Consol remains bullish about Utica shale wells in Pennsylvania

The Pittsburgh Business Times reports that Consol Energy Inc. has great expectations for the Utica shale play in southwestern Pennsylvania based on comments made by company executives during a recent earnings call with financial analysts. Consol CEO Nicholas DeIuliis emphasized the potential of Consol's dry gas Utica shale wells in Pennsylvania and reiterated the company will not sell assets at depressed prices. The Business Times also says Consol reported Utica shale production volumes for the fourth quarter that were about triple what they were a year earlier. For more, read the full story.
 

Pennsylvania

Standard and Poor’s cuts credit ratings for big oil and gas companies

Standard and Poor’s said it has cut or was considering cutting the investment-grade credit ratings of 20 large oil and gas companies, including Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp., reports FuelFix.com. The energy site says the ratings actions are “an acknowledgement that $30 oil could shake the credit worthiness of even the largest oil and gas companies.” Chevron’s credit rating was cut one notch from AA to AA- while Exxon Mobil was put on notice that its rating is up for review. FuelFix says Standard and Poor’s also cut credit ratings for two companies active in the Utica and Marcellus shale plays, Hess. Corp. and Southwestern Energy Co. For more, read the full story.
 

National, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia

MarkWest, MPLX looking at projects in Utica, Marcellus shale plays

Two months after completing a corporate merger, MarkWest Energy Partners LP and MPLX are starting to work on projects involving the Marcellus and Utica shale plays “that speak to the strengths of both companies,” reports the Pittsburgh Business Times. The newspaper says that while company executives declined to be specific about most of the projects, they could merge MarkWest's experience with natural gas liquids with the refining and distribution capabilities of MPLX’s parent company, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum. One potential project, according to the Business Times, would be a facility that would convert butane, a substance in abundance in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, into alkylate, a chemical blended into gasoline that allows it to comply with environmental regulations in the Northeast. For more, read the full story.
 

Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia

Saudi Arabia keeps pumping oil despite price collapse

The New York Times reports that Saudi Arabia keeps pumping oil at full capacity even though the price of crude has collapsed “under the weight of a growing international glut, made worse by slower growth in the global economy.” The newspaper says the Saudis have also persuaded their Persian Gulf oil allies, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Qatar, to do the same thing despite mounting pressure from other Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members to curtail production. The Times calls it a risky strategy that is already straining Saudi finances and threatening the kingdom’s ability to continue providing "generous social programs long used to buy domestic tranquility." For more, read the full story.
 

Global

U.S. shale companies look at joint ventures with Wall Street financiers

More U.S. shale gas and oil exploration companies are partnering with Wall Street financiers to raise money instead of turning to their overseas drilling rivals for cash, reports Gulf News. The newspaper says U.S. oil and gas companies struck a half-dozen joint venture deals with private equity firms in 2015 totaling at least $1.4 billion. Such transactions could accelerate this year, according to Gulf News, as oil and gas explorers face a cash crunch amid the rout in commodity prices. For more, read the full story.

National

New pipelines help narrow price gap for Marcellus and Utica natural gas

The difference between pricing points for natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale region and the Henry Hub benchmark has narrowed in recent months as new pipeline projects have come online to serve those shale plays, reports the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). As an example, EIA says the price at Transcontinental Pipeline's Leidy Hub in central Pennsylvania averaged 93 cents per MMBtu below the Henry Hub price from December 1, 2015 through January 15, 2016. In July 2015, the differential was much larger, averaging $1.65/MMBtu for the month. For more, read the full EIA report.

Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia

Big oil companies at risk of ratings downgrades by Moody’s

Three of the world’s biggest energy companies — Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Statoil — are among 175 energy and mining firms at risk of ratings downgrades by Moody’s due to the collapse in oil and other commodities markets, according to StockWatch. The financial site says ratings downgrades are seen by some analysts as most likely for exploration and production companies in North America “where the sharp fall in oil prices is putting pressure on the finances of many groups that led the U.S. shale boom.” StockWatch says Moody’s recently put on review for downgrades 69 U.S.-based companies, including oilfield services company Schlumberger and natural gas driller Chesapeake Energy. Both are active in Ohio’s Utica shale play. For more, read the Moody's report.
 

Global, National, Ohio

Expert: Ohio ‘cracker’ plant would have broad economic reach

An Ohio State University professor who tracks development by the state’s oil and natural gas industry believes the proposed $5.7 billion ethane “cracker” construction project in Belmont County would help fill hotels as far away as East Liverpool, Marietta and Zanesville, reports the East Liverpool Review.  Edward Hill, a professor of public affairs at Ohio State, also told the newspaper that PTT Global Chemical’s ethane facility could process material drawn from a 600-mile radius once operational. Although Hill said he is not sure if PTT will proceed with the cracker plant, he said he remains an optimist regarding the project because of the $100 million commitment that the company has already made to it. For more, read the full story.

Ohio

Eclipse to take impairment charge on Ohio oil and gas assets

Eclipse Resources Corp. expects to record an impairment charge for the fourth quarter of 2015 on certain oil and natural gas properties in Ohio primarily because of a significant decline in commodity prices, reports the Akron Beacon Journal. The newspaper says the Pennsylvania-based company estimates the impairment charge to be between $750 million and $850 million. Eclipse is engaged in the acquisition and development of oil and gas properties in the Utica and Marcellus shale plays. For more, read the full story.

Ohio

Con Edison acquires stake in Mountain Valley Pipeline

Con Edison Gas Midstream LLC plans to acquire a 12.5 percent ownership interest in Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC., a joint venture between EQT Midstream Partners LP and several other firms, reports the Pittsburgh Business Times. The newspaper says the pipeline, which will transport natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale regions to the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast areas, is expected to be operational by the fourth quarter of 2018. Pittsburgh-based EQT Midstream, which will operate the $3.5 billion, 300-mile pipeline, has a 45.5 percent ownership interest in the venture, according to the Business Times. For more, read the full story.
 

Pennsylvania, West Virginia
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