Tag Archives: Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

Does zero Bakken crude for Irving Oil indicate a trend?

Repost from Railway Age
[Reference:  see the 8/20/15 Wall Street Journal article, Canada’s Largest Refinery Shifts from Bakken Shale Oil to Brent Crudes.  – RS]

Does zero Bakken crude for Irving Oil indicate a trend?

By  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief, August 28, 2015
Irving Oil Ltd. Saint John, N.B. refinery
Irving Oil Ltd. Saint John, N.B. refinery

Irving Oil Ltd., operator of Canada’s largest crude oil refinery, has stopped importing crude oil sourced from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota and shipped by rail in favor of cheaper crudes from such producers as OPEC, “reflecting a shift in crude costs affecting East Coast refiners during a global slump in oil prices,” the Wall Street Journal recently reported.

The 320,000-barrel-a-day refinery in Saint John, N.B., one of the biggest by volume in North America, had been receiving 100,000 barrels a day by rail, a high reached two years ago that was only temporarily affected by the Lac Mégantic disaster. (The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic crude oil train that derailed on July 6, 2013, claiming 47 lives, was bound for the refinery). Today, CBR shipments the refinery are zero, a move “that reflects shifting economics in the energy industry even as the price of oil—including Bakken crude—has slumped to six-year lows,” said the WSJ. “About 90% of the crude oil Irving currently buys is shipped by sea from such producers as Saudi Arabia and those in western Africa, with the remainder coming by rail from such western Canadian oil-sands operators as Syncrude Canada Ltd. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC. A year ago, Bakken crude made up about 25% of Irving’s feedstock and in 2013 it supplied nearly one-third of its procurement volume, or about 100,000 barrels a day. ‘The Bakken price has gone up’ relative to other crudes when CBR costs are factored in,’ [an Irving Oil executive] said.”

“A once-yawning gap, between the cost of oil produced in North America and overseas crudes priced at the Brent global benchmark, has narrowed since 2013,” the WSJ noted. “Refiners on North America’s east coast can now import crude shipped by sea for less than the cost of shipping it by rail from shale oil producers in North Dakota and elsewhere in the U.S.”

Production of U.S. shale oil, especially that from the Bakken, led to CBR shipments increasing exponentially due to a lack of pipelines. CBR is more expensive than by shipping by pipeline and even by ship, and fewer refiners are willing to pay a premium for CBR. <p< Whether Irving Oil’s decision to abandon Bakken crude for a single refinery reflects a broader trend that will affect CBR movements remains to be seen. Two other refiners have followed suit, but the situation may not be permanent.

“Refiners PBF Energy Inc. and Phillips 66 both said they increased procurement of overseas crudes at the expense of CBR in the second quarter, though they signaled it is unclear if that will continue throughout the rest of the year,” the WSJ reported. “‘Our ability to source sovereign waterborne crudes was far more economic to the East Coast facilities, and that’s what we did,’ PBF Energy CEO Tom Nimbley said in late July. Phillips 66 CEO and Chairman Greg Garland told investors last month, ‘We actually set [crude-by-rail] cars on the siding. We brought imported crudes in the system.’ But, he added, ‘I’d say given where our expectations are for the third quarter, I’d say cars are coming off the sidings, and we’re going to import less crude.’”

CBR traffic has dropped substantially compared to last year, “reflecting both the worsening economics of CBR and better pipeline access to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico,” the WSJ noted. According to Association of American Railroads figures, U.S. Class I railroads originated 111,068 carloads of crude oil in the second quarter of 2015, down 2,201 carloads from the first quarter and some 21,000 fewer carloads than the peak in 2014’s third quarter.


Oil price crash: companies shelved or delayed 26 schemes, including 9 tar sands projects

Repost from Business Green

Report: Oil price crash stalls more than $100bn of fossil fuel investment

Research on behalf of the Financial Times shows oil majors have shelved or delayed 26 schemes, including nine tar sands projects
By Jessica Shankleman | 19 May 2015
Tar sands in Canada
Tar sands in Canada

Oil majors have put more than $100bn of investment in new projects on ice in response to the plunge in oil price, new analysis by consultancy Rystad Energy revealed today.

The study, commissioned by The Financial Times, shows that 26 projects in 13 countries have been delayed or axed since oil prices started to tumble last year, including nine Canadian tar sands schemes.

The revelation follows warnings from analysts such as the Carbon Tracker Initiative that capital and carbon intensive projects such as tar sands developments and deep sea drilling operations will struggle to turn a profit if oil prices remain low.

The price of oil crashed to $45 per barrel in January from a high of $115 in June 2014 as a result of surging output of US shale oil and lower than expected demand in Asia. The downward trend in prices was further accelerated by the decision of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), led by Saudi Arabia, to resist calls for it to curb supplies in a bid to protect prices.

As a result, companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Statoil have been forced to shelve some of their costlier projects.

The analysis shows that at least $118bn of investment has been hit, which is likely to delay future production by as much as 1.5 million barrels per day. This in turn could lead to a substantial rebound in the price of oil, said Rystad.

The report follows a series of studies that have warned capital intensive fossil fuel projects could become stranded assets if the transition to a low carbon economy leads to tighter environmental regulations and reduced demand for fossil fuels.

The findings come after a report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) yesterday showed how coal company stock prices have collapsed in recent years, concluding that the industry now faces a “grim outlook” as a result of tightening environmental legislation and increasing stranded asset risks.

Moreover, yesterday saw the University of Oxford confirm it will not invest in coal and tar sands as part of its ethical policy to fight climate change.

Whatever Shall We Do with All this Extra Oil? Oil companies want the crude-export ban lifted. Is that a good idea?

Repost from onEarth, Natural Resources Defense Council

Whatever Shall We Do with All this Extra Oil?

Oil companies want the crude-export ban lifted. Is that a good idea?
By Brian Palmer | December 13, 2014

If oil industry lobbyists didn’t have so much money, Congress would get pretty sick of them. They’re constantly whining. They don’t like the carbon pollution rules. Fuel-economy standards are too tight. Something about a pipeline from Canada. Today, they’re back on Capitol Hill moaning about the crude-export ban.

What’s that you say? You’ve never even heard of the crude-export ban? Well, now you have, and I’ve compiled a few FAQs for you.

What does the ban say?

The short answer: Crude oil drilled in the United States must be refined in the country. But as with most laws, there are exceptions. Companies can export oil to be refined in Canada as long as the products are sold there or back to the States. Some Alaskan crude has been exported. And a particular kind of heavy crude from California can be sent abroad because presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton decided it was in the national interest. Such exceptions can be significant: Total exports peaked at 104 million barrels in 1980, representing about 3 percent of total U.S. extraction that year. In recent years, though, that number has fallen below 50 million barrels.

That law’s been around since the 1970s. What’s the big deal now?

Well, we’re talking about an industry in which greed is considered good. Money, of course! Until recently, energy companies weren’t drilling enough oil to make a big splash on the international market. But U.S. production surged by nearly 50 percent between 2008 and 2013, and those CEOs now think they can take home even bigger bonuses if they’re allowed to sell abroad.

Why was it created in the first place?

Basically because the Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries got mad that the United States and a few other countries were siding with Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War—and cut production and banned petroleum exports to those nations. The price of crude quadrupled, causing a five-month-long oil crisis that majorly disrupted global commerce and American lives. Since then, energy independence has been a goal for every U.S. president; Gerald Ford, for example, signed the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which prohibited most crude exports and established a national strategic oil reserve.

Will I pay more for gas either way?

The ban certainly depresses the price of U.S.-produced crude oil, but gas prices involve a lot of factors. Energy analysts and industry advocates have debated the ban’s effects for years. So, in an attempt to settle the argument, the somewhat more impartial U.S. Energy Information Administration recently published a report on what would happen to gas prices if exports were allowed. You can read it here if you’re an oil-price wonk. Here’s the short version, from the organization’s administrator, Adam Sieminski: “[I]t probably wouldn’t do a great deal one way or the other with gasoline prices.”

Apparently, when it comes to economics, the controversy has more to do with profits than your family budget.

What would it mean for the climate if we allowed the exports?

It might be bad news. In an era of high domestic production, the ban holds down the price of West Texas Intermediate, North America’s benchmark crude, which then keeps Canada’s tar sands crude prices low. (The price points of the two crudes move roughly in sync.) So if Congress lifts the ban, the tar sands industry, which is currently in a major funk, could be saved—and this would mean a lot more extraction of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel source around.

That’s the theory. And a March study from Oil Change International supports it: The report concluded that allowing exports would result in added carbon emissions equivalent to the output of 42 coal plants. The factors influencing global oil prices are complex, though, so it’s difficult to say exactly how much fossil fuel the crude-export ban is keeping in the ground.

The lack of certainty, however, makes its own point. Before Congress even considers repealing a 39-year-old law dealing directly with fossil fuels, it ought to understand the implications for climate change. It’s appalling that politicians would consider lifting the ban without full information. But I guess they’re not scientists.



America’s new and improved energy mix

Repost from Fuel Fix
[Editor:  Significant quote: “Since 2008, wind and solar energy capacity in the U.S. has tripled. A new report from the Energy Information Administration found that electricity generated from wind and solar grew a lot faster than electricity generated by fossil fuels last year.”  – RS]

Guest commentary: America’s new and improved energy mix

By Paul Dickerson and Thomas R. Burton III
Mintz Levin, April 25, 2015 8:00 am
(Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg)

Not too long ago, America was governed by an either/or energy market. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, the rise and subsequent demise of solar energy as a viable energy alternative was directly related to the jump and collapse in crude prices before and after the OPEC oil embargo. Solar was resuscitated – along with a host of other nascent alternatives – in the first decade of this century when oil prices spiked once again. Plenty of pundits warned that investments in solar, wind and other energy alternatives would prove short-sighted when the price of oil finally retreated.

But something significant happened along the way: demand for energy alternatives became untethered from oil and natural gas prices. At a time when the price of crude oil has plunged by more than half and natural gas prices have plumbed two-year lows, growth in energy alternatives has actually accelerated. Since 2008, wind and solar energy capacity in the U.S. has tripled. A new report from the Energy Information Administration found that electricity generated from wind and solar grew a lot faster than electricity generated by fossil fuels last year. So-called distributed generation – a better proxy for real-time demand because it measures installations such as solar panels by end users and not utilities – exhibited even faster growth. In fact, by the time you’ve read this, another new solar project will have come online (it happens every 150 seconds).

A host of drivers help explain why these energy technologies are holding their own this time around. Whether you agree with them or not, growing concerns about climate change and energy’s role in it has created generous federal and state incentives for energy sources that aren’t derived from fossil fuels.

Incentivized by these policies, public and private sector innovation has driven down the cost of these technologies so they can increasingly compete on price even as their subsidies expire. Wind energy’s dramatic success here in Texas is a key reason why state senator Troy Fraser, a key proponent of Texas’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and Competitive Renewable Energy Zones, recently argued that those programs have accomplished their objective and are no longer needed.

Finally, innovation has migrated to the industry’s financing models. Previously, much of solar’s growth was driven by technology advancements. More recently, however, growth is being driven by financial improvements such as more flexible leasing models, a greater availability of capital that lowers costs for installers, and better analytics that enable installers to target customers more effectively. The result has been a rapid change to the competitive landscape, which has transformed and invigorated the market.

By now you might be wondering: Why does this matter to me? The answer is because there are huge implications from diversifying our nation’s energy supply.

The first benefit is the ability to hedge our energy positions when the price of one technology soars. Much in the way that investors are adding alternative investments to complement their holdings in stocks and bonds, a national energy portfolio that can draw on solar, wind and other alternatives is much less susceptible to downside risks. While still a small piece of the overall energy pie, these energy technologies give us a degree of flexibility in weathering market fluctuations. This flexibility makes us less reliant on any one energy source, putting downward pressure on the prices we pay to heat or cool our homes or fuel our cars.

The second big benefit is ensuring the reliability of our energy supply. Solar and wind technologies need to work in concert with 24/7 solutions such as natural gas since they can’t produce energy all of the time. Having access to more alternatives gives our electricity grid operators the flexibility to prevent or work around disruptions, use real-time usage data to identify and tap the most efficient energy sources at all times, and continue to meet our growing energy demands. Of course, we still have some work to do in this respect, and we urge federal and state legislators to continue to support programs that help develop the technologies needed to seamlessly integrate our growing array of energy choices.

A third reason, one that we are painfully familiar with as much of Texas remains gripped by drought, is water. One of the biggest demands for water is power generation, and as people continue to move to Texas, demand for electricity will continue to rise. By developing wind and solar sources, we will ease the burden of that growth on our already stressed water supplies.

Finally, a nation with greater flexibility in the way it meets its energy needs is one far less prone to the will or whims of others. In recent years, the term “energy independence” has been thrown around a lot. It’s a laudable goal, but we can’t achieve it by drilling alone. Before we can have true energy independence, we first must have energy diversity.

Thomas R. Burton III is the founder and chair of the Energy & Clean Technology Practice at Mintz Levin in Boston. Paul Dickerson, of counsel at the firm, is a former chief operating officer at the US Department of Energy.