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Briefs -- MPLX-MarkWest, Black Hills/SourceGas, RSP Permian, Miller Energy-SEC, Pennsylvania PUC, Texas Natural Gas Foundation, Freeport LNG, Oregon LNG, Accenture, North Dakota Geological Survey, Castleton Commodities, Corpus Christi LNG, Black Elk Ener

Marathon Petroleum Corp.'s midstream limited partnership, MPLX LP, and MarkWest Energy Partners LP have cleared initial federal approval for their $15.8 billion merger (see Shale DailyJuly 13). The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice sent notice of an early termination of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act. With early termination, the companies said the merger remains on track to close in the fourth quarter. It still requires the approval of MarkWest unitholders. The deal would pair MarkWest, the nation's second-largest natural gas processor and the Appalachian Basin's largest, with one of the Northeast's leading refiners.

Rapid City, SD-based Black Hills Corp. received early approval from the Federal Trade Commission for its proposed $1.89 billion purchase of SourceGas Holdings LLC's natural gas utilities in four states under the Hart-Scott-Rodino review process (see Daily GPI, July 13). The deal is subject to the approval of state commissions. The acquisition is expected to close by mid-2016.

RSP Permian Inc. has closed its previously announced bolt-on acquisitions in existing core operating areas in the Midland Basin for an aggregate purchase price of $274 million in cash. The acquisitions include 5,704 net surface acres, or 27,287 net effective horizontal acres, in the Midland Basin with 162 net horizontal drilling locations in five zones (Middle Spraberry, Lower Spraberry, Wolfcamp A, Wolfcamp B and Wolfcamp D, or the Cline Shale). Acquired properties include more than 85 million boe of resource potential based on internal estimates, are 100% operated by RSP, are 100% held by production and have an average royalty burden of 23%. RSP also closed an amendment with lenders under its revolving credit facility that increases the borrowing base 20% to $600 million. No amounts are currently drawn, and the next scheduled borrowing base redetermination is May 1. "Our increased borrowing base enables us to have ample liquidity to execute our drilling plans and pursue strategic opportunities that might present themselves in this volatile period in the market," CEO Steve Gray said.

Miller Energy Resources Inc. has reached a tentative agreement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement division to settle charges that it overvalued Alaska upstream assets (see Daily GPIAug. 7). SEC staff has recommended a penalty of $5 million to be paid over three years, Miller said in a regulatory filing. The company would neither admit nor deny guilt and would agree to cease and desist from future violations if the agreement is approved. In the same filing, Miller said it is still in talks to refinance debt, which has delayed the release of its latest financial disclosures indefinitely. Miller shares have been delisted from the New York Stock Exchange and have been trading over the counter at around 16 cents/share.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has unanimously finalized recommendations that would provide consumers with more information about their natural gas supplier on their bills. In April, the PUC approved the proposal, which was put forward by its Office of Competitive Market Oversightas part of broader efforts to improve the state's retail natural gas market (see Daily GPIApril 24). The changes will require the supplier to include its logo on the bill; a shopping information box so customers have more information about suppliers in the state; the customer's rate schedule and contract expiration date, and more space for billing messages. Similar changes were implemented last year for the state's electricity providers.

Rail shipments of Bakken Shale crude oil continued to decline in June as the spreads between West Texas Intermediate (WTI) andBrent prices narrowed, averaging less than $2.00/bbl. Rail accounted for 47% and pipelines 46% of the 1.3 million b/d shipped from North Dakota and eastern Montana, said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority. There were no large volume shifts month to month, but rail volumes are down significantly from June 2014.

The Texas Natural Gas Foundation (TXNG) was recently formed by State Rep. Jason Isaac and Ken Morgan, director of the Texas Christian University Energy Institute. "Natural gas is clean-burning, domestically-produced, and an efficient source of energy for industry and transportation," said Isaac, a transportation consultant. He noted in particular the use of natural gas for fleet vehicles like buses and local delivery vehicles. "Despite the drop at the pump in gasoline and diesel prices, Texas natural gas still offers better value for fleet users. These are vehicles that normally produce a disproportionate share of air emissions, but when fueled with natural gas, they're among the cleanest-burning," he said. TXNG will report energy production trends, new technology and economic impacts related to natural gas production in Texas. TXNG also plans to work with educators to develop a curriculum on natural gas for Texas students. "With the discovery of vast deposits of gas shales in the U.S., we have a great opportunity to use this cleaner-burning fuel for our domestic transportation needs, ranging from trucks, buses and cars to new potential uses for our railroad network and marine shipping business," Morgan said. TXNG will host a workshop on Nov. 12 in Spring, TX, that will give fleet managers, marine operators, and exploration and production companies the opportunity to share information about transitioning to natural gas. For more information about the upcoming workshop or the foundation, visit www.txng.org.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff plans to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) for Freeport LNG Development LP's proposal to add a fourth liquefaction train to its liquefied natural gas export terminal on Quintana Island in Brazoria, TX [PF15-25] (see Daily GPINov. 25, 2014). The project would be located west and adjacent to the facilities authorized and under construction for the Phase II Modification Project [CP12-29] and Liquefaction Project [CP12-509], which comprises three liquefaction trains and related facilities. The fourth train would provide additional liquefaction capacity of 5.1 million tonnes per annum for export, which equates to a natural gas throughput capacity of 0.72 Bcf/d.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff has scheduled nine public hearings for a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on the proposed $6 billion Oregon LNG project. The sessions are set to kick off Sept. 14 in Kent, WA, continuing at three other locations on the Washington state side of the Columbia Sept. 15-17; followed by three hearings Sept. 21 in Astoria, OR; Sept. 22 in Vernonia, OR; Sept. 23 in Ridgefield, WA; and Sept. 24 in Kelso, WA. The project would include a 1 Bcf/d liquefied natural gas export facility near the mouth of the Columbia River and Northwest Pipeline Co.'s proposed expansion of a spur that would feed up to 1.2 Bcf/d into an interconnected pipeline (see Daily GPI, Aug. 6).

Global consultant Accenture is acquiring Schlumberger Business Consulting for an undisclosed sum to expand its upstream business. The 11-year-old Schlumberger Ltd. unit, which employs about 250 people worldwide, helps operators refine and manage strategies, operations, workers, capital projects and mergers/acquisitions. Accenture has a workforce of more than 300,000. "The upstream oil and gas sector is undergoing a fundamental transformation, partly driven by oil price volatility, but also by increased regulation and technology advances," said Accenture Resources Group CEO Jean-Marc Ollagnier. "This acquisition will enhance our capabilities in helping clients navigate these challenges with a combination of business, digital and technology know-how that differentiates us in this global market." The transaction requires regulatory approval.

The hydrocarbon-rich Bakken Shale play revealed a rare fossil find this summer with the discovery by a North Dakota Geological Survey (NDGS) intern of a 65-million-year-old half-inch jawbone from one of the earth's first known mammals. The state Department of Mineral Resources, usually touting oil/natural gas statistics, announced the find by Bismarck, ND, native Sean Ternes. The state geological service's Clint Boyd, senior paleontologist, called it "an incredibly significant find." In a public fossil dig on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands, the intern spotted the lower jaw bone of a mouse-sized marsupial, the "Glasbius Twitchelli." The fossil was the first of its kind to be found in North Dakota, and its existence in the southwest corner of the state can be used in subsequent comparisons and analyses of fauna in neighboring states.

Units of Castleton Commodities International LLC (CCI) have acquired certain East Texas assets and operations from EDF Trading Resources LLC. Terms were not disclosed. The acquired assets consist of working interests in 545 oil and gas wells and 30,855 net acres in multiple counties throughout East Texas. "The acquisition provides CCI with a significant proven reserve base that complements and expands the company's existing oil and gas operations in the area," it said.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff will prepare an environmental assessment (EA) for Corpus Christi Liquefaction LLC's (CCL) and Cheniere Corpus Christi Pipeline LP's (CCPL) Stage 3 Project. It entails expansion of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) liquefaction and storage capacity of the previously approved Corpus Christi Liquefaction Project [CP12-507,  CP12-508]; and new associated bidirectional interstate natural gas pipeline facilities in San Patricio County, TX. The project would include the addition of two liquefaction trains, each capable of processing up to 700 MMcf/d, one 160,000 cubic meter full-containment LNG tank, one 22-mile, 42-inch diameter pipeline, additional compression at the Sinton Compressor Station, and appurtenant facilities located within San Patricio County (see Daily GPIJune 11).  

A six-count criminal complaint has been filed against Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC related to a November 2012 offshore production rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed three and injured others (see Daily GPINov. 19, 2012). The complaint, filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, charges Black Elk with five violations of the Outer Continental Lands Act (OCSLA) and one violation of the Clean Water Act for an oil discharge related to the accident. The OCSLA charges allege that the "person in charge" on the rig failed to ensure the safety of the rig and workers during welding operations. An investigation of the accident found that contractors failed to follow appropriate safety procedures during a welding project on the rig (see Daily GPIAug. 22, 2013). According to a report released in late 2013 by the Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard, Black Elk and certain of its contractors failed to follow safety rules (see Daily GPINov. 4, 2013). Black Elk did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

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