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EPA request raises red flag for Sierra Club; coal has reasons for hope in 2018


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EPA request raises red flag for Sierra Club; coal has reasons for hope in 2018

Top News

EPA questions on carbon authority raise red flag for Sierra Club

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's request for information on a replacement rule for the Clean Power Plan opens with an evaluation of the agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gases through the lens of the new administration.

Pioneer says its low costs keep oil, profits pumping under carbon constraints

Pressured by a growing crowd of energy shareholders to report on corporate prospects in a carbon-constrained future, leading Permian Basin oil driller Pioneer Natural Resources Co. cited its low-cost structure as a key to keeping oil and profits flowing.

Coal seeks stable 2018, reasons for hope, but challenges loom

Political rhetoric around the coal industry may have sounded to some like the promise of a comeback, but many in the sector are simply hoping for a year of stability after markets finally took a turn for the better.


* Wall Street considers diversified utilities to be top picks in the power sector heading into 2018, highlighting Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., Exelon Corp., NextEra Energy Inc. and Dominion Energy Inc. for their diversified platforms and ability to capture benefits from federal tax reform.

* Brookfield Infrastructure Partners LP struck a deal to sell its approximate 27.8% interest in ETC Transmission Holdings SL to China Southern Power Grid International (HK) Co. Ltd for US$1.3 billion. ETC Transmission Holdings is the parent company of Transelec SA, which operates 10,000 kilometers of transmission lines in Chile.

* Citing what they claimed is new information about the influence of a top coal executive, three environmental groups asked federal regulators to reject a U.S. Department of Energy proposal to change market rules to boost the financial stability of coal and nuclear power plants.

* ReEnergy Holdings LLC plans to shut down its 22-MW wood-burning power facility in Lewis County, N.Y., on Dec. 29 if it fails to renew state subsidies for the plant, The Associated Press reported.

* The Virginia State Corporation Commission has directed Dominion Energy Inc. subsidiary Dominion Energy Virginia to lay its 115-kV transmission line under the Rappahannock River after finding that "underwater construction reasonably minimizes adverse impacts of the replacement line."

* InterGen agreed to sell its business interests in Mexico, including 2,200 MW of operational gas-fired projects and 155-MW wind project, to Actis for an enterprise value of about US$1.26 billion. InterGen is jointly owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and China Huaneng Group/Guangdong Yudean Group.

* Japan's Kansai Electric Power Co. will decommission units 1-2 of its Ohi nuclear power plant near Osaka citing technical challenges to meet new safety regulations following the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Meanwhile, Toshiba Corp. engineered a telescopic pipe carrying a pan-tilt camera to collect the inside information of the reactor chambers at Japan's tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, The Associated Press reported.

Natural gas/oil

* A new assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey shows that Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve and adjacent lands have an estimated 8.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 25 Tcf of recoverable gas. The new estimate represents a significant increase from the 2010 resource assessment, which estimated a mean of 1.5 billion barrels of oil.

* Alaska has approved Exxon Mobil Corp.'s plan to increase oil production by 50,000 barrels per day at the Point Thomson project on the North Slope. The approval "adds to the momentum of the Alaska LNG Project and demonstrates the commitment of the Point Thomson working interest owners to move gas from Point Thomson into Alaska Gasline Development Corp.'s 800-mile pipeline," Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said in a statement.

* An environmental group that regularly opposes pipeline projects launched a new attempt to block construction on Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC's recently approved $275 million Eastern System Upgrade natural gas transportation project in New York.

* The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Dec. 22 began a 30-day public comment on an environmental assessment tied to its June 2018 oil and gas lease sale of about 3,708 acres in Sevier and Wayne counties, Utah. The public review and comment period will end Jan. 24, 2018.

* Mexico's second deep-water oil auction attracted 29 oil giants, of which 16 companies plan on bidding as operators, The Wall Street Journal reported. The bidding process will begin by the end of January 2018.

* Shortly before adjourning for the year, the U.S. Senate approved President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the U.S. Energy Information Administration and his pick for the Department of Interior's assistant secretary for water and science.

* Harvest Operations Corp., a unit of South Korea-owned Korea National Oil Corp., expects to commission wells at its 10,000-barrel-per-day BlackGold SAGD oil sands project near Conklin, Alberta, in the second quarter of 2018, The Canadian Press reported. The project was put on hold in early 2015 due to "the drastic fall in oil prices."


* Westmoreland Coal Co. has received approval from the U.S. Department of Interior to expand its Rosebud coal mine located in the northern Powder River Basin near Colstrip, Mont., The Associated Press reported. The mine, which serves the 2,100-MW Colstrip plant, will expand by 60 million tons and operate for another 19 years.

* The board of Foresight Energy GP LLC, the general partner of Foresight Energy LP, approved to submit to the Mine Safety and Health Administration a re-entry plan for the Deer Run Mine at the Hillsboro Energy complex.

* A federal judge has denied a restraining order sought by environmental groups that would have blocked Arch Coal Inc. from expanding its West Elk mine.

* A two-year study by the North Dakota Geological Survey found evidence that the state's lignite layers contain some of the highest concentrations of rare earth elements in the U.S., the Williston (N.D.) Herald reported.


* After a settle up 6.9 cents at $2.667/MMBtu ahead of the long Christmas holiday weekend, NYMEX January 2018 natural gas futures extended gains overnight leading up to the Tuesday, Dec. 26, open, as cold weather forecast for key heating regions spelled stronger demand and larger draws from storage in the weeks ahead.

* Day-ahead power values could climb in the truncated workweek's opening session Tuesday, Dec. 26, as outlooks for generally elevated demand at midweek combine with ongoing gains in natural gas futures trading.

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New from RRA

* On Dec. 20, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission issued an order adopting, with modifications, a revised settlement filed by parties to Public Service Co. of New Mexico's electric rate case, calling for the company to be accorded a two-step, $62.3 million, nonfuel base rate increase.


"Clearly [Southern] is on the hook for construction risk on the new schedule," Evercore ISI analyst Greg Gordon commented on the implications for Southern Co. of Georgia regulators' decision to allow continued construction at the Alvin W. Vogtle Nuclear Plant project.

"The coal industry is probably one of the few industries where almost 90% of its shareholder base is hungover and grumpy," Ramaco Resources Inc. Chairman Randall Atkins said on the debt holders who were converted to equity holders in the recent wave of coal bankruptcies.

The day ahead

* Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower 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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