EIA analysis: a big drop in crude oil inventories

Our analysis of this week’s EIA oil data can be found here.

A small Maine city may have set off a big fight over oil movements

The next big fight in the war over oil and gas development in the US — or at least one of the next big fights – will be over local control. That issue ramped up this week and appears to raise a significant question of federalism.

The city council in South Portland, Maine, voted this week to approve a package of zoning restrictions that would affect the handling of crude oil in the city. But the laws were drawn to impact the handling of oil being put on to tankers. It doesn’t affect oil being taken off tankers.

Why this is significant is because South Portland is the eastern terminus of the Portland-Montreal Pipeline, which takes crude oil imported into Maine and brings it to Montreal near the St. Lawrence Seaway. It can be refined in Montreal, or moved down Line 9 to Canadian refineries in Ontario.

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The political calculations of ethanol in Iowa and in Washington

Conventional political wisdom has held that given Iowa’s importance in US presidential contests as host of the first-in-the-nation nominating caucuses, the Renewable Fuel Standard is pretty much unassailable.

The federal biofuels mandate enjoys immense bipartisan support in the state, where corn is king.

Candidates hoping to curry favor with state voters would need to wholeheartedly endorse the RFS or at least pay lip service to the law while campaigning there. Iowa, after all, leads the nation in biofuels production, with 41 ethanol plants in the state, along with 18 biodiesel facilities.

But, if RFS opponents are to be believed, the political landscape could be changing.

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Petrodollars: The Western Canadian LNG business attempts to launch

 Exports of LNG from the US aren’t the only potential growth story for North America. LNG shipments out of Western Canada are also on tap. Ashok Dutta, in this week’s Oilgram News column Petrodollars, reviews the start-and-go status of the various projects.

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East Africa must avoid LNG delays to compete with rivals

Mozambique and Tanzania are locked in a race to be first to export gas from East Africa, so much so that the region may emerge as a strong competitor to Qatar and Australia in the battle to capture key export markets in Asia.

Geographically, East Africa is ideally placed to supply LNG to Japan, China, India and South-East Asia all of whom rely heavily on LNG imports.

LNG from East Africa should be cheaper than from Australia but such an advantage may be wiped out if Mozambique and Tanzania are unable to develop their potential before a glut of other new supplies depress prices.

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Did the US Commerce condensate export rulings mean nothing?

Two US Commerce Department rulings giving a pair of Eagle Ford players legal backing to export processed condensate have been viewed as a dramatic loosening of America’s 40-year ban on crude exports, or at least a sign that long-awaited export policy changes were near.

But what if these private letter rulings really only impact the companies that received them and nothing more?

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Kurdistan Regional Government pushes independence; what’s the oil angle?

Survivors for centuries in one of the Middle East’s roughest neighborhoods, Iraq’s Kurds have learned to keep their options open. However, any lingering doubt that they might be aiming for independence sooner rather than later vanished this month with the sudden appearance of a Kurdish “national anthem” on the Kurdistan Regional Government website.

“Ey Reqib”, or “Hey, Enemy”, was written in 1938 by Yunis Reuf, a Kurdish poet and anti-Ottoman political activist also known as Dildar, who was born 20 years earlier in the town of Koi Sanjaq in what is now the Erbil governorate of Iraqi Kurdistan. Before dying at age 31 of heart problems, Dildar saw his poem adopted as the national anthem of the Kurdistan republic in Mahabad (currently part of Iran), which was founded in 1946 and lasted for only a year.

Now the KRG has proclaimed it the official anthem of South Kurdistan, an alternative name for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. It’s a name that tips its hat to the long-held Kurdish ambition of establishing a Greater Kurdistan state encompassing parts of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran.

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EIA analysis: US refineries crank up their runs, crude oil stocks fall

The US refinery operating rate rose more than 2 percentage points last week, which for a one-week period is a significant jump. You can read about what that meant for inventories by reading our weekly analysis here.

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America should heal itself (and use lots of steel in the process)

US president Barack Obama is spending much of this week pushing his multi-year plan to spend $300 billion on infrastructure and to keep current funding from expiring next month — issues dear to the hearts of the nation’s steel executives.

The week started off with the White House release of a new report on “the long-term economic benefits of transportation investment.” The 26-page report notes that 65% of America’s major roads are rated in less than good condition; 25% of its bridges require significant repair or can’t handle today’s traffic, and that 45% of Americans lack access to transit.

The American Iron and Steel Institute, representing the bulk of American steel producers, has two very good reasons for supporting the push for more infrastructure spending. While the most obvious is the increased demand for steel, the industry also relies heavily on water transportation to move supplies such as scrap, iron ore and coal into its mills and to move finished steel out to its customers.

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Gas Daily: Colorado’s anti-fracking ballot initiative fizzles out…for now

After some local areas of Colorado last year passed fracking bans of dubious legality — that sort of thing is generally the responsibility of the state, not a city or town — there arose a clamor for an initiative that would give localities that power. It was seen as a way to severerly limit fracking throughout the state.

It was such a hot-button issue that Democrats in the state were concerned that the issue could create rifts in the party. But all that fretting was for naught; the issue won’t be on the ballot in November.

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