NOTE: With the demise of The Oil Drum I’ve decided to put a current event feed here under the name, “Monday Mayhem” which will run once or twice a week … not just on Monday. If there is interest and after the burial of TOD, the term ‘Drumbeat’ or some variation thereto might or might-not be applied. There might also another catchy term.
Bakken crude oil price differential to WTI narrows over last 14 months
Traditionally, the midcontinent pipeline system was configured to deliver crude oil imported to the U.S. Gulf Coast and domestic production from West Texas to the refineries in the Midwest via Cushing, Oklahoma
Since the beginning of 2012, the price differential between crude oil produced in the Bakken region of the Williston basin, located mostly in North Dakota, and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil varied as a result of transportation constraints. Rapidly growing production in the Bakken coupled with lagging takeaway infrastructure (pipelines and rail capacity) contributed to Bakken prices that were as much as $28 per barrel lower than WTI in early 2012. (Matt Mushalik/Crude Oil Peak)
The transportation watchdog’s advisory comes a week after Edward Burkhardt, president and CEO of the railway’s U.S.-based parent company, Rail World Inc., blamed the train’s engineer for the accident. Burkhardt questioned whether he had properly set enough hand brakes and said the engineer had been suspended without pay.
The board said that while the investigation is expected to take quite some time, it won’t wait to send safety warnings.
Emergency officials continue to comb through the wreckage, searching for bodies amid intense heat and hazardous conditions. Authorities have recovered the remains of 42 bodies, eight bodies remain missing. (National Post)
In the immediate aftermath of the incident the chairman of MMA suggested local volunteer fire fighters, called to put out a fire on the train immediately prior to its unmanned run into Lac-Megantic, had released the brakes. A few days later he said the culprit was the train’s engineer who had not applied the hand brakes properly. By contrast, the spokesperson for the Transportation Safety Board, the regulator investigating the incident said, “We hold by the theory that no accident is ever caused by one thing, it’s always a series of things and it always involves an organization and how they operate. We need to look deeply into that.” (HuffPost)
Shipments of oil by rail totaled 355,933 carloads in the first half of this year, according to recent data from the Association of American Railroads. That’s up from just 5,358 carloads during the same time period in 2009.
The rapid rise in rail oil transport is directly related the boom in U.S. oil production from places such as North Dakota’s Bakken Shale and Texas’ Eagle Ford. Most of the rail shipments are believed to originate in North Dakota. They are usually bound for refineries along the Gulf Coast or the east coasts of the United States and Canada.
Although transporting oil by rail is generally more expensive than moving it by pipeline or ship, the lengthy permitting and construction time frame for pipelines has pushed rail cars into service. (CNN)
The number of spills and other accidents from railroad cars carrying crude oil has skyrocketed in recent years, up from one or two a year early in the previous decade to 88 last year.
Only four of those were classified as serious by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), and none involved injuries. So they didn’t even approach the human tragedy caused by a runaway oil train in Quebec earlier this month.
But the jump highlights a side effect of crude oil production growing faster than pipeline capacity: more rail accidents. Much of the increase involves crude shipments from North Dakota, where booming Bakken Shale oil drilling is producing more oil than its limited pipelines can transport. (E&E Publishing)
Since the July 6 tragedy in Lac-Megantic, where a runaway train carrying 72 carloads of crude derailed and killed 50 people, there have been calls for tougher regulations, stronger rail cars and more pipelines.
But experts say the oil industry’s growing reliance on trains won’t be derailed anytime soon. Unless new pipelines are built, there’s just no other way to get vast amounts of oil from North Dakota and Rocky Mountain states to refineries along the coasts, which are eager for cheaper, homegrown alternatives to imports brought by boat.
“Stopping crude by rail would be tantamount to stopping oil production in a lot of the places it is now being produced,” says Michael Levi, who heads the Council on Foreign Relations’ program on energy security and climate change. (The Reporter)
Trains of black tanker cars full of crude oil aren’t uncommon sights these days in Texas or North Dakota. Since the use of these cars to convey crude is so recent, the tank cars themselves look new and don’t have the weathering or graffiti common on other freight cars. These trains rumble across the flat landscapes and can be found parked in sidings, waiting to pull into a loading station and be filled with oil.
Most tank cars that carry crude and other liquids on U.S. and Canadian rails aren’t owned by a railroad or an oil company, but by specialized leasing companies. The leasing companies have quietly become one of the biggest beneficiaries of the current boom in oil production in the U.S. and Canada—thanks to soaring demand that is allowing them to extend the length of contracts and jack up prices. (WSJ)
Although MM&A has accepted responsibility for the derailment, the potentially volatile chemical makeup of the Bakken oil is becoming a subject of increasing controversy in the transportation sector.
Some oil extracted from the Bakken fields has been found to contain high levels of the foul-smelling hydrogen sulphide vapour, which is flammable, corrosive, poisonous and explosive. The gas is formed below ground when organic matter breaks down in the absence of oxygen. (Globe and Mail)
In 2007 Spain had just 690 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. That was the year global PV prices started to fall, thanks to booming production in China. Hoping to stimulate a new green industry, for which sunny Spain seems ideal, the government increased the prices it paid for solar power to 12 times the market price for electricity.
In a sense, it worked spectacularly. According to research by CF Partners, a carbon-trading firm, solar PV capacity rose fourfold in 2008 alone. Another technology for capturing the energy of sunlight, solar thermal, also grew hugely, albeit more slowly because it takes longer to deploy. Its installed capacity rose from 11MW in 2007 to 1,950MW now. Renewable-energy output doubled between 2006 and 2012. At that point, Spain had the fourth-largest such industry in the world.
But costs exploded, too. (Economist)
We’re living like gods right now. And our challenge is to figure out how to return to earth, how to become mortal again. In an energy sense, we’re not living like royalty. We’re not living like Cleopatra. We’re living like gods. And this life has made us sort of insane. …
Living like gods, we have no experience with going sailing off a depletion cliff. We have no cultural strength or wisdom that would really guide us in this moment. What do we do? How do you deal with this when production and drilling dissipate like this, and go in different directions? And when half of the natural gas that will be consumed in the U.S. today comes from wells that are less than three years old?”
– From Randy Udall’s presentation at the 2006 Association for the Study of Peak Oil conference (Chris Nelder)
The maneuvering in markets for oil, wheat, cotton, coffee and more have brought billions in profits to investment banks like Goldman, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, while forcing consumers to pay more every time they fill up a gas tank, flick on a light switch, open a beer or buy a cellphone. In the last year, federal authorities have accused three banks, including JPMorgan, of rigging electricity prices, and last week JPMorgan was trying to reach a settlement that could cost it $500 million.
Using special exemptions granted by the Federal Reserve Bank and relaxed regulations approved by Congress, the banks have bought huge swaths of infrastructure used to store commodities and deliver them to consumers — from pipelines and refineries in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas; to fleets of more than 100 double-hulled oil tankers at sea around the globe; to companies that control operations at major ports like Oakland, Calif., and Seattle. (NYTimes)
JPMorgan Chase, the Wall Street giant whose reputation in Washington has eroded in a matter of months, is now moving to avert a showdown over accusations that it manipulated energy prices.
The nation’s largest bank, which has previously clashed with its regulators, is seeking to settle with the federal agency that oversees the energy markets, according to people briefed on the matter. The regulator, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, found that JPMorgan devised “manipulative schemes” that transformed “money-losing power plants into powerful profit centers,” a commission document said.
The potential deal, the people said, is expected to cost the bank about $500 million, a record for the commission, which has adopted a harder line with Wall Street over the last year. For JPMorgan, which reported a record $6.5 billion quarterly profit last week, the fine will hardly dent the bottom line. (Dealbook)
Barclays is refusing to pay a $470m fine for manipulating prices in the US electricity market, putting the UK bank on course for a courtroom showdown with regulators.
According to people familiar with the case, the UK bank is not planning to pay the fine within the 30-day limit imposed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after four former Barclays traders were found to have manipulated physical power prices in California and other western US states. (FT)
On April 2008, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India signed a framework agreement to buy natural gas from Turkmenistan. As regards the benefits accruing from this trans-regional undertaking, there is no doubt that if completed as envisaged, it will usher in an era of shared economic prosperity for the participating countries, especially Pakistan that is hit by the burgeoning energy crisis and lack of resources to initiate new power generating projects. (The Nation Pakistan)
Supporters of Gasland would argue that Fox is not against new energy technology, and in fact champions “renewable” energy technology like solar and wind. But not only does he ignore the “dirtiness” of these technologies, he ignores their greatest problem: they are utter failures at producing cheap, plentiful, reliable energy that life and progress require. (Forbes)
Bob Brackett, a geologist at Bernstein, the brokerage, is, as I have mentioned in the past, among the best of the oil and gas microeconomic analysts on Wall Street. He has corrected me on my pessimism about the productivity and economics of the Marcellus Shale gas resource. These days, oddly, he is known on the Street as a “shale bear”, which is hardly the case; he just doesn’t believe trees grow to the sky.
Essentially, Mr Brackett says, shale oil in the US is a far more limited resource than shale gas. The geological conditions that allow oil to be cooked from ancient hydrocarbons are far rarer than those that turn them into gas. It is highly likely, Mr Brackett says, that economic shale oil properties have already been identified. (FT)
Chevron China Energy Company has signed a contract worth upwards of $150 million for a 180 day project off the coast of Liberia commencing upon delivery. Immediately following that, notes Seadrill, the rig is in advanced discussions which will likely lead to a two-year contract with another major energy firm.
The West Tellus will be outfitted to work in up to 10,000′ of water and is capable of water depths up to 12,000′ and drilling depths up to 37,000′. (gCaptain)
U.S. maritime services should seriously consider liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative energy system for future vessels.
As Jeff Rubin, former chief economist for Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce World Markets, explained more than two years ago, “We’ve exhausted our supply of easy-access conventional oil and now we’re turning to unconventional sources in shale, tar sands, and deep water. It’s unconventional sources of oil and the prices required to facilitate extraction that are problematic for us” (L. de Franco, “Headspace: Economist Discusses Peak Oil,” Spacing, 7 April 2011). (gCaptain-US Naval Institute)
… geopolitical risk is another factor in play. And adding to concerns of over Egypt there are increasingly unstable signs around Syria. Israel is already engaged in surgical bombing strikes on Hezbollah supply lines and the US is considering similar intervention. (Naked Capitalism)
Steam has been seen rising from a reactor building at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, its operator says.
A worker first noticed the steam after reviewing camera footage taken of the building, Tepco said.
The operator said in a statement there was a “steam-like gas wafting through the air near the central part of the fifth floor [equipment storage pool side]” of the No 3 reactor building.
The reactor water injection and the cooling of the spent fuel pool were “continuing stably”, Tepco said. There were also no significant change in the temperature of the reactor. (BBC)
The nuclear fiasco playing out relentlessly in Japan since March 2011 has shaken the previously omniscient and omnipotent nuclear industry – and the government agencies that aided and abetted it. Yet they still obfuscate and minimize the consequences of the triple melt-down of the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. Latest revelation: the number of workers at the plant who had cancer-inducing radiation doses in thyroid glands from inhaling radioactive substances during the early stages of the crisis was elven times higher than disclosed last December.
Not 178 workers, as TEPCO, the bailed out and now partially state-controlled owner of the nuke had said, but 1,973 workers, as the Asahi Shimbun has “learned.” (Wolf Richter)
So air leaks certainly can be responsible for a substantial fraction of thermal loss. For my house, the (measured) impact translates to 60 W/°C (72 when the fireplace damper is left open, as it had been for years). This is clearly an important thermal contribution, but not nearly enough to explain the horrendous (measured) heating requirement of 1465 W/°C for my house, as detailed in an earlier post. I had hoped that sticking a blower door on my house would allow me to account for the difference, and reveal the culprits that I could then remedy. I still have a mystery on my hands, but nonetheless managed to learn a bunch from the blower door experiments. (Tom Murphy)
Hoenig pointed to the gain in Deutsche Bank shares in January on the same day it posted a big quarterly loss, because it had improved its Basel III capital ratios by cutting risk-weighted assets.
“My other example with poor Deutsche Bank is that they lose $2 billion and raise their capital ratio. It’s – I don’t want to say insane, but it’s ridiculous,” Hoenig said.
A leverage ratio is a better method to show a firm’s ability to absorb sudden losses, Hoenig says, and he has floated a plan to raise the ratio to 10 percent. He said the 3 percent leverage hurdle under Basel was a “pretend number.” (Reuters)
Although 2012 was a year of severe drought in the U.S., the problems seen at various coal, nuclear, and hydropower facilities last summer are only likely to increase in coming years unless the power sector quickly changes its way of doing business, according to a new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) [PDF]. The problem is that the power sector is not known for moving quickly. (IEEE)
The police tactics at issue in the Stewart case are no anomaly. Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats, law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop—armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties. (WSJ)
Quicken Loans emailed the following statement to Channel 4 Action News: “While Quicken Loans makes every effort to help its clients reach their homeownership goals, like every lender, we are ultimately bound by very specific underwriting guidelines. In some cases conditions exist, such as gas wells and other structures in nearby lots, that can significantly degrade a property’s value. In these cases, we are unable to extend financing due to the unknown future marketability of the property.”
Clean Water Action said that in other parts of the country, when shale gas drilling has arrived, mortgages at nearby properties sometimes get denied. This is the first case they’ve heard in Pennsylvania. (WTAE)
We are emulating, as anthropologists like Tainter or Redmond or others have chronicled in the collapse of past civilizations, all of the mistakes that complex societies have made over the centuries, 5,000 years of human civilization. And the difference is that this time when our civilization goes down, the whole planet’s going to go down with us. The folly of allowing the fossil fuel industry to determine our relationship to the ecosystem, the folly of embracing an ideology of limitless expansion and consumption, you know, at this point it’s quite clear what the consequences of that will be, and yet we cannot wrest ourselves from these systems or from the benefits that those of us in the wealthy industrialized world derive from these systems. (Real News)
Two decisions handed down July 19 in DC Superior Court affirmed climate scientist Michael Mann’s right to proceed in his defamation lawsuit against the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the National Review Online for their statements accusing him of data manipulation and fraud. The Court is not buying the Defendants arguments in their Motion to Dismiss that their statements are protected speech under the First Amendment, mere “opinion,” “rhetorical hyperbole,” or “fair comment.” (Climate Science Watch)
The lineup of sponsors both confirms certain stereotypes about the right-leaning think tank and challenges others. The energy sector donated $110,000 to the event, the same amount given by conservative foundations (three of which are associated with the billionaires Charles and David Koch). But the biggest single donor is Google, which gave $50,000, and Facebook kicked in $25,000. (WaPo)
Witnessing its heaviest rainfall of the year since Thursday, the Kunming city in China’s Yunnan province is grappling with an urban flooding.
Cars and taxis have become submerged in the city and more than 200 inundated buses have been rendered unusable. The drainage system has failed, resulting in floods in many areas of the city, Xinhua reported Friday.
Water level on the nearby Panlong river exceeded the river banks’ height, said the city’s drainage company.
According to Jiang Kaili, deputy director of the municipal flood control office, precipitation has reached up to 190 mm thus far and rain-triggered floods have seriously disrupted road traffic. (Desdemona Despair)
Beijing’s replied dismissively that “vulnerabilities were well under control”. It said the fast growth of wealth products and trusts were a healthy sign of “market-based intermediation”. Any risks were “manageable”. Bad loans in the banking system “remained low and Chinese banks had some of the highest capital and provisioning ratios in the world”. Do you laugh or cry?
It may be that the barrage of criticism lately from the IMF, Fitch and others has nettled Beijing more than it lets on, hence the violent “stress test” of the banking system in late June. If it was indeed a stress test, one wonders what they learnt as the interbank market seized up in a Lehmanesque moment and intra-day Shibor rates exploded to 30pc. (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard)
Prof Varoufakis said private investment has fallen 22pc over the past 12 months and is still crashing. “The banking sector is completely zombified. Companies cannot get a loan. The calamity goes on, and there is absolutely nothing in sight to reverse it ,” he said. The Hellenic Confederation of Merchants expects the economy to shed another 195,000 jobs this year as 55,000 small firms go bust.
The Troika programme for Greece has entailed IMF-style austerity without the IMF cure of devaluation, which was ruled out by euro membership.
The Fund confessed in a mea culpa in May that it had breached three of four key guidelines by going along with the EU-led rescue package, and that the measures were chiefly designed to buy time to save the euro rather than to help Greece recover. (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard)
“What is happening now is that the absolutely inevitable ‘run’ on the 100:1 leveraged bullion banking system is truly underway.”
Backwardation is a concern in gold markets because in theory demand for physical delivery should never outweigh supply, since the amount of available gold is a known, fixed quantity. The event is not unprecedented, as it also happened during the financial crisis of 2008 – and corrected itself the following year. (Reuters)
While the optimism about the future of natural gas seems to be still prevalent, the data show that the gas bubble may be already bursting. The most recent data from EIA show that that the total US gas production has not been growing for the past 1-2 years and that it shows signs to be declining. Fitted with a Gaussian curve, it shows a peak taking place around the end of 2012. (Club of Rome)
Natural gas well completions continued to decline with 17 percent fewer wells (to 2,220 wells) from year ago levels, according to the report. Total number of wells completed in the second quarter 2013 increased by 2 percent (to 12,645 wells) from year ago levels, while total footage drilled increased 6 percent (to 102 million feet). (API)
Total U.S. petroleum deliveries (a measure of demand) decreased slightly by 1.0 percent from June 2012 to average just above 18.7 million barrels per day last month. This was the lowest June level in 16 years. For the second quarter, petroleum deliveries fell 0.3 percent against the same period last year. (API)
… with a monetary base of $3.27 trillion and an estimated duration of at least 7 years on present Fed holdings, the recent 100 basis point move in bond yields has created a loss of over $200 billion for the Fed. The Fed reports capital of only $55 billion on its consolidated balance sheet. but then, just like major banks, the Fed does not mark its assets to market. Most likely, the Fed is now technically insolvent. Moreover, the Fed is levered more than 59-to-1 even against its stated capital. The benefits of QE seem vastly overpriced and excessively trusted, particularly in an environment where the internal debate even within the Fed is becoming more pointed. Two members already want the Fed to taper in order “to prevent the potential negative consequences of the program from exceeding its anticipated benefits,” (John Hussman)
Residents of 18 European states have been tested positively to traces of glyphosate, a globally used weed killer, the study says. It remains unclear how the chemical used on Monsanto GMO crops got in people’s bodies.
It turns out that 44 per cent of volunteers had it in their urine, but it is yet unclear how the herbicide got into their systems. (RT)
During her visits to these traditional Mexican farming communities, Lopez met farmers, or campesinos, who still use the milpa system to sustainably grow their own food. Milpa is a method of crop-growing based on ancient agricultural methods of the Maya and Zapotec peoples of Mesoamerica. These campesinos continue the tradition of planting corn, squash and beans together in their milpas. This combination of plants provides a nutritionally complete diet, as well as a high yield, without the use of pesticides or artificial fertilizers. Lopez describes the milpa system as the “original organic farming method.”
The world’s largest seed corporation says it has dropped its bid to get more genetically modified crops onto the European market due to the wide-spread popular opposition. The biotech giant says it will expand its share of the natural seed market instead.
“We will no longer be pursuing approvals for cultivation of new biotech crops in Europe. Instead, we will focus on enabling imports of biotech crops into the EU and the growth of our current business there,” the US-based company said in an email statement. (RT)
The impact on the global oil market of efforts to control pollution and unwind excessive debt could be considerable. For the last decade, Beijing has been increasing its demand for oil by circa 500,000 barrels a day or more in most years. Until recently projections had China’s demand for oil increasing at this pace indefinitely, surpassing US oil consumption by the end of the decade and buying up all the oil OPEC and other exporters can produce soon thereafter.
In last six months, however, reasons to rethink these projections are rising. (Tom Whipple)