Roy Merrill, an engineer at a Wold Energy drilling site near Rolling Hills, points out various parts of the rig recently during a tour of the well. Oil rig numbers in Wyoming continue to climb.

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune

Have an event, trend or general energy happening you’d like to see in the Energy Journal newsletter? Send it to Star-Tribune energy reporter Heather Richards at heather.richards@trib.com. Sign up for the newsletter at www.trib.com/energyjournal.

Last week in numbers

Friday oil prices: West Texas Intermediate (WTI) $59.20 Brent (ICE) $62.79

Natural gas weekly averages: Henry Hub $2.77 Wyoming Pool $2, Opal $2.06

Baker Hughes rig count: U.S. 975, Wyoming 30

Quote of the Week

“They are used to paying this tax, so I thought there would be less heartburn.”

-- Rep. Daniel Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, on increasing the state coal tax if a federal fee disappears 

Down in Cheyenne 

The legislative session begins today. For most legi news, at times including the energy beat, keep an eye on political reporter Arno Rosenfeld who's in Cheyenne. Follow @ArnoRosenfeld on Twitter for all-day coverage. 

But there are a few bills we've already touched on this week. 

If federal fees on coal production for clean up aren't renewed, a Cheyenne lawmaker wants those  Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program dollars to keep coming to Wyoming. 

So he's proposing to up the state tax if the AML program sunsets in a few years. 

The money has been a boon and a frustration in Wyoming in recent years. The feds once withheld the money, in part because of how Wyoming chose to use it. It's also a big chunk of the state's Department of Environmental Quality budget every year.

Another legislator has his eye on the renewable industries. His bill would expand the wind tax to include solar power. It would also increase the wind tax from $1 per megawatt hour to $2 per megawatt hour. 

But Rep. Tom Crank, R-Kemmerer, is hoping the bill will entice the manufacturing industry to Wyoming with its promise of a tax credit for any renewable equipment made in-state.

Meanwhile, Rep. Chuck Gray R-Casper, wants the Legislature to set aside a quarter of a million dollars to sue Washington State over coal. That story is out tomorrow. 

Tradeoffs in oil and gas country

Quick look at job numbers 

Wyoming unemployment fell in 2017, from 4.8 percent to 4.2 percent, a combination of people leaving for greener pastures and industries like oil and gas making a gradual comeback. Some industries, like construction, have yet to rally from the downturn despite oil and gas improvements. 

Bridger cited after miner's death

A state investigation into the death of Jaime Olivas, a miner from Rock Springs fatally injured in the Bridger Underground Coal Mine last year, led to a violation for the company for not securing the roof and walls where Olivas was hurt.

A federal investigation is pending. 

Earnings season

The first of our earnings story this quarter come from two of the largest players, Anadarko Petroleum and Peabody Energy. 

Anadarko came in strong in the last quarter of 2017. Peabody, the coal company that owns North Antelope Rochelle mine outside Wright, is dampening its projections for coal production due to declining demand. 

Long term trends down

Coal has rallied from the downturn, but last week's yearly outlook from the Energy Information Administration isn't a strong sell for the Powder River Basin sector. 

In other news... 

  • Fabtech of Casper was sold to a Texas firm last week. 
  • A Canadian uranium company, enCore Energy Corp. is acquiring Wyoming uranium claims in the Shirley Basin and potentially Crook County from another British Columbia firm, Metamin Enterprises Inc. Encore announced this week that it is picking up assets in Utah and Arizona as well. 
  • The Cowboy State hit 30 rigs this week, the first time it's reached 30 since March 2015. The rig count jumped nationally as well by 29, up by four in Wyoming. 
  • The EIA meanwhile has increased its oil price forecast for the year by $3 a barrel in the Short-Term Energy Outlook for February. Brent crude, the international benchmark, eclipsed $70 for the first time since 2014. The U.S. benchmark, WTI, is expected to be about $4 lower than Brent in 2018 and 2019, according to the EIA. 
  • For those curious about the case of Michael Ruffatto, the former developer of the Two Elk energy project in Campbell County. His sentencing date last month was continued again. Ruffatto faces sentencing for fraud charges Wednesday. 

Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner


Energy Reporter

Heather Richards writes about energy and the environment. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, she moved to Wyoming in 2015 to cover natural resources and government in Buffalo. Heather joined the Star Tribune later that year.

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