Murkowski opened the hearing by underscoring the growth and potential of U.S. natural gas and natural gas exports.
“Our production has soared to levels many never thought possible even a decade ago. This is, in turn, boosting our economy and our national security, while providing a long-term, low-cost, low-emission source of energy,” Murkowski said. “The consensus among experts is that LNG will continue to be a major driver of demand growth well into the next decade, from developed countries in Europe to fast-growing economies like India. We have an opportunity to lead in a very competitive global market, but the window is narrowing.”
Related: You can watch the full hearing, here.
Alaska communities debate proposed location of LNG project
Associated Press, July 11, 2019
Previous investigations have determined using Valdez would cause the least amount of environmental damage, largely because the pipeline would follow the existing Trans-Alaska Pipeline System route, city officials said.
“FERC appears to have taken (Alaska Gasline Development Corp.’s) unsupported assertions regarding the impacts of the Valdez Alternative at face value without conducting the additional research or analysis mandated by (the National Environmental Policy Act),” the city stated.
Nikiski remains the chosen site for a LNG plant, Alaska Gasline Development Corporation said.
Oil Market Report: Re-balancing slows down
iea, July 12, 2019
The main message of this Report is that in 1H19 oil supply has exceeded demand by 0.9 mb/d. Our latest data show a global surplus in 2Q19 of 0.5 mb/d versus previous expectations of a 0.5 mb/d deficit. This surplus adds to the huge stock builds seen in the second half of 2018 when oil production surged just as demand growth started to falter. Clearly, market tightness is not an issue for the time being and any re-balancing seems to have moved further into the future.
Murkowski finds EPA criticism of Pebble Mine ‘substantial’
Liz Ruskin, KTOO, July 11, 2019
“I have read the 404(q) submission and the issues that are raised by the EPA are substantial and, based on my read, well made,” she said Wednesday, referring to the agency’s review of Pebble’s proposal.
The EPA found the project “may have substantial and unacceptable adverse impacts” on the fish and fish habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed.
Murkowski foresees two possibilities: either the Corps will revise the Pebble impact statement in a way that satisfies the EPA’s concerns, or the EPA will exercise its right to veto the mine application.
This week Australian mining company Northern Cobalt Ltd. applied for permission to explore a drilling site for the rare earth metal vanadium in Southeast Alaska. In 2018, vanadium was identified by the Department of the Interior as one of 35 critical mineral commodities to ensure economic and national security of the US. This special issue of AKHeadlamp takes a moment to walk through why a vanadium mine would be beneficial not only to the state, but also to the nation.
Australia company seeks exploratory drilling OK in Alaska
Associated Press, July 9, 2019
An Australia mining company is seeking permission to start exploratory drilling for the rare element vanadium in southeast Alaska. Northern Cobalt Ltd. has applied to the U.S. Forest Service for the proposed project on Snettisham Inlet, CoastAlaska reported. The site is in the Tongass National Forest about 35 miles southeast of Juneau.
There are no active federal mining claims at the site. Exploratory drilling for iron ore was conducted at the location in 2012, but those claims were abandoned amid a collapse in iron prices.
Vanadium: The metal we can’t do without and don’t produce
Richard Mills, Mining.com, October 24, 2017
About 85 percent of the world’s vanadium comes from three source countries: South Africa, China and Russia. Vanadium is typically found within magnetite iron ore deposits, and is usually mined as a byproduct and not as a primary mineral. Vanadium is often agglomerated with titanium, which must be separated out as an impurity during processing. The higher the titanium content in the ore, the harder it is to remove the vanadium. The end product is vanadium pentoxide, which can be used for the applications cited above or to make ferrovanadium for use in steel.
With vanadium demand set to soar, it is a valid question as to where new vanadium supply will come from. There are currently no North American reserves, a situation that is and should be deeply alarming to politicians on both sides of the 49th parallel.
Our take: While not brief, this article really gives context into why vanadium is a commodity of necessity. Because its uses (like other rare earths) are more complex than the metals we are familiar with (think: copper, iron, gold, aluminum), they are not widely spoken about. However, we interact with vanadium daily in our vehicles, batteries, renewable energy pursuits and aeronautical applications. Also, it’s named after the Norse goddess Vanadis – which is pretty cool.
China Wrestles with the Toxic Aftermath of Rare Earth Mining
Michael Standaert (with help from Zhong Yunfan), Yale E360, July 2, 2019
Globally, rare earths are not, in fact, that rare, but they are expensive to extract if done in ways that cause less harm to the environment. The mining industry in southern Jiangxi Province was largely unregulated until recently, with illegal mining operations proliferating.
Our take: Alaska’s rigorous environmental standards mean that rare earth mining would not be lawless and the cleanup efforts, while likely not needed based on the regulatory systems in place, would not fall on a hodgepodge of agencies. If, as a society, we would like to control environmental pollution, then we should undertake resource development in places where we care about our nature.
Pentagon seeks funds to reduce U.S. reliance on China’s rare earth metals
Phil Stewart & Andrea Shalal, Reuters Business News, May 29, 2019
The U.S. Defense Department is seeking new federal funds to bolster domestic production of rare earth minerals and reduce dependence on China, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, amid mounting concern in Washington about Beijing’s role as a supplier.
Between 2004 and 2017, China accounted for 80% of U.S. rare earth imports. Few alternative suppliers have been able to compete with China, which is home to 37% of global rare earths reserves.
“The department continues to work closely with the president, Congress and U.S. industry to improve U.S. competitiveness in the mineral market,” Andrews told Reuters.
Our take: The demand for rare earth metals is no longer a secret. More production in the US means less reliance on unstable trade with foreign nations—especially poignant based on our current trade war with China.
What, if anything, can be as financially impactful as the oil and gas industry in Alaska?
Rebecca Palsha, KTUU, July 9, 2019
“Tourism has been showing an amazing run of success over the last several years with a big surge in the population numbers coming up from the Lower 48,” Bill Popp, the president and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, said. Still, it doesn’t come close to how much oil and gas contributes to the state, both in high-paying jobs and in contributions to state revenue. That’s created an issue as state lawmakers debate the PFD and fight over budget cuts. It begs the question: Can anything replace or replicate the impacts of a shrinking oil and gas industry? “The oil industry accounts for about one-third of all jobs in Alaska and contributes to about half of our economy overall,” said Marleanna Hall, the executive director for RDC. “But other jobs, for example, the mining industry, the average mining industry job (pays) over $110,000 a year. So these are real family wage jobs, something that provides for a healthy lifestyle.”
Hall and Popp both say don’t count oil and gas out or expect a rising industry to eclipse it.
Our Take: According to the state’s spring FY 19 Forecast, the industry was on target to pay $3.078 BILLION dollars to the state. Nothing compares.
Trump looks to quash any vulnerability on green issues
Timothy Cama, E & E News, July 9, 2019
President Trump took an election-year swing yesterday at defending his environmental record, fighting back against criticism that his policy rollbacks are harmful. His remarks came as polls show the president may be vulnerable on green issues, and Democratic presidential hopefuls were quick to respond. Just weeks after formally launching his 2020 campaign for reelection, Trump used his bully pulpit to tick off a list of accomplishments from his 2½ years in office, including a North American trade deal that mentions marine litter and air quality improvements decades in the making. “From day one, my administration has made it a top priority to make sure America has among the very cleanest air and cleanest water on the planet,” Trump told a largely supportive crowd of administration officials, leaders from conservative groups and others in the White House’s stately East Room. “We want the cleanest air. We want crystal-clean water. And that’s what we’re doing, and that’s what we’re working on so hard,” he continued.
Our Take: Critics claim that the President’s rollbacks of Obama-era policies contradict his claims. We disagree. As noted by Kimberley Strassel, “rollbacks” is a deceptive way of describing regulatory changes and proceeds from the idea that all environmental regs are good and that changing or eliminating them is bad.
From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:
REPUBLICANS LAUNCH ENVIRONMENTAL CAUCUS IN HOUSE AND SENATE: Republicans in the House and Senate launched a new caucus Wednesday intended to demonstrate the party’s “innovation”-centric approach to reducing emissions and pursue other environmentally friendly policies.
“From a Republican point of view, we need to showcase we care about conservation, we are about the environment, and we have innovative solutions that are not top-down regulatory solutions,” said Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina senator and one of the leaders of the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus, speaking at a press conference Wednesday morning.
Other members of the caucus include senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Steve Daines of Montana, Rob Portman of Ohio, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Cory Gardner of Colorado, and representatives Elise Stefanik of New York., Will Hurd of Texas, Brian Mast of Florida, and Matt Gaetz of Florida.
Republicans at the press conference provided few details about new proposals, instead challenging China and India to do more to reduce emissions. They were dismissive of solutions such as carbon pricing.
Members, however, challenged Trump to accept climate change science and propose appropriate policies. Trump delivered an address Monday defending his environmental record without mentioning climate change.
“I would encourage the president to look long and hard on the science, admit the science is real, and come up with solutions that do not destroy the economy like the Green New Deal,” Graham said. “I am tired of playing defense on the environment. We will win the solution debate, but the only way to win is admit you have a problem.”
Guess Where Alaska Stands in the Oil Race
Ed King, King Economics Group, July 8, 2019
Back in the 1980’s Alaska was a powerhouse in the oil market. At the time, our young oil fields were the envy of our peers. Texas production was falling, approaching 2 million barrels per day from above as Alaska approached the same mark from below. Briefly, Alaska challenged Texas as the number one oil producing state in the union and was responsible for 25% of all oil production in the nation. Meanwhile, California oil production was dropping below the one million barrel per day mark. No other state was producing more than half that much back in 1988 (Louisiana). That handful of “small” producing states could not compete with the vast opportunity in the Last Frontier. At the time, Alaska had a lot of leverage. Our land was known to have good source rocks and the region was underexplored. Companies were chomping at the bit to get exploration rights as their lower 48 resources were being depleted and they needed to replace those reserves. The state was awash with a previously unfathomable amount of money. So much money that we repealed our individual taxes, socked a quarter of the royalty money away, and started writing checks to our residents.
Those were the days.
Related: Competing ideas of what leads to a stable business climate in Alaska.
The U.S. Is Overflowing With Natural Gas. Not Everyone Can Get It.
Stephanie Yang and Ryan Dezember, The Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2019
America is awash in natural gas. In parts of the country there’s hardly a drop to burn. Earlier this year, two utilities that service the New York City area stopped accepting new natural-gas customers in two boroughs and several suburbs. Citing jammed supply lines running into the city on the coldest winter days, they said they couldn’t guarantee they’d be able to deliver gas to additional furnaces. Never mind that the country’s most prolific gas field, the Marcellus Shale, is only a three-hour drive away.
Our Take: We need more pipelines!!
1.3M acres of federal land made available to State of Alaska and Doyon, Limited
Sean Maguire, KTUU, June 27, 2019
At a signing ceremony, 1.3 million acres of land managed by the federal government was made available for selection by the State of Alaska and an Alaska Native Corporation. Joe Balash, the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management at the Department of the Interior, signed documents Tuesday that revoked Public Land Orders (PLOs) restricting development in the Fortymile area. The parcels of land, located in the Eastern Interior of Alaska, had been identified by President Barack Obama in early 2017 as areas of critical environmental concern. The designation by the Obama administration largely prevented mining interests from making claims to the land. At the Resource Development Council’s 44th annual luncheon in Anchorage, Balash sat alongside Gov. Mike Dunleavy as he officially revoked the PLOs.
Our Take: Great news for Doyon and Alaska! The opportunity to see more responsible mining happen in the state of Alaska is exciting.
Anchorage, July 27, 2019 – The Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC) and the Alaska to Alberta Railway Development Corporation (A2A) have established a Master Agreement of Cooperation toward building a 1500-mile connection between the Alaska Railroad and Canadian railroads that also serve the Lower 48 states. The agreement was announced after approval by the Alaska Railroad Corporation Board of Directors today. Under the terms, the two railroad companies will cooperate in applying to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources for a right-of-way guaranteed under state law for a rail connection to Canada. In addition, the two firms will develop a joint operating plan which will specify not only the new track needed to connect Alaska’s rail to Canada, but will also identify work needed to upgrade existing rail facilities, bridges, and track on the Alaska Railroad’s 512-mile mainline which runs from Seward to North Pole, Alaska.
Trade tensions put energy transition at risk – BP Chairman
Ron Bousso, Dmitry Zhdannikov, UK Reuters, June 27, 2019
Trade tensions risk throwing the global economy’s transition to greener energy into disarray and could hurt energy companies’ preparations towards it, BP Chairman Helge Lund said as leaders of the world’s largest economies gather for talks in Japan.
BP forecasts that even with a rapid increase in wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy, fossil fuels will account for the majority of energy supply for decades to come. Lund also warned that attempts to curb fossil fuels too fast could harm societies.
Under investor pressure, Exxon gets into carbon removal technology
Amy Harder, Axios, June 27, 2019
ExxonMobil is looking to scale up zany-sounding technology that takes carbon dioxide emissions out of the sky by partnering with one of the few companies in the world pursuing that tech. Driving the news: Exxon, the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company, announced Thursday it signed a joint development agreement to advance technology capturing CO2 with Global Thermostat, a startup co-founded in 2010 by a former Exxon scientist, Peter Eisenberger. The big picture: Publicly traded oil companies, including Chevron and Occidental Petroleum, are pursuing this type of technology because they’re facing pressure from shareholders to pursue strategies more in line with a world that is drastically reducing CO2 emissions. This technology, costly and unproven on a massive scale, is a way to do that without getting off oil and gas that producers have made big profits on for decades.
Energy Stocks Diverge From Oil Prices
Jessica Menton, The Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2019
Energy stocks in the S&P 500 have shed 15% over the past 12 months amid fears of oversupply and worries about slowing demand in a weakening global economy. The most recent declines come as U.S. crude prices have rallied roughly 9% over the past week amid rising friction between Washington and Tehran, though oil prices pulled back from multi-week highs Tuesday.
EPA’s air pollution chief to step down amid ethics probe
Alex Guillén, POLITICO, June 26, 2019
The former utility lobbyist who has led many of President Donald Trump’s major deregulatory efforts is stepping down from the Environmental Protection Agency, a move that comes after POLITICO’s reporting on his connections to the industry. House Democrats began an investigation in April into EPA air pollution chief Bill Wehrum’s ties to his old law firm, Hunton Andrews Kurth, and especially the Utility Air Regulatory Group, an influential collection of coal-heavy utilities that lobbied against climate regulations. As POLITICO reported in February, 25 power companies and six industry trade groups agreed to pay the firm a total of $8.2 million in 2017, the same year President Donald Trump tapped Wehrum to join the EPA.
Biggest East Coast Refinery to Close, Driving Up Fuel Prices
Jeffrey Bair and Barbara J Powell, Bloomberg, June 26, 2019
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Wednesday the refinery will close within the next month. The complex produces 335,000 barrels a day, meeting about 3% of gasoline demand in a densely populated region. Futures in New York jumped more than 5% on a Reuters report Tuesday night that the refinery would close. PES will lay off half of its 640 union workers and 130 salaried employees Wednesday, said a person familiar with the plans.
Listen: The Pebble Mine
Zakiya McCummings, June 21, 2019
Right Under Our Feet
Mark Green, API Energy Blog, June 25th, 2019
Ten years ago this month the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill died in Congress, and many still argue for a legislative solution to the challenge of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Happily for the United States, there’s a solution right under our feet – one that has led the way on emissions reductions, eclipsing what supporters of Waxman-Markey projected for their proposal, while fueling American economic growth and a range of consumer benefits. It’s natural gas. Together with advanced technologies, many of them innovated by our industry, abundant natural gas has been the agent for progress on multiple fronts. In the decade since Waxman-Markey, we’ve seen increased use of natural gas in fueling power generation become the primary reason U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are at their lowest levels in a generation.
From the Washington Examiner’s Daily on Energy:
LABOR AND GREEN GROUP ALLIANCE ENDORSES NET-ZERO EMISSIONS BY 2050: The BlueGreen Alliance, whose members include the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club, released a platform called “solidarity for climate action” that presses for a national strategy to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for the U.S. by 2050.
Their agenda includes “major” investments in domestic manufacturing and innovation, modernizing U.S. infrastructure, and a commitment to at least doubling funding of clean technology research, development, manufacturing, and deployment, including on carbon capture and storage.
The group also encourages increasing union participation throughout the economy, including in the clean technology sector. Unions have generally been skeptical of the Green New Deal and other aggressive decarbonization plans because of the potential to displace fossil fuel workers, so the endorsement of the BlueGreen Alliance for net-zero emissions is a big deal.
“Progress on #ClimateAction must include labor & environmental advocates agreeing on a path forward,” said Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s climate change subcommittee, in a Twitter post. “I applaud @BGAlliance for their work and I look forward to teaming up with its members to advance meaningful climate progress that lifts up American workers.”
Alaska’s unemployment rate fell to 6.4 percent last month, which would be its lowest level in more than a decade. But the figure is preliminary and could still change; the state’s unemployment rate had stood at 6.5 percent since August. State labor department economist Karinne Wiebold says until there are several months of movement in a certain direction it is too early to say if this means anything. Federal labor statistics show the last time Alaska’s unemployment rate was 6.4 percent was December 2007. The state labor department says Alaska gained 900 jobs between May 2018 and last month. Construction added the most jobs during that time, followed by the oil and gas sector. Manufacturing, which the department says is mostly seafood processing, was down 600 jobs over that period.
Our Take: Great new for Alaska! Construction added the most jobs – let’s keep that trend going- legislators – please fund the capital budget!!!
Russia Withholds Opinion on OPEC+ greement, Waiting for G20
Dina Khrennikova & Olga Tanas, Bloomberg, June 24, 2019
Russia is sticking to its wait-and-see approach on the future of the OPEC+ deal, while its neighbors Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan favor an extension of oil-production cuts due to expire this month. “We need to wait until the G-20 leaders’ meeting” in Japan this week, Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters in St. Petersburg. “We’ll see what will be discussed there, how the economic situation will develop.” The Energy Ministry is still holding talks with Russian oil companies on OPEC+ pact options, according to Novak. Just a week remains before the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners will meet in Vienna to decide whether to prolong the deal. While Saudi Arabia has said a rollover “is almost in the bag for OPEC,” with some adjustments possible for non-OPEC countries, Russia, one of the architects of the current deal, has been holding back amid differing views from its biggest oil companies over the benefits of cooperation.
Blue States Roll Out Aggressive Climate Strategies. Red States Keep to the Sidelines.
Brad Plumer, The New York Times, June 21, 2019
At a time when the country is already deeply fractured along partisan lines, individual states are starting to pursue vastly different policies on climate change with the potential to cement an economic and social divide for years to come. A growing number of blue states are adopting sweeping new climate laws — such as New York’s bill, passed this week, to zero out net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 — that aim to reorient their entire economies around clean energy, transforming the way people get their electricity, heat their homes and commute to work. But these laws are passing almost exclusively in states controlled by Democrats, while Republican-led states have largely resisted enacting aggressive new climate policies in recent years. At the same time, the Trump administration is rolling back federal climate regulations, which means many red states now face even less pressure to shift away from coal power or gas-guzzling vehicles.
Our Take: Mandates vs. the Free Market. “States have always competed with each other for business by offering beneficial tax rates, labor laws or health care policies. However, some of the new climate policies are striving to be much more far-reaching, affecting so many different industries that they could reshape the geography of America’s economy.” Our money is on the free market approach.
From the Washington Examiner’s Daily on Energy:
TRUMP URGES CALLS ON ASIAN NATIONS TO PROTECT OIL PASSING THROUGH THE STRAIT OF HORMUZ: Trump urged Asian countries Monday to do more to protect oil passing through Strait of Hormuz.
“China gets 91% of its Oil from the Straight, Japan 62%, & many other countries likewise,” Trump said in a Twitter post, misspelling “Strait.”
“So why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation?” Trump said. “All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been a dangerous journey. We don’t even need to be there in that the U.S. has just become (by far) the largest producer of Energy anywhere in the world!”
Of the 60% of global oil that travels by sea, about 30% of that traverses through the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. has accused Iran of attacking two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz this month.
While the U.S. is depending less on oil imports from the Middle East, it still imported more than 32,000 barrels of oil from Gulf countries in March, according to the Energy Information Administration.
AGDC Management and Operational Updates
At it’s June 20th meeting, the AGDC board heard operational, technical and regulatory updates.
- First third-party financial participation in Alaska LNG in 3 years. (BP and ExxonMobil)
- Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) anticipated June 28th
- AGDC underspending budget by 9% YTD
- $5m reduction in FY 19 contracted commitments
- 90-day public comment period July-September 2019
- FERC public meetings around state
- Final Environmental Impact Statement – March 2020
- Issuance of FERC Final Order – June 4, 2020
Our Take: Thumbs up to Governor Dunleavy for getting the project back-on-track with the private sector. The immediate reductions in spending, the focus on a commercially viable project and the commitment by the private sector to spend their money to get through the FERC process are great accomplishments.
EU leaders fail to agree on 2050 climate goal
Samuel Petrequin & Raf Casert, Associated Press, June 21, 2019
European Union leaders failed Thursday to back a plan to make the bloc’s economy carbon neutral by 2050 in spite of promises to protesters across the continent to fight harder against climate change. Ahead of a U.N. meeting in the fall, the proposal was relegated to a non-binding footnote in the final statement of Thursday’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels. “For a large majority of Member States, climate neutrality must be achieved by 2050,” the footnote read. However, for the change in approach to become an official target, all 28 EU countries need to back the change. The non-decision showed the rift between the western member states and the eastern nations on climate change. According to French president Emmanuel Macron and several other diplomatic sources, 24 countries including Britain, France and Germany supported the initiative, but were held back by Poland and three other nations which heavily depend on a fossil-fuel economy.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Alaska State Office is issuing a call for nominations and comments on all available unleased tracts for the upcoming National Petroleum Reserve—Alaska (NPR-A) 2019 Oil and Gas Lease Sale.