The Hill | 17 November 2015

Oil Group: Regulators Are Ignoring Impact of Natural Gas on Emissions

The oil and gas lobby says the Obama administration is ignoring the role of natural gas in reducing carbon emissions around the country.

In a report issued 16 November, the American Petroleum Institute (API) noted that the United States has done more to reduce its carbon emissions than other developed nations and attributed that decrease to an abundance of American natural gas.

The natural gas boom, API President Jack Gerard said, “has helped us achieve substantial and sustained emissions reductions without command-and-control style regulatory intervention.” The group said natural gas is a good way to produce power with lower emissions than other energy sources, noting that half of the 22 states with below-average emissions use natural gas more than any other fuel.

The industry has long said the US should rely on gas as it transitions to cleaner power and has pushed back against power plant regulations issued by President Obama.

Emissions reductions didn’t come “through government mandate. It wasn’t through a carbon tax. It wasn’t through any directive. It was done primarily driven by market forces within the context of all of the above,” Gerard said.

Coloradoan | 10 November 2015

CSU Study Finds Little Water Contamination From Oil, Gas

Colorado State University (CSU) scientists say there is virtually no evidence of water-based contaminants seeping into drinking water wells atop a vast oil and gas field in northeastern Colorado.

Ken Carlson, professor of civil and environmental engineering, has led a series of studies analyzing the effect of oil and gas drilling on groundwater in the 6,700-square-mile Denver-Julesburg basin. That basin extends north/south from Greeley to Colorado Springs and east/west from Limon to the foothills.

“There isn’t a chronic, the-sky-is-falling type of problem with water contamination,” Carlson said.

The studies have been performed under the auspices of Colorado Water Watch, a state-funded effort begun last year for real-time groundwater monitoring in the Denver-Julesburg basin. The basin shares space with more than 30,000 active or abandoned oil or natural gas wells.

The CSU researchers primarily looked at the 24,000 producing and 7,500 abandoned wells in the Wattenberg Field, which sits mainly in Weld County.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | 10 November 2015

Drilling Company Disputes New Evidence in Water Contamination Case

Range Resources and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection say a Washington County man who claims the shale gas drilling company contaminated his water well in 2011 should not be granted another hearing based on what he contends are new disclosures about federal water test results and the company’s use of chemical “tracers.”

Attorneys for Loren “Buzz” Kiskadden say those documents and facts were concealed by Range before and during a 20-day hearing last fall at the state Environmental Hearing Board, which ruled against Kiskadden in June.

His attorneys, John and Kendra Smith, are asking Commonwealth Court—where they appealed the hearing board’s ruling—to instead remand, or return, the case to the board for a rehearing on the new evidence. A hearing on that request is scheduled for 17 November.

But the drilling company and the department, in separate 34-page responses filed in Commonwealth Court, say some of the tracer and water test results were disclosed as long as 2 years ago and others by April 2015, so the claims of important “new” information don’t hold water.

The drilling company and the department also say that antimony, which is used as a tracer, was not found in Kiskadden’s water well, as his attorneys have claimed, and that no hydrogeologic connection exists between Range’s Yeager gas well in Amwell and the water well.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania DEP Allows Shale Companies To Bury Wastewater Lines

John Swart has no interest in having a bulky water line draped across his Washington County, Pennsylvania, pasture, and neither do his cows.

“They are very big lines,” the West Finley farmer and township supervisor said. “Animals crossing them—they could break a leg.”

So when a shale gas operator wanted to run a fluids pipeline through Swart’s property to get to a planned gas well, he agreed on the condition that the line be buried.

This year, that option seemed in doubt, until a single word—“and”—was added to a suite of proposed drilling regulatory changes that will allow shale gas companies to continue to bury wastewater pipelines that ferry fluids between a network of well sites and storage facilities.

The economical edit by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) means that only temporary wastewater lines installed to serve one well site at a time will have to run above ground, where they can easily be monitored for leaks.

Only a few Marcellus Shale operators have installed buried wastewater lines, DEP officials said.

Buried pipelines that carry fresh water to well sites are far more common, and the proposed regulations have always allowed those to run below ground.

Companies use the buried pipelines in areas of concentrated well development, where the lines will link many wells over long periods of time during fluid-intense stages such as drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The lines are also installed where overland pipes or tanker traffic would be particularly disruptive. Or the pipelines are built to meet the standards of natural gas gathering lines so the same infrastructure can be used to carry gas away from the sites once wells are completed.

A push for the “and” started months ago, when the Marcellus Shale Coalition wrote in public comments that the way DEP defined “well development pipelines” in its revised oil and gas rules would prohibit the use of centralized semipermanent underground pipelines.

And that, the coalition said, would result in “hundreds of thousands of additional truck road hours per year to transport fluids.”

DEP made the edit only recently after Consol Energy and its joint venture partner Noble Energy, which have installed below-ground pipeline networks to transport fluids in their Marcellus Shale operating areas, met with regulators and helped community partners—including landowners, township officials, the Greene County Commissioner,s and the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce—arrange a letter-writing campaign.

Mr. Swart sent in one of those letters.

“Reduced truck traffic, less risk of weather-related or accidental damage, less risk of vandalism, efficiencies that encourage water reuse and limit the need for disposal—all are benefits to maintaining this best practice,” Consol spokesman Brian Aiello said.

E&E Publishing | 29 October 2015

BLM Considers Leases for 5 Million Acres of Deferred Leases in Sage Grouse Habitat

For several years, the Bureau of Land Management imposed a de facto moratorium on oil and gas leasing in prime sage grouse habitat, deferring the sale of more than 5 million acres industry had nominated to drill in seven Western states. The idea was to wait until BLM had regulations in place that could allow drilling to proceed without destroying the bird’s sage-steppe habitat.

Now that sage grouse has been deemed safe from extinction, BLM is considering which of those lands to put on the auction block.

They include 2.2 million acres in Nevada, 1.6 million acres in Wyoming, 600,000 acres in Montana, and more than 300,000 acres each in Colorado and Utah, according to BLM data. Smaller acreage had also been deferred in the Dakotas.

The data cover lease sales from calendar years 2009 to 2014.

The total acreage —more than twice the size of Yellowstone National Park—is a “huge amount” of land, said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs at the Western Energy Alliance, a regional oil and gas trade group based in Denver whose members depend heavily on public lands.

Clean Technica | 21 October 2015

Oil and Gas CEOs Call for Effective Climate Change Agreement at COP21

The CEOs of 10 of the world’s largest oil and gas companies have called for an effective climate change agreement from next month’s UN climate change conference.

CEOs at the 16 October OGCI event.

In a meeting that was heralded last week, eight of the 10 CEOs who currently make up the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) met to discuss and then explain how they intend to help combat climate change. In addition to releasing its collaborative report, “More Energy, Lower Emissions,” the OGCI also published a joint declaration outlining its “collective support for an effective global climate change agreement.”

In the joint declaration, the CEOs of BG Group, BP, Eni, Petróleos Mexicanos, Reliance Industries Limited, Repsol, Royal Dutch Shell, Saudi Aramco, Statoil, and Total recognized “the general ambition to limit global average temperature rise to 2°C, and that the existing trend of the world’s net greenhouse gas emissions is not consistent with this ambition.”

Washington Examiner | 19 October 2015

Energy Companies Lend Support for Climate Deal

Some of the world’s largest oil and coal companies lent support on 15 October to a strong climate change deal slated to be hashed out in December that President Obama badly wants to succeed.

Shell and BP joined global mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, and a number of other large industrial firms, in a statement endorsing a successful deal. The statement also included Alcoa, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, LafargeHolcim, National Grid, PG&E, Schneider Electric, Calpine, and the Siemens Corp.

The companies are calling for “a more balanced and durable multilateral framework guiding and strengthening national efforts to address climate change.” What this translates to: They want everyone contributing and all countries held accountable.

Although the statement is congenial, it does imply that the companies are concerned that not all the countries will do their fair share, which could make it more difficult for the energy firms to plan for and make investments.

WSIL-TV | 15 October 2015

Yale Releases New Hydraulic Fracturing Study

New research by Yale University found no evidence of chemicals migrating to the drinking water supply.

In the largest study of its kind, researchers have found groundwater contamination seems to come more from contamination at the surface seeping down into the water than from the fracking operation seeping upward.

The study found a much bigger chance of water contamination from containment ponds than from the actual act of breaking gas and oil out of layers of rock below.

The argument over hydraulic fracturing has divided people in southern Illinois and across the country.

“It’s a hot topic right now, and there’s still a lot of unanswered questions,” said Yale PhD student Brian Drollette.

The process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure fractures shale rocks to release natural gas inside. The biggest concerns involve whether or not it affects drinking water.

“We’re not trying to say whether it’s a bad or good thing,” added assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering Desiree Plata.

Researchers at Yale University set out to see if any appearance of organic chemicals showed up naturally or from recent activities associated with hydraulic fracturing. Sixty-four groundwater samples collected from private residents in northeastern Pennsylvania went to researchers.

ABC News | 15 October 2015

State, Feds Won’t Pursue USD 92 Million More in 1989 Exxon Valdez Spill

The state and federal governments have decided not to pursue USD 92 million in additional damages from Exxon Mobil, citing the recovery of ducks and sea otters in Alaska’sPrince William Sound following a devastating oil spill more than 2 decades ago.

In a court filing made on 14 October, government attorneys said patches of lingering oil that remain can no longer be considered an impediment to the recovery of sea otters or harlequin ducks or a significant ongoing threat to their now-restored populations in the area affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The filing came ahead of a scheduled status hearing in federal court in Anchorage on 15 October.

Ocean News & Technology | 15 October 2015

National Academies Select Leading Scientists for BOEM Committee on Ocean Energy Management

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced on 13 October that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have selected 14 distinguished experts to serve on the new standing committee on environmental science and assessment for offshore energy and mineral resources. The committee will provide independent information on issues relevant to BOEM’s environmental studies and assessment activities and support discussions on relevant issues. The first meeting is scheduled for 8 and 9 December at the Academies in Washington, D.C.

“BOEM is honored to have these extraordinary scientists provide their guidance to the bureau on scientific matters,” said BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper. “We look forward to engaging with and learning from them as we continue to address complex offshore energy and marine mineral issues in an environmentally responsible manner.”

The committee encompasses a broad range of expertise in both natural and social sciences, and relevant disciplines within those broad areas. They include ecology and habitat, sea ice, economics, noise, the application of science to policy and other topics. With their collective expertise in all four outer continental shelf (OCS) regions, they bring a wealth of knowledge from their academic, industry, government, and nonprofit experience.

Members of the committee are

  • Chairperson: Gary B. Griggs, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Peter J. Auster, University of Connecticut
  • Deerin Babb-Brott, SeaPlan
  • Keith R. Criddle, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
  • Hajo Eicken, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
  • Paul G. Falkowski, Rutgers University
  • Mary (Missy) H. Feeley, ExxonMobil (retired)
  • Mardi C. Hastings, Georgia Institute of Technology (retired)
  • Bonnie J. McCay, Rutgers University
  • Richard McLaughlin, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University
  • Jacqueline Michel, Research Planning
  • Timothy J. Ragen, Marine Mammal Commission (retired)
  • Mary Ruckelshaus, Stanford University
  • William C. Webster, University of California, Berkeley (retired)

API | 13 October 2015

API Issues Updated Standards for Shale Development

New editions of API’s hydraulic fracturing standards provide the latest technical direction for operators working to continuously improve well integrity, groundwater protection, and environmental safety. Last updated in 2011, API’s standards for shale development have worked alongside robust state regulations to ensure safe and responsible energy development with hydraulic fracturing for over 65 years.

“Hydraulic fracturing has unlocked vast energy resources, saving billions for consumers and putting America on a path to true energy security,” said API Director of Standards David Miller. “Strong standards are key to America’s success as an energy leader, and that’s why we bring together regulators and operators to promote proven practices for environmental protection. This update provides the latest guidance on equipment, monitoring, storage, and installation.”

Dubbed ANSI/API RP 100-1 and 100-2, the two new standards provide detailed specifications for pressure containment and well integrity, as well as environmental safeguards, including groundwater protection, waste management, emissions reduction, site planning, and worker training. The release follows last year’s publication of ANSI/API Bulletin 100-3, which outlines community engagement guidelines to help operators communicate effectively with local residents and pursue mutual goals for community growth.

Ocean News & Technology | 6 October 2015

New Report Details 10 Years of Improvements in Gulf Observation Systems

A new report from the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System Regional Association (GCOOS-RA) details the first 10 years of the nonprofit organization’s work to improve access to ocean observing data that helps to protect and preserve the Gulf and its residents.

The report, “The Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System: 10 Years of Protecting and Preserving the Gulf,” was published in recognition of the organization’s 10th anniversary and released at its September board meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida. The report outlines improvements made in

  • Developing early warning systems for harmful algal blooms
  • Integrating data that supports improved weather and hurricane forecasts
  • Safer navigation in the Gulf’s ports
  • Educating residents on the important role the Gulf plays in their daily lives

At the heart of these improvements is the GCOOS-RA. As a member of the US Integrated Ocean Observing System, GCOOS-RA is responsible for bringing together representatives from the maritime industry, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, marine scientists and resource managers to combine ocean data to provide timely information about the Gulf of Mexico. The data comes from instruments mounted on things such as buoys, autonomous underwater vehicles, and even oil platforms.