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Briefs -- RRC Wastewater Rule, API Well Data, PA Health Registry, Sabine Pass, Elba Island LNG, DEP Budget, Atlas Energy

The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) said in a new notice that it will use the minor permit process under the commission's Statewide Rule 8 (Water Protection) to consider applications for permits to recycle treated domestic wastewater and waste streams from mobile drinking water systems at drill sites. An RRC minor permit will be required for surface application, such as dust suppression for drill pads or roads and for controlled (non-atomized) irrigation, for treated fluids. A minor permit will also be required for downhole uses of treated domestic wastewater. No RRC permit is required if wastewater from a mobile drinking water treatment system is used downhole as make-up water for drilling fluid after surface casing for a well has been set through the base of usable quality water. No permit is required for recycling mobile drinking wastewater for use as make-up water for cement and for make-up water for hydraulic fracturing fluid. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has jurisdiction over the treatment of water that will be used for drinking water, other potable uses, and potable delivery. TCEQ also has jurisdiction over mobile potable water treatment units operated at drill sites, such as mobile drinking water treatment systems and over the transportation of domestic waste and wastewater.

Estimated natural gas well completions declined 70% in 1Q2016 compared to the previous first quarter, according to a report by the American Petroleum Institute (API). API said it had also found that exploratory oil completions fell 90% compared to 1Q2015, and that total feet drilled decreased 73%, with the largest decrease seen in the footage for exploratory wells. The findings were contained in its Quarterly Well Completion Report for 1Q2016. Baker Hughes Inc. reported last Friday that for the week ending April 1, the number of operating drilling rigs in the U.S. had declined by 14 to 450, including 420 deployed in the onshore (see Shale DailyApril 1). Meanwhile, a recent analysis by Barclays Capital predicted that higher oil prices were unlikely to deplete a backlog of 2,000-3,000 drilled but uncompleted wells in the onshore (see Shale DailyMarch 30).

Public health advocates are once again pushing for a health complaint registry in Pennsylvania that supporters say would possibly show a link between illness or other physical issues and oil and natural gas development. The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project recently recently renewed calls for the registry and said it was collecting its own data about health complaints near drilling sites. Any registry would likely be run by the state Department of Health (DOH), which is sending out a questionnaire that asks about symptoms and any related concerns, such as oil and gas wells. That data is then published monthly online. Calls for a registry have been ongoing since at least 2011. That year, former DOH Secretary Eli Avila called for one to verify or refute claims (see Shale DailyJune 21, 2011). More recently, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf proposed $100,000 in his 2015-2016 budget to establish a health registry, but the proposal failed after a prolonged impasse over the state budget.

Sabine Pass Liquefaction LLC and Sabine Pass LNG LP have asked FERC for authorization to introduce feed gas to Train 2 at the Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal in Louisiana in order to begin commissioning activities for the second train. Sabine Pass requested approval by April 15 to remain on a previously set schedule. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission already has granted authorization to introduce fuel gas for the second train (see Daily GPIMarch 4). The terminal in February sent out its first cargo (from Train 1), bound for Brazil, making it the first terminal to export U.S.-sourced LNG from the Lower 48 states (see Daily GPIFeb. 24). According to Bloomberg, Gail India Ltd. is the taker of the second cargo, which is expected to be delivered to the Dabhol import terminal in India around mid-April.

Kinder Morgan Inc. units Elba Liquefaction Co. LLC and Southern LNG Co. LLC have awarded the contract for the engineering, procurement, construction, commissioning and startup of the Elba Island liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project to IHI E&C International Corp. The approximately $2 billion project would consist of 10 trains connected with the existing regasification terminal at Elba Island near Savannah, GA, which would be modified to receive LNG from the new liquefaction facilities (see Daily GPIFeb. 8). Modifications to the existing Elba facilities would include compression for vapor handling and new pumps for loading the LNG on vessels for export. Royal Dutch Shell plc is the customer for 100% of the liquefaction capacity and ship-loading services being developed by the project. When completed, Elba will have the capability to handle 2.5 million tonnes per annum of LNG.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Oil and Gas Management faces a $2.9 million deficit in fiscal year (FY) 2016-2017, which begins in July, according to the state budget office. It also faces a $9.8 million deficit in FY 2017-2018. The oil and gas office, which is staffed by 227 people and regulates the state's oil and natural gas industry, is funded entirely by permit fees, which have plummeted with the decline in activity in the state related to low commodity prices. Last month, DEP Secretary John Quigley said the DEP remains severely underfunded and understaffed (see Shale DailyMarch 1). The deficit means that the office can't fill vacant positions. There were 17 rigs running in the state at the end of last week, compared to 50 at the same time last year, according to Baker Hughes Inc. Quigley told lawmakers in March during state budget hearings that the situation could lead to another increase in oil and gas permit fees, which were last increased in 2014 (see Shale DailyJune 13, 2014). The agency is not alone: the state faces a $2 billion budget deficit, and lawmakers only recently passed the rest of the FY 2015-2016 budget after a nine month impasse (see Shale DailyMarch 23).

Atlas Energy Group LLC has entered into an amendment to its first lien credit facility. Among other things, the change allows it to establish a second lien position. The company said it utilized the second lien to reduce the first lien by $36 million. Atlas owns all of the general partner interest, distribution rights and a 23% limited partner interest in upstream subsidiary Atlas Resource Partners LP, a separately traded company with producing wells and reserves in 17 states that include assets in the Barnett, Eagle Ford, Marcellus and Utica shales. Atlas also announced success in replacing existing financial covenants that would give it more financial flexibility moving forward. The company has struggled during the commodities downturn. It was recently forced to start trading its units on the over-the-counter market OTCQX, after the New York Stock Exchangesuspended trading of its common units and moved forward with delisting procedures (see Shale DailyMarch 18Dec. 31, 2015). The units were delisted because the company's market capitalization had fallen below the $50 million minimum over a consecutive 30-day trading period. 

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