The 2018 Wyoming Budget Session of the 64th Legislature began today and there are several key bills relating to energy issues that are up before the Cowboy State’s legislature. I will highlight a few here and track them through the session to see how they end up – stay tuned!

All of the Bills before the Wyoming Legislature, and their statuses as the session progresses, can be found here at the House Bills Index/Senate Files Index.

A Few Key Energy Bills Before the Wyoming Legislature:

  • Senate File No. 14 – “Biennial Energy Strategy,” Sponsored by the Joint Minerals, Business & Economic Development Interim Committee
    • The Introduced Senate File No. 14 can be found here
    • In sum, Senate File No. 14 proposes, among other things:
      • A biennial energy strategy, which means a “coordinated and comprehensive biennial plan that: (A) Includes the activities of agencies, boards and commissions, policy initiatives and other actions aimed at achieving excellence in energy development, production, technological innovation, regulation and stewardship of natural resources for the highest benefit of Wyoming citizens; (B) Includes programs and initiatives intended to increase economic competitiveness, expansion and diversification, to provide for efficient and effective regulation and natural resource conservation, reclamation and mitigation and to develop education, innovation and new technologies; and (C) Identifies appropriate means to complete initiatives and work with agencies, boards, commissions and other interested parties to implement initiatives.”
      • The creation of an energy strategy committee within the governor’s office and assigning duties of the committee
  • House Bill No. 104 – “Wind Energy Production Tax,” Sponsored by Representatives Madden and Blackburn and Senator Case
    • The Introduced HB0104 can be found here
    • In sum, House Bill No. 104 is “an Act relating to the tax on production of energy from wind resources; increasing the tax rate; providing for distribution of the tax; repealing an exemption…”
      • In short…this one will be hotly debated!

The Casper Star Tribune also published an article entitled, “What to Watch for at the Wyoming Legislature this Year,” that discusses some other interesting issues before the Legislature this year.

Stay tuned! I will keep you updated on these key energy-related bills!

For many, this month has been very good to us. January is traditionally a month of hope and resolutions that many feel will set the tone for the upcoming year.  Based on this month, we are looking forward to a great 2018!

Crude oil is in a similar position – January has been very good for it.

According to the Bloomberg article entitled, Dollar Helps Propel Oil to Three-Year High as Supplies Tighten, “[o]il just got an extra tailwind from a weakening dollar as this month is shaping up to be the best January for black gold in 12 years.”

As I write this, according to Bloomberg Energy, WTI Crude is at $66.20 per barrel and Brent Crude is at $70.48 per barrel.

Basically oil is rallying and prices are increasing as the dollar is weakening…

In other news, Baker Hughes released its U.S. rig count today, which can be found here. According to Baker Hughes’ Rig Count Overview & Summary Count, as of today, the U.S. rig count has increased 11 from the prior count on January 19, 2018 and a whooping 235 rig increase since the same time last year.  Huge increase since January of 2017!

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (“EIA”) also released its Drilling Productivity Report for January 2018, which can be found here. The report shows that oil and natural gas production are up through the month of December 2017 for the Anadarko region, Bakken region, Eagle Ford region, Niobrara region, Permian region and projected oil and natural gas production through February 2018 are also on the increase for all regions except the Appalachia and Haynesville regions.

January has been good to us.

Side note, I recently read in The Old Farmer’s Almanac that there are two full moons this month – the Wolf Moon, the first full moon of the year, was on January 1, and we have another full moon coming on January 31. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, since the second full moon that will occur January 31 has no given name, that makes it a Blue Moon.

Things really do happen once in a Blue Moon!

And for that, I think we should celebrate how good January has been to us by cracking open a Blue Moon beer!

You may remember a prior blog post I wrote back in May of 2016 about Denver’s office real estate market feeling the pinch of the downturn in the oil and gas industry – Denver Feeling the Pinch: Denver Office Market Finally Feeling the Effects of Downturn in Energy Industry. A few months later in September of 2016, I wrote a follow up piece discussing this further in the blog entitled, Denver Office Market Still Feeling the Impacts of the Downturn in Energy Industry.

Well folks, we all know how far-reaching the impacts of the oil and gas sector can be, and today we have some more good news. I read an article today that discusses how the Denver office market is getting fresh blood from some new energy companies and how it is back on the upswing!

Denver Bisnow featured an article today entitled, Denver Office Market Improves with Recovering Energy Prices that discusses how energy companies are filling the downtown Denver office space back up.

We all know that I am the forever optimist – but I write this piece to show again how the energy sector can positively impact so many different areas. From the real estate market to the service sector, the energy industry’s benefits are widespread!

For the first time during my holiday baking, I added gingerbread men to the baking list. I can’t emphasize how nervous I was to add gingerbread to my already long list of holiday baking items. We have all bitten in to a rock hard gingerbread cookie and been amazingly disappointed. It is a lot of pressure to bake the perfect cookie from a new recipe you have never tried before. Gingerbread can be especially difficult to perfect – like oil prices, the dough can be a little temperamental.

I did my recipe homework and emotionally prepared myself just in case my gingerbread cookies did not turn out. I found the perfect gingerbread man cookie cutter. I found a well-regarded recipe by Sweet Sugarbelle, which can be found here. When I realized I had all of the ingredients in my pantry already, I got started!

At the last minute, I realized I did not have enough molasses…as you might guess, the molasses provides the crucial flavor and dark coloring for the gingerbread cookies.

Baking, like the oil and gas industry, keeps one on her toes.

I halted where I was so far in the recipe and walked over to my neighborhood market to buy more molasses, only to realize, très disaster, they did not have it in stock. Just like the oil industry has done since the downturn, I had to improvise and figure it out in the heat of the moment. Although the stakes were clearly lower for me, as all I had in the game were cookies…

I thought on my feet – put a little of this and that in to substitute and went on with the plan. Grit is important. One must always follow through with the plan! Needless to say, it paid off and I baked the softest and best tasting gingerbread men I have ever had!

You may be wondering what this has in common with oil prices. Actually, it has a lot to do with it. As I write this blog, WTI Crude is sitting at $63.46 per barrel and Brent Crude is at $69.20 per barrel, according to Bloomberg Energy. This is “the highest closing levels in more than three years,” according to CNBC article entitled, Oil Prices Are Close to Levels Not Since the Thanksgiving 2014 Bloodbath.

Oil prices have led us on an emotional rollercoaster.  Luckily, it seems that we are headed in a good direction.

A little resilience goes a long way – in baking and with oil prices.

Earlier this month, an article on my home state of Wyoming was featured in the New York Times.  As I have said before, it is not often that the Cowboy State is written about in the New York Times; in fact, I think the last time I wrote about it was back in 2015 – see that old blog post here.

The New York Times article was featured on December 14, 2017 and was entitled, Where Wind Farms Meet Coal Country, There’s Enduring Faith in Trump. As I went home to Wyoming to celebrate the holiday with my family for a few days, I was able to reflect more and put together my thoughts on the article.

It is no secret that historically, Wyoming’s health and very survival has been centered on the strength of the energy industry.

The energy sector is and has always been the life blood of the Cowboy State. Revenues from mineral production have been a central part of the Wyoming budget basically since statehood. Wyoming families make their livings either in the extractive industries of oil and gas and mining, or in the service sector that relies heavily on the same. The boom and bust cyclical nature of the energy industry has always had a serious impact on the Wyoming economy. This is still the case today, and for the foreseeable future, unless the state can diversify its economy – check out this economics page from the Wyoming Mining Association.

In fact, that is why Wyoming created the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund back in 1975, to further the goal of extending the depletable nature of Wyoming’s minerals to benefit future generations – the concept had been attempted in the Wyoming legislature since the late 1880s. The fund is funded primarily by severance taxes.

The main premise of the article is that energy-reliant Wyoming, and specifically Converse County, have a lot at stake in President’s Trump promise to make the US a dominant energy force.

The truth is, in Wyoming, none of this is about who is in office or what promises have been made. At its heart, this is not a political issue for my home state.

This is about people being able to make a living in Wyoming. The crux of the issue is not Wyoming’s enduring faith in the President or his promises, it is about the ability to provide for one’s family.  Wyoming people want to work in stable jobs.

Wyoming is in the Emergency Room. Its residents are leaving the state for better opportunities, and they are leaving in mass exodus. In fact, the Casper Star Tribune has reported that the state’s overall population dropped this year for the first time since 1990.

The good news is that Wyoming’s heart is good, so no major organ transplant is necessary, but the state needs critical and intensive care, and politics is no doctor. It is up to the people to breathe life back into Wyoming.

As we look into the coming New Year, that is what Wyomingites are focused on – finding entrepreneurial new ways to make their families prosper.  It was easy to see this as I flew out of the Cowboy State last night.

The Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) announced today that it has temporarily postponed certain requirements contained in its 2016 final Waste Prevention Rule (also known as the Venting and Flaring Rule) for 1 year, until 2019.

The full text of the proposed rule language governing “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation; Delay and Suspension of Certain Requirements” can be found here. The new rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, December 8, 2017.

By way of a reminder, the prior 2016 rule, known as the Waste Prevention Rule, or the Venting and Flaring Rule (81 FR 83008) (the “2016 Venting and Flaring Rule”), contained provisions that went into effect almost a year ago in January of 2017, and the rest was scheduled to go into effect just around the corner in January 2018. According to the BLM website, “[t]he [2016 Venting and Flaring] rule is intended to limit the loss through venting, flaring or leaks of natural gas from oil and gas production on public and Indian lands.”

Folks were tuned in to this new rule – over 150,000 comments on the new rule were reportedly received during the notice and comment period.

Basically, the new rule suspends and/or delays until January 2019 certain provisions of the 2016 Venting and Flaring Rule…

According to regulations.gov’s summary of the new rule, it will:

  • suspend until July 17, 2019, provisions pertaining to: waste minimization plans; flaring and venting of gas during drilling and production operations, and during well completions and related operations; determining the emissions levels of storage vessels; and minimizing gas vented during downhole well maintenance and liquids unloading
  • delay until July 17, 2019 (or by 18 months) provisions pertaining to: gas capture; measuring and reporting gas volumes vented and flared; existing approvals to flare royalty free; replacing pneumatic controllers; and leak detection and repair.

These time extensions are expected give the oil and gas industry more time to get into compliance and figure out the budgeting to accomplish this. Folks in the know (the BLM in its Regulatory Impact Analysis) estimated that the requirements of the 2016 Venting and Flaring Rule “would impose compliance costs, not including potential cost savings for product recovery, of approximately $114 million to $279 million per year.” According to the Law 360 article entitled, BLM Finalizes Delay to Methane Venting Rule Compliance, “[t]he BLM said in a statement that temporarily putting off certain requirements would help operators avoid compliance costs for requirements that could be taken away or significantly changed.”

According to the BLM, the extra time until January 2019 also “gives the BLM sufficient time to review the 2016 final rule and consider revising or rescinding its requirements.”

Only time will tell the fate of the venting and flaring rule…stay tuned!

 

Just recently, oil prices hit a two-year high – but now, this week they have started to head lower. What is going on? Are sliding oil prices a reflection of cold feet?

As I write this, according to Bloomberg Energy, WTI Crude is down to $56.96 per barrel (a -1.03% change) and Brent Crude is at $62.77 per barrel (a -1.32% change).  This is down about $1 per barrel from yesterday.

So what is causing folks to be nervous and uncertain and to have cold feet? Shouldn’t our toes be cozy and warm with WTI in the high $50s?

Contributing Factors to Cold Feet:

  • Rig Count

The rig count may be a factor contributing to the uncertainty in oil prices. As we all know, the rig count is typically used as an indicator of demand – increasing rig count should hopefully correlate to increasing demand for oil and gas. Increasing rig count can become an issue if it is out of sync with demand – if it outpaces demand.

According to the Baker Hughes Rig Count Overview & Summary Count, the last U.S. rig count was from November 22, 2017 and the total domestic rig count was 923 rigs – up 8 from the prior count and up a whopping 330 from the same time last year. The Canadian rig count has reportedly similarly increased 7 rigs since the prior count and 41 from the same time last year, while the International rig count is also reportedly on the rise with 20 more rigs in October 2017 from the prior count in September of 2017 (a 31 rig increase from the same time in October 2016).

  • OPEC Meeting – Tomorrow

The 173rd meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies (“OPEC”) is tomorrow, November 30. The upcoming OPEC meeting could be contributing to price uncertainty because it is unclear whether OPEC will continue to extend production cuts. Prices have been holding relatively steady and have been on the rise, which makes folks wonder about the future of OPEC production cuts. Many are reportedly concerned that “[t]he Nov. 30 gathering is likely to have a different tone than the last two OPEC meetings, because global oil demand has strengthened, inventories have tightened, prices are on the rise, and trading technicals appear bullish.” In the Bloomberg article, “War of Words Threatens to Upend OPEC Meeting,” geopolitical tensions are also listed as a factor that could potentially end hopes of extended oil production cuts.

The New York Times took a different perspective of the upcoming OPEC meeting in its article entitled, “OPEC Leader Cites ‘New Optimism’ With Oil Prices on the Rise” – namely, that the prior production cuts to some extent, appear to have worked. Political issues from across the world – from Venezuela to Russia – are also noted as contributing factors by The New York Times.

  • Supply Concerns

Concerns over supply also may be contributing to the cold feet – the headlines say it all:

  1. Wall Street Journal: “Oil Near Flat After Data Shows Drop in U.S. Inventories
  2. Nasdaq: “U.S. Oil Production Hits 4th Straight Record High Ahead of OPEC Meeting
  3. Bloomberg: “OPEC’s Clash with U.S. Oil Is Nearing Its Day of Reckoning

As usual, predicting what is going to happen with oil prices is darn-near impossible. For now, all we can do to temper the uncertainty is to be sure to wear really warm socks…

If you watched the Broncos play the Patriots on Sunday, chances are you still do not want to talk about it. Chances are also that you are devastated by the fact that they are 3-6 right now, but you are nonetheless looking forward to watching the Broncos play the Bengals this coming Sunday.

You may have also noticed that the price of oil has been declining for the past 4 days in a row…

Two things that I have learned are not for the faint of heart: watching football and oil prices.

Here are some of the recent headlines on oil prices:

The bottom line is that WTI is still at $55/barrel as I write this. According to Bloomberg Energy, WTI Crude is currently at at $55.31 per barrel and Brent Crude is at $61.84 per barrel.

I was told today that I one of my best qualities is that I am genuinely cheerful – this post is not just me being optimistic towards the Broncos and also oil prices. While we loved seeing WTI inch up and hoped it would hit the $60 per barrel mark, we cannot be discouraged by this recent slump in oil prices. We have been through worse before. Same with the Broncos, and any football team for that matter – there are ups and downs.

Folks are starting to question oil demand and try to predict what will happen next: How much will oil slide? Is $30 oil on the horizon again?

Our time is better spent looking at the “best qualities” of a circumstance or thing – instead of questioning these things. There is no rulebook by which we can predict what will happen next – this holds true for both football and oil prices.

For example, a recent Forbes article from right before oil started taking a dip – “Oil at Two-Year Highs as Saudi Arabia Engages in its own ‘Game of Thrones’” – provides some valuable insight; specifically, if WTI trades in a similar range or higher between now and year-end, 2017 will mark the first year since 2013 that the median price of WTI crude is higher than the previous year’s.

Also, it could all change on a dime. One play can change the game. One tiny change in any one factor related to oil can significantly impact the price of oil. Enter: Venezuela. According to CNBC article entitled, “Oil expert Dan Yergin on why Venezuela could cause a ‘big shock’ to the markets,” major supply constraints will impact the system if the global oil market suddenly loses Venezuela’s 2 million barrels of daily oil production.

So chin up Broncos fans and chin up to those of us watching oil prices…we cannot get discouraged yet. John Elway once said, “I’ve experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows. I think to really appreciate anything you have to be at both ends of the spectrum.”

Last August, I wrote a blog entitled, “Did you just ask me to dance the Contango?” It explained, in detail, oil prices being in Contango – the “situation where the future spot price is below the current price, and people are willing to pay more for a commodity at some point in the future than the actual expected price of the commodity” (according to Investopedia).

Fast forward to today…

Everyone is talking about oil prices.  Specifically, the price of oil hitting the mid-$50 per barrel range for WTI and over $60 for Brent; according to Bloomberg Energy as I write this, WTI Crude Oil is at $54.74 per barrel, a 0.81% increase, and Brent Crude Oil is at $60.70 per barrel, a 0.35% increase. These prices also mark great price points thus far in the year.

CNBC put out an article today entitled, “The oil market just did something it hasn’t done for nearly three years,” where it discussed that the WTI calendar spread for the next six months has moved from “Contango” into “Backwardation.” The CNBC article states that based on Reuters data, the 6-month spread for WTI has slipped from Contango into backwardation for the first time since November 20, 2014 (Brent crude moved into backwardation earlier this year).

To me, it still seems like we may be talking about dance moves…

Let’s break this down:

  • According to the previously mentioned CNBC article, “Backwardation is when the current price of oil is higher than a future cost of oil. It is seen as a sign of higher immediate demand. Conversely, Contango is when the futures price of oil is higher than the spot delivery price.”
  • Another CNBC article entitled, “US crude oil fails to take out 2017 high as a ‘cruel’ month for energy market begins,” provides that backwardation indicates the market is tightening – backwardation means “prices for future delivery are less expensive than contracts to ship oil at an earlier date.”
  • According to Investopedia, “Backwardation is the opposite of Contango.”

It is all linked to supply and demand. According to Investopedia, “[t]he primary cause of backwardation in the commodities’ futures market is a shortage of the commodity in the spot market.”

CNBC’s article explains, “[t]raders have less incentive to hold crude in storage because they stand to make more by selling it immediately. It also prevents U.S. shale drillers from locking in higher future prices with buyers, which tends to rein in their production.”

The takeaway is this – the price of oil may have moved from the hokey pokey to the two-step. The good news is that regardless, oil prices are still dancing.

 

 

Many of you know that when I travel, I tend to start to wonder about that state’s energy sector. What fuels it? What makes it different from Colorado and Wyoming?

This weekend, I was in Nashville, Tennessee – “Music City.” I started to wonder, besides being the home of country music and amazingly fun honky tonks where folks from all over the country come to kick their heels up, what fuels Tennessee?

It’s not all country music, hot chicken, cowboy boots and southern hospitality. Tennessee has more going on in the energy sector than one might think at first blush. Biofuel, a little oil, hydroelectric power, coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar…Tennessee has it all.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (“EIA”) state profile on Tennessee:

  • Most of Tennessee’s electricity generation is supplied by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (“TVA”) Watts Bar 2, which is the nation’s first new nuclear power reactor in the 21st century (which began operating about a year ago)
    • The TVA operates:
      • 19 dams
      • 2 nuclear power plants
      • 7 natural gas-fired generating plants
      • 6 coal-fired plants
  • Tennessee is home to the nation’s third-largest pumped storage hydroelectric generating facility and more than 2 dozen hydroelectric dams
    • In 2016, it had the 8th highest net generation from hydroelectric power in the nation
  • Tennessee is home to the Southeast’s first major wind farm, which has been operating since 2000 – it is located on Tennessee’s Buffalo Mountain
  • Selmer, Tennessee is home to the largest solar facilities in the state

While crude oil production in the state is low, the state’s energy profile is very diverse. A more detailed discussion on Tennessee’s energy profile can be found here.

It can be easy to overlook what each state has going on in its own unique energy sector. Tennessee is one of those places that will surprise you with all it has going on, even in its energy profile!