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I read recently that, because of increased wind and solar generation capacity in Texas, no new gas-fired generating plants are being built, and some are being mothballed. Then I read this week of rolling blackouts in California, being blamed on the unreliability of wind and solar power and the need to build more gas-fired plants.

EIA has projected the consumption of global energy by source out to 2040. Its projections don’t bode well for reducing carbon emissions. A depiction of its projections is below. By 2040 world energy consumption will increase 22%. Energy from oil, gas and coal will increase 11%. Coal consumption will be essentially flat. Energy from all other sources will increase 70%. Energy from wind and solar will increase a whopping 333%. But total energy production from sources other than oil, gas and coal will increase only from 19% to 26% of total energy production. (click on image to enlarge)

global-energy-mix

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The Texas Observer has a great article about Texas solar energy development, Texas Solar Hits a Turning Point, by Nancy Nusser. The article focuses on a new solar farm on the Chadbourne Ranch in Nolan County, owned by Garland Richards. The Holstein solar farm has 709,000 solar panels on 1,300 acres and can generate 200 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 40,000 homes.solar-farm

According to the article there are now 17 solar facilities in Texas, 13 of which can produce at least 100 megawatts. And more coming. Solar capacity in the ERCOT service area is expected to increase 150 percent this year to 5,777 megawatts, and next year to 13,449 megawatts. Still, solar provides only about 2 percent of Texas’ electricity generation. If 1,300 acres of solar farm generates 200 megawatts, and if Texas needs 300,000 megawatts of electricity, and if solar were to provide 20% of that, it would take 300 solar farms like the one above to provide that power, or almost 400,000 acres of solar farms – 600 square miles.

fortChadbourne Ranch is the site of Fort Chadbourne, established by the army in 1852 in what is now Coke County, to protect the western frontier. The fort surrendered to confederates on February 28, 1861, before the confederate shelling of Fort Sumter on April 12 of the same year. It was reoccupied by federal troops from 1865 to 1867, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Garland Richards helped form the Fort Chadbourne Foundation, which has preserved the fort, reconstructed some buildings, and built a museum housing artifacts discovered during restoration of the site. Restored barracks below.barracks

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I have been reading Stephen Harrigan’s history of Texas, Big Wonderful Thing. Great read. I just finished Harrigan’s discussion of the period of Reconstruction in Texas after the Civil War. Two things struck me: first, in the Black Lives Matter era, how we are all being drawn into re-examining our country’s history of discrimination against African Americans; and second, how divided Texas was, both before and after the Civil War, on the issues of slavery and race relations.

After Lincoln’s assassination, his successor Andrew Johnson appointed Andrew Jackson Hamilton as provisional governor of Texas. Hamilton was a former Texas Congressman who opposed secession and escaped Texas during the war. A delegation was then elected in 1866 to write a new Texas constitution. The delegates refused to ratify the 13th Amendment and wrote into the constitution that Blacks would not be allowed to vote, hold office, or serve on juries. Texas voters ratified the constitution in June 1866 and elected a new governor, James Throckmorton, who fought for the South in the war. The newly elected legislature then passed laws known as “black codes” further limiting rights of African Americans. For example, a law required that all Black household servants “shall at all hours of the day or night, and on all days of the week, promptly answer all calls … to be especially civil and polite to their employer, his family and guests.” Continue reading →

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I was interviewed this week by Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, J.D., Agricultural Law Specialist with the Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University. Tiffany does lots of education programs for landowners at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center. She has a great blog for anyone involved in agriculture. Tiffany interviewed me about the law relating to deduction of post-production costs from oil and gas royalties.  You can listen to Tiffany’s podcast of our interview here.

 

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It seems that Jimmy McAllen’s troubles over damages and injuries he suffered when Forest Oil buried mercury-contaminated iron sponge wood chips on his ranch will never end. Arbitration of his claims resulted in a $20 million award which was affirmed by the Corpus Christi Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court denied review.

But shortly thereafter, McAllen got in a dispute over attorneys’ fees related to the case with his lawyer and former son-in-law Chris Amberson. McAllen claimed his lawyer overcharged for fees and submitted bills for fraudulent expenses. That dispute also went to arbitration, and the arbitrator, Tom Collins, entered an award against Amberson for more than $15 million. Collins found that Amberson had billed McAllen almost $1.7 million in “reimbursable expenses” to retain 38 experts for the Forest Oil litigation. “These were made-up expenses,” Collins wrote, adding that “almost 100% percent of the expert retainers were not paid.” Collins found almost $2.6 million in fraudulent charges.

Amberson then asked the district court which appointed the arbitrator to set aside part of the award. But a company owned by Amberson, also a party to the case, has now sought bankruptcy protection, and the case was removed to bankruptcy court. The battle continues.

 

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UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology has installed monitoring stations to record earthquakes across oil and gas fields in Texas, following the Legislature’s appropriation of funds for that purpose. It has been up and running since 1/1/17. Remember there was a big debate about whether oil and gas activities have resulted in earthquake activity. TexNet’s website has an interactive map that shows quakes of various magnitudes since that date. Snapshot below. You can see that quakes are centered in the active areas around the Permian, the Eagle Ford and the Barnett. Colors depict different magnitudes.

quakes-map

 

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Read about most recent developments here. After failed efforts of the industry to self-police destruction of lizard habitat in the Permian, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to launch a full review of a proposal to classify the lizard as either endangered or threatened. The saga goes back to 2104, when development in the Permian accelerated. In the meantime, sand mines have invaded the Permian, further endangering the lizard.

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I first wrote about Chesapeake Energy in 2009, and I’ve written multiple posts about the company since. Founded in 1983 by two Oklahoma landmen, Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward, Chesapeake grew into one of the largest natural gas producers in the country. During that time the company transformed natural gas production in the US, changing the country from an importer of natural gas to an exporter. Chesapeake also angered its competitors by outbidding them for leases and then used innovative marketing methods to reduce its royalty obligations to its lessors, ending up in multiple cases brought by landowners wherever it did business. Chesapeake’s success was also the germ of its demise; the growth of shale gas production ultimately reduced its price so far that the company was unable to carry its heavy debt burden, and its late effort to shift into oil plays was met with the 2020 oil glut and the COVID-caused reduction in consumption.

Continue reading →

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Dr. Scott Tinker and Switch Energy Alliance have released their second documentary about energy, Switch On. A great film.

Scott’s first documentary, Switch, debuted in 2012, an award-winning film that has now been seen by millions. It sought to educate Americans and the developed world about the sources and uses of energy in the developed world, our challenges and our choices. Scott’s second documentary focuses on the challenges of energy production and consumption for two billion people in the developing the world, and what is happening with energy in those places. Switch Energy Alliance was formed by Scott as a non-profit “dedicated to inspiring an energy-educated future that is objective, nonpartisan, and sensible.”

Dr. Tinker is a geologist, educator, energy expert and documentary filmmaker. He is Director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin and is the State Geologist of Texas. He holds the Edwin Allday Endowed Chair of Subsurface Geology and is Associate Dean for Research at the BEG. He has a gift for making difficult concepts simple and conveying information in an objective and entertaining way.

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