22/20

New permits issued last week: 8 (Previous week: 3)  +5
Total horizontal permits issued: 3200 (Previous week: 3192 +8
Total horizontal wells drilled: 2719 (Previous week: 2717)  +2
Total horizontal wells producing: 2451 (Previous week: 2451)  +-0
Utica rig count: 11 (Previous week: 12)  -1

Could Final Decision on Belmont County Cracker Plant Finally Come This Year?

From Nikkei Asian Review:
PTT Global Chemical, an arm of Thai energy major PTT Group, has set aside $5 billion for its next five-year investment, of which around 80% will be spent on a petrochemical complex in the U.S. and acquisitions. 
Chief Executive Kongkrapan Intarajang said the company is on track to make a final decision on the U.S. project by mid-2020. The process is moving as planned, including approval from U.S. authorities, environmental assessments and the choice of a construction company, the CEO said. 
"The petrochemical complex in the U.S. will be our second home base," Kongkrapan told the Nikkei Asian Review. "We choose to invest in the U.S. because we can gain cheap raw material from shale gas near our location, while we have a big consumer base there."

Kongkrapan said PTTGC's petrochemical complex will be on a 500-acre site in Ohio, where the Thai company has a 50-50 joint venture with South Korean petrochemical maker Daelim Industrial.
To continue reading, click right here. 

Oil and Gas Executives Push Back Against Democratic Presidential Candidates' Attempts to Demonize Them

From the Western Energy Alliance:
In an open letter to 2020 Democratic presidential candidates printed in New York Times on February 24th, 54 executives from the western oil and natural gas industry forcefully pushed back against months of claims that they are corrupt criminals who should be jailed. The following full-page advertisement placed by Western Energy Alliance responds to statements that have gone unchallenged by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren by explaining the environmental and life-sustaining benefits of oil and natural gas. 
Contrary to the anti-oil and natural gas messages candidates are spreading to voters and the media on the campaign trail, the underlying statement from business leaders is that it “would be criminal not to produce oil and natural gas.” They represent companies that develop oil and natural gas across the West.

The full-page ad features a young boy studying by lantern light, one of the billion people worldwide who lack access to affordable, reliable electricity. Exports of American natural gas could help him and others suffering from energy poverty raise their standard of living. According to a recent report by the International Energy Agency, the United States again leads the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, largely because of increased natural gas electricity generation. In addition to the environmental benefits, abundant supplies of American natural gas have kept home heating prices so low that 11,000 deaths are averted annually during cold weather.
Here is the ad:


Immediate Outlook on U.S. Shale is Not Very Bright

From Reuters:
U.S. shale oil drillers could scale back investment in production more quickly than previously expected this year after prices slid for what had been a lucrative by-product of their operations. 
Oil producers have already taken a hit from the fall in global oil and gas prices as China’s coronavirus outbreak destroys demand in the world’s second-largest economy. Benchmark U.S. crude prices CLc1 have fallen about 12 percent to date this year. 
Many shale producers had announced reductions in their capital expenditures even before the coronavirus outbreak due to lower oil prices in the second half of 2019. Lower spending is expected to slow the rate of shale growth, although production remains on course to reach a new record in 2020. 
Shale producers now face another blow to their revenues because prices for natural gas liquids (NGLs), which include propane and butane, have also fallen. NGLs had helped prop up their bottom lines, providing lucrative returns when oil and gas margins were thin. 
Shale producer Marathon Oil Corp (MRO.N) last week said it would cut gas drilling in Oklahoma “largely in response to the dramatic weakness in gas and NGL pricing relative to oil” and shift resources to richer crude-oil areas.
Click here to read more.

And then there is this, from Forbes:
I’m no fan of alarmism, whether it be about energy, the environment or any other subject, but the situation for the domestic oil and gas industry has grown somewhat alarming over the past two months. Since early January the S&P Oil & Gas Index has plunged 32%. Investors appear convinced not just that there is oodles of oil in the world but that the spread of Coronavirus brings the risk of economic flatlining in the biggest growth market for oil — China. 
With the virus set to spread and the OPEC+ group running out of options to contain the oil glut, the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crashed through the important $50 level this week, and promises to slide further. Chevron yesterday sent home 300 workers in London over virus fears. Thus, a year that began with a fairly promising outlook is rapidly devolving into one that will present a fight for survival for some domestic producers. 
The statement on Tuesday by Dr. Nancy Messonnier, an official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that spread of the Coronavirus in the U.S. was “inevitable,” and that citizens here should begin preparing for an outbreak will certainly work to further inflame the markets. President Donald Trump has reserved television time for a statement designed to calm the situation on Wednesday night, but it could come too late to prevent further disruption in the commodity and financial markets. 
Meanwhile, the U.S. market for natural gas remains chronically over-supplied with no real relief in sight. Although the NYMEX price per MMBtu has remained fairly stable during the first two months of the year, it is stable at a price that is far too low for many natural gas producers to remain profitable. 
All of these factors now combine to create a precarious situation for heavily-leveraged companies as they head into debt re-determination season. Chesapeake Energy is a good example. When I wrote about that company’s long, difficult struggle to survive last November, Morgan Stanley had just lowered its price target for CHK stock from $2.25 per share to $1.25.
Read on by clicking here. 

Report Concludes That Fracking Ban in U.S. Would Cause Massive Job Losses and Huge Consumer Costs

From the Energy Policy Research Foundation:
Oil and gas production from the U.S. petroleum resource base has experienced an unprecedented expansion in output which has now positioned the U.S. as the world’s largest oil and gas producer. The North American petroleum production platform is soon to become a net oil and gas exporter to the world market. This rapid expansion in oil and gas production has enhanced U.S. energy security, provided greater stability to the world oil market, and conveyed sustained economic benefits to the national economy. The expansion in output has been possible through a series of advances in extraction technology including the use of hydraulic fracturing which permits oil and gas production from so-called source rock. 
Concerns over carbon emissions from sustained increases in domestic oil and gas production has now been reflected in the 2020 Presidential race, with some candidates and many public interest groups calling for an end to hydraulic fracturing. Operationally, these initiatives would include a ban on oil and gas development on public lands, prohibition of new infrastructure, such as pipelines, export terminals and even refineries. This effort, championed by several Democratic candidates for President would include features of so-called Green New Deal (GND) to quickly move that national energy complex to a fully renewable fuel system. 
In this paper, EPRINC fellow, Michael Lynch, explores the economic consequences of policies aimed at severely reducing U.S. oil and gas production. Such an estimate is important because whatever the merits (benefits) from reducing carbon emissions through oil and gas production constraints, policy makers will have to confront the costs and public acceptance of such a policy.
Click here to visit this release on the EPRINC website.

And below is the research paper for your review, including its conclusion:
A ban on fracking (should the new administration be able to overcome a large array of legal and political obstacles) would result in large and sustained declines in U.S. oil and gas output, with oil and natural gas liquids dropping by 7 million barrels per day in two years and natural gas falling by 11 billion cubic feet per day over the same period, even with a huge rise in conventional drilling. Job losses in the U.S. petroleum and related industries would start with the layoffs of over ten thousand fracking crews and direct losses would be over 150,000 jobs, with indirect losses about three times that much. The bill in the first two years of a fracking ban could be, by conservative estimates, an extra $150 billion on the trade deficit and $300 to $600 billion in additional consumer expenditures for oil and gas.

Chevron Cutting Over 300 Jobs in Appalachian Basin

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Chevron Corp. plans to eliminate 320 jobs as a result of its decision to liquidate its assets in the Appalachian Basin and ultimately close its Appalachian Mountain Business. 
“We are taking active steps to reduce job loss and will facilitate the placement of as many impacted employees as we can with other Chevron business units,” said a Feb. 6 letter Chevron company officials sent to state Department of Labor & Industry. 
The California-based energy company said it was providing significant advance notice of the layoffs to government stakeholders and employees despite the fact that most of the job cuts will not occur until later this year. 
An initial round is scheduled for April 6, although some employees will be offered temporary assignments with extended layoff dates, potentially through Dec. 31. 
Two office locations and a total of 320 workers will be affected.
Click right here to continue reading. 

Report Concludes That Fracking Has Saved Consumers Over $1 Trillion in Last 10 Years

From Forbes:
Could a ban on fracking happen? Would it benefit the nation? Democratic presidential candidates and some incumbent officeholders have recently called for a ban on the hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells, which is used to boost recovery from shale formations. 
In 2012, my colleagues and I visited the topic with “The Arithmetic of Shale Gas,” in which we found that U.S. consumers benefited by more than $100 billion per year in lower natural gas prices. We contrasted that consumer gain with the harm from fracking asserted by activists (but unsubstantiated by a major Obama administration study).

So what, if anything, has changed since then? For one thing, the annual financial benefits to consumers from fracking have almost doubled as natural gas prices dropped. And we have learned more about the environmental impacts, including how to manage them. 
Today, annual domestic natural gas consumption is approximately 31 trillion cubic feet, compared to 23 trillion cubic feet in 2008. The Henry Hub benchmark average price of natural gas was approximately $2.56/thousand cubic feet, or mcf, in 2019, versus $8.86/mcf in 2008, suggesting an approximate gain to U.S. consumers in 2019 of $195 billion. 
Therefore, over the past 10 years, consumers have saved more than one trillion dollars. That’s $1,000,000,000,000 — real money even to politicians. With that much, and more, at stake, any argument against fracking needs to be well-founded.
Read the whole article by clicking here. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

Permitting Continues to Crawl Along in Utica Shale

WEEK ENDING 02/15/20

New permits issued last week: 3 (Previous week: 2)  +1
Total horizontal permits issued: 3192 (Previous week: 3192 +-0
Total horizontal wells drilled: 2717 (Previous week: 2713)  +4
Total horizontal wells producing: 2451 (Previous week: 2443)  +8
Utica rig count: 12 (Previous week: 12)  +-0

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Environmental Scientist Takes Aim at Belmont County Cracker Plant in Guest Column

From a guest column by environmental scientist and Uhrichsville resident Randi Pokladnik, written for the Herald-Star:
One [sic] again, JobsOhio, an economic development organization in Ohio, has awarded a huge sum of money, $20 million, to the Thailand chemical company PTT Global Chemical America and its South Korean partner, Daelim Industrial Co. The $20 million grant is for additional site preparation for a potential ethane cracker plant to be built at Dilles Bottom in Belmont County. This brings the total amount of money given by JobsOhio to this project to a whopping $70 million.

This announcement came shortly after a Columbus-based spokesperson for the company, Dan Williamson, attempted to assuage concerns of citizens by basically “greenwashing” the dangers associated with petrochemicals and the increase in single-use plastics production. He admitted in his interview that the company has been quiet thus far but “concerned residents staging protests against the project and meeting with state officials” made the company decide to get involved in the conversation on environmental issues. 
He said the company would “assess reducing greenhouse gas emissions and use renewable materials instead of fossil fuels.” However, all plastics, since the 1950s have been made from coal, oil or gas, and all petrochemical processes produce enormous amounts of carbon dioxide. Shell’s Monaca ethane cracker is allowed to emit 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. Given these facts, Williamson’s proclamation seems disingenuous at best. 
He touted the “initiation of an upcycling plastic waste projects to transform plastic waste into useful items such as clothing and bags” with programs such as, “Trash to Treasure” or “Wear your Own Waste.” This project creates a T-shirt from 14 beverage bottles. These initiatives will hardly make a dent in the current plastic crisis facing our planet, especially the 100 billion beverage bottles sold in the United States each year. 
Recycling is now industry’s go-to answer for addressing the more than 300 million tons of plastic wastes created each year.
Click here to read the whole column. 

Ohio Bill Takes Aim at Unlawful Anti-Pipeline Protests

From Energy News Network:
Activists say a bill advancing in the Ohio legislature could criminalize activities such as offering rides, water or medical aid to anti-pipeline protesters. 
Even chanting “stop the pipeline” could be construed as encouraging damage to critical infrastructure under the bill’s vague language, critics say. 
Trespass, willful destruction of property and various other actions are already crimes under Ohio law. But Ohio Senate Bill 33 calls for heavier penalties for trespass or property damage that might affect “critical infrastructure.” The Ohio Senate passed the bill last spring, and the House Public Utilities Committee reported out a substitute version on Jan. 30. 
The broad definition of “critical infrastructure” would cover most oil and natural gas facilities, including many areas relating to pipelines and facilities to handle materials derived from oil and natural gas.
Click here to read more. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Write-Downs and Spending Cuts Are the Words of the Day in U.S. Shale

From Reuters:
U.S. shale gas producers are ripe for further spending cuts and write-downs, investors and analysts said, with prices at four-year lows and China’s rejection of some gas imports weighing on earnings. 
Natural gas production in the United States is at record levels, outpacing domestic consumption and leading to global supply glut. At the same time, China, the world’s largest importer of gas, has turned away shipments with its demand forecast to rise at the slowest pace in four years amid the coronavirus outbreak. 
As a result, several large gas producers, have reduced the value of their production assets.
EQT Corp, the largest U.S. gas producer, recently said it would take a write-down of as much as $1.8 billion, following CNX Resources Corp, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Chevron Corp in reducing the value of gas properties. 
U.S. shale gas producers’ Antero Resources Corp, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp and EQT kick off fourth-quarter results in coming days. Antero has pledged to sell assets while Cabot plans a 27% cut to its drilling budget.
Read more by clicking here. 

Marcellus Shale Coalition Warns About Dire Impacts of Sanders/AOC Fracking Ban Bill

From the Marcellus Shale Coalition:
Following the introduction of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to ban the safe, responsible use of hydraulic fracturing, Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) president Dave Spigelmyer issued the following statement: 
“Banning the safe and strongly regulated use of hydraulic fracturing would bring our economy to a standstill. It would result in the loss of hundreds-of-thousands of good-paying jobs and wipeout billions of dollars of capital investment in Pennsylvania while reversing the environmental progress we have gained thanks to natural gas,” Spigelmyer said. 
“As a result of this disastrous policy, hard-working Pennsylvanians who have enjoyed a decade of affordable, reliable energy would be burdened with skyrocketing costs and our county would again be reliant on foreign nations to supply the energy we need. 
“Supporting and growing domestic shale production should be a core focus of any serious policy discussion aimed at continuing environmental progress, economic growth and American security.” 
  • Devastate State, National Economy: Pennsylvania would shed 609,000 jobs, lose $261 billion in state GDP, and $23.4 billion in state and local tax revenues if Sen. Sanders and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’ plan is signed into law, according to a recent U.S. Chamber analysis. Nationally, this policy would eliminate 19 million jobs and reduce U.S. GDP by $7.1 trillion.
Click here to read the whole press release. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

EID Investigation Sheds Light on Activist-Driven Media Platform

by Spencer Walrath, Energy in Depth

Earlier this week, EID released our investigation into the new Drilled News platform, shedding light into the connections between this new media initiative and the climate litigation campaign. Thanks to our efforts, the platform was forced to come clean about their funders and relationship to the problematic litigation campaign.
Richard Wiles, Confirmed Key Contributor
Richard Wiles’ Center for Climate Integrity (CCI) has played an integral part in the climate litigation campaign including running numerous social media campaigns, hosting events across the country to promote litigation, submitting an amicus brief, and hiring a lobbyist to arrange meetings between city officials and plaintiffs’ attorneys. CCI is funded by billionaire donors both foreign and domestic to wage a climate litigation campaign against the nation’s energy producers and continues to be opaque about its backers.
While Drilled News is not a direct advocacy arm of CCI, it is closely linked with the project and its executive director, Richard Wiles. Drilled News now admits that Wiles played an instrumental role in obtaining their initial launch grant from the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD), CCI’s parent organization:
“Wiles introduced us to the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, which was critical to landing our initial launch grant. For that, we have consistently thanked him in our credits.”
Drilled was also forced to acknowledge that while they have editorial independence from IGSD, Wiles continues to play an active role in influencing the direction of the organization and is a key source for new story ideas:
“Does Wiles constantly send us pitches and ideas, and sometimes even unsolicited critiques of our work? Yes.”
Downplaying their relationship
Despite their admissions, Drilled continues to downplay their relationship with CCI. They claim their funding comes from IGSD – not CCI. However, the most recent season of their podcast tells a slightly different story. The transcript of season three, episode two reads as follows:
In addition, while Drilled admits that they gave Wiles an “executive producer” credit during the first season, they allege that such “lofty titles” were given to several individuals and weren’t reflective of their work on the show. However, Wiles is the only person ever disclosed as an executive producer of the show, and has the most prestigious title of anyone listed in the podcast’s credits:
In the end, the mere admission of this close relationship with Richard Wiles is an important lens to interpret Drilled News’ current and future content.
Far from objective, the Drilled podcast has relied on interviews from some of the most high-profile activists in the climate litigation space, including Kert DaviesMatt Pawa, Sher Edling consultant Ann CarlsonGeoffrey Supran, and ERI lawyer Marco Simons. In contrast, they have never interviewed a single energy company featured on the podcast.
EID is proud of its investigators, who successfully shed newfound transparency on an organization with deep ties to the climate litigation campaign. EID is filling a critical void by providing scrutiny on members of the climate litigation echo chamber and will continue to shed light on groups that lack transparency in their operations.

New Study Finds That Reality Doesn't Line Up with Perception on Water Contamination from Fracking

From the University of Texas at Arlington:
A study led by environmental researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington suggests a disconnect between the perception of groundwater contamination and the extent to which that contamination is attributable to oil and natural gas extraction. 
Members of the Collaborative Laboratories for Environmental Analysis and Remediation (CLEAR) at UTA found that samples from only five of 36 private water wells showed any potential indications of contamination from unconventional oil and gas development, a multifaceted process that includes hydraulic fracturing. The samples were collected from the Barnett, Eagle Ford, Haynesville and Marcellus Shale regions in response to anecdotal claims of oil- and gas-related contamination. 
The study, “Characterizing anecdotal claims of groundwater contamination in shale energy basins,” appears in the journal Science of the Total Environment
Kevin Schug, Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry and co-founder and director of CLEAR, led the study along with CLEAR co-founder Zacariah Hildenbrand. Other authors were Doug Carlton, CLEAR project manager; Paige Wicker, a graduate research assistant in the CLEAR lab; Sabrina Habib, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina; and Paula Stigler-Granados, an assistant professor at Texas State University. 
“We found that the water quality data very rarely aligned with the perceptions that the well owners had of their individual situations,” Schug said. “This disconnect between perception and reality is possibly attributed to prevailing negative sentiments toward hydraulic fracturing as well as myriad environmental factors that make point source attribution very challenging.”
Find out more by clicking here. 

Hess CEO Says U.S. Shale is Beginning to Plateau, Acknowledges Climate Change as a Real Threat

From Reuters:
Shale pioneer John Hess said on Tuesday that key U.S. shale fields are starting to plateau, calling shale “important but not the next Saudi Arabia.” 
Over the past decade, the shale revolution turned the United States into the world’s largest crude producer and a force in energy exports. Yet that did not translate to higher stock prices or returns for investors, with the S&P 500 Energy sector only gaining 6% in a decade, far less than the 180% return for the broader stock market. 
Companies remain under pressure to trim budgets and produce enough free cash flow to pay investors higher dividends or buy back shares. The biggest industry challenge is the lack of long-term investment, Hess said. 
Production in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas is starting to plateau, while the Bakken field in North Dakota where Hess is a major producer will hit its peak production levels within the next two years, said Hess, who spoke Tuesday in Houston at the Argus Americas Crude Summit.
Read the whole article by clicking right here. 

Legal Challenge to Nuclear Bailout in Ohio Has Been Killed

From The Columbus Dispatch:
The challenge to overturn House Bill 6 – the ratepayer-financed bailout of Ohio’s nuclear power plants – is officially dead. 
At the request of the opponents of the controversial legislation, the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed Friday a case in which a federal judge had asked the justices to answer legal questions about placing referendums on Ohio ballots. 
The action followed the Thursday dismissal in U.S. District Court of the now-abandoned bid by Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts to force a vote on the $1 billion subsidy being routed to the owner of two nuclear plants on Lake Erie. 
The group dismissed last week its appeal before the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, saying it did not have the cash to continue its fight. 
The group had appealed an Oct. 23 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Edmund A. Sargus in Columbus that held it turned to the wrong court seeking additional days to collect signatures on its petition. 
Sargus instead sent the case to the state Supreme Court, which will not answer questions of state law that the judge raised about Ohio’s referendum process.
Click here to read more. 

Sanders & Ocasio-Cortez Introduce Bill Completely Banning Fracking Nationwide Within 5 Years

From Law 360:
Leading progressive Democrats have introduced what they say is Congress’ first-ever proposal to ban fracking across the United States, with immediate limits ramping up to total prohibition by 2025. 
The Fracking Ban Act was introduced Friday by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent among the top Democratic presidential contenders, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the first-term New York liberal with a focus on climate change. Although unlikely to become law this year, with Republicans controlling the Senate and the White House, the measure may forecast how a progressive Democratic administration would approach energy policy. 
“If we are serious about clean air and drinking water, if we are serious about combating climate change, the only safe and sane way to move forward is to ban fracking nationwide,” Sanders said in a statement Friday. 
Fracking is an abbreviated term for hydraulic fracturing, which is a production technique that typically uses a high-pressure mixture of water and sand to fracture a shale rock formation and start the flow of oil or natural gas. Environmental groups are concerned that wastewater injection wells can pollute groundwater and cause earthquakes. Fracking enabled the domestic surge in production of natural gas, which contributes to climate change, albeit less so than other fossil fuels. 
As soon as the bill would became law, it would block new federal permits for fracking-related infrastructure. Next year, it would require the end of production at any well that has ever been fracked and is located within 2,500 feet of an inhabited structure. The technique would be banned outright across the country on Jan. 1, 2025.
Read the whole article by clicking here. 

Still No Final Decision on Belmont County Cracker Plant as PTT Pushes Back Against Activists

There continues to be no end in sight for the ongoing will-they or won't-they drama over the possible construction of a cracker plant in Belmont County.

Over the past couple of weeks the proposed cracker plant has remained in the news, but the latest comments from PTT Global Chemical reveal that there is still no final decision made as to whether the plant will actually be built.  So in the meantime, the possibility continues to exist that the money that has been spent preparing the site, grants that have been awarded, wooing by local officials, and hand-wringing by anti-oil and gas activists is all much ado about nothing.  It is hard to imagine that PTT would come this far and have invested this much money without actually building the plant, but with nearly 5 years expired since they first announced that this project was a possibility, it's anybody's guess at this point what will actually happen.

Here is the latest news.  First, from The Intelligencer:
Some concerned area residents met with representatives of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Gov. Mike DeWine to express concerns about an ethane cracker plant proposed for Belmont County.

The project, being considered by PTT Global Chemical America and Daelim Industrial Co. Ltd., would use the ethane contained in the local natural gas stream to make plastic. If the plant is constructed, it would be located at the former site of FirstEnergy’s R.E. Burger coal-fired electric generating station at Dilles Bottom, south of Shadyside along the Ohio River. 
“The facility has been issued water pollution discharge permits by the OEPA despite concerns about pollution in the Ohio River, which more than 5 million people depend on for clean drinking water,” the group wrote in a news release distributed after the meeting. “The OEPA issued these permits without testing existing levels of toxic chemicals in the Ohio River, leaving the public in the dark about additional pollution from the proposed facility. Recent testing by the Environmental Working Group has revealed that both Cincinnati and Columbus already have dangerous levels of ‘forever chemicals’ like PFAS in their drinking water.” 
Group members pointed out that DeWine has met with PTTGCA officials but thus far has not met in person with concerned residents. The group presented the OEPA and governor’s staff with letters Wednesday that lay out their concerns and requests.
Click here to read the rest of that story.  DeWine's office did not have any comment on the meeting.  But that doesn't mean that DeWine has had no comment on the cracker plant project.

From the Times Leader:
Gov. Mike DeWine believes the multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant proposed for Belmont County will be built.

The governor discussed the status of the proposed petrochemical complex last week during the Ohio Associated Press 2020 Legislative Preview Session. Reporters from around the state attended the event, held Tuesday at the Thomas J. Moyer Judicial Center in Columbus. 
DeWine responded to questions from The Times Leader and the AP regarding the potential for the plant to be built and about how related environmental concerns are being addressed. 
“I think the plant will be built,” DeWine said. 
He added that he had met recently with “key officials” from PTT Global Chemical LLC and Daelim Chemical USA LLC, the firms partnering on the project. He said those talks occurred “within the last month” but did not reveal details of those discussions.
Continue reading that article by clicking here. 

Meanwhile, PTT representatives responded to the environmental concerns being raised over the project.  Again from The Intelligencer:
The companies contemplating construction of an ethane cracker plant in Belmont County say they are committed to doing all they can to address the threats of climate change and the proliferation of single-use plastics.

Dan Williamson, Columbus-based spokesman for PTT Global Chemical and Daelim Industrial Co. LLC, said the companies fully understand these threats to the environment, and are committed to doing their part to help mitigate them. He added that the firms, based in Thailand and South Korea, respectively, are known for calling attention to, and addressing, these issues in their home countries. 
“Should we reach a final investment decision on this project (at Dilles Bottom), we will be every bit as active and outspoken on these issues in the United States as in Asia,” Williamson said. 
Williamson said the companies have remained rather quiet on environmental issues in the U.S. and the local region thus far, because they have not yet reached a decision on whether to proceed with the Belmont County project. As the discussion has intensified locally, however, with concerned residents staging protests against the project and meeting with state officials to voice their concerns, PTTDLM decided it was time to become more involved in the conversation. 
To that end, Williamson outlined the ways that PTTDLM will demonstrate a commitment to protecting the environment if it moves forward with construction of the Belmont County cracker plant, taking steps beyond “what is legally required.”
To check out the list of steps the company outlined, click here to read the full article. 

And finally, to round out the cracker plant news, here is one more article from the Bellefontaine Examiner:
Ohio’s private nonprofit development corporation announced Friday it will provide a $20 million grant to one of the developers of a proposed multi-billion dollar ethane “cracker” plant to pay a contractor to complete “critical” site engineering and site preparation work. 
Money from the revitalization grant for PTT Global Chemical America will be paid directly to the engineering firm Bechtel Corp, said JobsOhio spokesman Matt Englehart. 
The support of JobsOhio has been vital, and the partnership “continues to work toward a final investment decision” in the first half of this year, said Dan Williamson, a spokesman for PTT Global and its partner, Daelim Chemical USA. 
The economically struggling Appalachian region surrounding southeast Ohio’s Belmont County where the plant would be built has been eagerly anticipating that decision for several years. Thousands of constructions construction jobs and hundreds of permanent positions would be created if the plant is built.
Read the whole article by clicking here. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Permitting Slows in Utica Shale During Last Two Weeks

WEEK ENDING 02/01/20

New permits issued last week: 6 (Previous week: 11)  -5
Total horizontal permits issued: 3190 (Previous week: 3184 +6
Total horizontal wells drilled: 2712 (Previous week: 2711)  +1
Total horizontal wells producing: 2434 (Previous week: 2434)  +-0
Utica rig count: 12 (Previous week: 11)  +1

WEEK ENDING 02/08/20

New permits issued last week: 2 (Previous week: 6)  -4
Total horizontal permits issued: 3192 (Previous week: 3190 +2
Total horizontal wells drilled: 2713 (Previous week: 2712)  +1
Total horizontal wells producing: 2443 (Previous week: 2434)  +9
Utica rig count: 12 (Previous week: 12)  +-0

February 2020 Well Activity Maps Published by ODNR

Encino Energy Releases Announcement for Landowners

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