oil & gas

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In 1999, the federal government found big tobacco companies guilty of racketeering under the US’s RICO law, traditionally used to go after organized crime syndicates. The Feds found that big tobacco had knowingly funneled money to fake research groups whose job it was to disseminate “science” claiming that smoking wasn’t, in fact, bad for you.

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Black Hills Energy has purchased a natural gas transmission pipeline in southwest Kansas from Anadarko Natural Gas Co., reports The Garden City Telegram. The Kansas natural gas utility closed on the sale this week of the 37-mile length of pipeline.

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The number of earthquakes in Oklahoma has fallen 25% this year, reports The Wall Street Journal. The decline comes after the state’s efforts to curb the oil and gas industry’s practice of pumping wastewater from its underground operations.

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Due to its large deposits of shale oil, the United States has more recoverable oil available than either Russia or Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters. The information comes from a new report by Norwegian consulting group Rystad Energy.

The study contends that the US currently holds an estimated 264 billion of barrels of reserves in existing fields, discoveries and yet to be discovered fields.

That’s eight billion more barrels than Russia has, and over 50 billion more barrels than the Saudis.

Robin Jerstad / Texas Tribune

School districts in oil producing regions across Texas have been struggling in the aftermath of the oil bust, reports The Texas Tribune in its new series “Rough Patch: How plunging oil prices are reversing fortunes across Texas.”

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission last week accused Texas-based oil and gas driller Breitling Energy Corp of fraud on a massive scale. The corporation’s chief executive and seven other employees were charged with defrauding investors of around $80 million. The federal agency accused the driller of misleading investors about the value of the company’s oil and gas assets, reports Business Insider. 

Naveena Sadasivam / Texas Tribune

A new book by a member of a think tank in Texas insists that renewable energy creates “false hope,” reports The Texas Tribune. In a talk last week, Kathleen Hartnett White praised fossil fuels and called the advent of fracking “breathtaking.” White directs the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Armstrong Center for Energy and Environment. While she spoke, protesters outside the event did their best to make their displeasure at her message known.

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Summer travel season is here, and it brings good news for Oklahoma travelers. Despite heavy demand, Oklahoma gas prices remain among the cheapest nationwide, reports The Duncan Banner.

The national average for regular gas prices continues to rise. But Oklahoma’s average has only moved up by two cents in the last three weeks. It now sits at just $2.15 a gallon.

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It looks like Western Colorado may be sitting on quite a bit more energy than experts believed. In fact, as Colorado Public Radio reports, the western part of the state has 40 times more natural gas than previously thought. However, it’s unlikely the extra gas will produce another oil boom, as tapping the energy would only send prices lower.

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Even with today’s low oil prices, producers are still finding places where they can profitably drill. In Oklahoma and West Texas, notes The Wall Street Journal, some companies are still managing to thrive in today’s struggling oil economy. One area of Oklahoma known as the Stack, for example, is still producing solid returns.

Ann Saphir / Reuters

Oil prices are creeping up, and that means energy companies are tentatively starting to drill again, Reuters reports. Many drillers are starting to be optimistic that this time they really are on the other end of the horrific two-year slump. The downturn has caused oil outfits to shed employees and hemorrhage profits. Now as wells in the West Texas Permian Basin are again becoming profitable, producers are finally taking baby steps to crank up output.

Paul Lowry / Texas Tribune

Slumping oil prices aren’t just hurting oil and gas companies. Many landowners see the effects when they visit their mailbox, reports The Texas Tribune. The energy downturn is eating into the monthly checks royalty owners receive for oil production on their property. However, while it’s little comfort, the slowing income can also mean their tax bills will plummet.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

As fracking activity in Oklahoma proliferated, the frequency of earthquakes in the state began to skyrocket. And as the quakes increased, so did the tension between federal and state researchers about the causes of the rumbling. So StateImpact Oklahoma decided to take a closer look at that feud. What they found was unsettling, though perhaps unsurprising to many. As earthquake activity spiked, federal scientists with the U.S.

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Following Texas’s lead, Colorado’s Supreme Court has ruled that local municipalities in the state are not allowed to ban fracking, according to The Wall Street Journal. Cities like Fort Collins and Longmont had previously sought to halt the controversial drilling technique. But now the state’s high court has deemed those local laws “invalid and unenforceable.”

Eric Kounce / Wikimedia Commons

For the first time in 12 years, Texas job creation has been lagging behind the rest of the nation. The numbers come from a new study by the Austin non-profit Texas Taxpayers and Research Association. “The ‘Texas Miracle,’ as our state’s nation-leading economic engine has been dubbed, is currently on ice,” said Dale Craymer, the author of the report.

Ibraheem Al Omari / Reuters

Oil prices are set to plunge again, reports quartz.com. Oil producers gathered in Doha this weekend in an attempt to freeze production in the glutted crude oil market. With the news of the proposed production freeze, oil prices had recently soared by more than 30%. But the various oil interests failed to reach an agreement.

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As the oil recession continues, some are beginning to wonder if this setback could turn into a full-fledged oil bust like the one that deeply wounded many Texas small-town economies. Communities across the western part of the Lone Star State are seeing businesses shutter as jobs are cut and production is slashed. As the Texas Observer reports, towns in the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford and Barnett shale regions are seeing unemployment rates rise.

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The number of rigs actively drilling for oil in the US dipped by another 10 this week, reports fuelfix.com—and the biggest losses came from the Lone Star State. That includes four rigs lost in the Granite Wash shale play of the Texas Panhandle. This leaves only four active rigs in the entire shale region.

Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman

The revolving door appears to be oiled up and turning smoothly in Texas. When the Texas Railroad Commission was searching for a new director to keep an eye on the oil industry, last year, they selected a former oil and gas executive. And when the Commission needed a new chief lawyer, they turned to the former legal counsel for a coal company.

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There has been an increase in natural gas pipeline explosions in recent years across the US. For example, a 2010 explosion in San Bruno, California, killed eight people. In response to the problem, the U.S. Department of Transportation has expanded federal safety standards for pipelines, reports The Rural Blog.

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Officials in Oklahoma are now using advanced technology in an attempt to get ahead of the spate of earthquakes caused by fracking and wastewater disposal by oil and gas companies. The technology is much needed, as the third largest earthquake in state history was recorded last month.

New seismic sensors have now been put in place to locate and determine the size of the nearest fault line to the big quake’s location in Fairview, reports KFOR. The Oklahoma Geological Survey has also installed a broadband seismometer, an instrument that locates earthquake sources.

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Oil prices appear to have hit their low point. No, really, this is it, says Quartz.com. The new head of the International Energy Agency told a seminar in Oslo recently that “Oil prices appear to have bottomed out.” Neil Atkinson added that “Prices are expected to grow throughout 2016 and into 2017, reflecting expectations that the market is going back into balance in 2017.” And Atkinson may be right.  US benchmark crude West Texas Intermediate is currently up 31% from its February low.

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Many of Oklahoma’s energy companies released earnings reports last week. And the state’s economic predicament continues to grow more and more bleak, reports member station KGOU. 

Jennifer Boomer / The Wall Street Journal

Falling energy prices are deepening the pain felt in West Texas, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. In an examination of the economic effects in the Permian Basin, the Journal noted that there is downward pressure on wages as job applicants swell. Meanwhile, prices on everything from hotel rooms to tacos are falling, and late payments on small business loans are increasing.

American Energy Partners Limited

Oklahoma saw a tragic twist to an ignominious story last week. Legendary Oklahoma oil and gas pioneer Aubrey McClendon died following a traffic crash in Oklahoma City. As StateImpact Oklahoma reports, the crash came a day after McClendon was indicted for masterminding a conspiracy to rig the bidding process for oil and gas leases in northwest Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas has fallen to $1.71. In Oklahoma, the prices could soon dip below a dollar. The state hasn’t seen average gasoline prices this low in 15 years.

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The Sierra Club has filed a federal lawsuit against three Oklahoma energy companies, reports StateImpact Oklahoma. The lawsuit accuses the companies of operating wastewater injection wells that contributed to the massive spike in earthquakes in the state. The three oil companies facing the accusations are Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy and New Dominion.

Mose Buchele / KUT news

Since the birth of Texas cattle rustlers have been a scourge in the state. But now, reports KUT, the slumping oil market has given rise to a new kind of criminal in South Texas: oil rustlers. Thieves have been sneaking into well sites and stealing the crude oil, and it’s becoming a big problem.

Tommaso Galli / Flickr Creative Commons

As the price of oil continues to drop, Politico asked a number of experts what the hidden consequences of the crash would be. Their answers varied.

John McLaughlin of Johns Hopkins University said every indication is that prices will not go up markedly. They may even drop further.

Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group says Middle East political structures are brittle and based on oil wealth. He asked, what keeps these countries together when the oil money runs out?

Yahoo News

Oil has become incredibly plentiful and cheap recently. So cheap, in fact, that at least one company has suggested that buyers should be paid to take a certain type of low-quality crude. The company is owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

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