Archive for the ‘energy policy’ Category

An internal memo from the U.S. Interior Department suggesting that the agency set the highest possible royalty fee on potential oil and gas development before last year’s Cook Inlet lease sale is drawing blowback from the Democratic chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said in a statement he was “appalled” by the memo, which he said was leaked and prioritized a “radical climate agenda” over the energy needs of Alaskans and the U.S.

Anchorage Daily News

From the decision memo:

While a 16 ⅔ percent royalty may be more likely to facilitate expeditious and orderly development of OCS resources and potentially offer greater energy security to residents of the State of Alaska, a reasonable balancing of the environmental and economic factors for the American public favors the maximum 18 ¾ percent royalty for Cook Inlet leases.

Sale 258 Decision Memo

The lower royalty rate probably would not have made much difference in the outcome of this sale, which only drew one bid, but the attitude expressed in the decision memo is rather disappointing given the Department’s mission, as expressed in the OCS Lands Act, to make resources available for expeditious and orderly development.

What might have made the sale more attractive was royalty suspensions, Option D.5.b (below). This would have been the best means of supporting the objectives of Senator Manchin, the other authors of the congressional leasing mandate, and the State of Alaska.

Option D.5.b: Offer Royalty Suspensions
BOEM could offer royalty suspensions with the goal of making resources available for expeditious and orderly development. However, BOEM does not recommend royalty suspensions as the recommended lease term options are expected to balance the goals outlined earlier in this memo

Sale 258 Decision Memo

Those who are concerned by the Sale 258 Decision Memo should be more troubled by the Proposed 5 Year Leasing Plan, most notably this stunning sentence which justifies the minimalist plan and signals a phasing out of offshore oil and gas leasing:

The long-term nature of OCS oil and gas development, such that production on a lease can continue for decades makes consideration of future climate pathways relevant to the Secretary’s determinations with respect to how the OCS leasing program best meets the Nation’s energy needs.

5 Year Leasing Program, p.3

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Whoever blew up the Nord Stream pipelines was not entirely successful in that one of the Nord Stream 2 lines was apparently undamaged. What is next for that line? Will the two Nord Stream 1 and the other Nord Stream 2 pipelines be repaired?

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Comments on 2022 oil production:

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BOEM’s new procedures, which have been published for public comment, seem reasonable. However, it would be helpful to learn more about the testing of the new methodology. (See the quote below). Further, would the rejected Sale 257 bid have been accepted? What was the LBCI for that tract? Would any accepted Sale 257 bids have been rejected? Would the outcome of other sales have been affected?

After a 2-year comprehensive technical review of the delayed valuation methodology, BOEM intends to replace the delayed valuation methodology with a statistical lower bound confidence interval (LBCI) at a 90 percent confidence level as a decision criterion for accepting or rejecting qualified high bids on tracts offered in OCS oil and gas lease sales. Following extensive testing of the alternative approaches using both historical and current lease sale tract data and existing BOEM cash flow simulation models, BOEM determined that the LBCI approach would be the most appropriate substitute for the delayed valuation methodology. The LBCI is a statistical concept that captures the lower bound of a range of values encompassing the true unknown mean of the risked present worth of the resources at the time of the lease sale. The LBCI incorporates the uncertainty of parameters unique to the valuation of each OCS oil and gas lease sale tract. These parameters may include, but are not limited to, subsurface characterization of reservoir properties, cost and timing of the development, and projected revenues. Unlike the delayed valuation methodology, the LBCI approach would not require that BOEM estimate the time delay period between the current OCS oil and gas lease sale and the projected next lease sale. As such, BOEM finds the LBCI to be a better approach going forward.

Federal Register

Below is the flow chart for the new procedures. It’s interesting that high bids on nonviable tracts are automatically (and gratefully) accepted! 😉

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BOEM published their Sale 257 Decision Matrix on Friday (2/24/2023), and my previous speculation regarding the rejected Sale 257 high bid has proven to be partially incorrect. The rejected high bid was submitted by BP and Talos and was for Green Canyon Block 777. BOEM’s analytics assigned a Mean of the Range-of-Value (MROV) of $4.4 million to that tract, which tied for the highest MROV for any tract receiving a bid. The BP/Talos bid was $1.8 million or just 40% of BOEM’s MROV. BOEM’s tract evaluation is interesting given that the other bid on this wildcat tract (by Chevron, $1.185 million) was considerably lower than the rejected BP/Talos bid.

The Sale 257 bid that I thought might have been rejected was for lease G37261. This lease was never issued per the lease inquiry data base and the final bid recap. BHP’s bid of $3.6 million for that tract (Green Canyon Block 79) was more than 5 times BOEM’s MROV of $576,000, and was accepted per the decision matrix. Why was the lease never issued?

Both Green Canyon 79 and 777 should again be for sale in legislatively mandated Sale 259, which will be held in just a few weeks on March 29, 2023, just 2 days prior to the deadline. It will be interesting to see what the bidding on those tracts looks like.

Meanwhile, Exxon and BOEM are still mum about the 94 Sale 257 oil and gas leases that Exxon acquired for carbon sequestration purposes. Note the large patches of blue just offshore Texas on the map above. These leases were all valued by BOEM at only $144,000 each, which is equivalent to the minimum bid of $25/acre. This valuation reflects the absence of perceived value for oil and gas production purposes. Exxon bid $158,400 for each tract, $27.50/acre or 10% higher than the minimum bid. Given that (1) the Notice of Sale only provided for lease acquisition for oil and gas exploration and production purposes, and (2) it was common knowledge that these tracts were acquired for carbon sequestration, should these bids have been rejected?

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Opinions on Jimmy Carter’s presidency vary, but he merits praise for his administration of the OCS program from 1/1977 to 1/1981. Carter oversaw an active leasing program in all OCS regions. On the operations side, he appointed Don Kash to head the Conservation Division of the US Geological Survey, the OCS regulator at the time. Dr. Kash was an outstanding leader and a gifted communicator and program manager.

Some of the Carter administration’s impressive accomplishments during his 4 year term:

  • 15 lease sales including 3 offshore Alaska, 3 in the Atlantic, and 1 offshore California
  • Drilling activity in all 4 regions: GoM, Pacific, Alaska, and Atlantic
  • Natural gas discovery in the Mid Atlantic (Hudson Canyon Unit)
  • North, Mid, and South Atlantic District offices for permitting and inspections
  • 5300 well starts including 97 in water depths > 1000′
  • 314 new platforms including Cognac, the world’s first platform in > 1000′ of water
  • Comprehensive amendments to the OCS Lands Act (1978)
  • Annual natural gas production reached nearly 5 tcf (approximately 6 times current OCS gas production)
  • Annual oil production was approximately 1/2 current levels which is impressive given that the deepwater era was just beginning and shelf wells had relatively low productivity.

Thank you Jimmy. I hope you are resting comfortably with your family during your final days.

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While it’s highly unlikely that wind turbine siting activities are responsible for the alarming number of whale deaths, some of the vociferous wind industry defenders would have been among the first to point the finger at oil and gas operations if there were any in the US Atlantic.

Some quotes from a recent USA Today article followed by BOE comments:

It’s just a cynical disinformation campaign,” said Greenpeace’s oceans director John Hocevar. “It doesn’t seem to worry them that it’s not based in any kind of evidence.” (Comment: World class chutzpah on the part of Greenpeace, the master of disinformation.)

Gib Brogan, a campaign director with Oceana, an international ocean advocacy group, said those opposed to wind power are using a spate of whale deaths in the area as an opportunity. (Comment: Does Oceana suddenly find this type of opportunism to be shocking?)

Groups opposed to clean energy projects spread baseless misinformation that has been debunked by scientists and experts,” said JC Sandberg, chief advocacy officer with the American Clean Power Association, a renewable energy trade group. (Comments: Use of the term “clean energy” is clever advocacy that serves to discredit other forms of energy. All energy sources have pros and cons, environmentally and otherwise. Wind and solar have significant visual, space preemption, navigation, wildlife risk, and intermittency issues, and are heavily dependent on subsidies and mandates. When all issues are considered, one could argue, as we have, that offshore gas, particularly nonassociated gas, is perhaps the environmentally preferred energy alternative.)

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The corporate media is disinterested (which is a story by itself), but independent journalists like Briahna Joy Gray are coming to the fore.

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From a Hersh interview with Fabian Scheidler of the Berliner Zeitung:

  • 8 “bombs” were placed near the island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, six of which exploded in a rather flat area. The explosives destroyed three of the four Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines. (This explains why one of the four pipelines wasn’t damaged. Presumably, concerns about the unexploded ordinance have been addressed by Sweden.)
  • Norway identified a relatively shallow area (80m water depth) near Bornholm.
  • It only took a few hours to place the explosives
  • No one in Congress was informed of the plan
  • In response to criticism about his reliance on unidentified sources, Hersh said that many of his articles were dependent on such sources. If his sources were named, they would be fired or worse.

Below is a very good Jeffrey Sachs interview (new) with appropriate pushback from the host Freddie Sayers. Nothing really new, but both Sachs and Sayers are informed and articulate. Worth viewing.

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The Nord Stream sabotage likely released more methane than the complete lifecycle of a GoM lease sale (upstream and downstream). Also, the Nord Stream explosions may have released more methane than is emitted by all US offshore producers in an entire year. Here are the numbers:

Source of MethaneCH4 emissions (1000s of tons)
Nord Stream (probable range)100-400
Nord Stream (maximum)500
Nord Stream – first 48 hrs (CAMS est)175
all US offshore production in 2020 (EPA)193
all US on- and offshore exploration in 2020 (EPA)12
lifecycle upstream emissions from a typical GoM lease sale (BOEM)118
lifecycle up- and downstream emissions from a typical GoM sale (BOEM)151

Finally, remember that offshore oil and gas leasing results in a net reduction in GHG emissions.

The No Leasing scenario results in roughly double the CO2e emissions for upstream activities compared to those of the Leasing scenario, given that, collectively, the substitute energy sources have higher GHG emissions per unit of production (also known as “GHG intensity”) compared to the forgone domestically produced OCS oil and natural gas of the Leasing scenario.


Even when mid- and downstream emissions are included, leasing is preferable to no leasing. See the table below from the BOEM report:

Bottom line: we need more energy leasing and less military aggression!

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