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Sempra Energy begins startup process for Cameron LNG [Houston Chronicle]

Feb. 07HACKBERRY, La. — More than 8,000 people are working day and night to bring the Gulf Coast’s third liquefied natural gas complex into operation within the next few months as global demand for LNG grows and U.S. natural gas production surges.

Sempra Energy of San Diego recently received clearance from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to begin the process of starting up its Cameron LNG project along the Calcasieu River Ship Channel here. Sempra officials won’t provide an exact estimate of how long the process could take. But if all goes well, the first of three production units that super-cool natural gas into a liquid could be up an running in as soon as a matter of weeks, with the first shipment to foreign customers to follow soon after.

The goal is to have all three production units in service by the end of the year and LNG on the way to destinations around the globe where it will be used for power plants, industrial customers and homes. The project is being developed as a joint venture between Sempra and four companies from Japan and France

“It’s an important project for Sempra Energy, it’s an important project for the nation and it’s an important project for the world,” Sempra Energy Strategic Initiative Officer Lisa Glatch said.

Cameron LNG is the latest milestone in the Gulf Coast’s emergence as global hub of LNG exports. Cheniere Energy has exported LNG from its Sabine Pass complex in Louisiana since 2016 and last year began shipping from a second complex near Corpus Christi. Meanwhile, several other projects stretching from Louisiana to Brownsville are advancing.

On Tuesday, Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum, the state-owned oil company of the Middle East nation, said they would move ahead with the $10 billion Golden Pass LNG export terminal near Port Arthur.

Cameron LNG’s three production units, which are known in the industry as trains, would produce nearly 12 million metric tons of LNG per year — enough natural gas to power around 10 million U.S. homes for a day. Originally developed as a $900 million LNG import terminal that began commercial operations in July 2009, Sempra decided to take advantage of record natural gas production from U.S. shale basins to get into the export game.

“As you well know, the world has changed we, some through Mother Nature and American technology and ingenuity, have a tremendous supply of natural gas,” Glatch said. “It’s clean burning and in high demand around the world especially from allies in Asia and Europe. Sempra is in a very natural place to step up and take a leadership role.”

Sempra entered into a joint venture with Japanese energy trading firm Mitsui & Co., French refining company Total, Japanese conglomerate and heavy equipment manufacturer Mitsubishi and Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha to develop the export terminal. nearly three years to obtain a federal permit for the project

The LNG export terminal will receive natural gas from Sempra’s Cameron Interstate Pipeline and TransCanada’s Columbia Gulf Transmission Pipeline. So far, crews have installed 1 million feet of pipe, about 7.5 million feet of cable and a quarter million cubic yards of concrete. Before construction on the plant could begin, crews raised the soil at the site 12 to 15 feet above sea level and brought in additional power lines and a substation to deliver 100 megawatts of electricity.

“It’s a huge civil engineering, construction, logistics and procurement effort,” Cameron LNG CEO Farhad Aharbi said. “It requires a lot of patience, a lot of dollars and a lot of know-how.”

The export terminal is just one of three facilities planned by Sempra as part of a two-coast approach to more export 45 million metric tons of LNG per year by the mid-2020s. In addition to Cameron LNG, the copmany is also developing the Energia Costa Azul LNG facility in Baja California, Mexico and seeking to develop another Gulf Coast LNG terminal Near Port Arthur.

As more nations switch from coal-fired power plants to natural gas, Glatch said demand for LNG is robust.

“In the mid-2020s, there’s expected to high demand and limited supply, that’s a good place to be for projects like ours,” Glatch said. “We’re ahead of the pack.”

@SergioChapa on Twitter


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GM workers to receive profit-sharing payment [The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.)]

Feb. 06–Based on the 2018 full-year results for the company’s North America business, General Motors has announced that more than 46,500 eligible U.S. hourly employees will receive a profit sharing payment of up to $10,750.

“When GM delivers good business results, our eligible hourly employees in the U.S. share in the company’s success,” Mary Barra, GM’s CEO and chairman, said in a statement. “To build on our performance, we must continue working together to deliver strong safety, quality and productivity results.”

Since 2010, certain eligible GM U.S. hourly workers have earned more than $80,500 in profit sharing payments.

Eligible employees are scheduled to receive the payment in their Feb. 22 paycheck. The program is based on a contractually negotiated formula between General Motors and the UAW.

In 2018, GM North America earned EBIT-adjusted of $10.8 billion on increasing sales of GM’s newest crossovers; the launches of the all-new, full-size Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups; and disciplined cost control. The company expects strong financial results again in 2019, based on a full year of volume from GM’s new pickups, new crossover launches and growth of adjacent businesses.

GM has invested more than $22 billion in its plants since 2009, including more than $600 million in 2018. The company employs more than 3,000 people at its truck assembly plant in Allen County.


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Daimler’s profit plummets by almost a third in 2018 [dpa, Berlin]

Feb. 06STUTTGART — German car and lorry manufacturer Daimler recorded a slump in profits in 2018.

Profits fell by 29 per cent year-on-year to 7.25 billion euros (8.25 billion dollars), the group announced on Wednesday from its headquarters in Stuttgart.

Thanks to the lorry business, Daimler was able to increase its revenues by 2 per cent to 167.36 billion euros.

“For Daimler 2018 was a year with a strong headwind,” outgoing chief executive Dieter Zetsche said.

At the company’s annual general meeting in May, he hands over the reins after 13 years to the head of development, Ola Kaellenius.

Looking ahead, Zetsche announced unspecified “countermeasures” in its car division. “We are busy working out this programme,” he said.

A Daimler spokesman said there were no plans to cut jobs, noting that the quarterly report referred rather to additional jobs being created.

Major changes are afoot in the company. In May, shareholders will decide on the new structure, in which cars lorries and mobility services will be brought together into a holding company as legally independent units.

Last year, several factors weighed on the carmaker’s earnings.

In addition to the trade dispute between China and the United States, there were also costs for vehicle recalls.

The new exhaust and consumer standard, the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP), meant that not all models could immediately be brought to market.

In 2019, sales and operating profit are expected to rise slightly.

Daimler is aiming for a profit margin — the ratio of profit to sales — in the passenger car division of between 6 and 8 per cent, compared to 7.8 per cent in 2018.

The Daimler Group as a whole is aiming for a profit margin of 8 to 10 per cent.

“We cannot and will not be satisfied with that,” Zetsche said. “That’s why we started to work out comprehensive countermeasures.”

Apart from the continuing debate over diesel engines and clean air, Zetsche predicted further difficulties ahead from the trade conflict between the US and China. “We are preparing for various scenarios,” he said.

There would be consequences for the company from a hard Brexit, Zetsche said. Britain is Daimler’s fourth-largest market for cars.

Predictions this year are for a slight rise in sales and operating profit, while investment is continue at a high level. The company is participating in Volocopter, which will launch trials for its flying vehicles this year.

Daimler is also testing autonomous shuttles with Bosch in San Jose in California.

As a result of the reduced profits, the bonus paid to its 130,000 full-time German workers will be cut to 4,965 euros this year from 5,700 last year. The company employs some 300,000 workers worldwide.


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Tens of thousands weigh in on Jordan Cove LNG terminal and pipeline permit [The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.]

Feb. 06–Tens of thousands of people weighed in on the Jordan Cove Energy Project’s application for a permit for its liquefied natural gas export terminal in Coos Bay and a 229-mile feeder pipeline that would stretch across southwest Oregon.

The majority appeared to speak out against the massive energy project that would affect a broad swath of the state.

Oregon’sDepartment of State Lands accepted public comments through Sunday on the project’s removal fill permit, and the outpouring of public sentiment on the project is testament to the passions it has aroused, pitting economic development and jobs versus property rights and the environment. Over the 15 years that various iterations of the project have been under consideration, it has become one of the most divisive issues since the spotted owl in southern Oregon.

If allowed by state and federal regulators, the LNG project would be one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the state. The Canadian energy company backing the project now says it would involve a $10 billion investment, a figure that seems to grow with each passing year.

Recognizing the widespread interest, the Department of State Lands extended its customary 30-day comment period on a removal fill application to 60 days. Officials held a series of public meetings in January to gather input, and thousands showed up to testify. A form on the agency’s website garnered thousands more comments and emailed comments poured in.

“We wanted to make it as easy as possible to comment on this project,” said Ali Ryan Hansen, an agency spokeswoman. “If a comment was on the back of a napkin, we took it. If it was a 10-page written comment with a 350-page report appended, we took it.”

Some opponents of the projects suggested that the agency had received 45,000 comments or more, though DSL has yet to produce a final tally. Just as agency officials heard in five public meetings held in January to solicit public comment, the majority of written comments posted on the agency’s website urged the agency to deny the permit.

Many expressed similar sentiment to Ashland resident Jeanine Moy.

“Just don’t do it,” she wrote. “Think about our future in the long term. Our quality of life, our economy, our water health, and our people’s health depend on a future that is built on sustainable solutions. This pipeline would be a huge setback. Look at all the comments in opposition to this project — the choice is clear. Just deny this permit as you have before.”

At the other end of the spectrum was Steven Duchscherer of Coos Bay: “I support this project 100%. Oregon’s economy has been hurt badly enough by nonsensical liberal platitudes, foundationless ideas and programs. We NEED this project and others like it to turn our economy around.”

In the final analysis, the numbers don’t really matter, and many of the comments will be disregarded because they don’t address the two specific questions the agency is tasked with considering:

1) Is the project consistent with the protection, conservation and best use of the state’s water resources?

2) Would it unreasonably interfere with the use of state water and wetlands for fishing, navigation or public recreation?

The agency’s technical review will scrutinize the impact of running the pipeline across some 485 waterways, including horizontal drilling under the Coos, Rogue and Klamath Rivers, as well as dredging in the Haynes Inlet and Coos Bay shipping channel, and the potential for environmental damage and public health consequences that entails.

“Our authority only extends to that activity,” Ryan Hansen said.

Under state statute, the lands department has 120 days to consider Jordan Cove’s application. Based on its application date, that deadline is March 5, though Ryan Hansen said the agency is likely to call for an extension as it goes through its technical review and asks the company to respond to issues raised in public comments.

A removal fill permit would a key milestone for the project, but it is far from the only permit pending for the project. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is slated to deliver a draft environmental impact statement on the project this month and render its final decision in November.

Federal regulators rejected Jordan Cove’s previous application because backers failed to demonstrate sufficient demand and public need for the project to balance against the negative impacts the pipeline would have had on landowners. Pembina, the Calgary-based company that now owns Jordan Cove after a merger with the previous backer, hopes it will get a different answer from an energy commission that has been remade under the Trump Administration.


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The ‘State of Northern Minnesota’ address: LaDuke pushes for greener economy in BSU lecture [The Bemidji Pioneer, Minn.]

Feb. 06BEMIDJI — On a night dominated by President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address, renowned American Indian leader and activist Winona LaDuke delivered an alternative of sorts Tuesday at BSU.

In a lecture LaDuke joked was a sort-of “State of Northern Minnesota,” she outlined criticisms of the fossil fuel industry–North American pipeline projects and Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 in particular–and advocated for a greener and less centralized economy.

The executive director of Honor the Earth sharply criticized the Calgary-based energy giant’s plans to build a replacement oil pipeline through parts of northern Minnesota and police responses to protests over a different pipeline project at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, which might echo through Bemidji as the Line 3 pipeline replacement project forges ahead.

“A civil society should not be run by Canadian multinationals,” said LaDuke, who showed a $266 trillion dollar invoice to Enbridge for carbon, forests, wetland and “social cost.”

LaDuke said she wanted a “graceful transition” from the era of “extreme extraction” and fossil fuels.

“We didn’t leave the stone age because we ran out of rocks,” she said to a packed house at the university’s American Indian Resource Center, eliciting a laugh. “You’ve just got to make conscious moves to evolve. And that’s us…The leadership has to be us.”

LaDuke held up smaller-scale, locally minded solar projects in Navajo Nation, Leech Lake and Ponsford, Minn., and said a “Green New Deal” was set to be announced on Wednesday by freshman congresswoman and rising political star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

The deal, LaDuke said, includes sweeping investments in renewable energy and corporate tax reform.

“No time like the present to begin investing in the transition to an economy that will not stress us out,” LaDuke said. “Because it will be more efficient, it will be much more local, and it will have a lot more jobs that are local.”

LaDuke, 59, is a member of White Earth Nation and co-founder of Honor the Earth with a degree in economics from Harvard University. A longtime environmental activist, LaDuke was the Green Party’s nominee for vice president on the ticket with presidential candidate Ralph Nader in 1996 and 2000.

Her lecture on Tuesday, according to university staff, was sponsored by the university’s leadership studies program; it’s Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; the American Indian Resource Center; and the school’s honors program and sustainability office.


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Golden Times for Those in Skilled Trades

Manufacturing Companies

If you’re engaged in the skilled trades, either as an entrepreneur or a craftsman for hire, you may not have time to read this article. You’re simply too busy working.

As the new year dawned this January, the federal government released a report showing the national economy added a strong 312,000 jobs in the final month of 2018. This was stronger than analysts were expecting. Furthermore, manufacturing jobs are growing at a staggering 714 percent faster in recent years than it did earlier this decade. This all adds up to heady days for those in the skilled trades.

One reason, of course, for the soaring demand for skilled trades is the solid economy. With low inflation and interest rates under control, businesses of all types and sizes have the confidence to expand. This creates an ongoing need for craftsmen and skilled trades workers to build new offices, plants and other facilities.

Another reason is that during the Great Recession of 2008 and the slow recovery that followed, the skilled trades workforce shrank. Many found jobs in other fields. Fewer young people entered the trades, instead choosing to enter college and the professional workforce. Those who remained in the trades began to age. For every five that retired, only one new skilled trades worker replaced him or her. Eventually, that created a shortage at the same time demand for skilled trade services arose. As a result, companies have had to offer ever higher wages to find and retain skilled trades workers and small business trades contractors had more work orders than they could fulfill.

For those in the trades, this certainly seems like a Golden Age. The sky is the limityou can write your own ticket… all the cliched sayings hold true.

With high starting wages and plenty of jobs to go around, we’ve seen a sharp reversal in the attitude towards the skilled trades. At one time not long ago, high schools focused their curriculums on preparing students for college. Of course, that overlooked the fact that not every teenager either wants to go to college or is college material. As a result, millions of American youths went to college, received often-unmarketable degrees and accumulated staggering debts which many simply cannot afford to repay.

High schools and community colleges across the nation are now recognizing the futility of the old strategy of preparing every student to attend a four-year college. Shop classes, once ridiculed, are making a dramatic comeback across the nation to teach a new generation the skilled trades. In fact, not only are high schools bringing back shop classes, a growing number of school districts are opening specialized high schools devoted to highly focused career training. Students at these specialized schools can learn computer programming, culinary arts, and even the skilled trades. Best of all, once they graduate, students can get a high-paying trades job and not incur a big debt.

Businesses themselves are getting in to the act. Companies are now partnering with schools and local governments to develop a new generation of skilled workers. What does the future hold for skilled trades workers? Obviously, no one can predict with 100 percent accuracy what tomorrow will bring. The current strong economy will someday end as all bull runs do. Today’s red-hot wages will cool eventually. However, America and the business world have realized that skilled trades and manufacturing are a necessary and vital part of the economy. For those reasons, expect the good times to last for some time in the skilled trades.

Enerblu promised hundreds of jobs in Eastern Kentucky. It just suspended those plans. [Lexington Herald-Leader]

Feb. 05PIKEVILLE — Enerblu, the battery manufacturing plant that promised hundreds of jobs for Eastern Kentucky, announced Tuesday that it has suspended its plans to build in Pikeville.

In late 2017, the then-California-based company said it would build a $372 million battery manufacturing plant and bring 875 jobs to Pikeville.

According to a news release, the company has suspended those plans after its primary potential investor withdrew support for the Pikeville factory, citing a “series of unexpected geopolitical factors” in late 2018.

“We are extremely disappointed with this potential investor’s decision and are well aware of the hope that Enerblu’s project has generated in Pikeville and the eastern Kentucky region,” John Thomas, Enerblu’s newly-appointed CEO, said in the news release. “As we move forward as a company to develop a viable and impactful project, we encourage other companies to discover what we found within this region of Appalachia.”

The company’s ambitious project was lauded by public officials as a potentially transformative boon to Eastern Kentucky’s faltering economy. Last month, though, then-CEO Daniel Elliott gave a wary speech to the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in Pikeville.

Elliott said the ground at the industrial park proved difficult to build on, and that soil work to make the ground viable would cost $30 million to fix. “We’re trying like hell,” Elliott told the crowd. “It’s a lot harder than we thought.”

Still, some officials remained hopeful, and Elliott even increased the number of potential employees in Pikeville from 875 to as high as 1,500.

It is unclear how long Enerblu officials have known the company would suspend its plans to build in Pikeville.

“While it’s disappointing, its part of the nature of this work — that not every project comes to fruition the way we hope it would,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region. “This is a dark cloud and its remnants may linger for some time, but we will press forward, unified, in search of new opportunities that will bring lasting change for our generation and generations to come.”

Jack Mazurak, communications director for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, said the cabinet is disappointed with Enerblu’s setback, but that officials “will stand by to offer support.”

“Our Cabinet applauds the company’s persistence, dedication to Kentucky and vision to make a positive long-term impact in the commonwealth and for a clean-energy future,” Mazurak said. “We remain committed to recruiting new and expanding companies and new jobs for eastern Kentucky, and in fact for the entire state.”

The company’s initial announcement in December 2017 brought hope to this economically distressed area.

“It’s a game-changer not only for Pikeville and Pike County, but for the entire region,” said then-state Sen. Ray Jones at Enerblu’s 2017 announcement. Jones is now the Pike County judge-executive.

Gov. Matt Bevin called the project “truly transformative,” and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers said “we’ve dreamed about this day.”

Public officials have been working for years to attract new industry and jobs to the region, where the precipitous decline in coal production has left residents with few options for well-paying jobs.

In the third quarter of 2013, there were more than 8,000 coal jobs in the region. That figure dropped to about 3,800 in the third quarter of 2018.

The loss of coal production has brought a decline in the region’s general population, putting a strain on local governments and utilities that rely on taxpayer and rate-payer dollars.

Pike County lost about 5,000 residents between 2013 and 2017, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Other Eastern Kentucky counties have also seen thousands of residents leave in recent years.

“It is very disheartening to learn that EnerBlu is withdrawing plans to bring 875 good-paying jobs to the Big Sandy area, but we know that multimillion dollar projects come with immense obstacles,” said U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, whose district includes most of Eastern Kentucky. “Unfortunately, this is part of the difficult process of rebuilding, reimagining and reshaping our rural region, but one change in business plans will not define our future. I am confident future opportunities will arise from the groundwork that has already been laid for business development at the Kentucky Enterprise Industrial Park.”

Enerblu is one of several projects that officials believed could help turn the tide.

At Pikeville’s industrial park, though, Enerblu is the second major project to back out in recent months.

Last month, AppHarvest, a high-tech greenhouse company that anticipated bringing 140 jobs to Pikeville, announced it would move its operations to Morehead.

The city of Pikeville rescinded AppHarvest’s lease at the industrial park in November 2018 after the company failed to respond to requests for information from city officials, according to the Appalachian News-Express.

AppHarvest, too, said the ground at the industrial park was not suitable for their project.

One company, SilverLiner, a tanker-truck manufacturer, has built on the site and plans to move into its building this spring, according to East Kentucky Broadcasting Television.

Philip Elswick, Pikeville’s city manager, said city officials were disappointed to learn that Enerblu has suspended its Pikeville project. He said the city “remains committed to attracting high-paying jobs and tremendous corporate citizens to utilize our top-notch industrial site.”

“Throughout the process of working with EnerBlu, our city officials and local economic development authorities have given this partnership an abundance of attention for what we know could have been a transformative project for our community,” Elswick said.

In northeastern Kentucky, another major industrial project, Braidy Industires, announced last year that it still required $400 to $500 million of financing before it could begin construction, but said its plans remain on schedule.

That company also has been lauded as a potential game-changer for Eastern Kentucky’s economy, with a promise of 600 full-time jobs with an average salary of $70,000.

Kentucky’sEnergy and Environment Cabinet announced last year that the state would issue a $4 million Abandoned Mine Lands grant to help prepare the site for Braidy Industries’ aluminum mill.

A Braidy spokesperson told the Herald-Leader last year the company and its subsidiaries “remain on a critical path” to opening the proposed facility.

Will Wright is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program made possible in rural Appalachia with support from the Galloway Family Foundation. Reach him at 859-270-9760, @HLWright


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Kinder Morgan begins weeks-long startup process for Elba Island LNG [Houston Chronicle]

Feb. 05Houston pipeline and storage terminal operator Kinder Morgan has begun the weeks-long startup process at its Elba Island liquefied natural gas export terminal in Savannah, Ga.

In an order handed down Friday, officials with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave Kinder Morgan permission to start introducing natural gas to test equipment at the $2 billion facility.

Currently under construction, Elba Island LNG is being developed as a joint venture between Kinder Morgan and EIG Global Energy Partners, a private equity firm based in Washington, D.C.

If the commissioning tests are successful, the first of 10 production units under construction will be fully operational and capable of producing exports by the end of the first quarter.

“Domestic consumption is increasing in power generation and industrial, but increasingly, U.S. natural gas demand is export-driven,” Kinder Morgan Chief Executive Steve Kean said during the company’s Jan. 23 investors day conference.

Originally built as a facility to import natural gas, record production in U.S. shale basins prompted Kinder Morgan to seek permission from the federal government to reconfigure part of the facility into an export terminal. Federal officials gave Kinder Morgan a permit to build the export terminal in June 2016.

The company awarded a contract to build the terminal to Houston engineering procurement and construction company IHI E&C. Once the 10 production units are operational, the facility will be able to produce up to 2.5 million metric tons of LNG a year, roughly enough natural gas to fuel about 1.75 million U.S. homes for a day.

Elba Island LNG is coming online at a time of growing global demand for liquefied natural gas. The U.S. LNG industry currently exports 3 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, but that figure is expected to grow to 17 billion cubic feet a day by 2030 — an increase of nearly 500 percent.

As a fee-based pipeline and storage terminal company, Kinder Morgan does not produce natural gas or sell it, acting instead as a middleman charging producers or buyers to move it from one point to another. The company is extending that business model to the burgeoning LNG business along the Gulf Coast.

“We participate in a very low-risk way,” Kean told investors about the company’s LNG business. “We’ve got the infrastructure that serves those export facilities. We wrap ourselves right around them in Texas and Louisiana. We serve those markets, and we serve them with our domestics assets.”

In the case of Elba Island LNG, Kinder Morgan decided to build 10 liquefaction plants to supercool natural gas and condense it to a liquid form that makes it easier to ship. Oil and refining giant Shell entered into a 20-year deal with Kinder Morgan to market and export all the LNG produced at the Georgia facility.

“We can make a lot of money in the LNG business by providing services to the LNG market without participating in the global risk and the commodity risk that goes along with deep participation in those markets,” Kean said.

@SergioChapa on Twitter


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University of Houston courts oil and gas for work on carbon management [Houston Chronicle]

Feb. 05–A low-carbon future will remain a fantasy unless oil and gas companies agree to participate, according to University of Houston energy experts.

The University of Houston recently launched its Center for Carbon Management in Energy that will connect faculty, scientists, students and the oil and gas industry to develop a strategy for a low-carbon future for the energy industry.

The center, funded by a $500,000 university seed grant over two years and anticipating donations from member companies, aims to position the industry known to be the worst greenhouse gas emissions offenders as instead the leader in reducing the environmental impact of carbon worldwide. The center will develop technology, draft policy proposals and perform research on the capture, storage and utilization of carbon.

Oil and gas companies have a vested interest in developing carbon capture and utilization technology. By pumping carbon into the ground during the production process, energy companies can get more barrels out. As the U.S. heads toward becoming a net exporter of petroleum, anything to get extra barrels beckons, and a new tax credit for companies willing to capture and store carbon emissions doesn’t hurt either.

Ramanan Krishnamoorti, chief energy officer at the University of Houston, says getting companies to think about carbon as an asset rather than an expense is an imperative transition if the U.S. wants to meaningfully reduce its carbon footprint.

Experts at the university said that based on discussions with industry partners, they believe oil and gas companies’ shareholders are driving the strides on carbon management.

“They have significant shareholder pressure to start moving on this,” Krishnamoorti said.

Chevron Corp., Occidental Petroleum Corp. and others have been using carbon in this way for years, particularly in West Texas’ Permian Basin. But, finding a way to use the artificial carbon dioxide that they created in production, instead of what is naturally occurring, is more difficult.

Currently, the majority of carbon dioxide that Occidental uses is produced from natural underground reservoirs. If it could, on an industrial scale, be captured from emissions sources and then used to pump oil, greenhouse gas emissions would substantially decrease, experts at the University of Houston say.

Some environmentalists say this process, known as enhanced oil recovery, continues reliance on fossil fuels instead of moving toward renewable energy sources. But, Charles McConnell, a former assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Energy and the director of the center, said that is not a realistic approach to solving the problem.

“We all know that we need to get to a low carbon future, but you can’t simply stop what we’re doing today without it being massively disruptive to industry and people’s lives,” McConnell said.

He said the center will aim to be an unbiased leader in how to achieve a low-carbon future, with efforts driven by oil and gas production, petrochemicals and electric power sectors.

The center, launched last Monday, will work over the coming months to find member companies to participate or donate. The university expects to have several big energy companies signed on by April.

“They are the ones with the technical know-how, and the size, scale and capital required to tackle this issue,” Krishnamoorti said. “It’s not going to come from the ‘Googles and Microsofts,’ or the government incentives. There isn’t enough incentive in the world.”


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Flat Rock shift cut leaves more than 400 Ford temps unprotected [Detroit Free Press]

Feb. 04Ford Motor Co. officially notified the state of Michigan that it plans to do a “mass layoff” of 1,000 hourly factory workers by April 1, though the carmaker emphasizes that most of the workers are moving to other factories rather than losing jobs.

Some 440 workers classified as temporary who are affected by the shift reduction are not protected by the UAW contract are not guaranteed jobs at other locations.

“We first notified employees of this on Nov. 28, 2018,” Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said Monday. “We notified them that we would be moving Flat Rock Assembly Plant to a one-shift operating pattern in the spring.”

She added, “All full-time hourly employees affected by the move will be offered a position in another Ford plant, with the vast majority moving to the Livonia Transmission Plant.”

Distance between the two Michigan plants is approximately 30 miles.

The letter of notice, dated Jan. 25, fulfills a federal labor law requirement that companies with more than 100 employees provide 60 calendar days’ notification of a plant closing or mass layoff. The figure of 1,012 employees provided by Ford includes 12 salaried positions.

Ford’s letter says 1,012 workers will be laid off by April 1. It says the number may be less due to “voluntary quits, retirements, transfers.”

Since November 2018, the projected number of impacted workers has dropped from 1,150 to 1,012.

“This is something we told employees last fall, long before we had to, because we wanted to help them be able to move to different locations,” Felker explained, noting that a handful of workers not going to Livonia will be offered jobs in other parts of southeast Michigan and at U.S. plants outside the state.

How it’s different from GM

This situation is different from General Motors’ controversial plant closings because Ford has said publicly it is committed to keeping workers employed and has not announced any plans to shutter factories. Ford has emphasized recently a need to expand worker hours to build high-demand trucks and SUVs.

The shift reduction in Flat Rock is expected to affect 560 hourly non-skilled employees, 440 hourly non-skilled temporary workers and 12 salaried employees, according to the state notice, which complies with what’s officially called the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 (the WARN Act).

Ford said previously it had 500 new jobs in Livonia, which would accommodate most of the 560 full-time hourly non-skilled employees. The balance of those workers will be offered jobs in southeast Michigan, Felker said. “This does not mean 500 people are leaving Michigan. We have a number of other Ford plants. We believe temporary workers, too, will receive job offers.”

A Ford statement to the media in November said, “To meet strong customer demand for our full-size SUVs and trucks, Ford is rebalancing production at some of our U.S. plants, further increasing our efficiency while retaining jobs for all full-time hourly employees.”

Ford said in November it would be adding approximately 500 jobs at Livonia Transmission Plant, which builds transmissions for a number of vehicles, including the Ford F-150 and Ford Ranger.

Ford legacy

Ford has a long history of new business at old addresses,” said Jon Gabrielsen, a market economist who consults with the auto industry. “This appears very much in keeping with Ford’s culture of doing their very best to take care of their well-trained and existing employees. It’s a mutual benefit for everybody.”

UAW Vice President Rory Gamble said Monday, “We have been informed by Ford that due to sales, there will be scheduled work reductions at the Flat Rock, Michigan, and Louisville, Kentucky, plants. Our collectively bargained contract provides for the placement of all members displaced by the shift reduction and, after working with Ford, we are confident that all impacted employees will have the opportunity to work at nearby facilities.”

He noted, “The UAW will be working with our members to ensure they have continuous work and help minimize, as much as possible, any hardship on members and their families.”

Ford could not immediately say how many temporary workers might be affected by changes in Kentucky, where 500 workers will move from Louisville Assembly to Kentucky Truck Assembly, also in Louisville.

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard: or 313-222-6512. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid


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