Headlamp – Industry is recovering in Texas; contract for IGU?

All my exes live in Texas. Oil companies across Texas added about 20,000 jobs over the past year as oil prices stabilized, drilling rigs returned to the prolific Permian Basin, production grew and the industry recovered, according to an index that tracks energy activity in the state. The number of Texas oil and gas jobs rose to almost 213,000 in July, up 10 percent over the same period last year, according to the Texas Petro Index, released Wednesday, which tracks the health of the oil industry. “Clearly, the industry is in a state of recovery right now,” said Karr Ingham, an Amarillo economist who compiles the data for the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.

State of Alaska’s debt du jour. The state of Alaska and an oil company operating in Cook Inlet settled a dispute over millions of dollars in unpaid tax credits on Tuesday. The state said it has set aside money for partial payments until a larger dispute, also playing out in bankruptcy court, is resolved. Miller Energy Resources on Aug. 2 had asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Alaska to have the state set aside money for payments of tax credits, claiming it is owed $5.2 million. Miller Energy was the parent of Cook Inlet Energy, but the two companies and affiliates filed for bankruptcy in October 2015. Proceedings in that case are still ongoing, but Cook Inlet Energy has reorganized and operates in Cook Inlet and the North Slope. It’s still owned by another company, but that company now is Glacier Oil and Gas.

What does the future hold for IGU? The fate of the long pursued Interior Energy Project will soon come into better focus. The state funded effort hinges on a natural gas supply from Cook Inlet, and that’s expected next month. The North Star Borough voter formed Interior Gas Utility is a utility without any gas to sell, but IGU general manager Jomo Stewart said a forthcoming contract with a Cook Inlet producer could change that. Stewart said he can’t yet share details, but the contract is central to presentations planned for a September 5th IGU board meeting. “We already have scheduled, at our next board meeting, to get the first run of financial modeling of this project as it will stand having secured a gas supply,” Stewart said. Headlamp would note that the ability to secure a natural gas supply from Cook Inlet has been jeopardized by the changes in oil tax structure with HB 247 and HB 111. The irony? IGU has been Governor Walker’s priority and his administration is encouraging policy that jeopardizes it.

Secretary Chao putting Alaska in the driver’s seat. U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, visiting Alaska for a two-day trip, announced measures on Thursday to streamline what she called the “burdensome” federal regulatory process in Alaska and to accelerate a long-delayed project to reroute the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing. After a day meeting with Alaskans to talk transportation, she announced a new draft agreement between the state and the Federal Highway Administration. She said the agreement would allow the state, not the national government, to conduct environmental reviews for federally assisted highway projects in Alaska.

The times, they are a changin’. A Russian-owned tanker, built to traverse the frozen waters of the Arctic, completed a journey in record time from Europe to Asia this month, auguring the future of shipping as global warming melts sea ice. The Christophe de Margerie, a 984-foot tanker built specifically for the journey, became the first ship to complete the Northern Sea Route without the aid of specialized ice-breaking vessels, the ship’s owner, Sovcomflot, said in a statement. The journey was the culmination of a centuries-old navigational dream and of a decade-long plan by President Vladimir Putin of Russia, whose government has indicated it plans to take political and economic advantage of changes to the Arctic’s climate. “This is a big event in the opening up of the Arctic,” Putin said of the tanker’s maiden voyage this year. The ship, transporting liquefied natural gas, completed the trip from Norway to South Korea on Thursday of last week in just 19 days, 30 percent faster than the regular route through the Suez Canal, the company said.

Technology = money. The future is arriving—a few tons at a time—at Suncor Energy Inc.’s North Steepbank oil sands mine in Alberta, Canada. Human-operated excavators scrape away the top layers of soil to get to the hydrocarbon-rich tar sand beneath in much the same way they always have. But now they’re dumping that dirt into driverless trucks that use GPS systems and lasers to find their way through the massive mine. The trucks, part of a multiyear test, are just one way that Suncor and other oil sands producers are trying to bring down the cost of what traditionally has been one of the most expensive ways to extract crude.

First Reads:

State, Cook Inlet Energy find some agreement on $5 million owed in tax credits, but bigger question looms
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, August 24, 2017

Long awaited Interior natural gas contract expected
Alaska Public Media, Dan Bross, August 24, 2017

Texas oil and gas companies add 20,000 jobs over year
Houston Chronicle, David Hunn, August 23, 2017

U.S. transportation secretary announces efforts to speed up project development in Alaska
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, August 24, 2017

 Russia’s Arctic LNG tanker completes Arctic passage without aid of icebreakers
Arctic Now/New York Times, Russell Goldman, August 25, 2017

Can Oil Sands Pay Off at Just $50 a Barrel?
Bloomberg Business Week, Kevin Orland, August 24, 2017