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Insurgents vie to unseat the 'Li-ion' king; coal focuses on shareholder return

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Insurgents vie to unseat the 'Li-ion' king; coal focuses on shareholder return

Top News

Battery insurgents vie to unseat the 'Li-ion' king

Robust demand for energy storage in electric vehicles, grid-tied installations, smart phones and laptop computers continues to fuel the fortunes of companies producing lithium ion, or Li-ion, batteries, and has sparked a boom in battery production capacity and lithium exploration.

Denying appeals, court sets path for withdrawal of Obama fracking rule

A federal appeals court declined to hear any further appeals by Native American tribes and environmental groups to force the Trump administration to keep the Obama administration's rules for hydraulic fracturing on federal lands in place.

Coal starts focus on shareholder return, but executive warns of lack of capital

After a bounce in 2017 and hopes for a relatively stable year after a long period of decline and pessimism, one industry executive said he still sees at least one storm cloud brewing for the coal sector.

Power

* In a first-ever examination electric utilities and issues surrounding environmental, social and governance decision-making, analysts at Macquarie Capital (USA) identified their overall top pick and two most-improved companies compared to annual metrics beginning in 2014.

* GridAmerica Holdings Inc. has started the permitting process for its Granite State Power Link project by submitting an application for a U.S. presidential permit with the Department of Energy. The proposed high-voltage, direct-current transmission line is intended to deliver Canadian wind power to Massachusetts.

* Rejecting, for now, cross-boundary construction, the Midcontinent ISO and the Southwest Power Pool have decided against a set of proposed interregional transmission projects conceived to alleviate congestion and better integrate expanding renewable generation across their footprints.

* The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking as it considers proposing emission guidelines to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing electric utility generating units. The EPA will be soliciting information on the respective roles of the state and federal governments in that process, as well as information on applicable systems of emission reduction until Feb. 26, 2018.

* Solar advocates in North Carolina have not objected to the selection of Accion Group as independent administrator for Duke Energy Corp.'s new bidding program for solar projects, the Charlotte Business Journal reported. The selection of Accion Group is still subject to the approval of the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

* Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to extend its license for the Narrows hydroelectric project by three years from its Jan. 31, 2023, expiry date. The extension is being made to allow the utility more time to negotiate on the potential transfer of the facility to the Yuba County Water Agency.

* Total annual revenue for energy storage for renewables integration is expected to exceed $23 billion by 2026, according to a new report from Navigant Research.

* The Kalispel Tribe of Indians has formed its own electric utility, which will purchase wholesale power from the Bonneville Power Administration.

Natural gas/Oil

* A new index and electronically traded fund tracking U.S. and Canadian energy infrastructure are looking to upstage the energy transportation bellwether Alerian with a broader focus and lower-cost fund structure.

* Avangrid Inc. is pursuing the sale of its gas storage and trading businesses, following the completion of its strategic review. The company oversees its natural gas business operations through its Enstor Gas LLC subsidiary.

* Royal Dutch Shell plc said the potential impact of the U.S. tax reform would be favorable to Shell and its U.S. operations primarily due to the lower corporate tax rate, though the fourth-quarter results will take a hit.

* Sabine Pass Liquefaction LLC has filed an application with the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy for blanket authorization to export liquefied natural gas, according to a notice published in the Federal Register. The request is for an amount up to the equivalent of 600 Bcf of natural gas on a cumulative basis over a two-year period starting on the later of the date of the first short-term export or Jan. 16, 2018.

* Chaparral Energy Inc. agreed to acquire 7,000 contiguous net acres in the core of the black-oil window of the STACK Play in Kingfisher County, Okla., from a private seller for $60 million in cash. The transaction will increase Chaparral's core acreage in Kingfisher County by 28% and its total STACK Play acreage to about 117,000 net acres.

* Eni US Operating Co. Inc. has started drilling a 6.5-mile oil well from a man-made island near Alaska's North Slope shore, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Coal

* A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit for a planned Louisiana coal export terminal has expired after years of legal and community disputes aimed at halting the project.

* The U.S. Department of the Interior denied that it approved the expansion of Westmoreland Coal Co.'s coal mine in Montana, saying the previous statement "was the result of an internal miscommunication," Bloomberg News reported.

* Elevated carbon monoxide levels that led to the idling of Foresight Energy LP's Deer Run longwall mine near Hillsboro, Ill., almost three years ago recently reappeared, apparently caused by another hotspot in the same underground area, an official with the Illinois Office of Mines and Minerals said Dec. 26.

* New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has a different vision from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on how to better address climate change in relation to the state pension fund, The Wall Street Journal reported. While Cuomo wants the fund to divest from fossil-fuel companies, Napoli sees leveraging shareholder power over such investments as a way to make a change.

Commodities

* Taking the lead from the January 2018 natural gas contract that rolled off the board in the prior session with a 9.5-cent gain at a finish at $2.738/MMBtu, NYMEX February 2018 natural gas futures favored the upside overnight ahead of the Thursday, Dec. 28, open, as supportive weather prospects undermined bearish storage expectations. At 6:59 a.m. ET (1159 GMT) the contract was 9.4 cents higher at $2.825/MMBtu.

* The price of next-day power could be aimed in diverging directions Thursday, Dec. 28, as expectations for generally weaker load at the close of the abbreviated workweek collide with ongoing gains in natural gas futures trading.

* The natural gas inventory report to be released at 10:30 a.m. ET on Dec. 28 by the U.S. Energy Information Administration is expected to show a withdrawal for the week ended Dec. 22 that trails both the year-ago and five-year-average withdrawals.

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New from RRA

* From rate cases to electric transmission and interstate gas pipelines to mergers and acquisitions, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulation and policies affecting electric and gas companies are the subject of the FERC Regulatory Review, a newly updated report from Regulatory Research Associates dated December 27.

Quoted

"What happened was it stopped being a business deal and almost became a war, which it never should've been," former Vero Beach, Fla., Mayor Laura Moss said on the long-contested sale of the city's electricity assets to Florida Power & Light Co.

The day ahead

* The EIA natural gas storage report is due out today.

* Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. equity markets. To view more SNL equity market indexes, click here. To view more SNL Energy commodities prices, click here.

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