Wind Turbine Training

Chancey Coffelt, a regional safety manager with Goldwind Americas, instructs students on climbing safety during a 10-day wind technician training course at Casper College.

Josh Galemore photos, 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) $53.90 Brent (ICE) $60.44

Natural gas weekly averages: Henry Hub $2.9, Wyoming Pool $2.67, Opal $2.71

Baker Hughes rig count: U.S. 909, Wyoming 22

Quote of the week

This might be a cold day in hell, when the Mining Association and the Powder River Basin Resource Council are on the same side of an issue,” -- Travis Deti on a controversial small mining bill proposed last week.  

CREG report out, no surprises on minerals

The CREG projections confirm what a number of economists are reporting, that revenue streams from Wyoming’s key mineral industries are stabilizing, but not expected to improve in the near term.

In the oil fields, a boost in volume from new drilling earlier in the year was partially offset by the declines from existing wells. Crude prices were slightly lower than expected in the first six months of 2017.  But state economists have a slightly more optimistic outlook for oil production than the one they had in January. Prices will climb slightly higher and production will remain stable to improving, according to their estimates.

Gas prices in Wyoming could increase as well, modestly, over the next five years, thanks to more liquefied natural gas ports tapping potential on the global market, and increased exports to Mexico.

The going price for Powder River Basin coal, meanwhile, has improved since last year, but the former bedrock of the Wyoming energy portfolio is facing challenges from power plant closures that will put downward pressure on production, according to the report. The CREG estimates do not incorporate regulatory changes until they are firm, but the report notes a more favorable political environment for the industry.

Coal has proved difficult to predict in recent years given the number of significant variables in the coal sector that are rapidly changing, from natural gas prices to increasing renewable penetration and regulatory developments. But state economists see Wyoming producing about $310 million tons this year. The industry will gradually drop over the subsequent five years to about 275 million tons, about 30 percent below the annual norm before the 2015 to 2016 bust, according to the report.

Wind training draws a diverse class in Casper 

The wind industry can cause some heated debates in Wyoming, where the impact on the environment or the lack of revenue parity between wind and traditional energy can frustrate a number of denizens of the state. 

The only issue is that the wind jobs aren't here yet. Goldwind Americas, which will have jobs available in Wyoming in a few years, is training what they hope is a future workforce. They want to make a footprint in Wyoming in the meantime, but the current training investment will initially create workers for other wind farms, in other states. 

Carbon capture leader talks to lawmakers

Head of development at Petra Nova, perhaps the best well known carbon capture facility next to the failing Kemper plant, told lawmakers in Wyoming the industry has a ways to go, and needs federal dollars. 

Though capturing the gas and pumping it to oil fields is the only viable money maker for carbon capture right now, but the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the air far exceeds what can be captured and used in the oil fields today, said David Greeson with NRG, one of Petra Nova's developers. 

Feds criticize federal policies 

In line with President Donald Trump's edicts earlier this year, both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department produced reports last week detailing what they've done to reduce burdens on industry development, what they are actively pursuing and what they plan to do. 

Native American heritage clashes with drilling 

Representatives from a handful of tribes told lawmakers that federal procedures that protect their sites are important to them, but acknowledged they have some of the same difficulties working with federal agencies and wading through inconsistencies, that locals in Wyoming have recently criticized. 

At issue are a slew of difficult and sometimes conflicting concerns, including private property rights, interpretations of federal law, current drilling technology and tribal historic preservation. 

Federal officials helped state lawmakers undo some of the confusion of recent months, but there are lingering concerns, and questions. 

In other news: 

Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner

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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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