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Russian cyberattacks alert US energy sector; SC studies expanded role for gas


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Russian cyberattacks alert US energy sector; SC studies expanded role for gas

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Russian cyberattacks put American energy sector on alert

The United States' public naming of Russia as being responsible for ongoing cyberattacks against American critical infrastructure is resonating with the energy industry and cybersecurity insiders alike.

With energy future in flux, South Carolina studies expanded role for gas

As South Carolina debates its energy future, the state is studying its natural gas infrastructure and whether the fuel could help fill a gap in electricity supply created by the abandonment of the V.C. Summer nuclear power project.

5 key met coal mines face uncertain output ramp-ups in 2018, analysts say

Five coal mines could dictate the overall increase in U.S. metallurgical coal production in 2018, but two of the operations have struggled with geologic challenges and two are still in early development, analysts say.


* Volkswagen AG's diesel emissions scandal, one of the most egregious environmental con jobs of the modern industrial era, has become a catalyst for what VW CEO Matthias Mueller claims is "the most comprehensive electrification initiative in the auto industry."

* AES Corp. closed the sale of its entire equity interest in its businesses in the Philippines to SMC Global Power Holdings Corp. for $1.05 billion in proceeds. The company will use the sale proceeds to retire $700 million of its senior unsecured notes due in 2024 and 2025, as well as its $250 million of other parent debt.

* Results of new poll show that more than two-thirds of voters in Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia support statewide goals of generating 100% of electricity by renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2030. The Sierra Club-backed survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

* Around three dozen U.S. utilities recently asked congressional leaders to lift a cap on income tax credits for individuals who purchase electric vehicles, but industry observers' opinions differed on whether the request would be granted.

* Entergy Corp. said its Indian Point 2 has entered the last refueling and maintenance outage before the nuclear unit's permanent retirement by April 30, 2020.

* Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. subsidiary Pacific Current LLC and Johnson Controls will build on-site solar photovoltaic systems coupled with battery storage to supply 100% of energy needs of the University of Hawaii Maui College campus.

Natural gas/Oil

* TPG Pace Energy Holdings Corp. agreed to acquire certain oil and gas assets within EnerVest Ltd.'s South Texas division for approximately $2.66 billion in cash and stock. As part of the deal, TPG Pace Energy and EnerVest are partnering to create Magnolia Oil & Gas Corp., a new company led by former Occidental Petroleum Corp. CEO Steve Chazen, who will serve as Magnolia's chairman, president and CEO. EnerVest will retain a significant ownership stake in Magnolia.

* Nearly $644 million of funds flowed out of an exchange-traded fund based on a bellwether midstream industry index in February, dealing a brutal blow to the struggling oil and gas pipeline master limited partnership sector.

* The Trump administration's proposed plan to impose approximately $60 billion worth of new annual tariffs on Chinese goods could hamper the country's new liquefied natural gas export projects along Gulf Coast, The Houston Chronicle reported.

* NuStar GP Holdings LLC is an attractive buy for other energy pipeline companies looking to gain a foothold in the booming crude oil export business, but its recent rejection of Energy Transfer Equity LP's unsolicited acquisition offer indicates the firm will not scuttle its corporate consolidation to partner with just anyone.

* Some coastal states, including New Jersey, New York, California, South Carolina and Rhode Island, introduced legislations to bar infrastructure development related to the Trump administration's proposed offshore drilling plan, The Associated Press reported.

* Driven by a continuous rise in local crude oil production, the frac sand industry in Wisconsin is making a comeback from the 2016 mining downfall, The La Crosse (Wis.) Tribune reported.

* Most institutional investors were selling Appalachian shale gas stocks in the fourth quarter of 2017 as their share values kept dropping along with the NYMEX gas futures price, an analysis of S&P Global Market Intelligence data showed.

* Energy companies are looking to spend about £5 billion to develop up to 16 oil and gas projects in the North Sea, reflecting a sign of recovery after the 2014 oil price crash, The Financial Times reported.


* Glencore PLC agreed to acquire Rio Tinto's 82% stake in the Hail Creek coal mine and a 71.2% stake in the Valeria coal project, both in Queensland, Australia, for US$1.7 billion in cash.

* An increase in the market share of natural gas-fired generation in Texas from January to February occurred alongside a decline in coal-fired generation due to capacity retirements, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its latest "Natural Gas Weekly Update" released March 15.

* Former Massey Energy Co. CEO Don Blankenship is gaining momentum as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Bloomberg News reported in a feature that details Blankenship's push for Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's seat in West Virginia.

* Westmoreland Coal Co. disclosed that due to an uncertainty the company will meet debt obligations, its 2017 financial statements will likely contain a warning about the ability of the company to continue as a going concern.


* Following a finish 3.7 cents lower at $2.651/MMBtu, April natural gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange traded on either side of unchanged, managing to drift onto the plus side of the ledger ahead of the Tuesday, March 20, open.

* Next-day power prices could shift lower in most cases Tuesday, March 20, as traders look to mixed but mostly lower demand projections for midweek. Eyes will also remain on natural gas prices.

* Moderating demand as winter changes over to spring combined with a drop in natural gas futures sent term power markets across the U.S. lower during the week ended March 16.

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New from RRA

* On March 9, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission issued an order approving a revised interim rate settlement filed in the context of Hawaiian Electric Co. Inc.'s pending electric rate case.

* Investor-owned gas and electric utilities are preparing to return billions to ratepayers nationwide as provided for in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Some $91.4 billion could be flowed back as utilities' excess deferred income tax liabilities are normalized in state regulatory proceedings.


"2018 is the year when companies need to step up climate action as we approach a tipping point," Jane Stevenson, task force engagement director at research group CDP, commenting on increased corporate action around climate risk driven by investor activism and changing consumer preferences.

The day ahead

* Early morning futures indicators pointed to a mixed 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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