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News From The Oil Patch 3/18/2014

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Under an agreement reached the EPA, BP can once again do business with the government.  The company has been suspended since November 2012, after BP agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges in the Gulf Oil Spill.  This means BP will be allowed to bid and drill on offshore oil leases.  The government is set to offer more than 40 million offshore acres for oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of Mexico in March lease sales later this month.
 
Shell had some dire news for investors Thursday. The Anglo-Dutch oil giant says it plans to cut spending by about 20% at its American exploration and production arm and cut 30% of its workforce here, or aboutfour hundred employees.  The company blames their precarious footing on losses in shale plays.  Shell recently pulled out of its massive stake in the Mississippian Lime play in Kansas.
 
In Brazil, the government now says it plans to open a criminal probe into a bribery scandal.  The investigation will center on the activities of SBM, an offshore contractor.
 
Yet another earthquake was reported in southern Kansas, the second in a week.  The U.S. Geological Survey says the 4.0 temblor happened at 3:46 a.m. March 16, and was centered eight miles east-northeast of Anthony in Harper County.  It was at least the second earthquake in a week in the area. On March 12, a quake rated 3.4 on the Richter scale was recorded 14 miles east-northeast of Anthony.
 
What little science there is so far continues to point the finger at underground disposal of wastewater rather than fracking as the cause of a dramatic increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma and southern Kansas.  The United States Geological Survey study showed that a quake near Prague, Oklanoma last November, already believed to be caused by wastewater injection, likely caused thousands of aftershocks.
 
FormCap, the Nevada-based company announced is has completed the purchase of 2,400 acres in Cowley County for $480,000.  The company said it would work with partners Kerr Energy Group and Keta Oil & Gas to determine drill sites.
 
The Stateline news agency reports on the growing conflicts between three industries in North Dakota, as both farmers and oil producers compete for rail service.  Both the energy sector and the agricultural industry set production records in North Dakota, and in an image familiar to many Kansans, elevator operators are piling their bumper crops on the ground, even as grain farmers prepare to plant for this year.
 
A state health official says it could have been much worse, but an oil company will likely be fined or otherwise sanctioned for an oil well that was swamped by floodwaters and leaked into the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers in North Dakota. The well, operated by Colorado-based Zavanna LLC, spilled about 1,400 gallons of crude, which has been contained.  No oil has been found in the main channel of the Missouri downstream of the spill, and no other wells leaked during the flood southwest of Williston.
 
Adams County, Colorado commissioners voted to approve construction of a parallel pipeline to double the capacity of the White Cliffs Pipeline to move crude oil from Colorado to Cushing.  The 527 mile twin pipelines together will move about 150,000 barrels per day.

News From The Oil Patch 3/11/2014

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The government has finalized rules for cleaner gasoline in the US.  The EPA says the new standards will reduce emissions of a number of different pollutants.  Critics, notably the American Petroleum Institute, say the standards won't improve air quality, will add up to nine cents to the cost of a gallon of gas, and increase CO2 emissions at refineries.
 
What little science there is so far continues to point the finger at underground disposal of wastewater rather than fracking as the cause of a dramatic increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma and southern Kansas.  A United States Geological Survey study showed that a quake near Prague, Oklanoma last November, already believed to be caused by wastewater injection, likely caused thousands of aftershocks.
 
A state securities regulator has ordered an exploration and production company to stop accepting bitcoins as payment for investments in its Texas oil wells.  Texas Securities Commissioner John Morgan entered an emergency order on Monday against Balanced Energy LLC, which claimed it was the first energy company to accept Bitcoins.  Unlike conventional money, Bitcoins are bought and sold on a peer-to-peer network that lacks central control. But Morgan says the price of digital currency is subject to extreme swings, which could affect the amount of money available for business operations.
 
Oil traders are facing what Reuters calls a confounding political landscape in Washington.  While energy policy has typically moved at a steady pace for much of the past few decades, Washington is now grappling with a host of pressing questions that will affect oil prices: easing a crude oil export ban that could raise domestic crude prices; adjusting ethanol quotas in order to curb gasoline rates and imposing new rules on tank car safety that could slow the nascent oil-rail boom.  Greg Armstrong of Plains All American Pipeline told reporters that, if given the choice, he's rather predict the weather.
 
The oil boom in the Eagle Ford Shale of Texas is driving yet another boom: mothballed refineries that were closed by Gulf Coast competition and cheap international crude oil.  The New York Times labels this "a cautious refining revival."
 
A federal appeals court says BP must abide by terms of a $9.2 billion settlement with victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill after failing to satisfy judges that a claims administrator is misinterpreting the deal.  The company must resume paying millions of dollars in business-loss claims that were temporarily halted in December while the company fought to block payments not directly linked to the spill.  U.S. Circuit Judge Leslie Southwick wrote in the panel’s 2-1 ruling that in light of reading the settlement agreement, that it does not require a claimant to submit evidence that the claim arose as a result of the oil spill.
 
A federal judge has blocked US courts from being used to collect a US$9 billion ($10.7 billion) Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron for rainforest damage, saying lawyers poisoned an honorable quest with their illegal and wrongful conduct.  Judge Lewis Kaplan said Justice is not served by inflicting injustice, and the ends do not justify the means.  The judge said it was a sad outcome to have to rule that the Ecuadorian court judgment "was obtained by corrupt means," because it will mean it will likely never be known whether there was a case to be made.  Chevron called it a victory for the company and its stockholders.
 
More calls to regulate oil by rail out of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, this time from lawmakers in neighboring Minnesota and the Governor of New York.  State Representative Frank Hornstein says most of the shipments travel through Minnesota.  He plans to release a bill to improve the state's ability to prepare for and fight oil disasters. But the Forum News Service says no decision has been made about how to fund those actions.
 
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling on high-ranking federal officials to beef up safety standards for trains that carry crude oil from North Dakota and Canada.  The governor cited two oil train derailments that occurred in upstate New York in February that involved neither injuries nor spilled oil.  
 
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on Monday sent a letter to the Secretary of State urging the State Department to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline in order to boost American energy independence and create jobs.  The first leg of Keystone already crosses Missouri.  In the letter, Nixon said that "...with the proper oversight and safeguards, these projects can help meet our energy needs, without compromising our responsibility to protect the environment.”
 
Far less Canadian oil sands crude reached the Gulf Coast by rail last year than the U.S. State Department had been expecting. Reuters reports the data could flavor the final stages of the Keystone XL pipeline debate.  In January, the State Department concluded that practically nothing would hamper development of the Canadian oil sands since energy companies could easily move the fuel by rail if TransCanada Corp's pipeline was rejected.
 
Exxon Mobilexpects its capital spending to fall in 2014, even as the oil company looks to start on a record 10 new projects.  Exxon anticipates starting production at 10 major projects this year, including a liquefied natural gas project in Papua New Guinea, and the largest offshore oil and gas platform in Russia.
 
SandRidge Energy is adding Sumner County to its Kansas drilling program.  CEO James Bennett tells investors that the company has 100,000 acres under lease in Sumner County.  The company announced plans to drill 100 wells in Kansas in 2014, at a cost of more about $350 million.  SandRidge is one of the few large operators who continue to produce in the Mississippian Lime Play in Kansas.  Shell, Apache, Chesapeake, and Encana have all left the state.
 
According to the February Online Job Openings Report from North Dakota’s Job Service agency, the ratio of unemployed people to job openings is .6.  That means there is less than one unemployed worker for every job opening.  That's actually up from a 0.4 ratio recorded throughout the holiday season.  The national ratio for unemployed workers to job openings was 2.9, according to the Job Service report.
 
Royal Dutch Shell on Friday said construction crew members punctured its so called Ho-Ho pipeline near in southeastern Texas on Thursday afternoon, releasing 364 barrels of crude oil.  The company said it shut the pipeline after the leak. Emergency crews and first responders were deployed to the scene and are using absorbent booms to contain the oil.
 
The company at the center of an alleged fraud that forced Citigroup to cut profits last year won billions of dollars in contracts from Mexico's state oil monopoly over the past decade, even after Mexican officials and private lawsuits raised red flags about the contractor's activities.  Oceanografia provided engineering and maintenance services on offshore oil platforms and pipelines.  The auditors urged Pemex's internal control office to examine whether Pemex officials improperly changed contracting terms at Oceanografia's request and favored the firm over competitors.

News From The Oil Patch 2/11/2014

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Carmen Schmitt of Great Bend, in association with Brito Oil Company, of Wichita, have discovered a new oil field about three miles north and nine miles west of the city of Stockton in Rooks County.  No completion details were available.'
 
No one's pointing fingers at the oil and gas industry yet, but give them time.  A magnitude 3.9 earthquake was reported early Monday centered about 11 miles northwest of Caldwell in south central Kansa.  According to the U.S. Geological Survey, since 2010, there have been 15 earthquakes within a 100-mile radius of Caldwell, which extends into Oklahoma.  Most of those were last year.  Reports indicate a slight shaking was felt as far north as Wichita.
 
Analysts tell the Houston Business Journal that some big cost cuts at Weatherford International continue a trend at other oilfuekd-service companies.  Weatherford noted last week it's cutting 7-thousand employees and plans between three and five billion dollars in divestitures by 2015.
 
TransCanada says they now have a waiting list of US producers hoping to connect to the Keystone Pipeline expansion.  The State Department removed a key hurdle to approval of the expansion last week.  The company says it has renegotiated contracts announced in 2011 for use of the so-called Bakken Marketlink, which would join the Bakken production to the expanded pipeline.  The $140 million project, designed to carry 100,000 barrels of crude daily from the rich Bakken and Three Forks formations, would meet with the Keystone XL in Baker, Mont.
 
Energy analysts say dropping long-term oil futures prices may intensify calls to ease the US oil export ban.  The Nymex contract for December of 2016 has dropped to $79.45/bbl, the lowest since 2009.
 
Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says he believes the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada should be built.  Salazar said at an energy conference in Houston Wednesday that the pipeline could be built safely.  But he says some conditions should be imposed including tough environmental standards and even conservation programs along the pipeline route.
 
Japan this week became the first of Iran's oil buyers to make a payment for crude imports under the interim deal to ease sanctions over Irans nuclear program.  Tokyo's role may be a boon for Japanese firms jostling for position with international rivals to invest in Iran's oil and gas sector, should a further agreement end Tehran's international isolation.
 
The U.S. government has authorized limited re-exports of foreign crude to Europe, for the first time in years.  Reuters reports the Department of Commerce granted two licenses to export to the UK, another two to Italy, and a fifth still awaits a final decision.  The Bureau of Industry and Security says the permits only covered re-export of foreign oil and not domestically produced crude oil. He did not say where the oil would come from.

News From The Oil Patch 12/24/2013

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Russia has dropped the criminal case against a British man who was one of 30 people charged over a Greenpeace protest against Russian oil exploration in the Arctic.  The move, part of a Kremlin-backed amnesty, could pave the way for the release of 29 other activists.
 
New numbers from the government rank Kansas 10th highest in oil production in September.  The US Energy Information Administration says Kansas produced about 3.8 million barrels of crude oil in September (31 million barrels for the year through August).  Texas led the way with nearly 82 million barrels in September, followed by North Dakota at 27.9 million.  Then come California, Alaska, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana, Wyoming, Colorado and Kansas.
 
The third largest producer in the US has no severance tax, but there's another ballot initiative in the early stages in California to change that.  Cali currently taxes oil reserves, but does not tax extraction.  Current total local and state tax bills there amount to about $4.22 per barrel, compared to about $14.33 per barrel in Texas. A state lawmaker hopes to place a 10% severance tax on the ballot next year. 
 
Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird announced Canada’s intentions to lay claim to the North Pole.  Baird said the government is working with scientists on a future submission to the UN that argues that the outer limits of the country’s continental shelf include the pole.  The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the 18-million-square-mile region contains 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of its oil.  
 
A federal jury found former BP engineer Kurt Mix guilty of obstructing justice, for deleting text messages about the investigation of the Gulf oil spill.  The case flirted with a mistrial after the panel said they were hopelessly deadlocked on Tuesday.  The judge urged them to continue deliberations, and on Wednesday morning they found Mix guilty on one count, and not-guilty on a second count. Mix is one of four BP employees charged with crimes in connection with the disaster.
 
A majority of Mexico's state legislatures have approved the sweeping energy reform measure passed last week by the national legislature.  The move will allow private companies to work in oil and gas exploration and production.  The state-run Petroleos Mexicanos oil company has lacked the investment money and expertise to reverse a decade of falling production.  The federal Congress must still certify the states' ratification, and the president must sign it into law.
 
The Canadian government has given environmental approval to Shell’s plans to expand its Jackpine oil sands mine, saying that the potential benefits outweigh the risks.  The expansion project will increase the output of the mine north of Fort McMurray, Alberta by around 40%, up to 355,000 bbl/d. Shell has been working through the federal regulatory process for more than six years, and has already received approval from Alberta's provincial government.
 
Colorado Oil and Gas Association has filed suit against the cities of Fort Collins and Lafayette, claiming that bans on fracking for oil and gas voted in by its citizens go against state laws regulating natural resources.  COGA says the Colorado Supreme Court ruled earlier that fracking "can't be banned."  In November, Fort Collins approved a five-year moratorium on fracking within the city, while Lafayette made amendments to its city charter, making hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas illegal. The group says 95 percent of all wells in Colorado are hydraulically fractured, and thus any ban on fracking is a ban on oil and gas development.
 
A top official at North Dakota’s Mineral Resources Department said as much as 90 percent of the state’s crude will move by rail next year.  On Friday, the agency announced record oil production of almost 1 million barrels per day, more than double the level of just two years ago.  That's about five percent of total U.S. oil consumption.  Officials also hope to quell safety fears over transporting oil by rail.  Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms says they are working on a white paper "to dispel this myth that it is somehow an explosive, really dangerous thing to have traveling up and down rail lines." 
 
Canada considers re-classifying crude oil as a higher-risk dangerous good, requiring emergency response plans for shipping by rail.  This is seen as a reaction to that train accident that leveled the heart of a Quebec town in July.
 
Two provinces in western Canada have agreed on a framework for a pipeline development from Alberta's oil sands, across British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean.  The Toronto Globe and Mail reports they've agreed on several conditions set down by British Columbia, including an environmental review, extensive planning and funding for a marine oil spill response, spill-prevention efforts on land, steps to alleviate concerns of native tribes, and a big slice of the profits for British Columbia.
 
The world's largest seagoing vessel is out of dry dock in South Korea, where Shell unveiled the massive Prelude.  The floating gas plant is 1,601 feet from stem to stern, making it taller than the Empire State Building if stood on end.  The Energy company plans to tow it to a strategic location off the west coast of Australia and park it there for 25 years, converting natural gas from offshore wells to liquid form.
 
China-based Petrol Lakes Holding Limited is investing $6.5 million in the Kansas patch, via a deal with Houston-based Petro River Oil.  They will develop 115,000 net acres of oil and gas leases in Kansas, Missouri and Kentucky.  Petro River is focusing on tight oil formations on 85,000 acres in the southeast and eastern Kansas. 
 
US Senators from North Dakota are hailing passage of the Bureau of Land Management Streamlining Act, which expands a bureau field office in neighboring Montana to manage new oil and gas permits on federal lands in western North Dakota.  Republican John Hoeven said in a statement the measure will help alleviate a backlog of some 525 permit requests.

News From The Oil Patch 12/4/2013

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For the first month in nearly two decades, the U.S. in October extracted more oil from the ground than it imported from overseas.  It's an important milestone for a nation seeking desperately to wean itself off foreign oil.  Not since 1995 has the U.S produced more oil than it imported. The Obama Administration calls that a reflection of policies that promote domestic production while encourageing Americans to use less.  The administration credited new fuel standards for vehicles, beginning in 2011, as one of the prime reasons for the change.  Industry experts point to high prices making production more lucrative, as well as to reduced demand because of the weak economy.
 
A key industry statistic is heading toward record territory in the US.  Zero Hedge Dot Com reports US oil inventories in storage at 391 million barrels. That's a big jump over last year's 274 million barrels in storage.  Even accounting for year-end sales for tax reasons, the Web site says we could see anywhere from 416 million to 425 million barrels by year's end, a modern record.
 
Oil production in Texas has hit its highest monthly rate on record, more than doubling in less than three years.  According to new federal data the state pumped 2.7 million barrels of crude per day during September, the highest monthly average since at least January 1981.
 
Oil production in Oklahoma has nearly doubled since 2005, reversing three decades of declines in the state.  But at more than 300,000 barrels per day, the state's production is still well below 1980s rates of more than 450,000 barrels per day.  The Daily Oklahoman reports on the benefits on Main Street for the increased activity in the patch.  Three new hotels in Alva; a new hotel and three new RV parks in Chickasha.  Unemployment in Alfalfa County now stands at 4 percent, down from 5.7 percent in 2009.
 
North Dakota oil drillers are on pace to outdo last year's record crude production and are nearing a milestone of a million barrels of oil a day.  The state Industrial Commission says crude production in September totaled a record 931,940 barrels a day. Data show crude production through September totaled about 226 million barrels, just short of the record 243.1 million barrels produced in all of 2012.  Current drilling activity indicates the state likely surpassed last year's record sometime in October.
 
The number of people reporting seven-figure incomes in North Dakota nearly doubled last year.  AP reports average incomes rose 22% to an all-time high, boosted by the state's booming oil economy.  Tax Department figures show a record 1,126 people reported incomes of more than $1 million on their 2012 individual tax returns, up from 634 the year before.
 
Apache Corp has completely eliminated its reliance on freshwater for fracking in the South Permian region of Texas. The company is taking brackish water from the Santa Rosa aquifer, treating it, and recycling frack waste water from its wells. It costs Apache around 29 cents/barrel to treat water, but $2.50/barrel to have it trucked away for safe disposal. Considering millions of gallons are often needed to frack a single well, this is a huge cost reduction.
 
BP has been accused of hiring internet "trolls" to purposefully attack, harass, and sometimes threaten people who have been critical of how the oil giant has handled its disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  The oil firm hired the international PR company Ogilvy & Mather to run the BP America Facebook page during the oil disaster.  The page was meant to encourage interaction with BP, but when people posted comments that were critical of how BP was handling the crisis, they were often attacked, bullied, and sometimes directly threatened.
 
Chevron has long claimed fraud, and the courts of Ecuador are doing nothing to discredit that.  On Tuesday, Ecuadors highest court cut in half the landmark environmental judgment against the oil company.  That after a lower court doubled the judgment because Chevron refused to publicly apologize for the contamination, which occured under the Texas-led consortium between 1972 and 1990.  The National Court of Justice said there's nothing in Ecuadorean law that justifies doubling a civil award.  As of Tuesday, the penalty is pegged at $8.8 billion.  Chevron has refused to pay the plaintiffs in the case, claiming fraud, and has tied them up in courts and arbitration panels on three continents.
 
The Kansas Geological Survey issued a report last month on horizontal drilling and the Mississippian Limestone formation in Kansas.   The most prolific play in the Mississippian was SandRidge Exploration and Production's Bernice #1-7h well in Harper County, just north of the Oklahoma state line.  Peak production was 849 barrels per day during its 5th month of production in December 2011.  A number of operators, including Chesapeake Energy, Shell Oil Gulf of Mexico, and Apache Oil gained acreage positions in Kansas but decided not to pursue the play after initial drilling efforts.  But SandRidge, Woolsey Operating Company, and several independents continue to be active in the Mississippian.
 
There's a new contract drilling firm in your neighborhood.  Skytop Drilling, formed by Charles and Marvin Reif and Tom Engel, has its headquarters in Plainville.  The company's #1 rig will be deployed in and around Barton, Ellis, Graham, McPherson, Ness and Rooks counties.
 
TransCanada announced quarterly results adding details on the southern leg of the Keystone Pipeline expansion.  Canada's #2 pipeline operator says the pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf Coast is nearing completion, and that it expects to begin filling it with oil soon. The company did not say when it expects a decision from the Obama administration on the second international crossing.  Once a permit is issued, TransCanada says that part of the project could be in service within two years.  The company raised its cost estimate for the controversial pipeline by $100 million dollars, to a total projection of at least $5.4 billion.  The company says the price will likely climb again once the company knows when it can proceed.
 
Phillips 66 submitted a draft Environmental Impact Statement for a rail terminal to be built at its Santa Maria Refinery in California, a move that could connect the refinery with the booming oil fields of the interior U.S. There are currently no pipelines with the capacity to transport meaningful quantities of oil to the West Coast.
 
Enbridge is inviting oil producers to bid on rights to use the largest-capacity pipeline proposed to date to transport North Dakota crude.  The Canadian firm is proposing the $2.6 billion, 612-mile Sandpiper pipeline to carry 600 thousand barrels of North Dakota crude oil each day to hubs in northern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin.
 
Shell has submitted revisions to its Plan of Exploration for its program in the Arctic, although company officials say they have not decided whether Shell will proceed with operations next year.  After a campaign tormented by setbacks and controversy, Shell submitted a plan calling for a narrower approach in the Arctic, focusing on the Chukchi Sea, and ruling out Beaufort Sea operations.
 
A cluster of 18 small earthquakes in western Texas was likely triggered by the injection of carbon dioxide into oil wells, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  This is the first study to link carbon dioxide injections to actual earthquakes.  It may help scientists evaluate the risks of storing greenhouse gas emissions deep underground, a fledgling technology for managing climate change known as geologic carbon sequestration.
 
A seimologist at OU hopes to start an earthquake on purpose.  Austin Holland hopes to find out if the dramatic rise in the size and number of earthquakes in Oklahoma is related to oil and gas production activity.  Holland is proposing to inject pressurized water into porous rock in an area already known to be earthquake-prone, to see whether injections of oil industry wastewater are contributing to a "swarm" of earthquakes rocking the state.

News From The Oil Patch 10/29/2013

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Treating underperforming and old oil wells typically requires a process called "acidization," using acid to clear sediment clogging the well bore and, hopefully, increase production.  A Houston company, Propell Technologies (PROP), is using pulses of plasma instead.  CEO John Huemoeller says their initial testing on a well in the Arbuckle Formation in Stafford County increased production from two barrels per day to about forty per day.  He cautions that those initial increases don't hold up forever. Operator Richfield Oil & Gas calls it a "game changer."  Huemoeller tells us their business model moving forward is to enter into joint ventures with operators, in which they would be paid on the amount of increased production.
 
Some pundits say an oil shale play near Midland, Texas could be larger than the Eagle Ford and the Bakken combined. Early estimates from Pioneer Natural Resources indicate the Spraberry Wolfcamp shale could be the largest oil field in the country and the second largest in the world, with an estimated 50 billion barrels of recoverable oil. 
 
Crude oil shipments from the Port of Victoria in south Texas hit a record of over 60,000 barrels per day in August,  as more Eagle Ford shippers turn to coastal barges to move oil beyond Houston. Nearly 1.9 million barrels left Victoria last month, an average of 60,357 bpd and a rise of nearly 10 percent from July's 55,000 bpd average, said Jennifer Stastny, executive director of the port. She also said that September "started off very strong."
 
According to projections from the PIRA Energy Group cited by the Energy and Capital Web site, the U.S. this year will officially surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer of oil, natural gas liquids and biofuels.  This is a startling shift that is reshaping markets and eroding the clout of traditional energy-rich nations.  The U.S. will produce 12.1 million barrels per day this year, which is 300,000 barrels higher than Saudi Arabia and 1.6 million more than Russia.
 
Shell is shutting down shale oil operations all over the central and western US.  It will take some time to shut down its research into producing crude oil from western Colorado’s underground oil shale reserves.  The company announced it would shut down its oil shale research operations in Colorado and turn its attention elsewhere.  The firm offered its Kansas holdings for sale last month.
 
A judge in Brazil has dismissed a civil lawsuit against Chevron and Transocean stemming from a 2011 oil spill off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.  The lawsuit was dismissed after the oil company agreed to pay the equivalent of $150 million in what were called "compensatory activities."  The judge's ruling brings to an end a legal battle that lasted nearly two years.  Prosecutors had been seeking about $20 billion in damages for an estimated 110,000 gallons of crude that seeped into the ocean.  The judge ruled that Transocean had no responsibility.
 
TransCanada Corp will complete construction of tank and storage facilities at Cushing late this year as part of its plans for the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.  In a press release, the company reiterated its plan to bring the Keystone southern pipeline to commercial service at the end of 2013.  TransCanada plans to build seven crude oil storage tanks with a total capacity of 2.25 million barrels at Cushing, according to permit applications filed with state officials.  The pipeline will ship 700,000 barrels per day of U.S. and Canadian oil from Cushing to Nederland, Texas, when it starts operating. Its capacity can expand to 830,000 bpd.
 
Pipeline giant Kinder Morgan Energy Partners will spend $74 million to extend a crude and condensate pipeline deeper into the Eagle Ford Shale.  KMP will build an 18-mile, 24-inch diameter lateral pipeline from its DeWitt Station to Gonzales County, Texas.  The company will develop a new Gonzales County station with 300,000 barrels of storage capacity, a pump and truck offloading facilities. The extension will allow Houston-based KMP to move Eagle Ford crude and condensate from the new facility to the Houston Ship Channel and the Phillips 66 refinery in Brazoria County.
 
The massive release of noxious gas from a former BP refinery in Texas City caused no harm or nuisance to three people who lived nearby.  That's the word from a Galveston County jury Tuesday, as reported in the Houston Chronicle.  The jury absolved BP of any wrongdoing in a 2010 releases that continued for at least 40 days.  The verdict sets the tone for an estimated 48,000 other claims brought by residents near the plant in scores of other lawsuits.
 
A group of landowners in North Dakota has filed ten class-action lawsuits against oil & gas firms, claiming that their practice of flaring natural gas has cost as much a $100 million a month in revenues.  The state's pipeline infrastructure has been unable to keep up with its production, and because of low prices, the producers are not inclined to ship the natural gas by rail.  Flaring in the state has tripled over the last two years, and even though the percentage of gas being flared has fallen from 36% in 2011 to 29% in August, the flaring is still so widespread it can be seen from space.
 
Russia has dropped piracy charges against Greenpeace activists arrested during a protest over Arctic oil drilling, replacing them with lesser charges.  A spokesman for the "investigative committee" said the charges were changed from piracy, which carries a maximum jail sentence of 12 years, to hooliganism which has a lesser punishment.  Investigators also claim that they found drugs on board the ship and have hinted that new charges could be forthcoming.  All of the activists have been refused bail.