(Bloomberg) -- Day three of CERAWeek by S&P Global in Houston was heavy on discussions of electricity and natural gas. US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm struck a friendly tone during her keynote address, seeking to mend ties between the fossil-fuel industry and the Biden administration. 

In other sessions, Petroleo Brasileiro SA Chief Executive Officer Jean Paul Prates warned the state-controlled company may need to trim exports. Patrick Pouyanne, the CEO of TotalEnergies SE, was interrupted by a climate protester. 

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All time stamps are Houston.

Russian Oil Production Will Be Stubborn to Fall (6:23 p.m.)

Despite the exodus of almost every Western oil company, Russia can maintain crude production longer than many expect, according to S&P Global Vice Chairman Dan Yergin.

“There’s going to be a decline but it’s gonna be a slower decline,” Yergin told Bloomberg TV at the CERAWeek by S&P Global conference in Houston on Wednesday. It won’t be “the dramatic fall off a cliff that some people projected a year ago.”

UK Energy Minister Says Green Trade Barriers Must Be Avoided (5:52 p.m.)

UK Energy and Climate Minister Graham Stuart said the world needs to avoid trade barriers as it chases “the central challenge for humanity” in driving down the cost of the energy transition.

Stuart, speaking Wednesday in a Bloomberg TV interview at CERAWeek by S&P Global, said talks are “going well” with the Biden administration to ensure some elements of the Inflation Reduction Act don’t block UK supply chains from playing their part in US green investment.

US Natural Gas Prices May Be Poised to Stabilize (4:18 p.m.)

US natural gas prices should stabilize as they approach breakeven levels that would be unprofitable for producers, according to Richard Brockmeyer, the head of North American natural gas and power at the commodity trading house Gunvor Group Ltd.

“Pretty soon we could see producers slowing down operations,” he said in an interview at the CERAWeek conference. He added that China’s eventual full re-opening from Covid lockdowns won’t lift US gas prices because the industry is already exporting as much as it can.

Brazil Weighs Carbon Credits for Aiding the Amazon (4:08 p.m.)

The Brazilian government is considering a program under which oil producers could get carbon credits from projects that boost forest cover in the Amazon, according to Thiago Barral, the secretary for energy transition and planning at the country’s Energy Ministry. The state development bank, BNDES, would be responsible for structuring operations and certifying the carbon credits, he said.

Poland’s Top Refiner Weaning Itself Off Russian Crude (2:38 p.m.)

PKN Orlen has all but pivoted away from Russian crude at its refineries in Poland, Lithuania and the Czech Republic a year after its neighbor invaded Ukraine. 

“We substituted Russian oil without curtailing oil processing,” said Grzegorz Markiewicz, executive director of oil and gas trading at Poland’s largest fuelmaker. 

Granholm Defends Inflation Reduction Act Against European Criticism (2:19 p.m.)

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said she wasn’t offering any apologies for the surge in clean-energy investment expected to be unleashed by the recently enacted infrastructure law and Inflation Reduction Act. The hundreds of billions of dollars in support for clean energy and advanced manufacturing — as well as preferences for domestic content — have provoked tensions with allies including the European Union.

Granholm quipped that there was nothing wrong with “a little friendly competition” as the US spending drives other countries to consider how they can better support critical technologies. “We don’t want to stoke trade wars or anything like that, but we are serious about bringing back supply chains into this country,” she said.

Granholm Praises Oil and Gas Producers (1:54 p.m.)

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm credited oil and gas industry leaders with helping the world shed its reliance on Russian energy sources following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

In an address at CERAWeek by S&P Global on Wednesday, Granholm said it was “thanks in no small part to many in this room” who are “producing and exporting and working with US allies” that the world was moving away from Russian energy. “The US has become, in this year, an indispensable energy partner to our allies and a global energy powerhouse,” she said.

Granholm extended another olive branch to the industry by stressing the longevity of fossil fuels, even as she praised investments in renewable energy and advanced emissions-cutting technology. Oil will remain at the heart of our energy mix for years, she said.

Protesters Rally Outside CERAWeek Convention Center (1:02 p.m.) 

Roughly two dozen activists rallied outside the George R. Brown Convention Center in a lively protest Wednesday. With a sousaphone, drums and a trumpet for accompaniment they demanded a halt to new oil and gas infrastructure, Russian energy purchases and climate carnage they said was perpetrated in pursuit of corporate profit.

“Enough is enough,” said James Hiatt of Lake Charles, Louisiana. “You cannot continue to lie to the people” and “decimate and kill communities for the profit of the few.” “The solution,” he said, “is to get off the sauce.”

Manning Rollerson, of Freeport, Texas, said Gulf Coast communities are being sacrificed in the zeal to ship US oil and natural gas overseas. He implored President Joe Biden to “hold these corporate industries accountable for the murdering of our children and our families every day.”

Granholm to Tout Program to Cut Manufacturing Emissions (12:58 p.m.)

US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm is expected to discuss a new $6 billion program to decarbonize industrial manufacturing, a critical step in the Biden Administration’s effort to reach a carbon-free economy by 2050, during her keynote address. 

The Energy Department’s Industrial Demonstrations Program will provide up to 50% of the the cost of first-of-a-kind or early-stage projects aimed at stripping carbon dioxide from the production of concrete, steel, chemicals and other energy-intensive materials, according to a statement Wednesday.

European Firms Wary of Long-Term LNG Contracts (12:22 p.m.)

Some European energy companies and governments are wary of signing long-term purchase contracts for liquified natural gas because they think the fuel will become obsolete.

“By 2043, there should be no natural gas use any longer in Germany,” Andree Stracke, the chief executive officer of RWE Supply & Trading GmBH, said during a panel discussion at CERAWeek by S&P Global.

Europeans haven’t inked many long-term LNG deals, Engie SA Executive Vice President Didier Holleaux said during the same panel. It’s “far below the level of Chinese long-term contracts,” Holleaux added. “Which means we are not yet securing a significant share of gas we need to replace Russian gas.”

RWE’s contract to buy LNG from a Texas export complex expires in 2042, a year before Stracke’s deadline.

Talent Shortage Dogs Fusion-Tech Industry (11:58 a.m.)

At an energy conference where emerging technologies loom large, it’s standing-room only at the panel on fusion, a field where the gap is perhaps the widest between lofty dreams and what’s feasible in the near term. 

One issue: a severe shortage of talent. Fusion technology companies are hiring at a frantic pace, similar to businesses that deal in hydrogen and carbon capture technologies. 

“Imagine building a large pharmaceutical company with no clinical doctors,” said Bob Mumgaard, the chief executive of Commonwealth Fusion Systems.

Hydrogen vs LNG: Executives Argue About the Longevity of Natural Gas (11:48 a.m.)

The chief executive officer of one of the world’s biggest producers of hydrogen suggested LNG may not be needed within 20 years, saying it’s more efficient to convert the hydrocarbon into hydrogen to lower emissions.

The comments from Seifi Ghasemi, the chief executive of Air Products & Chemicals Inc., prompted a sharp rebuttal from Dan Brouillette, former US secretary of energy and president of Sempra Infrastructure.

“In 20 years, LNG and natural gas will continue to have a bright future,” he said at the CERAWeek conference in Houston. “When I look at data in US, I’m not seeing a strong demand pull for hydrogen.”

Norway Warns European Energy System Is Fragile Until New LNG Sources Come Online (11:42 a.m.)

Europe’s mild winter has been a boon to energy supplies, but the system will remain fragile until new sources of LNG imports from Qatar and the US come online in 2025, according to Amund Vik, state secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy.

“Europe was lucky with the weather this winter but it looks like prices might be high again when China fully reopens,” he said in an interview at CERAWeek.

Kuwait Sees US, Europe Fuels Demand Remaining Strong This Year (11:06 a.m.)

Kuwait Petroleum Corp. expects fuel demand from US and Europe to remain “quite strong” through the end of this year, Chief Executive Officer Nawaf Al-Sabah told Bloomberg TV.

The state-owned oil company announced earlier this week it opened the second phase of its mega refinery, which “is designed to have a wall of middle distillates, essentially diesel, jet fuel, going into Europe,” Al-Sabah said Wednesday in an interview at CERAWeek. “We’re seeing that the natural flow for that product is going into Europe right now.”

Sunnova Plans to Fight California’s Microgrid Ruling (11:01 a.m.)

Rooftop solar company Sunnova Energy International Inc. will push forward with its bid to build self-contained microgrids in California and challenge an initial ruling against its plan, which threatened to erode the monopolies of investor-owned utilities operating in the region. PG&E, Southern California Edison and Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric had opposed Sunnova’s proposal, alongside the state’s powerful utility union.

“We’re not going to stop until people have the right to choose,” Chief Executive Officer John Berger said in an interview on the sidelines of the CERAWeek by S&P Global conference in Houston. “It’s a colossal political mistake” that reveals the “true colors” of the public utility commission and the political influence of utilities, Berger said.

NextEra Says Energy Transition Can’t Happen Without Natural Gas (10:53 a.m.)

The effort to decarbonize the power grid will require the use of natural gas for years to come as renewable sources ramp up, according to John Ketchum, the chief executive officer of NextEra Energy Inc.

“I run the world’s largest renewable company and there’s definitely a role for natural gas,” he said at a presentation at CERAWeek “Hydrogen is a terrific way to secure power” and represents a significant opportunity for NextEra, he added.

BP Bets on Old Refinery to Deliver on Cutting-Edge Technology (10:35 a.m.)

BP Plc is betting that hydrogen production could come to one of the oldest refineries in the US. As part of the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen, the company is aiming to make its 133-year-old Whiting, Indiana, refinery an anchor for a new hydrogen hub spanning as many as six states and serving multiple sectors, from manufacturing to agriculture.

The MACHH2 coalition is vying for a slice of some $8 billion in federal funding for at least six hydrogen hubs around the country — with an application bolstered by its opportunity to produce blue, green and pink hydrogen and help decarbonize multiple sectors, Tomeka McLeod, BP’s vice president for US carbon capture and hydrogen, said in an interview on the sidelines of CERAWeek.

BP has kicked off seismic studies to assess the viability of storing carbon dioxide underground in the nearby Mount Simon formation, said Felipe Arbelaez, BP’s senior vice president of zero-carbon energy. The company expects to potentially drill an appraisal well there before the end of the year.

Petrobras May Export Less Crude Amid Oil-Export Tax (10:23 a.m.)

Petrobras may export less crude after the Brazilian government announced a 9.2% tax on oil exports last week, Chief Executive Officer Jean Paul Prates said on the sidelines of CERAWeek.

“It really depends on the mix of oils we will run at the refineries, and that’s not up to me, but up to our refinery guys,” he said. “We must adapt to the new reality.”

The company has no plans to file an injunction to stop the temporary tax, which is in effect from Feb. 28 through June 30, he said. Prates doesn’t believe the tax will be extended beyond the 4-month period. “I don’t see it as a straight, intelligent tool to solve the fiscal problem” of the country, he said.

Petrobras Looks to Take Leading Role in Energy Transition (9:29 a.m.)

Petrobras is looking at initiatives to help Brazil transition faster to clean energy, Chief Executive Officer Jean Paul Prates said. The state-controlled oil company is studying the use of natural gas to fuel trucks in road transportation, and the use of bio oil to make diesel. The company also aims to take a bigger role in renewable power generation after Brazil privatized power company Eletrobras last year.

TotalEnergies CEO Distrupted by Climate Protester (9:16 a.m.)

Patrick Pouyanne’s remarks were interrupted by a lone protester, who began shouting about 10 minutes into his discussion with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Daniel Yergin. She urged executives “end the era of fossil fuels” and “stop all your greenwashing and lies.” 

The protester was escorted out of the banquet hall by Houston police. She identified herself to a reporter as a member of GreenFaith, a group that says it’s dedicated to climate justice.

‘Don’t Complain, Do The Same,’ TotalEnergies CEO Says (9:06 a.m.)

European lawmakers should follow the US in passing comparable legislation to the Inflation Reduction Act, TotalEnergies Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne said Wednesday.

“Don’t complain, do the same,” Pouyanne said during a panel.

Texas Power Regulator Says Clean-Air Requirements ‘Unachievable’ (8:20 a.m.)

The top Texas power regulator blasted federal clean-air requirements, saying they threaten to shut thousands of megawatts of coal-fired generation on a state grid that is becoming heavily reliant on wind and solar. 

“We are getting force fed these unachievable intense clean air requirements from the federal government” without any push to unlock the ability to build nuclear to back up intermittent renewable sources, Peter Lake, chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, said on a panel.

Texas Grid Chief Says State Needs More Fossil-Fuel power (8:16 a.m.)

Peter Lake, chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas and Pablo Vegas, chief executive officer the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, both said the Lone Star State’s grid needs new fossil-fuel generating capacity to meet growing demand. The PUC approved a measure called the Performance Credit Mechanism, which would pay generators for being online. This would be a remarkable pivot for a state that has fiercely defended running a power grid that drives investments through electricity price swings only. The reform is being debated at the Texas legislature during the current session.

The plan got pushback from the largest Texas power trader and generation owner, energy giant Shell Plc. “We don’t see a capacity problem,” said David Black, CEO of Shell’s energy solutions unit. The PCM would mostly go to existing generators and the state should consider alternative ways to directly create incentives to build new power plants, he said. He suggested officials could incentivize the construction of new plants via tax abatements or low-interest loans.

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