Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Gas prices continue to slide as U.S. oil refinery production nears peak high

The average price for regular gasoline at U.S. pumps continues to drop as refineries process the most petroleum since 1989. New Jersey pump prices have also dropped sharply. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News)
By Bloomberg News The Star-Ledger    
U.S. refineries are flexing their muscles and helping lower gasoline prices in the middle of the peak driving season.
The average price for regular gasoline at U.S. pumps dropped 9.04 cents in the two weeks ended July 25 to $3.5795 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey. It’s based on information obtained at about 2,500 filling stations by the Camarillo, Calif.-based company. Prices are 9.51 cents lower than a year ago and are at the lowest level since March 21, the survey showed.
New Jersey pump prices also continue to drop, with the average gallon of gas today selling for $3.43, according to GasBuddy. That's four cents less than it was last week and 12 cents below the average price last month.
Retail prices also declined as refineries processed the most petroleum in government records dating back to 1989 in the week ended July 11. Plants in the Midwest exceeded their nameplate capacity during that week.
“It’s really a mid-summer gift,” Trilby Lundberg, the president of Lundberg Survey, said in a telephone interview Sunday. “Refiners have been on a kick to run more crude, run at high rates and to cut price.”
The highest price for gasoline in the lower 48 states among the markets surveyed was in San Francisco, at $4.03 a gallon, Lundberg said. The lowest price was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where customers paid an average of $3.23. Regular gasoline averaged $3.83 on Long Island, New York, and $3.96 in Los Angeles.
Refineries processed 16.81 million barrels a day in the week ended July 18, just off the highs reached the prior week, Energy Information Administration data show.
Gasoline Futures
Plants are taking advantage of the U.S. shale boom, which has raised oil production 65 percent in the past five years. The increased output has pushed the settlement price of U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate futures below European Brent every day since Aug. 17, 2010.
Gasoline futures on the Nymex slipped 4.32 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $2.8653 a gallon in the two weeks ended July 25 as supplies grew on strong refinery production.
Gasoline stockpiles increased 3.38 million barrels to 217.9 million, EIA data show. Demand over the four weeks ended July 18 was 8.988 million barrels a day, 0.6 percent below a year earlier.
WTI crude rose $1.26, or 1.2 percent, to $102.09 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in the two weeks to July 25 as supplies at the delivery point in Cushing, Oklahoma, fell to the lowest level since 2008.
Crude inventories in the U.S. fell for the fourth straight week, dropping 3.97 million barrels to 371.1 million in the seven days ended July 18, according to the Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department’s statistical arm.
Star-Ledger staff writer Alexi Friedman contributed to this report.

Tullow Starts Gas Flaring to Sustain Jubilee Output in Ghana

Tullow Oil Plc (TLW), the U.K. explorer focusing on Africa and Scandinavia, started burning gas off Ghana to sustain production at its largest project.
“We are still injecting majority of the gas,” Chief Operating Officer Paul McDade said in a phone interview. Flaring “is assisting us, while we are waiting for the gas plant” to “sustain target production,” he said.
The company has permission to flare 500 million cubic feet of gas a month, which is pumped together with crude oil, at the Jubilee field, it said today in a statement. The gas must be expended to avoid damaging the reservoir, which is expected to start producing about 100,000 barrels of oil a day this year. Tullow expects to start processing the gas once a treatment plant comes on stream in the fourth quarter.
“The focus of these six months has really been on West Africa, keeping the Jubilee production up while the gas plant is getting ready,” Chief Executive Officer Aidan Heavey said in a phone interview.
Tullow, based in London, today reported a $95 million loss in the first half, compared with a $313 million profit a year earlier, after writing off $402 million in exploration costs. Part of this charge is related to a project delay in Uganda, Chief Financial Officer Ian Springett said today in a phone interview.
The shares fell 1.1 percent to 755.50 pence by the close in London.

Mozambique Exit

In East Africa, Tullow has exited exploration off Mozambique after failing to make a discovery. The company is reassessing its drilling plans to conserve cash, McDade said.
“The cost environment in the industry is making exploration in ultra-deepwater and drilling complex deepwater wells rather expensive,” Exploration Director Angus McCoss said. “So we are moving to more cost effective plays on the shelf and onshore.”
Statoil ASA, Tullow’s partner in Mozambique, has also exited exploration licenses for the blocks in area 2 and 5, where it had a 50 percent stake, spokesman Knut Rostad said by phone.
To contact the reporter on this story: Eduard Gismatullin in London at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at John Viljoen

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

EIA: OPEC’s 2013 oil export revenues fall 7%

According to recent estimates from the US Energy Information Administration, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, excluding Iran, earned about $826 billion in net oil export revenues in 2013, a 7% decrease from 2012 earnings. But this was still the second-largest earnings totals during 1975-2013—the timespan of how long EIA has tracked OPEC oil revenues.

For each country, EIA derived net oil exports based on its oil production and consumption estimates from the latest edition of the EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook. For countries that export several different crude varieties, EIA assumes that the proportion of total net oil exports represented by each variety is equal to the proportion of the total domestic production represented by that variety.

These net export earnings do not include Iran's revenues. As explained by EIA, this is because of the difficulties associated with estimating Iran’s earnings, including the country’s inability to receive payments and possible price discounts Iran offers its existing customers.

According to EIA, a drop in OPEC oil production in 2013, largely because of the supply disruption in Libya, and a 3% decline in average crude oil prices as measured by the Brent crude oil price marker have led to the decline in OPEC earnings.

Saudi Arabia earned the largest share of these earnings, $274 billion in 2013, representing about one third of total OPEC oil revenues. On a per capita basis, OPEC (excluding Iran) net oil export earnings reached about $2,520 in 2013.

Based on projections from EIA's July 2014 STEO, EIA estimates that OPEC (excluding Iran) could earn about $774 billion in net oil export revenues in 2014 and $723 billion in 2015 (unadjusted for inflation). These declines from the 2013 level reflect projected declines in the call on OPEC crude oil production because of the large increases in non-OPEC production for 2014-15, as well as expected crude oil price declines that are also the result of declines in the call on OPEC crude oil production.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hydra Wins TEN Gig in Ghana

Hydra Offshore Group
Hydra Offshore Ltd. signed a two-year contract to provide local engineering support to Wood Group Ghana Ltd (WG Ghana) for the provision of subsea engineering services for work on Tullow Oil’s TEN development. The contract follows the initial memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by WG Ghana and Hydra Offshore in December 2013 for Hydra Offshore to partner WG Ghana in the delivery of its services to the Ghana oil & gas industry.
Hydra Offshore will initially second engineers through WG Ghana into Wood Group Kenny (WGK) which was awarded an engineering services contract earlier this month by Tullow Ghana Ltd. to support Tullow Ghana and its partners through the execution phase of the TEN project offshore. WGK will provide Tullow Ghana with project engineering resources, specialist technical support, and technical assurance services across the subsea, umbilical, risers, flowlines (SURF) implementation work scope through to first oil, scheduled for 2016.
Delali Otchi CEO of Hydra offshore said: “The TEN Project is Ghana’s next big offshore field development and we are proud to be working alongside WGK to provide engineering assurance service to achieve first oil mid-2016. Our Ghanaian subsea engineers will be seconded within WGK experienced teams, working internationally to ensure the quality and technical integrity of subsea engineering and fabrication for this hugely important project for Ghana. We pride ourselves in being a home grown company focused on developing our local engineering capabilities over this period and we applaud Wood Group for their commitment in supporting the development of local content in Ghana and specifically the development of our Ghanaian engineers.”
The regional business unit director for WG Ghana, Ian McKay commented: “This agreement affirms the readiness of WG Ghana to engage local companies in every aspect of their contract with Tullow Ghana and to work with them to train, coach develop their resources to a level of competence where they can compete internationally in the oil & gas sector. It will also ensure that, over time, Hydra Offshore develops a subsea engineering competence recognized internationally and a sustainable Ghanaian capability to support local field developments in the offshore oil & gas sector. The WGK program of development, coaching and the technology and experience transfer opportunities which will be afforded the Hydra Offshore team are second to none and is an incredible opportunity for the development of Hydra Offshore as a competent subsea engineering enterprise.”

Friday, July 25, 2014

Two VLCCs to be converted to FPSOs

FPSO Xikomba

Sembcorp Marine’s wholly-owned subsidiary Sembawang Shipyard has won a contract worth about Sing$600 mill from Saipem for the conversion of two VLCCs into FPSOs for the Kaombo project in Offshore Angola (see above).
The first VLCC, ‘Olympia’, is expected to enter Sembawang Shipyard in the third quarter of this year, while the second VLCC, ‘Antartica’, will be in the shipyard during first quarter 2015.
The total conversion will take 32 months. Both vessels were formerly owned by Euronav.

Under the terms of the contract, Sembawang is responsible for the conversion of the two  sister ships into twin turret-moored FPSOs for the project located about 150 km from the Angolan coast.

The two converted FPSOs, owned by Total, will each have an oil treating capacity of 115,000 barrels per day, a water injection capacity of 200,000 barrels per day, a 100 mill scfd gas compression capacity and a storage capacity of 1.7 mill barrels of oil.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Let Our Oil and Gas Go

AS a young reporter covering energy for The New York Times, I saw firsthand the distortions and inefficiencies caused by the web of regulations that followed the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74, and the resulting surge in gasoline prices.

So I shared in the frisson of excitement last month when the Commerce Department cleared two Texas companies to export an ultralight, processed form of oil called condensate. It seemed like a step toward relaxing the ban on the export of crude oil, the biggest stricture remaining from the ’70s energy crisis.

But then the Obama administration quickly insisted that the Commerce Department, in narrowing the definition of crude oil so that condensate could be exported, was not about to lift the ban more widely. “There has been no change to our policy on crude oil exports,” a White House spokesman said.

That’s unfortunate, because America’s renewed hydrocarbon boom could be even more robust if we eased outdated restrictions on shipping both crude oil and liquefied natural gas overseas.

It’s true that the United States still imports about six million barrels of oil a day — about one-third of our needs.

But not all oil is created equal, and the lightweight type that we are producing in growing quantities in North Dakota, Texas and elsewhere is not compatible with many of our refineries, which were built to process the heavier crude oil that we typically import.

A result is a supply and pricing mishmash that causes domestic oil to sell for as much as $10 per barrel below the global market price, currently $107.

That, sadly, doesn’t help consumers. Because gasoline (and other refined oil products) can legally be exported, the pump price in America reflects the higher world price. The result: undeserved excess profits for refiners, as demonstrated by the sharp drop in their stock prices when the Commerce Department made its technical change.

If the export ban were lifted completely, the price of crude oil in the United States would rise to the global price (adjusted for transportation costs and differences in quality), but the price of gasoline at the pump wouldn’t change.

Yes, the higher price of crude oil would mean more profits for producers; more important, it would encourage drilling. That means more production, more jobs, and less reliance on imports and an improvement in our trade balance.

Natural gas also needs to be freed from burdensome rules. The surge in supply that has resulted from industry advancements in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling has artificially depressed prices in the United States.

But we’ve been slow. Only one project, Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass facility in Louisiana, has received all the necessary permits. While the Obama administration made a recent procedural change intended to accelerate the process somewhat, it has stopped short of a full-throated endorsement. President Obama recently told reporters that Europe was too dependent on gas exports from Russia and that greater natural gas exports would benefit the United States, but that “it’s not something that can happen overnight.”

That’s partly because of opposition from environmentalists, who are determined to curtail the use of fracking. While regulation should be tough, we needn’t ban these unconventional means of energy production. After all, greater use of natural gas and oil by other countries means less burning of more damaging fuels, particularly coal.

For a change, the Republican-controlled House has produced a productive piece of legislation, a bill (supported by 46 Democrats) that would require faster action by the Department of Energy in permitting natural gas exports. The Senate should take it up.

Experts from the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations support lifting the ban on crude oil exports. Politicians need not fret. Nothing would prevent the United States from shutting off exports during national emergencies. Nor, in the event of another huge spike in world prices, would Congress be prevented from imposing taxes on crude oil at the wellhead to prevent windfall profits.

Energy policy should not be driven by emotion. Paradoxically, the fastest way to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy is to speed the export of crude oil and natural gas.

Steven Rattner, a contributing opinion writer and an investment adviser, was a counselor to the Treasury Department in the Obama administration.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on July 24, 2014, on page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Let Our Oil and Gas Go.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tema Oil Refinery in deep financial crisis


Junior staff of the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) have appealed to President John Mahama to save the refinery from collapse.

They say the refinery is bleeding with a daily loss of GH₵350,000 due to the shutdown.

Samuel Boateng, Secretary of the Junior Staff Association of TOR, told Joy News TOR is a viable refinery that must not be allowed to collapse.

The refinery’s Crude Distillation Unit (CDU) plant was shut down in 2011 due to TOR’s inability to obtain letters of credit (LCs) from its bankers to purchase crude oil for production.

The refinery’s inability to raise the LCs was as a result of an operation framework between the commercial banks and the Bank of Ghana (BoG) that restricted the banks from raising LCs beyond a certain limit, depending on the business structure, explained acting Managing Director of TOR, Dr Alphonse Dorcoo in 2011.

Samuel Boateng said at a press conference on Tuesday July 22, 2014 that although TOR’s bankers were willing to raise the LCs, the limit put on LCs per BoG’s regulations made it difficult to raise money to buy the appropriate amounts of crude oil for the refinery.

“We need continuous supply of crude oil for us to refine”, he stressed.

According to him, the nation loses a lot of money because the plant is not running.

He said the workers would take drastic actions if government fails to intervene to restore operations at the refinery.

He said just like the Bulk Oil Distributors (BDCs) held the nation to ransom due to government’s indebtedness, by refusing to supply petroleum products to fuel stations, they may also have to take a similar step.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WTI Oil Rises as U.S. Supply Drops Amid Refinery Demand

West Texas Intermediate rose the most in a month after a Malaysian Airways jet was shot down in Ukraine. Prices also climbed as U.S. crude supplies fell as refiners boosted processing to the highest level since 2005.

The Boeing 777 carrying 295 people was hit by a missile and went down over eastern Ukraine near its border with Russia, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said. Crude supplies dropped by 7.53 million barrels last week, the most since January, while refineries operated at 93.8 percent of capacity, the Energy Information Administration said yesterday. Prices reached new highs after floor trading ended when Israel sent ground forces into the Gaza Strip.

“We’re seeing a knee-jerk reaction to the plane crash,” said Mike Wittner, the head of oil market research at Societe Generale SA in New York. “An event like this always makes people nervous about the security of supply.”

WTI for August delivery increased $1.99, or 2 percent, to settle at $103.19 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was the biggest gain since June 12 and the highest close since July 8. Volume was more than double the 100-day average.

Brent for September settlement rose 72 cents, or 0.7 percent, to end the session at $107.89 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The August contract dropped to $105.85 when it expired yesterday. The European benchmark crude closed at a $5.69 premium to the September WTI contract.

Israeli Offensive

Israel commenced a ground offensive intended to stop the barrage of missiles fired by Hamas and other Palestinian militants, raising the stakes of the 10-day-old conflict after an Egyptian peace plan was spurned. The Middle East accounted for 32 percent of global crude output last year, BP Plc’s Statistical Review of World Energy shows.

WTI climbed as much as $2.70, or 2.7 percent, to $103.90 a barrel in electronic trading. Brent gained as much as $1.35, or 1.4 percent, to $108.52.

The flight from Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur was hit by a missile and went down near the eastern town of Torez, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said on its Facebook page. The plane crashed in the main battleground of Ukraine’s civil war and is one of a number to have been downed in the region in the past month. Rebels in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said they weren’t involved, Russia’s Interfax news service reported.

Geopolitical Tension

“Any event like this is bullish for the oil market, the question is by how much,” Bill O’Grady, chief market strategist at Confluence Investment Management in St. Louis, which oversees $1.4 billion, said by phone. “When geopolitical tension increases and it involves a country that’s even peripherally involved with the export of oil, there’s going to be an impact. The Ukraine conflict could easily spin out of control.”

Prices also rose after the U.S., acting with the European Union, imposed sanctions on Russian banks and energy and defense companies in its bid to punish the nation for supporting rebels in Ukraine. Among those hit by the new penalties were OAO Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company, and natural gas producer OAO Novatek, the Treasury Department said yesterday.
“The market’s up because it’s been hit by two serious geopolitical events,” Stephen Schork, president of the Schork Group Inc. in Villanova, Pennsylvania, said by phone. “There’s been the plane crash today which comes less than a day after new sanctions were imposed on Russia.”

‘Near Glut’

WTI surged to $107.73 on June 20, the highest level since September, after militants from a breakaway al-Qaeda group known as Islamic State captured the city of Mosul. Prices also climbed when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.

U.S. crude stockpiles dropped to 375 million barrels, the least since the week ended March 7, according to the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm. Inventories rose to 399.4 million barrels in the week ended April 25, the most since the EIA began publishing weekly data in 1982.

“We’re eating away at the near glut of supply we had in the spring,” said Gene McGillian, an analyst and broker at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. “Refiners are processing more crude for both export and to meet the small increase in demand here, that’s due to an improving economy.”

Crude production rose 78,000 barrels a day to 8.592 million last week, the most since October 1986. Most U.S. crude exports are barred because of 1975 legislation, while fuel can be shipped outside the country.

‘Perfect Sense’

“The ramp-up in refinery operations makes perfect sense because that’s how domestic oil output is exported,” O’Grady said. “I’m surprised they didn’t get here earlier.”

Refinery runs climbed to 16.6 million barrels a day, the most in weekly data going back to 1989.

Gasoline dropped to a three-month low, helping send the profit refiners make from processing oil into the fuel to the least since February. The crack spread, the profit from processing a barrel of WTI oil into one of gasoline, tumbled 11 percent to $17.725 a barrel at 2:57 p.m. based on August contracts. It’s the lowest level since Feb. 19.

Stockpiles of gasoline rose by 171,000 barrels while supplies of distillate fuel, a category that includes heating oil and diesel, gained 2.53 million.

“The crack spread is getting slaughtered,” Kyle Cooper, director of research with IAF Advisors and Cypress Energy Capital Management in Houston, said by phone. “The gasoline yield has been low and is sure to increase. With refineries running at such high rates, production will increase and a lot of gasoline is going to go into storage.”

Gasoline for August delivery, which settled at $2.8817 on the Nymex, reached an intraday high of $2.8943 after floor trading closed.

U.S. gasoline pump prices dropped 0.8 cent to $3.59 a gallon nationwide yesterday, the lowest since April 7, according to AAA, the largest U.S. motoring group.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Shenk in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Marino at Richard Stubbe, Stephen Cunningham

Monday, July 21, 2014

Maine town fights plan to use pipeline to export oil sands crude

As oil and gas boom spreads, towns call for limits, even in places long friendly to oil and gas
Maine community is the latest front in the battle over developing Canada's vast oil sands deposits
'One [pipeline] break, and hundreds of thousands of people are going to be drinking ... bottled water'
Tom Blake, like thousands of his neighbors in this coastal town, is used to living alongside the oil industry. Tank farms cluster in neighborhoods, by the park where families watch the movie "Frozen" on a summer night, next to schools and senior citizens apartment buildings. As a child, Blake, the town's former mayor, used to jump into high snow drifts from the massive oil tank next door.
Now, after decades as a New England hub for importing crude oil and distributing fuel, South Portland is enmeshed in a dispute with the oil industry that echoes far beyond southern Maine.

"This isn't an anti-Portland pipeline company measure," Blake said. "It's anti-dirty oil."
The fight over granting Keystone XL a federal permit and the questions it raised about the oil's environmental impact has fed the opposition here. But South Portland itself is now the latest front in the battle over developing Alberta's vast oil sands deposits. The Canadian government is pushing to build multiple export routes. Towns and environmentalists along the proposed routes want to seal them off.

The South Portland ordinance, if passed, would be "very significant" to efforts to thwart oil sands crude exports, said Danielle Droitsch, Canada Project director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

That has not been lost on the oil sector, from the regional players in South Portland to the American Petroleum Institute, the industry's top lobby, which sent a letter to town officials saying the law "would face strong legal challenges." No company in South Portland currently exports crude oil, but some say the ordinance signals a willingness to restrict all businesses unfairly.
"A very vocal minority initiated a groundswell of concern in the community, and the City Council adopted this ordinance without addressing, through independent study, the issues that were initially brought up about public health and safety," said Taylor Hudson, head of investor relations for Sprague Energy, a New England energy wholesaler. "There was such a rush to judgment without input from state, federal or local regulators. We see it as a very dangerous precedent for any business that wants to innovate."
PMPL got local and state permits with little notice five years ago to make infrastructure changes to reverse the flow. But local residents homed in on the proposed change in late 2012 as oil sands crude became a bigger issue with Keystone XL. Communities along the pipeline route, from Vermont to Maine, also grew alarmed by spills of oil sands crude into Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010 and then in a subdivision in Mayflower, Ark., in 2013.

"All of those things — Keystone, Kalamazoo — people woke up to them," said Mary-Jane Ferrier, 82, a spokeswoman for Protect South Portland, the citizens group championing the ordinance. "When people considered that it could happen in their backyard, they got very concerned."

The Portland-Montreal pipeline six times crosses the watershed for a major tributary into Sebago Lake, the drinking water source for the greater Portland area. Oil sands crude is a tarry substance called bitumen extracted through strip mining and diluted with chemicals to reduce its viscosity. The bitumen and diluents contain carcinogens. While oil usually floats when spilled into water, bitumen sinks, making cleanup harder.

"That's tap water," Bob Foster said, picking up a half-full plastic bottle from the picnic table after weed-whacking his backyard one recent morning.

He and his wife, Judy, both in their 60s, back the ordinance. They live in a trim, white clapboard house with a picket fence and flagpole out front, across the road from two huge sage-green tanks owned by PMPL. "All you need is one break, not even a huge break, and hundreds of thousands of people are going to be drinking and bathing in bottled water."
Built in 1941 to speed crude oil to Montreal refineries to support Canada's war effort, the Portland line consists of two pipelines that can move 600,000 barrels a day. But over the last three decades, its business has dropped from serving about one tanker a day to about one a week, locals say.

Reversing the line to tap Alberta's oil sands boom would also reverse the company's flagging fortunes, Wilson said in Vermont. PMPL, the umbrella for Portland Pipe Line Corp. and Montreal Pipe Line Ltd., is owned by a Canadian subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corp. and Suncor Energy Inc., both heavily involved in extracting petroleum from oil sands.
Canada sells nearly all its oil sands crude to the U.S. at a steep discount to global petroleum prices. Exporting to other countries would spur further oil sands extraction and boost prices, generating more money and jobs for Canada. Pipeline companies and the Canadian government are eager to build routes to the East and West coasts. As a result, Canadian officials have repeatedly voiced their concern to South Portland over the ordinance.

"As an oil-producing jurisdiction, Alberta is following the situation," said Jeannie Smith, spokeswoman for the government there. "Just last week, our Alberta representative in Washington, David Manning, was in South Portland to provide information to local officials and stakeholders."
Approved 6 to 1 by the City Council in a preliminary vote two weeks ago, the export ordinance grew out of a broader, highly divisive referendum that local citizens put on the ballot in November. The oil industry spent nearly $650,000 against the measure, four times more than the opposition, and defeated it by 200 votes. The narrow defeat and continued pressure from the community prompted the City Council to hire a committee to write an ordinance that would be legally defensible, a move that stunned the industry.

"If you're concerned about tar sands, look into it, have a good open dialogue about it. That didn't happen," said Jamie Py, president of the Maine Energy Marketers Assn., a trade group of fuel wholesalers and retailers. "Instead, you have another process going down the path here with the goal in mind to ban something. It prevents terminals from taking advantage of big national oil revolution going on.

Amid this fight, PMPL let its permits lapse, but locals remain wary because the company could get new permits. In Canada, Enbridge Inc., the biggest shipper of oil sands petroleum to the U.S., got permission to reverse a pipeline to transport oil sands crude that would tie into the Portland-Montreal system.
"If they're not planning a reversal, why is industry fighting the ordinance so hard?" Blake asked. "I'm convinced if we let our guard down, industry will slip through the back door in a minute."

Blake says he has gotten support from other communities. As the North American oil and gas boom spreads, towns are calling for limits and moratoria, even in places long friendly to oil and gas. The small town of Dryden, N.Y., for example, has successfully defended in court its ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Several Colorado towns have instituted fracking bans, too. Denton, Texas, where fracking has happened for a decade, plans to hold a referendum on issuing new permits.
"We have a very powerful municipal tool in home rule that lets us stop projects that are adverse to the community," said Crystal Goodrich, 40, an occupational therapist and member of Protect South Portland. "I think every community should have something like it. It's become so that corporations can go to planning board meetings and get everything they ask for. But we are the ones that have to live here."