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National Fuel increases spending on natural gas, AG petitions over Indian Point

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National Fuel is boosting spending on oil and natural gas by 18 percent.

National Fuel is doubling down on natural gas drilling, reports David Robinson at the Buffalo News.  The firm is planning to drill more than 100 new wells next year, investing 18 percent more on oil and natural gas:

National Fuel's drilling efforts within the Marcellus Shale have expanded rapidly over the last year, with daily production now topping 120 million cubic feet of gas, up eightfold from the company's output levels of a year ago. National Fuel expects its total oil and natural gas production next year to rise to the equivalent of between 83 billion and 100 billion cubic feet of natural gas, which would be about 35 percent more than the company's anticipated production this year of between 64 billion and 71 billion cubic feet. "We are anticipating another strong year of production growth," said Matthew D. Cabell, who runs National Fuel's oil and gas drilling business.

A commission selected to advise Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett on natural gas drilling meets for the first time on Friday, reports the Press & Sun-Bulletin. That's the same day that Cornell Law School holds its 2011 Energy Conference, and Finger Lakes Community College holds its 2011 Hydrofracking Symposium.


Steve Hargreaves at CNN Money reports that closing Indian Point would boost New York City power bills by as much as 6 percent a month:

"That's really cheap insurance to make sure we don't have a catastrophic release of radiation," said Marilyn Elie, who lives two miles from the plant and has been trying to get it closed for the last 17 years. If Indian Point is shut, Con Edison would buy the lost electricity on the open market, most likely from the cheapest possible energy source. The utility said that would probably be a mix of electricity generated from coal and natural gas. Calls to shut the power plant, located 25 miles north of the city, have grown louder in recent weeks as the crisis at Japan's quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi facility continues.

Indian Point is also the target of a petition filed by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, reports Mike Whittemore at the State of Politics blog.  The AG says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission needs to "take enforcement action against the plant" because it's not in compliance with fire regulations, including smoke detector rules.

Meanwhile, a small fire in a piece of equipment at Unit 1 of Nine Mile Point nuclear power plant caused an evacuation today reports Charley Hannagan at the Post-Standard:

The plant was not in operation. As a result of the fire, the plant’s owner, Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, declared an “unusual event” at 1:55 this morning, said Jill Lyon, speaking for the company. The event ended at 2:26 a.m. after carbon monoxide levels dropped, she said. An “unusual event” is the lowest of four levels of emergencies, Lyon said. Unit One shut down March 21 for refueling and maintenance.

State regulators

An internal review of National Grid's finances should be released in the next month or so, reports Larry Rulison at the Times Union.  The firm is racing to release its own audit before one conducted by an outside vendor, selected by state regulators (the PSC, or Public Service Commission), gets underway.  It's all happening against the backdrop of an impending rate hike:

National Grid's accounting and internal expensing system came under scrutiny last year as regulators from both the PSC and Massachusetts were poring over the company's internal accounting documents that were submitted as justification for the $360 million electric rate increase here and a $100 million gas rate increase in the Bay State. Regulators found questionable expenses that such as private school tuition and shipment of a private wine collection that ratepayers were being asked to pay for. Regulators also discovered that National Grid's Niagara Mohawk affiliate, which serves upstate New York, may have been paying for expenses at other National Grid affiliates in New England. Depending on the findings of the PSC's audit, National Grid could have to return up to $50 million to upstate electric customers.

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) is picking a new board chairman today, and Larry Rulison reports at the Times Union's Buzz blog that it's likely to be a repeat offender: former NYPA chair John Dyson. 

The blog also has a fun archival article from the New York Times about Dyson showing up to a legislative hearing in a Lone Ranger mask.  Can't wait to see what he wears to talk about offshore wind!

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