Environment
Reuters | 16 March 2017

Trump Seeks Input From US Energy Companies on Paris Climate Pact

President Donald Trump’s administration has been contacting US energy companies to ask them about their views on the UN global climate accord, according to two sources with knowledge of the effort, a sign Trump is reconsidering his 2016 campaign pledge to back out of the deal.

A coal miner worker shakes hands with US President Donald Trump in this 16 February file photo as Trump prepares to sign Resolution 38, which nullifies the “stream protection rule” addressing the affects of surface coal mining operations on surface water, groundwater, and the productivity of mining operations sites. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria.

The sources, who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the subject, said many of the companies reached by the administration had said they would prefer the United States remain in the pact but would also support reducing US commitments in the deal.

The accord, agreed by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015, would limit planetary warming in part by slashing carbon dioxide and other emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. As part of the deal, the United States committed to reducing its emissions by between 26 and 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

The sources did not name the companies contacted.

One of the sources said the companies were “publicly traded fossil fuel companies” and added the White House would consider their input in making a decision on the Paris accord shortly. The source said the White House has been leading the discussions with the fossil fuel companies and the State Department, which represents the United States in climate negotiations, had not taken part.

A White House official declined to comment.

Trump has called climate change a hoax and vowed during his campaign for the White House to “cancel the Paris Climate Agreement” within 100 days, claiming it would be too costly for the US economy.

Since being elected he has been mostly quiet on the issue. In a New York Times interview in November, he said he would keep an open mind about the Paris deal. He and members of his family and inner circle also met with Al Gore, climate change advocate and former vice president, in December.

Officials for Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Peabody Energy, and others did not immediately comment when asked if they had been contacted by the White House about the Paris accord.

But several, including Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips, have expressed public support for the pact. The World Coal Association, which represents Peabody and other miners, has also said it supports the deal.

Read the full story here.

FuelFix | 9 March 2017

Water Poses Problems for the Energy Industry in the Permian

Wastewater injection faces an uncertain future in West Texas’ prolific Permian basin, and companies working there will have to consider how else to dispose of produced water, said Alex Archila, the asset president of shale at BHP Billiton, a mining and exploration company.

“Water, as I said of the Permian, will be a huge issue past a certain amount that you can inject,” said Archila. “And then it will be other solutions that the industry will need to figure out.”

BHP Billiton is a Melbourne-based company with a presence in Houston and land in the Permian.

Archila, who spoke on a panel at the CERAweek energy conference, said companies working in the Permian face two challenges when it comes to water: getting enough water for hydraulic fracturing and getting rid of underground water released by the process.

Read the full story here.

Statoil | 9 March 2017

Statoil Lays Out Its 2030 Climate Roadmap

Statoil’s new climate roadmap details its targets for CO2 emission reductions and improved carbon intensity and energy efficiency as well as profitable growth in renewables and low-carbon solutions.

The CO2 emissions from Statoil’s oil and gas production are already at a low level compared with the industry average. With the roadmap, Statoil introduces a new portfolio target for CO2 emissions per barrel produced, delivering 20% reductions by 2030—from 10 kg to 8 kg—well below the industry average.

“The world needs affordable and reliable oil and gas for decades to come. At the same time, it needs to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Statoil is committed to developing its business in support of the ambitions of the Paris agreement. We believe that being able to produce oil and gas with lower emissions while also growing in profitable renewables will give competitive advantages and provide attractive business opportunities in the transition to a low carbon economy,” says Eldar Sætre, Statoil’s president and CEO.

Read the full story here.

Argonne National Laboratory | 8 March 2017

New Reusable Material Pulls Oil From Water Column, Could Revolutionize Spill Cleanup

When the Deepwater Horizon drilling pipe blew out 7 years ago, beginning the worst oil spill in US history, those in charge of the recovery discovered a new wrinkle: The oil bubbling from the sea floor wasn’t all collecting on the surface where it could be skimmed or burned. Some of it was forming a plume and drifting through the ocean under the surface.

Now, scientists at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have invented a new foam, called Oleo Sponge, that addresses this problem. The material not only easily adsorbs oil from water but also is reusable and can pull dispersed oil from the entire water column—not just the surface.

The Oleo Sponge can be wrung out, the oil collected, and the material reused. It has stood up to dozens of cycles so far without breaking down. Credit: Mark Lopez/Argonne National Laboratory.

“The Oleo Sponge offers a set of possibilities that, as far as we know, are unprecedented,” said coinventor Seth Darling, a scientist with Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials and a fellow of the University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering.

“We already have a library of molecules that can grab oil, but the problem is how to get them into a useful structure and bind them there permanently.”

The scientists started out with common polyurethane foam, used in furniture cushions and home insulation. This foam has lots of nooks and crannies, like an English muffin, that could provide ample surface area to grab oil; but, the foam needed a new surface chemistry in order to firmly attach the oil-loving molecules.

Previously, Darling and fellow Argonne chemist Jeff Elam had developed a technique called sequential infiltration synthesis, or SIS, which can be used to infuse hard metal-oxide atoms within complicated nanostructures.

After some trial and error, they found a way to adapt the technique to grow an extremely thin layer of metal-oxide primer near the foam’s interior surfaces. This serves as the perfect glue for attaching the oil-loving molecules, which are deposited in a second step; they hold onto the metal-oxide layer with one end and reach out to grab oil molecules with the other.

The result is Oleo Sponge, a block of foam that easily adsorbs oil from the water. The material, which looks a bit like an outdoor seat cushion, can be wrung out to be reused—and the oil itself recovered.

At tests at a giant seawater tank in New Jersey called Ohmsett, the National Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Test Facility, the Oleo Sponge successfully collected diesel and crude oil from both below and on the water surface.

Argonne scientist Seth Darling, who coinvented the material, watches as the Oleo Sponge collects dark brown oil from the water during tests at Ohmsett. Credit: Mark Lopez/Argonne National Laboratory.

“The material is extremely sturdy. We’ve run dozens to hundreds of tests, wringing it out each time, and we have yet to see it break down at all,” Darling said.

Oleo Sponge also potentially could be used to clean harbors and ports routinely, where diesel and oil tend to accumulate from ship traffic, said John Harvey, a business development executive with Argonne’s Technology Development and Commercialization division.

Elam, Darling, and the rest of the team are continuing to develop the technology.

“The technique offers enormous flexibility and can be adapted to other types of cleanup besides oil in seawater. You could attach a different molecule to grab any specific substance you need,” Elam said.

Argonne scientists Anil Mane, Joseph Libera, and postdoctoral researcher Edward Barry also contributed to the development of the Oleo Sponge. Preliminary results were published in a study in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A, titled “Advanced Oil Sorbents Using Sequential Infiltration Synthesis.”

The research was funded by the US Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. The team used resources of the Center for Nanoscale Materials, a DOE Office of Science User Facility, in the development of the material.

Read more about Oleo Sponge here.

Read more about Argonne National Laboratory here.

Washington Examiner | 2 March 2017

Feds: Earthquake Risk From Oil and Gas Activity Cut in Half

The number of people threatened by earthquakes as a result of oil and gas activity is expected to be half what it was last year, the US Geological Survey said on 1 March.

Even with the projected risk dropping from 7 million people in 2016 to 3.5 million in 2017, the situation is more complicated than it appears, officials said on a call with reporters.

“The good news is that the overall seismic hazard for this year is lower than in the 2016 forecast, but despite this decrease, there is still a significant likelihood for damaging ground shaking in the US in the year ahead,” said Mark Petersen, the head of the geological survey’s seismic mapping project.

The rate of earthquakes has declined in the central and eastern regions of the nation, he said. “That’s the good news,” he added. “But it’s a more complicated story because we’ve had more magnitude 5 earthquakes in Oklahoma than ever before.”

The federal agency began tracking manmade earthquakes last year, especially in Oklahoma where the frequency of quakes has been highest for a state not on a major geological fault. The increase in manmade earthquakes is tied to the practice of injecting wastewater deep underground for disposal.

Read the full story here.

Reuters | 16 February 2017

Alberta Orphan Oil Well Tally Jumps as Lexin Licenses Suspended

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) suspended licenses on all oil and gas well facilities and pipelines belonging to Lexin Resources on 15 February, nearly doubling the number of orphaned wells in Canada’s main crude-producing province.

An oil pump jack pumps oil in a field near Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Credit: Todd Korol/Reuters.

The provincial regulator ordered privately-held Lexin to cease all production, saying it failed to comply with multiple orders and lacked enough staff to manage its more than 1,600 sites.

Calgary-based Lexin also owes more than CAD 1 million to Alberta’s orphan fund and more than CAD 70 million in security for its obligations to clean up its oil and gas facilities at the end of their producing life.

“The closure order is the result of a year of trying to work with the company to come into compliance,” said AER spokeswoman Cara Tobin. “With the number of noncompliances and the debt that was owed, we felt it was important to take these steps.”

Lexin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alberta’s Orphan Well Association (OWA) is responsible for cleaning up wells that have no owners financially able to deal with abandonment and decommissioning costs. It is overseen by the AER and funded by levies from the oil and gas industry.

The enforcement action by the regulator means the 1,380 wells belonging to Lexin are now in the care and custody of the OWA, taking the total numbers of ownerless wells in Alberta to 2,970.

Read the full story here.

BMT Cordah | 16 February 2017

Experts Team Up for Environmental Assessment in Israel

Environmental experts from BMT Cordah have collaborated with Israel-based consulting firm Geo-Prospect to provide independent expert advice and guidance for Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Resources. Geo-Prospect was contracted as the lead consultant to undertake a strategic environment assessment (SEA) for offshore oil and natural gas exploration and extraction.

Sharon Cohen, head of the SEA team at Geo-Prospect, said, “The BMT team significantly contributed to this project, providing us with integral support in a number of key areas.”

BMT identified and defined potential sources of environmental impact, based on the operating criteria for offshore drilling and production in Israel. This intelligence, in conjunction with a review by BMT, of the habitats assessment undertaken by the Israel Oceanographic Limnological Research Institute was then used to inform and support Geo-Prospect with the development of Israel’s SEA. The SEA is the first of its kind and an important milestone in helping to set new standards in the way natural resources are administered in Israel.

Gareth Jones, Principal Consultant at BMT Cordah, a multidisciplinary environmental consultancy, said, “For over 30 years, we have provided in-country support to governments and oil and gas majors around the globe in the preparation of these assessments, as well as environmental impact assessments and environmental statements.  Drawing on our extensive experience and best practice models, we can provide customers with the confidence that environmental and other sustainability aspects have been duly considered.”

Read more about BMT Cordah here.

WBAA | 27 January 2017

To Fight Coastal Damage, Louisiana Parishes Pushed To Sue Energy Industry

For a man with a mural of an oil refinery in his office, deciding to sue the oil and gas industry wasn’t an easy choice.

Wetlands and marshlands that once protected New Orleans and the surrounding areas from storm surge have been depleted over the years. Here is seen the USD 1.1 billion Lake Borgne Surge Barrier outside New Orleans in 2015. Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images.

But it was a necessary one for Guy McInnis, the president of Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish, just south of New Orleans.

On a recent day, McInnis stands overlooking Lake Borgne. Now an open lake, the area was once prime wetlands and marshlands that protected St. Bernard from storm surge. It took a big hit during Hurricane Katrina.

Oil companies would dig through the marshy area to get to their shallow-water wells.

“They would dig a ditch to get their boat to the oil well, and that ditch was not replaced or filled in at the end of the time that they used that oil well,” McInnis said.

These small channels created mazes through the marshes that eventually eroded into open water.

New projections say Louisiana is losing land much faster than officials thought. Each mile of land that washes into the Gulf of Mexico costs the state; industry, infrastructure, and populations are all disrupted.

Now, it has a plan to fight coastal land loss, but needs an estimated USD 90 billion to do it.

An oil and gas state, Louisiana has long relied on money from offshore sales to fund part of its budget. But the USD 90 billion price tag will require support from Congress. That’s why the state’s new Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, is urging officials like McInnis to sue oil and gas companies for that damage.

Read the full story here.

Reuters | 27 January 2017

BP Says Trump’s Energy Policy Unlikely To Have Big Effect on Carbon Dioxide Fight

Changes to US energy policies under new President Donald Trump are unlikely to have a big effect on global action to curb a rise in greenhouse gas emissions, oil major BP’s chief economist said on 25 January.

On 24 January, Trump signed orders to smooth the path for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines in a move to expand energy infrastructure and roll back key Obama administration environmental decisions.

As part of his election campaign, Trump promised to bolster the US oil, gas, and coal industries, partly by undoing federal regulations curbing carbon dioxide emissions.

“The actual implications of change in US policy are unlikely to be a big game changer,” Spencer Dale, group chief economist at BP, told journalists in London.

“The US has played an enormous leadership role together with China in galvanizing international support (for action on climate change). … Much of that improvement in the outlook for carbon emissions isn’t happening in America,” he added.

“Improvements within America are due to energy efficiency … which are still quite valued in an economy that encourages growth and competitiveness.”

Read the full story here.

Bloomberg | 27 January 2017

Trump Wants to Downplay Global Warming; Louisiana Won’t Let Him

On a recent morning in Baton Rouge, a thousand miles from where Senate Democrats were jousting with Donald Trump’s nominee to run the US Environmental Protection Agency about whether humans are warming the planet, the future of US climate policy was being crafted in a small room in the east wing of the Louisiana Capitol. The state’s 7,700-mile shoreline is disappearing at the fastest rate in the country. Officials had gathered to consider a method of deciding which communities to save—and which to abandon to the Gulf of Mexico.

Bren Haase, chief of planning for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, was presenting his team’s updated Coastal Master Plan. Five years in the making and comprising 6,000 pages of text and appendices, the document details USD 50 billion in investments over 5 decades in ridges, barrier islands, and marsh creation. Tucked into the plan was a number whose significance surpasses all others: 14 ft, the height beyond which Haase’s agency has concluded homes couldn’t feasibly be elevated.

Bren Haase, chief of planning for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, listens to public comments following an update on the 2017 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan during a hearing at the Port of New Orleans on 18 January. Credit: Derick Hingle/Bloomberg.

In areas where a so-called 100-year flood is expected to produce between 3 and 14 ft of water, the plan recommends paying for homes to be raised and communities preserved. In places where flood depths are expected to exceed that height, residents would be offered money to leave. “We’re trying to make the best decisions for the most people,” said Haase, adding that Louisiana’s strategy could become a model for other states. “The plan is really a framework to make those tough decisions.”

As Trump’s administration prepares to unravel federal policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions, state and local governments are trying increasingly aggressive steps to cope with the consequences of those emissions. In New Jersey, a state program offers residents in flood zones the pre-Hurricane Sandy value of their homes, turning the land into a buffer against the next storm. In Alaska, entire coastal towns are petitioning the federal government for money to move inland.

But nowhere is the rush to adapt to climate change more urgent than in Louisiana. Levees built in the aftermath of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 reduced inundations but also the deposit of sediment that had offset the gradual sinking of the marshlands—a process that accelerated with the expansion of the area’s oil and gas industry. Meanwhile, canals built to service the oil and gas wells let salt water penetrate deeper into the marshes, killing vegetation and speeding erosion. Since 1932, the state has lost 1,800 sq miles of land, roughly equivalent to 80 Manhattans. On top of all that, Louisiana must contend with sea-level rise. If it does nothing, the state is expected to lose as much as 4,000 additional sq miles of land in the next half-century. Its residents have no choice but to retreat from the coast; the question officials are trying to answer is where that retreat can be postponed and for how long.

Read the full story here.

Reuters | 18 January 2017

Dakota Access Company Files Motion To Halt Environmental Study

Energy Transfer Partners has filed a motion to bar the US Army Corps of Engineers from initiating an environmental study for its controversial Dakota Access pipeline crossing at Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

Dakota Access Pipeline equipment is seen near Lake Oahe, near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, in this picture taken from across the Missouri River in Linton, North Dakota, on 9 November 2016. Credit: Reuters/Stephanie Keith.

Dakota Access Pipeline equipment is seen near Lake Oahe, near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, in this picture taken from across the Missouri River in Linton, North Dakota, on 9 November 2016. Credit: Reuters/Stephanie Keith.

Energy Transfer Partners requested on 16 January that a US District Court judge for the District of Columbia stop the Corps from initiating the environmental impact statement process until a ruling has been made on whether the company already has necessary approvals for the pipeline crossing.

The Corps said it would publish a notice in the Federal Register on 18 January stating its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement for the requested easement at Lake Oahe. The notice will invite interested parties to comment on potential issues and concerns, as well as alternatives to the proposed route, which should be considered in the study.

The Corps in December denied Energy Transfer Partners an easement to drill under Lake Oahe, a water source upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation that has been the focus of protests. Members from the Standing Rock Sioux and others say the line could damage drinking water and desecrate sacred grounds.

The Associated Press | 17 January 2017

Trudeau Says the Canadian Oil Sands Needs To Be “Phased Out”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sparked anger in the oil-rich province of Alberta on 13 January for saying Canada needs to phase out the oil sands.

Trudeau told a town-hall meeting in Peterborough, Ontario, that they can’t shut down the oil sands tomorrow but they need to phase it out eventually.

The prime minister was asked about his government’s approval of pipelines and whether that was consistent with the promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He said there needs to be a transition off dependence on fossil fuels.

Trudeau’s comments caused outrage on social media and criticism from Alberta politicians. Premier Rachel Notley said the oil sands are not going anywhere any time soon.

Alberta opposition leader Brian Jean said the oil and gas industry provides thousands of good-paying jobs and if Trudeau wants to shut it down he’ll have to go through him and four million Albertans first.

Read the full story here.