OPEC & COVID-19 Pt. 4 – In the Oil Patch Radio Show

In the Oil Patch Radio Host with host Kym Bolado

Speaker 1: (00:00)
And welcome to In the Oil Patch radio show. I’m your host Kym Bolado, and today we are being joined by David Blackmon, the editor of SHALE Magazine. But before we bring on our guest, I’d like to talk to you about the latest issue of SHALE Magazine. Our latest issue is featuring Tracee Bentley, the president and CEO of the Permian Basin Strategic Partnership. It’s a wonderful organization created from some of the best operators and service companies that are drilling in the Permian basin area. For more information on Tracee Bentley’s story or the Permian Basin Strategic Partnership, go to SHALEmag.com. Again, that’s SHALEmag.com. I’d also like to tell you about one of the fastest growing energy chambers in Texas. It’s called TEAC, Texas Energy Advocates Coalition, and you can go and join and attend some of the great events that they are scheduled to have in the latter part of the year after we are released from this Corona virus epidemic. For more information. Go to TXenergyadvocates.org. Again, that’s TXenergyadvocates.org, and now with no further ado, let me bring on our guest, the editor of SHALE Magazine, David Blackmon. David, welcome to this week’s show.

Speaker 2: (01:22)
Hey, it’s another beautiful day in quarantine, Texas.

Speaker 1: (01:25)
Of course, quarantine the world.

Speaker 2: (01:28)
Maybe we should say Quaran-Texas.

Speaker 1: (01:31)
Oh, there you go. We created a new name. We need to write that down. We have kind of talked about how do we keep the show going with great coverage because it seems so important to be talking about what’s happening to energy. And so we decided, let’s stop the guests for just a little bit, and bring you on to cover a whole bunch of moving parts pertaining to the Corona virus and of course energy and how is the Corona virus affecting energy? And then we have a Railroad Commission hearing that just happened, that we’re going to talk about today. These topics are moving very, very quickly, and there’s a lot of uncertainty and not enough real good information. And so this is why we decided let’s just put the guests on hold, and try to break down the coverage of this as it’s occurring.

Speaker 1: (02:21)
I thank you for helping me talk to our listeners about what’s happening and being a voice of truth and information. So let’s get started, David. Two or three days ago, the Railroad Commission had a hearing that lasted all day. I listened to it all day. I don’t know if you did, but it was a long hearing. It was amazing to see our elected officials in action. And, I just want to get your thoughts first. My thoughts were, I saw all three of the commissioners very engaged. I also saw them working together, trying to figure out what is the solution, and they seem to do it, in my opinion, in a way that was thoughtful. They realize that there’s the major integrated service companies that are opposing the Railroad Commission getting into this process of monitoring the amount of drilling that’s going on and activity in Texas. And then, they also are looking on the other side, the small independents and their fight and their troubles and where they’re landing in this. And while all of this is going on, we have a pandemic, and the price of oil has just bottomed out, which has brought this to the Texas Railroad Commission. So, break down the topic of what was going on. What was the request? Why did the Railroad Commission have an emergency meeting?

Speaker 2: (03:54)
It was a hearing on the question of whether to use the commission’s authority called proration, which allows it to establish limits on what can be produced out of every oil well in the state of Texas in any given month. And it’s a longstanding power that was first applied by the commission in 1932 to limit overproduction in the East Texas field that was flooding the global market for crude oil and had dropped the price down to about 2 cents per barrel of oil at that time.

Speaker 1: (04:32)
Please don’t let us go there.

Speaker 2: (04:34)
Yeah. And so the reason the Railroad Commission exists is to prevent the waste of Texas’ natural resource of oil and gas. That’s its main duty. And when you’re producing it, just flooding the market with it, at these low prices, that’s a form of waste. That’s economic waste. And so Parsley Energy and Pioneer Natural Resources, both companies that have been featured on the cover of SHALE Magazine, requested this hearing a few weeks ago. And the three commissioners granted it. It was a long hearing. It lasted well into the evening. Fifty-five witnesses all together gave verbal testimony and more than 400 offered written testimony. It’s a very controversial and divisive issue within the oil and gas business, as you mentioned. You know, integrated companies and even some independents are not in favor of it because they believe it will do more harm than good to their business interests.

Speaker 2: (05:37)
And then many independent producers are in favor of it because they believe they’re going to be disproportionately disadvantaged with this market, that is just basically the markets are oversupplied that they’re going to be forced to shut in a lot of production. I agree with you. I mean, the commissioners, they’re all good people. We know them all. Ryan Sitton and Christie Craddock and Wayne Christian, they’re all good people. They all want to make the best judgment for both the industry and for the people of Texas, and you know, they had a job to do. So they listened attentively, and I think ultimately they are going to make a very studied decision that has a strong basis in logic and the regulations.

Speaker 1: (06:36)
There’s so many different things to consider for the Railroad Commission. Should they get into prorationing? But then there’s also, when you do that, you lose an opportunity for revenue coming out for the state of Texas as a whole. But then we’re in a bad situation right now as it is because of market price. So, you know, they’re having to grapple with that. Will it cause an impact in that area? And then there’s also the differences between the major integrated oil companies and the little guys. And you know, when you look at other businesses they have hub certification zones; they have women owned businesses, and they have all these different certifications you go through no matter where you are in the United States to basically help the small guy get their piece of the pie,

Speaker 1: (07:34)
so these large companies don’t eat them up. And if we’re doing it in other sectors, and I get the whole market value and we’re free enterprise, but if we see it in other areas, why would we not be considering the same thing. And that’s just one area I’m looking at, but I want to also cover some of the companies that were testifying. You said Pioneer Natural Resources and Parsley Energy both requested this emergency meeting. They had Marathon Oil, Lee Tillman, who was against the Railroad Commission getting involved. Parsley Energy was for it. I’m not sure how to pronounce Ocanna’s new name.

Speaker 2: (08:18)

Speaker 1: (08:19)
Ovintiv, yes. And we’ve had Doug Suttles on our cover, too. It was SHALE Magazine. They were against the Railroad Commission. Plains All American Pipeline testified, Enterprise Product Partners. University Lands. That’s an interesting one, David, because that’s the university that has all that land, and they’re getting millions and millions of dollars every year. And they were for the Railroad Commission getting involved. Texas Oil and Gas Association against. Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, our friends here, were against. The Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners and Longnecker were against. And the list goes on and on and on. But one of the ones that I found to be so interesting was Harold Hamm of Continental Resources. And remember last week we had this discussion on the show about him discussing at TIPRO. He was the keynote, and he said we were going to meet this bridge one day. We were going to have to cross it, and he is for the Railroad Commission coming in and doing something. I want your thoughts before we go to break on. How profound is that?

Speaker 2: (09:26)
Well, he’s certainly influential, and Mr. Hamm is also putting pressure on the Corporation Commission in Oklahoma, which is the regulator of the oil and gas business up there to engage in a similar action. And in North Dakota where Continental Resourse is one of the biggest Balkan producers. He’s also lobbying the commission up there, the industrial commission in North Dakota, to do this. All three of those commissions have similar authorities to do this. And so Harold, as a producer in all three States, he has a lot of influence.

Speaker 1: (10:05)
The whole hearing to me really demonstrated what a tough time it is to be a commissioner right now and the amount of weight they’re carrying, if they make the wrong or the right decision, for the great state of Texas, our citizens, and the energy industry. When we get back from break, I want to get back on the topic of the actual hearing and go a little bit more in depth. You’re listening to In the Oil Patch radio show, and we’ll be right back. And we’re back. You’re listening to In the Oil Patch radio show. Our guest today is David Blackmon, the editor of SHALE Magazine. David, before the break, we had a very good intro section of talking about the Texas Railroad Commission, the regulatory body that handles all oil and gas information and permitting here in the state of Texas.

Speaker 1: (10:59)
They had a hearing this past week with more than 50 witnesses. There were more than 400 comments. Some of the things we witnessed were some of the majors supporting it, and some of the majors against it. We were talking about Harold Hamm and his involvement. This week there have been regulators in both Oklahoma and North Dakota that are considering similar limits on production in their states. And there was one overtone that came out of the hearing, which was Texas should be the leader, but Texas shouldn’t do it alone. Texas should get some other states involved and engaged as well. You wrote about this in SHALE Magazine about two weeks ago. Tell me a little bit about your thoughts on this.

Speaker 2: (11:56)
Yeah. That was kind of gratifying to hear my own thoughts echoed.

Speaker 1: (12:00)
Isn’t that nice when that happens?

Speaker 2: (12:05)
When you look at it, it’s not just in the United States. We have this global effort right here to limit supply of crude oil in response to the demand destruction that this virus has caused. And so you had the OPEC plus countries agreeing among themselves to cut about 10 million barrels a day off the market last week, and for the United States to actually make any firm commitment to cut production, the only authorites in our country who were able to enforce something like that would be the states where the state regulators have this authority similar to the Railroad Commission. And that is North Dakota; it’s Oklahoma; it is New Mexico in a different way. And Wyoming also has some authority to limit production that’s a little different from proration. And so my thought a few weeks ago was that the one way the United States could actually become a participant in a global effort to limit supply would be for these state regulators to band together and all take action to limit production in their own states.

Speaker 2: (13:34)
Now those five states that I mentioned have over 80% of the total oil production in the United States. So, that’s a very significant thing. And, if they’re all doing that, and I’m not trying to take credit for it or anything like that, but if they’re all doing that, then you can build a pretty justifiable case for the Railroad Commission going down this road with the caveat that this is something the commission hasn’t tried to enforce in 48 years. There is no institutional memory on how to do it as the commission today. And the commission has a fraction of the staff that it used to have 48 years ago because of constant cutting of budgets over the ensuing decades.

Speaker 1: (14:39)
Which goes back to the argument year after year about how the Texas Railroad Commission needs more funds, not less. Go ahead, keep going.

Speaker 2: (14:47)
I don’t want anyone to think that this is some simple thing. Christie Craddock said this during the hearing, how are we supposed to go about doing this? We haven’t done it in all these years. We don’t have any staff or any experience at it. And probably they don’t have the computer systems in place to manage it. So, it’s a complicated thing. It could be costly in terms of budget, and it’s just a tough decision these commissioners are working on trying to make.

Speaker 1: (15:24)
I know. It’s kind of like President Trump with the pandemic. You just really don’t know what you don’t know until it arrives. And then it’s trying to figure out what’s the best move without disrupting the markets too much or being too invasive into change. And then how do you get it back? But then I also heard things that really made me feel very patriotic. I don’t know if you heard it; it was a gentleman who was discussing how important it would be if the Railroad Commission got involved in this, and how OPEC and OPEC plus, which we’re going to get on that topic in the next segment, were asking what is the United States going to do? You know, we keep cutting, and we keep cutting.

Speaker 1: (16:14)
And we keep cutting. And President Trump really doesn’t have any tools in his toolbox pertaining to this, but if they came to an agreement, that would give President Trump more leverage. Now, I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing because I really am not an expert in this area, but it did make sense of trying to reassure Russia and Saudi Arabia. Hopefully we never get back here again. There’s gotta be some uniformity of what’s going on here, and if we do have OPEC, then we had OPEC plus, which was Saudi Arabia and Russia. And now the discussion is OPEC plus plus. And does that include the United States as well? So, you know, when we return from break, I want to talk about this glut that’s out there and change gears a little bit. And let’s talk about more global issues that are going lead into is this a good thing that the Railroad Commission is considering or not?

Speaker 1: (17:20)
We also had a lot of headway this week in that area with some of the pricing and of course things that were happening in Saudi Arabia and Russia and of course President Trump. You’re listening to In the Oil Patch radio show, and we’ll be right back. And we’re back. You’re listening to In the Oil Patch radio show. Our guest today is David Blackmon, the editor of SHALE Magazine. Okay, David, we were talking about OPEC plus, OPEC, and then OPEC plus plus. Let’s discuss President Trump. He’s moving to restart the U.S. economy by the end of April. That’s what he promised, but it looks like that may not be so. It looks like it might go into may. We have seen China already doing that, and several other European nations, like Spain and Germany, are also moving in that direction. Factoring in the new supply cuts promised by OPEC plus in the countries that have all come together, when can we expect to see that glut kind of closing?

Speaker 2: (18:25)
Yeah. It’s going to be a gradual restart. It’s actually probably already starting in some states. You know, there are eight states that don’t have a stay-at-home order right now because they’ve already been impacted by this virus. So their business community is going to be restarting even before the end of April. In Texas, Governor Abbott is clarifying that process. And you know, Texas has over a hundred counties that have had fewer than five cases of the coronavirus. So, it’s going to be a gradual thing, but as the economy restarts, demand for crude oil is going to ramp up again.

Speaker 1: (19:10)
Hopefully it shoots up like a skyrocket.

Speaker 2: (19:13)
These big firms, like Rystad Energy and Wood Mackenzie and the IHS market, have projected that the supply glut or the month of April is gigantic, 25 to 30 million barrels of oil per day more supply than demand for crude oil. But as the economies restart that glut is going to go away fairly rapidly. And when you factor in, as you said, that the 10 million barrels a day that the OPEC plus countries are taking off the market, the fact that the United States, even if the Railroad Commission and these other commissions don’t do anything, most likely the United States production is going to drop by 3 to 4 million barrels a day over the next few months just because producers don’t have a market for their oil, and they’re going to have to shut down oil wells. And so along about the end of summer, the beginning of the third quarter and even into the fourth quarter, we’re going to see this gap go away almost completely if everybody adheres to their production. And you can then see after those several months have passed a fairly rapid recovery in the price for crude oil, which is going to be too late, unfortunately, for some of the producers here in the United States that were already having a hard time with profitability at $60 oil. And so we’re going to see a lot of bankruptcies in the meantime before that happens. But the recovery should be pretty rapid in this case, and not linger for a couple of years, like it did for example, in the mid 1980s, when that bust lingered for several years.

Speaker 1: (21:02)
When you say it’s not going to linger for long, can you give me some vision on like what are you see towards the end of the year into 2021, and how fast do we rebound back?

Speaker 2: (21:19)
Well, I’m just talking about the whole business, you know. I think it’s going to be fairly rapid.

Speaker 1: (21:26)
When you say that, are you talking about gas prices coming back, the price of oil coming back up? And if so, what range?

Speaker 2: (21:32)
Yes. I mean because once supply and demand curves cross one another, then all of a sudden you’re talking about a shortage of oil supply. And if all these OPEC plus countries adhere to their production limits, you could even see a spike in oil prices in the fourth quarter of this year. Nobody’s really talking about that yet because we don’t know how rapidly the economies are actually going to recover, but if it is fairly rapid, which some of the optimistic projections see, I think by the end of the year we can see prices spiking back above $60. Now, as I mentioned, that’s going to be too late for a lot of these companies. A lot of bankruptcies. But the outlook for 2021 for oil prices has got to be pretty strong at this point.

Speaker 1: (22:24)
Well that is some good news. As we go into break, you’re listening to In the Oil Patch radio show, and we’ll be right back. And we’re back. You’re listening to In the Oil Patch radio show. Our guest today is David Blackmon. David, before the break we were talking about OPEC plus, the cuts, and what can we expect in 2021. And I’m happy that you pulled out your crystal ball and gave us your thoughts.

Speaker 2: (22:52)
We have to remember that in the 1980s, that bust was a bust that was a combination of a true economic recession globally along with dramatic production increases from Saudi Arabia and a few other countries. This current economic downturn is a self-inflicted wound that is different than the massive recession we had in the late seventies and early 1980s. This is a self-inflicted economic downturn. And if it doesn’t linger too long, if the government does begin reopening this economy within the next month or so, the recovery should be pretty rapid because everyone needs to remember we had an incredibly vibrant and strong economy before we entered into these stay-at-home orders nationwide. So with a rapid recovery is going to be a rapid rebound in oil demand, and when the supply and demand curves cross that’s going to mean a very rapid price recovery towards the end of the year.

Speaker 1: (24:13)
Very good. Let’s switch gears to talk about the Houston Chronicle. I did a segment at our flagships station 740 KTRH in Houston. It was a quick segment on U.S. storage capacity and its filling up last week. The Houston Chronicle had a story this week as well discussing how capacity is beginning now to fill up. Let’s discuss why we should be concerned about capacity filling up in storage. Tell me how important it is amidst all the other crisises that are going on globally.

Speaker 2: (24:51)
Yeah. I mean, it is important. It’s one of the reasons why we’re going to see a lot of wells shut in here in the coming weeks. And then we’re already seeing it because we have lack of demand for all this oil production that’s coming out of Texas and other places. And so it either needs to go into storage somewhere or the wells need to be shut in. Right now most of the producers are able to send their crude oil into storage at Cushing, Oklahoma and the Port of Corpus Chista and the Port of Houston. All these big refinery operations around the country have massive storage farms. But those storage farms are beginning to fill up. And once they approach full capacity, more and more wells are going to have to be shut in. So when I say the U.S. is going to lose 2 to 4 million barrels a day of production in the coming months, this is one of the main reasons why. But the good news is that a lot of that loss of production is just temporary because once the market rebounds, then these wells are going to be reopened, and the supply will begin to flow again.

Speaker 2: (26:04)
So, a lot of this loss of U.S. production from 12.7 million barrels a day down to around eight probably is what’s going to happen. It’s going to be temporary and will be recovered as the economy rebounds.

Speaker 1: (26:19)
I wonder if the commissioners are also considering this, like for the amount of time it’s going to take for them to whoop all this stuff up together and try to enforce it and put it out there, by that time it could be okay. We’re a little too late. Let’s switch gears a little bit because it’s always amazing to me how these little environmentalists that are out there, these little associations, are always against everything pertaining to oil and gas. They also were on the hearing with the Texas Railroad Commission this past week. And one group, the EDP, urged the commissioners to use proration as a tool to deal with the flaring issue in the Permian Basin. And you know, I do have to say, if there’s been one kind of black eye that keeps coming up on the energy industry, it’s been this specific topic. And even the commissioners themselves have been kind of critical on this. And, I just want to get your thoughts on it. Maybe they’re kind of going in the right path, and maybe this is something. I know that no one’s liking this going on. How do you think the possible approach will come from the Texas Railroad Commission in this sense?

Speaker 2: (27:37)
I think it’s actually a valid idea, and EDF is one of the environmental groups that the industry has been able to work with over the years. It is an interesting idea of what they’re suggesting, and I’ve asked them to give us a contribution for our next issue of the magazine on this to fully explain it. You could target prorationing particularly at wells that are flaring their natural gas in a way that could end up reducing that flaring problem that has been a nuisance for years now for the industry. And they’re really intractable problems. So, there is some merit there, and there’s no question, as you said, that the flaring issue has just been a real black eye for the whole industry for a long time, for too long, frankly. As this crisis hit, the industry was really ramping up efforts, some organized efforts, to really deal with it in a more effective way. And that’s all been interrupted now by this crisis. But, I think it’s a valid idea. I thought I found it an interesting argument in favor of prorationing, and that’s why I wanted to get a contribution from EDF and Scott Anderson who is the fellow that wrote their comments for our next issue of SHALE Magazine.

Speaker 1: (29:12)
Well, you know, I have to say that it seems as though last week’s show was a lot of things happening, but a lot of doom and gloom. And today’s show is a little bit more of light at the end of the tunnel. When we get back from break, I want to talk about the price of natural gas as well. There’s been some media coverage on that. It looks like there’s a potential change in that area as well. Don’t know if it also has a lot to do with the flaring of the natural gas. Does this make a difference in the way of price? So, when we come back from a break, David, I want to talk about pricing of natural gas. You’re listening to In the Oil Patch radio show, and we’ll be right back. And we’re back.

Speaker 1: (30:01)
You’re listening to In the Oil Patch radio show. Our guest today is David Blackmon. David, let’s get on the topic of natural gas. In the midst of this terrible crisis in oil, it appears that we have some positive news for gas producers. So, now several analysts are saying that we could start seeing stronger natural gas prices as a result of the loss of oil production. Do you agree with this? And also, if the railroad commission gets into regulating some flaring will that also have an impact on the price of natural gas?

Speaker 2: (30:36)
Yes. I think the short answer to that is yes. One thing that a lot of people don’t realize about shale oil production is that pretty much all of the wells in the major shale basins, the Eagle Ford, the Permian Basin, the Balkan Shale, even in the BJ Basin in Colorado, have a lot of associated natural gas production that comes up out of the ground with the oil and to such an extent that the Permian Basin is the second largest oil producer, natural gas producing basin in the country just behind the Marcellus Shale, and Eagle Ford Shale is the fourth largest producing natural gas producing basin in America. So it’s a ton of natural gas coming out of these basins. So, as you see, the country lose all of this crude oil production, you should know that natural gas production is going down along with it.

Speaker 2: (31:36)
And what that’s going to mean is, we’ve had a lingering over-supply situation of natural gas in this country for a decade now. Well, that’s all about to get dried up to a large extent. And if we have anything resembling a cold winter that’s coming here, you could see natural gas prices actually rise up into the $4 to $5 range. You know, they’re sitting at a $1.70 or a $1.80 right now. I mean, you could see that the price for natural gas actually double. And so, producers who have a big portfolio of natural gas production have suffered all these years for very low gas prices could get something of a windfall over the winter if natural gas prices rise at least temporarily. This goes back to now production for this whole hour, right? Eventually that all production is going to come back, and as it does, then the natural-gas over supply is going to come back as well. But at least on a temporary basis I think we’re probably going seesome fairly strong natural gas process towards the end of this year and the first half of next year.

Speaker 1: (32:52)
Very interesting. And I do want to close out our show on another positive note as well, which is, we’ve seen a lot of operators in hard hit times that have stepped up to the plate, whether it was hurricane Harvey or earthquakes. It just seems as though the most generous industry, in my opinion, in the United States is always the energy industry. And we saw several reports over this week about ExxonMobile and other companies continuing to do their good work in the communities where they operate. And despite the price of oil being where it is, despite them losing millions of dollars as a result of the price, and of course the pandemic, they’re still really doing and stepping up to the plate. But that’s not very uncommon for this industry is it, David?

Speaker 2: (33:57)
No, it’s really not. I mean, that it’s something we see time after time after time as you mentioned hurricane Harvey. My goodness. I mean we had a cover story about all the incredible work in local communities, Houston and other communities where Conoco Phillips operates. Of course, it wasn’t just Conoco Phillips doing that; they were actually typical of the entire industry. And again, in the midst of this cornonavirus pandemic, we see all these companies like ExxonMobile and all these other kinds of companies stepping up to the plate, not just continuing their charitable works in those communities, but ramping them up in the midst of a situation where they are really losing a lot of money. It’s just how this industry operates. It’s who the people are that run these companies. And that’s always gratifying to see.

Speaker 1: (35:03)
And you know, I don’t think they get enough credit, because I think the general perception is it’s a bunch of corporate suits, no people behind it. Their shareholders are really what matters the most, and getting a profit as much as you can. And if the community would really look and see these operators with hurricane Harvey writing $2 million, $1 million checks to schools and foundations, and they were out there donating on top of that though. Let’s look now and see, you have all these companies stepping up. All year long, let’s look at who the cover is. Tracee Bentley was the Permian Basin Strategic Partnership. Each operator donating $10 million each, and there’s 20 operators, and they are building roads and healthcare in Midland. They’re looking at all the infrastructure necessary in these areas. I’d like to give you a little bit of time to talk to us about the cover.

Speaker 2: (36:04)
And it does, it goes right back to that Permian Strategic Partnership, and what they’re trying to do. They have all these different programs partnering with local school districts, with County commissioners, courts on roads, hospital districts increasing healthcare opportunities in these communities, addressing the housing issues that take place. Where you have a big heavy oil industry presence in small communities, you end up with housing shortages. And so they’re working with various communities to address those things. And it’s just this really unique operation. It’s the first one that’s structured specifically this way that I’ve seen in my 40 years associated with the industry. It’s one of the things how this industry works with the communities in which they operate to find ways to address these impacts because it is an impactful industry. And so it’s a really great story. It’s one of the most interesting and easy stories I’ve had to write because it’s interesting, and there’s so many different moving parts to it. So she’s a really dynamic personality, and I feel lucky to have been able to write about that operation out there.

Speaker 1: (37:33)
Well, you know the one thing that I did enjoy, as well, was when I spoke to Tracee. They also took into consideration something that most organizations overlook, which is mental health, and how important that is overall. And the fact that they really don’t get into lobbying. This is a pure group. They’re designed to create a better place to live and work for the communities that they’re working in. So I’d like to leave us with anybody who wants to read more about the Permian Basin Strategic Partnership, the operators, Tracee Bentley, please be sure to visit SHALEmag.com, and you can get a free digital issue of this latest issue of SHALE Magazine. David, that’s all the time we have for this week. I look forward to having you back next week. So we can talk more oil and gas.


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