Kallanish Energy | 6 January 2016

Oil Firm Resists Call To Shut Down Wells Amid Earthquake Concerns

SandRidge Energy thus far is defying the Oklahoma oil and gas regulator’s request that it shut down six wastewater injection wells, despite allegations the injections may be contributing to earthquakes.

The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-based independent producer has complied with similar requests in the past, but this time said it will not stop using its wastewater wells.

Research links earthquakes in Oklahoma and other oil- and gas-producing states to disposal wells, although SandRidge and other shale producers have criticized geologic reports.

“We continue to work closely with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission [OCC]. We look forward to addressing this issue through OCC’s established rules and procedures, which will ensure decisions are based on scientific analysis. This is a complex issue, and science must be our guide as we work together to address it,” David Kimmel, SandRidge’s communications director, said.

The commission is working on legal action to modify SandRidge’s permits to force it to abandon the wells, Matt Skinner, a commission spokesman, told the Wall Street Journal.

Midwest Energy News | 29 December 2015

Scientists Seek More Data on Existing Water in Shale Formations

In hydraulic fracturing, what goes down is not always the same as what comes back up.

The process pumps millions of gallons of treated water and sand into deep shale formations so oil and natural gas can flow out.

Along the way, drilling and production also bring up brine from the ground—super-salty liquid with elevated levels of heavy metals, radium, and other chemicals.

If scientists can learn more about that naturally occurring water in the shale formations, drilling companies and well operators might figure out better ways to protect equipment and well integrity. More complete information could also lead to safer disposal options and other actions to protect public health and the environment.

Researchers from government, academia, and industry reported on new study results—looking at shale formations in Ohio and other states—at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Baltimore in November. But more data are needed to draw definitive conclusions.

Rigzone | 29 December 2015

Column: Paris Agreement Creates More Issues for Oil Industry

A few weeks ago, some 190 countries met in Paris to discuss ideas they believe will prevent global temperature from increasing no more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It is reminiscent of the age-old story of man trying to manipulate weather.

At the conference, the countries agreed to prepare and maintain plans they supposedly will implement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Each country’s plan, called the Nationally Determined Contributions, will be reviewed every 5 years starting in 2023. The plans are not legally enforceable, and the report casts serious doubt that this plan is sufficient to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C. Richer countries must provide at least USD 100 billion annually after 2020 to help developing countries reduce emissions.

Even though President Obama supports the agreement, the US Senate must ratify it, and that probably is not going to happen for a variety of reasons. One such reason is the lack of binding commitments from countries such as China and India previously in the Kyoto Protocol. The Senate overwhelmingly defeated ratification of Kyoto some 20 years ago.

The president cannot unilaterally commit the US to binding emission-reducing targets. Any emission targets and timetables must be ratified by the Senate.

Billings Gazette | 22 December 2015

State Investigation Finds Little Evidence Hydraulic Fracturing Contributed to Pollution

A 30-month state investigation costing more than USD 900,000 concludes hydraulic fracturing is unlikely to have contaminated drinking water east of Pavillion, Wyoming, but leaves many other questions unresolved about the role natural gas operations may have played in polluting the water.

Samples taken from 13 water wells in 2014 detected high levels of naturally occurring pollution. Test results showed little evidence of contaminants associated with oil and gas production.

Those findings, released 18 December as part of a report by the state Department of Environmental Quality, come almost 4 years to the day since the US Environmental Protection Agency released a draft report tentatively linking fracking to polluted water outside this tiny central Wyoming community.

Duane Morris via Mondaq | 22 December 2015

EPA Science Advisory Board Criticizes EPA’s Hydraulic Fracturing Study Report

On 4 December 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science Advisory Board (SAB) made public its first formal comments on the EPA’s June 2015 hydraulic fracturing study report (“Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources,” External Review Draft, EPA/600/R-15/047). Specifically, the SAB issued “Preliminary Summary Responses to Charge Questions from Members of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel.” These preliminary responses are bullet-styled answers to the eight “charge questions” that were posed by EPA to its SAB about the draft hydraulic fracturing study report.

Charge Question 4 asks the SAB the following specific questions, among others: “Are the major findings concerning well injection fully supported by the information and data presented in the assessment? Do these major findings identify the potential impacts to drinking water resources due to this stage of the hydraulic fracturing water cycle? Are the factors affecting the frequency or severity of any impacts described to the extent possible and fully supported?”

In its preliminary responses, the SAB did not pull punches in criticizing EPA’s work: “In general, the conclusions regarding how many wells are leaking or not are not well supported. … It is not clear from the chapter, nor from the summary of the data at the end of the chapter, that either the frequency or the severity have been adequately addressed, nor dismissed as unable to assess such impact or severity. The anecdotal data is not statistical in nature, and therefore conclusions as to severity and true risk are difficult to assess. The reader is left to wonder if anything can happen anywhere at any time.”

The Hill | 14 December 2015

Column: How Hydraulic Fracturing Has Helped the US Lead on Climate

As representatives from around the world work to finalize an agreement in the last few days at the Paris COP21 climate conference, it is important to acknowledge the fact that hydraulic fracturing and the increased use of natural gas has done more to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than any other government scheme or agreement.

Without adopting stringent policies such as the Kyoto treaty or cap-and-trade, the United States, the largest economy in the world, has the distinction of being the only country in the world to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.  That is why, in his address to world leaders at COP21, President Obama was able to tout that the “advances we’ve made have helped drive our economic output to all-time highs and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly 2 decades.”

The evidence of shale gas’ enormous role in reducing emissions is all around us. In fact, the world’s most prominent climate scientists, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has credited the hydraulic fracturing boom and US natural gas for the great progress that has been made on climate change: “A key development since AR4 is the rapid deployment of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal-drilling technologies, which has increased and diversified the gas supply and allowed for a more extensive switching of power and heat production from coal to gas; this is an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.”

Ocean News & Technology | 1 December 2015

Shedding Light on Oil Behaviors Before the Next Spill

A comprehensive scientific report released by The Royal Society of Canada (RSC) has concluded that there are still critical research gaps hampering efforts both to assess the environmental impacts of crude oil spills and to effectively remediate them.

The report, “The Behaviour and Environmental Impacts of Crude Oil Released into Aqueous Environments,” is designed to help the oil industry improve spill preparedness and response capabilities. It recommends prioritized research on the chemistry, properties, and spill behavior of various types of crude oil, from oil sands bitumen to diluted bitumen to other unconventional oils.

“There are essentially three challenge areas. We still don’t know enough about tar sand oil, or bitumen, which takes longer to break down due to its high viscosity but doesn’t spread. We also don’t know much about the behavior of oil from a blowout, such as the Deepwater Horizon BP blowout. And we know little of how crude oil behaves in the Arctic Ocean, where there is ice, or how to remediate it,” said Michel Boufadel, director of NJIT’s Center for Natural Resources Development and Protection and a member of the panel of experts charged with evaluating the impact of spills in Northern waters.

McCarthy Tétrault via Mondaq | 30 November 2015

Alberta Unveils Its New Climate Leadership Plan

On 22 November 2015, Alberta released its long-awaited Climate Leadership Plan. Contemporaneously with the climate plan, the government released the Climate Change Advisory Panel’s Report to the Minister, Climate Leadership.

Not surprisingly, carbon pricing has been identified by the climate panel as the primary policy tool for reducing emissions in the province. In particular, the panel recommends that the existing Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER) be replaced in 2018 by a Carbon Competitiveness Regulation that will broaden the reach of the province’s existing carbon pricing regime and implement additional policies to reduce the emissions intensity of the province’s electricity supply and its oil and gas production. Further, the plan will promote energy efficiency and add value to provincial resources through investments in technological innovation. To protect the competitiveness of Alberta’s core industries, the panel has recommended the allocation of emissions credits for industrial emitters.

Troutman Sanders via Mondaq | 30 November 2015

White House Issues New Mitigation Guidance, Including Net Benefit Goal

The White House has issued a Presidential Memorandum to several federal agencies regarding policies and principles for mitigating environmental impacts from land- and water-disturbing activities.

Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment was published in early November and incorporates a new “net benefit goal” expectation for mitigation in federal projects or projects requiring approval by these federal agencies.

The President also set a backstop goal for mitigation of “no net loss for natural resources the agency manages that are important, scarce, or sensitive, or wherever doing so is consistent with agency mission and established natural resource objectives.” In addition to the “net benefit goal” the guidance focuses on landscape-scale planning, habitat mitigation banks, and advance conservation measures.

DNV GL Conducts Largest Controlled Release of Carbon Dioxide From an Underwater Pipeline


Carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) is gaining momentum to meet stringent climate change goals and secure energy supplies for the future. To fully understand the environmental and safety implications associated with the development of carbon dioxide pipelines, DNV GL is conducting the oil and gas industry’s largest ever controlled release of carbon dioxide from an underwater pipeline at its full-scale Spadeadam Testing and Research Centre in Cumbria, UK.

Photo courtesy of DNV GL.

Photo courtesy of DNV GL.

The planned underwater release, scheduled to start in January, is part of an international joint industry project (JIP) to develop safety guidelines on the use of offshore carbon dioxide pipelines. Companies participating in the JIP are Norway’s Gassnova, Brazil’s Petrobras, the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, the UK’s National Grid, and DNV GL. Italy’s Eni is expected to join the JIP in early 2016.

This is the second experimental phase, which will run for 3 months and will involve releases in a 40-m-diameter, 12-m-deep pond at the Spadeadam Testing and Research Centre.

“This is the largest experimental investigation to date of underwater CO2 releases, which will study the effects of depth on measured and observed parameters,” said Gary Tomlin, vice president of safety and risk, with DNV GL at Spadeadam. “The testing is designed around what is already known about underwater natural gas (methane) leaks and the possible occurrence of CO2 hydrates collecting on pipework. By using high-speed, underwater cameras and other measurement techniques, we can examine the configuration and characteristics of the released gas. It will allow us to see whether it reaches the surface and analyze what happens.”

The installation of offshore carbon dioxide pipelines linked to depleted subsea gas reservoirs is a possible solution to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and large industrial sources. The transportation of carbon dioxide through offshore pipelines may also increase due to enhanced oil recovery programs.

The first phase of experiments are currently under way at Spadeadam and involves small-scale, controlled carbon dioxide releases from a 3-in. nominal bore pipeline in a 8.5-m-diameter, 3-m-deep water tank and are expected to be completed by December.

Spadeadam is one of a network of 18 laboratories and testing centres operated by DNV GL on three continents. The facility provides companies with the rare opportunity to undertake full-scale fire, explosion, and release experiments, to demonstrate whether equipment and components are fit for purpose; to test new products, techniques or processes; and to provide data to validate computer models. DNV GL are opening a new major hazard training and conference facility at the site in April 2016.

“Developing best-practice guidance through this ground-breaking project will help the CCUS industry establish itself as it begins the rollout of vital carbon abatement technology,” said Hari Vamadevan, regional manager, UK and Sub-Saharan Africa, DNV GL—Oil & Gas. “Spadeadam puts theory and desktop modeling to the test to prove the limits, capabilities, and behaviors of both small- and large-scale operations in real-world situations. The data gathered from this large-scale experimental program will enable adjustments to be made to computer modelling of CO2 dispersion. Even larger-scale, controlled testing in the natural environment may subsequently take place.”

Experimental findings are shared periodically with JIP participants so that next steps can be refined. Carbon dioxide testing at Spadeadam will conclude by June 2016.

Reuters | 19 November 2015

Australian Regulator Rejects BP Oil Exploration on Environmental Grounds

An Australian regulator rejected an application from BP to explore for oil off the coast of Southern Australia, saying the energy major’s proposal failed to meet environmental standards.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority said BP’s plan to drill in an area known as the Great Australian Bight “does not yet meet the criteria for acceptance under the environment regulations”, in a statement posted on its website.

A spokesperson for BP in Australia was not immediately available for comment.