LONDON, Jan 13 (Reuters) – It is a great time to be an oil
refiner, at least if you are located in the central United
States and have access to light oil from North Dakota’s Bakken
formation and similar crudes trapped in the region by transport
bottlenecks and the export ban.
While refiners in Western Europe struggle with overcapacity
in the global refining system and face pressure to close some of
their facilities, their rivals in the United States are
benefiting handsomely from locational advantages and outdated
LONDON, Jan 9 (Reuters) – Train accidents involving crude
oil and other flammable liquids are becoming uncomfortably
common. The fiery train derailment in New Brunswick on Tuesday
is the third major accident involving crude by rail in just
three months, and the fourth since July 2013.
Serious accidents involving derailments and train fires are
running at one a month, which suggests the dangers of this form
of transport have been underestimated by the industry and
LONDON, Jan 8 (Reuters) – Most crude oil being transported
by rail in the United States and Canada is moving in tank cars
that will rupture and catch fire if the train derails, according
to accident investigations and reports filed with U.S. rail
regulators, posing a lethal danger to railway workers and
communities along the route.
Crude shipments by rail as a result of the shale boom have
risen 100-fold in eight years. While the risks from transporting
oil and other flammable liquids in conventional tank cars have
been understood for more than 20 years, regulators and shippers
have moved slowly to address the issue because of the costs
LONDON, Jan 7 (Reuters) – Texas struggled to keep the
heating working on Monday as unusually cold weather combined
with unexpected power plant outages to reduce reserve margins to
critically low levels.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) declared a
Level 2 Energy Emergency and appealed to customers to conserve
power by turning down thermostats, as the amount of spare
generating capacity available to meet demand shrank to less than
2,000 megawatts (MW) (2 percent).
LONDON, Jan 6 (Reuters) – The rising number of serious
accidents involving oil tank cars over the past 12 months
suggests that shippers are underestimating the safety risk of
transporting crude by rail.
If the industry and regulators do not resolve these issues
promptly, it is only a matter of time before a major disaster
occurs in the United States. The resulting political outcry
could imperil the business model for oil producers, refiners and
LONDON, Dec 20 (Reuters) – Britain’s energy regulator will
allow National Grid, the country’s transmission operator, to pay
businesses that agree to reduce their electricity consumption on
winter evenings from 2014 to help avoid strains on the network.
National Grid’s request to create a Demand Side Balancing
Reserve (DSBR) was approved by the Office of Gas and Electricity
Markets (Ofgem) on Thursday.
LONDON, Dec 20 (Reuters) – The incoming chairman and new
members of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)
will inherit an agency that has been severely demoralised by
overwork, defeats in court, infighting among the commissioners
and severe criticism from the futures industry.
CFTC staff are among the least satisfied at any federal
agency, according to “Best Places to Work in the Federal
Government 2013,” the influential annual rankings compiled by
the Partnership for Public Service from the Office of Personnel
Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.
LONDON, Dec 19 (Reuters) – President Barack Obama could
probably lift the prohibition on domestic oil exports on his
own, but the White House has little reason to favour U.S. oil
producers and it would be safer politically to involve Congress
in any eventual decision.
The principal effect of the export ban is to transfer
revenues from domestic oil producers to U.S. refiners because it
ensures producers are forced to sell their output at a discount
rather than exporting at world market prices.
LONDON, Dec 18 (Reuters) – President Barack Obama has
sufficient authority to lift the ban on U.S. oil exports on his
own and does not need approval from Congress.
The various statutes on which the ban is based have either
expired or give the president broad discretion.
LONDON, Dec 17 (Reuters) – “There is no denying the
controversial reality of coal,” Maria van der Hoeven, head of
the International Energy Agency (IEA), wrote in its annual
report on the coal industry, published on Monday.
“No fuel draws the same ire,” she noted. “And yet no fuel is
as responsible for powering the economic growth that has pulled
billions out of poverty in the past decades.”