Six West Virginia University (WVU) professors have each been awarded $10,000 research grants to study a complex array of shale gas-related issues in the state and across the world. WVU's National Research Center for Coal and Energy issued the grants as part of its newly launched WVU Shale Gas Network. The professors will study the potential impacts of shale gas drilling, ranging from heart health and water resources, to the chemical industry and policy development. The projects are aimed at improving the safety and efficiency of shale gas exploration and production, developing new methods for shale gas use in chemical manufacturing and finding out more about the industry's effects on public health. The Appalachian Basin, Asia, South America and Europe will be among the regions of focus.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final greenhouse gas (GHG) permit to Dow Chemical Co. for an expansion at its plant near Freeport, TX. The facilities will process ethane and propane to produce products such as propylene and hydrogen, and they will include eight steam cracking-furnaces. When finished, the plant will produce 1.5 million tons of ethylene and other products such as propylene, butadiene and hydrogen each year (see Shale Daily, Dec. 13, 2012). The products are used in the chemical industry, as well as in the manufacturing of plastics, detergent and consumer chemicals. A Dow spokesman said, "the project remains on track to commence operations in the first quarter of 2017." Texas is working to replace a federal GHG implementation plan with its own state program, which would eliminate the need for businesses to seek air permits from EPA. EPA has finalized 38 GHG permits in Texas, proposed an additional 10 permits, and currently has more than 22 additional GHG permit applications under review in Texas.
Repairs were completed Wednesday and local natural gas utility service began to be restored in the far northwest corner of Minnesota, following a rupture and explosion Monday on a portion of Oneok Partners LP's 24-inch diameter Viking Gas Transmission Pipeline (see Daily GPI, May 27). "Viking has completed all repairs and has completed all re-pressure activities," an Oneok spokesperson told NGI on Thursday, adding that the cause of the incident was still under investigation. The early morning incident during the Memorial Day weekend knocked out gas distribution service to three small communities in the immediate area in Marshall County. No injuries were reported, and Viking began its recovery plan early on Tuesday.
The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked by BP plc to review a mandate that would require the producer to continue paying Macondo-related oil spill settlement claims regardless of whether the original agreement is determined to be fair. The claims payments to individuals and businesses that claimed to be impacted by the Gulf Coast oil spill in 2010 have been on hold since December after a federal district court issued an injunction (see Daily GPI, Dec. 3, 2013; Oct. 4, 2013). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans rejected by 8-5 an appeal by BP to halt claims payments while the terms of of the original claims settlement were reviewed; BP then appealed that decision to the Supreme Court (see Daily GPI, May 21; May 20). After BP lost its appeal, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the multidistrict litigation, on Wednesday ordered claims administrator Patrick Juneau to resume the claims payouts. The Fifth Circuit agreed and mandated that the payment process continue.
Koch Industries Inc. unit Flint Hills Resources LLC is taking major propylene producer PetroLogistics LP and its general partner (PetroLogistics GP LLC) private in an all-cash deal worth about $2.1 billion. Houston-based PetroLogistics has operations in the Houston Ship Channel area and owns/operates the only propane dehydrogenation (PDH) facility in the United States. Construction of the plant began in 2008 and was completed in 2010. The plant is among the largest of its kind and has an annual capacity of about 1.45 billion pounds of propylene, one of the basic petrochemical building blocks used in the manufacture of products such as paints, coatings, building materials, clothing, automotive parts, and packaging. "PetroLogistics built this facility from the ground up. It is a world-class operation," said Flint Hills CEO Brad Razook. "Its capabilities are well aligned with our existing chemical and refining business." The facility was constructed using equity capital from Lindsay Goldberg and York Capital.
The Department of Interior may have an updated environmental assessment for the oil and natural gas potential of Alaska's Chukchi Sea ready by early 2015. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in January ruled that the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS), the predecessor agency to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), may have used inadequate information regarding available reserves and environmental risks for Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193 held in 2008, and it kicked the issue back to Alaska's district court (see Daily GPI, Jan. 23; Feb. 8, 2008). The circuit court ruling reinstated one against the government that favored several conservation groups and Alaska stakeholders. The Chukchi had been estimated to hold around 1 million bbl of economically recoverable crude. However, the Ninth Circuit said the estimate was chosen arbitrarily. Following the circuit court ruling, the Obama administration and major Chukchi leaseholder Royal Dutch Shell plc asked the district court to allow federal revisions to be made through a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) (see Daily GPI, April 10). Shell, the biggest leaseholder in Chukchi and the Beaufort seas, so far has invested close to $6 billion in Alaska's offshore with little to show for its effort.
Returning to North Dakota, where he has served as both a state lawmaker and regulator, FERC Commissioner Tony Clark told an energy industry gathering Thursday that infrastructure development is the key to a North American energy renaissance. Clark said the long-held belief that the United States was destined to be dependent on oil and gas imports "has been proven demonstrably false" by the shale revolution. After his speech, he told NGI that he is concerned about the sometimes lack of coordination between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy (DOE) in their respective roles addressing the backlog of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects. What Clark called an "inherent mismatch" between the two federal energy agencies is bogging down the pending project applications. DOE uses a first-in, first-out approach to applications for permission to export gas to non-free trade agreement (FTA) nations, while FERC moves applications for building export facilities on the basis of the completeness of the applications, no matter when those applications were filed, he said.