30 posts categorized "Energy"


Electricity use in most of Texas declined in 2012

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which serves about 85 percent of the state's demand, said Thursday that total electricity use across its system fell 2.7 percent last year compared to 2011, the state's hottest year on record. In 2011, ERCOT's electricity demand jumped nearly 5 percent. Those figures compare to average annual growth of about 2 percent in recent years, ERCOT said. ERCOT said it saw decreases in six months last year.

Natural gas widened its lead over coal as the No. 1 fuel for electricity generation, accounting for 44.6 percent of  the power provided. That's nearly 11 percentage points more than coal's 33.8 percent, and compared to a difference of just 1.4 percentage points in 2011 and a second-place ranking behind coal in 2010. Nuclear held steady at 11.8 percent of power provided in 2012, following by wind at 9.2 percent, hydroelectric at 0.1 percent and other fuels at 0.5 percent.

Nationally, electricity demand has been sagging in recent years, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. It reported that "electricity production in the U.S. fell in 2008 and 2009, amid the recession, then ticked up slightly in 2010 before falling again in 2011."


BNSF staying in the oil shipping business

Burlington Northern CEO Matt Rose last week at a Montana economic development event said the railroad has invested billions in railcars, locomotives and track improvements to ship crude oil out of the booming Bakken Shale field in North Dakota and Montana, even if the Keystone XL pipeline is completed. Rose said BNSF’s oil shipments out of the Bakken went from 1.3 million barrels in 2008 to 90 million barrels in 2012, and with another 35 facilities for unloading crude oil from trains being built, there will be even more shipments, the Billings Gazette reported.

The story is here.

-- Jim Fuquay


Familiar Fort Worth names on Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans list

With the exception of relocating Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton's residence from Parker County to Fort Worth (mistakenly, as far as we know), the Tarrant area members of Forbes magazine's annual list of the wealthiest Americans are pretty much unchanged this year. Walton is No. 8 on the 2012 list, with a net worth of $26.3 billion. (She listed her residence as 11500 Interstate 20, the address of her 3,200-acre Rocking W Ranch outside of Millsap, in October 2011 when she was charged with DUI on her way home from her 62nd birthday party in Fort Worth.) She's followed by investor Robert Bass (tied at No. 151 with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at $2.7 billion), investor David Bonderman (No. 170, $2.6 billion), investor Richard Rainwater (No. 206, $2.3 billion), brothers Ed and Lee Bass (tied at No. 239, $2 billion), and Sid Bass (No. 271, $1.8 billion). All have been on the list for years.

Dallas area residents on the list, in addition to Jones, include banker Andrew Beal, investor Harold Simmons, oilman and real estate developer Ray Lee Hunt, investor Robert Rowling, oilman Trevor Rees-Jones, investor H. Ross Perot Sr., oilman Timothy Headington, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, pipeline operator Kelcy Warren, banker Gerald J. Ford, Texas Rangers co-owner Ray Davis, real estate developer H. Ross Perot Jr., investor T. Boone Pickens, telecommunications operator Kenny Troutt, and online media developer Todd Wagner.

The complete list is here.

-- Jim Fuquay



NRG plans small electricity generation project

NRG Energy, the second-largest power generator in Texas, said today it will build a 75-megawatt gas-fired plant that will feed electricity to the state's biggest grid in peak demand periods for about two years. After that it will power a CO2 capture project at a coal-fired plant south of Houston around 2015. NRG said the new facility, a combustion turbine that can ramp up in minutes, could come online next summer. It's expected to operate about two years as what's called a "peaking" unit -- one that only fires up at times of high electricity demand. That could help the state maintain power reserves when capacity is expected to be tight starting in 2014. By 2015, however, the unit is then expected to provide the energy to recover carbon dioxide from the flue of NRG's big WA Parish power plant. That CO2 will then be piped to oilfields and injected into producing formations to boost crude oil recovery as well as sequester the CO2, a greenhouse gas. The CO2 recovery project is partly funded by the Department of Energy.

-- Jim Fuquay


Is Chesapeake Energy looking to sell its downtown FW office tower?

Four years after buying the gleaming 20-story office tower near downtown Fort Worth from Pier 1 Imports, Chesapeake Energy is said to be looking to sell the property.

Local executive Julie Wilson said in an email response to questions that the now-called Chesapeake Plaza "hasn't been sold," and that "it isn't listed for sale."

Wilson did not answer questions on whether the building is being marketed even though it's not technically on the block, if anyone has looked at the building, or if any offers have been made.

Local real estate brokers say they expect offers to be made on the building in the wake of the Oklahoma City-based company saying its assets are for sale. Chesapeake's board has come under fire in recent weeks for corporate governance issues related to its CEO Aubrey McClendon's personal financial activities. In April, Reuters reported that McClendon borrowed $1 billion to buy stakes in the company's wells, including from an investment group that was negotiating to buy other assets from Chesapeake.

Chesapeake paid $104 million for the property at 100 Energy Way. Its former address was 100 Pier 1 Place. At the time of the sale, Chesapeake said it would move as many as 400 employees into the top half of the office building.

Chesapeake has a $55 million mortgage on the office building with CLG Hedge Fund in Plano, which is due June 12, 2014, according to deed records. The Tarrant Appraisal District values the property today at $62.7 million, down from $72 million in 2009, records show.

Chesapeake is no longer leasing 70,000 square feet of office space on the top floor of the parking garage that serves The Tower condominiums at Fifth and Taylor streets. That space was mostly used by Texas Midstream Gas Services, an affiliate, that is now being sold by Chesapeake.

Chesapeake does have 25 Texas properties listed for sale, including the former Bunge Oil site in the Fort Worth Stockyards, that has been demolished. Asking price $6.3 million. It's also listed for sale the Ormsby Ranch in Johnson County for $24.5 million; a site at 1800 E. 4th St. for $14 million and Greenway Berk, at Texas 114 and Carroll Street, in Southlake for $10.2 million.

_ Sandra Baker



Arlington Cracker Barrel gets electric vehicle charging station

Electric vehicle owners can now recharge both their car and their own batteries at an Arlington Cracker Barrel restaurant.

NRG Energy took the wraps off of four new electric vehicle charging stations in the Dallas-fort Worth area Tuesday, including one at the Cracker Barrel located at 1251 North Watson Road, adjacent to Texas 360 in north Arlington.

Officials of NRG and Cracker Barrel caravanned in electric-powered cars from one site to another to mark the opening of the "eVgocharging stations. Each of the stations, which are available for use only to NRG customers, has a 240 volt charging outlet and a DC charging outlet. The latter "pumps" 350 volts of electricity directly into the battery of compatible vehicles and a 15 minute charge is good for about 50 miles of driving range.

NRG now has six charging stations installed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with plans for at least 70. It has installed 11 of a planned 50 in the Houston market.

Customer usage of the charging facilities is picking up a bit faster than expected, said Arun Banskota, president of NRG EV Services division. "We've got people that use them quite a lot, depending on their commute."

Only about 18,000 electric vehicles were sold in the U.S. in 2011, but Banskota said that compares favorably with the 6,000 annual sales rate that hybrids like the Toyota Prius enjoyed the first few years in the market.

Banskota said new studies show that while electric cars have high price tags their operating costs are much lower than conventional gasoline and diesel engine powered vehicles.

The other NRG charging stations opened Tuesday are at Cracker Barrel locations in Burleson, DeSoto and Mesquite.

For information on NRG's eVgo network and charging plans go the company's website.

- Bob Cox




Texas unemployment dips to 7.3 percent

Texas employers added 67,200 nonfarm payroll jobs in January and the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 7.3 percent in January, down from 7.4 percent in December and down from 8.1 percent a year earlier. It's the state's lowest jobless rate since April 2009 and compares to the U.S. jobless rate of 8.3 percent. The Texas Workforce Commission said the state has added jobs 21 straight months when compared to the same month the previous year, and payroll jobs are up 258,200 in the past year. Private employers added 73,800 jobs in January, or 332,600 in the past year. TWC Chairman Tom Pauken noted that mining and logging, the category that includes oil and gas, added more than 38,000 jobs in the past year, including 5,700 in January, as crude oil prices have surged.

Nine of the 11 major industry groups added jobs in January, led by professional and business services, which added 18,100 jobs over the month and is up 69,500 jobs in the past year, or 5.3 percent, TWC said today. The report was released later than normal and coincided with the release of the U.S. jobless date for February, which showed the national unemployment rate unchanged at 8.3 percent.

-- Jim Fuquay


Higher electricity prices coming, experts say

Electricity professionals attending a Dallas conference today were warned that higher electricity prices are likely in the next couple of years. The predictions were based partly on an expectation of somewhat higher natural gas prices which drive Texas power rates and fears of an increasingly tight supply.

"Just tell them to lock in prices" for one or two years, consultant Brandon Schwertner told his audience of electricity retailers and brokers at the Texas Electricity Professionals Association annual conference here.

Other speakers also warned of higher prices, citing the state's narrowing reserve margin of power supply over anticipated demand.
"We certainly had a very tight summer," said Trip Doggett, who heads the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state's largest power grid.

He said ERCOT is studying ways to encourage more large power users to agree to contracts that allow their power to be interrupted at periods of short supply, as well as options for increasing generating capacity.
-- Jim Fuquay

Texas gasoline prices fall again this week, AAA Texas reports

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded dropped four cents in Texas to $3.25 this week, according to the AA Texas Weekend Gas Watch report today.

The national average is $3.43, down one penny.

The Fort Worth average is $3.22, down eight cents.

AAA Texas’ analysis: “Market analysts say the U.S. Dollar remains strong compared to currencies abroad.  European economic uncertainty continues to exert downward pressure on crude oil prices.  Additionally, the U.S. Department of Energy reports domestic demand for gasoline is about nine percent lower than this time last year.  As the financial climate overseas remains uncertain, U.S. dollars become a more attractive investment, driving up the value of the dollar.  Commodities, including crude oil, are traded in U.S. dollars, and as the dollar strengthens compared to currencies abroad, oil becomes a less attractive investment for those holding foreign currencies and prices are pressured downward.”

- Scott Nishimura


Test drive new Fords with gas-sipping EcoBoost engines

Ford will be letting consumers take some of its new vehicles for a spin this weekend in Grapevine.

Beginning Thursday afternoon Ford personnel will be demonstrating and allowing consumers to drive both the Ford Explorer and Ford Edge crossover vehicles powered by the four-cylinder 2.0 liter EcoBoost engine.

With direct fuel injection and turbochargers the EcoBoost improves fuel economy up to 20 percent over a 6-cyl. engine but still has the power needed for hauling and pulling when necessary. A 6-cyl. version of the engine is the leading seller in Ford's F-150 pickup lineup.

The event will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoon at the Grapevine Mills Mall, near the Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th and Last Call by Neiman Marcus, at 3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway.

To register and reserve a spot to drive one the vehicles go to: 


- Bob Cox


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