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Calif. utilities tap AI in wildfire war; US coal production remains steady


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Calif. utilities tap AI in wildfire war; US coal production remains steady

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Calif. utilities tap artificial intelligence in war against wildfires

If California's electric utilities, energy regulators, firefighters and the communities they serve are to win the state's unprecedented war against wildfires, ignited by the combustible combination of utility infrastructure and climate change, they are going to need some new weapons.

AES CEO considers batteries critical to low-carbon strategy

AES Corp. is ramping up investment in renewable energy and battery storage as it aims to reduce its carbon output by 50% from 2016 levels by 2020, with the ultimate goal of reducing its carbon footprint 70% by 2030.

FERC Democrats vow to review gas projects case by case as they focus on climate

Democrats on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission flexed their power at a March 21 commission meeting to push for greater analysis of climate change, arguing that a recent bipartisan compromise that led to the first approval of a new LNG export terminal in more than two years will not work as a long-term solution for assessing the climate impacts of terminals and other natural gas infrastructure projects.

US coal production remains steady as exports prop up domestic losses

Even as coal-fired power plants retired at a rapid pace, total U.S. coal production has held relatively flat since mid-2016 thanks to a boost in coal exports that eased the loss of significant domestic demand.

Fitch projects 9.4% growth in US oil liquids production in 2019

Fitch Solutions said March 20 that it expects U.S. production of crude oil, natural gas plant liquids and other liquids will average 18.09 million barrels per day this year, topping 16.54 million bbl/d in 2018 by 9.4%, a slow down from the 15.7% year-over-year growth seen in 2018.


"Invenergy currently has in excess of 1.5 billion dollars in solar projects under contract that are slated for completion before the end of 2021. To say that the complaint filed by Hanwha is a troubling risk to our contracted project pipeline is an understatement," Art Fletcher, senior vice president of renewable engineering and project management at Invenergy LLC, wrote in a March 19 letter to David Johanson, chairman of the International Trade Commission.


* PG&E Corp.'s bankruptcy could result to the cancellation of a major battery storage project to replace three natural gas-fired power plants in California, Reuters reported, citing court documents.

* U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry confirmed that the Trump administration will provide an additional $3.7 billion in loan guarantees to help Southern Co. and its partners finish two new reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle Nuclear Plant.

* Former Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling is said to be holding meetings with former Enron executives for a new energy venture, just weeks after being released from prison in Montgomery, Ala., The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

* Duke Energy Corp. is pushing back against shareholder proposals targeting the company's political spending, coal use and environment-related activities.

* The Platte River Power Authority found high levels of selenium and cobalt in the groundwater near the Rawhide coal-fired power plant, the Loveland (Colo.) Reporter-Herald reported.

* Chugach Electric Association Inc. and Matanuska Electric Association Inc. voiced concerns over the creation of the transmission-only company Alaska Railbelt Transmission LLC to better coordinate transmission operations of six not-for-profit utilities in the state, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

* California Gov. Gavin Newsom has directed his administration to expedite forest management projects in a bid to protect the state's most wildfire-vulnerable communities. Newsom has declared a state of emergency throughout the state ahead of the coming fire season.

* Clean Energy B.C., an industry group representing independent power producers, said the provincial government misrepresented BC Hydro and Power Authority's own data in saying that the utility was pressured into buying C$16 billion of unneeded electricity, the Vancouver Sun reported.

* The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's environmental impact study on Vineyard Offshore Wind Project included conclusions that were "not well supported" in the document, the State House News Service reported.

* The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is asking the state attorney general to require Vistra Energy Corp. to close coal-ash pits contaminating the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River, The News-Gazette of Champaign, Ill., reported.

Natural gas

* A laid-off EQT Corp. engineer had until March 22 to respond to the company's demand that he submit his personal electronic gear for a search for evidence that he took trade secrets from the Appalachian shale driller and is now helping a hostile shareholder group.

* The U.S. Department of Energy authorized Magnolia LNG LLC to expand its export capacity to 8.8 million tonnes per annum of LNG to countries that have free trade agreements with the United States.

* Unplanned equipment failures at two compressor stations on El Paso Natural Gas Co. LLC's pipeline westbound out of the Permian Basin sent prices at the West Texas Waha hub plunging into negative territory March 21, highlighting the lack of capacity to take away natural gas associated with the Permian's shale oil wells.

* S&P Global Ratings revised its outlook on Equitrans Midstream Corp. to negative from stable due to uncertainty on the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Equitrans Midstream is the holding company that controls EQM Midstream Partners LP.


* A British Columbia Court of Appeal reserved its decision on a case for British Columbia to create a permitting system to increase transportation of heavy oil in the province, according to The Canadian Press.

* The combined oil and natural gas rig count in the U.S. tumbled by 10 to 1,016 in the week to March 22, according to the latest weekly North America Rotary Rig Count from Baker Hughes a GE company.

* The Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. signed two agreements with OMV AG and Borealis to explore new opportunities for collaboration in the downstream sector.

* Royal Dutch Shell PLC and BP PLC are benefiting from U.S. sanctions on Venezuela's oil industry, with refiners settling on crude oil from their offshore Gulf of Mexico production as substitute, Reuters reported.

* Petróleo Brasileiro SA - Petrobras could shell out $320 million to hedge part of its output at $60 per barrel, according to Reuters.


* UBS Group AG said it will no longer provide project-level finance to new coal-fired power plants around the world, as it outlined tighter rules on funding such transactions.

* The Navajo Transitional Energy Co. will not buy the Navajo Generating Station or the Kayenta coal mine, which supplies the Arizona plant, after a committee in the tribal nation's governing council voted against supporting the company's bid to make the purchases.


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U.S. utility-scale solar installations slowed slightly in 2018 as the industry adjusted to President Donald Trump's tariffs on imported solar panel materials.

New from RRA

* In FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary Potomac Edison Co.'s first Maryland rate case since 1994, the Maryland Public Service Commission authorized the company a $6.2 million, or 4.92%, increase versus the $17.6 million, or 14%, increase the company supported at the end of the case.

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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