Premium Times | 27 March 2017

Geologist Hired by Shell Says Firm Concealed Data on Nigerian Oil Spill

The global oil giant Shell is concealing data showing thousands of Nigerians are exposed to health hazards from a stalled cleanup of the worst oil spills in the nation’s history, a German geologist contracted by the multinational has said.

In a letter to the Bodo Mediation Initiative, Kay Holtzmann, a geologist hired by the Dutch-British multinational, disclosed that an environmental study found “astonishingly high” pollution levels with soil “literally soaked with hydrocarbons” in the Bodo community.

Holtzmann also disclosed that Shell “fiercely opposed” environmental testing.

The people of Bodo in the oil-producing Niger Delta region should get urgent medical tests, the geologist wrote in the letter dated 26 January, obtained by the Associated Press.

Bodo is part of Ogoniland, where the failure to clean up oil spills was called an environmental scandal in 2011 by the UN Environment Program.

The cleanup was part of a British out-of-bounds settlement in which Shell paid USD 83.5 million to 15,600 fishermen and farmers for damages from two oil spills caused by old pipelines in 2008 and 2009 that devastated thousands of hectares of mangroves and creeks.

Lawyers alleged 500,000 bbl of oil spilled, but Shell said it was only 1,640 bbl and initially offered the community USD 50,000 in compensation.

The agreement was reached through British law firm Leigh Day, which said on 24 March it has received no response to a 30 January letter to Shell asking for the data from Holtzmann, who was hired by Shell to manage the cleanup.

Read the full story here.

Reuters | 10 March 2017

Shell CEO Urges Switch to Clean Energy as Company Plans Hefty Renewable Spending

The oil and gas industry risks losing public support if progress is not made in the transition to cleaner energy, Royal Dutch Shell Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said on 9 March.

Ben van Beurden, chief executive officer of Royal Dutch Shell, speaks during a news conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 15, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Sergio Moraes.

The world’s second-largest publicly traded oil company plans to increase its investment in renewable energy to USD 1 billion a year by the end of the decade, van Beurden said, although it is still a small part of its total annual spending of USD 25 billion.

The CEO said that the transition to a low-carbon energy system will take decades and government policies including putting a price on carbon emissions will be essential to phase out the most polluting sources of energy such as coal and oil.

“If we’re not very careful, with all the good intentions and advocacy that we have, we may, as a sector and society, not make the progress that is needed,” van Beurden said at the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston.

He said the “biggest challenge” the company faces is maintaining public acceptance of the energy industry.

“I do think trust has been eroded to the point that it is becoming a serious issue for our long-term future,” he continued. “If we are not careful, broader public support for the sector will wane.”

The Anglo-Dutch company is one of the most vocal supporters of a carbon tax and has invested heavily in bringing on new supplies of natural gas, a cleaner burning fuel source.

“This is the biggest challenge as we have at the moment as a company … the fact that societal acceptance of the energy system as we have it is just disappearing.”

Read the full story here.

Reuters | 7 March 2017

Oklahoma Native American Tribe Sues Energy Companies for Quake Damage

The Pawnee Nation filed a lawsuit on 3 March in tribal court in Oklahoma against 27 oil and gas producers, seeking damages for an earthquake they said was caused from man-made activity related to hydraulic fracturing.

The Native American group claimed that wastewater injected into disposal wells helped trigger a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in September, the strongest on record in the state, that damaged several Pawnee Nation buildings, including several that are more than 100 years old.

Lawyers for the Pawnee Nation said they believe the case is the first of its sort filed in a tribal court. They are seeking at least USD 250,000 in damages.

Most of the companies were listed as “John Does” in court papers.

Attorneys for two of the companies named in the suit, Oklahoma City-based Cummings Oil and Tulsa-based Eagle Road Oil, could not be reached for comment.

The American Bar Association said the civil powers of tribal courts extend to “consensual relations” with nonmembers and non-Indians, including contractual relations.

Headquartered about 60 miles west of Tulsa, the Pawnee Nation has 3,500 enrolled tribal citizens. It has a separate earthquake-related lawsuit pending in federal court against the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Land Management.

One tribal building was declared structurally unsound after the earthquake, forcing officials to move two departments and a branch of government, the lawyers said.

Read the full story here.

OHH | 10 February 2017

Oilfield Helping Hands Named 2017 Beneficiary of OTC Distinguished Achievement Awards Luncheon

Oilfield Helping Hands (OHH), a nonprofit charitable organization composed of volunteers devoted to providing financial assistance to oilfield workers in financial crisis, has been named the 2017 beneficiary of the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) Distinguished Achievement Awards Luncheon.

OTC will hold the Distinguished Achievement Awards Luncheon on 2 May 2017 at NRG Center in Houston. The event recognizes industry achievements, raises funds for a chosen organization, and provides an excellent opportunity for industry leaders to network with colleagues from around the world.

Joe Fowler, chairman of the OTC Board of Directors, said, “We’re proud to name Oilfield Helping Hands as this year’s beneficiary. The event’s Executive Advisory Board was most impressed by the organization’s commitment to helping families that have been a part of our industry and have hit hard times.

“Specifically, Oilfield Helping Hands assists families in financial crisis due to medical and other serious circumstances. It works diligently to keep costs low to ensure as much money as possible can go directly toward benefitting the families,” Fowler continued.

Gregory Rachal, president of OHH, said, “The OTC Distinguished Achievement Awards Luncheon does more than just support great causes in the industry, it also raises awareness about them. We’re beyond proud that Oilfield Helping Hands has been chosen as this year’s beneficiary and know this honor will have a positive impact on the lives and wellbeing of several worthy families in need. To date, we have distributed more than USD 3.3 million to hundreds of families across the US. Thanks to OTC, we are confident that we’ll be able to support even more oilfield families experiencing financial crisis.”

Read more about OHH here.

Alaska Dispatch News | 30 January 2017

In Reply to Critics, Alaska Agency Proposes More Transparency for Fracturing Requests

In an apparent bow to critics and to increase transparency in state government decisions, Alaska’s oil-well regulator on 25 January proposed notifying the public and accepting comments on applications for hydraulic fracturing operations.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission currently does not issue public notices or hold hearings when an operator applies for a permit to drill a well and fracture it to increase oil and gas production. Hydraulic fracturing is controversial in the Lower 48, where critics have charged it has led to contamination of well water, but officials in Alaska say it has been done here safely for years.

Information about fracturing requests is currently made available to the general public after the agency approves the operation, although land owners within a half-mile radius of a planned wellbore must be notified by companies and can request an application.

The proposed change follows a letter in September by conservation group Cook Inletkeeper that urged the agency to change its rules to require public notice, hearings, and comment periods before applications for hydraulic fracturing can be approved, a request that remains under consideration.

Read the full story here.

Ghana Business News | 27 January 2017

Siemens Ghana Launches Oil and Gas Training Program

Siemens Oil and Gas, Ghana, has launched an oil and gas sector training program to help build local capacity in the energy sector as its commitment to assisting Ghana to meet its expanding energy needs.

The training program, developed by Siemens Oil and Gas Equipment, together with its joint venture partner Draper Oil and Gas, aims to deliver training to selected individuals with the purpose of helping to build Ghana’s human capital.

The 9-month training program, which began in October 2016, is in collaboration with the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation and the Petroleum Commission and is set to be completed by June 2017.

Read the full story here.

Daily Camera | 18 January 2017

Factions Clash as Council Tables Ordinance Legalizing Anti-Hydraulic-Fracturing Civil Disobedience

The City Council of Lafayette, Colorado, on 17 January voted to table an anti-hydraulic-fracturing ordinance that could impede oil and gas development within Lafayette through sanctioning acts of civil disobedience and nonviolent protest.

Golfers play a round at the Vista Ridge Golf Club with a drilling rig in the background in Erie, Colorado, in 2014. Lafayette, Colorado, leaders tabled an ordinance that would sanction nonviolent protests and acts of civil disobedience against hydraulic fracturing operations. Credit: Daily Camera file photo.

Golfers play a round at the Vista Ridge Golf Club with a drilling rig in the background in Erie, Colorado, in 2014. Lafayette, Colorado, leaders tabled an ordinance that would sanction nonviolent protests and acts of civil disobedience against hydraulic fracturing operations. Credit: Daily Camera file photo.

The decision, which was stalled on first reading to an unknown future date because of a lack of council members in attendance, came in front of an emotional and unwavering standing-room-only crowd that battled for nearly 3 hours of public comment over the future of hydraulic fracturing within Lafayette.

“We are not afraid of you—none of these people out there are afraid of you,” Cliff Willmeng, of East Boulder County United—the group that drafted the “Climate Bill of Rights and Protections”—said to representatives of Colorado Oil and Gas amid a chorus of cheers.

“We can’t avoid this fight,” he added. “It’s in our living room right now. It’s not one of those times in history where being afraid is going to help you.”

Coming just  2 years after a Boulder District Court judge tossed out the town’s voter-approved hydraulic fracturing ban, the 17 January decision delays driving a further wedge between the city and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association—once plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the community’s voter-backed hydraulic fracturing ban.

“With every fiber of my being, I appeal to you to please pass this climate bill,” Louisville resident Paul Bassis said. “Do it for your children, for our children, for the future. You have the opportunity to not just stand on the right side of history, but you can make history.”

The virtually unprecedented ordinance—a similar bill passed last year in Grant Township, Pennsylvania, the country’s first and only case, offering Lafayette leaders the sole successful legal model—would essentially legalize acts of civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action protest and would offer unparalleled immunity from arrest or detainment.

“It’s time to throw off the yoke of tyranny,” resident Stephanie Small said. “If the laws are unjust, we must disobey and change them. There are hundreds of us now, but soon there will be thousands.

“You will have to decide if you will be protecting or arresting us,” she added.

LinkedIn | 17 January 2017

The La Brea Platform Fabrication Yard 2004–2017: A Sustained Local Content Oil and Gas Service Business in Trinidad and Tobago

Back in 2004, the then government of Trinidad and Tobago, under the leadership of Prime Minister Patrick Manning and advised by the eminent professor Kenneth Julien among many others, initiated the construction of a platform fabrication yard at La Brea on the southwestern peninsula of the island of Trinidad.

This fabrication yard was financed by the government of Trinidad and Tobago and is considered to be a significant contributor to the thrust to expand value add from local content in the services sector of the oil and gas industry in the country. I served as Minister of Energy and Energy Industries (2002–06) in the government at that time. We were honored with a visit by my colleague minister from the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, then Algerian Minister of Energy Dr. Chakib Khalil, who took the opportunity to tour the newly commissioned facility. We were accompanied by several officials on the tour.

Since that time, several projects have been completed on this site. The main contractor is Trinidad Offshore Fabricators Limited, which is a joint venture between a local firm WeldFarb and Chet Morrison Contractors of Louisiana. Credit for this joint venture must be given to many actors, including the exploration and production companies who have been using this facility.

These projects have resulted in considerable in-country spend on projects that would ordinarily have been spent elsewhere but charged against these same projects in our country.

The University of Chicago | 26 December 2016

Study Suggests Hydraulic Fracturing Boosts Local Economies

The first nationwide study of the comprehensive local effects of hydraulic fracturing finds that, when costs and benefits are added up, communities on average benefit from allowing it.

Credit: Getty Images.

Credit: Getty Images.

In studying the economic effects of the technology that has become critical to US oil and natural gas production, Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago, and his coauthors take into account local changes in amenities, including factors that contribute to the quality of life such as truck traffic, criminal activity, and beliefs regarding negative health effects. The researchers found such costs are outweighed by the benefits, which total USD 1,200 to USD 1,900 a year for the average household.

In the last decade, hydraulic fracturing has helped deliver lower energy prices, enhanced energy security, and lowered air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. But there have been concerns over negative health and social effects outweighing the economic benefits for local communities where such drilling takes place.

“This study makes it clear that, on net, there are benefits to local economies—which we believe is useful information for leaders in the United States and abroad who are deciding whether to allow fracking in their communities,” said coauthor Chris Knittel, the George P. Shultz Professor of Applied Economics at the Massachusetts Institute Technology Sloan School of Management and director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.

Financial Times | 30 November 2016

Shell Tries To Stop Nigeria Spill Claims Reaching English Courts

Royal Dutch Shell is seeking to block a lawsuit being brought against it in the English courts by two Nigerian communities of more than 40,000 people over oil spills in the Niger Delta.

Credit: Bloomberg.

Credit: Bloomberg.

The High Court in London is being asked to decide whether it can hear the claims lodged against the oil major and its Nigerian subsidiary relating to allegations of environmental damage caused by oil pollution.

Shell says the claims should be heard in the Nigerian courts because they involve issues under Nigerian law and the alleged damage took place in the west African country.

However, Leigh Day, the law firm acting for the claimants, argues the case should be heard in London. It says that similar cases have languished in the Nigerian justice system for years.

The hearing is being closely watched because it could potentially open the floodgates to more global companies being sued in the English courts.

The first claim is being brought on behalf of 2,335 people from the Bille kingdom, mostly fishermen who claim their environment has been devastated by oil spills over the past 5 years, though pollution and sabotage has occurred over the nearly 6 decades since Shell began producing oil there. The second is on behalf of the Ogale community, which consists of about 40,000 people.

Lord Goldsmith QC, for Shell, told the High Court on 22 November that the claim concerned “a uniquely Nigerian problem” and so should be heard in Nigeria.

“We do not minimize the problems that local people have suffered from the issue of pollution,” Lord Goldsmith told the court. “The question is how to deal with that. We say it is not going to be by coming to a London court but by looking to a holistic solution in Nigeria.”

Tulsa World | 21 November 2016

Pawnee Nation Sues US Claiming Oil, Gas Well Leases on Tribal Land Were Improperly Approved

Linking recent oil and gas activity to the state’s largest earthquake, the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma has filed a lawsuit against the federal government, asking a judge to void recently approved drilling permits on tribal land and halt the issuance of new ones.

The lawsuit, filed 18 November in Tulsa federal court, claims numerous drilling permits and leases on tribal-owned lands held in trust have been improperly approved by the Interior Department, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

“In doing so, BIA and BLM also have run roughshod over Pawnee natural resource protection laws, disregarded a tribal moratorium on new oil and gas approvals, and violated the agencies’ trust responsibilities to the Pawnee,” the lawsuit alleges in its complaint.

The lawsuit was filed by the tribe’s Attorney General Don Mason on behalf of the tribe and Pawnee Nation member Walter R. Echo-Hawk in the US District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma based in Tulsa.

Troutman Sanders via Mondaq | 10 November 2016

EPA Releases Environmental Justice 2020 Action Agenda

EPA has released “EJ 2020 Action Agenda,” its action plan for addressing environmental justice (EJ) for 2016 through 2020. The agenda builds on the foundation established in its last EJ strategic plan, Plan EJ 2014, which laid the groundwork of EJ practices with guidance and tools to integrate EJ in EPA’s programs and policies. The agenda is framed by three overarching goals with priority areas and examples of key actions for each goal, as well as measures to evaluate progress.

The first goal is to deepen EJ practice within EPA programs to improve the health and environment of overburdened communities.

The second goal is to work with partners to expand EPA’s positive impact within overburdened communities.

The final goal is to demonstrate progress on significant national environmental justice challenges.