Thursday, March 24, 2016

Trial Balloon -- March 24, 2016

From Rigzone/Reuters:
Russian Deputy Energy Minister Kirill Molodtsov said on Thursday that it was "technically possible" to reduce the country's oil output by 5 percent. 
That was the entirety of the story. 

10 million bbls x 5% = 500,000 bbls / day

If Saudi Arabia "meets" Russia's reduction, 5%, about the same amount, then we are talking 1 million bopd from these two countries.

Hillary Concerned For Oreo Employees
Not So Concerned About Coal Miners, Oil Industry Workers

It will be interesting to see if Oreos come down in price.

Oreos used to be one of my favorite cookies. I was a regular buyer until some years ago when the price per package just became insane. I don't think I've eaten an Oreo in years, and I know I haven't bought a package of Oreos in the past ten years.

It will be interesting to see if the price of Oreos comes down, now that Nabisco is moving that operation to Mexico. USA Today is reporting:
Snack giant Nabisco on Wednesday began the process of laying off hundreds of workers at its Chicago factory as it expands operations in Mexico, despite facing criticism for the move from White House hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Nabisco is expected to cut 277 workers this week — the first wave in a total of 600 layoffs  — as the company that makes Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Nilla Wafers shifts work to a Mexico plant where it has invested $130 million in a new cookie and cracker production line.
In the big scheme of things, 600 employees is not particularly alarming -- certainly not compared to the number of coal workers put out of work by the Obama administration and the number of roughnecks not working due to the slump in the oil industry.

A lot more miners were affected than the 600 cookie employees. To top that off, Hillary plans to ban fracking and continue Obama's plan to shut down more coal companies.

Bill, Hillary, And Chelsea All Turn On ObamaCare

I really don't care about this. The only reason I'm posting it is to continue the timeline on ObamaCare.

Bill started this with dissing the last eight years of Obama's presidency. Then Hillary said ObamaCare was a disaster, and now Chelsea weighs in: ObamaCare has created crushing costs.

The US Census Bureau Provides Update On US Census -- Texas And North Dakota Both Singled Out -- March 24, 2016

Wow, a blowout -- in the collegiate basketball tournament, the Oregon Ducks have extended their lead over Duke. With about four (4) minutes left to play in the game the Oregon Ducks are ahead 74 - 61. Moments earlier it was 74 - 58. Update: now with 42 seconds left, Oregon is ahead by eleven (11) points. Update: ten second left, up by 14 points. And that's the final, 82 - 68. Oregon will play Oklahoma on March 26, 2016.

Census Bureau

The US Census Bureau released an update today.

Texas is the headline story.
  • Four Texas metro areas together added more people last year than any state in the country except for Texas as a whole, according to new U.S. Census Bureau population estimates released today. The population in these four metro areas increased by more than 400,000 people from July 1, 2014, to July 1, 2015.
  • The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro areas added about 159,000 and 145,000 residents, respectively — the largest gains of any metro areas in the nation. Two additional Texas metro areas adjacent to each other — Austin-Round Rock and San Antonio-New Braunfels — were each also among the 16 nationwide to gain 50,000 or more people over the period.
Micro Areas
  • North Dakota contained the nation’s two fastest-growing micro areas between 2014 and 2015: Williston and Dickinson, whose populations rose by 9.9 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively.     
  • Two micro areas, Bozeman, MT, and Williston, ND, each gained more than 3,000 people between 2014 and 2015, increasing by about 3,500, and around 3,200, respectively. 
From Bloomberg, Texas is still booming:
U.S. oil prices tumbled from more than $100 a barrel in the summer of 2014 to less than $50 a year later, but that didn't stop workers from flocking to Texas, the nation's biggest energy-producing state.

Eight of the top 20 counties that gained the most population last year were in Texas. Four Lone Star metros—Dallas, Houston (Harris County), San Antonio (Bexar County), and Austin (Travis County)—collectively added more than 412,000 people from July 2014 to July 2015.

If energy prices tanked, why did the population keep growing?

A diverse labor market, fueled in part by Texas's corporate-friendly tax structure, combined with relatively affordable housing and proximity to the Mexican border, has been drawing people to Texas for years.
Harris County, a global hub for the energy industry, has added more than 440,000 people since 2010 with annual increases averaging 2 percent over the past five years, according to historical data from the census. The Dallas-Ft. Worth area, with such large corporate employers as AT&T and American Airlines, has grown too, with Dallas County adding 186,000 people over the same period.

All those new workers searching for homes have made housing more expensive, with the state's median home price reaching $189,000 in January 2016, up 37 percent from five years earlier.
Despite that increase, the state's major housing markets look cheap compared with big cities on the coasts. In Harris County, it takes 22 percent of one's average wages to cover mortgage payments and other costs of a typical home. Compare that with Los Angeles County, where those costs amount to 67 percent of wages, or Brooklyn, where the figure is 120 percent.
Cheap housing and the absence of a state income tax make the state popular with workers, while low corporate taxes and a reputation as a pro-business regulatory environment have persuaded large employers to relocate.
In Dallas, an ongoing boom in office construction is being led by companies—JPMorgan Chase, Liberty Mutual Insurance, and Toyota Motor Co.—whose fortunes are more closely linked to the national economy than to the energy sector. Austin, meanwhile, is a popular location for such tech companies as Dell, IBM, and chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices.

Another Possible Example Of The Halo Effect -- March 24, 2016

This almost becomes a parlor game: find a well whose production has jumped month-over-month and look for a possible halo effect.

Disclaimer: in a long note like this there are likely to be factual and typographical errors. I may be seeing things that do not exist. Operators can "manage" monthly production of their wells and that creates challenges trying to sort some of this stuff out. Don't quote me on this. I'm only posting it to help me understand the Bakken. If this is important to you, go to the source.

Note the production of this well:


That was well:
  • 20272, 800, Hess, SC-Norman 154-98-3130H-1, Truax, t10/11; cum 197K 1/16; 
This is the screenshot of the location of the Hess Norman well (the index well). Note the well that was fracked that apparently had an effect on the Norman well, about 1,200 feet to the east:

It's sister well (#23128) was a Three Forks well fracked with 19 stages, 1.3 million lbs, had no effect on it when it was fracked 2/12. However, the well one section over had a huge affect it appears:
  • #29860, 923, Hess, SC-Ellingsberg-LW-154-98-3230H-2, Truax, middle Bakken, 35 stages, 2.5 million lbs, fracked over a two-day period, 4/4-5/2015; t4/15; cum 98K 1/16;

One New Permit -- March 24, 2016

Two wells come off the confidential list Friday, but due to Good Friday they will not be posted until Monday:
31367, SI/NC, SM Energy Owl 1-28HS, Ambrose, no production data,
31511, SI/NC, CLR, Dolezal 5-5H, Chimney Butte, no production data,
Active rigs:

Active Rigs32100197187206

One (1) new permit:
  • Operator: Whiting
  • Field: Sanish (Mountrail)
  • Comments: first permit in quite a few days.
The Apple Page

There are two story lines coming out of the Apple presentation this past Monday.

The first story is how incredibly good the iPhone SE is -- I saw some of those reviews earlier, but not all of them. Folks commenting at Macrumors are notoriously hard on Apple, but surprisingly, folks are making very, very good comments about the new smaller iPhone. Most interesting, folks are talking about the "price point" -- how incredibly great the price is. Over at Sprint:

Which brings us to the second story line from that presentation. One gets the feeling that Apple is out to a) crush the competition; and/or b) bring a lot more folks into the Apple arena by bringing prices down. The significant price drop in the Apple Watch was the first indication that Apple is pulling out all stops, and then with the pricing on the SE. 

With regard to the Apple Watch there's not a lot of difference between $349 and $299 for the customer, but it's a huge psychological (and marketing) price point when it goes from "almost $400 to under $300." Of course, for Apple, the margins for the Apple Watch must be coming way down with a cut like that. But they may be making it up with the bands.

Off The Net For Awhile

Garry Shandling -- dead? Age 66.

Collateral Damage

When I got home, the April, 2016, issue of Texas Monthly was in our mailbox. The front cover:
 Guns: How They Shaped Our Culture And What They Mean To The Modern Texas.
A quick page-by-page turn of the entire issue revealed:
  • a special advertising supplement for the state of New Mexico;
  • a special advertising supplement for the lawyers in Texas; and, 
  • almost everything else related to the top of gun (the cover story), except for a couple of pages devoted to recipes.
I don't particularly care for Texas Monthly. Like the Smithsonian it has way too many ads. Worse, the font is way too small. It's actually a difficult magazine to read; I find The New Yorker much more pleasant to read.

After a quick page-by-page survey of the articles on guns, it appears on balance, I prefer to live in a state where guns are part of the culture. It appears, based on the testimonials, and there were testimonials from both sides, the "good" outweighs the "bad" with regard to owning and carrying handguns.

I prefer that a would-be intruder does not know whether I have a gun or not. For the record, I do not. Yet.

US Oil Production Falling Like An Air-Borne Brick -- Not! -- March 24, 2016

Falling like an air-borne brick, tweeting now, US oil production last week totaled 9.038 million b/d, down 30,000 b/d vs. previous week.

30,000 bopd / 9.038 million bopd = 0.3%. Wow.

Everybody's Talking ...

....  about all that wind energy capacity that's being added, suggesting we've seen the end of fossil fuel for generating electricity. So, let's see, graphically:

Looks like wishful thinking by the warmists. It appears that capacity added in 2015 was about equal to that added in 2007, 2010, and 2012. At 6,000 MW in 2015, that's not all that different than the peak year of additional NG generation capacity, 2011 when about 9,500 MW were added.

Of course, a lot of that added capacity is required to back-up solar which tends not to work during the night and wind which is intermittent and impossible to predict, and very, very temperamental. In high winds, the turbines have to be taken off-line.

For solar:

20 GW for solar.
6 GW for natural gas.

If I did the math correctly.

For wind:

The best news about all this: the US will never again be dependent on OPEC oil. Period. Dot.

The US will always have plentiful, (relatively) inexpensive energy.

Saudi Binladin Group Struggles Due To Oil's Decline -- March 24, 2016

Whatever happened to Bin Laden?

From The Wall Street Journal:Oil’s Decline Takes Toll on Saudi Conglomerate Saudi Binladin Group struggles with massive debt as government cuts funding for megaprojects.
A construction conglomerate at the center of Saudi Arabia’s petrodollar-fueled economic boom is teetering under billions of dollars of debt, bankers and financial advisers familiar with the matter said, showing the strain of cheap oil on the kingdom and its companies.

The Saudi Binladin Group was once among the biggest beneficiaries of Saudi Arabia’s massive spending at home, paid for by the kingdom’s growing oil wealth. But in the past half year, it has hit hard times.

An executive at one of SBG’s subsidiaries said the parent company hadn’t provided any funding to the unit for more than six months, triggering a funding crunch that has stalled longer-term plans. Several subcontractors and suppliers involved in Binladin projects also haven’t been paid for months, according to the bankers and advisers who know about the company’s finances.
Sounds like a company Bill Ackman might want to invest in.

A Note to the Granddaughters

Your mother majored in Eastern European studies and the Russian language when she attended the University of Arizona, and she has visited Russia at least twice (perhaps a third time, I've forgotten). She lived on her own for one summer in Yaroslavl, Russia, sometime during her university days.

I've always wanted to read one of the great Russian novels, like War and Peace, or Anna K but could never "get into it." For some reason, Russia never interested me that much.

Then I got into my "Doctor Zhivago" phase -- about three weeks ago. I have watched the movie on DVD several times since then, including the commentaries and interviews with the director and some of the actors. I just received the anniversary edition from but have not watched it yet.

I was unable to watch the movie a second time after I first saw it decades ago; it was too incredibly painful on so many levels.

I don't know why, but it's different now.

I continue to read the novel; I'm on page 419 of the 519-page novel (this does not include the poems at the end). It's possible I have reached the climax; I will know later. It appears the climax may be Chapter 13 in which Doctor Zhivago, in self-imposed exile in Yuriatin with Lara, has received a letter written by Tonia, his wife, from Moscow, written five months earlier. He had already decided to return to Moscow -- though it could mean his death -- to see Tonia and his son Sasha (about eight years old, I suppose) and his daughter whom he had never seen. But by the time he received the letter, Tonia had left Moscow and was on her way to Paris.

I've never thought about "climaxes" in novels before until I read The Great Gatsby

Of course, one wonders if Tonia made it to Paris. Early on in the book, there is a very, very short bit in which Zhivago's half-brother Evgraf promises to always be there when needed to help his brother and his brother's family. From the movie, we learn that Evgraf rises under the Soviets, and that fact assures us Tonia and Sasha and Sasha's sister made it safely to Paris. Of course, that's the assumption, but I'll have to wait to see if Pasternak says any more of Tonia.

Tonia's letter was so incredibly poignant -- I cannot think of the best word -- I had to leave for a bicycle ride after reading that chapter last night. It was about 7:00 p.m. -- still light and nice weather. The forecast was for a line of severe thunderstorms to hit about 8:00 p.m. but Tonia's letter was so overwhelming I had to take the bicycle ride.

I rode the five miles to Starbucks without incident. At 8:30 p.m. the storm moved in from the west quickly.  At about the same time, there was a tornado warning for our area. It appeared there might be a break in the storm at 9:30; Starbucks closed at 10:00 p.m. I was the only customer in the coffee shop.

The thunderstorm was fierce; with hail. The two Starbucks employees had to lock the front door to keep the doors from blowing away. About an inch of water flooded the inside entry way of Starbucks. The night was often as bright as day due to the prolonged lightning strikes. The hail ended, but the downpour continued.

At 9:45, it looked like it was as good as it was going to get. I asked for two plastic bags. I wrapped my books and computer in one and placed them inside by backpack, and then used the second large trash bag to wrap my backpack. I went out into the slightly-less-than-pouring rain, turned on all my bike lights and backpack lights and started home.

I was pretty much drenched when I got home. The backpack and everything inside the backpack was dry. Except for the rain, it was a comfortable ride: minimal wind and the temperature had not dropped as much as expected. There was almost no traffic.

There were places where the water was up over my ankles -- and I was on my bike, meaning the water was probably 8 inches deep in some places. But the bike and I made it. All of my lights, front and rear, except one, survived the heavy rain. The ride is a 30-minute trip under best of circumstances. I forgot to check the time on this ride, but it was probably a record for me, perhaps 25 minutes. The last five minutes the rain had pretty much quit.

I've ridden in worse weather in Boston (both summer and winter) but this was the worst lightning storm I've ridden in. 

Lara's Theme, Doctor Zhivago

$11 Million School Expansion Approved For South Heart, North Dakota -- March 24, 2016

The Dickinson Press is reporting:
An early vote tally shows the district’s bond referendum held Tuesday passed by a margin of almost 9 percent, which will allow the district to proceed with an $11 million school expansion project that will likely begin sometime in the middle of this upcoming summer.
From an earlier report:
The current master plan for the future school has been estimated at $11 million by JLG Architects, a Dickinson firm which has been working with the district throughout the planning process.
That plan would break the project into a two-phase buildout that would begin with adding on to the elementary school wing on the north side of the current facility, which would effectively replace the campus’ 1916 building.
Phase one would also include an expansion of the school’s south end to house the vocational and agriculture department and provide additional space for high school classrooms.

The Truth Is Out There: CAVE Dwellers, ObamaCare, State Lawmakers Killing Massachusetts Retail -- March 24, 2016

The truth is out there.

One just has to search for it.

These are the big three killing retail in Massachusetts:
  • high energy costs (thank you, warmists and CAVE dwellers)
  • high health care insurance premiums (thank you, Mr Romney and Mr Obama)
  • high labor costs (thank you, Mr Congresswoman)
From today's Boston Globe:
The Retailers Association of Massachusetts said it saw a 34-percent surge in members who dropped out of the organization because they went out of business.
The statistic was particularly noteworthy because the number of closure-related dropouts held steady from 2011 through 2014, in the 130 range annually, before rising to 174 last year.

“We were taken aback by it,” said Hurst, whose statewide group has roughly 3,500 members, most of them mom-and-pop shops and other small businesses, including restaurants. “It’s a little scary. I’m kind of concerned that there’s a real profitability issue. Too many of them are going out of business, and new entrepreneurs aren’t coming in to replace them.”

The retailers association continues to push a bill that would eliminate Massachusetts’ time-and-a-half pay requirement for workers on Sundays and holidays, a requirement that Hurst said is shared by only one other state, Rhode Island.

Hurst said the group’s members are under assault from online competitors that don’t have the same cost structures or regulations. He places the blame for the rise in closures on that competition, as well as on high labor and energy costs and double-digit percentage increases in health insurance premiums: “All of these things are piling on.”
Yellow Journalism Out West

Is this much ado about nothing, to quote the bard?

The Los Angeles Times is reporting:
The Port of Los Angeles paid a Chinese government-owned shipping company $5 million in 2005 to equip cargo vessels to plug into electric shore power while at dock to keep their massive diesel engines from polluting neighborhoods near the harbor.
The company, China Shipping, used the money to upgrade 17 ships, but the city didn't get all the promised environmental benefits. Most of the vessels stopped traveling to Los Angeles in 2010, a Times review of shipping industry data showed.
The ships that took their place on the Asia-to-Los Angeles route were not all equipped for shore power. From 2010 to 2013, a period in which residents were promised that virtually every vessel docked at the terminal would plug in, half left their engines running, port records show. In 2012, 88% left their engines running.
Since 2014, nearly all ships that dock at the China Shipping terminal have plugged in because the newer, larger vessels plying the route now are generally built with shore power in mind, port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said.
Okay, there was a bit of "smoke and mirrors" between 2005 and 2014, but it's "all good" now. 

I doubt this story has any legs.

Second Greenfield Refinery Moves Forward -- March 24, 2016


Later, 4:37 p.m. Central Time: this really isn't an update, just a comment or two. I don't understand the "urge" to build these refineries in southwest North Dakota. The developers are simply inviting controversy putting them anywhere near "The Park." It's not as if there's not enough land in north of the park, on either side of the state line. When I was growing up there was a refinery in Williston; it begs the question. In addition, with Williston overbuilt with housing now, the city would probably bend over backwards to get additional activity in the area. One wonders if Williston might not be wise to do something to "attract" Meridian to Williston.
Original Post

The Dickinson Press is reporting: Meridian Energy Group moves forward on Davis Refinery in the Belfield area, citing business environment better in North Dakota than California. Data points:
  • would sits on 620 acres (one section)
  • west of Belfield in Billings County
  • capacity: 55,000 bopd
  • would be the nation's second greenfield refinery constructed in US since 1976
  • follows in the footsteps of the Dakota Prairie Refinery outside of Dickinson
  • no price estimates provided; CEO says the company has economy advantage
From the article:
[The CEO] said he sees North Dakota as a more business-friendly state compared to his native California, though he said this doesn’t equate to the former being loose in regulations.
“I’ve gotten the impression that as long as we’re meeting all the requirements of the permitting agencies, that we should have a pretty smooth road,” he said.
Prentice also said that California is just a temporary base for Meridian Energy Group, as it plans to call Belfield its new home in the future.
“This is an emerging North Dakota company,” he said.
The Apple Page

The reviews continue to come in. Yesterday I posted my thoughts on the Apple Watch (spoiler alert: incredible).

Today, The Wall Street Journal has an article on the new iPhone SE.
The iPhone SE is a win for ergonomic choice, but Apple doesn’t score any points for originality. The new phone is nearly indistinguishable from the three-year-old iPhone 5s, which is a hair thicker and less pleasantly rounded than Apple’s more recent designs. (The SE even fits in most existing 5s cases.) The SE will come in Apple’s newer rose-gold hue, but it lacks design improvements you’ll find in Apple’s competitors, such as waterproofing and expandable storage. 
It’s almost as though Apple is transplanting new brains into old iPhone 5s bodies. (Apple isn’t literally doing that, though the concept does seem like it could be a big boon for the environment.)
On most important functions, the iPhone SE doesn’t disappoint. Its A9 processor, exactly the same one that’s in the iPhone 6s, zips through apps and the most graphically challenging mobile games. (By a test called GeekBench, it’s about 70% faster than the 5s.)
It looks like I'm sold. To get the Apple Watch, I need an iPhone. I will wait for one more iteration of the iPhone SE -- hoping it either gets better or comes down in price (it's already ridiculously low -- one can get it free with a two-year contract).

I wonder if Apple has the "think different" attitude to bring out a clamshell, reminiscent of their early jellybean iMacs. That was one of my favorite models; I bought it overseas when it first came out; I bought it on impulse, the only Apple product I have ever bought on impulse. Mine was indigo blue.

Second-Biggest Oil Company To Cut Production, Cut Losses -- March 24, 2016

Jobs, unemployment claims:
  • last week, revised down by 6,000 from 265,000 to 259,000
  • this week, back up to 265,000, an increase of 6,000
  • the 4-week moving average increased 250
  • the previous week's 4-week average was revised down by 8,500 from 268,000 to 259,500
With all the revisions, the 4-week average is more volatile than the weekly number. Remember, these are seasonally adjusted and with all the revisions, it certainly suggests some massaging. Two possibilities: they factored in an early Easter (after forgetting about Easter) and/or they are looking at the primaries.

Active rigs:

Active Rigs32100197187206

RBN Energy: what $40 oil means to crude oil markets.

PetroChina ready to cut losses. Link here:
As oil’s collapse leaves some fields with no chance to turn a profit, China’s biggest producer is ready to cut its losses.
PetroChina Co. sees oil and gas output falling the first time in 17 years as it shuts high-cost fields that have “no hope” of making profits at current prices.
The world’s biggest oil company by market capitalization after Exxon Mobil Corp. said output will slide 2.7 percent this year to 1.45 billion barrels of oil equivalent as a drop in crude production overwhelms higher gas output.
There's actually a bigger story here than some observers might note. Obviously PetroChina wasn't exporting much of their oil; their country needs all they produce. With their biggest producer cutting back, China will be importing more oil.

This is a twofer.