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EPRINC studies energy economics and policy issue with special emphasis on oil, natural gas and petroleum product markets. We provide objective and technical analysis on a wide range of energy issues.

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Chart of the Week

U.S. Gulf Coast Refineries Continuing Reliance on Medium and Heavy Sour Crude Oil Imports

  • Refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast (USGC) account for over 9 million barrels per day (mbd), or 55%, of total U.S. refining capacity. While they process a wide slate of crudes, they are commercially optimized to refine medium and heavy sour varieties.

 

  • The North American shale revolution has grown to produce a bounty of crude oil, but of the light types. USGC refiners still need to import medium and heavy sour oil.

 

  • The core medium and heavy sour crude USGC suppliers have been Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, and Columbia. To a lesser degree, key OPEC+ countries (Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Nigeria, and Russia, the last before 2022 sanctions) have also been a source.

 

  • However, three of the core suppliers’ imports have been or potentially might be limited.

On August 1, 2023, Batt Odgerel, Director of Energy Transition Research at Energy Policy Research Foundation, delivered a presentation at the 2023 Annual Conference jointly hosted by the Hawai‛i Asia Pacific Institute (HAPI) and Northeast Asia Economic Forum (NEAEF) in Honolulu, Hawai‛i. His presentation centered on the energy trilemma, encompassing energy security, sustainability, and affordability, within the context of Northeast Asia. Batt Odgerel explored pragmatic avenues to enhance collaboration in the region, taking into account the geopolitical and historical challenges at play.

The 32nd Annual Forum took place August 1-2, 2023, and brought together established professionals in Hawai‘i, North America, and the Asia-Pacific region across the research, business, and government fields to facilitate functional cooperation and tangible partnerships around this year’s theme through presentations, panel discussions, and informal networking and dialogue.

 See Batt Odgerel’s presentation here.

Photo credit: Siobhan Ng, NEAEF

Why Publish an Article from 2006?

What could we possibly learn from an article on oil supply published almost 20 years ago? Actually, quite a lot. At the time of publication in 2006, the revolution in technology and know-how that led to the rapid run up in oil and gas production from unconventional resources (commonly called the shale revolution) was still a few years away. Conventional wisdom at the time was that the U.S. could not “drill its way out of an energy crisis,” and a well-established model of total resource recovery, the Hubbert Method, documented that we should prepare for and undertake costly initiatives to address a long period of declining oil and gas production.

Few expected the massive increase in U.S. oil and gas production that would emerge by 2010, stabilizing world oil prices and lifting the U.S. to the point where today it is the largest oil and gas producing country in the world. This was not the first-time technological advances had offered a surprise to conventional wisdom. In 1978, Congress passed the Fuel Use Act which prohibited the use of natural gas to generate electricity under assurances the country was running out of natural gas. Years later, the resulting surge in natural gas production from domestic reserves not only provided the world with reliable and growing supply of LNG but also played a major role in driving down U.S. carbon emissions as a substitute for coal combustion in the U.S. electric power system.

Of course, how could we ignore the Synthetic Fuels Corporation (established to build a financial bridge for the development and construction of commercial synthetic fuel manufacturing plants such as coal gasification) that would produce alternatives to imported fossil fuels? Congress authorized funding of $88 billion and a maximum of three hundred full-time professional employees over 12 years. The SFC’s mandated goal was the production of at least 500,000 barrels of crude oil equivalent per day in synthetic fuels from domestic sources by 1987 and at least 2 million barrels per day by 1992. Over its six-year existence, the SFC spent approximately $960 million (barely five percent of its initial 1980 budget) to fund four synthetic fuels projects, none of which survive today. The corporation was abolished in April 1986.

What lessons should policy makers draw from Richard Nehring’s analysis? Government energy policies are now directed at a specific set of technological pathways to reach net zero, i.e., the working assumption is that the future is known and we have a clear understanding of how to get there. Perhaps we would be better off if our policy makers recognize that the future faces a wide range of uncertainties, including the potential for good news.

On July 18, 2023, the Gaskins Center for Energy Security Studies hosted its inaugural workshop at EPRINC’s conference space at 25 Massachusetts Ave, NW in Washington DC. The Center has been established through a generous grant from EPRINC’s Chairman, Dr. Darius W. Gaskins, Jr.

As the countries of the OECD pursue a large-scale transformation of their energy systems to minimize carbon emissions, we are presented with an array of new challenges to sustain the affordability, reliability, and security of our energy complex. The workshop brought together international researchers, policymakers, and industry executives to review the lessons of energy security policies established in the aftermath of the 1973-75 Arab Oil Embargo. The second theme of the workshop explored what changes need to take place throughout the OECD and developing world to bolster energy security in an era of accelerated implementation of a broad range of technologies and related programs to reduce carbon emissions.

The full agenda can be found here. The presentations from the event can be found below.

This report was updated March 27, 2024.

Our popular weekly “Chart of the Week” will now be supplemented with our new “FYI in Brief” series distributed to subscribers and posted on our website at regular intervals. The series is designed as short executive briefings (2-5 pages) providing essential background information on often challenging debates on energy and security policy.

Our first “FYI in Brief” explores the roots and current state of the so-called ESG movement which seeks to evaluate companies’ and related entities’ environment, social, and governance practices. Max Pyziur and Matthew Sawoski bring us a cogent discussion of this topic through their briefing ESG: A Primer.” 

Future topics will include, “Energy Security and the Role of the East Med,” “Eastern Asia-Pacific Energy Security Considerations,” and “Global Mobility Regulations: a Consolidated Source,” among others.

On June 27, 2023, EPRINC President Lucian Pugliaresi was featured on the Heritage Foundation’s The Power Hour on an episode entitled: “Drop Net Zero and Get Yourself a Hero!” See below for the description from The Power Hour and how to access the podcast:

The Power Hour is a weekly podcast that discusses the most interesting energy and environmental policy issues with top national experts. In this episode, hosts Jack Spencer and Travis Fisher welcome Lou Pugliaresi, President of the Energy Policy Research Foundation, Inc. to discuss EPRINC’s new report A Critical Assessment of the IEA’s Net Zero Scenario, ESG, and the Cessation of Investment in New Oil and Gas Fields. Among other issues, we discuss the problem with the concept of Net Zero carbon emissions, gas and oil development’s enduring role in American economy, and the importance of policies that don’t punish energy development.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/heard-at-heritage/id1478205330?i=1000618506331

The production of oil and gas from unconventional geologic formations (generally called shale oil and gas) has lifted the U.S. into the world’s largest oil and gas producer. In the midst of the Covid pandemic and the associated worldwide government initiatives to lockdown large segments of the world’s economies, petroleum demand cratered. Analysts, academic researchers, and a large number of commentators viewed the reduction of petroleum demand accompanying the pandemic as a signal that a sustained decline in oil demand had finally arrived. But pandemics have a tendency to return to trend once infections run their course. According to the International Energy Forum (IEF), and referencing the authoritative Joint Organizations Data Initiative (JODI), world oil demand rose in December 2022 (year-over-year) by 1.3 million barrels per day (mb/d). The most recent forecast from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) points to rising petroleum requirements worldwide. The agency expects global liquid fuels consumption to increase by 1.5 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2023 from 2022 and by an additional 1.8 million b/d in 2024.

So does the U.S. have the capacity to raise domestic oil production to remain an important force in the global market? In this paper, Trisha Curtis, CEO of the PetroNerds consultancy and an EPRINC Distinguished Fellow, takes a deep dive into the unconventional petroleum space and examines its capacity to sustain the U.S. as a world leader in oil and gas production.

On April 18, 2023, EPRINC hosted its first in-person Energy Security Series workshop. The workshop also coincided with the official launch party of the new EPRINC offices at 25 Massachusetts Ave, NW Washington DC, which boast a large conference space that enables us to more easily host subsequent workshops.

This Energy Security Series workshop was called “Energy Security, Petroleum Markets and the  Transition: Perspectives on the Road Ahead”, and was well-attended. The agenda can be found here.

The U.S. Senate Budget Committee has jurisdiction over the Congressional Budget Office. In that position, its roles are to draft the U.S. Congress’ annual budget and to monitor that budget’s implementation.

Under the chairmanship of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the Committee has held five hearings since the 118th U.S. Congress was seated in January. Four of these hearings have focused on the risks and costs of extreme events and weather such rising seas, wildfires, and hurricanes, with the balance on President Biden’s 2024 Fiscal Year Budget Proposal.  

Using the novel definition of “stranded assets” that is gaining currency in certain parts of economic academic literature and some general interest publications, the Committee held a hearing titled: “Left Holding the Bag: The Cost of Oil Dependence in a Low Carbon World”  at 10am on Wednesday March 29, 2023. Lucian Pugliaresi (on Twitter at @LPugliaresi), President of the Energy Policy Research Foundation (EPRINC), testified along with four other witnesses. His testimony can be found here, and the testimony of the other witnesses as well as a video recording of the event are accessible at the link above.

While that pipeline could supply China with a cheaper alternative to liquefied natural gas, Xi’s government remains focused on securing diversity of supply — essentially not repeating the European error of excessive reliance on Russia. And there’s a lot of countries seeking to sell gas at the moment, including the US, Qatar, Australia and Turkmenistan, according to Batt Odgerel, a senior research analyst at the Energy Policy Research Foundation, Inc.

“It’s a buyer’s market for China,” he said. “Unless Russia gives an extremely pleasant offer, China can wait as long as it wants. Additional gas from Russia is not required, especially after the lockdown-induced economic downturn.”

The full article can be accessed here.

On Tuesday, March 7, 2023, concurrent with CERAWeek in Houston, the leadership of several prominent energy trade associations and think-tanks convened a half-day meeting with senior G7 energy delegates dubbed The Joint Energy Security Forum. Ahead of the deliberations that will lead to and be a part of the G7 leadership meeting on May 19-21, 2023 in Hiroshima, Japan, the Forum discussed the importance of natural gas in meeting global energy security and climate-related goals, especially in the context of Russia’s maligned use of its natural resources.

 
Key to these goals is the continued and expedited investment in all components of natural gas production and trade by G7 countries. Concluding the Forum, the Energy Policy Research Foundation, along with LNG Allies, the American Petroleum Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among others, authored and signed a letter to Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, cc’ing the leadership of other G7 countries, affirming the importance of global energy security and natural gas’ critical capabilities to achieve them.
 
On Thursday July 14, 2022, the Westchester County Association (WCA) held their first Sustainable Business Conference. Focusing on the implementation challenges of New York State’s 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and other related legislation, the WCA convened an afternoon of panels, plenary events, and a networking reception to discuss approaches and feasibility.
EPRINC’s Max Pyziur participated in the Conference’s panel discussion “Moving New York to a Low Carbon Future – How Can We Get There?” Max’s presentation underscored the scale of the challenge in the context of global and U.S. GHG emissions, as well as offering perspective on implementation risk by reviewing key power grid events in California and Texas.

Washington Times reporter Sean Salai pursues the Montgomery County, Maryland imminent natural gas ban story. With a population of 1.1 million, Montgomery County is Maryland’s largest county and adjacent Washington, DC. In December 2022 and seeking to mitigate GHG emissions, the County Council unanimously passed legislation to ban natural gas heating in new buildings beginning in 2026.

EPRINC’s Director of Research Programs Max Pyziur comments on the motivation and efficacy of the ruling in the Washington Times Article, here.

The leadership of the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee (E&C) under Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers are hosting a series of roundtables in order to help establish its agenda for the 118th Congress. Critically, some of these roundtables are focused on Energy. The first one was held on January 10th, 2023 with the theme of “Unaffordable Energy Costs” (the link is here). The second, with the broad theme of Energy Security, took place on Thursday, January 26th, 2023.

EPRINC’s President Lucian Pugliaresi presented at this E&C Roundtable. His remarks and associated charts can be found here. The Committee also invited David Gattie, Associate Professor of Engineering, University of Georgia, and Senior Fellow, Center for International Trade and Security, Pat O’Loughlin, President and CEO, Buckeye Power, Inc. and Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives, and Dr. Edmund O. Schweitzer, III, Founder, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. The recording of the Roundtable is accessible at this link.

EPRINC has been at the forefront of U.S. policy discussions relating to Energy Security. During the early 1970s and under the leadership of John Lichtblau and Larry Goldstein, EPRINC (then known as PIRINC) were critical in informing leadership of the U.S. Congress on the importance of the establishment of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a key component of America’s energy security apparatus/architecture (choose one).

Per its mission, EPRINC has continued to be involved in energy policy discussions, security and otherwise, providing its perspective on the need for efficiency and matching benefits to costs. More recently, beginning in November 2021, EPRINC has presented testimony four times on a broad range of energy matters (RFS, leasing on public lands, cost challenges of the Energy Transition) to the U.S. Senate’s EPW Committee as well as the U.S. House E&C and Natural Resources Committees.

Based on the expertise that EPRINC presented at these Hearings, EPRINC received further inquiries from commercial and governmental entities for comment, perspective, and data on the energy matters of the day.

The Institute of Energy Economics Japan (IEEJ) in Tokyo and the Energy Policy Research Foundation, Inc. (EPRINC) in Washington DC have hosted an in-person workshop on December 15-16, 2022 in Washington, DC. The workshop, Global LNG, Energy Security, and the Transition, brought together a small group of policymakers, practitioners, and experts from the U.S., Asia, and Europe to chart a path forward to address fundamental challenges of meeting rising global requirements for LNG, new threats to energy security, and measures to cost-effectively address the challenges of the energy transition. The workshop supported the six-year joint effort of IEEJ and EPRINC on the role of LNG in sustaining global energy security and worldwide requirements for new energy supplies.

Background

Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, world energy markets were experiencing sustained shortages and rising prices from years of underinvestment in oil and natural gas production. Today, pricing pressure on LNG continues to rise well above historic trends from rising demand in Europe as the continent searches for alternative sources to replace lost supplies from Russia. Of special concern in the current market environment for Asia is the severe cost constraints in using LNG. The rapidly rising cost of LNG is especially troublesome for the developing world in Asia as sustained high prices will incentivize continued reliance on coal and petroleum liquids. High prices for LNG will undermine initiatives throughout Asia to pursue Net-Zero aspirations.

Securing adequate new supplies of LNG for the world market requires overcoming a series of unique financial, policy, and regulatory challenges. LNG projects require large-scale financial commitments binding sellers and buyers for much as 20 years for projects to reach final investment decision. In many cases, aspirational goals seeking to abandon so-called legacy fuels and leap directly to the renewable fuels and low carbon technologies of the future can be counter-productive and undermine long-term progress to Net-Zero outcomes. The energy transition will be both long and difficult. LNG and natural gas offer numerous opportunities for both the developed and developing world to enhance energy security, accelerate the transition away from coal, and make substantial progress in achieving lower carbon emissions. International financial institutions, public financial institutions and private banks will have to work together to ensure that LNG development can proceed with adequate long-term commitments and sufficient investment to bring substantial volumes of new supplies to the market.

Venue and Discussion Topics

Our excellent venue, the Cosmos Club, permitted extensive opportunities to discuss the broad challenges of energy supply and geopolitical stress points. We identified five subject areas to focus the panel presentations and discussions. These were:

  1. LNG’s Role in World Energy Supply; Now and in the Future
  2. Addressing Policy Obstacles and ESG Challenges in Bringing New LNG Supplies to Market
  3. The Role of Public and Private Financial Institutions in LNG Production
  4. Asian Energy Security and the Energy Transition – How the Asian Economies Adjust to the New Price Environment and Security Threats
  5. What Advice Should We Give to the G7 for Next Year

Additionally, EPRINC and the Embassy of Japan in Washington DC cohosted a dinner to facilitate more discussion between participants the evening of December 15.

The presentations from the workshop can be downloaded from this link, the agenda from the workshop is here, and photos from the two day event are here.

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