Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016


2:02 p.m. Central Time: departing Belfield under overcast skies, but sun trying to break through. Looks like an absolutely gorgeous day. I would call it partly sunny and getting better. The Dickinson Press would probably call it overcast, with chance of more gloominess before dusk in just a couple of hours. 

1:22 p.m. Central Time: Belfield. Roads were fine between Williston and Belfield. Traffic moving 10 mph below the posted speed limit between Williston and Watford City; moving at the posted speed limit south of Watford City all the way to Belfield.
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It looks like I will be departing the Bakken today. Light snow falling; seems a bit warm. The snow is heavy, wet, sticky. Yes, it's about 24 degrees, apparently. Really warm for this time of year.

Market looks to be extremely volatile (a Wall Street euphemism for "scary"). I'm sure glad Janet Yellen started raising rates last year; gives her an opportunity to cut rates this year. LOL. She "doesn't know if she has legal authority" to cut to "negative rates." I suppose if she doesn't know, no one knows except President Obama. The US is fortunate to have an experienced finance expert at the helm.

What a mess for MDU, ratepayers, and regulators. The Dickinson Press is reporting (archived):
Montana Dakota Utilities has scaled back a 21.1 percent electricity rate increase it had been requesting in Montana, but that didn’t stem the tide of questions the company faced at a public hearing that started Tuesday in Glendive.
In North Dakota, they’ve been collecting costs for these upgrades via trackers and riders so there has not been a public hearing process per se. This makes the Montana public hearings an important arena for public engagement about the requested rate increase that would cover the three states.
While the rate increases are for Montana customers, MDU has an integrated electric system that is serving customers in a three-state area that includes western North Dakota and South Dakota.

The company’s original proposal to the Montana Public Service Commission sought to recover $11.4 million annually in costs, but two Montana advocacy groups both said justifiable recovery costs were more like $2 or $3 million.
I suppose this is the cross we bear with federal government dysfunction, questionable presidential executive orders, a slumping economy, a Bakken bust, a killed Keystone, and PPP.

For those still interested, this is the transcript for 4Q15 earnings, MDU:

The Dickinson refinery: it looks like the writing is on the wall. Refinery utilization target is 90%.
We are working on optimizing where the plant is at. Longer-term, you know this is a business you have to get in on scale, not just one refinery, you have to have several or else you would exit. Obviously, we may not be the right long-term owner but at this point that decision hasn't been made. (page 3) 
Our refining segment includes the company's 50% interest in the Dakota Prairie Refinery which began commercial operations just in May of last year. Our share of 2015 refining results is an adjusted loss of $20.5 million. Earnings were impacted by unplanned outages in October and November due to equipment problems that have since been repaired. Economics have also been affected by historically low Bakken differentials from the West Texas Intermediate pricing, which has reduced the discount for our oil feedstock.

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