• 5 hours Conflicting News Spurs Doubt On Aramco IPO
  • 7 hours Exxon Starts Production At New Refinery In Texas
  • 8 hours Iraq Asks BP To Redevelop Kirkuk Oil Fields
  • 1 day Oil Prices Rise After U.S. API Reports Strong Crude Inventory Draw
  • 1 day Oil Gains Spur Growth In Canada’s Oil Cities
  • 1 day China To Take 5% Of Rosneft’s Output In New Deal
  • 1 day UAE Oil Giant Seeks Partnership For Possible IPO
  • 1 day Planting Trees Could Cut Emissions As Much As Quitting Oil
  • 1 day VW Fails To Secure Critical Commodity For EVs
  • 1 day Enbridge Pipeline Expansion Finally Approved
  • 1 day Iraqi Forces Seize Control Of North Oil Co Fields In Kirkuk
  • 1 day OPEC Oil Deal Compliance Falls To 86%
  • 2 days U.S. Oil Production To Increase in November As Rig Count Falls
  • 2 days Gazprom Neft Unhappy With OPEC-Russia Production Cut Deal
  • 2 days Disputed Venezuelan Vote Could Lead To More Sanctions, Clashes
  • 2 days EU Urges U.S. Congress To Protect Iran Nuclear Deal
  • 2 days Oil Rig Explosion In Louisiana Leaves 7 Injured, 1 Still Missing
  • 2 days Aramco Says No Plans To Shelve IPO
  • 5 days Trump Passes Iran Nuclear Deal Back to Congress
  • 5 days Texas Shutters More Coal-Fired Plants
  • 5 days Oil Trading Firm Expects Unprecedented U.S. Crude Exports
  • 5 days UK’s FCA Met With Aramco Prior To Proposing Listing Rule Change
  • 5 days Chevron Quits Australian Deepwater Oil Exploration
  • 6 days Europe Braces For End Of Iran Nuclear Deal
  • 6 days Renewable Energy Startup Powering Native American Protest Camp
  • 6 days Husky Energy Set To Restart Pipeline
  • 6 days Russia, Morocco Sign String Of Energy And Military Deals
  • 6 days Norway Looks To Cut Some Of Its Generous Tax Breaks For EVs
  • 6 days China Set To Continue Crude Oil Buying Spree, IEA Says
  • 6 days India Needs Help To Boost Oil Production
  • 6 days Shell Buys One Of Europe’s Largest EV Charging Networks
  • 6 days Oil Throwback: BP Is Bringing Back The Amoco Brand
  • 6 days Libyan Oil Output Covers 25% Of 2017 Budget Needs
  • 6 days District Judge Rules Dakota Access Can Continue Operating
  • 7 days Surprise Oil Inventory Build Shocks Markets
  • 7 days France’s Biggest Listed Bank To Stop Funding Shale, Oil Sands Projects
  • 7 days Syria’s Kurds Aim To Control Oil-Rich Areas
  • 7 days Chinese Teapots Create $5B JV To Compete With State Firms
  • 7 days Oil M&A Deals Set To Rise
  • 7 days South Sudan Tightens Oil Industry Security
Alt Text

How Vulnerable Is The Electrical Grid?

Hurricane Maria knocked out the…

Alt Text

China Takes Aim At The Petrodollar

In a potentially disrupting move…

Alt Text

This Key Data Points At Strong U.S. Oil Demand

U.S. Gasoline prices haven’t risen…

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham is a freelance writer on oil and gas, renewable energy, climate change, energy policy and geopolitics. He is based in Pittsburgh, PA.

More Info

The “Thin Green Line” Holding Back U.S. Energy Exports

The “Thin Green Line” Holding Back U.S. Energy Exports

There has been a lot of hype in recent years about the U.S. having become an energy superpower. American companies have fracked and produced record levels of oil and gas, refined enormous volumes of processed fuels, and mined gigantic coal fields. And even though American consumers are some of the most profligate users of these energy resources, there has still been quite a bit left over for export.

That is particularly true with coal, which has run into a suddenly hostile domestic market and has sought to sell its product overseas. But that is increasingly true of oil and gas as well, due to the flood of production that has come online.

Obviously, to export coal, oil, and gas, companies need to get their products to the coast. The Gulf of Mexico, and various ports on the east coast (Norfolk and Baltimore in particular) are the main exit points.

But the West Coast has become a key priority for an array of coal miners and gas producers. And the reason for that is not a mystery – exporting from the Pacific Ocean would allow companies to access the vast and rapidly growing energy markets in Asia. Related: Better Times Ahead For Oil, If You Can Believe It

However, would-be exporters have run into a wall of opposition that runs up and down the Cascades, with the inability to make progress on a long list of projects. The Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based environmental group, has nicknamed the region the “Thin Green Line,” referring to the physical barrier that local opposition has effectively thrown up in front of export projects in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

Coal has been hardest hit. Coal mined in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana is some of the lowest-cost coal produced anywhere in the country. Much of it is burned in power plants, but producers want to send millions of tons to China. So far, they have failed, due to the inability to get export terminals approved on the West Coast.

A series of coal export terminals that companies had hoped would already be up and running are effectively on ice. For example, an Australian company, Ambre Energy, had planned on building an export terminal capable of handling nearly 50 million tonnes of coal per year (mtpa) on the Columbia River. But environmental groups may have created an insurmountable hurdle. They pressured regulators into considering not just local environmental effects – such as rail traffic, water pollution, etc. – but also the global effects from increased greenhouse gas emissions when the coal is burned overseas. The project is still facing regulatory scrutiny. Related: Could This Be The Next Great Renewable Energy Source?

Several other terminals in Washington and Oregon have also been held up due to environmental fears. Meanwhile, the companies hoping to see their coal exported, such as Arch Coal and Peabody, are struggling to stay afloat amidst a worldwide downturn in the coal markets.

Oil-by-rail projects have run into similarly stiff opposition. Several permits have been delayed or rescinded. For example, native tribes are suing to stop a rail project that would allow BNSF to connect Bakken oil to refineries in Washington owned by Tesoro.

The Sightline Institute highlights a series of other successful attempts at blocking coal, oil-by-rail, and even propane-by-rail projects, many of which that have run into dead ends with municipal and state regulatory agencies. The Thin Green Line is making it difficult to conduct business for the fossil fuel industry across the entire region. The Greenpeace protest of Shell’s icebreaker in Portland last month was just one example of this trend. Related: Russia’s Natural Gas Plans May Be Little More Than Hype

There are other fights that the energy industry could win, however. Natural gas companies are in better shape, and could yet succeed in obtaining access to the Pacific. The Jordan Cove LNG project in Coos Bay, Oregon could allow for 6 mtpa of LNG exports, and it is slowly obtaining the necessary permits. And British Columbia is pushing forward to allow Petronas to build a massive LNG export facility on its Pacific Coast.

And while it is still early days, the ban on crude oil exports is looking weaker by the day. A legislative push in the U.S. Congress to remove the ban is gaining momentum, and if successful, the glut of oil could begin to flow abroad. In a sign that the Obama administration may be on board with oil exports, the Department of Commerce will allow oil swaps with Mexico, Reuters reported on August 14. A blanket repeal on the export ban is probably not too far behind.

Obviously, the Gulf of Mexico will be much more important than the West Coast for oil exports, but if an export ban is removed, that will be another test for the Thin Green Line in the Pacific Northwest.

By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:




Back to homepage


Leave a comment

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News