Kevin-Sunburst Oil and Gas Producers Speak Out

By Jessica Sena | Posted: Friday, February 6, 2015 12:07 pm

HELENA, MT – Northern Plains Resource Council (NPRC) has identified several priority bills which they are calling “landowner protections” for this year’s legislative session.

Over the last two weeks, the Senate Natural Resources and House Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications (FRET) Committees have held hearings on the bills, which were met with opposition from several Montana oil and gas producers from Shelby, Kevin, Oilmont, Sunburst, and Cut Bank.

Water Testing

SB 172, a bill sponsored by Sen. Stewart-Peregoy (D-Crow Agency) would require notification to all persons within a half a mile of a proposed well site including information on baseline water testing available at the expense of the well’s applicant. Additionally, SB 172 would require two follow-up tests to be completed once a well is plugged.

Proponents, a majority of which are members with NPRC, said that the public has the right to know the quality of their water before and after drilling operations.

Opponents included the Montana Petroleum Association (MPA), and several oil and gas producers, including Gary (Mac) McDermott, representing the Northern Oil and Gas Association and MCR, LLC; and Patrick Montalban, Mountainview Energy Ltd.

The Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology provides publicly available information from existing statewide monitoring wells on the Ground Water Information Center online. The Bureau has wells in every county of Montana, and receives funding through the Resource Indemnity and Ground Water Assessment account paid into through natural resource taxes paid by industry.

Additionally, DEQ and DNRC have conducted recent tests around the state in “high risk” areas where oil and gas activity is prevalent, with grant money appropriated by the Legislature in 2013.


SB 173, a bill to increase bonding and impose idle well fees, carried by Sen. Christine Kaufmann (D-Helena) was also heard in Senate Natural Resources. Kaufmann and proponents, including NPRC members, the Montana Environmental Information Center, and Montana Audubon, claimed that wells needed to be properly indemnified, and that increased bonds were necessary to ensure available resources for the proper plugging of wells.

Opponents from north central Montana included Duane and Marilyn Enneberg, Rick Rice, Gus and Billiette Coolidge, Lucille Knap, Mac McDermott, and Patrick Montalban, all representing small oil and gas businesses. MPA and the City of Shelby also testified against the bill, as well as representatives from MDU and Continental Resources.

Increased bonds and idle well fees (which the bill does not define) would effectively shut down development of marginal (stripper) & wildcat wells, said opponents. Low oil prices have already affected the economics of drilling for all operators.

Jim Halvorson, Division Administrator of the Board of Oil and Gas, was present for all bills as an informational witness. Halvorson said that the number of abandoned wells has been on the decline, with only fifty eight remaining on the Board’s file. The oil and gas account has approximately $7 million dollars available, with additional financial resources in the RIGWA account which is capped (per a constitutional requirement) at $100 million dollars annually.


SB 177, carried by Sen. Mary McNally (D-Billings) would establish setbacks from well sites. Using the definition of “inhabitable real property”, wells would have to be 1,000 ft. from property lines and all surface water, lest the surface owner waive the requirement. Several amendments to the bill have since been added, including a provision intended to disallow any interference with mineral rights.

Supporters of the bill, all of the same supporters for the previously stated bill, claimed that it was a bill for property rights, adding that several other oil and gas states have passed setback rules.

Opponents, namely oil and gas producers and mineral owners, claimed that the bill was a regulatory taking of mineral rights, that it lessened the economics of drilling wells, even preventing vertical drilling in many areas, and that it conflicted with existing statute on the designation of spacing units.

A spokesperson for the MPA said that Montana’s oil and gas production pales in comparison to states with setback rules, with Montana ranking 12th in oil production, and accounting for roughly 1% of total U.S. oil production. Setback rules proposed in SB 177 would be the most restrictive of any that have been imposed in other states.

The Board’s Jim Halvorson and Monte Mason for the DNRC rose as informational witnesses.

The State owns roughly 5 million acres in surface rights and 6 million acres in mineral rights. Should the bill, which has been tabled, be revived by a blast motion and passed, mineral owners and State Trust Lands could see a significant decline in production and revenue.

Frac Disclosure & Notification

HB 243, a bill to require a 45 days pre-frac notification and full disclosure of frac fluid chemicals, was sponsored by Rep. Mary Dunwell (D-Helena). The Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (BOGC) promulgated rules in Aug. of 2011 to require prior and post fracturing disclosure of chemicals. Disclosure is available to the public through

Opponents stated that the notification requirement was in addition to existing rules and statute for notices, and said that delaying completion operations (fracturing) may jeopardize the process altogether.

Well owners do not always know whether or well will be fractured. Well stimulation activities take place after the drilling. The notice requirement may also open the door for interveners to unnecessarily delay or prevent fracturing, which is a process well owners negotiate with service providers who perform the fracturing.

Opponents also said that there was no demonstrated deficiency with existing rules and regulations.

In November, the USGS study concluded that oil and gas activities in the Williston Basin (Bakken) had not affected groundwater quality. Montana has not had a single case of groundwater contamination by fracturing discovered or reported to the Board by any regulatory agency in the more than 60 years that the process has been used in the state.


HB 253, a bill to prohibit earthen pits and require closed-loop [drilling] systems, was heard most recently in House FRET. Rep. Virginia Court (D-Billings) was the bill’s sponsor, and said that closed-loop systems were more environmentally beneficial and economically feasible than alternative methods which include earthen pits for drill cuttings.

The bill attracted resounding opposition from Shelby’s Mac McDermott for MCR, LLC. and the Northern Oil and Gas Association, Roy Brown for FX Drilling, John Finstad of Keesun Corporation, Garth Owens of Gasco Drilling, MPA and MonDak Utilities.

Montana’s drilling operations and geology vary considerably around the state, and while many Williston Basin operators have elected to use closed-loop systems in lieu of pits, doing so would not be economic for most small producers or wildcat and exploratory wells. Opponents claimed that shallow wells which are drilled with freshwater rather than salt or oil based mud use pits which are strictly regulated by the BOGC. The BOGC does have the regulatory authority to prohibit the use of pits if a factual situation warrants.

House FRET is expected to vote on HB 253 Monday, February 9th at 3:00 pm.

All other bills have been tabled, but may be brought to life by a blast motion with a majority vote on the floor of their respective sponsor’s chamber. In that event, the bill would be debated and voted on by the entire body of either the Senate or the House. Such motions have until the transmittal deadline, February 26th.

Jessica Sena, a former contributor to the Sun Times, now serves as Communications Director with Montana Petroleum Association.


Rep. Zinke Addresses Joint Session; Speaks Of Multiple Use On Federal Lands

By Darryl L. Flowers | Posted: Tuesday, February 3, 2015 5:15 pm

Montana’s U.S. Representative, Ryan Zinke addressed a joint session of the Montana Legislature last week.

In his opening, watched via a video link, the congressman spoke about the bureaucracy in Washington, DC, telling the story of his attempt at hanging a picture in his office. Zinke said, “there was a number to call for that,” and when he called the number, “three people show up. We are drowning in bureaucracy.”

Rep. Zinke spoke about public lands, saying, “Our public lands are sacred. Public access and public lands and Multiple Use are part of our heritage. But, so is the mismanagement, and that’s when we have to take a stand.”

“Multiple Use” refers to the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960, in regards to National Forests.

The congressman said that part of the problem with public lands is that the authority of local Forest Service staff has been  “stripped away”

For more about Rep. Zinke’s address, and other news from the Montana Legislature, see

Montana Senate President Discusses Energy Legislation

By Mike Ellerd Editor-In-Chief Petroleum News Bakken | Posted: Tuesday, February 3, 2015 4:18 pm

After serving a combined 14 years in the Montana House of Representatives and Senate, term limits put Sen. Debby Barrett in her last session, and she is ending her legislative tenure on a high note serving as president of the Senate. That distinction makes her the first woman ever elected as the leader of either chamber in the state’s 126-year legislative history.

As a rancher in Beaverhead County in far southwestern Montana, Barrett’s home is a long way from the current epicenter of Montana’s oil and gas activity in far eastern Montana, but in no way does that diminish her knowledge of and involvement in legislation that could affect the industry.

Barrett sat down with Petroleum News Bakken on Jan. 23 in her capitol office in Helena and shared her views on some of the more important oil and gas-related legislation facing Montana lawmakers in the state’s 64th legislative session.

Infrastructure funding

Petroleum News Bakken: Gov. Bullock is proposing $391 million in infrastructure spending in House Bill 5, also known as the “Build Montana” bill, of which $45 million is earmarked for oil-impacted communities in eastern Montana. Under the bill, the spending would be funded through a combination of cash and bonds. How do you feel about the need for infrastructure spending in those impacted communities as well as the funding method the governor proposes?

Barrett: You asked first about infra- structure. The Legislature has for decades and decades had infrastructure funding in a series of house bills that are introduced each year. We have House Bill 6, renew- able resource grants; House Bill 7, reclamation and development grants; House Bill 8, renewable resource bonds and grants; and HB 11, the Treasure State Endowment. And we’ve passed those every session.

So the Legislature has a track record, decades long, of taking care of infrastructure. It’s steady, it’s sustainable and we have done that forever. What the governor did this year — after requesting that each of these bills be drafted — he swept them all into one bill, House Bill 5, and he added his bonding wishes on top of that, and he’s calling that the “Build Montana” but it looks more like the “Buy Montana” to me.

Petroleum News Bakken: This obviously would be a question for the governor, but what do you think was the impetus behind combining the bills?

Barrett: I think it’s political. You know in Montana we don’t have ear- marks — what’s in a bill has to be in the title of the bill. But we do have “log rolling, ” and that’s where you put a little bit of something for each community, for each school, for everybody, in this huge funding bill and then you think it will pass the Legislature because there’s something for everyone.

But I think that’s not the way you should do things — we should prioritize. There are some projects in HB 5 that are probably necessary at this time and should be funded and that’s why we have the Legislature so you can prioritize these projects.

Petroleum News Bakken: Do you think that might be a likely prospect that HB 5 gets split into a number of separate bills?

Barrett: I hope so. And as I said, it’s worked for decades and I think we should do that.

Petroleum News Bakken: Back to the $45 million for oil-impacted communities, regardless in what bill that funding ends up, is it safe to assume that there is consensus on both sides of the aisle that those communities need that money?

Barrett: We know there is an impact there and those counties do need to be taken care of. And there are impacts in other counties. If there are impacts across Montana then I think we need to look at those — not just focus on eastern Montana but all communities that are really in need and we should address those and if they fall under the right criteria we should take care of them.

Petroleum News Bakken: On funding, the governor proposes to use a combination of cash and bonds and argues that interest rates are low and Montana has a high rating and he would argue to take advantage of that.

Barrett: I have seen several times this year where the governor has said we have some money out there that’s drawing 17 percent interest. Well we do and that’s our retirement funds and they are in the stock market and that isn’t the money that we can use for bonding for infra- structure. The cash we have on hand is drawing, the last I looked and this was a couple of weeks ago, 0.14 percent. And he says it’s better to borrow it at 3 or 4 percent than spend our cash — I don’t agree with that. Yea, the rates are low compared to the past, but they’re still more than for the cash we have on hand.

Greater sage grouse

Petroleum News Bakken: Another proposal by the governor is funding of the sage grouse conservation plan for which approximately $10 million is earmarked in HB 2. The plan is modeled after a similar plan in Wyoming and is intended to leave management of the species to the state and avoid a threatened and endangered listing. And the plan has the sup- port of industry. What level of importance do you put on the sage grouse management plan and how the governor proposes to deal with it?

Barrett: We have no choice — we’re between a rock and a hard place when it comes to endangered species and especially the lawsuits behind sage grouse that brought the governor’s executive order at the end of last session that Montana had to have a sage grouse plan focused on habitat, not the species. The species is alive and well in Montana, it’s thriving. But it’s the abuse of the Endangered Species Act that connected us with 10 other states — there are now 11 states that all have to come up with plans focused on habitat.

The Wyoming plan might not be the best plan for Montana. Their core habitat areas are on public lands, and in Montana our core habitats are found on private lands. So there’s a vast difference. And Wyoming also has a wildlife fund that they have put money into for years, but in Montana we don’t have a wildlife fund — our funding is coming out of the general fund. The Endangered Species Act is supposed to be a federal mandate and a federal act and they should pay for it. They paid for wolf management until the wolves were delisted, and they should do the same with sage grouse.


Petroleum News Bakken: A bill draft, LC1619 (which may or may not be introduced), would propose to eliminate the state’s drilling tax incentive for oil and gas wells and would retroactively apply to wells drilled on or after Jan. 1, 2015. The money generated by the state through the elimination of the drilling incentive would be placed in the state’s highway revenue account. How do you feel about the idea of eliminating the drilling incentive?

Barrett: When we get back to the taxes and incentives in Montana, it always amazes me — a couple times a year we see statistics from across the states showing how good Montana is doing, but mostly what that is based on is we do not have a sales tax. So they say it’s easy to do business in Montana, tax-wise, because there’s no sales tax, but we have a business equipment tax and these companies have a lot of equipment. They have to pay that every year but with the sales tax they wouldn’t — once they pay it, it’s done.

So Montana doesn’t have a business-friendly tax climate as far as I’m concerned and that’s why there is the need for these incentives. I would not like them to go away and I’ve always supported them.

Enhanced regulations

Petroleum News Bakken: There are a number of bills and bill drafts (identified as LC) that increase the level of regulation on oil and gas operations. SB 177 establishes 1,000-foot well setbacks from surface water bodies; HB 243 requires disclosure of fracturing fluids along with property owner notification requirements; LC977 would establish entirely new standards for oil field waste disposal; and HB 253 prohibits the use of reserve pits. What are your views on such bills and do you think additional regulation is necessary in the state?

Barrett: We have the Board of Oil and Gas (Conservation) and they are out there and they are active and they are doing their job. If they see a need and bring for- ward a bill for further setbacks or to protect water in the state, I would take a serious look at that. But these bills and LC numbers, I think they’re just coming from people who are just are anti-resource development. And it’s certainly over-regulation and just trying to stop development all together.

If it comes from the right source — if there’s a problem out there — we deal with it. Montana has great environmental laws. We have NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) and MEPA (Montana Environmental Protection Act). So our environmental laws aren’t the problem. And I think they (the environmental laws) have taken care of the types of issues that are in these bills.

Reclamation bonds

Petroleum News Bakken: SB 173 sets reclamation bonds at $20,000 to $60,000 and $250,000 for multi-well pads. Is reclamation bonding an issue with legislators and in these amounts are they reasonable?

Barrett: I don’t think they’re an issue now, I don’t think they’re needed and I don’t think they’re reasonable. I think again it comes from people who are anti- resource development and they’re trying to stop it by any means possible.

Petroleum News Bakken: From an oil and gas news perspective, reclamation and reclamation bonding have not been a problem in Montana, so when bonding emerges it draws attention.

Barrett: I have not seen these (reclamation) problems. If they come to committee and show us there is a problem somewhere in the state that would be one thing, but if we’re just passing things needlessly for more and more regulations. I don’t favor that.

Petroleum News Bakken: Does the Board of Oil and Gas Conservation have a good relationship with the Legislature in terms of bringing issues forward?

Barrett. Yes. Yes. We have the Environmental Quality Council that meets in the interim and they look at all of these issues with all of the boards and all of the development, and if there’s a problem it comes forward and I have not seen any of these proposed bills as problems that have come forward.


Petroleum News Bakken: Another bill draft, LC551, sets a flaring limit of 35,000 cubic feet per day. While flaring has been an important issue in North Dakota, and that state is working hard to reduce flaring, natural gas flaring has not generally been viewed as problematic in Montana, which produces a fraction of the oil and gas produced in North Dakota. What do you think about legislation restricting flaring?

Barrett: I think it would be premature and counterproductive to look at another state that might have a problem and then bring in a bill in Montana to prevent something that may or may not ever hap- pen. It would just be focused on stopping development and I can’t support it and don’t think my caucus could either.

Oil and gas trust fund

Petroleum News Bakken: Another bill that’s been drafted but not yet introduced is LC1157, which proposes to put a constitutional amendment before the voters on Montana calling for the establishment of a permanent oil and gas trust fund similar to the state’s coal severance trust fund. What are your thoughts on such a trust fund?

Barrett: I don’t think we need this trust fund. I think it was a detriment to coal production in the state of Montana and I would hate to do the same to oil and gas.

Thanks to our friends at Petroleum News Bakken for kindly allowing us to reprint this article. For more information, please visit

Arctic Oil On Life Support

By Nick Cunningham for | Posted: Monday, February 2, 2015 2:32 pm

Oil companies have eyed the Arctic for years. With an estimated 90 billion barrels of oil lying north of the Arctic Circle, the circumpolar north is arguably the last corner of the globe that is still almost entirely unexplored.

As drilling technology advances, conventional oil reserves become harder to find, and climate change contributes to melting sea ice, the Arctic has moved up on the list of priorities in oil company board rooms.

That had companies moving north – Royal Dutch Shell off the coast of Alaska, Statoil in the Norwegian Arctic, and ExxonMobil in conjunction with Russia’s Rosneft in the Russian far north.

But achieving the goals of tapping the extensive oil reserves in the Arctic has been much harder than previously thought. Shell’s mishaps have been well-documented. The Anglo-Dutch company failed to achieve permits on time, had its drill ships run aground, and saw its oil spill containment dome “crushed like a beer can” during testing. That delayed drilling for several consecutive years.

However, the first month of 2015 has darkened Arctic dreams even further. Oil companies are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to deal with a collapse in oil prices, now below $50 per barrel. With virtually every upstream company around the world slashing spending, it is the highest-cost and riskiest projects that are getting scrapped first.

Statoil, the semi-state-owned oil company from Norway, has been an offshore leader and Arctic pioneer. After having watched Shell fumble its Arctic campaign, Statoil put its drilling plans off the coast of Alaska on ice. But now with rock-bottom oil prices, Statoil has even shelved Arctic drilling plans in its own backyard. Bloomberg reported on January 29 that Statoil does not plan on drilling in the Barents Sea this year. It also let several Arctic exploration licenses off the coast of Greenland expire.

In December, Chevron suspended its drilling plans in Canada’s Arctic indefinitely.

In Russia, Arctic dreams are also going to disappoint, although for different reasons. Last year, Rosneft – operating in conjunction with ExxonMobil – announced a major discovery in the Kara Sea. Rosneft’s Igor Sechin said that the field could hold as much as 730 million barrels of oil. “This is our united victory, it was achieved thanks to our friends and partners from ExxonMobil, Nord Atlantic Drilling, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Weatherford, Baker, Trendsetter, FMC,” Sechin said in a statement. “We would like to name this field Pobeda,” the Russian word for victory.

But western sanctions may delay the victory. ExxonMobil is prohibited from working with Rosneft, and had to wind down its operations shortly after the discovery was announced. Worse for Rosneft, ExxonMobil was the one that had the drilling rig under contract, apparently the only platform that would work for the well.

Reuters reported on January 30, 2015 that Rosneft would have to delay drilling until 2016 at the earliest. “There will be no drilling in 2015. There is no platform and it is too late to get one. The project was initially created for Exxon’s platform,” a Rosneft source told Reuters. ExxonMobil has already pulled its platform out, and has it under contract until July 2016. Drilling may not begin for another year or two, and production from the world’s most northerly oil field will not begin until sometime in the 2020’s, barring other setbacks.

That leaves Shell, the company with the spottiest Arctic record. Shell announced $4.16 billion in fourth quarter profits, a decline from the previous quarter, but a decent showing relative to its peers. Nevertheless, the company also announced $15 billion in spending cuts over the next several years. “The macro environment has moved against us,” Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said after releasing the quarterly figures.

Curiously, however, amid all the spending reductions, Shell hopes to once again return the Arctic, after a two-year hiatus. Perhaps that is because of the sunk costs – Shell will spend around $1 billion on its Arctic program whether or not it is drilled because of all the ships and other logistics already under contract. Shell still needs to obtain several permits and clear legal hurdles, but if all goes according to plan, the company could begin drilling this summer.

It is up to Shell then to keep the oil industry’s Arctic dreams alive.


Oil Prices Changing The Face Of Global Geopolitics

Posted: Monday, February 2, 2015 2:00 pm

In a documentary that aired recently on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s popular The Fifth Estate program, an allegory of Vladimir Putin was presented. The wily Russian president was described growing up in a shabby St. Petersburg apartment, where he would often corner rats.

Now, punished by low oil prices and Western sanctions against Russian incursions in Ukraine/ Crimea, Putin is himself the cornered rat. Many wonder, and fear, what he will do if conditions in Russia become increasingly desperate.

In the last six months oil prices have plunged over 50 percent and the Russian economy is hurting. The country now faces slowing economic growth, a depressed ruble, and runaway inflation estimated to be up to 150 percent on basic foodstuffs.

The Kremlin is counting on austerity cuts to help balance its budget, which has revenues coming in at $45 billion lower than earlier projections. The exception, significantly, is defense. With the military exempted from the austerity plan, it begs the question of whether Putin will “play the nationalist card,” such as he did in Crimea, in an effort to strengthen greater Russia during a period of economic weakness.

Georgia On His Mind

We are already seeing this to be the case. As reported last week, Putin is set to absorb South Ossetia – Georgia’s breakaway republic that declared itself independent in 1990. Under an agreement “intended to legalize South Ossetia’s integration with Russia,” Russia would invest 2.8 million rubles (US$50 million) to “fund the socio-economic development of South Ossetia,” according to Agenda.GE, a Tbilisi-based news site.

The situation is analogous to Crimea because, like Crimea, South Ossetia contains a significant Russian-speaking population with ties to the Motherland.

If Putin succeeds in annexing the tiny province, it will be a real poke in the eye to the United States, which provoked Russia in the early 1990s by promoting construction of a pipeline between the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Georgia. The BTC pipeline moves oil from Baku in Azerbaijan to Tbilisi in Georgia and then onward to Ceyhan on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

BTC started operating in 2006. Then, two years later, Putin built his own pipeline to cut out Georgia. The South Ossetia pipeline run by Gazprom stretches 75 kilometers from South Ossetia to Russia.

The current move on South Ossetia is a way for Russia to assert its energy independence in the face of Western sanctions and low oil prices.

It comes as Russia announced plans to divert all of its natural gas crossing Ukraine to a route via Turkey. As Bloomberg reported last week, Gazprom will send 63 billion cubic meters through a proposed link under the Black Sea to Turkey – after the earlier South Stream pipeline, a $45-billion project that would have crossed Bulgaria, was scrapped by Russia amid opposition from the European Union. By sending the gas to Turkey and on to Europe via Greece, Gazprom is in effect sending Europe an ultimatum: build pipelines to European markets, or we will sell the gas to other customers.

According to one observer, the proposed land grab in South Ossetia combined with the snub to Europe by shifting its gas to Turkey and bypassing Ukraine, is a classic Putin power play:

“Russia is preparing to absorb a province of neighboring Georgia, and delivering an ultimatum to Europe that it could lose much of the Russian gas on which it relies,” Steve LeVine writes in Quartz. “Putin has argued that the west is simply intent on ousting him and weakening Russia… Faced with these perceived attempts to undercut him and his country, Putin suggests that he has no choice but to pull around the wagons and stick it out. This could go on a long time.”

Iran: Falling Oil Prices Spur Peace Dividend

Some have speculated that the oil price crash was orchestrated by the Saudis, possibly in collusion with the United States and other Gulf states, to punish Iran, its main political and religious rival in the Middle East.

Whether or not that is true, there is no denying the effects of a low oil price on Iran’s economy. “Iran is already missing tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue due to Western sanctions and years of economic mismanagement under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” Bloomberg reported on Jan. 7. Like Russia, Iran is looking at spending cuts in next year’s budget, which is based on an overly-optimistic $72 a barrel crude oil price.

However, unlike Russia, which is “circling the wagons” and pulling further away from the West currently, the oil price drop could actually lead to more of a détente between Iran and Western countries. In a speech on Jan. 4, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran’s economy “cannot develop in isolation from the rest of the world,” while at the same time, Iran’s foreign minister was negotiating a nuclear deal that could see the lifting of UN sanctions, the Washington Post observed.

Then there is the cooperation between the West and Iran over the terrorist group ISIS. The National Post’s J.L. Granatsein wrote in a column on Tuesday that Iran has deployed substantial numbers of its Revolutionary Guard elite Al Qods brigade into Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS, along with Western allies including the US, Britain, France and Canada. This is despite Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria’s president Assad.

“Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed, but not much can be stranger than this. Led by the Americans, hitherto the Great Satan to the Iranian leaders, the ties between the West and Iran are becoming tighter, each side reacting to the horrors of Islamist fundamentalism throughout the region,” Granatsein writes. “The Iranians have been hurt by sanctions, and they are being wracked even more by the falling price of oil. Easing curbs on trade and Iranian banks may mitigate the effects of the oil price collapse.”

Venezuela Bracing For The Worst

The other major loser in the oil price collapse, Venezuela, may not see such a positive outcome. Wracked by decades of economic mismanagement by Hugo Chávez, the South American oil producer was already struggling to pay its debts when new president Nicolás Maduro came to power.

Now, with inflation running at 60 percent and lines forming outside state grocery stores for food and other basic supplies, Maduro faces the specter of serious social unrest if conditions do not improve. The country has some of the world’s cheapest gasoline prices, but Maduro has refused to end fuel subsidies, fearing, no doubt, a repeat of widespread riots in 1989 that left hundreds dead after gasoline prices were allowed to rise.

Venezuela is even more dependent than Russia on the price of oil, earning some 96 percent of its foreign currency from oil sales, putting Maduro in the untenable position of either borrowing more, despite crushing debts, or slashing spending:

“With only $20 billion left in its reserves, and $50 billion in debt to China alone, Venezuela appears headed toward a choice between abandoning its oil giveaways and defaulting on its debts, or starving its own population to the point of revolt,” according to the Washington Post.



Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2015 3:51 pm

According to a press release issued by Mooncor Oil & Gas Corp. earlier today, the company has completed the purchase of 320 sections of oil and gas leases in Pondera and Teton Counties in Montana. While the release does not mention the name, it is believed that Mooncor has acquired the leases of Primary Petroleum, based on company filings and reports on financial websites.

The Mooncor release reads:

TORONTO, ONTARIO — Mooncor Oil & Gas Corp. (“Mooncor”) (MOO) announced today that its wholly owned subsidiary, Mooncor Energy Inc. (“MEI”), has completed the acquisition (indirectly through the acquisition of a Montana incorporated company) of oil and gas leases and related data over approximately 320 sections (net acres of 219,000) in the Pondera and Teton Counties in Northwestern Montana USA (the “Property”). Mooncor and the sole shareholder of the vendor of the shares of the Montana company acquired share a common director, however the acquisition is not a “related party transaction” as defined under Multilateral Instrument 61-101. The acquisition was previously disclosed on August 14, 2014 and October 16, 2014. MEI will pay the vendor a 1% gross overriding royalty and assume its working interest share of the reclamation costs relating to the previous drilled wells and the ongoing lease payments on the Property. Further details of the Property are disclosed in the August 14, 2014 news release.

In addition, Mooncor provides a further update on its February 16, 2012 news release on the closing of its previously announced disposition (the “Transaction”) by MEI of an interest in two oil leases spanning 80 acres located in Lloydminster, Alberta to Madeira Minerals Ltd. (“Madeira”) (nex: MDE. H). MEI and Madeira have entered into a letter of commitment and amended and restated purchase agreement to affirm the parties’ intentions regarding the Transaction, and to recognize improvements made on the property by MEI since the Transaction was first announced. A major work-over of Well 3-28 and minor work-over of Well 4-28 were completed in 2012, in addition to required environmental remediation work. Madeira is a capital pool company and the Transaction is intended to constitute Madeira’s “qualifying transaction” under Policy 2.4 of the TSX Venture Exchange (the “Exchange”). Completion of the Transaction still remains subject to approval of the Exchange, completion by Madeira of a concurrent private placement for aggregate gross proceeds of $1.2 million, and compliance by Madeira with the policies of the Exchange related to completion of a qualifying transaction.

Mooncor Oil & Gas Corp. is a junior oil and gas exploration company. Mooncor holds interests in lands in the Muskwa/Duvernay liquids rich shale gas area in Hamburg, Alberta, and in southwest Ontario where the focus has been on conventional oil and gas opportunities.

Anadarko E&P Onshore Re-permits Two Bakken Wells in Toole County

By Darryl L. Flowers | Posted: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 1:00 pm

1/12/2015 To 1/23/2015

New Locations – Horizontal Wells

In Richland County, Whiting Oil and Gas Corporation permitted a Bakken Formation well, the Hay Creek Federal 24-31-4H. The Hay Creek has a surface hole location (SHL) at SE SW 31-25N-58E (300 FSL/1740 FWL) and a probable bottom hole location (PBHL) of 21,803 feet at NE NE 30-25N-58E (240 FNL/660 FEL).

Re-Issued Locations

In Richland County, three re-issued permits were approved for wells that will be operated by Whiting Oil and Gas Corporation: the State 43-16-2H, with an SHL at NE SE 16-24N-59E (2330 FSL/300 FEL) and a PBHL of 20,234 feet at SW NW 17-24N-59E (2460 FNL/240 FWL); the State 43-16-3H, which has an SHL at NE SE 16-24N-59E (2285 FSL/300 FEL) and a PBHL of 20,157 feet at NW SW 17-24N-59E (1740 FSL/240 FWL) and the State 43-16-4H, with an SHL at NE SE 16-24N-59E (2240 FSL/300 FEL) and a PBHL of 20,680 feet at SW SW 17-24N-59E (660 FSL/240 FWL).

In Toole County, two re-issued permits were approved for wells to be operated by Anadarko E&P Onshore, LLC: the Simmes Ranch 3603-01-41H has an SHL at NW NW 1-36N-3W (450 FNL/245 FWL) and a PBHL of 7,492 feet at NE NE 1-36N-3W (400 FNL/330 FEL); the Simmes Ranch 3603-02-11H has an SHL at NE NE 2-36N-3W (400 FNL/880 FEL) and a PBHL of 6,875 feet at NW NW 2-36N-3W (400 FNL/330 FWL). Both wells will target the Bakken Formation.


In Blaine County’s Bowes Field, Citation Oil & Gas Corp. reported the completion of the Bowes Sawtooth Unit B208H. The Sawtooth Formation horizontal well has an SHL at NW NW 8-31N-20E (750 FNL/760 FWL) and a bottom hole location (BHL) of 6,217 feet at NE SE 6-31N-20E (1407 FSL/1310 FEL). The reported initial production was 15 barrels of oil per day (BOPD) and 400 barrels of water per day (BWPD).

In Carbon County, Energy Corporation of America reported the completion of the Hunt Creek 1-H, located at SW SW 7-8S-23E (741 FSL/805 FWL). No initial production numbers were reported.

In Dawson County’s Deer Creek Field, Legacy Reserves Operating LP reported the completion of the Deer Creek 8-22, located at SE NE 22-17N-53E (2050 FNL/660 FEL). The Red River vertical well reported an initial production of 321 BOPD, 5,000 cubic feet of gas per day and 1,215 BWPD.

Three Bakken Formation wells were reported as completed in Richland County.

Whiting Oil and Gas Corporation reported the completion of two of the wells. The Sundheim 21-27-3H, with an SHL at NE NW 27-25N-58E (440 FNL/1980 FWL) and a BHL of 20,478 feet at SW SE 34-25N-58E (245 FSL/1907 FEL). The Sundheim 21-27-3H recorded an initial production of 1,293 BOPD, 658 thousand cubic feet of gas per day (MCFPD), and 2,807 BWPD. The Sundheim 21-27-4H has an SHL at NE NW 27-25N-58E (395 FNL/1980 FWL) and a BHL of 21,497 feet at SE SE 34-25N-58E (241 FSL/572 FEL). No initial production rates were reported.

Wrapping up the three Richland County completions is the Babka 3-12H, operated by Continental Resources Inc. The Babka has an SHL at SW SW 12-24N-52E (325 FSL/735 FWL) and a BHL of 15,594 at 1-24N-52E (237 FNL/690 FWL). The Babka reported an initial production of 595 BOPD, 125 MCFPD and 281 BWPD.

Abandoned Wells

In Sheridan County, final abandonment procedures were approved for the Ostby 11-35, located at NW NE 35-31N-58E (825 FNL/1517 FEL). Omimex Canada, Ltd. was the operator of record.

Darryl L. Flowers is the publisher of the Sun Times in Fairfield, Montana,, and can be reached at