Environment
Bloomberg | 8 September 2016

Oklahoma Shuts More Wells as Quake Upgraded

Oklahoma drillers are being ordered to shut more wastewater wells just as the US Geological Survey (USGS) is upgrading an earthquake that occurred on 3 September to a record magnitude.

Oilfield workers pull pipes from a well near Crescent, Oklahoma, on 31 March. Credit: J. Pat Carter/Getty Images.

The Environmental Protection Agency said on 7 September that it has ordered the closure of 17 additional disposal sites under its jurisdiction in Osage County. The move follows the suspension of 37 wells by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and comes on the same day the USGS upgraded the temblor to 5.8 in magnitude, the highest ever for the state, from 5.6 previously estimated.

Oklahoma regulators had already been limiting the disposal of oilfield wastewater, which scientists have linked to seismic activity, before the quake that was felt from Texas to Illinois on 3 September. The number of earthquakes measuring 3.0 or higher reached at least 890 last year, up from just two in 2008, before the state’s drilling boom started. The USGS has not determined an official cause for the earthquake.

“At this point, we don’t want to attribute it specifically to any phenomena,” George Choy, seismologist at the US Geological Survey, said on 7 September in a phone interview. “We need to get more data to make sure everything is lined up before we say anything definitive.”

Hydrocarbon Processing | 7 September 2016

Prospective Costs of the EPA’s Proposed Risk Management Plan Chemical Accident Prevention Requirements

On 14 March 2016, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published proposed revisions to its Risk Management Plan (RMP) facility safety program in the US Federal Register. The proposed revisions include several changes to accidental-release prevention requirements, including:

  • Third-party audits of an RMP program following an accident
  • Considering inherently safer technology during hazard assessments
  • Conducting root cause analysis of management failures in relation to an incident
  • Taking actions to correct the root cause
  • Sharing information with emergency planners and the public

The EPA describes these proposed revisions as improvements to lessons-learned processes. Facilities affected by the proposed rule include petroleum refineries, large chemical manufacturers, wastewater treatment systems, chemical and petroleum wholesalers and terminals, food manufacturers, packing plants, agricultural chemical distributors, and midstream gas plants. The EPA allowed businesses to comment on the proposed changes until 13 May 2016.

What is the RMP?
Designed to protect public health and the environment from chemical accidents, the RMP applies to all stationary sources with processes that contain more than a threshold quantity of a chemical or material listed as regulated substances under Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act. The EPA’s RMP rules were designed to share many similarities with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Process Safety Management (PSM) standards. The RMP and PSM have many of the same criteria, and the requirements, guidance, and interpretations of the two programs generally align.

Processes covered by the RMP fall within one of three prevention program levels based on their potential for offsite consequences, accident history, and regulation under OSHA’s PSM rule. The first level, Program 1, includes 642 facilities that must comply with limited accident-prevention requirements, including hazard assessment and emergency response requirements.

Program 1 includes:

  • Processes that would not affect the public during a worst-case release and no accidents with offsite consequences in the last 5 years
  • Small quantities of flammables and less volatile toxins

Program 3 applies to the vast majority of facilities subject to the RMP (10,615 facilities), and has the most stringent requirements. Facilities subject to Program 3 include processes subject to OSHA’s PSM rule or facilities within one of 10 specified North American Industry Classification System codes, such as refining, chemical manufacturing, and energy production.

Program 2 applies to 1,285 facilities and covers processes not eligible for Program 1 and not subject to Program 3. Program 2 facilities consist mainly of water and wastewater treatment in Federal OSHA states. Sources in all three programs must prepare and submit an RMP to the EPA at least once every five years.

ExxonMobil | 30 August 2016

ExxonMobil Uses Microbes To Clean Water of Nitrates

A state-of-the-art approach akin to making microorganisms eat their vegetables is having award-winning results for ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge refinery as it takes a leadership role in combatting so-called dead zones that have plagued the Gulf of Mexico for the last 3 decades.

An aerial view of the Baton Rouge refinery with the wastewater treatment tanks at the bottom left. Source: ExxonMobil.

Nitrates in runoff from agricultural fertilizers have been identified as the main culprit for the dead zones—where massive algal blooms feeding off the nitrates starve areas of water for oxygen so they won’t support other marine life.

But nitrates are also a byproduct of the oil-refining process. So ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge refinery invested in a new system that uses microscopic organisms to feed on nitrates in the refinery’s water treatment system, breaking them down into nonharmful components such as nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon.

“We coach the bugs to denitrify our wastewater,” said Robert Berg, state regulatory advisor for ExxonMobil, using his own affectionate term for the microorganisms. “Bugs eat nitrates in nature, but we have put a process in place where we can make the bugs even more efficient at breaking down nitrates.”

E&E Publishing | 30 August 2016

Environmental Groups Pick Climate Fight With Feds, Seek To Rein in Leasing

A pumpjack bobs on public lands in Utah. Source: WildEarth Guardians.

Backers of the “keep it in the ground” movement have taken their efforts up a notch, asking a federal court to force the Obama administration to consider the climate effects of oil and gas leasing on public lands.

In a lawsuit filed on 25 August at the US District Court for the District of Columbia, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility argued that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to weigh the climate effects for at least 397 leases issued since early 2015. The leases represent a combined 380,000 acres in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

The lawsuit is one of the broader challenges to federal oil and gas leasing to date, asking the court to freeze action on the contested leases until BLM performs an in-depth analysis of climate effects from development on public lands. Without closer attention to climate effects, the groups say, leasing undermines President Obama’s efforts to mitigate climate change.

“In spite of the president’s commitment to US leadership in moving toward a clean energy future,” the complaint says, “Federal defendants continue to authorize the sale and issuance of hundreds of federal oil and gas leases on public lands across the interior west without meaningfully acknowledging or evaluating the climate change implications of their actions.”

The Texas Tribune | 23 August 2016

EPA: North Texas Earthquakes Likely Linked to Oil and Gas Drilling

Federal regulators believe “there is a significant possibility” that recent earthquakes in North Texas are linked to oil and gas activity, even if state regulators won’t say so.

That’s according to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s annual evaluation of how the Texas Railroad Commission oversees thousands of injection and disposal wells that dot state oilfields—underground resting places for millions of gallons of waste from hydraulic fracturing and other drilling activities.

“In light of findings from several researchers, its own analysis of some cases, and the fact that earthquakes diminished in some areas following shut-in or reduced injection volume of targeted wells,” the 15 August report states, “EPA believes there is a significant possibility that North Texas earthquake activity is associated with disposal wells.”

Bloomberg | 22 August 2016

Louisiana’s Sinking Coast Is a USD-100-Billion Nightmare for Big Oil

From 5,000 ft up, it is difficult to make out where Louisiana’s coastline used to be. But follow the skeletal remains of decades-old oil canals, and you get an idea. Once, these lanes sliced through thick marshland, clearing a path for pipelines or ships. Now they are surrounded by open water, green borders still visible as the sea swallows up the shore.

The canals tell a story about the industry’s ubiquity in Louisiana history, but they also signal a grave future: USD 100 billion of energy infrastructure threatened by rising sea levels and erosion. As the coastline recedes, tangles of pipeline are exposed to corrosive seawater; refineries, tank farms, and ports are at risk.

“All of the pipelines, all of the things put in place in the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s, were designed to be protected by marsh,” said Ted Falgout, an energy consultant and former director of Port Fourchon.

Louisiana has an ambitious—and expensive—plan to protect both its backbone industry and its residents from this threat, but, with a US- 2-billion deficit looming next year, the cash-poor state can only do so much to shore up its sinking coasts. That means the oil and gas industry is facing new pressures to bankroll critical environmental projects—whether by choice or by force.

“The industry down there has relied on the natural environment to protect its infrastructure, and that environment is now unraveling,” said Kai Midboe, the director of policy research at the Water Institute of the Gulf. “They need to step up.”

Offshore Energy Today | 22 August 2016

New Calculators To Improve Oil Spill Response Planning

The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has released four new oil spill response calculators as part of an ongoing effort to improve future clean-up efforts.

The bureau said on 17 August that it provided funding for, and collaborated with, Genwest to create the new calculators.

BSEE’s oil spill response coordinator for the bureau, John Caplis, said that the use of the calculators is viewed by BSEE as a best practice and that their use will be strongly encouraged when operators prepare oil spill response plans for offshore facilities.

Caplis explained that the new calculators focus on methods to identify optimum system arrangements for three oil spill clean-up approaches: mechanical recovery equipment, dispersants, and in situ burn.

JPT | 8 August 2016

Making an E&P/Fisheries Management Plan Work in Ghana With Multiple Stakeholders

Ghana’s fishers and coastal communities have raised concerns over the effects of offshore oil exploration and production relating to the giant Jubilee field. In 2014, the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency initiated an independent study of marine conditions as a key step forward, with the endorsement of the Ministry of Fisheries. The study included extensive participation from fishing groups, oil companies, government officials, nongovernmental organizations, and other interested parties, and produced a number of recommendations. This paper describes the process and results of the multistakeholder approach to solving marine-zone conflicts.

Background
Following the discovery of the Jubilee field in 2007, the rapid development and launch of the offshore commercial oil production have attracted major oil and gas companies, with huge capital injection into the national ­economy as well as related sorely needed social investments and developments in communities of the Western Region and other sectors.

Offshore-resource development has raised expectations and has fueled speculation and confusion about the actual environmental effects of the oil and gas activities. A resulting backlash, including blame of oil and gas activities for myriad problems associated with fishing and the marine environment—such as declining fisheries and poor landings, frequent beaching of whales, algae nuisance, presence of tar balls, and contamination of fish—indicated a clear need for scientific study and research-based action to reveal the actual environmental situation and trends.

Independent Study
An independent study was commissioned in 2014 by Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency and Kosmos Energy Ghana to explore stakeholders’ environmental concerns and evaluate the extent to which marine environmental challenges could be linked to or mitigated by oil and gas industry action. The study focused on six major themes:

  • Fishery and fishing decline
  • Whale mortality
  • Algal blooms
  • Tar balls
  • General marine environmental conditions
  • General coastal socioeconomic conditions

After a review of nearly 200 studies, extensive stakeholder consultation, and independent analysis of existing research and data, the joint international/Ghanaian study team found that some of the concerns raised were not directly attributable to the offshore oil and gas activities, while others appeared to be. The study made 13 general recommendations for addressing these major issues and concerns, whether attributable to oil and gas activities or not. The recommendations were prioritized further to facilitate specific immediate actions and included

  • Management plans to mitigate the effect of an exclusion zone
  • Strengthened capacity for governance of fishing activities
  • Additional measures to minimize harm to whales
  • Marine-noise study and management practices
  • Algae source study and management plan
  • Tar-ball fingerprinting analysis and management plan
  • Continuous improvement in waste management
  • Continuous improvement in oil-spill prevention and response
  • Integrated, participatory, and transparent baseline data compilation
  • Additional measures to minimize effects on fishing activities

Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee and Action Plans
To ensure the effective implementation of adopted recommendations, the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) established a Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MFAC) with the mandate of formulating sectorwide action plans.

The action plans that were developed are the result of focused efforts, research, and consultation by the members of the MFAC. Each of the action plans represents a brief and focused response to the priority recommendations raised by the independent study. The plans are intended to be strategic and high level, providing description of key activities and objectives. Appropriate institutions/organizations were identified to perform the next step of detailing the stated actions for implementation where feasible. Otherwise, contracting arrangements and options have been indicated for selecting contractors or consultants to elaborate on the actions for execution.

MFAC assumes responsibility for coordinating the implementation of the action plans, per its charter, under the ­auspices of an Inter-Ministerial Oversight Committee (IMOC) through MoFAD. MFAC’s overarching mission (under the direction of IMOC) includes supporting MoFAD and other ministries in

  • Ensuring strategic coexistence of oil and gas and fisheries sectors
  • Harmonious use of marine space and seabed
  • Promoting intersectoral management of marine resources
  • Coordinating information sharing and decisions on fishing and other industries that use marine resources

Membership of MFAC reflected the view that successful marine-sector management would require an inclusive strategy in order to ensure that a broad array of interests were represented.

The action plans are intended to inform a 2-year initial design, launch, and implementation period, which will be followed by review, realignment, and follow-on activities coordinated by MFAC.

The seven broad areas covered by the action plans are

  • Governance of the marine sector
  • Stakeholder awareness on oil-development and marine-resource issues
  • Marine environment research in support of resource protection
  • Marine spatial planning for integrated management
  • Marine- and coastal-data generation and use
  • Land-based sources of contaminants and degradation of coastal waters
  • Livelihood diversification in coastal fishing communities

The action plans include objectives and activities for each of the seven focus areas, as well as scope, timeline, implementation strategy, and potential lead and supporting organizations. A summary version of the integrated action plans follows.

Action Governance.
Primary Objectives.

  • To ensure coastal- and marine-policy coordination is placed at the highest ministerial level
  • To facilitate sector integrated management
  • To promote streamlined regulatory functions
  • To facilitate effective institutional working relationships and collaboration
  • To promote efficient access to sector data

Major Milestones and Activities.

  • Formation of new, intergovernmental coordinating bodies
  • Establishment of a marine-database center

Stakeholder Awareness.
Primary Objectives.

  • To develop evidence-based information targeted at specific stakeholders
  • To disseminate the information
  • To facilitate prompt reporting of environmental challenges, such as beached whales or sighting of tar balls

Major Milestones and Activities.

  • Carrying out awareness activities and dissemination through public forums, focus-group discussions, seminars, public announcements, video documentaries, radio or television programs, websites, and other means
  • Developing material and delivering training

Marine-Environment Research.
Primary Objectives.

  • To introduce conservation practices in support of improved fisheries and sustainable fishing efforts
  • To ensure continuous monitoring of cetaceans and investigation of causes of their mortality in Ghanaian waters
  • To intensify investigation on the beneficial uses of green algae

Major Milestones and Activities.

  • Designation of potential marine parks, conservation areas, and spawning and feeding grounds
  • Fish stock assessment and study and introduction of closed seasons
  • Cetacean migratory monitoring and documentation
  • Tar-ball sampling, documentation, and reporting

Marine Spatial Planning.
Primary Objectives.

  • To determine and designate areas for streamlined multiple use
  • To promote integrated management of marine resources and space
  • To ensure peaceful coexistence between fishers and the industry
  • To publicize the national Marine Spatial Plans (MSPs)
  • To enact appropriate legislation to back the MSPs

Major Milestones and Activities.

  • Review and study of existing designated areas
  • Specialized site studies
  • Development of a safe-sea-access strategy
  • Stakeholder review of prospective MSPs and sites

Marine and Coastal Data.
Primary Objectives.

  • To create a centralized coastal and marine database
  • To facilitate consistent time-series monitoring
  • To support the use of data generated (both baseline and monitoring) for national use
  • To conduct trend analysis to interpret events in the marine and coastal sector

Major Milestones and Activities.

  • Baseline survey on fisheries value chain
  • Coastal socioeconomic survey
  • Marine-environment baseline data collection (e.g., water quality and chemical indicators, fish tissue analysis, and chemical constituents)

Land-Based Sources of Contaminants/Coastal Degradation.
Primary Objectives.

  • To establish extent of land-based pollution loading on coastal waters
  • To support preparation of district land-use schemes and local plans

Major Milestones and Activities.

  • Sampling and monitoring of coastal waters for chemical pollution
  • Developing district land-use planning schemes focused on agricultural use and waste management
  • Waste management, including waste segregation and recycling awareness

Coastal Livelihood Diversification.
Primary Objectives.

  • To enhance access to education
  • To promote higher education for children, particularly in fishing communities
  • To promote complementary livelihood opportunities and skills development

Major Milestones and Activities.

  • Comprehensive scholarship scheme
  • Implementation of access-to-education projects
  • Development of livelihood-skills projects

Conclusion
It remains to be seen how successful Ghana’s multistakeholder approach to marine and fisheries management will be; the research and stakeholder-informed action plans have just been launched. But the effort has been noteworthy in its explicit recognition of the need for government leadership, industry support, and civil-society cooperation and collaboration in order to tackle a critical environmental and socio­economic challenge. Ghana’s marine environment and fisheries are of paramount importance to its coastal population, and a successful collaborative model could represent an approach that has global applicability.


JPT | 7 August 2016

New Optical Gas-Imaging Technology for Quantifying Fugitive-Emission Rates

Optical gas-imaging (OGI) technology has been developed and can be used to detect leaks of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from process equipment. Using OGI to detect leaks is more effective than using the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Method 21 because OGI is visual, making detection faster, and can survey an area instead of one component at a time. Although OGI can be very effective in detecting leaks, it does not provide a quantitative measure of leak rate (LR), hindering its adoption as a true alternative to Method 21. This paper describes development of quantitative OGI (QOGI) technology.

Method and Preliminary Results
Approaches have been proposed to establish a quantitative relationship between the pixel intensity difference with and without a plume (ΔI) and the product of concentration in ppm and path length in meters (ppm·m) for a gas column represented by a pixel in the infrared (IR) image for a given temperature differential (ΔT) between ambient air and the background. This quantitative relationship has been confirmed with a study showing that there is a monotonically increasing relationship between ΔI and concentration for uniform black background that was temperature controlled. That study’s data also showed that ΔI increases as the temperature of the background increases for a specific gas concentration.

The working principle of the QOGI can be described as briefly follows:

  • IR images of a leak are analyzed for intensity on a pixel-by-pixel basis.
  • Each pixel represents a column of hydrocarbon vapor between the IR camera and the background.
  • Pixel contrast intensity (ΔI) is defined as the intensity difference at the pixel level between the background with and without the absorption because of hydrocarbon molecules.
  • ΔI is a function of the temperature difference between the background and the plume (ΔT).
  • At a given ΔT, the intensity is proportional to the number of hydrocarbon molecules in the vapor column.
  • The LR is reflected in both pixel intensity and the number of pixels that have a ΔI higher than a certain threshold. Inversely, the combination of intensity and that number determines LR.

On the basis of this methodology, a computer program has been developed that captures raw IR data from an IR camera and analyzes it for LR. The IR camera must be radiometrically calibrated to make it capable of measuring temperature at the pixel level. To analyze the IR images, the user must also enter an estimate of ambient temperature and distance from the component being tested into the IR camera. All other variables required for determining LR are preprogrammed. With the captured IR images and the two ­user-provided input parameters, the program will calculate the mass leak rate in pounds per hour (lbm/hr).

Accuracy of QOGI on the basis of 80 tests for propane.

Work to date has measured the component leak rate using QOGI technology on accurately controlled releases, with the focus on propane. Flow rate, or LR, was set using a calibrated mass-flow controller. The IR camera was positioned approximately 10 ft away from the release point. All of the tests performed to date (80 total) were conducted in an outdoor, open-air environment. The types of backgrounds tested included a uniform temperature-­controlled metal board, a building wall, and gravel. These tests were conducted in sunlight and in shade, in ambient temperatures from 37 to 95°F, in relative humidity from 50 to 90%, and in various moderate wind conditions. Because the true LRs were known in these tests, the accuracy of this method can be assessed by comparing the true LR and the LR measured by QOGI (Fig. 1). Eight LRs were tested, represented by eight pairs of bars in Fig. 1. The green bars represent the true LRs, with the number indicating the rate. The purple bars represent the average LR measured by the QOGI method. The red error bars represent ±1 standard deviation from the average. Within these 80 tests, the measured LRs were between -17 and 43% from the true values.

A limited number of tests have also been performed for methane and ethylene. Leak rates were determined for these materials using IR response factors (RFs) developed on the basis of the IR spectra of methane and ethylene relative to the spectra of propane. Measured LRs used RFs developed from these known spectra (vs. direct RF measurement) and indicate good agreement between the true and measured rates for the set of tests conducted.

Discussion
The accuracy of the QOGI method as discussed previously pertains to a limited range of conditions, and more-­comprehensive tests are planned to characterize QOGI accuracy under a broad range of environmental conditions. The initial results are encouraging, especially when comparing measurement accuracy with inherent uncertainties in Method 21. The uncertainties associated with the current Method-21-based methodology come from three potential sources:

  • Measured screening values (SVs)
  • Compound and instrument-specific RFs
  • Correlation equations that are applied to the SVs to estimate emissions rate

The SV is a concentration measurement that uses a probe to examine a component to determine the maximum concentration for a small set of components that potentially could leak. Concentration is not proportional to the LR but is presumed to be for estimating LR by use of Method 21. Factors such as the geometry of the leaking component, the pressure inside the equipment, wind speed, and atmospheric turbulence will affect the concentration measurement (or SV reading). For a small leak area (i.e., from a single point), the concentration measured by use of Method 21 will be much higher than that for a more-­diffuse leak. This will produce significantly different SVs with Method 21, even if the leaks are controlled to the same rate.

Another source of error for Method 21 is the RF for each compound in the gas leak, which corrects detector differences for each compound in the emitted gas. The portable detector used for Method 21 surveys is calibrated with one compound, but actual material leaking may be a different compound or a mixture of compounds. To determine the true concentration of the leaked compound, an RF is applied to account for differences between calibration gas and the emitted gases. RF is a predetermined ratio between the reading of the calibration gas and the gas in question.

The EPA has compiled RFs for approximately 200 compounds. The RFs can vary by an order of magnitude for different compounds or from one instrument type to another. Per the EPA’s 1995 Protocol, if RF is less than 3, no adjustment is required. This means that the measured SV could have up to a 200% error if the SV is not applied per the protocol. In addition, if the RF does not reflect the actual mixture of compounds emitted, additional error in the estimate of LR is introduced.

Even if the SV is perfectly accurate, the potential for error exists when correlation equations are applied to the SV to estimate mass emission rate. The correlation equations were developed on the basis of field tests in which SVs were determined by Method 21 and actual mass emission rates were determined with another technique. The correlation between these paired data sets was not very strong, as indicated by low R2 values from 0.32 to 0.54. As a result, the ratio of LR predicted by these correlation equations to the measured LR ranges from approximately 0.2 to greater than 4. As such, errors in the LRs estimated with the EPA protocol for Method 21 could be in the range of -80 to 300% using ­Method 21 when all of the potential sources of error are propagated.

With Method 21, the concentrations are measured and emission rates are estimated. In comparison, QOGI directly measures mass LRs. In the tests reported in this paper, the errors in the QOGI results are substantially smaller than those that would be expected from application of Method 21.

Summary
It has been demonstrated, with initial but compelling data, that QOGI is technically feasible. QOGI directly measures emission rates. This is fundamentally different from Method 21, which estimates emission rates using concentration measurements, SVs, RFs, and correlation equations. With a QOGI commercial product, operators have to enter only ambient temperature and the distance from the leak site into the IR camera. The QOGI product can then capture the IR images for approximately 30 seconds and provide the operator with a measurement of the mass emission rate. Consequently, it is expected that QOGI will be able to reduce significantly the time to complete a survey while providing more-accurate measurement of emission rates.


This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights of paper IPTC 18471, “New Optical Gas-Imaging Technology for Quantifying Fugitive-Emission Rates,” by Hazem Abdel-Moati, ExxonMobil Research Qatar; Jonathan Morris and Yousheng Zeng, Providence Photonics; Petroula Kangas, ExxonMobil Chemical Europe; and Duane McGregor, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, prepared for the 2015 International Petroleum Technology Conference, Doha, Qatar, 7–9 December. The paper has not been peer reviewed. Copyright 2015 International Petroleum Technology Conference. Reproduced by permission.

Reuters | 1 August 2016

Still Waters: US To Crack Down on Ocean Noise That Harms Fish

The ocean has gotten noisier for decades, with man-made racket from oil drilling, shipping, and construction linked to signs of stress in marine life that include beached whales and baby crabs with scrambled navigational signals.

An Israeli gas platform, controlled by a US/Israeli energy group, is seen in the Mediterranean sea west of Israel’s port city of Ashdod in 2013. Credit: Reuters/Amir Cohen.

The United States aims to change that as a federal agency prepares a plan that could force reductions in noise-making activities, including oil exploration, dredging, and shipping off the nation’s coast.

“We’ve been worried about ocean noise for decades, since the 1970s,” said Richard Merrick, chief science adviser to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries agency and a key author of the agency’s more detailed 10-year plan to be released publicly later this year. “The question is, what should we do now?”

The draft plan calls for developing noise limits and setting up a standardized listening system. It would also call for the creation of an online archive of noise data that could hold thousands of hours of recordings, which scientists could then cross-reference against data on where marine life congregates.

The plan urges more research on the effects of noise on sea creatures and more coordination with environmental and industry groups, the military, and government.

The Canadian Press | 27 July 2016

Oil-Sniffing Dogs Can Help Detect Pipeline Leaks, Calgary Handler Says

Duke has the scent.

The white-gold lab lopes through a field, pulling his owner, Ron Mistafa, behind him.

Ron Mistafa, owner of Detector Dog Services, and Duke rest after training in a field near Calgary to hunt for oil pipeline leaks. Credit: The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh.

It takes about a minute for the pooch to circle through the tall grass and hone in on the spot where Mistafa has buried a small jar of crude oil.

“Atta boy!” Mistafa says to Duke, who is digging away the dirt covering the jar. Mistafa tosses the dog his reward for a job well done—a rubber ball to chew on.

For about 2 decades, Mistafa has run Detector Dog Services International, a Calgary-based outfit that helps clients in the oil and gas sector to search out pipeline leaks, drugs, and explosives.

Mistafa has two dogs working for him: Duke, for pipeline leak jobs, and George, a lab cross who specializes in drugs and explosives. Both live with Mistafa, along with a springer spaniel named Toby, who is retired.

 

Eco Magazine | 27 July 2016

Offsetting the Effects of Deepsea Mining Activities

A pioneer of the sustainable seafood movement, Christopher Fisher Goldblatt has enjoyed many years as a fishing vessel operator, free-dive spear fisherman, and international seafood trader. He has worked in more than 30 countries with fishermen and fisheries managers and is the founder and managing director of the Fish Reef Project, which has been given observer status by the International Seabed Authority (ISA). Goldblatt is also the author of seven ocean-related books, a contributing columnist to ocean-related publications, and producer of films for international ocean film festivals.

Chris Goldblatt, CEO, Fish Reef Project

The Fish Reef Project has been given observer status by the ISA. What does your role entail?
The ISA is a United Nation­s-sanctioned body set up to manage the extraction of deepsea minerals. It includes more than 160 nations and has been at work for 20 years creating the operating agreements for extraction that prevent conflicts between nations and assure a degree of fairness and access for smaller nations. The ISA meets every July for nearly three weeks. Fish Reef Project was vetted over a full year and voted in as a permanent observer to the ISA by all member states. Observer status provides access to the general assembly and intimate discussions about the future of deepsea mining. We also speak on record at the general assembly. The duty of observers is to address issues that may otherwise not be discussed and to lend an outside perspective. In the case of the Fish Reef Project, we are an NGO (nongovernmental organization) that was concerned that no action was being taken to offset the coming environmental impacts of deepsea mining, either by NGOs, industry, or state parties. We are proud to say that we have provided leadership in this realm by creating a worldwide system of measurable marine biomass offsets known as the International Marine Mitigation Bank (IMMB) that can help balance the scales of nature once impacts occur to the deep sea. Fish Reef Project has a specific mission to restore and enhance the marine ecosystem, and the IMMB is the perfect vehicle to accomplish this vital task.

What can nations do to avoid irreversible damage to ocean ecosystems?
Impact avoidance is paramount and should always be the first option. There are three types of deepsea mining: hydrothermal vents for sulfides, which have the most sensitive ecosystems; cobalt­-rich crusts; and poly­metallic or manganese nodule fields. Once the impact occurs in the deep sea, especially with regard to the manganese nodule fields, the reality is that there is no fixing it in the area of impact. Hence, to restore and enhance more bio­diverse nearshore ecosystems such as coral reefs is the very best way to balance the scales of nature. By aiding nearshore ecosystems, we can bring massive socio­economic benefits to local communities that otherwise would never see a single benefit from deepsea mining. The Law of the Sea states very clearly that the ocean should be seen as single system and not compartmentalized—so this way of acting is in good keeping with the Law of the Sea. The Law of the Sea, which was, in part, originally motivated by mineral extraction rights, also clearly states that project owners have a clear legal obligation to make environmental recompense for their impacts—so it is vital that a solid, measurable system such as the IMMB be created. The Equator Principals expressly require that projects funded by its many members mitigate or offset their environmental impacts regardless of where they occur. In many cases, the Equator Principals cannot be met due to lack of a good mitigation/offset structure. The IMMB system will allow such projects to meet the terms of Equator Principals and bring the projects into compliance, thus resulting in greater political, social and ecological stability.