Sunday, April 14, 2013

Weekly Pennsylvania Energy & Marcellus Shale News Update, April 14 edition

I've waited a bit to post another update in order to get back on a schedule for posting weekly updates on Sundays.  However, this particular update covers ten days Apr. 3- 13th.
News reports are selected from national sources and local news outlets simply because they cover Pennsylvania-related energy and shale gas news, not to push any agenda of mine. Op-ed and other commentary reflect the opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect my views.

Please click on the headlines to read the full stories.

PPL shuts down Susquehanna nuclear reactor
PPL Corp. took one of its Susquehanna nuclear reactors out of service Saturday morning for repairs and refueling.
One of two reactors at the plant, Unit 2, went off line Saturday morning, PPL said. The shutdown is part of planned maintenance at the facility in Luzerne County, just east of Berwick.
PPL said workers will replace 40 percent of the reactor's uranium fuel and perform other upgrades and ongoing maintenance. Turbine blade issues also have affected both reactors at the plant, PPL said in a statement.
Pieces of the turbine assembly will be replaced, PPL said.
Brazilian leaders express interest in Pa. shale drilling, regulation
RIO DE JANEIRO -- From the shale underlying Western Pennsylvania to the deep-sea oil off the coast of Brazil, emerging energy sources have policymakers and entrepreneurs from both hemispheres talking business.
The bulk of Brazil's energy comes from hydropower, though wind, biomass and other sources supplement. But oil fields off the coast here -- and shale formations in the country's south -- have Brazilian companies keen on drilling, and Pennsylvania's experiences exploring and extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale have been a central point of discussion since a trade delegation began meetings in Sao Paulo this week.
"They have a very similar balance of energy portfolio," Gov. Tom Corbett said in an interview. "They're looking at us as to how can they invest in us. We're looking at our people that are coming down, smaller companies coming down, how can they invest here?"
Mine fire costs Consol at least $15M
A colder winter and strong export demand boosted Consol Energy Inc.'s coal production even with the Blacksville No. 2 mine out of commission since March 12 after a fire.
Consol (NYSE: CNX) said Friday that cleanup costs at the Greene County mine, near the West Virginia/Pennsylvania border, would cost an expected $15.2 million. But it has no idea when the mine would resume production.
Even with the mine fire, the Southpointe-based energy company saw higher-than-expected demand for its coal, with 14.8 million tons produced in the first quarter ended March 31. Its inventory was 964,000 tons, down 414,000 tons to what Consol said was its lowest level in 15 years.
Three Mile Island: federal agency says focusing on 10-mile zone might not be enough
Ever since the Harrisburg region weathered the nation's worst nuclear accident, activists including Eric Epstein have touted the need to prepare to evacuate people living outside the 10-mile zone surrounding Three Mile Island.
This week, they received vindication in the form of a federal report which states the need to study the level of awareness beyond the 10-mile zone, and potentially improve emergency response procedures in the area beyond 10 miles. The report applies to all U.S. nuclear power plants, including four others in Pennsylvania.
Ever since the Harrisburg region weathered the nation's worst nuclear accident, activists including Eric Epstein have touted the need to prepare to evacuate people living outside the 10-mile zone surrounding Three Mile Island.
This week, they received vindication in the form of a federal report which states the need to study the level of awareness beyond the 10-mile zone, and potentially improve emergency response procedures in the area beyond 10 miles. The report applies to all U.S. nuclear power plants, including four others in Pennsylvania.
New Website Features Detailed State-By-State Energy Data
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) unveiled a new website today designed to give a better picture of state-by-state energy trends and data.
The site features interactive maps where users can zoom in and see different features related to energy production. For example, users can pull up a map layer that just shows Pennsylvania’s natural gas shale play.
“We had the data on our site in various sources, but it was frankly hard to get to,” says Mark Elbert EIA’s Director of Web Management, “This makes it much more accessible.”
The EIA site doesn’t include detailed maps of individual natural gas wells from state data, which you can view on StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Shale Play map app.
According to the EIA, Pennsylvania ranks fifth among the states in total energy production, coming in behind Texas, Wyoming, West Virginia, and Louisiana.
Williams Partners, Shell Create Midstream Joint Venture to Serve Shell and Other Producers
Would Support Development of the Petrochemical Market in the Northeast
--New Venture Has Long-Term Fee-Based Dedicated Gathering, Processing Agreement for Shell's Production in Area; Plans to Build Large-Scale Gas Processing Complex
--New Processing Facility Would Have Access to NGL Fractionation, NGL Connections to Shell's Proposed Petrochemical Facility, and the Bluegrass Pipeline JV
Williams Partners L.P. WPZ +0.06% announced today that it has agreed to launch a new midstream joint venture with Shell to provide gas gathering and gas processing services for production located in Northwest Pennsylvania. The venture will invest in both wet-gas handling infrastructure and dry gas infrastructure serving Marcellus and Utica Shale wells in the area.
 West Chester firm launches a giant drill rig for Marcellus work
Schramm Inc., the West Chester drill rig manufacturer that had a moment of fame in 2010 when its drills rescued 33 trapped miners in Chile, is about to enter the big leagues of oil and gas exploration.
The company, which has been making truck-mounted drill rigs for more than 50 years, is launching its biggest drill rig ever - a 102-foot-tall walking, talking monster designed to bore the deep horizontal wells that have turned Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale into a fossil-fuel bonanza.
Schramm employees on Thursday put the finishing touches on the first T500XD Telemast drill rig at the company's 27-acre factory in West Chester. Next week, the $7.6 million rig will make its way on eight tractor-trailers to Ohio, where its new owner, Alpha Hunter L.L.C., plans to use it to tap into the Marcellus Shale and the deeper Utica Shale formation.
Pittsburgh expo unites shale drillers with landowners
Bill Hayward went Downtown on Thursday hoping to make the deal of a lifetime.
Hayward, 59, a geologist from White Oak, is trying sell gas rights that he and a business partner own in a Marcellus shale hot spot. The asking price: $30 million.
Hopes and dreams as big as Hayward's can become reality at the North America Prospect Expo, a swap meet for the oil and gas industry that's spending three days at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this week, the first time it's been held outside of Houston.
The event gives local companies — and even residents — a chance to negotiate potentially lucrative deals for the sale of land or gas rights directly with drillers. Here, everything from computer software to land is for sale. Drillers even have a shot at buying a luxury farm estate — complete with gas rights — in Robinson, Washington County, on the market for $8.3 million.
“It's kind of a flea market for drilling prospects,” said Ben Wallace, chief operating officer at Penneco Oil Co. in Delmont. “There are spare hubcaps all over.”
DEP Allows Fracking To Resume At Spill Site Before Investigation is Complete
The state Department of Environmental Protection hasn’t finished its investigation into a gas well spill that caused the evacuation of three homes in Wyoming County last month, but in the meantime the agency has allowed the drilling company to resume fracking operations.
The accident began on the evening of March 13 at a well north of Tunkhannock in Washington Township. More than a quarter million gallons of fracking waste water came out of the well before it was successfully capped the following afternoon.
The Texas-based company operating the well, Carrizo Marcellus, was allowed to resume fracking operations last Friday.
Middle school students compete in 2nd Annual PA KidWind Challenge
Students from around the state participated in the 2nd Annual PA KidWind challenge held at Londonderry School in Harrisburg, Pa. on Mar. 23. Local area middle school students took home cash prizes for their turbine designs and presentations.
The KidWind Challenge is a wind turbine design competition for middle and high school students. Teams of 2-4 students incorporate engineering and science to build powerful small-scale wind turbines and compete with other students from around the state to see which turbine generates the most electricity.
The event is a chance to get students involved and excited about alternative energy and sustainability. On top of gaining teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving skills, students learn key scientific concepts during the construction process. Prizes are awarded to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams in two divisions: geared and direct drive.
Pa. coal mine: $110K fine fault of 'rogue' worker
Officials with a southwestern Pennsylvania coal mine say a $110,000 federal workplace safety fine for an electrical hazard is the fault of a "rogue" employee.
Rox Coal of Friedens received the fine, which was reduced from the original amount of $150,200 proposed by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Rox Coal's general counsel Lori Mason tells the (Somerset) Daily American ( that the fine was reduced because the company acted in "good faith."
The federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, which reviewed the allegations, found that the company was "blind-sided" by the actions of the company's electrician who Mason said acted as a "rogue" employee and ignored his training.
That resulted in one worker being shocked while changing a fuse on a high-voltage switch house at the company's Geronimo Mine in October 2007.
 Luster of gas-powered electricity dimming
One year ago this month, electricity generated from coal and natural gas was equal for the first time ever in the U.S.
It was a major milestone for natural gas and with all the hype around the fuel’s prolific reserves, its low prices, and the tightening limits on coal burning, it seemed like maybe this was the new normal.
Or maybe not.
The price of natural gas has gone up by about $1 over the past year to a wholesale price around $4 per million British thermal units.
“With the recent rise in natural gas prices, the cost of dispatching existing coal plants in the eastern United States using coal purchased at the benchmark Central and Northern Appalachian Basins (CAPP and NAPP) spot prices has become more competitive relative to natural gas,” the Energy Information Administration reported Thursday.
This might signal a better year for coal in Pennsylvania than 2012.
Consol inspects Pa.-W. Va. Mine following fire
Consol Energy workers have completed an inspection of a coal mine straddling the Pennsylvania-West Virginia line following an underground fire that burned for days.
The Blacksville No. 2 mine was evacuated after smoke began pouring from a shaft in Wayne Township, Pa. on March 12. Workers spent days drilling boreholes so cameras could search for the fire and water could be pumped into the mine to extinguish it.
Indian Point evacuation plan inadequate, feds say
Residents living outside the 10-mile zone around Indian Point and other nuclear power plants could jam evacuation routes, undermining a key premise of emergency plans relied on by county officials in the Hudson Valley and around the country, a new federal report says.
The General Accountability Office report, which reviewed procedures at the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan as well as nuclear power plants near heavily populated regions of Florida, Pennsylvania and California, found that federal regulators did not factor the impact of "shadow evacuations" by residents outside the 10-mile zone into their plans.
In response, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission argued in a letter that its estimate that 20 percent of the population outside the 10-mile zone would evacuate even if not advised to do so was "a reasonable estimate" based on substantial research.
 Marcellus Business Central and Announce Media Partnership
The Marcellus Business Central, Pennsylvania’s leading publication for the shale gas industry has announced its media partnership with regional web-based newspaper,
Effective immediately, will begin to publish weekly online news stories from the MBC. The content will have a strong focus on the continually emerging energy developments surrounding the natural gas market and those businesses that support this unprecedented growth throughout the East Coast.
Press Release: Ridgeline Announces Pennsylvania Facility Installation
Ridgeline is pleased to announce its entry into Pennsylvania and the Marcellus Shale with a facility project located near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This agreement was executed today. The initial Single Train Commercial Unit will concentrate on produced water, with an anchor customer providing approximately 2,500-4,000 barrels of waste water per day. The Company is locating other permanent installations in the same production area to expand its logistical footprint in Western Pennsylvania. Installation of the initial STCI will begin in about thirty days.

Read more here:
Coal consumption down in Pennsylvania
Pretty much any way you slice it, Pennsylvanians are using less coal.
At least they were in 2012.
The Energy Information Administration just released its latest coal report with information for all four quarters of last year.
These are the Pennsylvania highlights:
  • Coal consumption at commercial and institutional users — down 23 percent since 2011.
  • Consumption at industrial plants that aren’t coke plants — down 19 percent.
  • Coal produced in the state was also down in 2012. Bituminous coal, the kind mined in western Pennsylvania, was 7.6 percent below 2011 production.
A few metrics are up, though. Coal stocks at commercial and institutional users were 22 percent higher last year. And the average price they paid for their coal increased by 15 percent.
GE Plans to Cut 950 Jobs at 100-Year-Old Train Plant
General Electric Co. (GE) plans to cut 950 jobs at a Pennsylvania locomotive plant, wiping out most of the site’s recent employment growth, as it shifts some production to a lower-cost factory in Texas.
Reductions at the factory in Erie, Pennsylvania, which is more than 100 years old, are slated to start in six months pending 60 days of talks with union officials, who oppose the move. The new plant in Fort Worth, Texas, is about 20 percent more efficient, said Lorenzo Simonelli, head of GE’s transportation unit...
Approximately 200 of the Erie job cuts, more than 20 percent, are linked to declining coal demand, Simonelli said. GE’s railroad customers have parked about 3,000 locomotives as utilities that once relied on coal carried by trains to produce electricity began switching to cheaper natural gas from shale formations.
“The outlook for the volume on the locomotive side as well as from the coal-mining equipment is down versus what we anticipated,” Simonelli said.
State Website Shows Where Marcellus Shale Impact Money is Going
A year after Pennsylvania enacted an impact fee on the Marcellus Shale industry, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) launched a new website that would allow the general public and local governments to see where the revenues are going.
Under Act 13, or the Unconventional Gas Well Impact Fee, signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett in February 2012, certain Marcellus Shale drillers have to pay a fee to the PUC every year. 
The fee initially is given to the PUC and then divided among the municipal and county governments. Pennsylvania collected $198 million from the fee in 2012. The money can be spent in one of 13 ways established by the PUC, like social services or tax reductions, or go toward offsetting the impact of the shale drilling in the area — road damage, for example.
Previously, the PUC provided the information on its website as a downloadable document. Spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said dedicating a separate website to Act 13 increases transparency.
Cawley headlines Chamber’s annual Spring Luncheon
Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley is headlining the Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Annual Spring Luncheon, April 24 at Hartefeld National Golf Club.
In addition to Cawley, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), Robert Powelson will also be sharing the podium as keynote speakers for the event.
The event kicks off with a reception at 11 a.m., followed by the luncheon and presentations at noon. That will be followed by a question and answer session with Cawley and Powelson.
Cawley was elected as the commonwealth’s 32nd Lieutenant Governor in 2010. According to his official Website, he has worked side-by-side with Gov. Tom Corbett to deliver on their promises to restore fiscal discipline in Harrisburg and create jobs for Pennsylvanians.
In 2011, Corbett appointed Cawley to chair the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, which brought together representatives from the natural gas industry, environmental advocacy groups, academia and state and local government. The panel unanimously approved 96 recommendations to Corbett for the development of natural gas in Pennsylvania. These recommendations became the basis for the historic, comprehensive law known as Act 13 of 2012. 

In March of 2012, Cawley won national recognition for his work on Marcellus Shale when he received the 2012 Public Leadership in Energy and Environmental Stewardship Award from General Electric in partnership with the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA).
Somerset County to receive $290K from Marcellus Shale impact fee
The Marcellus Shale impact fee generated $289,867.71 for Somerset County in 2012.

Statewide, the fee brought in more than $198 million, according to state Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, one of the authors of the impact fee legislation."The provisions laid forth in Act 13 are ensuring that our environment is protected, counties and municipalities receive the funding they need and also place an increased level of transparency on natural gas drilling," he said.

The 2011 law imposes an annual impact fee on each natural gas well in Pennsylvania and put limits on how counties and municipalities can spend the cash. The fee generated $204 million in its first year.
Wyoming County adopts rules on 'fracking'
A set of guidelines for monitoring well water was approved Tuesday by the Wyoming County Board of Supervisors 
The guidelines have been established in the event high-volume natural gas “fracking” projects show interest in the county, said Steve Perkins, director of environmental health for the county’s Public Health Department. They’re meant to give a clear set of recommendations and eliminate confusion.The guidelines are based on recommendations already developed by Penn State and other entities in Pennsylvania where fracking operations are now active, Perkins said. They include a “quick snapshot” option to function as a basic test, and an in-depth version for a more-detailed analysis.
Alert to Congress: Nuclear Evacuation May Bog Down
Regulators and congressional investigators clashed Wednesday over a new report warning that in the event of an accident at a nuclear plant, panicking residents from outside the official evacuation zone might jam the roads and prevent others from escaping. 
The report by the Government Accountability Office, which acts as the investigative arm of Congress, challenges a three-decade-old fundamental of emergency planning around American nuclear power plants: that preparations for evacuation should focus on people who live within 10 miles of the site. 
The GAO found that people living beyond the official 10-mile evacuation zone might be so frightened by the prospect of spreading radiation that they would flee of their own accord, clog roads, and delay the escape of others. The investigators said regulators have never properly studied how many people beyond 10 miles would make their own decisions to take flight, prompting what is called a "shadow evacuation."
Study: The coal industry is in far more trouble than anyone realizes
Here’s some bleak news for the coal industry: As much as 65 percent of the U.S. coal fleet could find itself under threat in the years ahead, thanks to cheap natural gas and stricter air-pollution regulations.
That’s according to a new peer-reviewed study by three researchers at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who take a detailed look at the costs of operating both coal-fired power plants and natural-gas plants around the United States.
Their conclusion? Coal power is far more economically vulnerable than most analysts have realized to date.
House moving Marcellus economic bills
House lawmakers plan action next week on bills providing millions of dollars of state tax credits and grants to develop a bigger market with vehicles using natural gas in Pennsylvania.
The package of bills called "Marcellus Works" was unveiled by Republican lawmakers two years ago. Some of the proposals became part of the natural gas drilling impact fee law.
The Finance Committee will consider three bills in the package; the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee will consider five bills.
Two bills would tap revenue from the state Oil and Gas Lease Fund to encourage mass transit agencies to convert fleets of vehicles that use gasoline and diesel to compressed natural gas.
Berks leaders, residents alarmed by pipeline possibility
Al Knaubb's concern began when he noticed several helicopters hovering low over his forested Alsace Township property last fall.

Three days later his phone rang.

The man on the other end asked for permission to survey Knaubb's property for a study regarding the Commonwealth Pipeline, a 120-mile project that would transport natural gas from Marcellus shale deposits in northern Pennsylvania to Chester County.

It was the first Knaubb, or anyone else in his community, heard of the $1 billion project that would cause an uproar in neighboring Chester County in the following month.

It was also the last time Knaubb received any type of information about his property's role in the proposed project, he said.

The whole ordeal left a bad taste in his mouth.
 Sorting through the claims, counterclaims about environmental impact of 'fracking'
It's difficult to find scientists who have not lined up on one side or another on hydraulic fracking for oil and natural gas. The anti-fracking groups have their scientific talking points, and the pro-fracking groups have their counterclaims. Some of the scientists who have put out pro-fracking reports have turned out to be tied to the industry. When even the federal panel formed to study the issue is stacked with industry supporters, it’s hard for environmentalists and health advocates to believe its conclusions."Cutting through the 'noise' for the average citizen in indeed extremely difficult," said Peter Collings, a physics professor at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, who has lectured about fracking. The truth about fracking, he said in an e-mail interview, lies "somewhere in between" what the regulation-hating gas industry tells the public and what the environmentalists claim.
Fracking coalition upsets both greens and drillers
Like a marriage the in-laws don't approve of, a new plan to strengthen standards for fracking is creating unusual divisions among environmentalists and supporters of the oil and gas industry.
At first glance, it's hard to fathom all the angst over the Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale Development. Environmental groups, foundations, and major oil and gas companies came together to support stringent measures to protect air and water from pollution in the Appalachian region, and they invited other groups to join in and help limit pollution from fracking.
Not everyone was flattered by the invitation.
DEP Unveils More Details About Marcellus Radiation Study
The state Department of Environmental Protection has unveiled more details about how it plans to conduct a study of levels of naturally occurring radioactivity in materials associated with oil and gas drilling.
As StateImpact Pennsylvania reported, the DEP announced the study in January:
The announcement comes almost two years after a series of reports in the New York Times revealed radioactive waste water from gas drilling was discharged into Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams. The industry has since stopped the practice, but the DEP says it plans to analyze radioactivity in frack flowback water, drill cuttings, drill mud, and the levels in equipment such as pipes, well casings storage tanks, treatment systems and trucks.
DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday says today’s announcement explains more about the agency’s plans, but right now there’s no reason to believe the public is in any kind of danger.
Hearings on Pa. state forest drilling for invitees only
Pennsylvania conservation officials have invited about 30 state and local leaders to rural Sullivan County on Thursday to explain the complex negotiations under way over Marcellus Shale drilling in Loyalsock State Forest.
But most of the environmental activists who are pressuring the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to restrict drilling in the forest were not invited to the private meeting.
The organizations, including Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, have asked DCNR to block Anadarko Petroleum Corp. from accessing the surface of more than 18,000 acres of the popular recreation area, where Anadarko owns the mineral rights.
The activists say the state has rebuffed their requests to disclose drilling plans for the forest. They called on DCNR Secretary Richard J. Allan to hold public hearings on the drilling plans.
Allan instead scheduled Thursday's private meeting with a select group of legislators, local officials and local environmental groups at the Loyalsock headquarters in Dushore. "Invitations are not transferable," the letter from Allan said.
Local cancer institute completes baseline health survey in Marcellus shale region
A baseline health survey of nine counties in the Marcellus Shale gas drilling region of Northeast Pennsylvania has determined that tobacco use, obesity and a lack of health insurance are common in the area.
Funded by the state Department of Public Welfare, the $75,000 study looked at a broad range of chronic and acute health conditions of a sample of 458 people in Bradford, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wayne and Wyoming counties.
The state-funded survey by the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute is being viewed as a first step toward helping track possible future health impacts from the hydraulic-fracturing drilling method known as fracking.
"A variety of issues related to 'fracking' and other processes used to produce natural gas have contributed to community concerns about potential adverse health outcomes," principle survey investigator Dr. Samuel Lesko said in a statement. "The data we collected can be used as a reference point to compare the health of the community in the future should these concerns continue or grow."
FirstEnergy: Little Blue cleanup nearly 20 years away

When a federal judge approved a consent decree requiring FirstEnergy to cease its storage of coal ash waste at Little Blue Run by the end of 2016, it looked like the impoundment was on its way to closure.
But the process may take a bit longer than previously thought -- like nearly 20 years.

The consent decree, approved by a federal judge in December 2012, required that the company stop storing coal ash waste from the Bruce Mansfield Plant in Shippingport by the end of 2016 –- nearly four years from now.
The process to close Little Blue will take an additional 15 years after that to complete, said FirstEnergy officials.

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