Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly – December 2015

The December issue of RMP’s Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly (MOGM) marks our 12th edition, our first full year of publications, and the final edition for 2015. The story for 2015 was this: oil & gas exploration in Michigan is at its slowest ever. It was the all-time slowest year in Michigan’s oil & gas exploration history beating the record set in 1931 for lowest permitting & drilling activity.   While the predictions RMP made last year were spot on target for Michigan in 2015, some unexpected things happened also.

Half-way around the world, Saudi Arabia’s 2015 actions to increase their own crude oil production to stave off US shale production have had a deep cutting effect on American oil & gas producers across the nation as well as right here at home.  As long as we rely on crude oil as an energy source, the King of Saudi Arabia can significantly impact a large segment of our energy economy which effects our national security and causes Americans to lose jobs.  Switching from internal combustion engines to fuel cells would fundamentally change the balance of world power as it relates to energy.  America can end its reliance on Saudi Arabia & other OPEC countries by responsibly migrating away from crude oil as an energy source. We have seen American oil producing companies lose major percentages of their net financial worth and layoff tens of thousands of American workers in 2015 because of Saudi actions.

chesapeake stock value drops 70 percent in 2015
Chesapeake has lost nearly 70% of its value in 2015. More evidence with hard numbers that supports what RMP has been saying all along about the oil & gas bust because of actions taken in Saudi Arabia to hurt American companies.

Another large scale international event related to oil & gas that will impact Michigan happened this December when President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill which lifts the 40 year ban on exporting crude oil from America.  Lifting America’s oil exportation ban could have a silver lining for environmentalists & oil workers down the road.  Maybe exporting oil can help RMP’s mission of responsibly migrating away from oil as an energy source while also helping American oil workers keep less volatile jobs as oil production winds down in future years/decades.  RMP has been harping on the trade deficit caused by petroleum, but lifting the export ban can throw that economic logic on its head.  Stay tuned to why lifting the oil export ban could lead to a faster adoption of fuel cell electric vehicles and still help oil workers keep stable jobs through the migration.  RMP would consider that a win-win for environmentalists and people working directly for the oil industry.

Other executive actions taken by the Obama administration in 2015 have lifted sanctions on Iranian crude oil exports.  Some writers in the oil arena are trying to diminish Iran coming on the scene as an uncompetitive oil exporter because of neglected oil field equipment and neglected reservoirs, but Iran will be able to produce a lot more crude oil than many people think.  Iran will also be able to produce crude less expensively than oil from American shale over the long term.  Remember, Iran has almost 8% of proven crude oil reserves in the world. Decaying oil fields in Iran will be tuned up and pumped full of gas to ramp up dying reservoir pressures.   Who will be right in their predictions in 2016 about the world oil market?  Who will be right about predictions in  Michigan oil industry? It’s anyone’s guess.  Each month RMP looks at oil & gas through a world lens as well as a local lens and reconciles global activity to Michigan activity to see how the pieces all fit together.

The consensus forecast is that the global glut of oil surplus will remain in 2016 and prices are not expected to recover in the near term.  RMP’s forecast is that Michigan oil & gas will be in for another slow year in 2016.   If you hear of an impending onslaught of oil & gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing activity coming to Michigan in 2016, you’re being mislead.  RMP  now has five years of Michigan oil & gas watchdogging and data collection as well as twelve months of oil & gas publications under our belt to back that statement up.

Thinking longer term for Michigan oil & gas past 2016, HB4297 may mean more oil production for Michigan that environmentalists can possibly support.  HB4297 at 43 pages long is meatier than a lot of Michigan bills and has detailed language that could lead to Michigan becoming one of the most advanced players in CO2 sequestration technology.  CO2 sequestration is only economical if there is low cost CO2 available.   Try to recall HB5254 that was sponsored by Representative Rick Outman on Jan 23, 2014 and passed 93 to 17 in the house on February 12, 2014.  HB5254 was received by & passed by the Michigan Senate Mar 18, 2014 at a 23-17 vote count.  HB5254 was signed by Governor Snyder on April 1, 2014.  RMP will examine how Michigan may become an advanced player in the greenhouse gas sequestration game and also see oil production go up because of HB5254 & HB4297 working together synergistically.  Making energy that captures CO2 economically can lead to quicker adoption of FCEVs and also allow Michigan oil workers to play a positive part in  impacting climate change.

Marathon Oil value deterioration
Marathon Oil has lost over 40% of its value in 2015. RMP told you in November’s MOGM that Marathon Oil would be cutting their dividend by 76%. If the Beaver Creek 1-14 HD1 is not a screamer, Marathon will most likely cut Michigan O&G exploration from future plans. Click image to enlarge.

Let’s talk about high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) in Michigan. First lets distinguish between how Michigan regulators define a Large Volume Water Withdrawal (LVWW) and HVHF. “High volume hydraulic fracturing well completion” means a well completion operation that is intended to use a total of more than 100,000 gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluid. “Large volume water withdrawal” means a water withdrawal intended to produce a cumulative total of over 100,000 gallons of water per day when averaged over a consecutive 30-day period. LVWW’s are [at least] 30 times more impactful to freshwater resources than a HVHF well completion by Michigan’s definitions. In layman’s terms, big LVWW well completions only have taken place in Michigan’s Collingwood Shale. HVHF wells, like Marathon’s Beaver Creek 1-14 HD1 well being flow tested this month, are small by way of comparison. For a rule of thumb, think of the relative water consumption for hydraulic fracturing used between an Antrim well, an A1 Carbonate well, and a Collingwood well compared to the relative size of the animals listed below:

  • A Michigan Antrim well is relative to the size of a mouse
  • A Michigan A1 Carbonate well is relative to the size of a horse
  • A Michigan Collingwood well is relative to the size of a blue whale

Michigan has not had any LVWW well completions since the Westerman 1-29 HD1 well in June of 2013.  Michigan will likely never again see a LVWW hydraulic fracturing completion into Michigan’s Collingwood formation like what was done at Westerman 1-29 HD1. If there is ever a LVWW for HVHF in Michigan again, you’ll hear about it here first and our team will jump into action to always keep you on top of the scoop.  The likelihood of a LVWW completion in Michigan’s future is basically nil.  Let me repeat that: there will never again be a LVWW in Michigan for an oil or gas well.  Never.  If anyone says something different, their statement cannot be supported by data.

Release were confirmed at all four of gas stations in the early 1990s. Limited treatment was conducted by liable parties until the Michigan Underground Storage Tank Financial Assurance Act (MUSTFAA) fund was depleted in 1995.
Releases were confirmed at all four of these gas stations in Traverse City at the intersection of Front & Division in the early 1990s.  The contamination plume caused by these releases is nicknamed “4 Corners” because there is one gas station on each corner of the intersection. Limited treatment was conducted by liable parties until the Michigan Underground Storage Tank Financial Assurance Act (MUSTFAA) fund was depleted in 1995.   RMP will be shifting our 2016 oil & gas focus away from hydraulic fracturing in Michigan and instead focus on issues like underground storage tanks which have a higher risk of threatening ground water contamination and costing taxpayers money than hydraulic fracturing.  (Photo Credit: MDEQ)


Having clearly distinguished between LVWW and HVHF lets talk about Marathon’s HVHF  well in Beaver Creek Township. In the featured image of this month’s MOGM taken on December 14, 2015 (Photo Credit: Neo) Marathon Oil assembles a pumpjack and begins flow testing of their Beaver Creek 1-14 HD1 well.   We have to wait to get completion reports that will tell how much H2O was used and the initial oil production numbers.  The water used to complete the well will be a small fraction of what was used in Michigan’s Collingwood formation. The numbers from the Beaver Creek 1-14 HD1 well will mean a lot regarding the future of hydraulic fracturing in Michigan. If the Beaver Creek 1-14 HD1 well is not successful, HVHF will be officially dead in Michigan just like LVWW has been dead since June of 2013.   We will keep en eye on WyoTex in 2016 but it’s likely WyoTex will never drill any of their permitted wells and their permits will all expire after 24 months of no action.

This is an image of the 4 Corners contamination plume relative to Kid Creek in Traverse City. Total Petroleum/Speedway station is the only station that has continues to conduct remedial investigations, free product recovery and groundwater monitoring after MUSTFAA funding ended. Think of the tax money wasted to work on this massive contamination plume. As long as we rely on Internal Combustion Engines this will be our status quo.
This is an image of the 4 Corners monitoring equipment used to map the extent of the contamination plume.  The blue line in the image represents Kids Creek in Traverse City. Total Petroleum/Speedway station is the only station that has continued to conduct remedial investigations, free product recovery and groundwater monitoring after MUSTFAA funding ended. Think of the tax money consumed to work on delineating and remediating this massive contamination plume. As long as we rely on Internal Combustion Engines this will be our status quo.  Click to enlarge.

With LVWW and HVHF on the brink of extinction in Michigan we also see public interest waning in the third consecutive failure of a state wide ballot initiative related to changing legislation effectively banning a completion technique that is not being used in Michigan anyway. With virtually no activity regarding LVWW and HVHF in Michigan, RMP will turn its attention to other environmental and economic topics related to oil production and storage in Michigan with MOGM in 2016. RMP will continue to monitor well application, well permitting & well plugging activity and always keep a finger on the pulse, but RMP will shift more focus toward the detrimental public costs incurred because of Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) and Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (LUSTs) of petroleum based liquids.   RMP’s focus has always been water conservation. With LVWW and HVHF no longer demonstrating a significant threat to Michigan freshwater, RMP will shift focus to issues that more significantly effect Michigan freshwater.

Here are issues where RMP will focus Michigan oil & gas research efforts in 2016:

  • As always the primary water conservation focus of RMP is advocating for the adoption of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles and retiring the Internal Combustion Engine as obsolete. FCEVs will fundamentally change our energy infrastructure for the betterment of water conservation efforts and our economy.  Michigan can never significantly reduce our use of oil pipelines, oil rail cars, and oil storage tanks until the Internal Combustion Engine is taken off our streets.  It’s as simple as that; it’s fundamental.
  • Michigan Petroleum Storage Tanks – both above and below ground tanks are the number one threat to Michigan’s freshwater resources with regard to oil & gas according to the numbers. We will prepare a case study and map for the Zephyr Facility in Muskegon, Michigan as the poster child of how using oil as energy fails Michigan and our country. RMP will also create a map of Michigan’s nearly 40,000 USTs and nearly 10,000 LUSTs.  We will create a map &  tool to find USTs or LUSTs near your house or anywhere in Michigan.  Think about that!  nearly 25% of petroleum storage tanks in Michigan are leaking and contaminating ground water and the issue gets little coverage.  RMP will change this in 2016.   Leaking storage tanks are Michigan’s #1 issue related to contamination of fresh water with regard to petroleum.
  • Secondary Recovery Wells Using CO2 & Waterflooding – CO2 injection wells for 2ndary recovery may be one of the few bright spot areas where environmentalists and anti-environmentalists can get along. CO2 injection can produce oil while sequestering CO2 that would otherwise be vented to atmosphere.   CO2 injection is the kind of secondary oil production that RMP supports.   Waterflooding, on the other hand, is using multiple gallons of pure Michigan freshwater to produce a single gallon of Michigan oil and is not a smart use of Michigan’s natural resources.  RMP will beef up coverage of this issue in 2016.
  • Michigan’s Orphan Wells –  There are no environmental groups focused on Michigan’s Orphan Wells right now.  This needs to change.  RMP will dedicate time to the important issue of inventorying all wells that have not been plugged or have met their original obligation laid out in the Environmental Impact Assessment that was filled out before the well was permitted.
A Staff Gauge in Kid Creek is used to help determine how much of the "4 Corners" contamination plume is effecting surface water in Traverse City. The contamination comes from 4 regular gas stations. Michigan has approx. 40,000 active gas storage tank locations and approx 10,000 of them are leaking like "4 Corners". That's 25%. This is the #1 issue effecting ground water contamination with regard to oil & gas. RMP will be diving deeper in this topic in 2016.
A Staff Gauge in Kids Creek is used to help determine how much of the “4 Corners” contamination plume is effecting surface water in Traverse City. The contamination comes from 4 regular gas stations; the kind where you fill up your ICE vehicle every few hundred miles. Michigan has approx. 40,000 active gas storage tank rows listed on its database of USTs and approx 10,000 rows listed on the leaking tanks database of LUSTs like the four that leaked  at the “4 Corners” location. That means for every 4 rows on the USTs list, there is one row on the LUSTs list. This is far and away the #1 issue effecting ground water contamination with regard to oil & gas by number of incidents. RMP will be diving deeper in this topic in 2016 and building an interactive map of all 40,000 locations.  (Photo Credit: MDEQ)

Thanks to all of you that have been following along for our first 12 issues of MOGM in 2015. RMP’s sophomore year of MOGM will bring a ton more data and maps in 2016. Tell your friends to check out RMP’s Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly (MOGM) magazine. If something is going on related to oil & gas in Michigan, you’ll hear about it here first.  RMP writes about oil in Michigan from an environmental & economic perspective.  RMP advocates for the responsible migration away from crude oil as an energy resource.  Follow RMP on Twitter or like RMP on facebook to get updates of published articles as they occur. Subscribe to our blog posts on the left hand side of your screen. Tell your friends about our wealth of free information and spread the word that RMP provides free & reliable environmental information to the public.  Press “Like” at the bottom of this page and share this story on your facebook.  We are basically an unfunded organization using volunteer labor so sharing this article on your facebook account is a way you can support us without spending any money. Thank you.

Now let’s take look at other Michigan oil & gas activity that occurred in December 2015:

It was another slow month for applications and permits and we’re calling 2015 the slowest application and permitting year in Michigan history.   All of our numbers are through 12/23/2015 with one more week left of reporting for 2015.   There were no permits issued in the 51st week of 2015.   Michigan received four new applications in December and nine of those applications are still pending at 12/31/2015.  Michigan issued 108 permits in 2015 with one week left of reporting.  The official record in 1931 for lowest number of permits is 111.  We are officially calling 2015 the slowest year in Michigan history because 14 of the permits issued in 2015 were for vertical & horizontal combos.  The adjusted number of permits issued so far for 2015 is 94.   The numbers here continue to support RMP’s strategic decision to turn our interest toward petroleum storage tanks, secondary recovery, and orphan wells in 2016 MOGM editions.

December 2015 – List of New Oil & Gas Well Applications

Michigan received four applications in December and all were for new oil wells.  This brings the YTD total for 2015 to 97 applications with 9 still pending a permit.   This reporting is through 51 weeks and technically, there will be one more week of reporting.   We had no new applications or permits the week of Christmas and it is likely the same could happen next week.

michigan oil gas applicaitons
Four applications were received by Michigan’s office of oil, gas, and minerals in December 2015. Nine applications are currently outstanding at the time of this publication. Click image to enlarge.

December 2015 – List of Permits Issued for Oil & Gas Wells

In December 2015, Michigan issued four permits as shown below.  Total for the year through 51 weeks of reporting is 108 permits.  111 permits is the lowest ever received in the year 1931.   If 3 permits are not issued during the week of Christmas in 2015, it is officially the slowest permitting year in Michigan oil & gas history.   When we adjust the total permits number by 14 permits which were vertical & horizontal pairs, the total stands at 94 wells permitted making 2015 already the slowest year in Michigan history regardless of what happens next week.

michigan oil gas permits december 2015
2015 currently holds the record for the slowest oil & gas year in Michigan history. The numbers support no other conclusion.  Click image to enlarge.

December 2015 – Oil & Gas Wells Published as Plugged

The well pluggings category was the only activity reported by the MDEQ’s office of oil, gas, and minerals last week.  20 oil & gas wells total were reported plugged in December of 2015 bringing the YTD count of wells plugged to 288.  This makes a nearly 3:1 ratio of wells applied for versus wells plugged and a rounded 3:1 ratio of wells plugged to wells permitted.  Muskegon development was busy plugging seven wells in Otsego county in the second week of October.

2015 December oil & gas wells plugged
20 wells were reported plugged in December of 2015 bringing the YTD total up to 288 wells through week 51 of 2015. Click image to enlarge.

The December 2015 Apps to Plugs Ratio KPI:

The apps to plugs ratio is self explanatory.  By looking at the number of applications to wells plugged KPI we can see wells coming vs wells going.   This KPI along with the previous one supports our original 2014 & 2015 outlook post with more numbers and data.

2015 Apps to Plugs Ratio  KPI:

97 Applications : 288 Wells Plugged

-reduced to-

3 : 1 annual rate for 2015

The December 2015 Permits to Plugs Ratio KPI:

The permits to plugs ratio is nearly the same as the apps:plugs ratio but with permits instead of applications.

2015 Permits to Plugs Ratio KPI:

108 Permits Issued : 288 Wells Plugged

-reduced to-

2.67 : 1 annual rate for 2015

Thanks to all of you who have stopped by to read our Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly through our first full year of publishing.   Thank you too for all the facebook shares of our recent story about the oil spill at the Enbridge Line 5 – North Straits Pump Station.  Over 100 shares!  Wow, that’s a big deal for our small organization because each share reaches 100s more people.  Thanks.  RMP is appreciative that over 1,000 of you checked out our post about the oil spill at the North Straits Pump Station and our interactive Enbridge Line 5 map within 3 days of the story being published.   Our mapping software is getting better and better each month and we hope to keep bringing custom maps for each blog post so you can see “where” we are talking about when we’re telling a story.  The integration between our blog posts and our maps is starting to happen faster and faster but can never really take off unless we get financial support.  If you like the information RMP brings to you month in and month out, please consider making a small tax deductible donation to our Michigan registered 501(c)3 organization by clicking here.

Thanks again to all the new readers following RMP and have a great 2016.  See you next year.

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