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Energy's 10 most influential people; Drillers catching 2017 gas price wave

Top news

The 10 most influential people in energy in 2016

Energy reporters and editors at S&P Global Market Intelligence selected the people they consider to have been the most influential in the sector in 2016.

Appalachian shale drillers catching 2017 gas price wave, but a few still paddling

In a sharp contrast to the end of 2015, the nation's leading independent natural gas producers, led by Appalachian drillers, have loaded up on hedges at $3/Mcf and above to capture the full value of a healthier-looking NYMEX forward curve.

2016 sees record-low coal mine fatalities

For the first time in more than 100 years, U.S. coal mining fatalities could remain in the single digits. As of Dec. 22, only nine fatalities were reported this year at the nation's coal mines, according to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data. That is compared to 12 deaths in 2015 and 16 deaths in 2014.

Power

* As promised, Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed a bill that would have weakened the state's renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, ending a two-year freeze on the standards and clearing the way for them to be reinstated Jan. 1, 2017. Explaining the reasoning behind his decision, Kasich said the bill would have threatened energy generation options in the state.

* The North Carolina Utilities Commission approved a request by Duke Energy Carolinas LLC to delay proceedings on a planned 21-MW natural gas-fired power project at the Duke University campus, the Charlotte Business Journal reported. The Duke Energy Corp. subsidiary had said in its request that the university needed more time to "address internal stakeholder concerns" about the project.

* Rising natural gas prices are supporting higher electricity prices in the Southwest Power Pool Inc., while coal generation continues to give up market share to gas-fired and renewable resources, SPP's market monitoring unit said in a recent report covering September through November. Gas costs continue to rise overall, and values in the south-central U.S. were no different with the average cost of gas at the Panhandle Hub for fall 2016 at $2.61/MMBtu, compared to $2.25/MMBtu in fall 2015.

* Texas electricity customers filed 4,835 complaints about their utility service to state regulators this year, the lowest since electric market deregulation in 2002, the Houston Chronicle's FuelFix reported, citing an analysis by the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power. The drop in complaints was driven by lower electricity prices and customers' growing familiarity with the system.

* Eversource Energy has invested $940 million in Massachusetts and $930 million in Connecticut to maintain and upgrade its electric system in those states. As part of the investments, the company upgraded equipment, performed year-­round maintenance and inspections, trimmed trees and added additional high-­tech automation to allow the company to restore power more quickly, according to a news release.

* FERC conditionally approved Atlas Power Finance LLC's acquisition of several thousand megawatts of mostly natural gas-fired generating plants in the U.S. from Engie. In a Dec. 22 order, FERC approved the transaction, but said the companies had not adequately proven that the deal does not raise competitive concerns for certain portions of the PJM Interconnection LLC and ISO New England Inc. markets.

Natural gas/midstream

* Southwest Gas Corp. will implement a new holding company structure, effective Jan. 1, 2017. The holding company will be named Southwest Gas Holdings Inc., with Southwest Gas and Centuri Construction Group becoming subsidiaries of the new holding company. Southwest Gas' shareholders will automatically become shareholders of Southwest Gas Holdings on a 1-for-1 basis, according to a company statement.

* Florida Gas Transmission Co. LLC asked FERC for authorization to expand its system to provide an extra 68,500 MMBtu/d of firm transportation service to Florida Public Utilities Co. and Ascend Performance Materials. FERC provided notice of the request for authorization under the pipeline's blanket certificate Dec. 23.

* Plains GP Holdings LP entered an equity distribution agreement for the potential sale of up to $500 million worth of class A shares from time to time, according to an SEC filing. The partnership entered the agreement with financial institutions, including Wells Fargo Securities LLC, Barclays Capital Inc., BB&T Capital Markets, a division of BB&T Securities LLC, BMO Capital Markets Corp., BNP Paribas Securities Corp. and Citigroup Global Markets Inc., among others.

* Petrogas Co. Inc. acquired a fractional stake in four wells in Dewey County, Okla. Two of the wells are producing commercial quantities of oil and gas and are operated by Vanguard of Houston and Lighthouse Oil and Gas. "We plan to continue making acquisitions in the sector as we believe oil prices could continue going up through 2017 based on the data we are seeing," a company executive said in a statement.

Coal

* The global demand for coal will slow down over the next five years, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency. The organization's recently released "Medium-Term Coal Market Report 2016" said coal demand will not reach 2014 totals again until 2021, by which time much of the demand will likely have shifted to China. Coal's share of the global energy market will drop to 36% by 2021, down from the 41% share it had in 2014.

Commodities

* Smart money traders liquidated short positions as natural gas prices corrected to the downside in the week ended Dec. 20, but the activity may do little to change the market's overall upside direction. The breakdown of trades showed that short covering was mostly at work, as 11,382 long positions were cut while shorts fell by 25,962 contracts. Prices fell 21.1 cents during the survey period.

* After extending its rally to a finish 9.9 cents higher at $3.761/MMBtu in the opening session of the post-Christmas holiday workweek, January 2017 natural gas futures turned lower overnight ahead of the Wednesday, Dec. 28, open, in profit-taking ahead of expiration at the close of business. Sinking to a $3.664/MMBtu overnight low, the contract was last seen 4.0 cents lower on the session, at $3.721/MMBtu.

* Power dailies could have a mixed showing Wednesday, Dec. 28, as mostly stronger demand expectations for the latter part of the workweek run counter to weakness at the natural gas futures arena. At last glance, the January 2017 natural gas futures contract was down 4 cents at $3.721/MMBtu, turning lower in its final session as the front-month contract after touching a new two-year high in the previous session.

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Quoted

"Having heard a number of E&P operators talk about hedging gas with a 3-handle [$3 to $3.99 per MMBtu] on [Henry Hub] on Q3 earnings calls, this recent run-up is a great opportunity for E&Ps to add incremental gas hedges," analysts at Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. said.

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.

The Daily Dose is updated as of 7:30 a.m. ET. Some links may require registration or a subscription.