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Mountain West News Energy Review

August, 2014

Plans to build what will be the largest onshore wind farm in the United States moved another step closer to construction in August, when the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council voted unanimously to approve Power Company of Wyoming's 1,000-turbine Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm.

The federal government put plans to expand the massive Bright Source Energy solar plant in California's Mohave Desert on hold because birds are being scorched mid-air by the heat from the solar panels.

On the biofuel news front, Nevada-based Algae Systems' "hydrothermal liquefaction" system to turn algae into diesel fuel is generating some buzz, given that the technology is less energy-intensive than other current methods, and produces clean water from municipal sewage, as well as a carbon-heavy residue that can be used for fertilizer.

The Canadian government released the results of the investigation into the July 2013 disastrous train derailment that in Quebec that killed 47 people and destroyed a good portion of the downtown area of a small village; another unit oil train loading facility went online in Wyoming; and Oregon said no to a coal-export terminal.

Mountain West Perspective

New report highlights opportunities in the Colorado River Basin

On the Bookshelf

Barbara Theroux of Fact & Fiction reviews Grizzlies on my Mind
July 22, 2014

Mountain West Voices

We invite readers to listen to Mountain West Voices, a radio program that profiles an individual or community in the Rocky Mountain West, introducing listeners to the compelling stories that are part of the human landscape of our region.

Yellowstone Public Radio will broadcast Mountain West Voices at 7 a.m. on Sunday.

Tune into Yellowstone Public Radio at 7 a.m. on Sunday to hear the program, or listen online via the Mountain West Voices' website.


Wyoming clears the way for largest onshore wind farm
On Thursday, the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council voted unanimously to approve Power Company of Wyoming's proposed Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm, a 1,000-turbine project in Carbon County that will be the nation's largest onshore wind farm if it is built as proposed.
Casper Star-Tribune; 8/8/2014


Utility, Utah solar-power producers disagree on benefit, cost
Rocky Mountain Power officials said the total amount of power produced by rooftop solar installations amounts to a mere fraction of the utility's power needs in Utah, but those customers who feed excess power back into the grid say that the utility is getting a bargain on the clean power.
Salt Lake Tribune; 8/4/2014

Massive solar farm in California scorches birds mid-air
Workers at the Bright Source Energy solar plant in California's Mohave Desert call the birds that are burned in mid-flight over the massive solar installation "streamers," and plans to expand the plant have been put on hold as federal officials debate what to do about the project, where it's estimated between a few thousand or 28,000 birds die annually.
Christian Science Monitor; 8/18/2014


Nevada company's heat-based algae-to-fuel system ignites interest
Several companies have developed processes for turning algae into fuel, but all are energy intensive, making Nevada-based Algae Systems' "hydrothermal liquefaction" system that not only turns algae into diesel fuel, but also turns municipal sewage used to fertilize the algae into clean water, creates a carbon-heavy residue that can be used as fertilizer and generates valuable credits for advanced biofuels.
New York Times; 8/19/2014


New low-level waste disposal site planned for Idaho National Laboratories
The Idaho Falls Post Register reports that Battelle Energy Alliance, the company that operates the Idaho National Laboratory, awarded a $34-million contract for a new low-level nuclear waste disposal site on the grounds of the laboratory to Areva Federal Services, an American subsidiary of the French nuclear giant Areva Inc.
Twin Falls Times-News (Idaho Falls Post-Register); 8/6/2014

U.S. Energy secretary touts nuclear energy at Idaho summit
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is on a weeklong tour of the West, and on Wednesday, he spoke at the inaugural Intermountain Energy Summit, where he touted the use of nuclear power as a path toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions to minimize the effects of global warming.
Salt Lake Tribune (AP); 8/21/2014


Alberta Utilities Commission OKs 2 new gas-fired power plants
The two-unit natural-gas power plant approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission near Stony Plain is expected to go online between 2018 and 2020, at about the time in 2019 when several coal-fired power plants are expected to be shut down as part of the province's plan to reduce carbon emissions by 2030.
Calgary Herald; 8/14/2014

Wyoming city's bond issue for gas-fired turbine sells out in 90 minutes
Gillette city officials said it took just 90 minutes for the $27-million bond issue, which the Wyoming city will use to buy a $22.5-million turbine for electricity production, and put aside $4.5 million for working capital and as a reserve to help meet bond payments if need be.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); 8/7/2014

Wyoming among the dozen states suing EPA over new coal-plant rules
On Friday, a dozen states, led by West Virginia, filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop new proposed regulations of coal-fired power plants, with Wyoming, Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and South Dakota joining the lawsuit.
New York Times; 8/4/2014

EPA, stakeholders reach agreement on Navajo Generating Station in Ariz.
As part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's plan to cut haze at 11 national parks and wilderness areas by nearly 73 percent by 2030, a deal was struck with stakeholders of the Navajo Generating Station in northern Arizona to curb coal-fired generation at that plant, an agreement which must still be approved by the Interior Department.
Indian Country Today; 8/1/2014

Transmission/Pipeline Projects

B.C. First Nation remains resolute in blocking Northern Gateway pipeline
Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline will pass through the heart of Nak'azdli territory in British Columbia and that First Nation remains steadfast in its opposition to the pipeline.
Vancouver Sun; 8/15/2014

BLM takes public comment on collector pipeline project in Utah
The Bureau of Land Management will take public comment until Aug. 27 on a proposal to add 25 miles of pipeline, all but 3 miles of which will be buried, to collect natural gas that is currently flared off and move it to Fidelity Exploration and Production Co.'s Dead Horse Lateral Pipeline in Utah's Grand County on lands adjacent to red rock recreational lands near Moab.
Deseret News; 8/20/2014

New study says Keystone XL pipeline will have bigger effect on climate
The U.S. State Department's review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project found that it would have minimal effects on carbon pollution, but a new report from the international think-tank, the Stockholm Environment Institute, found that the U.S. review did not take into account how the pipeline could lower the price of oil, which will give rise to increased consumption, and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
Vancouver Sun (Postmedia News); 8/11/2014

Idaho energy summit's focus shifts to transmission woes
On the second day of the inaugural Intermountain Energy Summit in Idaho Falls, the mayor of the Idaho city took to the podium to warn the 150 policymakers, engineers and scientists of an impending blackout after a truck took out a power pole, and with no redundant transmission line in place, the city teetered on the edge of a blackout, providing good fodder for the summit's discussion on the difficulties utilities face in building new transmission lines.
Idaho Statesman; 8/21/2014


Wyoming oil terminal loads its first unit train
Rail shipments of oil have been moving through the Swan Ranch rail hub outside of Cheyenne but this week the first unit train, a train made up of just oil tank cars, was loaded out of the hub in Wyoming, where two other terminals of its kind are currently loading out unit trains of oil, and a fourth is expected to be able to load unit trains by the first of next year.
Casper Star-Tribune; 8/12/2014

Alberta companies buying into efficiency, flexibility of unit oil trains
While concerns mount about the increase of Alberta oil being moved by rail, companies in the province appear to be embracing the use of unit trains, which are trains that carry just one product, and in this case, oil, because the trains allow them to deliver oil where pipelines don't go.
Calgary Herald (Financial Post); 8/1/2014

Utilities complain rail delays leaving coal-fired power plants short
Xcel Energy officials asked the federal Surface Transportation Board to intervene to get BNSF to address backlogs in coal shipments after such backlog put reliability of its plant in Wisconsin in question, and utilities in Kansas, North Dakota and Arkansas have reported similar delays in receiving coal by rail.
Star-Tribune (AP); 8/2/2014

Canadian Transportation Board releases report on derailment disaster
The Canadian Transportation Safety Board released its report on its investigation of last year's train derailment disaster that destroyed nearly all of a small Quebec community's downtown area and killed 47 people and reported 18 factors contributed to the accident and made two recommendations to improve rail safety, including Transport Canada taking a more hands-on approach to rail safety.
Calgary Herald (The Gazette); 8/19/2014

Oregon denies Ambre Energy's application for coal-export terminal
Officials of Australia-based Ambre Energy said they intend to continue to pursue the proposal to build a coal-export terminal in Oregon after the state denied its application to ship coal brought in by rail from Montana and Wyoming down the Columbia River from Boardman to the Port of St. Helens, where it would be offloaded onto oceangoing freighters.
Montana Standard (AP); 8/19/2014

Wyoming coal company expands export space at B.C. port
Gillette-based Cloud Peak Energy paid Coal Valley Resources to terminate its shipping agreement with Westshore Terminals in Roberts Bank, B.C., to give the Wyoming company more room to export coal from that British Columbia port to Asia.
Casper Star-Tribune; 8/11/2014

Oil and Gas

Royal Dutch Shell sells its shale gas assets in Wyoming, other states
On Thursday, Royal Dutch Shell announced it was selling its shale gas assets in Wyoming's Pinedale area to Ultra Petroleum for $925 million and 155,500 acres in the Utica and Marcellus shale formations in Ohio and Pennsylvania, as part of the international energy company's move to divest itself of less-prolific assets.
Casper Star-Tribune; 8/15/2014

Land deal in Utah protects Book Cliffs lands from energy development
The Hill Creek Cultural Preservation and Energy Development Act, signed into law in July by President Obama paves the way for a federal-state mineral swap that will keep energy development off the remote southern area of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation in Utah's Grand County, but will pave the way for the state and the tribes to work together on energy development.
Salt Lake Tribune; 8/21/2014

Oil production in Wyoming's Laramie County heats up
While oil production in the DJ Basin that lies in Wyoming hasn't quite met the levels that the Basin has produced across the border in Colorado, reports indicate that production so far this year is close to that produced in all of last year.
Casper Star-Tribune; 8/11/2014

Erie approves drilling plan near subdivisions on Colorado's Front Range
The Erie Town Board approved Encana's plan to drill 13 wells near subdivisions in the Colorado Front Range community, even though some of those wells could be within 800 feet of homes, which is closer than the state's 1,000-feet setback would allow.
Durango Herald (Boulder Daily Camera); 8/15/2014

Utah reviewing emissions from oil, gas wastewater ponds
Utah fined Danish Flats Environmental Services $50,000 for underestimating for years the amount of emissions escaping its oil and gas wastewater containment facility in Utah's Grand County, which is the largest of the 15 operating in the Uintah Basin, and now the state is reviewing the other eight that fall under its authority to see if the operators' claims about the volume of emissions allow them to continue to operate under a de minimis permit.
Salt Lake Tribune; 8/25/2014

Report says air pollution increasing at Alberta oilsands operations
Air quality test data in Alberta's oilsands country in 2012 found that emissions for sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide did increase, but did not exceed the legal limit set by the Alberta Ambient Air Quality Objectives (AAAQO).
Calgary Herald (Edmonton Journal); 8/14/2014

Production of natural gas in China lags far behind projections
Difficulties encountered by energy companies trying to tap into China's shale gas resources have forced the Chinese government to half its predictions about production made two years ago, and has the country buying natural gas from Russia and liquefied natural gas from Qatar, Australia and Yemen.
New York Times; 8/22/2014

Yellowstone County Commission welcomes plan for new Montana refinery
Andrew Kacic, chief executive of Quantum Energy, and Bill Bradley, project director for Bilfinger Westcon Inc., Quantum's partner in a proposal to build refineries in North Dakota and Montana, made a presentation to the Yellowstone County Commission on Tuesday, where they said a new refinery in that Montana county would add between 100 and 150 new jobs, all paying more than $100,000 a year.
Missoulian (Billings Gazette); 8/21/2014

  • Company proposing refinery in Montana has little capital
    Quantum Energy, the company that pitched a plan on Tuesday to the Yellowstone County Commission to build a $500-million refinery in the Billings area, has assets of just $3.8 million, its stock is worth around 55 cents a share, and information on Quantum's partner, Bilfinger Westcon, is limited because it's a privately held company.; 8/21/2014

Colorado Oil, Gas Commission drops lawsuit against Longmont
As part of the compromise worked out between Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis to resolve conflicts between the state and local governments over drilling regulations, the state Oil and Gas Commission has dismissed its lawsuit against Longmont over its five-year moratorium on drilling, although the commission declined to drop the lawsuit "with prejudice," which meant the lawsuit could not be refiled, as the city's commission had requested.
Denver Post; 8/8/2014

Hydraulic Fracturing

Study warns hydraulic fracturing could affect ecosystems in B.C.
The drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing has been in use for decades, with some estimates that the method has been used a million times, but in British Columbia, the method has not been used extensively, which could change given B.C. Premier Christy Clark's pledge to tap the province's natural gas resources, and a review by researchers at Simon Fraser University warned that there is much still unknown about the method's effects on the environment. Editor's note: A photograph accompanying this article shows an aerial view of drilling operations Wyoming's Jonah Field.
Vancouver Sun; 8/1/2014

Report finds oil, gas companies still using diesel fuel in fracking
The use of diesel fuel in the drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing has been banned since at least 1997, but a recent investigation done by the Environmental Integrity Project found that, between 2010 and 2014, oil and gas companies used 32,950 gallons in fracking work across the U.S., with 12,808 of those gallons used in Texas and 9,173 gallons used in Colorado, the petroleum industry disputes the figures because some of the drilling operations were on state lands under different regulations and some used kerosene, which the industry said is allowed.
Denver Post; 8/14/2014

  • Bill Barrett Corp. denies using diesel in fracked well in Utah
    The Environmental Integrity Project, using oil and gas companies' self-reported data in FracFocus, identified Bill Barrett Corp.'s Peter's Point well in Utah's West Tavaputs Plateau as being drilled using diesel fuel in the hydraulic fracturing process, the company said that the data was erroneous and had been corrected.
    Salt Lake Tribune; 8/14/2014


Report says coal imports into U.S. up 44% in first half of 2014
A report from Global Trade Information Services said that the U.S. imported 44 percent more coal in the first half of 2014 than it did a year ago, and part of the reason for the sharp increase in imports is a global glut of coal that has caused the price of coal from Colombia to drop dramatically.
Wall Street Journal (AP); 8/15/2014

EPA puts decision on coal-gasification project in Wyoming on hold
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality that the federal agency needed more time to evaluate LincEnergy's proposal to pump oxygen underground in Wyoming to oxidize coal into gas, citing the finding of elevated benzene, ammonia and other contaminates in groundwater near the Australian company's similar project in Queensland as the reason the agency wants more time to review the Wyoming project.
Casper Star-Tribune; 8/4/2014

Weaker markets has coal companies in Montana, Wyoming cutting costs
Reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicate that Peabody Energy, Cloud Peak Energy and Arch Energy, all coal companies operating in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Idaho, are working to cut costs and pull coal out of their mines more efficiently.
Missoulian (Gillette News-Record); 8/9/2014


Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"T his is a significant step forward and a significant resource for America. We anticipate exporting these to be used in other parts of the world, especially in less developed areas with little or no infrastructure."

Robert Zubrin, the founder and president of Colorado-based Pioneer Energy, discussing the Mobile Alkane Gas Separator, which can capture and process natural gas now flared off in remote oilfields.
- Denver Post

On The Bookshelf
Barbara Theroux of Fact & Fiction reviews Grizzlies on my mind


Mountain West Perspectives
New report highlights opportunities in the Colorado River Basin
New report highlights opportunities in the Colorado River Basin


Mountain West Voices
Hear weekly stories from the Rocky Mountain West as gathered by Clay Scott

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West

at the

The University of Montana