The wild Mary Sudik oil well was the Macondo of her day

On the fourth anniversary of the Macondo oil spill on April 20, 2010, it’s fitting to recall another historic out-of-control well in the early days of the oil patch: Oklahoma’s Wild Mary Sudik.

The well was named for a real woman who by all accounts was a humble and sensible human being. “Wild” described not the woman, but the well that blew out on her property on March 26, 1930 and flowed for 11 days before it was capped.

Wikipedia, using historical and newspaper accounts, including those of the Oklahoma Historical Society,  called the real Mary “modest.” It said she and her husband Vincent were Czech immigrants who bought a 160-acre dairy farm in 1904 and expanded it in 1924 to encompass the site of the future wild well. Because Mary signed the well lease first, wells on the property were named for her.

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What is India’s BJP thinking about the country’s energy policy?

India’s oil and gas sector saw some unprecedented decisions taken last year under the Congress Party-led government.

These ranged from a partial deregulation of diesel prices to a new gas pricing mechanism that would have seen the wellhead price of gas double to over $8/MMBtu. However, the hike — which was ratified twice by the Cabinet — was never implemented as scheduled on April 1 due to India’s upcoming elections.

The Congress-led government last year also started revamping and streamlining upstream policy to incentivise exploration and production.

All in all, 2013 was a busy year for journalists as we struggled to keep pace with and understand all that was going on in India’s energy sector.

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North Dakota oil boom keeps getting the wrong kind of attention

Despite already dealing with a slew of issues ranging from a housing shortage to an increasing crime rate, North Dakota officials now have another problem grabbing headlines: illegal dumping.

On May 11, several news outlets reported that 200 hundreds bags of radioactive material were found in an abandoned building in Noonan, a small northwest town in North Dakota. It is likely the largest case of illegal dumping in state history, twice the size of the amount found in Watford City three week earlier.

Continental Resources, one of the largest Bakken producers, immediately cut ties with RP Services LLC, the company state officials blamed for the Watford City dump.

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The continuing demise of US fuel oil consumption

When commentators talk about the US cutting its oil consumption, they often cite the reductions in usage that were spurred by the first oil shock in 1973-1974. “See,” they say. “We did it back then, and we can do it again!”

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What they often fail to note is that one of the ways in which the US did dial back on its oil consumption is by drastically changing over its use of fuel oil for electricity generation to lots of other things: coal, natural gas, nuclear, alternatives. In 40 years, there have been plenty of things.

But the fact is if you’ve all but zeroed out your consumption of fuel oil, you can only do that once. That’s why the whole “we can do it again!” comes up short.

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Frozen Great Lakes and iron ore: just can’t let it go

Frozen may be an enormously popular film, but several videos of ice-encrusted ships on the US Great Lakes represent a horror show for much of the steel industry.

Up to four-feet thick sections of solid ice have mired huge ships from delivering essential coal and iron ore to steel mills. One video, shot as recently as April 12, showed the lakes had a long way to go before thawing, with the ice still 15-20 inches thick in some spots — enough to stall a big ship. (We were shown that video privately, so can’t link to it. However, a CBS News story that captures a few of the icy images can be seen here.)

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Shell Chemical woos the neighbors of its still undecided Pa. ethane cracker

Shell’s $4 billion proposal to build a petrochemical complex on the site of the former Horsehead Corp. zinc smelter in Monaca, Pennsylvania, was on display Wednesday at two events at a banquet facility overlooking a golf course near the community, which lies about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

If constructed, Shell’s ethane cracker would feed production of 1.5 million mt/year of ethylene, 500,000 mt/year of gas-phased high density polyethylene, 500,000 mt/year of slurry HDPE, and 500,000 mt/year of linear low density polyethylene. Shell and Horsehead have extended Shell’s option to buy the Horsehead site along the Ohio River three times, most recently in December.

But the details of the proposal were not the main focus of Wednesday’s event. There was no PowerPoint presentation. No Q&A session. No leaflets. And significantly, still no indication that the project had been clearly decided as a “go.”

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Wall Street sees slide ahead for deepwater rig dayrates

In the controversial 1940s book The Fountainhead, arch-villain Ellsworth Toohey, who above all seeks power and control of other people, comments — and this is a paraphrase — that the way to topple a system is to make one small negative but still-key move in just the right place, and then sit back and watch the whole edifice implode as its members scramble for self-preservation.

Although Ayn Rand, the author of that book and fierce champion of individualism, hated the popular notion that “we’re all in this together,” the fact is that in oil markets and economic systems, we are.  One ominous signal — and even worse, a handful — can start a rumble that creates an earthquake.

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“Look out for the flags,” former Anglo boss warns miners

Most small mining companies are not in a position to look beyond funding the next stage of their project or trying to find a strategic partner. But a recent presentation at the Hong Kong Mines and Money conference gave an insight into how large mining companies take a much longer-term view, and how they consider all kinds of eventualities that could impact their business.

British-born Clem Sunter was CEO of Anglo American’s successful gold and uranium businesses in South Africa, and became the company’s expert in “scenario planning.” He and co-author Chantell Illbury penned a book on the subject, entitled Mind of a Fox, which became a best-seller in the wake of 9/11.

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EIA analysis: a big jump in crude oil stocks

Crude oil stocks in the US had been declining for several weeks, but they’re turned around significantly. This week’s Energy Information Administration report showed a significant build. You can read our analysis here.

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Could natural gas be the answer to London’s pollution concerns?

Over 8% of the deaths in some parts of London may be attributable to long-term exposure to man-made particulate air pollution, according to a new study from UK government body Public Health England.

The figures are highest for Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster (both at 8.3%), followed by Tower Hamlets, the local authority containing the international trading center of Canary Wharf (8.1%). In some rural parts of the UK the level is much lower, at around 2.5%.

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