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Shale oil boom helps local banks

offshore drilling rig with moon behind it

The fracking revolution is having a ripple effect throughout the U.S. economy. That applies to both the natural gas boom in states like Ohio and the oil gas boom in North Dakota. BusinessWeek notes the impact the oil boom is having on local banks.

In his office on the second floor of a glass-encased building on North Main Street in Watford City, N.D., Stephen Stenehjem rolls out a map of a proposed multimillion-dollar residential development and shakes his head in disbelief. “My dad would have been very pleased,” says Stenehjem, a third-generation banker and the chief executive officer of First International Bank & Trust. “For 25 years, our focus as a community bank was to help keep our small town alive. So it has been really fun to see this oil come back.”

Once a depressed town of 1,700 in what was America’s least-visited state, Watford City and its neighbors are at the center of North Dakota’s oil and gas boom. While about 470 banks across the U.S. have folded in the past five years, those serving America’s new fracking economy have seen explosive growth. Oilfield workers carrying paychecks, investors looking to build, and farmers enjoying mineral-rights payments are pouring money into banks. First International, with $1.3 billion in assets and 21 branches in North Dakota, Arizona, and Minnesota, hired 65 employees over the past year, including lenders, trust officers, and insurance agents, and plans to add 30 more this year. “It’s fun to be a banker in North Dakota,” Stenehjem says. “Even six or seven years ago, if there was a new pole barn going up in the county, I knew about it. Now I can’t keep track of everything.”

The implications for the U.S. economy are staggering. It’s great to hear good news and we’ll be following this story.

  

Growth of frack water treatment

With the fracking boom, we’re seeing an explosion of related industries as well. One issue relating to hydraulic fracking has to do with the massive amounts of water used in the process. The water gets contaminated, and then it has to be dealt with. This is even bigger than the problem of potential ground water contamination.

Start-ups, venture capitalists and large companies, including Veolia and Siemens, see riches in water cleanup and are developing and testing various technologies. They are also working in other areas besides shale gas, including Canada’s oil sands and the use of water to pressure oil out of wells.

One of these companies is Ecosphere Technologies of Stuart, Florida, which uses ozone as a disinfectant to clean water in a process called advanced oxidation. The treatment, which does not use chemicals, can both eliminate the chemicals typically used for bacteria control and scale inhibition during fracking and recycle 100 percent of the water, according to Charles Vinick, the company’s chief executive.

Ecosphere says it has cleaned more than two billion gallons of water and eliminated the need for more than 1.7 million gallons of chemicals at approximately 600 oil and natural gas wells in U.S. shale fields since 2008.

The developments are very encouraging, both from an economic point of view and an environmental point of view, and this should help the overall fracking business which has been an economic boom for the US.

  

Eastern Ohio next boom area for shale

Extracting oil and gas from shale will be a booming industry across parts of the United States for years to come, and it will also be controversial, as the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) method used to extract the oil and gas is very controversial.

This has been a big issue in Pennsylvania, and not it’s moving to Eastern Ohio.

The boom in gas wells that turned Pittsburgh into “the new Houston,” made rich men out of poor farmers and spawned an environmental backlash has reached Ohio.

Land men, including free-wheeling shysters as well as legitimate gas and oil company employees, are swarming Ohio’s eastern counties, clogging county courthouses with their property record searches and pestering busy farmers.

Their objective: to tie up as much acreage as possible by persuading landowners to sign five-year leases granting them the right to drill for oil and gas in the rock known as Utica and Marcellus shale, buried thousands of feet below.

Geological experts have estimated that the gas-and-oil-rich shale may lie under 5 million acres of rural Ohio landscape and the deposits could contain energy equivalent to billions of barrels of oil.

The implications for Ohio’s economy are tremendous, but so are the challenges for landowners, many of them poor farmers who must first sort through the thorny offers of oil companies, and then wrestle the financial decisions of sudden wealth.

Prices keep going up for leases, so the frenzy is getting even more intense.

Many U.S. oil and gas companies are getting involved.

One of the latest hot spots for deal making is far from New York City or Silicon Valley—it’s in eastern Ohio, where energy companies are staking claims in what is being touted as North America’s next big energy field, the Utica Shale.

While the 170,000-square-mile Utica Shale sprawls beneath parts of eight states and Canada, energy companies and analysts believe the richest reserves of oil and valuable natural-gas liquids, such as propane and butane, lie in eastern Ohio.‬

In recent weeks the buzz around the area has intensified. Large producers’ moves into the area are becoming public. This month has seen big acquisitions. And stock analysts are recommending shares of small companies with Ohio acreage.

Last week, Exxon Mobil Corp. confirmed it is snapping up drilling rights in the Utica Shale. Exxon won’t say how much land it has locked up or where the property lies. But the move caught Wall Street analysts’ attention.

This industry has the potential to turbo-charge the U.S. economy, but at the same time environmentalists are concerned from both a global warming and safe drinking water point of view. Expect serious battles ahead.

  

Obama discusses energy policy

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on his energy strategy at Georgetown University in Washington, March 30, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS ENERGY BUSINESS)

President Barack Obama gave a speech today on his energy strategy at Georgetown University in Washington. He addressed some of the recent controversy regarding domestic oil production, noting that oil production is at an 8-year high in the US, and that we can insist on safety with sensible regulation and still produce oil from offshore sites.

Obama urged oil companies to make greater use of the federal leases both onshore and offshore to prop up domestic oil output. The oil industry and GOP lawmakers have been loudly complaining about delays in the permitting of offshore drilling in recent months. But an irked administration, which had pledged tougher scrutiny of drilling applications after last year’s massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, fired back Tuesday with an Interior Department report that revived earlier debates about whether oil companies were exploiting the leases they already have.

Obama has made energy a priority since taking office, with the increase in automobile fuel efficiency marking perhaps his greatest impact. As part of the economic stimulus package adopted in 2009, he also won about $70 billion in grants and loan guarantees to promote energy efficiency, advanced batteries for cars and renewable energy. He has said that in addition to energy benefits those monies will create what he calls “green jobs.” But he poured a large amount of effort into winning passage of a cap-and-trade climate bill, which failed.

  

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