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The Drilldown: Trump Administration OKs Drilling of Untouched Arctic Refuge

Source: iPolitics, August 17, 2020

The Lead 

Plans to begin oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge were approved today by the Trump administration. Industry will be allowed to lease the 1.5-million-acre piece of coastal plain in Alaska’s northeast region known as the “1002” area. The 1002 is believed to host the largest onshore reserves of oil in North America. It’s remained undeveloped to this point.

Democrats in Congress blocked the creation of fossil-fuel infrastructure in the 1002 for years, but a section of a tax bill passed by the Trump administration in 2017 now authorizes development on the plain. The legislation requires that at least two leases of 400,000 acres be sold by 2024.

Many environmental advocates say drilling on this land would be counterproductive at a time when the use of fossil fuels is becoming more taboo and green energy is championed, reports the New York Times.


The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has been able to increase the price of crude and stabilize the market, according to a statement today by Iran’s oil minister, Bijan Zanganeh. According to Zanganeh, Iran’s oil sector has signed 13 contracts worth a total of around 1.5 billion euros with over a dozen local firms to help steady the country’s oil output.

“OPEC’s performance has been successful, because the price of oil has risen from $16 in May to around $45 and has stabilized,” said Zanganeh, reported Reuters.

Meanwhile, S&P Global Platts Analytics predict that the capacity of the Permian Basin pipeline will reach nearly eight million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of 2021, though its oil output will stay around 4.2 million bpd.

A series of pipelines was completed at the end of 2019, and more long-haul crude pipelines are planned in the region, leading some energy analysts to believe industry overbuilt.

“We flew too close to the sun to handle the COVID demand shock,” Ethan Bellamy, a strategist will East Daley Capital said, according to Hellenic Shipping News.

On Monday morning at 9:21 a.m., West Texas Intermediate had jumped by 1.05 per cent or US$0.44 and was trading at US$42.45. Brent Crude had risen by 0.69 per cent or US$0.31 and was going for US$45.11.

In Canada

Suncor Energy Inc. is not expected to resume mining bitumen at its site in Fort McMurray, Alta., until the beginning of September, following a fire at its extraction area last Friday. Suncor says no one was injured in the fire, but the company has not revealed its cause.

The plant will continue to process already-mined bitumen at a slower rate until operations are back to normal, according to the Canadian Press.

In other news, a 10-megawatt solar-plus-storage microgrid project in Prince Edward Island will receive $25 million from the federal and provincial governments. Ottawa will contribute $12.3 million, while P.E.I will invest another $12.7 million.

“This project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our reliance on imported power,” said Steven Myers, P.E.I.’s energy minister, in a news release. The Slemon Park Microgrid Project will increase the province’s use of renewable energy by 3.5 per cent, PV Buzz writes.

Canadian Crude Index had fallen by 0.34 per cent or US$0.10 and was trading at US$29.11 and Western Canadian Select had dropped by 0.25 per cent or US$0.08 and was going for US$32.26 this morning at 8:25 a.m.

“LNG exports have not been subject to this significantly yet, but I think exports have certainly garnered the attention of activists, and I think that these developers need to be aware of how this tide that’s turning against natural gas can impact their projects in a multitude of ways,” Dewar said.