Tag: ExxonMobil

Sheila McNulty

Jim Mulva, chief executive of ConocoPhillips, has been in a hurry to establish his legacy. In the beginning, it was going to be as the head of one of the world’s biggest international oil and gas companies. And he got there, boosting Conoco into 5th place, in terms of production.

But then the economic downturn hit, and the weaknesses in his grow-through-acquisition strategy were exposed. It was no longer enough to be big, and Conoco was forced to slash capital spending, lay off staff and sell billions of dollars in assets.

Sheila McNulty

The weekend oil spill by ExxonMobil  into Yellowstone River gives environmentalists more ammunition in their long-running battle against granting the oil industry increased access to US oil resources.

While only the final investigation will prove whether Exxon failed to do some maintenance or take other measures that could have prevented the spill, one thing is certain: the US continues to have an unacceptable number of spills on both oil and natural gas pipelines.

Indeed, one of the key reasons raised by environmentalists to block the Keystone XL pipeline from bringing oil sands fuel from Canada’s tar sands across the US to Texas is the high number of spills on the first stage of that pipeline – the Keystone - in its first year of operation. The company says they are not significant. And Exxon might well be able to contain this spill so that it is not a massive environmental disaster.

But why does it seem regulators tend to wait until disaster strikes before taking appropriate action? There had long been signs that the Gulf of Mexico offshore was not being sufficiently regulated, yet the issue of permits continued at a rapid pace until Macondo struck.

The bottom line is that the US has had a number of red flags this past year on the need to improve pipeline safety. Perhaps the biggest of these was the fatal explosion of a gas pipeline in a California residential area.

But, less than a year later, Exxon is the latest to suffer a spill. Its reaction:

No cause has been identified for the release of oil from the pipeline, which met all regulatory requirements and has undergone inspection most recently in December. A field audit of the pipeline’s integrity management program was undertaken by US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in June.

So if regulators just inspected the pipeline, the question is whether they missed something? 

Ray LaHood, US secretary of transportation, late last year sent Congress proposed legislation to provide stronger oversight of the nation’s pipelines and increased  penalties for violations of pipeline safety rules.

Congressman Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in June signalled his committment to updating and improving US pipeline safety:

Pipeline safety is a serious matter of protecting human life and our environment.  Our nation’s nearly half a million miles of pipeline infrastructure play a critical role in delivering vital energy supplies to southwest Michigan and the rest of the country.  Disasters like last summer’s Enbridge pipeline rupture underscore the unacceptable costs of failure and the need for meaningful updates to our current pipeline safety laws.

Representative Ed Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, called on Tuesday for investigative hearings to be held into the Exxon spill and related safety and environmental issues:

 

ExxonMobil has turned parts of the Yellowstone River black with their spilled oil. Just as BP was held to account for their accident in the Gulf of Mexico, ExxonMobil should appear before Congress so that we can examine the holes in oil pipeline safety that led to this incident and how we might prevent another spill in the future. Several aspects of pipeline safety regulations may need review based on this disaster.

Mr Markey noted that Exxon had said that the pipeline had been examined within the five-year increments as required by law. He said that timeline may need to be reduced, in light of this accident and the others over the last few years. 

On top of that, higher penalties would help pay for better enforcement.  Surely, given all its budget issues, Congress can see the benefit of this?

Sheila McNulty

A shale gas wellAs questions about hydraulic fracturing – fracking as it is known in the industry – continue to build, the oil and gas industry is finding investors asking for more transparency as to how companies are going to face the growing risks to production.

France has banned fracking, and US federal regulators are investigating the safety of the process.

But the real risk to the industry at this point is how some US states and cities have taken the issue into their own hands: Pittsburgh has banned such drilling, and the New York State Assembly approved a temporary moratorium. There are other efforts under way in pockets across the US to further control or bar the process.

Sheila McNulty

Deepwater Horizon explosionThe big question for months has been what would happen if there was a significant spill in the deepwater outside the Gulf of Mexico. Following BP’s Macondo disaster, the industry worked together to build two spill response systems for this area. But nobody said what would happen if a deepwater disaster unfolded in the waters offshore Ghana or Brazil.

Now the industry has gathered together to address that question. Nine of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies – BG Group, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Petrobras, Shell, Statoil and Total have launched the Subsea Well Response Project (SWRP), an initiative designed to  enhance the industry’s capability to respond to subsea  well control incidents.

Sheila McNulty

(From l to r) Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil; John Watson, Chairman and CEO of Chevron; James Mulva, Chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips; Marvin Odum, President of Shell Oil Company; and Lamar McKay, President and Chairman of BP AmericaThere is no doubt it is hard to feel sorry for Big Oil. It pulls in  billions of dollars in profits whenever oil prices go up, and yet higher oil prices result in higher petrol prices for the public.

So whenever these companies are doing well, the public is doing worse. And that, inevitably, leads to talk about punitive taxes (or at least a loss of tax breaks) for the oil industry.

That time has come once again. A few weeks ago, the world’s biggest oil companies reported massive profits just as petrol moved up and beyond, in some cases, $4 a gallon. That is a big deal in the US, where people often commute long distances to work, particularly in sprawling cities like Houston, Chicago, Los Angelos, and other highly populated areas. And it is particularly important now when the economy has not fully recovered, unemployment remains high and the public at large is still having economic difficulties.

Sheila McNulty

The rise in US crude oil prices has been pushing petrol up toward $4 a gallon – a level analysts note has historically led to a drop in consumer demand. The current national average price of petrol is just under there, according to the Daily Fuel Gauge Report by AAA, America’s largest motoring and leisure travel membership organization.

John Felmy, economist at the American Petroleum Institute, the national industry trade association, said the last time crude oil prices were hitting these levels – in 2008 – consumer demand for petrol began dropping around the $2.80 per gallon level. The bigger declines were when gasoline rose above $3.75 a gallon, he said.

Sheila McNulty

A year after the Macondo disaster, the industry has pulled together in the US and built not one, but two spill containment systems. These systems are really state-of-the-art and aimed at containing a massive spill in the deep water.

The first one, the Containment Response System, cost $1bn and is designed to be trucked to anywhere along the Gulf of Mexico, loaded onto a vessel, shipped out to a drill site and dispatched under water to contain oil spilling from a runaway well.

The system, complete with capture vessels, was developed by ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips. It took several months to build and testing has shown it can operate in 8,000 feet of water, capturing 60,000 barrels of fluid per day at pressures of 15,000 pounds per square inch. A more comprehensive system, which can operate in 10,000 feet of water, and capture 100,000 barrels of fluid a day, will be available by the middle of next year.

ExxonMobil, the world’s largest private sector oil company by market capitalisation, has beaten analysts’ expectations with a 46 per cent rise in earnings per share to $1.85 for the fourth quarter of 2010, helped by the rise in prices for oil and petrochemicals.

Analysts polled by Reuters, the news agency, had on average predicted earnings of $1.63 per share.

Exxon said the results reflected “improving economic conditions [that] support higher commodity prices,” with modest growth in the US and Europe but stronger growth in the developing world.

Sheila McNulty

ExxonMobil has made some interesting – if not surprising – forecasts in its annual Outlook for Energy, in which it projects long-term energy trends. The report is not just what Exxon hopes will happen but rather based on detailed analysis of 100 countries, 15 demand sectors and 20 fuel types.

It says energy demand in developing nations will rise more than 70 per cent through 2030 even as energy efficiency measures keep demand flat in the developed world. So, combining the developing and developed world, overall global energy demand will rise 35 per cent from 2005 levels.

Sheila McNulty

A group of US investors have filed shareholder resolutions with nine oil and gas companies, pressing them to disclose plans for managing risks associated with the technology being used to extract gas from shale rock.

With the US Environmental Protection Agency investigating the risks; a New York State moratorium on use of the technology; and cases like the one being built against Range Resources in Texas, the resolutions are no surprise.

Energy Source is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

Insight into the financial, economic and policy aspects of energy and the environment.

Read our farewell note

About the blog

Archive

« AugJuly 2014
M T W T F S S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031