HSE NOW articles are available to SPE members.
Login Now
Environment

Latest EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory May Not Reflect Full Scope of Oil and Gas Emissions

Source: Breaking Energy | 17 March 2014

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released its draft inventory of annual US greenhouse gas emissions. Reporting 2012 data, the inventory estimates methane emissions coming from natural gas and petroleum systems at approximately 7.6 million metric tons—that is enough natural gas to provide energy to over 7 million homes annually. This new estimate when compared with last year’s report, which estimates emissions for the 2011 calendar year, shows overall methane emissions from natural gas and petroleum systems are 1.2% lower. Although this seems like good news, the new data is no cause for complacency; it is important to understand the cause of the changes, which requires closer examination.

The draft inventory introduces some new methodological changes that reduce estimated emissions from previous years. The primary change was driven by the way EPA estimates emissions from gas well completions and workovers, the steps that follow hydraulic fracturing and clear liquids and sand from the well before production begins.

Report Says Wastewater Injection Could Raise Earthquake Risks in California

Source: Fuel Fix | 14 March 2014

A potential boom in hydraulic fracturing in California would increase the risk of earthquakes in the state, according to a report that environmental groups released on 13 March.

Oil companies have shown great interest in California’s Monterey shale, which could hold more than 15 billion bbl of oil. The Monterey shale is located under the San Joaquin Valley, stretching across most of central California.

“Oil and gas production results in billions of gallons of contaminated wastewater that is often disposed of in underground injection wells,” according to the report, from Earthworks, Clean Water Action and the Center for Biological Diversity. “In many parts of the eastern and central United States where fracking and wastewater injection have boomed, earthquake activity has increased dramatically. Some regions have experienced a 10-fold increase in earthquake activity.”

Industry, Government, and Environmentalists Debate Shale Gas Revolution

Source: Houston Business Journal | 11 March 2014

US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and the Environmental Defense Fund joined energy executives in supporting the unconventional energy production revolution as long as everything is done to eliminate accidents and minimize methane emissions.

Speaking at the IHS Energy CERAWeek in Houston, Moniz said the administration supports the shale gas boom as part of the president’s “all of the above” energy strategy. But, at the same time, the government is working long-term on “decreasing oil dependence.”

“The economic impact has been tremendous,” Moniz said of the shale boom. “The energy revolution has led the erection of the ladders of opportunity in terms of creating very good jobs in the economy.”

He also credited the natural gas surge with improving “energy security” and decreasing carbon emissions by lowering the reliance on dirtier fuels.

Drillers Can Plug Methane Leaks at Wells Affordably, Study Says

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek | 6 March 2014

Methane leaks from oil and natural gas production can be cut by 40% for less than 1 cent per thousand cubic feet of gas, according to a study backed by an environmental group.

By plugging leaks in compressors and pipes, producers can cut emissions of methane, a potent heat-trapping gas, according to a report set for release today by the Environmental Defense Fund and ICF International, a consultancy specializing in energy and the environment. The USD 2.2 billion cost would be offset over time by the sale of captured gas, the study estimates.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is 21 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, leading environmental groups to call for stricter controls to help curb climate change. Producers say they are addressing the issue and that over-regulation could slow the energy boom that has lowered prices for consumers.

Apache: Hydraulic Fracturing Firms Need To Recycle More Water

Source: Tulsa World | 6 March 2014

Drilling and exploration companies have to start recycling more water used in hydraulic fracturing if they don’t want to draw environmental regulations, warned Rob Johnston, executive vice president of the central region for Apache.

“If the EPA were to get involved, this would impact us all pretty quickly,” Johnston said 3 March.

“In the end, this is not a sustainable practice, and something is going to have to change.”

The news comes as the Environmental Protection Agency works on a Congressionally delegated report about the effect of hydraulic fracturing on drinking and groundwater. Last month the agency issued new rules on the use of diesel in fracturing.

Proposed US Energy Rules Would Shield Whales

Source: ABC News | 28 February 2014

Proposed federal environmental guidelines released 27 February would protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from offshore seismic testing aimed at sizing up oil and gas reserves from Delaware to Florida.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management outlined that measure and other protections intended to shield marine life if the government allows the testing, which could be a first step in the development of an offshore oil industry in Atlantic waters.

The Obama administration delayed the scheduled leasing of offshore tracts in Virginia and other Atlantic states following the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The leasing was to begin in 2011 but was pushed back to 2017.

The seismic testing is intended to apply new technology to areas that have not been studied in more than 3 decades, and then with equipment that had limited capabilities to detect energy resources hidden below the ocean floor. The energy industry has said the new, more sophisticated seismic surveys would not only give a better picture of oil and gas deposits but also eliminate areas that should not be drilled.

While the industry estimates that oil and natural gas development in the outer continental shelf would create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next couple decades, ocean protection groups contend marine life shouldn’t be exposed to a blast zone up 50 miles off the coast. They have pushed for a delay in the environmental guidelines until a key study is completed.

“By failing to consider relevant science, the Obama administration’s decision could be a death sentence for many marine mammals,” said Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for US Oceans at Oceana.

In a statement, BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau said the department is committed to “balancing the need for understanding offshore energy resources with the protection of the human and marine environment using the best available science as the basis of this environmental review.”

Oil Spill Technology Research Continues for Arctic Exploration

Source: Rigzone | 19 February 2014

As the global oil and gas industry turns its attention to Arctic exploration and production, research by industry and academia continues into Arctic oil spill technology.

The Arctic Oil Spill Response Joint Industry Program (JIP) last week released the findings of its research efforts into in-situ burning (ISB) in ice-affected waters and the fate of dispersed oil under ice.

Over the past several decades, a significant body of scientific research and testing has been carried out of techniques and technologies available for oil spill response in icy conditions, including the Arctic. The Arctic Oil Spill Response JIP was launched in January 2012 to further build on existing research, increase understanding of potential impacts of oil on the Arctic marine environment, and improve the technologies and methodologies for oil spill response.

The JIP includes six technical working groups focused on dispersants, environmental effects, trajectory modeling, remote sensing, mechanical recovery, and in-situ burning. Each group is headed by a subject matter expert experienced in oil spill response research and development. The JIP also has a field research group to examine opportunities for the JIP to participate in field releases or research to gather scientific and engineering data needed to validate certain response technologies and strategies

Former Obama Official: Hydraulic Fracturing Has Never Been an Environmental Problem

Source: Fuel Fix | 11 February 2014

Former US Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar said on 5 February that he believes hydraulic fracturing is safe and the energy industry should work to convince the public that it doesn’t pose a safety threat.

Salazar spoke in Houston at the North American Prospect Expo, a 3-day conference where landowners from around the globe look to make deals with oil, gas, and pipeline companies.

“From my opinion and from what I’ve seen …, I believe hydraulic fracking is, in fact, safe,” Salazar said.

Salazar said the oil and gas industry must work to educate the public of the technology and “make sure people are not scared.”

USGS Model Could Guide Offshore Oil Spill Cleanup

Source: UPI | 10 February 2014

A computer modeling system could help guide cleanup efforts for oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The USGS said it developed a system that can track the movement of sand and oil particles found in the Gulf of Mexico since the 2010 accident, which killed 11 rig workers and, BP estimated, caused approximately 2.5 million bbl of oil to be spilled into the gulf for nearly 3 months.

The USGS model examined the migration of what it called surface residual balls, a mix of oil and sand, during normal wave conditions and those experienced during tropical storms.

Study Says Marcellus Shale Wells Produce Less Waste Water Than Conventional Wells

Source: Platts | 28 January 2014

While natural gas production in the Marcellus shale has increased the volumes of wastewater produced in the region nearly sixfold, shale wells in the play produce about one-third the waste water per unit of gas recovered than do conventional wells, a new study has found.

“Despite producing less waste water per unit of gas, developing the Marcellus shale has increased the total waste water generated in the region by [about] 570% since 2004, overwhelming current wastewater disposal infrastructure capacity,” the study released this week by researchers at Kent State and Duke universities said.

The study, which the authors said is the first comprehensive characterization of wastewater volumes generated by Marcellus wells, analyzed data from 2,189 active Marcellus wells in Pennsylvania and compared gas production and wastewater volumes with conventional wells.

EPA Vows Action on Fracturing Rules, Policy

Source: National Journal | 22 January 2014

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking to assure environmentalists that it hasn’t dropped the ball on oversight of hydraulic fracturing.

A letter from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to the Natural Resources Defense Council vows the agency will take steps on several fronts to boost the environmental safety of hydraulic fracturing, the oil-and-gas extraction method that is enabling US energy production to soar.

“The EPA is moving forward on several initiatives to provide regulatory clarity with respect to existing laws and using existing authorities where appropriate to enhance public health and environmental safeguards,” McCarthy writes in a 10 January letter.