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Study suggests fracking contaminated Wyo. water; Sempra to sell 25% stake in REX

Q3: U.S. Solar and Wind Power by the Numbers

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Study suggests fracking contaminated Wyo. water; Sempra to sell 25% stake in REX

Top news

SunEdisonInc. shares sank to a 52-week low on March 29 after it was reported the SEC isinvestigating the company's cash disclosures and an affiliate warned that theproject developer could be headed for bankruptcy. The one-two punch droveSunEdison's stock price down 60% to 50 cents per share at 11:30 a.m. ET onMarch 29. The company's unsecured convertible notes that mature in 2020 weretrading for about 4 cents on the dollar, according to S&P Global MarketIntelligence.

Shootingfracking fluids into soft, shallow sandstone and using unlined waste pits,drilling practices from years ago, probably contaminated drinking water wellsin Pavillion, Wyo., according to a new Stanford University study. The study'sconclusions are the latest volley in the scientific back-and-forth over who andwhat contaminated water wells in the gas field to the east of the Wind Rivertown. A finding that fracking contaminated water would kick the legs out fromunder industry's contention that hydraulic fracturing, now almost a universalpractice, has never polluted fresh water.

Beforethe Clean Power Plan even has a chance to inflict full damage on the woundedcoal sector, activists intent on moving past fossil fuels are setting goalsbeyond the federal carbon plan. Weakness in the U.S. coal market, largely driven by naturalgas prices low enough to drive coal out of even some of its most traditionallysecure markets, is making it easier for groups like the Sierra Club to pushtheir case against coal.

Power

*The U.S. EPA's many supporters defended the Clean Power Plan in briefssubmitted to a federal appeals court March 29, assailing the rule's opponents' assertions that the ruleis unlawful and that the agency lacks authority to regulate power plants forcarbon dioxide.

*Montana regulators have decided to disallow the recovery of replacement powercosts relating to a July 2013 outage at Colstrip unit 4, a move that isexpected to impact NorthWesternCorp.'s 2016 earnings by $9.7million before tax. "We are carefully evaluating the decision andconsidering our legal options. It is particularly disappointing that Montana isdisallowing these outage related costs when no other state utility commissionhas found the utility was imprudent," NorthWestern Vice President andGeneral Counsel Heather Grahame said. NorthWestern does business asNorthWestern Energy.

* Acost-benefit analysisof EversourceEnergy's proposed Northern Pass transmission line found thatISO New England Inc.consumers will save roughly $578 million a year through the line's delivery of1,090-MW of hydropower from Hydro-Québec. However, the New England Power GeneratorsAssociation maintains that the project will result in $777 million in annualabove-market costs.

*Output from NRG EnergyInc.'s Ivanpah solar facility in California more than doubled yearover year to 67,300 MWh in February, underscoring the facility's ability tomeet its contractual obligations under a power purchase agreement withPacific Gas and ElectricCo., BloombergNews wrote citing a company senior. Google Inc. and BrightSource Energy Inc. are part owners in thefacility.

*Hydro Ottawa HoldingInc. has been fined C$225,000 plus a25% victim surcharge for an accident that resulted in the death of a Dig Safeemployee. The utility was convicted of three offences on July 13, 2015 underthe Occupational Health and Safety Act and is reviewing its options in thematter.

*Retailco LLC is offloading 1.5 million class A shares of via an underwrittensecondary public offeringthat is expected to close April 4.

*The Tennessee ValleyAuthority is awarding 16.7MW of solar capacity to four local power companies under its DistributedSolar Solutions pilot. The companies are the Chickasaw Electric Coop Inc., East Mississippi ElectricPower Association, Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Corp. and the Johnson CityPower Board.

Natural gas/midstream

*Sempra U.S. Gas & PowerLLC is selling its 25% interest inthe Rockies Express Pipeline to Tallgrass Development LP for $440million in cash. The SempraEnergy subsidiary is also permanently releasing remaininguncontracted capacity on the pipeline, which will impact earnings by $100million to $120 million during the second quarter of 2016 but will not impactthe parent's adjusted earnings guidance.

*More than any other state in the union, Alaska is dependent on state revenuefrom oil and gas production. With the commodity price collapse well over a yearold, the state is now facing a budget deficit approaching $4 billion while thegovernor and legislators argue over how to approach the issue. Gov. Bill Walker said measures to balance thebudget by 2019 would have to include a tax hike to go along with a reduction of tax creditsfor oil and gas producers that the Legislature is already working on, thoughRepublicans have indicated that they will look for Wite-Out to eliminate anytax increase Walker puts in pen.

*Chancellor Andre Bouchard of the Delaware Chancery dismisseda complaint against RegencyEnergy Partners LP's $11 billion unit-for-unit with an indirect subsidiary ofEnergy Transfer PartnersLP. The plaintiffs argued that Regency's general partner favoredthe interest of Energy Transfer Partners by agreeing to an unfair merger price.

*SandRidge Energy Inc.will be reducing capital spending in 2016 to $285million, or 60% below 2015 levels, to maintain liquidity while advancingoperations with one rig in each of its plays.

Coal

*The next step in the U.S. Department of the Interior's effort to addressconcerns about the federal coal lease program will consider an array of new policy proposals intendedto update the current approach, including a 50% hike in royalty payments forsome U.S. producers.

* A reportfrom Sierra Club, Greenpeace and CoalSwarm estimates that developers need $981billion to construct coal plants worldwide — a figure that is one-and-a-halftimes the amount that the International Energy Agency estimates is needed toend energy poverty for 1.2 billion people. "Coal use keeps falling off acliff and plants are sitting idle, yet more money is being wasted on misguidedattempts at locking in this dirty, dangerous fuel. The hundreds of billionsbeing thrown at coal could instead go toward the booming clean energy sector,helping more than a billion people get access to the clean, reliableelectricity that fossil fuels have failed to deliver," a Sierra Club seniorsaid.

*After Utah's Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signed legislation that would setaside $53 million in highway funds to help finance a coal export terminal inOakland, Calif., last week, opponents remain confident that they can halt theproject. JessicaYarnall Loarie, staff attorney with the Sierra Club Environmental Law Programtold S&P Global Market Intelligence that local opposition to the projectstill provided an opportunity to slow the terminal's progress.

* Aproposal by China's Shanxi province to keep coal mines operating and exportexcess production abroad could mean trouble for miners in U.S.'s AppalachianMountains and Australia's Hunter Basin, BloombergNews writes. "China increasing exports would come at the exact wrongtime — that's the last thing the market needs. Everyone else is doing their jobof cutting supply. It would just ding whatever kind of light there was at theend of the coal supply-demand tunnel," Andrew Cosgrove, an analyst withBloomberg Intelligence, was quoted as saying.

Commodities

*Assuming the lead from the April gas contract that rolled off the board in theprior session up 5.5 cents at a settle at $1.903/MMBtu, May natural gas futureswere near unchangedovernight ahead of the Wednesday, March 30, open, as varied weather in storethat remains supportive of a mix of heating and cooling demand ran against anongoing complacency over hefty supplies.

*Most next-day power markets around the United States could see slightlysofter moves in themidweek session Wednesday, March 30, as traders look to generally weaker demandoutlooks.

*Tighter natural gas supply and demand balances will be necessary to thissummer and keep inventories within capacity limits this fall as current storagelevels remain above the five-year range in all regions and storage capacityremains relatively unchanged year on year, with demonstrated capacity at 4,343Bcf as of November 2015, up from 4,336 Bcf a year earlier, LCMC Research analystssaid.

*April natural gas movedhigher in its final day as the lead contract, taking signals fromweather forecasts that suggest lingering heating demand in the Northeast andrising cooling load across the western half of the U.S. Rising to a$1.914/MMBtu high in short covering ahead of expiration at the close, thecontract rolled off the board at $1.903/MMBtu, higher by 5.5 cents.

* Followingrecent softness, over-the-counter California carbon allowance prices weremixed to mostlyhigher during the final week of March. As of March 28, the spotCalifornia carbon allowance contract in the secondary market was eyed in abid-and-ask spread of $12.53/tonne to $12.67/tonne, up 6 cents from assessmentsseen the week before.

Quoted

"It'sa rare occurrence when activists and Wall Street investors see eye-to-eye andare even approaching a problem together," Jamie Henn, co-founder of fossil fuel divestment leader 350.org,referencing a growing trend toward green investment and the development offossil free investment vehicles.

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.