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Poll: Large Majorities Support U.S. Investments in Oil and Natural Gas

Strong bipartisan majorities of registered voters support increased investment in energy infrastructure, according to a new poll API is unveiling as part of a recess campaign.

“Today’s poll shows strong majorities of American voters support more domestic oil and natural gas development, regardless of party affiliation,” said Karen Moreau, executive director of API’s New York State Petroleum Council.

According to the poll, 94% of registered voters agree that increased development of the country’s energy infrastructure would help create jobs in the U.S. Ninety-one percent say that increased production of domestic oil and natural gas resources could lead to more jobs in the U.S. 

Floating Nuclear Plants Could Ride Out Tsunamis

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects — specifically, the lack of cooling for the reactor cores, due to a shutdown of all power at the station — that caused most of the harm.

A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms, modeled after those used for offshore oil drilling, could help avoid such consequences in the future. Such floating plants, currently being researched at MIT, would be automatically cooled by the surrounding seawater in a worst-case scenario, which would indefinitely prevent any melting of fuel rods, or escape of radioactive material.

Such plants could be built in a shipyard, then towed to their destinations five to seven miles offshore, where they would be moored to the seafloor and connected to land by an underwater electric transmission line.

Frost & Sullivan: Chemical Plants Evolving into Modular, Plug-and-Play Designs

In order to meet the escalating demands for innovative and economical chemicals, several global trends are defining the chemicals industry of the future. These trends range from the emergence of green chemicals and processes to nanochemicals and smaller, modular chemical factories of the future. Large-scale chemical production plants that once filled the landscape are now being replaced by smaller, more modular plants with enhanced capabilities that expect to improve efficiency by 30%. The chemical industry of the future will not only require smarter processes and plant designs, but also an integrated system that will sense, respond and sustain feedstock flexibility, productivity, safety and profitability.

Analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Scorecard for the Global Chemicals Industry, finds that the share of bio-based chemicals is expected to grow to about 15-18% of global chemical sales by 2025. The development and implementation of biorefineries enables sustainable processing of biomass into marketable products and energy leading to both economic and environmental benefits.   

Stanford Explores the Possibility of Self-Sufficient Treatment Plants

Ground has been broken on a new Stanford University facility that will test promising technologies for recovery of clean water and energy from wastewater.

Researchers will use the facility to test whether by-products of water purification can be used to power treatment plants of the future. Right now, Stanford postdoctoral researcher Yaniv Scherson is piloting a process at the Delta Diablo Sanitation District's Antioch, CA facility.

“We’re converting the ammonia in the wastewater to nitrous oxide gas,” Scherson told KPIX-TV in San Francisco. “[When] discharged into a water body, it causes what’s called a ‘dead zone’,” he explained.

“That is not done anywhere else in the world, so this is a game-changer in our industry,” says Gary Darling, General Manager of Delta Diablo Sanitation District. 

U.S. Chemical Producers Plan 30% Growth in Next 10 Years

“Dow Chemical and other U.S. chemical makers will boost output capacity 30% in a decade as they invest billions of dollars in factories to take advantage of low-cost shale gas,” Russell Heinen, a senior director at IHS, said in his presentation at the IHS World Petrochemical Conference in Houston.

“The producers are adding 105 million metric tons of capacity by 2024, led by ethylene and methanol units on the Gulf Coast,” Bloomberg reports Heninen told attendees. “Growth will peak in 2017 with the addition of 23 million tons of capacity.” 

U.S. Manufacturers Facing Shortage of Welders

Because manufacturing has grown faster than the economy as a whole since the recession ended, “(f)or the first time since the early 1960s, manufacturers have added jobs four years in a row. Couple that with the oil and gas boom and the thousands of miles of new pipeline being built, and the demand for skilled welders has risen sharply,” writes Matthew Phillips for Bloomberg Businessweek.

“Decades of attrition have left the U.S. with welders who largely lack the advanced skills needed today. The average age of a welder in the country is 55; the wave of coming retirements will leave manufacturers at a disadvantage. The American Welding Society estimates that by 2020 there will be a shortage of 290,000 professionals, including inspectors, engineers, and teachers.” 

Russian Tensions Pushing Europe Towards Shale Gas

In an effort to reduce its dependence on Russia as a source of natural gas, Europe “is encouraging political leaders to step up efforts to tap the region's shale gas deposits,” CNN Money reports.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the the EU's executive body, said Russia’s annexation of Crimea should serve as a "very strong wake-up call for Europe" regarding energy independence. "Europe is working very decisively to reduce its energy dependency," he added.

"Over the next five years, [European] countries will have to identify where their resources are and build out the infrastructure for this industry to develop -- that can include developing pipelines and training workers," says Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov. "This also means getting the required rigs to drill for shale gas, which are in the U.S. and Canada, but don't really exist in Europe."

But don’t expect much of an impact before 2020, at the earliest.

"Shale gas production in Europe is effectively zero. Twelve months from now it will still be zero. Five years from now, it will be more than zero," said Molchanov.

Crude Oil Reserves at Highest Level Since 1976

U.S. crude oil proved reserves rose for the fourth consecutive year in 2012, increasing by 15% to 33 billion barrels, according to the U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Proved Reserves (2012) report released April 10 by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. U.S. crude oil and lease condensate proved reserves were the highest since 1976, and the 2012 increase of 4.5 billion barrels was the largest annual increase since 1970, when 10 billion barrels of Alaskan crude oil were added to U.S. proved reserves. Contributing factors to higher crude oil reserves include increased exploration for liquid hydrocarbons, improved technology for developing tight oil plays, and sustained high historical crude oil prices.

Texas recorded the largest volumetric increase (3.0 billion barrels) in proved oil reserves among individual states, largely because of development in the Permian and Western Gulf basins, while North Dakota had the second-largest increase (1.1 billion barrels), driven by development of the Bakken and Three Forks formations in the Williston Basin.   

Changing Regulations, Fuel Sources Keep Power Industry in State of Flux

The U.S Power Industry is experiencing intense change. The uncertain outcome of pending environmental legislation, the development of renewable energy sources and required transmission infrastructure, and a market adjusting to plenty of low-cost natural gas are simultaneously impacting the Power Industry, leading power generators, distributors and the industry's equipment and service providers into new, uncharted territory.

Brock Ramey, Industrial Info's Manager of North America Power Research, points out that the conjunction of environmental legislation and the resurgence of natural gas-fired power in the U.S. has basically forced most new-build coal-fired and nuclear power construction off the table, leaving only planned maintenance and refueling outages as the primary activity in these sectors.

A bevy of major environmental regulation is set to be finalized this year, including the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), the Coal Combustion Residuals rule, and Greenhouse Gas regulations. These regulations, the build-out of natural gas-fired power, increased renewable generation and the increasing Power Transmission & Distribution construction activity to replace aging infrastructure and bring new power generation to market are having major effects on the power sector. Much uncertainty about these new directions remains. 

State of Infrastructure the Top Issue Facing Water Professionals

The state of water and wastewater infrastructure is the top current issue facing water professionals and those they serve, according to the American Water Works Association’s 2014 State of the Water Industry Report, with long-term water supply second on the list.

The AWWA State of the Water Industry Report captures the most pressing water issues as expressed by more than 1,700 North American water experts. It is available free of charge from AWWA’s website.

The well-documented need to address aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure has been a top area concern since the first State of the Water Industry Report in 2004. A 2012 AWWA study found that more than $1 trillion will be needed to replace and expand drinking water infrastructure alone over the next 25 years, and wastewater costs are thought to be similar. With such a figure looming, it’s not surprising that financing capital projects was cited as the third most critical issue.  

Proposed EPA Rule Clarifies Clean Water Act Exemptions for Agriculture

The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly released a proposed rule to clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands. The proposed rule will benefit businesses by increasing efficiency in determining coverage of the Clean Water Act. The agencies are launching a robust outreach effort over the next 90 days, holding discussions around the country and gathering input needed to shape a final rule.

Determining Clean Water Act protection for streams and wetlands became confusing and complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. For nearly a decade, members of Congress, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups and the public asked for a rulemaking to provide clarity.

The proposed definitions of waters will apply to all Clean Water Act programs. It does not protect any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act and is consistent with the Supreme Court’s more narrow reading of Clean Water Act jurisdiction. 

GlobalData: U.S. Needs to Fast-Track LNG Exports to Compete

While fracking technology has placed the U.S. as the world’s largest natural gas producer, the country’s lack of approved LNG export terminals has prevented energy companies from competing in the growing global LNG market, says an analyst with research and consulting firm GlobalData.

The firm forecasts that the U.S. liquefaction will only have a 5% share of the global LNG capacity in 2017, while Australia and Qatar will have 20% and 16%, respectively.

While the Obama administration has supported the export of LNG, acquiring all the necessary local, state, environmental and federal approvals is a herculean task that takes many years to finalize.

A key disadvantage within the approval process is that exports from U.S. facilities can only be sold to countries with Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). Only special approval from the Department of Energy can allow exportation to non-FTA countries, where most of the LNG demand is located, according to GlobalData. 

IEA: Shale Boom Has a 10-Year Life Span

The current shale boom in the U.S. “is temporary, and not easy to replicate in other parts of the world, Maria van der Hoeven, chief executive of the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), says in a Feb. 22 interview with The Christian Science Monitor.”

According to IEA analysis, the current growth will “plateau, and then flatten and go down. That means that from 2025 onward, it’s again Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that will come back. Because of the changing trade map, this oil will almost completely go to Asia – China, India, Korea and Japan.”

The conditions here are difficult to replicate, van der Hoeven says, because “land ownership and the resource ownership go together here in the United States – the only country where that is the case. It’s also about having the right gas industry, the right knowledge, the right infrastructure, the water, the human skills, the geological information, etc. And geology in this part of the world, especially where the shale gas boom is, is quite different from Ukraine or Poland.”

Petrochemical Industry in Need of Skilled Workers

During a panel discussion at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers’ (AFPM) International Petrochemical Conference on April 1, Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. president & CEO Peter L. Cella told attendees that “industry projections show the need for nearly 90,000 craft workers in 2015 as construction begins on chemical processing projects planned along the U.S. Gulf Coast,” The Oil & Gas Journal reports.

“Our most acute need is for welders, pipefitters, riggers, operators, instrument technicians, and other craftspersons, all with 2-year degrees or certifications,” Cella said. 

Alaska Senate Passes Gas Pipeline Legislation

On March 18, the Alaska Senate passed legislation to advance a large-diameter Alaska natural gas pipeline project. Specifically, SB 138 provides the framework for Alaska to become an owner in the Alaska LNG Project and move the project into the Pre-Front End Engineering and Design (Pre-FEED) stage. The bill will now move on to the House.

SB 138 is the enabling legislation that allows the Administration to negotiate firm contracts with the parties to the Heads of Agreement (HOA) and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) reached in January 2014 between the State, the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC), ConocoPhillips, BP, ExxonMobil and TransCanada, which stated all parties are in alignment. The agreements represent the first step on the path to full, legally binding contracts and set out roles and responsibilities of the parties before finalized contracts are drawn up. 

Chevron Phillips Breaks Ground on Texas Ethane Cracker

Chevron Phillips Chemical held a groundbreaking ceremony for its U.S. Gulf Coast (USGC) Petrochemicals Project at the Cedar Bayou plant in Baytown, TX. The groundbreaking ceremony signifies the start of construction for the USGC project sparked by shale resource development. The USGC project includes a 1.5 million metric tons/year (3.3 billion pounds/year) ethane cracker to be built at the Cedar Bayou facility in Baytown, and two 500,000 metric tons/year (1.1 billion pounds/year) capacity polyethylene facilities to be built in Old Ocean, TX. This facility will be the first greenfield cracker project in the U.S. this decade.

Gasket Leak Spills Crude Oil at Booster Station

On Friday, March 21 the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) was notified of a crude oil spill northeast of Alexander, ND. Highland Crude reported that a gasket failure on a line at a booster station allowed approximately 800 barrels of oil to be released.

Approximately half of the oil stayed within the containment area and half escaped into a dry drainage. No surface waters were impacted by the spill. Crews were building berms to contain the oil and the NDDoH sent a state inspector to the site to assist with remediation. 

Five States, Gulf of Mexico Produce More Than 80% of U.S. Crude

Five states and the Gulf of Mexico supplied more than 80%, or 6 million barrels per day, of the crude oil (including lease condensate) produced in the United States in 2013. Texas alone provided almost 35%, according to preliminary 2013 data released in EIA's March Petroleum Supply Monthly. The second-largest state producer was North Dakota with 12% of U.S. crude oil production, followed by California and Alaska at close to 7% each and Oklahoma at 4%. The federal offshore Gulf of Mexico produced 17%.

Total U.S. crude oil production grew 15% in 2013 to 7.4 million barrels per day. Texas and North Dakota led that growth, with their crude oil outputs each increasing 29% from 2012. Production gains in both states came largely from shales, especially the Eagle Ford in Texas and the Bakken in North Dakota. In the three years since 2010, North Dakota's crude oil output has grown 177% and Texas's output 119%, the fastest in the nation.

North Dakota has risen from the seventh largest oil producer to the third. The Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and California, which together in 2008 supplied nearly half of U.S. crude production mainly from conventional oil reservoirs, provided less than one-third of national output in 2013. Output in those areas has declined at the same time that overall national production has expanded. 

Cheap Natural Gas Boosting Manufacturing in Metro Areas

Inexpensive natural gas will boost manufacturing growth in the U.S. and its metropolitan areas according to a new report released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and prepared by IHS Global Insight.

The report titled Impact of the Manufacturing Renaissance from Energy Intensive Sources, details the impact the energy sector has had on manufacturing in the nation's metropolitan areas since 2010, and shows how the new availability of inexpensive natural gas has ignited the steel, iron, fabricated metals and machinery manufacturing industries as well as those of plastic, rubber, resin and organic chemicals.

The report provides employment and sales growth from 2010 to 2012 for nine manufacturing industries including fabricated metals, machinery, and plastics that are energy intensive. It also forecasts expected employment and sales from 2012 to 2020 in the top 100 metro areas, all 363 metros combined, and nationally, for the nine manufacturing sectors.

Over the last three years, metro area manufacturing employment has expanded by an average annual rate of 1.7%. Energy intensive industry, in particular, has been a key component in manufacturing expansion. 

Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas Seek to Build NC Pipeline

Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas this week will jointly issue a solicitation for proposals to build and operate a second major wholesale natural gas pipeline into North Carolina to meet growing demand for the fuel in the Carolinas and possibly surrounding states.

Duke Energy's increasing reliance on natural gas to generate electricity, coupled with Piedmont's growing customer demand, warrant investment in a new pipeline, the two companies state in their solicitation.

Currently, North Carolina is served primarily by a single major wholesale interstate natural gas pipeline that runs through the state.

A new pipeline would expand Duke Energy's and Piedmont's "access to competitive, secure, diverse and abundant supplies," and "enhance the reliability of future natural gas deliveries into the state," the solicitation says. The new pipeline should allow for "future low-cost expansions with minimal environmental impact." 

NAM: Domestic LNG Would Make Western Europe Less Dependent on Russia

“Increasing LNG exports will benefit manufacturers, their workers and the entire American economy,” argues Aric Newhouse, senior vice president of policy and government relations for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). “Again and again, experts find that granting licenses to export LNG would result in a net economic gain, including the official study done by the Department of Energy.”

Newhouse also makes the argument that exporting LNG “has important national security implications. Like the New York Times and many policymakers on Capitol Hill, the NAM believes that it is in our national interest—and in the interest of our allies—that the United States immediately accelerates the review process of pending LNG export terminal applications. With an expedited review, the Administration would send a strong signal to the Russian Federation, our NATO allies, our trading partners and the rest of the world that energy exports matter and are a critical tool of American foreign policy.” 

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• Tank Cars
• Shale Gas
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