Locomotives and rail cars sit on tracks running through Kemmerer on Feb. 12. 

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Last week in numbers

Friday oil prices: West Texas Intermediate (WTI) $60.14 Brent (ICE) $68.39

Natural gas weekly averages: Henry Hub $2.71, Wyoming Pool $2.40, Opal $2.48

Baker Hughes rig count: U.S. 1,006, Wyoming 36 

Quote of the Week

“It’s pretty phenomenal how quickly some of the new technology can develop the resources: so quickly that it can just overwhelm the infrastructure." 

Tad True, vice president of the Belle Fourche and Bridger pipelines

Steel veins

Pipeline infrastructure is going into the PRB on a daily basis ahead of an increase in drilling anticipated for the basin. The national light, sweet crude spot price closed at $60 Friday, but operators have been holding steady even with lower prices. Converse County is facing a near boom, despite the middling price, and some are concerned that existing takeaway isn't sufficient to meet the increase in production. 

Coal job decline

Wyoming mine employment was down more than 150 jobs at the close of 2018 compared to the year prior. The year-over-year decline followed a 2017 increase of just five jobs and the 2016 loss of nearly 1,000. 

Production was also down from the previous year and large producers' midrange outlooks projects further declines for 2019.  

Cloud Peak dropped

The New York Stock Exchange suspended trading in Cloud Peak Energy as of last week. The company operates two mines in Wyoming and had faced increasing financial uncertainty over the last year. 

The firm also chose to take advantage of a 30-day grace period for one of its debt payments last month, a sign some argue that a bankruptcy is imminent for the company. 

Cloud Peak Energy employs about 20 percent of the Powder River Basin coal sector's miners. 

Kemmerer licensed

The would-be owner of the Kemmerer coal mine, Tom Clarke of Virginia, has obtained a license to mine from Wyoming state regulators. 

The license allows Clarke to operate the Westmoreland mine, though the bankrupt coal firm will remain on the hook for reclamation obligations until Clarke has obtained a permit to mine. 

Creditors objected to Clarke's purchase of the mine from Westmoreland recently on claims that those reclamation bonds had to be replaced as part of the sale. 

In other news … 

The AP reports that Wyoming's latest coal research venture is partly funded by a billionaire investor waging a private war on climate change. Gov. Mark Gordon notes that the carbon-to-products research is aimed at creating solutions for a coal industry under pressure. 

President Donald Trump issued a "presidential permit" Friday for the Keystone XL Pipeline, which replaces a 2017 permit that a Montana federal judge had said needed more environmental review. Conservation groups were critical but unsure of what the new permit portends. 

Nebraska flooding has knocked out lines for both Union Pacific and BNSF and both were scrambling to repair service as of the weekend. 

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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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