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Hurricane Michael's devastation; human error contributed to Mass. gas explosions

Top News

Utilities see massive power outages after Michael's 'unimaginable destruction'

More than a million accounts in the southeastern U.S. were without power as Tropical Storm Michael moved through the Carolinas and approached Virginia in the late afternoon on Oct. 11, with state and utility leaders describing sweeping destruction as workers began to assess damage and restore electricity.

Human error played key role in Mass. gas explosions, federal report says

Human error likely played a critical role in the explosions and fires on the Columbia Gas of Massachusetts natural gas distribution system that killed one person and injured about two dozen others, according to an Oct. 11 preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

OPEC says it will need to maintain current supply levels to meet 2018 demand

OPEC will need to maintain current supply levels to meet demand for its crude for the rest of this year but could ease up on the taps in 2019, according to the cartel's own analysis.

Colo. coal decline expected to continue no matter who wins governor's race

Colorado's upcoming gubernatorial election will determine the state's energy policy for the foreseeable future, but coal will continue to decline regardless of who wins, according to several experts in the state.


"You've gone beyond just the role of a lawyer representing a client. You've been a political advocate against the endangerment finding and against climate science ... How can we trust that that is part of what will be shed by you as you move into this position of public responsibility?" Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said during a June 28, 2017, confirmation hearing to Jeffrey Clark, President Donald Trump's nominee to be the federal government's top environmental lawyer. The U.S. Senate voted Oct. 11 to confirm Clark as Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice's Environmental and Natural Resources Division.


* In a move that could slow the flood of customers leaving their utilities to seek power from alternative suppliers, California utility regulators approved a rate-setting method that will substantially increase the "exit fee" that departing community choice aggregation customers must pay utilities.

* The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to disband its 20-person Particulate Matter Review Panel in 2019, The New York Times reported. Environmentalists criticized the decision stating, "We're seeing [EPA] trying to cut science out of the process."

* Energy generation from solar panels and wind projects totaled up to 20% of the total power load in 10 U.S. states in 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Iowa took the top spot with 37% of its energy coming from wind and solar sources. Kansas, Oklahoma and California also made the list.

* Oregon has recouped $13 million from Tesla Energy Operations Inc. and its accountant after an investigation revealed that the company had more than doubled the cost of 14 commercial-scale solar projects in order to receive higher tax credits, The Oregonian reported. The inquiry was launched after Tesla Energy Operations filed for $12 million in tax credits for six solar facilities in 2015.

* Peninsula Clean Energy has begun construction of the 200-MW Wright Solar Park in California's Central Valley. The community choice aggregation, or CCA, agency agreed to purchase the solar facility's output from project owner Centaurus Renewable Energy LLC under a 25-year contract, according to a news release. The solar project is expected to come online by late 2019.

* Voters in Washington state will decide Nov. 6 on whether or not the state will adopt what could be the first direct tax on carbon in the country, but not without a fight from the oil industry, which claims that the tax will raise fuel costs.

Natural gas

* Evercore Group LLC has been at the front of the Rolodex for midstream energy companies that have decided to ditch or consolidate their master limited partnerships since 2017.

* LNG Canada is confident about a possible surge in future Canadian liquefied natural gas proposals following Royal Dutch Shell PLC's decision to build Canada's first LNG project. LNG Canada CEO Andy Calitz stated that Royal Dutch Shell's final investment decision has given "a degree of comfort and encouragement" to similar future projects, The Calgary Herald reported.

* Iron Bridge Resources Inc. has entered into an amalgamation agreement with Velvet Acquisition Co. Ltd. to become a wholly owned subsidiary of Velvet Energy Ltd. The merger is subject to the approval of Iron Bridge shareholders, according to a news release. Velvet has acquired approximately 87.7% of outstanding Iron Bridge Shares.

* Enbridge Inc. has received the National Energy Board's approval to restart its 76-centimeter line, which was closed due to precautionary measures following the rupture and explosion of a 91-centimeter line near Prince George in British Columbia, The Canadian Press reported. The pipeline will be restarted at about 80% of normal capacity.

* Now that the oil and gas industry is up off the mat after a beating from low commodity prices in 2015 and 2016, oil and gas executives around the world are twice as confident in the industry's future, according to a new poll released by consulting firm KPMG LLP.


* Murphy Oil Corp.'s wholly owned subsidiary, Murphy Exploration & Production Co. – USA, has entered into a definitive agreement to form a new joint venture company with Petrobras America Inc., a subsidiary of Petróleo Brasileiro SA - Petrobras.

* An increase in oil production by OPEC and Russia curbed the gap created by deteriorating Iranian output, in response to impending U.S. sanctions, The Wall Street Journal reported. OPEC's production rose to an average of 32.76 million barrels a day in September.

* Diversified Gas & Oil Plc has increased production to more than 70,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day after completing the $183 million acquisition of U.S. gas producer Core Appalachia, The Financial Times reported.

* Oil and natural gas production that was shut-in due to platform and rig evacuations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico for Hurricane Michael is returning very slowly, data from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement shows.


* Total U.S. coal production for the week ended Oct. 6 tightened 3.3% year over year to 14.8 million tons from 15.3 million tons, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

* Moody's downgraded Westmoreland Coal Co.'s probability of default rating and withdrew all its ratings for the coal producer after Westmoreland and its master limited partnership, Westmoreland Resource Partners LP, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Oct. 9.


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TransCanada Corp.'s decision to greenlight a C$6.2 billion natural gas pipeline should guarantee a steady revenue stream for the company, but investors and analysts do not see it as a silver bullet for the Canadian pipeline giant's balance sheet issues.

New from RRA

* After keeping pace with broad equity markets for most of 2017, the S&P 500 Utilities index sharply diverged downward from the S&P 500 late in the year as corporate tax reform efforts accelerated and ultimately succeeded.

* The average ROE authorized electric utilities was 9.64% in rate cases decided in the first three quarters of 2018, somewhat below the 9.74% average for cases decided in calendar 2017. There were 37 electric ROE determinations in the first nine months of 2018 versus 53 in full year 2017.

The day ahead

* 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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Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

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