Environment

Norway-Focused Firms Join Oil Spill Project

Source: Rigzone | 8 September 2014

Trondheim-based marine surveillance technology firm Aptomar announced that several Norway-focused oil and gas firms, as well as the Norwegian Coastal Administration, have teamed up with it in an industry project to improve oil spill detection and management.

Aptomar said that Eni Norge, Statoil, GDF Suez E&P Norge, and OMV Norge are all participating in the project to significantly strengthen technology functionality and communication infrastructure for offshore oil spill detection and management systems.

“Traditionally, the oil spill segment has been somewhat product focused. This joint industry project takes a broader system approach to oil spill detection and management. The objective is to improve safety while reducing costs through improving technologies and utilizing offshore assets more effectively,” Aptomar CEO Lars Solberg said in a company statement

Conservationists: Collaboration Can Protect Grouse and Drilling

Source: Fuel Fix | 25 August 2014

The best way to protect the greater sage grouse while keeping drill bits turning in Western states is for environmentalists and oil companies to work together on safeguarding the bird’s habitat, conservationists said.

Ten conservation groups made the plea for “collaboration and compromise” in a letter to the Western Energy Alliance, an industry group that recently launched an advertising campaign blaming environmental activists and lawyers for exploiting “bad science and the courts to stop responsible energy development.”

That is an “overgeneralization” of conservation-minded groups working to keep the bird off the endangered species list, said the letter-signers, including the Western Values Project, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Wilderness Society.

“Groups like ours are working diligently throughout the West, imploring all stakeholders to come to the table to achieve a workable, range-wide plan that protects existing rights, allows for needed new development, promotes other compatible uses and commits to conservation protections sufficient to avoid the necessity of the greater sage grouse being federally listed,” they wrote. “We feel strongly that the best path forward to achieving this goal is to genuinely collaborate with interested stakeholders, even those we might not always agree with.”

Validation of a Biological-Monitoring Design in Highly Diverse Tropical Forests

Source: Journal of Petroleum Technology | 14 August 2014

Biological-monitoring programs provide data for decision making and to ensure the protection of resources. However, in tropical ecosystems that are home to most of the planet’s biodiversity, these programs need to be improved in design and implementation. Block 57 in the Amazon rain forest of southern Peru is an ecosystem with limited information. A systematic biological-monitoring program was designed on the basis of a gradient of disturbance caused by clearing an area.

Introduction

Fig. 1—Block 57 in Cusco, Peru, on the southern Amazon plain.

Oil exploration in Block 57 involves clearing small forest areas during installation of drilling platforms. One of the consequences of this clearing is an increase of edges and the presence of habitats with early successional stages. An edge is defined as a transition zone between two adjacent ecosystems or vegetation communities. In these edges, deleterious effects may be generated.

A biological-monitoring plan has been designed as part of an environmental-management plan to understand the effect that the changes in the habitat associated with the exploratory wells within the primary cloud forests have on the abundance, richness, and diversity of the local flora and fauna.

Study Area

Fig. 2—Panoramic view of the Kinteroni BX platform.

Block 57 is on the southern Amazon plain and the first foothills of the eastern slope of the Peruvian tropical Andes Mountains (Fig. 1). This is one of the areas with the greatest precipitation and highest temperatures and relative humidity in Peru. At several locations, total annual precipitation exceeds 3000 mm. Relative humidity exceeds 90% in the mornings, and temperatures commonly exceed 37°C in the afternoons during the dry season when the sky is clear.

The study area is in the buffer zones of the Otishi National Park and the Ashaninka and Machiguenga Community Reserves. It is predominantly hilly, with mountainous areas in the western sector and terrace areas near the Tambo and Urubamba rivers. Floral composition in the study area is very heterogeneous with different densities. Palm trees are another representative and varied group in these forests, sometimes rising above the canopy.

The work design includes three platforms in Block 57—Kinteroni BX, Mapi LX, and Mashira GX. This study includes the results of monitoring conducted on the surroundings of the Kinteroni BX exploration platform, also known as Sagari (Fig. 2).

US Agency Withdraws Effort To Protect Wildflowers From Shale Development

Source: Shale Energy Insider | 6 August 2014

Conservation groups condemned a decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to withdraw a proposal to give Endangered Species Act protection to two imperiled wildflowers in Utah and Colorado.

The service proposed to protect the White River and Graham’s beardtongues and some of their most important habitat in August 2013 based on imminent threats from energy development, including oil shale. At the time, scientists estimated that 94% of the plants’ populations could be hurt or lost because of energy development.

The agency justified today’s withdrawal based on a hastily drafted, strictly voluntary “conservation agreement” with the Bureau of Land Management and several state and county agencies.

The groups are likely to challenge the decision.

Study Finds Effects of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Coral Wider Than Predicted

Source: Penn State University | 30 July 2014

A new discovery of two additional coral communities showing signs of damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill expands the impact footprint of the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The discovery was made by a team led by Charles Fisher, professor of biology at Penn State University. A paper describing this work and additional impacts of human activity on corals in the Gulf of Mexico will be published during the last week of July 2014 in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A colony of coral from a newly discovered coral community with attached anemones and brittle stars from a site 6 km from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill site. The patchy brown growth on the normally gold-colored coral is not found on healthy colonies and is diagnostic for corals affected by the spill. Credit: Fisher laboratory, Penn State University.

“The footprint of the impact of the spill on coral communities is both deeper and wider than previous data indicated,” said Fisher. “This study very clearly shows that multiple coral communities, up to 22 km from the spill site and at depths over 1800 m, were impacted by the spill.”

The oil from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico has largely dissipated, so other clues now are needed to identify marine species affected by the spill. Fisher’s team used the current conditions at a coral community known to have been affected by the spill in 2010 as a model “fingerprint” for gauging the spill’s effect in newly discovered coral communities.

WWF Study Says Arctic Oil Well Blowout Could Spread More Than 1000 km

Source: Reuters | 28 July 2014

Oil from a spill or oil well blowout in the Arctic waters of Canada’s Beaufort Sea could easily become trapped in sea ice and potentially spread more than 1000 km to the west coast of Alaska, a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) study showed.

The WWF contracted RPS Applied Science Associates to model 22 different oil spill scenarios and map the spread of the oil; potential effect on the water and shoreline; and interaction with sea ice, wildlife, and the surrounding ecology.

Types of oil spills analyzed included shipping spills, shallow-water blowouts, and deepwater blowouts.

 

Study Shows Oil and Gas Industry Working To Protect Greater Sage-Grouse

Source: Rigzone | 28 July 2014

Oil and gas companies are investing time, capital, and human resources to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse, a large, ground-dwelling bird that lives primarily in western North America and that some wildlife protection groups say is threatened by oil and gas activity, a recent study has found.

The study, conducted by Broomfield, Colorado-based SWCA Environmental Consultants for the Western Energy Alliance (WEA), a Denver-based oil and gas industry group, found that oil and gas companies implement an average of more than six conversation measures per project to protect the bird in public land operations.

In its analysis of 103 project National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents, SWCA found that companies implemented 773 conservation measures, or an average of 6.5 per project, across 68,404 sq miles of habitat in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. Noting that the industry has made significant efforts for many years to avoid, minimize, mitigate, and reduce the effect of oil and gas activity on the sage grouse and its habitat, the report documents specific conservation measures commit to in the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service NEPA decisions on oil and gas project approvals.

Researchers Say Hydraulic Fracturing Flowback Could Pollute Groundwater With Heavy Metals

Source: Cornell University | 14 July 2014

The chemical makeup of wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing could cause the release of tiny particles in soils that often strongly bind heavy metals and pollutants, exacerbating the environmental risks during accidental spills, Cornell University researchers have found.

Previous research has shown 10 to 40% of the water and chemical solution mixture injected at high pressure into deep rock strata surges back to the surface during well development.

Scientists at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences studying the environmental effects of this flowback fluid found that the same properties that make it so effective at extracting natural gas from shale can also displace tiny particles that are naturally bound to soil, causing associated pollutants such as heavy metals to leach out.

They described the mechanisms of this release and transport in a paper published in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Protection Sought for Rare Wildflowers Threatened by Oil Shale Development

Source: Shale Energy Insider | 14 July 2014

A broad coalition of conservation groups have sent a letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service urging the agency to grant Endangered Species Act protection to two imperiled wildflowers in Utah and Colorado. The Service proposed to protect the flowers and some of their most important habitat last August.

Unfortunately, in May, bowing to pressure from industrial energy interests, the agency announced it was considering substituting protection under the act with a completely voluntary “conservation agreement” to be executed by the US Bureau of Land Management as well as state and county agencies—the same parties that for many years have worked to block federal protection of the Graham’s and White River beardtongues.

The best available science makes clear that the two wildflowers need the protection of the Endangered Species Act to survive, according to the letter sent to the service this week by the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, Rocky Mountain Wild, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Utah Native Plant Society, Western Resource Advocates and Western Watersheds Project.

Researchers Unveil Ways To Reduce Environmental, Health Risks of Shale Gas Extraction

Source: West Virginia University | 30 June 2014

A new study by researchers at West Virginia University offers 10 recommendations for reducing the environmental and human health effects associated with horizontal drilling and the hydraulic fracturing process.

The recommendations address air, noise, and light pollution; water management; and engineering flaws associated with horizontal gas well development and completion.

The study, titled Practical Measures for Reducing the Risk of Environmental Contamination in Shale Energy Production, is co-authored by Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, John Quaranta, assistant professor of environmental engineering at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, and Michael McCawley, interim chair of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences at the School of Public Health.

Gas extraction from shale gas formations has been made possible by recent advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology. In the eastern United States, the Marcellus formation gas play is one of the nation’s major natural gas reserves and, in West Virginia alone, nearly 3,000 horizontal wells have been developed since 2008.

While rapid adoption of these methods has led to a surge in natural gas production in the United States, it has also increased public concern about its environmental and human health effects.

“These facilities are often located within a few hundred meters of homes and farms, many of which are supplied by shallow water wells,”  Ziemkiewicz said. “As a result, many of the public’s concerns focus on air and groundwater pollution as well as light and noise associated with horizontal drilling and well completion. This study was initiated largely due to these public concerns.”

Ziemkiewicz, along with the other researchers, conducted a thorough review of environmental literature relevant to shale gas development and examined more than 15 Marcellus shale facilities in northern West Virginia.

Study: Derelict Oil, Gas Wells May Be Major Methane Emitters

Source: Renew Economy | 23 June 2014

A study of abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania finds that the hundreds of thousands of such wells in the state may be leaking methane, suggesting that abandoned wells across the country could be a bigger source of climate changing greenhouse gases than previously thought.

The study by Mary Kang, a Princeton University doctoral candidate, looked at 19 wells and found that these oft-forgotten wells are leaking various amounts of methane. There are hundreds of thousands of such oil and gas wells, long abandoned and plugged, in Pennsylvania alone, and countless more in oil and gas fields across the country. These wells go mostly unmonitored, and rarely, if ever, are checked for such leaks.

Column: Exporting US Natural Gas Is as Clean as You Think

Source: Breaking Energy | 16 June 2014

Having read the US National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) report “Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Perspective on Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from the United States,” published on 29 May2014, we are puzzled by the skewed conclusions reached by the Washington Post:

“That U.S. exports of LNG to China could end up being worse from a greenhouse gas perspective than if China simply built a new power plant and burned its own coal supplies.” And that “the benefits of cleaner, more efficient combustion of natural gas are largely offset by methane leakage in US production and pipelines and by methane leaks and energy used in the process of liquefying and transporting the LNG.”

A correct reading of the report reaches a completely different conclusion. After accounting for all the methane leakage factors mentioned by the Post, the NETL study clearly demonstrates that life cycle GHG emissions from LNG exports from the US are significantly less than emissions from coal generated electricity in China and in Europe.