Helping America Navigate a New Energy Reality

Peak Oil Review – 20 Nov 2017

By on 20 Nov 2017 in Peak Oil Review with 0 Comments

Quote of the Week

“Humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse.  Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

A communique from 15,000 scientists from 184 countries assessing the world’s latest responses to various environmental threats (11/14)

Contents

1.  Oil and the Global Economy
2.  The Middle East & North Africa
3.  China
4.  Russia
5.  Nigeria
6.  Venezuela
7.  The Briefs

1.  Oil and the Global Economy

Oil prices fell for most of last week, but then rebounded to close at $56.55 in NY ($62.73 in London) on Friday. This was only a dollar or so a barrel below the recent high set the week before last.  As usual, there were numerous factors impacting oil prices. OPEC reported a small drop in October production due to lower output from Iraq, Nigeria, and Iran. OPEC also said it expects global demand for oil to grow by 1.5 million b/d this year and again in 2018. The IEA is not so sure that demand will be so strong, noting that crude prices have risen by roughly 20 percent since early September and now the “market balance in 2018 does not look as tight as some would like and there is not, in fact, a ‘new normal’.”

The API came out with another well-off-the-mark assessment by announcing that US inventories had risen by 6.5 million barrels the week before last while analysts were calling for a 1.4-million-barrel decline. When the EIA stocks report came out Thursday, it showed an increase of only 1.9 million barrels. In its Short-Term Energy Outlook, the EIA forecast that the circa $6 spread between WTI and Brent prices will continue through the 1st quarter of 2018 before narrowing to $4 during the second half of the year. If this spread remains wide, it should keep US exports strong for the next few months. The EIA believes that the wider-than-usual spread is at least partly due to the transportation constraints in moving US crude from Cushing, Okla. and the Permian Basin to the US Gulf Coast.

The price reversal on Friday was largely due to assurances from the Saudi oil minister that his government is committed to extending the production freeze at the November 30th OPEC meeting. Disappoint about the EIA’s lower US crude stocks number and the unchanged oil-rig count number contributed to the surge.

The OPEC Production Cut: With Moscow and Riyadh saying they expect an extension to the production cut next week, most observers believe the extension will be implemented. As this move is already built into the higher crude prices, any additional price increases will have to be driven by some other development.

US Shale Oil Production: Last week the IEA shocked the oil markets when its annual World Energy Outlook predicted that US shale would dominate the oil and gas markets over the next decade, rising to “a level 50 percent higher than any other country has ever managed.” With a “remarkable ability to unlock new resources cost-effectively,” US shale resources will add millions of barrels of new oil supply by 2025 and contribute more than 80 percent of the growth in world oil production during the next seven years. US shale oil production, which includes crude, condensates, and natural gas liquids is now forecast by the IEA to increase to 13 million b/d by 2025, out of total US output of 16.9 million b/d – roughly 7 million b/d day higher than current US production.

Many observers are saying this forecast is wildly optimistic and that it will be nearly impossible to for the US to increase its oil production by millions of barrels of oil per day in the next decade. The reasons for this skepticism are obvious to students of the US shale oil industry. The depletion rates of horizontal shale oil wells are much higher than conventional vertical wells. The US EIA is saying that the Permian Basin will lose some 165,000 b/d through depletion in December 2017 alone. Just to keep even this production will have to be replaced through new drilling. The output from the Permian Basin likely will continue to grow, but to increase production by millions of barrels per day seems a reach considering the constraints on production increases that are growing every day.

Production from the Eagle Ford shale basin is already 500,000 b/d lower than in early 2015 and according to the EIA forecast will not grow at all in the next month. Production from the Bakken has been mostly flat lately, and even the optimistic North Dakota government is forecasting only slow production increases in the near future. The rig count in the Bakken is currently 55 rigs,
some 75 percent below the all-time high and production in September was 220,000 b/d below December 2014.

Drillers go for high-initial-production “sweet spots” first. As these sweet spots are emptied production is likely to fall unless the industry’s vaunted “technological advances” such as ultra-long laterals or more carefully targeted fracking sand can make up the difference. Most recent analysis suggests that it cannot.  The US oil-rig count has been generally flat or trending down since July. This situation is likely to obtain until we see higher oil prices for longer. Even this may not be enough to increase drilling very much in the immediate future as the question of shale oil profitability is starting to raise its ugly head.

The most important, but least appreciated, fact about the shale oil industry is that, for the most part, it has never made much of a profit and has been propped up by low-interest rates and enthusiastic investors. This exuberance is starting to change and many drillers are feeling pressure from their lenders to stop just expanding production and start making money for their investors. The debt of Continental Resources, the major driller in the Bakken shale, has grown from $165 million in 2007 before the shale oil boom began to $6.5 billion today. Given the high cost and the stagnant production of Bakken shale oil it is doubtful that this debt will ever be repaid unless oil prices rise to much higher levels someday.

The future of US shale oil production should become clearer in the coming year. If drillers, for one reason or another, are unable to substantially increase production from the Permian Basin, then peaking of US shale oil production is likely in sight.

Electric Vehicles: The prospects for a substantial reduction in the demand for oil stemming from the widespread use of electricity-powered cars and trucks have come in for much discussion lately. This discussion was sparked by announcements from China and several European countries that they plan to phase out internal combustion engines within the next couple of decades. This has observers wondering what this might do to oil companies and even whether someday we see the peaking of global oil production.

Major oil exporters and international oil companies have been quick to push back on this notion, citing the current lack of much consumer interest in electric cars and that the growing demand for oil will offset whatever losses in sales that might come for electric cars gaining a larger share of the oil market. Lost in these assertions is the reason major countries want to curtail the use of internal combustion vehicles. This is clearly the effect carbon emissions are having on the global climate.  China is already suffering from the hazardous air in much of the country and is now willing to suffer a major hit to its economic growth in order to prevent millions of its citizens succumbing to unbreathable air. India, with worse air conditions than China, is likely to adopt the same policies in the near future. You simply cannot ignore environmental quality while undergoing a period of rapid economic growth based on fossil fuels.

The major problem with the current generation of electric cars is the state of battery technology. Vehicle propulsion batteries cost too much and are too heavy; they do not hold enough energy in comparison with the range of current vehicles, and they take too long to recharge at the limited number of public charging stations available. However, none of these problems is insurmountable, and work is going on all over the world to improve the technology. With large, reasonably-priced batteries, electric cars should be better in nearly every respect than the 1.3 billion + motorized vehicles currently on the world’s roads. This number is increasing by some 100 million vehicles every year.

For those following the state of vehicle battery developments, progress is being made at a steady pace. Several times a month there are announcements from major research institutions that they have found a way to improve some aspect of vehicle propulsion batteries that will make them “X” times better than what is currently on the market.  Well within the next ten years far better and cheaper electric cars are almost certain to be on the market and given deteriorating atmospheric conditions will encourage a growing number of governments to mandate the phasing out of internal combustion vehicles. Hopefully, electric vehicle prices will have fallen so low, and the inconvenience factors have become so insignificant that electric car and trucks will sell themselves without government intervention. If the climate change problem continues to grow, governments will likely implement stiff taxes on fossil fuels. Given that motor vehicles have a limited lifespan and electric replacements are similar, a relatively short period of 10-15 years should be enough to replace most of the current fleet.

There is also the issue of where oil prices go in the next ten years. If the oil supply does not keep up with growing demand, then unacceptably high gasoline prices may convince many consumers to put up with some inconvenience to keep driving.

2.  The Middle East & North Africa

Overshadowing the ups and downs of the daily and weekly developments in the Middle East it is well to keep in mind that the political state of the region has become much less stable in the last couple of years. The intervention of Russia on behalf of its long-time friend the Syrian government has ensured a minority Shiite government will continue in Syria for the foreseeable future. The shift in Washington to solid support of the Saudi government and its policies at the expense of relations with Iran could have major consequences. The new Saudi administration attempts to change a way of life that has obtained for centuries will have unforeseen consequences.

While not easily discerned on a day to day basis, a major share of the world’s oil supply rests on a narrow thread of political stability which could be snapped at any minute. Someday historians may marvel at how well a region run by a mixture of heredity monarchs, religious zealots, and military dictators has held together so long.

Should hostilities break out in the region as they have numerous times in the last 70 years, a major share of the world’s oil supply is at risk. Should exports from the Gulf be seriously reduced, it is certain that the global economy would be seriously harmed. Oil prices would likely be much higher than those seen in recent history followed by hardship and unrest around the globe. This situation could easily last for many decades until satisfactory substitutes for Middle Eastern oil can be found.

Iran: A fire on the oil pipeline between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia was quickly put out, but led to charges by the Saudis that Iran was responsible. Tehran denies any involvement. The fire started only days after a missile was fired from Yemen into Saudi Arabia, an act which the Saudis also blamed on Iran.  The Trump administration is looking at ways to strengthen Saudi Arabia’s missile defenses and disrupt the flow of advanced Iranian-made weapons to its allies across the Middle East.

The CEO of France’s Total says his company would have to review its Iran gas project if the US decides to impose new sanctions on Tehran.  Given Total’s interests in the US market, it could be illegal to do business with both the US and Iran.
Tehran is preparing to export LNG to Europe. While initially, the volume will be low in comparison with other LNG exporters, it would allow Iran to start an LNG relationship with countries in Europe and Asia, building the foundation of what could become a profitable business in the future.

Syria/Iraq: The report that oil from Iraq’s Kirkuk oil fields will be shipped to Iran for refining has introduced a new wrinkle into Middle Eastern oil flows. Exports from Kurdistan Ceyhan averaged 540,000 b/d through the first nine months of the year. Loadings of Kirkuk crude dropped to 430,000 b/d in October, and are lower once again in November after Iraqi government forces reclaimed Kurdish oil fields.  Under the new arrangement, Kirkuk oil will be trucked across the border. Initially Iran will receive 15,000 barrels per day, rising gradually to 60,000 b/d.  Baghdad and Tehran have also revived a project to build a pipeline to carry oil from Kirkuk fields to central Iran and onwards for export from the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia: Hardly a day goes by without a major development in the Saudi Arabia story. Authorities in the Kingdom are widening the corruption probe that has reached the upper echelons of the royal family and prominent businessmen who are now being asked to surrender assets in exchange for their freedom. At least two dozen military officers, including commanders, now have been rounded up in connection with the corruption investigation. Several more prominent businessmen also were taken in by Saudi authorities in recent days.

The purge, which has targeted some of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest and highest-profile businessmen, has been welcomed by Saudis who view it as a much-needed move to recoup what they believe are ill-gotten gains. But foreign investors have been stunned by the speed and scope of Prince Mohammed’s campaign. It had raised concerns about due process in the kingdom at a time when executives were studying proposals to invest in some of the heir apparent’s projects.

The Financial Times reports that Saudi authorities are negotiating settlements with princes and businessmen held over allegations of corruption, offering deals for the detainees to pay for their freedom. In some cases, the government is seeking to appropriate as much as 70 percent of suspects’ wealth, in a bid to channel hundreds of billions of dollars into depleted state coffers. The arrangements, which have already seen some assets and funds handed over to the state, provide an insight into the strategy behind the dramatic corruption purge.
The crown prince has moved so quickly that American officials and others worry that he is destabilizing the region. Philip Gordon, the White House Middle East coordinator under President Barack Obama said, “if the crown prince alienates too many other princes and other pillars of the regime, pursues costly regional conflicts and scares off foreign investors, he could undermine the prospects for the very reforms he is trying to implement.”

The 600,000 b/d Port Arthur refinery has exclusively processed Saudi Arabian crude since 1988 when Saudi Aramco first bought a stake in the facility—the largest of its kind in the United States. But Riyadh’s new strategy of constricting exports to the US, along with several Asian countries, has reduced supplies to Motiva and several other refineries across the country. “The drop is huge; it’s not just that Saudi exports are low, but they have been low for several months.”

3.  China

China’s crude oil stocks fell for the first time in 12 months in October by 27 million barrels from the month before, as crude imports hit a one-year low amid strong throughput at domestic refineries. Chinese oil refiners are churning out record amounts of fuel in the last quarter of 2017, looking to cash in on the best refining profits in nearly two years after a rally in diesel and gasoline prices. Officials at five state-owned oil refiners said they are shipping as much product as possible after receiving generous export quotas. That is creating a domestic shortage that China’s independent refiners, known as teapots, are rushing to meet.

Russia’s Rosneft approved a 2018 deal to supply CEFC China Energy about 12 million tons of crude oil as part of the Chinese firm’s $9.1 billion investment in Rosneft.  Of the total supply, CEFC expects to receive 8 to 10 million tons of crude from Russia’s Far East, said the source, in a deal that will make the Chinese firm a dominant player in the local crude market.

Oil demand from China’s transportation sector will peak in 2030 and flatten after that, mainly due to falling gasoline demand for passenger vehicles that become more efficient and increasingly electricity-driven. The flattening of China’s oil demand growth reflects its fundamental change from an industry-driven economy to one based on services and consumption. It also has major implications for Beijing’s reliance on oil imports, energy security and the overall energy mix. “China’s energy future will not be a continuation of previous trends,” the IEA said, adding that the country’s energy choices will have profound implications for global markets, trade and investment flows.

The Silk Road, renamed the Belt and Road Initiative, is developing infrastructure along land and sea trade routes. However, little is known about China’s initiative in the Arctic Circle, which represents a new route that Beijing is now able to develop thanks to technology together with the strategic partnership with Russia. Involving about 65 countries and affecting 4.4 billion people, constituting thirty percent of the world’s GDP, together with a total investment from Beijing that could surpass a trillion dollars, this is an immense project.

The new Chinese rules mandating a boost in electric vehicle production are raising fears of a glut of battery-powered cars that carmakers will be hard pressed to sell. Regulations adopted in September require EVs to account for up to 8 percent of sales by 2020. This far exceeds current demand in China, where electric vehicles accounted for just over 1 percent of sales last year. Now industry experts are voicing concerns that this will hit profits — and that some carmakers may not survive.

Electric vehicles aren’t yet living up to the hype, automakers in China are finding, as they churn out more EVs than they can sell to satisfy government directives. Beijing tempts buyers with subsidies and the construction of a vast charging network—and pushes consumers to buy electric cars in crowded cities. The policies have made China a driving force in the worldwide development of EVs.
Volkswagen will invest $11.8 billion to develop new-energy vehicles in China by 2025, its China head announced Thursday.  The European carmaker will launch 40 locally produced vehicles in China. Production of electric vehicles will begin during the first half of next year with Volkswagen’s new joint venture partner Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group.

Stronger Chinese economic growth will push global greenhouse gas emissions to a record high in 2017 after remaining flat for three years.  A new report by the Global Carbon Project, an international research consortium, predicts that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry will rise 2 percent this year. The increase — which is primarily caused by China and developing countries — suggests the world is straying further from the course set at the landmark UN conference in Paris two years ago.

4. Russia

Russia exported more than 5.2 million b/d of crude oil and condensate and more than 2.4 million b/d of petroleum products in 2016, mostly to countries in Europe. Exports of crude oil and petroleum products represented nearly 70 percent of total Russian petroleum liquids production in 2016.

A national defense measure passed in the US House of Representatives aims to promote energy trade in Europe as a means to contain Russia.  The bill says US efforts should promote energy security in Europe, stating Russia uses energy “as a weapon to coerce, intimidate and influence” countries in the region. European natural gas production is on the decline, leaving the broader energy market vulnerable to export markets. Russia is the largest gas exporter to Europe.

The head of the European Council urged EU nations to swiftly adopt a change of rules to help the bloc in its attempt to regulate Russia’s planned Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The European Commission is proposing to extend EU internal energy market rules to cover offshore gas pipelines, which it sees as undercutting EU efforts to reduce dependence on Moscow.

Russian oil producer Lukoil last week it was considering the possibility of teaming up with a Mexican company for work in the Gulf of Mexico. The chief executive officer of Lukoil said he was meeting with authorities at Pemex to discuss a potential partnership for offshore oil in North America. His announcement came after Washington enacted more sanctions on Russia, though the CEO said that was irrelevant. “Sanctions do not affect this,” he was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Tass.

Despite improving oil prices, Russia’s economic growth is slowing, with GDP rise for the third quarter at 1.8 percent on an annual basis, versus 2.5 percent for the second quarter, Russia’s state statistical bureau said earlier last week. Analysts say it’s the latest indication that Russia’s economy needs major reforms. Moscow has been concentrating on agriculture ever since it banned imports of food from the EU in response to the Ukrainian sanctions. In contrast to the world’s advanced economies, Russia produces little that can be sold besides minerals, wheat, lumber and military hardware. When oil and gas production start to fall, the country has little else left.

5. Nigeria

Supreme Egbesu Tigers of Africa, a militant group in the Niger Delta region, last week threatened to attack oil and gas facilities belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company in Bayelsa State for neglecting the local content law in the state. The group also issued a two week ultimatum to the company after which it would carry out its threat. They warned that the attacks by the Niger Delta Avengers were as “child’s play” compared to its planned attacks.

Nigeria’s crude oil is under pressure at the international market, as Asian refiners have increasingly been moving away from their usual favorite, opting for light US shale oil instead.  Nigeria’s crude oil production declined by 54,200 b/d from the 1.792 million b/d it shipped in September to 1.738 million in October.

6. Venezuela

Venezuela’s oil output dropped to its lowest in 28 years last month, according to new data released by OPEC. PDVSA produced only 1.86 million b/d in October according to OPEC’s secondary sources, likely due to costs related to replacing damaged equipment and financial restrictions. Venezuela’s self-reported production came in slightly higher at 1.95 million b/d.  If the global oil market suddenly loses Venezuela’s 2 million b/d of oil production, it would be “a big shock to the system,” according to Dan Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Markit. “It would certainly be a very tight market because of course you already have production restraints by OPEC and non-OPEC.”

Venezuela—not the Middle East—is the wild card when it comes to the immediate future of the oil industry, BP’s chief executive Bob Dudley said last week. “I think Venezuela is just defying economic gravity and I think that’s a real wild card,” Dudley said, referring to the combination of falling oil production, severe recession, political instability, and sanctions that the South American nation has endured in the last four years.

Rating agencies declared Venezuela in selective default after a meeting with creditors on debt restructuring failed earlier this week. The vote by the New York-based industry group will trigger payouts on debt default insurance on its bonds, the so-called credit default swaps that investors use to protect their investments.  Investors said they did not expect a significant market reaction from the decision, given that Venezuela is making efforts to pay, and that the holders of some of the world’s highest yielding debt have so far been tolerant of the delays. A large holder of Venezuela bonds said investors were not taking an aggressive course of action, such as seizing PDVSA assets abroad, while payments were still being made.

Russia threw a lifeline to Venezuela last week by restructuring the more than $3 billion it is owed by Caracas. The Russian Finance Ministry said the debt of $3.15 billion would now be repaid over ten years, with minimal repayments during the first six years. The debt to Moscow is only a small part of the $63 billion Venezuela is believed to owe.

Veteran Venezuelan opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, under house arrest since 2015, escaped across the border to Colombia on Friday and later flew to Spain. With a 2018 presidential election looming, an array of major Venezuelan opposition figures is now in exile, detention or are barred from holding office.

7.  The Briefs (date of article in Peak Oil News is in parentheses)

Oil strong: There will be 280 million EVs on the roads in 2040, up from 2 million today—but even this increase won’t be able to stifle crude oil demand, the IEA says. The IEA said global oil demand will continue growing in tune with supply, to hit 105 million b/d in 2040, driven by petrochemicals and fuel for trucks, ships, and aircraft. (11/15)

The Volkswagen Group will spend more than $40 billion by the end of 2022 on the development of electric mobility, autonomous driving, new mobility services and digitalization. Most of this investment will go into the electrification and hybridization of all Group models. (11/18)

In Norway, the $1 trillion fund that the nation has amassed pumping oil and gas over the past two decades wants out of petroleum stocks. Norway, which relies on oil and gas for about a fifth of economic output, would be less vulnerable to declining crude prices without its fund investing in the industry, the central bank said. (11/18)

Poland’s state coal trader Weglokoks is due to receive its first ever shipment of US coal soon and industry sources expect the state or private buyers to take at least three more cargoes over the next seven months, even though Europe as a whole is shifting away from coal. (11/16)

“Radioactive cloud”: Scientists across Europe have been puzzling about a phenomenon that seemed laden with mystery and menace in somewhat uneven proportions — a concentration of radioactive pollution caused by a nuclide called ruthenium 106. Official monitors in France and Germany concluded that, based on weather patterns, the contamination detected since late September had emanated from southern Russia or Kazakhstan. (11/16)

In the UK, Russian hackers have attacked targets from the energy industry over the last 12 months, according to the head of the country’s National Cyber Security Center. The warning, according to the New York Times, suggests that the number of attacks coming from Russia has been much greater than previously estimated by British and US officials. (11/16)

Saudi slowdown: All of a sudden, there are very few Saudi ships arriving in Texas. Since July, Aramco has constricted supply, attempting to drain the crude storage tanks at Motiva — and many others across America — part of a plan to lift oil prices, even at the cost of sacrificing its once-prized US market. (11/15)

Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. announced with its operating partners, the regional subsidiary of Exxon Mobil and Japan’s INPEX Corp., plans to increase the design capacity from the Upper Zakum oil field offshore to 1 million b/d by 2024. Previous plans called for an increase from 500,000 bpd to 750,000 b/d in the next few years. Discovered in 1963, production is supported by infrastructure on a network of artificial islands over what’s the fourth largest oil field in the world. (11/15)

In Yemen, the Houthi rebel group has threatened to start attacking oil tankers and warships sailing under enemy flags if the Gulf coalition fighting it in the country does not reopen its ports. (11/14)

In Delhi, India’s capital, a thick cloud of toxic smog 10 times the recommended limit enveloped the city on Monday, as government officials struggled to tackle a public health crisis that is well into its second week. The air pollution spike is a yearly phenomenon blamed on a combination of illegal crop burning in northern states, vehicle exhaust, and dust. (11/13)

China’s largest oil company, Sinopec, signed a deal last week to explore the development of a massive $43 billion natural gas pipeline and LNG export terminal in Alaska. The project would carry natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope to its southern coast, where it would be liquefied and exported. It is merely a vague non-binding agreement that lacks details regarding financing, offtake agreements, or timelines. Without those hard contracts, it is highly questionable whether the project moves forward. (11/13)

New Chinese rules mandating a boost in electric vehicle production are raising fears of a glut of battery-powered cars that carmakers will be hard pressed to sell. Regulations adopted in September require EVs to account for up to 8 percent of sales by 2020. But this far exceeds current demand in China, where electric vehicles accounted for just over 1 percent of sales last year. (11/15)

China completed a 60-day trial of natural gas hydrates, or “combustible ice.” Mining starting in May 2017 in the South China Sea, setting world records in both the length and total amount of extraction, according to the China Geological Survey Bureau. (11/16)

Ultra-deep drillship: The Blue Whale I model, completed back in February, and its newer sibling, Blue Whale II, represent the most advanced offshore drilling rigs in the world – ready to tackle water depths of 12,000 feet and drill to a depth of 50,000 feet while extracting fossil fuels. The Blue Whale I was used to drill methane hydrate from the South China Sea in recent weeks on behalf of the China National Petroleum Corporation. The nearly $1 billion platform is as tall as a 37-story building, the largest oil platform in the world. (11/13)

In Mexico, an international rush is on for the nation’s untapped deep-water riches. The who’s who of the oil world — led by Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, the world’s two biggest drillers by market value — are lining up to bid in the country’s Jan. 31 deep-water auction. The total: 25 registered to bid for 29 deep-water plots across the southern Gulf of Mexico. (11/13)

The US total rig count remained unchanged from the previous week, holding at 738, according to GE’s Baker Hughes.  The count is considerably higher than the 471 at this time one year ago. (11/18)

Drill ANWR: The US Senate energy and natural resources panel voted to open a portion of an Alaskan wildlife refuge to allow oil drilling on Wednesday, angering conservationists who had fought to save the area from fossil fuel interests. The committee voted 13-10 to allow drilling in the northern portion of the refuge. (11/16)

Keystone leak: A leak from the existing Keystone oil pipeline running from Canadian oil fields shows why an expansion shouldn’t be built, according to environmental groups. Pipeline company TransCanada said it took about 15 minutes to isolate a section of a pipeline in Marshall County, S.D., after a pressure drop was detected on the system Thursday morning after about 5,000 barrels of oil leaked. The release came before Monday’s decision from Nebraska regulators on whether or not the company can go ahead with its plans for an extension, the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (11/18)

Fire = shut-in: Royal Dutch Shell said on Tuesday that production at four oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico had been shut in the wake of a Nov. 8 fire at its Enchilada platform. (11/14)

Jet fuel imports to the US West Coast reached their highest level in more than ten years in the week ended November 10, EIA data showed Wednesday. West Coast imports soared to 275,000 b/d during the week, up 140,000 b/d week on week, with much of them coming from South Korea and China. (11/16)

Retail gasoline prices continue to put a strain on consumer pockets late in the season, though relief is around the corner. Motor club AAA reports a national average retail price for regular unleaded gasoline at $2.56 per gallon early Tuesday, up just a fraction of a percent from Monday but 40 cents per gallon higher than on this date last year. (11/15)

Transmission approval: The US DOE approved on Thursday a $1.6-billion Canada-New Hampshire transmission line project that has been languishing in regulatory purgatory since 2010. The line will deliver up to 1,090 MW of clean energy from Hydro-Québec’s hydroelectric plants in Canada to New Hampshire and the rest of New England. (11/18)

Locational risk: More than one million African Americans live within a half mile of existing natural gas facilities, resulting in African American communities facing a higher risk of cancer due to toxic air emissions from natural gas development. (11/16)

Tesla semi: CEO Elon Musk introduced a sleek electric truck with a 0.36 coefficient of drag (supported by intelligent flaps that support a range of trailers). It will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5 seconds, charge up a 5 percent grade at 65 mph, and deliver 500 miles of range. Since 80 percent of truck routes are less than 250 miles, the Tesla Semi, in theory, could make a round trip on those routes without charging. (11/17)

EV truck orders: Some of the country’s biggest trucking fleets are among Tesla Inc.’s first customers for its all-electric big rig. J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which operate thousands of trucks, said Friday they had reserved Tesla’s truck. The first highway-ready vehicles aren’t due out until 2019, but the company is taking $5,000 deposits. (11/18)

Trucking $, jobs: While Google’s Waymo company has taken center stage for bringing self-driving cars to roads, autonomous trucking may make it to the mainstream first. CB Insight, which tracks venture capital, reports that companies will place about $1 billion in commercial truck autonomous systems this year, ten times the level of spending three years ago. The $700 billion trucking industry continues to be an integral part of the US economy. Goldman Sachs economists predicted that trucking would shed about 300,000 jobs per year starting in about 25 years. That may begin sooner than anticipated if automated trucking clears government hurdles and technology innovations—and becomes widely adopted by trucking companies. (11/15)

EV truck vs. oil: If Tesla can deliver a battery-powered big rig with a 500-mile range and lower lifetime costs than diesel vehicles, then a big chunk of future oil demand growth is in peril. Road freight accounts for about a fifth of world oil consumption, mostly diesel. (11/18)

While Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk on Thursday revealed the company’s first all-electric semitrailer truck and a $200,000 supercar, his latest attempt to stir excitement for his vision to upend transportation, the company is struggling to mass-produce an affordable sedan. (11/17)

DRIVEtheARC, a corridor of electric vehicle (EV) fast charging stations spanning from Monterey to Lake Tahoe, announced the completion of the chargers’ deployment and its official grand opening on the one year anniversary of the project’s official launch. DRIVEtheARC encourages longer and more frequent trips with EVs by increasing the ease of long-distance travel along one of California’s most frequented travel routes. (11/15)

Better batteries? Fisker’s scientists filed patents this week on flexible, superior energy density solid-state batteries that could be a breakthrough for EVs. Fisker’s solid-state batteries will feature three-dimensional electrodes with 2.5 times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries. Fisker claims that this technology will enable ranges of more than 500 miles on a single charge and charging times as low as one minute—faster than filling up a gas tank. Fisker expects the batteries will be produced on a mass scale around 2023. (11/17)

End wind tax credits? US Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., spoke on the floor in support of ending a wind production tax credit by the end of the year as part of a broader tax overhaul under consideration in the nation’s capital. (11/16)

Current Congressional tax plan: While retaining at least $15 billion in tax subsidies for fossil fuel producers (coal, crude oil, natural gas), the House of Representatives plan would slash support for both renewables and the electric car industry. (11/14)

Corporations fighting carbon: Among just over 1,000 of the world’s biggest publicly listed companies, accounting for about 12 percent of total greenhouse-gas emissions, 89 percent have plans to cut those emissions, according to a survey from the CDP, a nonprofit platform for corporate environmental disclosures. (11/16)

Shunning coal: At least 15 countries have joined an international alliance to phase out coal from power generation before 2030, delegates at U.N. climate talks in Bonn said on Thursday. Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Chile, Mexico and the Marshall Islands have joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance. The alliance aims to have 50 members within one year. But some of the world’s biggest coal users, such as China, the United States, Germany, and Russia, have not signed up. (11/17)

Sea level rise should be worrying New York City. But according to a new study by NASA researchers, it should worry specifically about two major glacier systems in Greenland’s northeast and northwest — but not so much about other parts of the vast northern ice sheet. The research draws on a curious and counterintuitive insight: As ocean levels rise around the globe, they will not do so evenly. (11/17)

CH4 = H2 w/o CO2?: Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara have developed catalytic molten metals to pyrolize methane to release hydrogen and to form solid carbon. The insoluble carbon floats to the surface of the melt, where it can be removed and stored or incorporated into composite materials. (11/18)

Flying cars!? Zhejiang Geely Holding Group has entered into an agreement to acquire Terrafugia, a US-based company developing practical flying cars. Terrafugia was founded in 2006 by five MIT graduates; since then, the company has delivered a number of working prototypes. Terrafugia aims to deliver its first flying car to the market in 2019. (11/15)

Record emissions: Stronger Chinese economic growth will push global greenhouse gas emissions to a record high in 2017 after remaining flat for three years, dashing tentative hopes of a turning point in the world’s efforts to curb climate change. A new report by the Global Carbon Project, an international research consortium, predicts that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry will rise 2 percent this year. (11/13)

Global warning: In late 1992, 1,700 scientists from around the world issued a dire “warning to humanity.” They said humans had pushed Earth’s ecosystems to their breaking point and were well on the way to ruining the planet. Twenty-five years later, researchers have issued a bracing follow-up. In a communique published Monday in the journal BioScience, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries assess the world’s latest responses to various environmental threats. Once again, they find us sorely wanting. The authors offer 13 suggestions for reining in our impact on the planet, including establishing nature reserves, reducing food waste, developing green technologies and establishing economic incentives to shift patterns of consumption. (11/14)

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