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USGS Model Could Guide Offshore Oil Spill Cleanup

Source: UPI | 10 February 2014

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

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

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

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

Source: Platts | 28 January 2014

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

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

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

EPA Vows Action on Fracturing Rules, Policy

Source: National Journal | 22 January 2014

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

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

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

New Guidelines Seek To Curb Risks to Whales From Seismic Tests

Source: Rigzone | 22 January 2014

Safeguards on seismic testing for an oil and gas project in the Pacific have shielded endangered whales from harm and are a model for managing the deafening blasts, the world’s largest environmental group said on 20 January.

Conservationists working with Sakhalin Energy Investment in Russia from 2006–12 said the tiny population of endangered Western Grey whales had risen approximately 3% a year to 140, despite seismic testing near their feeding grounds.

Seismic testing bounces sound waves into the seabed to seek deposits of oil and gas. It can harm whales and other marine life with blasts of 230 to 250 decibels, so loud that they can sometimes be detected 4000 km away.

“This work helps to set a standard,” said Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine and polar program at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “Once you have raised the bar … other companies will look bad if they are not deploying it.”

The IUCN includes governments, scientists, and conservation organizations and is the world’s biggest environmental alliance.

Laboratory Study Cuts Fracturing Waste’s Radioactivity

Source: Rigzone | 15 January 2015

Researchers believe they have found an unlikely way to decrease the radioactivity of some hydraulic fracturing wastewater: Mix it with the hazardous drainage from mining operations.

The wastewater is created when some of the chemical-laced water used to fracture thick underground rocks flows back out of the wellbore. The water is tainted with chemicals, toxins, and, in some parts of the country—such as Pennsylvania—naturally occurring radioactive materials, such as radium. Research has shown that even wastewater that had been treated with conventional means was changing the chemistry of rivers when discharged into waterways.

In 2011, Pennsylvania barred drillers from taking the wastewater to treatment facilities, forcing them to haul the fluid waste to be disposed in underground injection wells in Ohio. This, along with a lack of freshwater in other parts of the country needed to drill new wells, has scientists and the industry looking for creative solutions.

The discovery by Duke University researchers would allow oil and gas drillers to combine flowback waters from the fracturing process with acid drainage from mining or any other salty water. The solids that form, which include radioactive materials, are removed and dumped at a hazardous waste landfill, and then the now-cleaner water is used to drill a new well, said Avner Vengosh, the Duke professor who oversaw the project, which included scientists from Dartmouth College and the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

Column: AP Drilling Story Underscores Safety of Shale Development

Source: Energy in Depth | 9 January 2014

Recently, the Associated Press published a story with an eye-catching headline—“Some States Confirm Water Pollution From Drilling.” But anti-hydraulic fracturing activists hoping for proof of their claims that shale development is “inherently dangerous” better not pop the champagne corks just yet. A deeper dive into the details reveals a much more nuanced picture. In fact, the data obtained by AP actually tell us a lot more about the historic safety of shale development than any sort of uncontrollable risk.

Some States Confirm Water Pollution From Drilling

Source: The Associated Press | 9 January 2014

In at least four states that have nurtured the nation’s energy boom, hundreds of complaints have been made about well-water contamination from oil or gas drilling, and pollution was confirmed in a number of them, according to a review that casts doubt on industry suggestions that such problems rarely happen.

The Associated Press requested data on drilling-related complaints in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Texas and found major differences in how the states report such problems. Texas provided the most detail, while the other states provided only general outlines. And while the confirmed problems represent only a tiny portion of the thousands of oil and gas wells drilled each year in the US, the lack of detail in some state reports could help fuel public confusion and mistrust.

The AP found that Pennsylvania received 398 complaints in 2013 alleging that oil or natural gas drilling polluted or otherwise affected private water wells, compared with 499 in 2012. The Pennsylvania complaints can include allegations of short-term diminished water flow, as well as pollution from stray gas or other substances. More than 100 cases of pollution were confirmed over the past 5 years.

Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Drillers To Honor Act 13 Buffers

Source: Bloomberg | 9 January 2014

Pennsylvania’s oil and gas drillers have agreed to a request from Gov. Tom Corbett that they comply with buffer zones intended to protect waterways and wetlands even though the state Supreme Court struck down those environmental rules last month.

The voluntary agreement will keep deep-shale drilling pads and conventional oil and gas wellbores at least 100 ft from those environmentally sensitive areas. The buffer zones were included in oil and gas reforms, known as Act 13, that were passed in 2012.



Natural Gas Power Saves Texas Water, May Reduce Drought Risk

Source: BakerHostetler via Mondaq | 9 January 2014

A recent study by researchers Bridget Scanlon, Ian Duncan, and Robert C. Reedy of the Bureau of Economic Geology at The University of Texas at Austin found that the state of Texas consumed less water as a result of using natural-gas-fired power plants than it would have had it generated the same amount of electricity using coal-fired plants—even after taking into account the water used in hydraulic fracturing to source the natural gas used to generate the power. The overall impact of using natural gas power plants in Texas could help to make the state less susceptible to drought, despite the use of water for hydraulic fracturing.

What Energy, Environment Issues To Watch in 2014

Source: National Journal | 30 December 2013

This past year saw President Obama’s aggressive pronouncement of his climate agenda, more of the same for the Keystone XL pipeline, and some of the starkest evidence that America’s oil and natural-gas boom is turning on its head almost every bit of conventional wisdom about the global energy landscape. So what’s in store for 2014?

Comparing North Sea and Deepwater Gulf of Mexico Produced-Water-Treating Systems

Source: JPT | 12 December 2013

In terms of platform technologies and extraction strategies, there are fundamental differences between the North Sea and the deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GOM). We consider these systems in light of best practices in water-treating-system design and consider the reasons for deviation from those practices. This process provides insight into the design of water-treating systems in general, emphasizing the importance of carrying out effective water treatment early in the process and the necessity of using large end-of-pipe equipment when this is not possible.

New Study Suggests US Has Greatly Underestimated Methane Emissions

Source: The New York Times | 27 November 2013

A comprehensive new study of atmospheric levels of methane, an important greenhouse gas released by leaky oil and gas operations and livestock, has found much higher levels over the United States than those estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency and an international greenhouse gas monitoring effort. The paper, “Anthropogenic Emissions of Methane in the United States,” is being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, combining ground and aerial sampling of the gas with computer modeling, is the most comprehensive “top down” look so far at methane levels over the United States, providing a vital check on “bottom up” approaches, which have tallied estimates for releases from a host of sources—ranging from livestock operations to gas wells.