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Briefs -- CFTC Nymex WTI Contract Study | Gulf Connector | California Offshore | EPD Fine | Gastar Delisted | Excelerate-TGS MOU | FERC/NERC Cold Weather Event Inquiry | Iowa DAPL Challenge

Interest in New York Mercantile Exchange Light Sweet Crude Oil futures contracts (WTI) for delivery five or more years out declined in the wake of the shale boom, "primarily due to structural changes in physical crude oil caused by the growth of U.S. tight oil production," according to analysts at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). In general, volume and open interest in the contract remains robust, but open interest in futures contracts for delivery five or more years into the future has declined, according to a report by staff of CFTC's Market Intelligence Branch. Oil prices and developments in financial regulation may have had a secondary effect on interest in the same WTI contracts, according to the report. At the time of the study, WTI was trading at about $60/bbl, compared with about $140/bbl in late 2007 and early 2008.

Williams’ Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line (Transco) has asked FERC for authorization to bring into service its Gulf Connector Expansion Project by Jan. 1, 2019. In its original filing, Transco had sought to bring the project online in two phases, with the initial 75,000 Dth/d serving Osaka Gas Trading and Export LLC and the remaining 400,000 Dth/d serving Cheniere Energy Corp. to supply its Corpus Christi liquefied natural gas facility. Transco also asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a certificate amendment to reflect an increase of approximately $20.1 million in project costs as well as a revised recourse rate.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills into law to block new federal offshore oil drilling along the state's 1,000-mile coastline, and issued a warning that the state will resist any efforts by the Trump administration to expand oil and gas drilling onshore on federal lands. The state laws are aimed at blocking any federal plans to expand offshore oil drilling by prohibiting new construction of oil and gas-related infrastructure within state waters if federal leases are authorized.

A panel of the New York Mercantile Exchange's (Nymex) Business Conduct Committee has levied a $100,000 fine against Enterprise Product Partners LP (EPD), finding that from March-December 2016, employees entered into multiple wash trades in futures contract markets for natural gas futures, crude oil futures, heating oil futures and reformulated blendstock for oxygenate blending, i.e. RBOB. The panel also found that EPD failed to provide guidance to employees on Nymex rules on wash trades, and failed to supervise employee access to CME Globex. Under the settlement, EPD neither admitted nor denied the allegations.

The New York Stock Exchange has delisted Gastar Exploration Inc. common and preferred stock after it failed to meet listing standards. Gastar plans to soon  be traded on the OTCQB over-the-counter market. Gastar said in July it could be sold or instead restructure the balance sheet. Gastar is a Midcontinent pure-play that works in the Anadarko Basin.

The Woodlands, TX-based Excelerate Energy LP and Argentina's Transportadora de Gas del Sur SA (TGS) signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly study the technical and commercial viability of a liquefied natural gas export terminal at Bahia Blanca, Argentina, which would serve the country's developing Vaca Muerta Shale in the Neuquén Basin. The study is expected to be completed by year's end, at which time Excelerate and TGS would share the results with government and industry officials and decide on further actions.

FERC and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) have initiated a joint inquiry to assess an extreme cold weather event in the Midwest and South Central United States during the week of Jan. 15. The inquiry is to focus on identifying the causes of and any contributing factors to the event, which prompted appeals for consumers to reduce electricity use and strained the nation's natural gas pipeline systems, and identify any appropriate recommendations for improving operations under similar conditions. The inquiry is not an enforcement investigation, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC and NERC staff will work with the Midwest Reliability OrganizationReliabilityFirstSERC Reliability Corporation, and the relevant involved companies.

The Iowa Supreme Court is considering oral arguments from landowners and environmental activists attempting to unravel approval by the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) in 2016 for the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is in service and crosses the state. The Grow America's Infrastructure Now coalition said the IUB conducted 18 public informational meetings and 12 days of public hearings on the four-state, multi-billion dollar oil pipeline owned and operated by Energy Transfer Partners LP. Supporters expect the state high court to reaffirm lower court rulings that rejected challenges to the pipeline.

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