More good stuff on the open frontier of the energy revolution – 3/5


Here are a few recent articles that help me understand what is happening in the open frontier of energy:

On pipelines and Crude By Rail

2/17 – Dickinson Press – Train that derailed in West Virginia hauled newer-model cars, officials sayA train derailed 33 miles southeast of Charleston West Virginia on 2/17. Several tank cars (about 6 as this post was written which increased to 13 later) exploded and burned. There were 109 tank cars in the train.

News reports immediately identified that the cars were carrying crude oil from Bakken. That of course instantly produced stories such as this, Smoldering aftermath: Leaders call for tougher rail safety rules after Bakken crude train derails, saying this proves the need to improve tank cars.

Well, turns out all 109 of the cars are the new improved CPC 1232. None of them are the older DOT-111 cars.

2/5 – Reuters – Clean-up at fiery ethanol train derailment site in Iowa starts – Two locomotives and 13 tank cars derailed near Dubuque, Iowa. Ethanol was the main item being carried. Three cars exploded and three others rolled into a river. Ethanol mixes with water, which depletes the oxygen, and will likely kill off the fish.

I scanned headlines of several dozen reports and read half a dozen. None of them indicated the state of origin. None of them suggested that ethanol is prone to explode when tank cars hit the ground or each other or other obstructions at full speed after a derailment. No mention of the type of car used.

3/2 – Wall Street Journal – Crude on Derailed Train Contained High Level of GasThe crude on the train accident in February had vapor pressure of 13.9 psi. The entire focus of the article is the load would have an unsafe vapor pressure level compared to what will go into effect in April for North Dakota crude. In another month the vapor pressure must be below 13.7 psi.

The conclusion we are led to infer is that it was obviously unsafe to ship that oil. That 0.2 psi apparently made the difference between a safe trip and a conflagration.

Left out of the article is any mention that the federal limit is vapor pressure of 14.7 psi as pointed out by Million Dollar Way. Left out is context of how much difference 0.2 psi makes when rail cars slam into each other in a derailment. Would 13.6 psi or even 13.0 have prevented explosions?

WSJ articles usually aren’t this biased.

Let me try my hand at rewriting the subtitle of the article. It currently reads:

Cargo would have violated new vapor-pressure cap that goes into effect in April
How would this look?
  • Cargo complied with federal vapor-pressure cap, was carried on new, safer tank cars which were travelling below the speed limit on recently inspected rail
I think that would keep the article off the front page.

2/24 – Reuters at – Obama vetoes Keystone XL pipeline bill

3/4 – AP at – Senate fails to override Obama’s veto of pipeline bill – 62-37

Crude prices

2/25 – Reuters – BRIEF Continental Resources expects oil prices to rise in second half of 2015A few key comments from Continental and Harold Hamm that caught my eye:

  • Cost to complete expected to drop 15% as providers drop their prices
  • Expects crude prices to rise in second half of ‘15
  • Expects ‘big trigger’ for tax reductions to get pulled
  • Won’t be hedging any production until crude at least passes $70 a barrel

(hat tip @bakkenblog)

2/26 – American Interest – The European Shale Retreat ContinuesChevron has given up on trying to frack shale in Romania and Poland. Article says more majors are dropping plans in more countries. The oil revolution is starting look like it may be limited to the US. If so, it will be due to the combination of factors that are unique to here.

2/14 – American Interest (Jamie) – It’s Hard Playing Catch-Up to US Shale – Other than the US, only Canada, China, and Argentina are producing commercially from shale, and the volume in other countries is small. A few advantages here in the US mentioned in the article: favorable ownership of minerals rights, lots of capital available, robust pipelines (and good rails to back up pipelines I’ll add), well layered geology. I will add a few items to the list: stable law, private property rights respected, courts will enforce contracts.

2/27 – Reuters at – Oil market may have bottomed out: Reuters poll Survey of economists and analysts by Reuters indicate consensus that crude oil prices have bottomed out and will increase for the rest of the year. February saw big increase from the prices in January. Some analysts expect a minor downward correction from that runup but higher prices later in year.

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