natural gas

Economy
2:58 pm
Sun June 16, 2013

Michigan's natural gas prices may rise, depending on decisions to allow more overseas exports

Natural gas prices have been extremely low in Michigan. But will prices stay low?
ipaa.org

For years, Michigan businesses and consumers have enjoyed extremely low natural gas prices.

But that may be changing. And it’s a case of basic economics. 

Natural gas is selling for about $4 per thousand cubic feet in the U.S.

In Europe, the price is closer to $10 per thousand cubic feet. In Japan, the price is hovering over $15.

So it should be no surprise that the energy industry is pushing hard for more exports of natural gas.       

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Energy
5:05 pm
Thu May 9, 2013

State auctions mineral rights as 'anti-fracking' groups gather

A natural gas well.
World Resources Institute

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – are blasting Michigan officials for opening more state lands to oil and gas companies. They held a rally in Lansing today as state officials auctioned the mineral rights for tens of thousands of acres of state land.

Fracking is a controversial process of extracting natural gas from deep underground.

Jim Nash is Oakland County’s water resources commissioner. He says the state needs to do more to protect against possible spills from fracking wells.

"We have fairly strict laws in Michigan, but we only have 22 people that actually do inspections," said Nash. "So it’s mostly self-reporting of incidents. That’s great if you have an honest company. But if you have a dishonest company that’s cutting corners already, they’re not going to report a bad accident."

The state Department of Environmental Quality says companies have been fracking in Michigan for decades without any significant environmental incidents.

Environment & Science
11:19 am
Fri April 19, 2013

Watch town hall meeting on fracking in Michigan

An image from the short film on fracking shown at the town hall meeting.
University of Michigan

Michigan Radio recently co-hosted a town hall meeting with the University of Michigan's School of Engineering on the future of horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Michigan.

We also live-tweeted the event on hashtag #fracktopia. Here's one of the more revelatory facts that came out of that discussion:

Those are gas wells. Not necessarily horizontally fractured wells. Horizontal fracturing is still in the experimental stage in Michigan. One industry representative at the meeting said "the jury is still out" on whether horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Michigan would be a good investment.

The town hall discussion featured a screening of Fracktopia, a short film about the latest techniques to recover natural gas and oil and their potential consequences. Michigan Radio's Lester Graham then led a discussion and Q-and-A session with the following panelists:

You can watch the town hall meeting in full on the U-M School of Engineering's website.

Just click on the "View On-Demand" link.

Business
11:42 am
Sat April 6, 2013

Some Michigan residents saw lower heating bills this winter

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Some Michigan residents saw lower heating bills this winter because of reduced natural gas prices and milder temperatures.

The Michigan Public Service Commission announced Friday that households that use natural gas for heating received lower heating bills. Nearly 80 percent of all Michigan households use natural gas to heat their homes.

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Environment & Science
4:29 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

University of Michigan taking a broad look at the effects of fracking

(file photo)
michigangreenlaw.com

The University of Michigan is undertaking a broad review of the effects of Michigan’s growing natural gas industry.   U of M researchers met with environmentalists and industry officials today in Lansing.

Most natural gas is extracted using a process called hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking. There are concerns that fracking might cause health and environmental problems.   But supporters say fracking is helping boost Michigan’s economy. 

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Energy
12:53 am
Thu December 6, 2012

Holland City Council votes to replace aging coal plant with new natural gas one

Holland's aging coal plant will be replaced by a new plant that burns natural gas.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The City of Holland plans to build a new $182 million power plant. Wednesday night Holland City Council voted eight to one to replace the city’s more than 70-year-old coal plant with a brand new one that burns natural gas instead.

“I don’t know about you but I’ve made some bad decisions in my life and I’ve made them probably because I acted too quickly,” City Councilman Wayne Klomparens said before casting the lone “no” vote.

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Politics & Government
9:20 am
Thu November 29, 2012

Commentary: The transportation environment

Lessenberry essay 11/29/12

Someone once said that Americans will do anything for the environment except read about it or spend money on it.

I thought of that yesterday, when the governor delivered the latest in his series of special messages, this one on the environment.

Rick Snyder said we had to make better use of the resources we have, and called, among other things, for better recycling and for Michigan to develop a strategic national gas reserve.

Pretty much everyone nodded politely at most of what the governor said,  though not when he appeared to endorse fracking, at least so far as natural gas recovery is concerned.

However, I would be surprised if anyone in the legislature was still thinking about, much less talking about, what the governor said about the environment a week from now. In fact, the governor’s main priorities seem to be elsewhere, at least for the lame duck session.

But something else is going on in the Capitol that could be highly beneficial to the economic as well as the natural environment: Transportation reform. More than a year ago, the governor proposed a high-speed bus system for Metro Detroit. It was, and is, a great and politically brilliant idea. More than a third of the population of Detroit has no access to reliable private transportation, meaning cars.

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Environment & Science
4:13 pm
Fri September 21, 2012

Michigan energy company withdraws gas drilling application

The U.S. Forest Service says that Savoy Energy has informed federal agencies it's withdrawing an application to drill below a site called the Mason Tract in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula.
user {inercia} Flickr

A Traverse City company is abandoning a nearly decade-long effort to extract natural gas in  an environmentally sensitive area. 

The U.S. Forest Service says that Savoy Energy has informed federal agencies it's withdrawing an application to drill below a site called the Mason Tract in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula. 

Energy
6:54 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Should Holland’s power plant stop burning coal and switch to natural gas?

James DeYoung power plant in Holland
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Holland’s city owned utility would be better off if it burned natural gas rather than coal in the future. That’s the conclusion of a months-long study released this week.

The city hired an energy consultant firm to figure out which of its many energy options would produce the best return on investment. The firm said natural gas would be the best bang for the buck. The report says that return also considers other factors like the environment.

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Tue July 31, 2012

Cleaning up a pollution puzzle in Ann Arbor (PHOTOS)

Kevin Lund of MDEQ shows a sample of oil and water he collected when he dug a hole in the bank of the Huron River. The analysis they did on the samples they collected showed that the contamination was coming from the old MichCon manufactured gas plant.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

The city of Ann Arbor recently spent more than one million dollars rebuilding an old mill race along the Huron River. The Argo Cascades is a series of little waterfalls and pools where kayakers and people floating in inner tubes come to cool off.

But downstream from the Cascades on the other side of the river, there’s a problem.

There's been pollution lurking underground for some time from an old industrial plant, and two years ago regulators found that some of the pollution was making its way into the Huron River.

The days before natural gas

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10:58 am
Tue July 24, 2012

Price fixing in Michigan land deals? Lawmakers call for action in investigation

Lead in text: 
A news investigation found two natural gas companies might have colluded when bidding on drilling rights in Michigan. Reuters obtained e-mails exchanged between officials from Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Encana Corp. The paper says the e-mails show "that top executives of the two rivals plotted in 2010 to avoid bidding against each other in a state auction and in at least nine prospective deals with private land owners." State lawmakers are pushing for resolution with an investigation.
Tue Jul 24, 2012 7:03am EDT (Reuters) - Two Michigan state representatives have called on officials there to step up their investigations into possible collusion between Chesapeake Energy Corp and Encana Corp, following a Reuters report that the energy rivals plotted to avoid bidding against each other in Michigan land deals.
energy
9:00 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

City of Holland takes a long-term look at energy issues

Martin Kushler, Senior Fellow with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, speaks of the need to invest on conserving energy first.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Holland City Council adopted guidelines on Wednesday night to handle the city’s long-term energy needs.

The comprehensive plan covers a wide variety of energy issues facing the city over the next 40 years.

Arguably the biggest energy issue long-term is whether the city needs to expand capacity at its coal plant, or maybe modify it to burn natural gas.

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Auto
11:44 am
Tue July 17, 2012

Detroit asked to build a car that runs on natural gas

Honda Honda

Governors of 13 states that produce natural gas are asking Detroit car companies to make them a passenger car that runs on the fuel.

Advances in a drilling technique called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are making natural gas more plentiful.

The drilling technique has plenty of environmental critics, but Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper says it's safe when done properly, and he says natural gas is a better fuel than gasoline.

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Economy
5:26 pm
Tue June 26, 2012

Reuters: Natural gas giants may have colluded in Michigan drilling lease grab

The Utica Shale, seen here, has recently become the target of gas and oil exploration by corporations like Encana and Chesapeake Energy.
Michael C. Rygel Wikipedia Creative Commons

Two of North America’s biggest natural gas corporations, Encana and Chesapeake Energy, are under scrutiny today after the Reuters news agency intercepted at least a dozen emails from 2010 between the competing companies that might show evidence of price-fixing in Michigan’s oil and gas lease market. 

Reuters alleges that the emails suggest top company officials discussed a plan to divide up counties in Michigan auctioning "prime oil- and gas-acreage" in order to avoid a costly bidding competition.

Both companies deny the allegation, though they admit to discussing the possibility of entering into a joint venture in Michigan.

Yesterday, Reuters reported:

Shares of Chesapeake Energy Corp and Encana Corp tumbled Monday after a Reuters investigation showed that top executives of the two rivals plotted in 2010 to avoid bidding against each other in a state auction and in at least nine prospective deals with private land owners.

Following the report, the state of Michigan pledged to determine whether the two energy giants acted two years ago to suppress land prices there.

In Michigan, private land owners can sell the drilling rights on their properties, and the state’s Department of Natural Resources holds auctions to sell state-owned rights called "oil and gas leases" biannually.

Around 2008, this market gained national attention when the Utica and Collingwood Shale oil and natural gas fields drew interest as potential natural gas mother lodes in northeast Michigan. Companies looking to access the reserves thousands of feet underground through a new process called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, started purchasing these rights. Bids for the drilling rights per acre soared to record highs in the May 2010 auction. 

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Economy
10:53 am
Sat June 23, 2012

Debate over renewable energy ballot issue heats up in Michigan

Solar? Wind? Geothermal? Oil? Coal? Natural Gas? What's the solution to Michigan's future energy needs? Or, is the real question, How much of each?
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Supporters say a ballot measure requiring that utilities get more of their electricity from renewable sources would make Michigan a leader in clean energy and create jobs.

Opponents say it would cost electric customers more money and make it harder to provide reliable energy.

On Monday, opponents with the Clean Affordable Renewable Energy (CARE) for Michigan Coalition plan to ramp up statewide efforts to defeat the issue. They argue the requirement doesn't belong in the state constitution.

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Economy
1:23 pm
Tue May 22, 2012

Report: Michiganders will use less gasoline and electricity this summer

Will you be filling up as often this summer?
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michiganders will use less gasoline and electricity this summer, that's according to the Michigan Public Service Commission.

The state utility regulatory agency issued its annual Summer Energy Appraisal today.

Judy Palnau is the agency’s spokeswoman. She says there are a couple reasons why the public service commission expects gasoline sales will decline about 2 percent this summer in Michigan.

“Part of that is a economy. But part of that is we are also driving more energy efficient vehicles,” says Palnau. 

Palnau says the economy is also a reason why they expect electricity use will dip slightly this summer.

“Our sluggish economy is still a factor in decreasing use of electricity,” says Palnau, though the MPSC expects residential electric use will increase. 

The MPSC study also predicts natural gas sales will decline nearly 5 percent this summer. A mild winter drove down demand among both business and residential natural gas customers.

Environment & Science
12:37 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Michigan DEQ clarifies comments on drilling accidents

On The Environment Report yesterday, we heard from Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Communications Director Brad Wurfel about his agency's views on the safety of hydraulic fracturing.

In the interview, he said drillers have been using hydraulic fracturing since the 1960's to drill vertical wells. 

We pointed out there are important differences between traditional vertical drilling and a newer method called horizontal hydraulic fracturing. The new method allows drillers to get natural gas that's much deeper underground.

One of the things to note:

With the more traditional, vertical hydraulic fracturing we’re talking about tens of thousands of gallons of water – horizontal hydraulic fracturing uses millions of gallons.

This is water that’s contaminated and cannot be used again.

In the interview, Brad Wurfel said:

"In 50 years and 12,000 wells around the state, we’ve never had to respond to an environmental emergency with hydraulic fracturing."

I followed up with him on this point today, to ask about this leak that my colleague Lester Graham reported on in February 2011:

The Associated Press reports a leak has shut down a drilling operation not too far from Traverse City.

It's not yet clear whether it will damage underground water sources.  It does raise questions as to whether Michigan regulations are adequate to protect the environment while exploiting the gas reserves in the state.

Here is Wurfel's response:

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Environment & Science
10:23 am
Tue May 8, 2012

"No Sale, No Fracking"

Anti-fracking protesters stand outside of Constitutional Hall in Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

People opposed to a natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing protested outside a state office building in Lansing this morning. 

The state is auctioning off oil and gas mineral rights leases for more 100 thousand acres of public land.

The protesters chanted as energy industry and state government officials entered the building where the auction of oil and gas mineral rights leases was taking place.

The protesters worry drillers will use horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract natural gas in Michigan, potentially contaminating drinking water and causing other environmental problems.

LuAnne Cozma is an anti-fracking activist.  She says state regulations are geared to help the industry, not to protect the people of Michigan.
 
“The gas is drilled…the more gas flows…the more money flows into the (state government) coffers…and that is why we don’t trust the whole process," says Cozma.

The protesters are circulating petitions to put an Anti-fracking question on the November ballot.

Environment & Science
5:48 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

State poised to lease oil and gas rights for public lands

Protesters are expected Tuesday morning outside of a planned auction of oil and natural gas lease rights on public land.

Lease rights on more than 100 thousand acres of public land will be available in the auction in Lansing.

Mary Uptigrove is the acting manager of the Minerals Management Section of the Department of Natural Resources.    She says much of the land on the auction list is there by the request of the drilling industry.

“They may know…areas where… current development is occurring….and they want to explore for additional development,” says Uptigrove. 

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Environment
5:12 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

As fracking debate continues in Michigan, Obama weighs in

A natural gas well.
World Resources Institute

Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" has created no shortage of controversy recently. And as Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams reported last week, debate over this controversial method of extracting oil and gas from deep inside shale deposits has made its way to the Michigan statehouse.

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