By JOHN P. TRETBAR
Volatility continues in the crude-oil marketplace. Prices dropped nearly 15 dollars a barrel in two days last week, after what MarketWatch called a reassessment of the earlier run-up in prices. On Monday, after several European countries announced a possible ban on Russian crude, prices in New York were seven percent higher. The near-month contract for light sweet crude was up $7.20 to $111.90 per barrel. London Brent was up $7.92 to $115.85 per barrel.
At CHS in McPherson, Kansas Common crude starts the week at $95 per barrel after gaining $1.75 on Friday.
Gasoline prices continue to drop. After hitting a record $4.33 on March 11, the national average for a gallon of regular has fallen to $4.25 according to the auto club AAA.
Drilling activity in Kansas continues at twice the pace of a year ago, with 78 operators spudding 225 wells so far this year. Operators completed 37 new wells across the state last week, including two in Barton County and one in Stafford County. Independent Oil & Gas Service reports 334 new well-completions so far this year.
Kansas regulators approved 41 new drilling locations last week, eighteen of them east of Wichita, and 23 in the western half of the state, including six new permits in Barton County. That’s 305 new drilling permits so far this year, nearly double the tally last year at this time.
The Rig Count in Kansas is up 15% over last week, 18% over a month ago, and 130% higher than the count last year at this time. Independent Oil & Gas Service reports 46 drilling rigs either scheduled, moving to or currently on drill sites, up six for the week. There are 18 active rigs in eastern Kansas, up three, and 28 west of Wichita, which is also up three.
The aggregate Rotary Rig Count from Baker Hughes was unchanged, but reflected a drop of three oil rigs. New Mexico, North Dakota and Pennsylvania were each down one rig for the week.
The Energy Information Administration reported domestic crude inventories rose more than four million barrels. By March 11th total stockpiles rose to 415.9 million barrels. That’s about 12% below the five-year average for this time of year. Gasoline stockpiles dropped 3.6 million barrels and are now equal to the five year seasonal average.
The government said US crude-oil production was unchanged last week at 11.641 million barrels per day. Imports rose 76,000 barrels to 6.4 million barrels per day. Over the last four weeks, average imports were more than 15% higher than the same four weeks last year.
Weekly oil-by-rail totals in the US are down 12% from a year ago, but up from last week’s report. The Association of American Railroads reports 10,005 tanker car-loads hauling petroleum and petroleum products in the week through March 12th. That’s up 810 carloads over the week before. Oil-by-rail shipments in Canada were up slightly year-over-year, but down slightly from a week ago.
Colorado’s biggest driller suffers a setback on setbacks. Some big players are among the first to test Colorado’s sweeping new environment-friendly oil-and-gas regulations. But the first of them has struck out. The state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission denied an application by Kerr-McGee to drill dozens of wells near a neighborhood in Firestone, Colorado. The state’s new setback rule allows operators to drill within 2,000 feet of homes if they can provide protections that are substantially equivalent to such a buffer. In the case of Kerr-McGee that meant the use of quieter, electric drills and water pipelines to reduce truck traffic. But the commission voted 4-1 last week to deny the drilling application. The Denver Post reports Commissioner Bill Gonzalez was the lone vote in favor of the project. Gonzalez said the protective measures Kerr-McGee planned to take would have provided safeguards similar to drilling farther away. The company did not say how it planned to proceed.
If you’re in business, and you’re thinking of going green, don’t expect a cordial welcome in the Lone Star State. Texas is playing hardball with businesses that, in their words, discriminate against the fossil fuel industry. The State Comptroller wrote to more than a dozen major finance firms seeking detailed information on their operations and plans. According to a statement, any company that fails to respond within 60 days will be presumed to be boycotting energy companies. The inquiries come six months after a new Texas law went into effect banning state agencies from investing in finance firms that have “boycotted energy companies.” That includes those that adhere to policies aimed at pivoting away from oil and natural gas in favor of more climate-friendly initiatives. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar and his office have been in charge of creating a list of firms that will be subject to divestment.
Several large refiners are turning to Ecuador for crude oil in a rush to replace imports of Russian crude. The South American country’s oil trading manager says they held meetings in Louisiana with US refiners Valero Energy and Marathon Petroleum, along with Shell’s trading unit. Bloomberg reports fuel makers and trading companies are seeking to plug a supply gap in an already tight market. That has sparked a hunt to replace the Russian barrels amid wild price swings.