natural gas

Willow Belden

There are fewer companies flaring off natural gas today than there were six months ago. In March, the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission had 65 flaring authorizations.  Members of the Legislatures Minerals Committee were told by Commission Supervisor Grant Black that now there is about half that number. He also said that companies generally request flaring permits when a compressor is down or there is no pipeline to get the gas to market and they’re seeing much less of the latter.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has released a set of rules that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal and natural gas power plants. If finalized, the rules would be the first to set such a national standard. The rule caps carbon emissions from natural gas power plants at 1,000 pounds/megawatt hour and from coal power plants at 1,100 pounds.

More than 500 industry people gathered in Jackson this week for the 17th Annual Wyoming Oil and Gas Fair. Wyoming Public Radio’s energy and natural resources reporter, Stephanie Joyce was there, and she joins us now to talk about the event.

BOB BECK: So, what are the biggest issues on the mind of Wyoming’s oil and gas industry right now?

Natural gas’ reputation as a climate-friendly alternative to coal has been tarnished recently by concerns that methane—a potent greenhouse gas—is leaking in copious quantities as the fuel makes its way from the ground to the consumer. A study released Monday provides the first on-the-ground measurements of methane leaks at hydraulically fractured natural gas well sites, and they're not as bad as some had feared.

For the most part, industry is happy with the new draft rules for baseline water testing near oil and gas wells. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission released its latest draft of them last week.

Petroleum Association of Wyoming Vice President John Robitaille says he continues to hear from association members that baseline testing is necessary.

“In all honesty, I think we probably should have been doing this several years ago,” he says.

237 years of independence and energy

Jul 4, 2013

The Energy Information Administration says that in the 237 years since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence the U.S. has gone from using primarily renewable resources like wood and water to using fossil fuels.

Statistician at the EIA, Tyson Brown, says he compiled the brief just for fun, but says it’s still enlightening to look at the long-term changes.

As demand for coal has dropped domestically, producers have turned to exports abroad as a way to make up for market losses at home. 2012 was a record year for coal exports out of the US.

The demand for coal in China and other Asian markets, has raised hopes for coal producers in the Powder River Basin. They’ve helped develop plans for expanded port facilities in the Northwestern US and some coal companies, including Arch Coal, have invested money in the proposed ports.

An energy group says a recently released report overstated issues of water use by the oil and gas industry. The Western Organization of Resource Councils released the report last month and said regulators need to consider the quantity of water the energy industry uses, in addition to the quality.

Construction has begun on a new $237 million power plant near Cheyenne.

An advocacy group is warning that fracking could cause air pollution and other problems in national parks.

Sharon Mader with the National Parks Conservation Association says they’re concerned that ozone from gas development in Sublette County could spread to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. She says that hasn’t happened yet, but they’re worried about the future.

A new study conducted by the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University reports that as more EPA regulations go into effect, natural gas is likely to become even more attractive to utilities than coal.

Co-author of the study, Professor Lincoln Pratson, says that one reason coal will become less desired is the expensive emission controls the coal plants will have to install.

The only pollutant that natural gas plants produce that the EPA regulates are NOx emissions.  NOx stands for pollutants which contain NO and NO2, gases formed during combustion.

We recently reported that the federal government – and consequently Wyoming – might be getting shortchanged when it comes to royalty payments on coal going overseas. Turns out, the government is missing out on royalties in other ways, too. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that right here in Wyoming, companies are quite literally burning up both federal and state royalty money when they flare natural gas.

Several environmental groups are urging the BLM to place environmental restrictions on a massive natural gas development that’s been proposed for south-central Wyoming.

The Continental Divide-Creston project would include about 9,000 new wells on public and private land near Wamsutter. That’s nearly three times as many wells as in the Jonah Field.

Bruce Pendery with the Wyoming Outdoor Council says air quality could suffer as a result.

Coal is weakening its dominion over the energy market, and according to a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, new EPA regulations are not to blame.

Wyoming lawmakers including Sen. John Barrasso and Rep. Cynthia Lummis have pointed to what they call President Obama’s war on coal as the reason for declining coal production.

But David Schlissel of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis -- who led the presentation -- says other factors are responsible.

Lower Valley Energy, a utility company, and the Department of Environmental Quality have entered the settlement process over a non-compliant part at their natural gas compressor station in Sublette County. The DEQ discovered the infraction during a routine inspection last October, and issued a notice of violation this January. According to their permit, the station is supposed to be using an emissions control device but they’re using a boiler to route natural gas emissions. 

US Senator John Barrasso is sponsoring a bill meant to expedite the process of shipping liquefied natural gas, or LNG, abroad. Currently, the Secretary of Energy has to sign off on LNG exports to countries included in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as well as Japan, and open a comment period for exports to nations not part of NATO. The bill would allow the secretary to skip the comment period if the secretaries of state and defense agree that exports to a specific, non-NATO country are in the national security interest of the US.

Four people have been hurt in a flash fire at a ConocoPhillips natural gas processing plant in Fremont County.

ConocoPhillips spokesman Jim Lowry says the flash fire occurred at the Lost Cabin plant about 8:30 a.m. today/Wednesday while contract workers were doing maintenance on part of the plant.

Lowry says the brief fire went out on its own.

Fremont County Sheriff's Capt. Dave Good says two of the people who were hurt received what he described as "pretty severe" injuries. They were transported to hospitals in the region, including a burn center in Greeley, Colo.

USGS

The U-S Geological Survey released a study examining how coalbed natural gas production affects water quality in nearby streams and rivers. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden spoke with Melanie Clark, the author of the report.

State looks for a new Oil and Gas Supervisor

Jun 19, 2012

 Governor Matt Mead hopes to move forward in finding a new Oil and Gas Supervisor.  The governor accepted the resignation of former Supervisor Tom Doll after Doll said unflattering things about those affected by water contamination in Pavillion. 

Mead Spokesman Renny MacKay says the governor will soon visit with the Oil and Gas Commission to determine how to go about a search. 

“He does want to work quickly on this but he says it’s most important to be thorough.  And so he’s not going to rush the process, but he does want it to move along quickly.”

Two Wyoming conversation groups have joined others in suing to protect the Fortification Creek area of the Powder River Basin from natural gas development. 

The Wyoming Outdoor Council and Powder River Basic Resource Council complain that the Bureau of Land Management  approved a plan to allow coalbed methane development in an area that was previously protected from energy development. 

Retired  B-L-M Wildlife Biologist Larry Gerard  says the move surprised him because the area is filled with wildlife.

       The Lincoln County Commissioners are backing True Oil L-L-C proposal to drill two gas wells in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.  One well would be located on a well pad where oil development has already occurred, the second would be a new well.  

Lincoln County Commission Chairman Kent Connelly says the company plans to use new technology to recover the gas, and that’s why they support the plan.

 “With the technology change in drilling in there, you can do this; it’s not a really invasive approach that they are talking about doing.”

Wyoming's top oil and gas regulator says the
companies involved in a natural gas well blowout in eastern Wyoming
last month won't face any fines.
     Tom Doll, the state's oil and gas supervisor, tells the Casper
Star-Tribune that well owner Chesapeake Energy Corp. and drill rig owner Trinidad Drilling Ltd. won't be
cited for the blowout. The mishap vented up to 2 million cubic feet
of explosive gas and 31,500 gallons of drilling fluid into the air
and around the drill site near Douglas.

A natural gas leak 10 miles northeast of Douglas has caused dozens of residents to evacuate their homes.

The natural gas site, operated by Cheasapeake Energy, began leaking gas around 4pm yesterday, and by last night, Chesapeake official John Dill says area residents were notified that they should evacuate.

"We contacted approximately 67 residents in homes in about a 2.5 mile radius of this location, and asked them to consider a voluntary evacuation to area hotels, which is going to be paid for by the company," says Dill.

Earthjustice wants federal regs like Wyoming's

Apr 13, 2012

    The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release some new air pollution regulations surrounding natural gas development.  Earthjustice Attorney Robin Cooley saysit’s been 25 years since the E-P-A last evaluated standards and the new ones are overdue.  She says the industry is much different than it used to be.

"We know that the current rules are inadequate. They don't protect public health. The pollution problems are mounting by the day and expanding into new areas."

The price of natural gas has fallen below $2 per 1,000 cubic feet for the first time in more than a decade.
 The U.S. supply of natural gas is growing so fast that analysts worry the country's underground storage facilities could be full by fall and lead to further price declines.
     On Wednesday, the futures price of natural gas fell to $1.984
per 1,000 cubic feet, its lowest level since January 28, 2002, when
it hit $1.91.
     There is so much natural gas being produced - and still in the

The Wyoming Legislature has approved a $3.2-billion budget bill which now goes to Gov. Matt Mead for his consideration.

The budget bill approved by both Houses on Monday keeps state spending essentially flat over the coming two-year budget cycle.

State lawmakers are keeping a close eye on falling natural gas prices and had directed state agencies to prepare for possible 4-percent budget cuts next year if necessary.

As natural gas prices continue to drop, the
recent nationwide boom in drilling is slowing.
     Several companies have said in recent weeks they plan to cut
back production, but experts say the low prices are also opening up
new markets.
     Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, says
there will be fewer natural gas wells drilled in 2012.
     Yet Klaber says that even as drillers are pressured by low
prices, the cost creates opportunities for more people and
industries to use the product.
 

Governor Matt Mead says falling natural gas prices make this a good time to reevaluate his proposed budget. In December, the governor submitted his budget, which asked agencies to present a two-percent cut to their budgets. That budget was based on natural gas prices which were nearly $3.50 per MCF at the time.

Natural gas prices have declined steadily in recent months. The price of gas produced at the Opal Hub in south central Wyoming has dropped by about 60 cents since June.

Jim Robinson is the senior economist for the state Economic Analysis Division. He says gas development has grown in Wyoming, but it’s increasing drastically in other states as well, including Pennsylvania and New York.

The Bureau of Land Management

This week’s Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction in Cheyenne made a record amount of revenue.

The Wyoming BLM generated more than 49 million dollars from lease sales on 74 parcels of land, and an unheard-of 8 million dollars came from a single parcel.

An agency spokeswoman says the number of parcels auction off is determined by the number of nominations submitted from energy companies. In February, BLM auctioned off 31 parcels and in May, only 14.

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