Heavy oil recovery; BP’s blue hydrogen; ND studying coal; AK doubling gas tax.

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News of the Day:        Troubled US-China ties face new test in Alaska meeting


Joint UAF-Hilcorp study of heavy oil recovery shows promise on Alaska’s North Slope
Elwood Brehmer, Alaska Journal of Commerce, March 17, 2021

The early results are promising in a years-long study of an advanced oil recovery method that could unlock billions more barrels on the North Slope.

“We have not failed; let me put it that way. We have succeeded so far,” said Abhijit Dandekar, chair of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Petroleum Engineering Department.

Dandekar is leading a small team of UAF researchers in collaboration with Hilcorp Alaska engineers to flesh out the viability of a seldom-used technique to drive heavy oil to the surface.

The four-year, $9.7 million Department of Energy-sponsored study is intended to determine whether a thick, syrup-like water-polymer can be used to improve recovery of the viscous heavy oil that geologists say is abundant across the North Slope.

“It really is an experiment done on a field scale,” Dandekar said in an interview.

The field is Hilcorp’s Milne Point, which the company bought from BP in 2014 and has since focused on rejuvenating the mature Prudhoe Bay satellite.


States sue Biden in bid to revive Keystone XL pipeline
Associated Press, March 17, 2021

 Attorneys general from 21 states on Wednesday sued to overturn President Joe Biden’s cancellation of the contentious Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.

Led by Ken Paxton of Texas and Austin Knudsen of Montana, the states said Biden had overstepped his authority when he revoked the permit for the Keystone pipeline on his first day in office.

Because the line would run through multiple U.S. states, Congress should have the final say over whether it’s built, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Texas.

Construction on the 1,200-mile (1,930-kilometer) pipeline began last year when former President Donald Trump revived the long-delayed project after it had stalled under the Obama administration.

It would move up to 830,000 barrels (35 million gallons) of crude daily from the oil sand fields of western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect to other pipelines that feed oil refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Biden cancelled its permit over longstanding concerns that burning oil sands crude would make climate change worse.

Some moderate Democratic lawmakers also have urged Biden to reverse his decision, including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana.


North Dakota studying coal sector’s insurance challenges
Taylor Kuykendall, S & P Global Platts, March 17, 2021

North Dakota will study whether the current insurance market is adequate for its coal industry and whether there is a need for a state-based insurance product for the sector that would insure against risk at an “appropriate cost.”

Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed a bill on March 15 asking the state’s insurance commissioner to study the availability, cost, and risks of insurance coverage for the lignite coal industry. The insurance sector is facing activist and investor pressure to distance itself from coal and other emissions-intensive industries. Coal companies have reported difficulty obtaining affordable insurance services in recent years.

“Insurance premiums are rapidly rising for the fossil fuel industry — yet another challenge for lignite coal,” Burgum tweeted on March 16. He added that the study would ensure “a level playing field based on science, not ideology.”

Access to capital presents a similar issue as some financial institutions have adopted coal or fossil fuel exclusion policies.


Alaska lawmakers advance bill to increase state’s gas tax
Associated Press, March 18, 2021

Alaska lawmakers have advanced a bill that would double the state’s gas tax, which is the lowest in the U.S.

The bill passed in the House Transportation Committee in Alaska on Tuesday. The legislation now heads to the finance committee for review.

The bill would double the state’s gas tax to 16 cents per gallon (3.8 liters). Alaska’s current rate of 8 cents per gallon (3.8 liters) has not changed since 1970.

Most of the extra revenue would go for highway maintenance. The bill has wide support among the state’s business and industry groups, which argue that it would help Alaska’s road infrastructure, CoastAlaska reported.


BP Considers Project to Develop U.K.’s Largest Blue-Hydrogen Plant
Laura Hurst, Bloomberg, March 18, 2021

BP Plc is studying a project to build the U.K.’s largest blue-hydrogen plant, expanding further in low-carbon energy as it slims down its traditional oil business.

The H2Teesside facility in northeast England could produce 1 gigawatt of hydrogen — a fifth of the U.K. government’s target — by 2030 and would capture and store 2 million tons of carbon dioxide a year.

In the global fight against climate change, hydrogen has been heralded as a clean-energy answer to the fuel needs of industry and transport. BP has said energy companies will increasingly shift to the gas, and it’s targeting a 10% share of “core markets” for the fuel by the end of the decade.

“Blue hydrogen, integrated with carbon capture and storage, can provide the scale and reliability needed by industrial processes,” Dev Sanyal, BP’s executive vice president of gas and low-carbon energy, said Thursday. “It can also play an essential role in decarbonizing hard-to-electrify industries.