Daily Reports

News From The Oil Patch 3/24/2015

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The Kansas Corporation Commission last week issued new rules to reduce the amount of wastewater injected into disposal wells in Sumner and Harper counties in Kansas.  The commission and the Kansas Geological Survey are looking at Class-II disposal wells as a likely cause of an increase in the number of earthquakes in the area. We reported that, based on the latest data available (2013), only three wells and one operator would be affected by the new limits, which start at 16,000 barrels per day this week, and drop to 8,000 barrels per day by this summer.  But there are other new rules contained in the order.  And officials say there was a dramatic increase in the amount of water injected in that area in 2014. Amy Gilbert of the KCC staff tells us that from now on, no wells in Sumner or Harper County will be allowed to inject water into the Arbuckle formation in excess of 25,000 barrels per day.  Ms Gilbert says that portion of the commission's order will affect 22 wells in the two counties.  The KCC will no longer issue new permits for large-volume Arbuckle injection wells located in Harper or Sumner County.  We expect to receive the complete reports on injection wells from 2014 in about three weeks, and we will report back at that time.  You can find the order on the commission's Web site at http://kcc.ks.gov under the heading "What's New")
 
The number of stacked drilling rigs in Kansas is on the increase, but slowly.  A year ago there were 76 rigs listed as stacked or idle.  On January 16th, there were 89.  Today Independent Oil & Gas reports that number is 113.  Independent listed 54 active rigs statewide last week, with 15 in the eastern half of the state, up one, and 39 in western Kansas, down two.  
 
The national rig count from Baker Hughes was 1,069 active drilling rigs, down 56 for the week.  In Canada there were 140 active rigs, down 80 from last week.  
 
A report from earlier this month on oil supplies at the Cushing tank farm is raising an alarm in some quarters amid speculation that prices could drop further as the nation's storage tanks fill up.  The amount of oil stored at Cushing has soared 69% so far this year as domestic production reached its highest level in thirty years.  The Energy Information Administration said Cushing stockpiles rose 2.87 million barrels in the week ending March 14 to 54.4 million barrels total.  That's the highest level since EIA began tracking inventories in 2004.
 
The Obama Administration unveiled the nation's first major federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing on federal public lands.  The rules would cover about 100,000 wells, but does not change the rules on private property, where the vast majority of fracking is done.  When they go into effect in 90 days, federal workers will inspect the cement barriers that line the well bore, and require companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in fracturing.  They will also set new safety standards for how companies can store used fracking chemicals and submit detailed information on well geology to the government.
 
Independent Oil & Gas Service reports 105 new well completions last week, for a year-to-date total of 1,251.  There were 68 completions in eastern Kansas.  West of Wichita, there were 37 completions reported, including 12 dry holes. There were two completions in Barton County, one in Ellis County and one in Stafford County.
 
There were just 77 drilling permits issued last week for new locations across Kansas, 58 in eastern Kansas, and 19 west of Wichita, including one in Barton County, three in Ellis County and two in Stafford County.
 
According to the government, some, but not all of the nation's largest oil plays are showing declines in production.  The Eagle Ford Shale in south Texas showed the largest decline, down 10,000 barrels a day in February.  The Dallas Business Journal reports average well data showing new wells going into production are expected to pump about 20 barrels more per well.  The Bakken Shale in North Dakota and Montana is down 8,000 barrels per day, but new wells are producing 15 barrels per day more in the Bakken.  In the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico, production is growing by about 21,000 barrels per day.  Average production per well is up 38 barrels per day.
 
The downturn in oil prices is having a dramatic impact on another job sector in the patch, at least in Texas.  Bloomberg reports land managers, or "land men" in the Lone Star State are "taking pay cuts, working part time, or being laid off.  According to a recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, as many as 140,000 oil-patch jobs in Texas are at risk.  A report from the Federal Reserve in Kansas City indicates that the energy sector in Oklahoma,  will likely take a big hit in the months to come as well.  For the entire Midwest region, a survey of employers showed that many of them expect either a slight decline or slight growth in employment, but about one fourth anticipated significant job cuts this year.
 
Oklahoma, the fifth-largest oil-producing state, has frozen state hiring and salaries and is considering tapping fiscal reserves to address shortfalls caused by the free fall in crude oil prices.  Revenue projections dwindled by more than $300 million from December to February.  That's expected to more than double the state's expected budget deficit to $611 million.  Lawmakers must plug that budget gap by July 1.
 
The vice chairman of China's biggest state-owned oil producer, PetroChina Ltd., is under investigation by the ruling Communist Party amid an anti-graft probe of the company for possible "serious violations of the law." A company statement said he was suspected of what the party calls "violating discipline," a term for corruption.  PetroChina has been a focus of an anti-corruption campaign led by the Chinese President. 
 
Brazilian prosecutors have charged the treasurer of the ruling Workers Party with corruption in connection to a sprawling graft scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras.  Workers' Party Treasurer Joao Vaccari Neto was accused of disguising over $1.2 million in bribes as campaign contributions between 2008 and 2010.  Over 100 people are facing charges in what's being called the biggest corruption scheme ever in Brazil.

News From The Oil Patch 3/16/2015

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After rising for 40 days in a row, Triple A says the national average price for regular unleaded gasoline has now fallen for nine straight days to Monday’s average of $2.42 per gallon.  That's down a half cent on the day, and nearly $1.10 lower than last year at this time.  The average in Kansas is $2.336.  Prices are down to $2.19 across Great Bend, and Hays is holding steady at $2.25/gallon.
 
Another big drop in a key oil & gas production barometer.  Baker Hughes reports just 1,125 active drilling rigs nationwide, down 67 rigs from last week.  In Canada, the count dropped 80 rigs at 200. Fourteen rigs were reported actively drilling for oil and gas in Kansas.  The broad count from Independent Oil & Gas Service was 55 rigs, 14 east of Wichita, down 2, and 41 in western Kansas, down three.  48 rigs are listed as pending their next location, and 113 rigs were stacked or idle, up from 76 a week ago.
 
There were just 69 drilling permits issued for new locations across Kansas last week, for a year-to-date total of 510.  There were 46 new permits east of Wichita and 23 in western Kansas, including one each in Ellis and Stafford counties.
 
There were just 201 new drilling permits filed across the state in the month of February.  By the end of February last year there were more than double that number at 943.  There were 90 new permits filed in eastern Kansas and 111 west of Wichita including seven in Barton County, one in Ellis County and five in Stafford County.
 
Independent Oil & Gas Service reports 123 well-completions across Kansas last week, 1,146 so far this year.  There were 67 new comple6tionsw in eastern Kansas, and 56 west of Wichita, which included 14 dry holes, and eight completions in Barton County, two in Ellis County, one in Russell County and one in Stafford County.
 
There were 502 well completions in Kansas last month, up from last month but more than 200 lower than a year ago.  The 267 completions in western Kansas last month included 62 dry holes.  There were 18 wells completed in Barton County last month, 12 in Ellis County, seven in Russell County and five in Stafford County. 
 
The United Steelworkers union reached an agreement with Shell that was expected to lead to the end of a six-week strike that has affected 12 U.S. refineries. Union workers were expected to return to work as their local chapters reach agreements with individual refineries.
 
Legislation that prohibits cities and other local governments from regulating oil and natural gas drilling operations has been approved by Oklahoma lawmakers in both chambers. Both measures give exclusive regulatory authority to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.  Lawmakers still need to reconcile the two bills, and they're still trying to figure out if local governments should have such authority near rural homes.
 
Dune Energy Inc., a Houston-based oil and gas explorer with operations in Texas and Louisiana, sought bankruptcy protection following a failed merger, making the company the latest victim of falling oil prices. The Chapter 11 filing was triggered by a sharp drop in revenue and a deal to merge with competitor Eos Petro Inc. that fell through, according to court filings Monday in Austin, Texas. Eos backed out of the deal on March 4, Dune said.
 
At a legislative committee hearing in Texas, all three of the state's top oil & gas regulators said they favor a resolution urging Congress to lift the ban on US oil exports.  Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick called the ban a "threat to future production."   Commissioner Ryan Sitton testified that oil wells in Texas produce light sweet crude, which is in high demand in Asia and Europe but not used as much in the US, although he did say at least one refinery is refitting to accept the lighter domestic crude.
 
Brazilian police began serving a new round of 18 arrest warrants in the corruption scandal at Petrobras.  Federal police fanned out across Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to arrest suspects in the ten-year run of kickbacks and political payoffs that has cost Brazil some $3.8 billion.  On Sunday, an estimated 1.5 million people took to the streets across the country to protest the corruption.  Many called for the impeachment of the Brazilian president.
 
An actor who grew up in Wichita, who moved to California to become famous for a series about Miami is now set to play the lead in a series about North Dakota.  Don Johnson has locked down and will be executive producer of the ABC Signature Studios series "Boom," about the Bakken shale discovery.  Set in a modern-day "Wild West," the potential series tracks the pilgrimage of a young, ambitious couple, seeking a better life, to the oilfields of the Bakken, where they come across roughnecks, grifters, oil barons, criminals and fellow prospectors. Johnson will play Hap, described as a smart, tough, patriarchal figure in a small town in the North Dakota oil patch.

News From The Oil Patch 3/9/2015

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The closely watched rotary rig count from Baker Hughes dropped by nearly six percent, down 75 to 1,192 rigs actively drilling in the United States.  The count in Canada was off 30 rigs at 300.  The company's count in Kansas was down two at 15 rigs. Independent Oil & Gas Service reports 60 active rigs across Kansas last week, down from 119 a year ago.  There were 16 east of Wichita, up one, and 44 in western Kansas, down seven rigs.  
 
Intent to drill notices filed with the Kansas Corporation Commission so far this year have fallen by more than half compared to last year. There were just 209 intents filed in January, compared to 459 a year earlier, and 201 in February, down from 489 in February of last year. Over the last 90 days there have been just 21 intents filed in Barton County, six in Ellis County, 7 in Russell County, and 15 in Stafford County.
 
There were just 78 permits issued last week to drill wells in new locations in Kansas, for a year-to-date total of 441.  Independent Oil & Gas reports 51 new permits east of Wichita, and just 25 west of Wichita, including three new permits in Barton County, one in Russell County and two in Stafford County.
 
Producers completed 115 wells last week, or 1,023 so far this year across the state.  There were 76 completions in eastern Kansas.  Of 39 completions west of Wichita, eight were dry holes.
 
It appears U.S. refiners and striking union steelworkers are digging in for a protracted battle that could last through the spring.  The two sides were expected to resume bargaining on Monday. Some refinery operators say they are training replacement employees to take over for union workers at their plants.  Royal Dutch Shell PLC said that by midsummer its Texas fuel-making plant southeast of Houston will be operating at normal staff levels with newly trained employees who aren't affiliated with the United Steelworkers.
 
Only half the oil tankers booked two months ago to hold crude oil at sea are still earmarked for storage. The rally in prices prompted trading companies to sell off their oil stored at sea.  At least 12 vessels are currently booked for floating storage, mainly Very Large Crude Carriers each capable of carrying 2 million barrels of oil.   That's around 25 million barrels of crude, down from around 50 million barrels in the first few weeks of this year. 
 
The U.S. Senate failed to override President Barack Obama’s veto of a bill forcing approval of the Keystone pipeline expansion.  Supporters fell short of the two-thirds super majority needed to overcome the veto by Obama, who said the bill circumvented his administration’s review. The vote was 62-37.
 
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requires drillers to calculate the value of their oil reserves every year using average prices from the first trading days in each of the previous 12 months. Bloomberg points out that because oil prices didn’t start their freefall until late November, companies in their latest regulatory filings used $95 a barrel to figure out how much their produceable oil was worth.  We can expect a lot of corporate writedowns when their first-quarter numbers are announced next month.  The SEC introduced first-trading-day-of-every-month calculation in 2009 as part of wider changes in how the regulator required drillers to report reserves. Prior to the shift, the value of the reserves was measured based on the oil price on the last day of the year, which also caused distortions.
 
Oil prices in February remained below the legal trigger for a 2nd month in a row, so the clock is still ticking on on a huge tax break for the North Dakota oil industry.  The state waives its 6.5 percent oil extraction tax if the monthly benchmark price falls below an inflation-adjusted limit for five consecutive months.  If the price remains low, that translates to a $5 billion plus tax incentive in May.

News From The Oil Patch 3/2/2015

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The US drilling rig count from Baker Hughes was down for the 11th consecutive week, dropping another 43 rigs Friday at 1,267.  The count in Canada was down 30 to 330 rigs.  In Kansas there were 17 rigs actively drilling, down one.  The broader count from Independent Oil & Gas Service was higher, totalling 65 rigs, 14 east of Wichita, up one, and 51 in western Kansas up three for the week.
 
The weekly drilling permit numbers reflect an industry in retreat.  Independent Oil & Gas Service reports 33 permits for new locations across Kansas last week.  The year to date figure is 363 new permits, compared to 943 at this time last year.
 
Producers in western Kansas finished 20 dry holes out of 107 total well completions last week.  There were 76 completions east of Wichita.  The 183 completions statewide bring the total this year to 908 completed wells.
 
SandRidge Energy quarterly earnings came up 25% short of last year at $346.9 million.  The company report noted details from its Mid-Continent operations in the Mississippian Lime formation of Kansas and Oklahoma.  During the fourth quarter, 121 lateral wells in our area had an average 3-day Initial Production of 378 barrels of oil equivalent per day.  Total Mid-Continent production was over 76 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day.  The company had revenue of $346.9 million for the quarter, down more than 25% from the same quarter last year.
 
President Barack Obama vetoed a bill authorizing the Keystone Pipeline expansion.  An override vote was expected March 5 in the Senate.  The operator of the Pipeline says it will wait out a pair of lawsuits before continuing efforts to force Nebraska landowners to agree to the project.   TransCanada is not opposing court efforts to halt eminent domain proceedings until the landowner lawsuits are resolved.
 
A House committee began its investigation into the State Department's environmental impact statement for the Keystone expansion.  Committee leaders are demanding copies of comments received from other federal departments in what appeared to be the closing actions of the Department of State on the assessment. 
 
The State of Ohio's interest in stopping local fracking bans comes into focus in a report from the state's Department of Natural Resources.  Ohio's natural gas production has tripled in one year. Ohio oil production doubled to more than 3.5 million barrels last year.  That shakes out to about $350,000 in severance tax revenue.
 
North Dakota has signed off on a $1.1 billion program designed to buck up the state’s infrastructure needs as it adjusts to changing times. The state has that $1.1 billion in surplus in the bank. The state also has amassed $2.4 billion in its Legacy Fund, a rainy-day account that cannot be touched until 2017.  The state’s two-year budget has been adjusted downward by $4 billion as oil and gas companies scale back extraction projects and lay off workers. 
 
It is getting cheaper to rent an apartment in North Dakota’s oil patch.  According to Reuters, home rentals in the state have slipped between 15 and 20% in the last two months as producers cut spending and the state continues to build new apartment buildings.  There are still about 1,800 energy-related jobs unfilled in the No. 2 U.S. oil-producing state, and there is still demand for apartments. But the accommodation shortage is nothing like it was when the state’s oil boom began six years ago. 
 
Despite the slump in the oil patch, the North Dakota Census Office expects the state's population to grow by more than 60,000 residents in the next five years.  The Bismark Tribune reports that's only slightly lower than the pre-slump predictions.   
 
The Sinopec Group has denied Wall Street Journal reports of plans of a merger with either of two other state-owned oil firms.  The country is working on strucural reform of its oil and gas industry which is expected to have significant impact on the current system.in the next five years.  The Bismark Tribune reports that's only slightly lower than the pre-slump predictions.  
 
A Houston pipeline company that found a way around the decades-old legal ban on exporting U.S. oil is now the subject of a government investigation, after companies including BP complained that Enterprise Products Partners is trying dominate the export business and muscle out competitors. The Wall Street Journal reports the probe stems from Enterprise’s purchase last fall of rival pipeline and logistics firm, Oiltanking Partners. The $5.9 billion deal gave Enterprise control of the single largest oil-storage operator on the Gulf Coast.  Users complain that Enterprise has started charging a per-barrel loading fee that raises the costs of their exports compared with Enterprise’s own shipments.

News From The Oil Patch 2/23/2015

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The nationwide strike by steelworkers at refineries and chemical plants expanded over the weekend in a labor dispute that could bump up the price of gasoline.  The United Steelworkers union said Saturday that 1,350 workers at the largest refinery in the U.S. in Port Arthur, Texas, started their strike at midnight Friday. Employees at two other refineries and a chemical plant in Louisiana walked off the job on Saturday.  The strike began with about 3,800 workers mostly in Texas and California, and later grew to include Ohio and Indiana refineries.  United Steelworkers represents about 30,000 workers at refineries, terminals, petrochemical plants and pipelines across the country. 
 
The storage tanks at Cushing, Oklahoma are still seeing a gusher of new crude, as much as 2.2 million barrels per week.  The Daily Oklahoman reports producers are rapidly filling the facilities there to more than half capacity, even as the price of oil has plummeted.  The government says there were 46.3 million barrels of crude being stored at Cushing as of February 13th, worth almost $2.4 billion at today's prices.  In today's contango market, oil for delivery in March of next year is going for more than nine dollars more per barrel than the near month contract.  That tends to increase storage.  Spring-maintenance shutdowns at US refineries are adding to the increases at Cushing. That factor should turn around when those refineries reopen in a month or so.
 
Baker Hughes reports another big drop in rig counts nationwide.  There were 1,310 active drilling rigs across the US, down 48.  Canada had 360, down 22 rigs, and Kansas had 18, unchanged.  The broad count from Independent Oil & Gas was 61, with 13 in eastern Kansas, unchanged, and 48 west of Wichita, up three for the week.
 
By the end of February last year we had 943 new drilling permits filed statewide, compared to the 330 so far this year.  There were 64 drilling permits for new locations across Kansas last week, 31 in eastern Kansas and 33 west of Wichita, including one in Barton County, three in Ellis County and one in Stafford County.  
 
Independent Oil and Gas Service reports 90 newly completed oil and gas wells across Kansas last week.  That's 725 completions so far this year. There were 64 completions in eastern Kansas. There were 26 completions west of Wichita including one in Barton County and eight total dry holes completed.
 
The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned local municipalities' fracking bans.  The ruling left the power to regulate “all aspects” of oil and gas drilling to the state.  Munroe Falls, Ohio tried to use home rule powers to block a state-granted drilling permit, but the high court struck down the ban in a 4-to-3 decision.  Three other Ohio cities, Athens, Oberlin and Mansfield, passed similar ordinances, which are now unenforceable.
 
The Canadian government plans to create a special fund to pay for damages and cleanup in rail disasters, supported by levies on shipping crude oil.  The plan is part of a bill aiming to boost rail safety.  Canada will (also) boost the minimum insurance for railways hauling oil to cover major disasters.
 
Brazil's attorney general's office says the government will seek $1.55 billion from six construction and engineering companies for their alleged involvement in a massive kickback scheme at state-run oil firm Petrobras.  The amount includes $111 million in compensation for public money that prosecutors say was stolen from Petrobras, plus $333 million in fines and $1.11 billion in punitive damages.  Prosecutors allege the firms paid bribes for more than a decade to executives in exchange for winning inflated contracts with the oil firm.  The action Friday is the latest aggressive step by prosecutors who say they've uncovered the biggest yet known corruption scheme in Brazil.

News From The Oil Patch 2/16/2015

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The head of the Federal Reserve in Dallas told a gathering in New York that Saudi Arabia is largely responsible for the dramatic fall in oil and gas prices in recent months.  In fact, Richard Fisher says "the Saudis have engineered" the oil crisis. Fisher is the most prominent U.S. official to pin the blame largely on Saudi Arabia.  The Saudis have denied being responsible, but noted that it is US shale producers who are taking the heat for the price meltdown.
 
Bloomberg reports oil producers outside OPEC and the US shale fields are getting caught in the crossfire of the current price war.  According to analysts, high-cost regions from aging North Sea fields, to untapped resources in eastern Siberia and deep-water projects off Latin America will suffer the most from the clash.  Citigroup's head of European energy research sayd "probably the biggest impact on supply is going to come from” maintenance reductions in other parts of the world.  
 
The US oil boom is now slowing down in response to low prices.   The Wall Street Journal reported producers drilled 28% fewer oil wells in January across the continental U.S. than they did last June.  But those wells are only producing 8.5% less than the June plays.  
 
Baker Hughes reports another huge drop in the number of rigs actively drilling for oil and gas.  The weekly count was 1,358 Friday, down 98 rigs from the week before.  The count in Canada was up one at 382.  In Kansas the count was unchanged at 18. The broader count from Independent Oil & Gas Service was also lower.  There were 58 active rigs statewide, 13 east of Wichita, down three, and 45 in western Kansas, up one.  Across Kansas there are 47 drilling rigs listed as pending their next location assignment.
 
More bad news on rig counts comes from a major player in Kansas.  SandRidge Energy plans to slash its rig count in Oklahoma and Kansas by nearly 75 percent in what is arguably the most significant pullback in well drilling by a publicly traded shale oil company since crude prices started to slide.   According to a document obtained by Reuters, SandRidge plans to cut the number of rigs drilling in the Mississippian Lime formation in March and early April to eight, from 28. The company had 30 active rigs in November.  The document makes no mention of rigs in West Texas, where the company also has acreage. It laid off 25 workers in West Texas in January, state data shows.
 
According to Goldman Sachs, the sharp drop in U.S. oil rig counts has helped lift crude prices but it won't slow production or alleviate oversupply.  In a note Tuesday the firm said the decline rig-count decline remains well short of the level required to slow US shale oil production to levels consistent with a balanced global market.
 
The Moody's Investor Service says lower oil prices will be sustained throughout 2015, but the company said that will not translate to global growth. Moody's global growth outlook predicts just 3% growth this year and next for the G-20 nations, based on an average price for Brent crude of $55/bbl.
 
There were 41 permits issued at new locations across Kansas last week, 266 so far this year. There were 19 new permits east of Wichita, and 22 in western Kansas, including one each in Stafford and Barton counties.  For the month of January there were 209 new permits, 91 in eastern Kansas and 118 west of Wichita, including 12 in Barton County, two in Ellis County, two in Russell County and one in Stafford County.
 
Independent Oil & Gas Service reports just 47 new well completions statewide, 635 so far this year, including 21 in eastern Kansas and 26 west of Wichita.  There were 406 new well completions across the state in January including one each in Barton and Russell counties.
 
Officials recognized and named fourteen new oil and gas fields in Kansas at a meeting of the nomenclature committee February 10th, bringing the total for this year to 143, 24 less than the same period last year.  There was one new field in Barton County, named the Clarence West field.  FB Holl is the operator.  Also in Barton County, the Boyd Field is listed as a new infield discovery, and the Wondra Field now boasts a new pay source. 
 
Texas Congressman Joe Barton and others introduced a bill that would remove nearly 50-year-old restrictions on the export of crude oil.  House Resolution 702 would remove those restrictions. Producers are already exporting ultra-light crude, or "condensate."
 
The world's largest energy drilling services firm announced at least 5,000 layoffs in response to the falling price of crude oil.  Halliburton will lay off up to 8 percent of its staff in all areas of operations. Officials say the move is not related to its pending acquisition of competitor Baker Hughes. Another competitor Schlumberger will eliminate 9,000 jobs in response to falling oil prices.  The number of job cuts in the energy industry worldwide is now over 100,000 according to Bloomberg, quoting an international staffing firm.  
 
A lawsuit filed in 2013 by a Louisiana flood board that sought billions in damages from scores of oil, gas and pipeline companies was thrown out Friday evening by a federal judge.  The plaintiffs say this is not going to be the last word.  The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority claimed coastal drilling and dredging activities contributed to the loss of a natural hurricane protection buffer for New Orleans.
 
The Tulsa World newspaper series on Oklahoma's earthquake swarm is critical of state officials. According to the reporting of Ziva Branstetter and Curtis Killman, the Oklahoma Geological Survey has not issued final studies on the quakes, and has shelved a plan for public comment on best practices, because of pressure from the energy industry.  The newspaper reports at least five insurance carriers are now excluding from their policies earthquakes triggered by oil patch practices.  The majority of the claims filed for earthquake damage last year have not been paid. The newspaper also quoted a research geophysicist for the US Geological Survey who said the increased seismicity in Oklahoma and Texas is related to recent changes in the way oil and gas are being produced.
 
A judge in Nebraska halted the condemnation of private land for the Keystone Pipeline expansion as legal challenges by landowners make their way through the courts.  Lawyers for TransCanada agreed to the injunction issued Thursday in hopes of getting an accelerated trial schedule.  Nearly 70 landowners hope to block TransCanada from using eminent domain to secure right-of-way for the controversial oil pipeline.  Holt County District Judge Mark Kozisek ordered a stop to land acquisition until the landowners’ lawsuit is resolved.
 
In North Dakota, producers set another record for crude-oil production even as the rig counts continue dropping.  The state produced 1.23 million barrels per day in December, beating the November record of 1.19 million barrels per day. The drilling rig count dropped from 188 in November to 181 in December, according to the state's Mineral Resources Department.