Environment
The Associated Press | 16 November 2016

Wyoming Study: Fracturing Likely Not Behind Well Water Problem

A final state report released on 10 November on foul-smelling well water in Wyoming contradicts an EPA report from 5 years ago that ignited a national backlash when it suggested hydraulic fracturing was the cause of the contamination.

Bacteria were more likely to blame for the problem in Pavillion than the oil and gas drilling process, officials with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality said after a 2-year study that was hailed by fracturing advocates.

“Today’s announcement from the Wyoming DEQ doesn’t just close the case on Pavillion, it’s a knockout blow for activists who have tried to use Pavillion as a key talking point for their ban-fracking agenda,” said Randy Hildreth, Colorado director of Energy in Depth, an advocacy arm of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones said the federal agency was reviewing the state report and declined further comment.

Reuters | 8 November 2016

Canada To Spend USD 1.1 Billion To Boost Oil Spill Response

Canada’s Liberal government on 7 November vowed to toughen its response to oil spills at sea, a move that some critics say will increase local tanker traffic and hurt the environment.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces a CAD 1.5 billion national Oceans Protection Plan while speaking at HMCS Discovery in Vancouver, B.C., Canada on 7 November 2016. Credit: Reuters/Ben Nelms.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces a CAD 1.5 billion national Oceans Protection Plan while speaking at HMCS Discovery in Vancouver, B.C., Canada on 7 November 2016. Credit: Reuters/Ben Nelms.

As part of a marine safety plan to protect oceans, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ottawa would spend CAD 1.5 billion (USD 1.1 billion) over 5 years on better response measures and research into how to clean up oil spills.

Trudeau said the plan “will make Canada a world leader in marine safety.”

However, environmentalists said the announcement was a sign Ottawa will approve the hotly contested Trans Mountain pipeline expansion next month, which will run from Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific Coast.

Trudeau declined to comment on whether he will approve the pipeline.

Reuters | 8 November 2016

Canada Oil Spill Program Hit by Cheap Crude, Lacks Applicants

The 2-year oil price crash has hurt a Canadian government program that funds research on oil spill cleanups, resulting in fewer applicants than expected, a senior federal official said.

Absorbent foam is used to soak up crude oil in the La Chaudiere River in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on 10 July 2013. Credit: Reuters/Christinne Muschi.

Absorbent foam is used to soak up crude oil in the La Chaudiere River in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on 10 July 2013. Credit: Reuters/Christinne Muschi.

As a result, the government will expand the scope of its Oil Spill Response Science Program and open a second call for applications this month, Marc Wickham, Natural Resources Canada’s director of energy science and technology programs, said in an interview.

The program funds research that improves cleanup methods for marine oil spills. Those eligible include production, pipeline, and shipping companies in the energy sector.

Offshore Energy Today | 8 November 2016

Ten Oil Majors To Invest USD 1 Billion To “Help Tackle Climate Challenge”

The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), made up of chief executive officers (CEOs) of 10 major oil and gas companies, on 4 November announced an investment of USD 1 billion over the next 10 years to develop and accelerate the commercial deployment of innovative low-emissions technologies.

The CEO-led organization was designed to catalyze practical action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions following discussions during the 2014 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting and was officially launched at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in New York in September 2014.

It is currently made up of 10 oil and gas companies—BP, Shell, CNPC, Eni, Pemex, Reliance Industries, Repsol, Saudi Aramco, Statoil, and Total—that together represent one-fifth of the world’s oil and gas production.

OGCI Climate Investments’s aim is to deploy successfully developed new technologies among member companies and beyond. It will also identify ways to cut the energy intensity of both transport and industry. Working in partnership with like-minded initiatives across all stakeholder groups and sectors, the OGCI CI believes its emission reduction impact can be multiplied across industries.

In a joint statement, the heads of the 10 oil and gas companies that comprise the OGCI said, “The creation of OGCI Climate Investments shows our collective determination to deliver technology on a large-scale that will create a step change to help tackle the climate challenge. We are personally committed to ensuring that by working with others our companies play a key role in reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases, while still providing the energy the world needs.”

Bloomberg | 8 November 2016

Oklahoma Agency Plans To Shut Disposal Wells After Earthquake

Oklahoma’s oil and gas regulator plans to shut some disposal wells and reduce the volume of others as its initial response to the earthquake on 6 November near the oil hub of Cushing.

“Other plans are being developed that will encompass larger areas” and more details are coming tomorrow, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission said on 7 November in an emailed advisory.

The commission said the plan covered 700 square miles. It didn’t say how many wells were affected. When a quake of similar magnitude hit the state in September, the agency ordered 37 wells shut in a 500-square-mile area. The commission in 2015 established a “volume reduction area” covering 11,000 square miles, or about one-sixth of the state.

Environment Coastal & Offshore | 26 October 2016

Saudi Arabia’s Mysterious Coral Reefs Documented by International Team

Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida and King Abdulaziz University (KAU) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, partnered in the initial, 2-week expedition focused on coral abundance, diversity, and stress, along with the abundance and diversity of butterflyfish, sea urchins, seagrasses, and other species that may indicate the health of this critical environment. Preliminary results suggest that some life forms may be healthier or more diverse in southern Gulf of Aqaba waters further from denser human populations. More data and analyses are needed to verify the possible significance of trends, and the researchers aim for another expedition in summer 2017.

A coral reef off the Saudi Arabian coast of the Gulf of Aqaba. Credit: King Abdulaziz University.

A coral reef off the Saudi Arabian coast of the Gulf of Aqaba. Credit: King Abdulaziz University.

The Gulf of Aqaba is bordered by Egypt on the west, Israel and Jordan in the north, and Saudi Arabia on the east. Though relatively small—about 111 miles long (180 kilometers) and 12 miles wide (20 km)—the gulf is one of the northernmost living coral reef ecosystems and estimated to host approximately 210 species of hard corals and 120 species of soft corals. Coastal development and industry are denser in and around the northern-gulf cities of Eilat, Israel, and Aqaba, Jordan, while the Saudi Arabian coast is far less populous and its waters are far less studied.

“I have had the good fortune to lead comprehensive, multiyear studies with colleagues in the northern gulf since the mid-1990s, and the Gulf of Aqaba is known for its beautiful coral reefs. However, the Saudi Arabian portion of this significant body of water is largely unexplored—in particular, comprehensive studies of reef biodiversity and coral health down the length of this coast are lacking,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, president and chief executive officer of Mote and leading US partner in the expedition.

“With this expedition, we’ve initiated the first in what we expect to be a continuous time series of multidiscipline data acquisition and analyses spanning from the northern border with Jordan south along the Saudi Arabian coast of the gulf and into the Straits of Tiran. We’re excited to partner with the outstanding marine science faculty and students of King Abdulaziz University to gather these baseline data, which are necessary for understanding and addressing emerging challenges to their coral reefs.”

E&P | 24 October 2016

Taking a Studied Approach to Drilling Waste

What is risk? As Leigh Buchanan and Andrew O’Connell put it in the January 2006 issue of the Harvard Business Review, “Risk is an inescapable part of every decision.” Decisions regarding waste management policy in the oil and gas industry are no exception.

Drilling waste containing diesel-range organics and other constituents is being stored at a receiving site. Source: Scott Environmental Services.

Drilling waste containing diesel-range organics and other constituents is being stored at a receiving site. Source: Scott Environmental Services.

Drilling waste is one of the largest waste streams generated from oil and gas exploration and production in the US, with about 200 million bbl of solid drilling waste produced in 2014 alone. Drilling waste consists of the drilled cuttings and unrecovered drilling fluids, including water- and oil-based fluids. The risk management of drilling waste should be an important aspect of every drilling mud program. There are multiple publications that include important guidelines as well as several companies that are able to help assess and manage this risk.

Risk Is a Balance of Probability and Liability
In a mathematical sense, risk is a function of the probability of a poor or undesirable outcome and the associated costs or liability of that outcome. This is directly related to both probability and liability. One must first understand the probability and liability associated with a decision to determine risk. In accounting, this liability is generally referred to as a loss contingency and may or may not be reported on the balance sheet, depending on the probability of a loss event occurring. For an environmental risk assessment, human health and ecological risk assessments should first be calculated. The degree of risk can then be a factor in estimating financial liability.

Bloomberg | 20 October 2016

Consequences of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Ongoing

More regulations and more research are still to come on the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Government and academic specialists at a Capitol Hill briefing on 17 October offered a sampling of what has been done, is being done, and needs to be done as they discussed the consequences of the 2010 disaster.

The Interior Department has issued a series of rules to establish or revamp safety and environmental management systems, drilling safety, production safety, and Arctic-specific drilling requirements.

Upcoming will be a third set of requirements for safety and environmental management systems, according to Ryan Underwood, legislative counsel at Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

The bureau also is planning to develop more improvements stemming from equipment failure reporting and equipment lifecycle reliability data, Underwood said. The agency currently is engaging stakeholders in industry to develop a better understanding of why so many bolts fail and how to prevent the failures, he said.

Ocean News & Technology | 19 October 2016

NOAA Awards USD 9.3 Million To Advance Coral Reef Conservation

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coral Reef Conservation program is awarding more than USD 9.3 million in grants and cooperative agreements to support conservation projects and studies to benefit coral reef ecosystem management in seven US states and territories, the Caribbean, and Micronesia. Recipients will provide nearly USD 6 million in additional support.

Credit: NOAA.

Credit: NOAA.

All projects focus on the three primary threats to coral reefs: global climate change, land-based sources of pollution and unsustainable fishing practices, and highly threatened coral regions and watersheds.

“We’ve funded projects that are going to help coral scientists and managers move the conservation needle by doing the kinds of research and on-the-ground activities that it takes to reduce a diverse set of threats,” said Jennifer Koss, director of the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. “Taking steps today to build and keep coral reefs healthy and resilient directly affects the overall health of the ocean and all of us who depend on it.”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram | 17 October 2016

UTA Partners With Apache To Study Water Quality in Permian Basin

Researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) will partner with Apache to study water quality in its recent oil discovery in the Permian Basin.

Tetra fish swarm a swimmer as they are fed in the spring-fed swimming pool at Balmorhea State Park in Toyhvale, Texas, in 2006. Credit: LM Otero/AP.

Tetra fish swarm a swimmer as they are fed in the spring-fed swimming pool at Balmorhea State Park in Toyhvale, Texas, in 2006. Credit: LM Otero/AP.

Kevin Schug, a chemist at UTA who has been involved in other studies involving hydraulic fracturing and pollution, will conduct baseline studies of ground and surface water quality in the geologically complex Alpine High resource play the Houston energy company announced it had discovered last month.

The Alpine High field lies in the southern corner of the Delaware Basin within the coveted Permian Basin. Apache has described it as an “immense” oil and natural gas discovery that has at least 3 billion bbl of oil and 75 Tcf of gas, the company said.

Schug described the partnership as an “exciting opportunity” to work with an industry partner that is drilling in an area with what he called an “extremely sensitive ecology.” The area includes the natural springs which are a crucial source of water agriculture.

“We’re going to be able to work directly with them and do our sampling in concert with their operations,” Schug said. “We’re going to have access to their specific processes and tailor our analysis so we can see if there is a problem and work with them to correct it.”

Apache said the announcement of the UTA partnership demonstrates its interest in wanting to protect the environment and work with the local community.

“We share the community’s concerns for the protection of local water resources and want to be collaborative and transparent as we work diligently to develop the oil and gas resources of the area responsibly,” said Castlen Kennedy, a company spokeswoman.

 

Washington Examiner | 17 October 2016

Oil Industry Says Seismic Surveys Don’t Kill Dolphins

The oil industry is rejecting suggestions by the federal government that seismic surveying for fossil fuels in the ocean puts dolphins in danger.

Draft rules released by NOAA would require shutting down surveying operations to protect dolphins. Credit: Nick Ut/AP.

Draft rules released by NOAA would require shutting down surveying operations to protect dolphins. Credit: Nick Ut/AP.

In a call with reporters on 13 October, Andy Radford, an offshore senior policy adviser at the American Petroleum Institute, said the use of seismic surveys is safe to marine life and vital to the industry. Seismic surveys are essentially ultrasounds of the Earth to locate fossil fuel reserves beneath the surface.

A new draft rule released by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration included rules that would require shutting down surveying operations for dolphins.

“There is nothing to justify the need for these restrictions,” he said.

Reuters | 11 October 2016

BP Scraps Plan To Drill off Australia’s South Coast

Oil major BP has scrapped plans to drill for oil and gas off the southern coast of Australia because it is too expensive in the face of low oil prices that have prompted heavy cost-cutting across the sector.

A BP logo is seen at a filling station in London on 15 January 2015. Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor.

A BP logo is seen in London on 15 January 2015. Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor.

The Great Australian Bight project has been condemned by environmental groups who say it would damage whale and sea lion breeding grounds, but BP’s withdrawal can only be viewed as a partial victory for campaigners because the company and a number of others still hold exploration permits for the area.

BP said the project, in which it is partnered by Norway’s Statoil, would not be able to compete for capital investment with other opportunities in its global portfolio for the foreseeable future.

“This decision isn’t a result of a change in our view of the prospectivity of the region, nor of the ongoing regulatory process,” BP’s head of exploration and production in Australia, Claire Fitzpatrick, said in a statement.

“It is an outcome of our strategy and the relative competitiveness of this project in our portfolio.”

BP has cut its investment budget drastically this year to less than USD 17 billion, compared with USD 23 billion two years ago. Exploration activities have been hit particularly hard and a reshuffling of operations led to the departure of its exploration chief four months ago.