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Sunday, May 4, 2014

rjs: latest fracking, oil & gas news, May 4, 2014

by rjs, May 4, 2014


Fracking Fraud: The TV Gas Blonde  - Brooke Alexander: Fraudulent Friendly Fracking -- The spokeswoman for the frackers is an ex FOX news bunny who played a con-artist in the soap operas. Of course. Look on the sunny side. She’s easier on the eye that  old drunkard Tommy Lee Jones, the celebrity spokesman for . . . . Chesapeake.  [This just goes to show that no one should let themselves be conned by Aubrey McClendon.]

links below to stories on the oil train derailment and fire in the James River in Lynchburg Va, an oil well explosion in Texas that killed two, and a spill in Alaska that covered 27 acres of tundra with oil...there were also dozens of articles on fracking earthquakes again, after a meeting midweek of the Seismological Society, where a study showed quakes could be triggered up to 50 km or ~30 miles from the site of an injection well (hello Perry nuclear?) and a fracking activist won the $175,000 Goldman prize, aka the Nobel environmentalists....the first article below is important in that it explains a lot about how the frackers can continue to drill even though they're losing money...all the PR spin about the US gas and oil boom pulls in a lot of suckers who either want a piece of that action through equity investment or limited partnerships, or others who are willing to lend them money at higher than normal interest rates...if you spend any time on finance sites, you'll run into a lot of ads from drillers pitching those kinds of scams...fools and their money are soon parted...

Shale Drillers Feast on Junk Debt to Stay on Treadmill – Bloomberg - Rice Energy, a natural gas producer with risky credit, raised $900 million in three days this month, $150 million more than it originally sought. Not bad for the Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-based company’s first bond issue after going public in January. Especially since it has lost money three years in a row, has drilled fewer than 50 wells -- most named after superheroes and monster trucks -- and said it will spend $4.09 for every $1 it earns in 2014. The U.S. drive for energy independence is backed by a surge in junk-rated borrowing that’s been as vital as the technological breakthroughs that enabled the drilling spree. While the high-yield debt market has doubled in size since the end of 2004, the amount issued by exploration and production companies has grown nine-fold, according to Barclays Plc. That’s what keeps the shale revolution going even as companies spend money faster than they make it. “There’s a lot of Kool-Aid that’s being drunk now by investors,” Tim Gramatovich, who helps manage more than $800 million as chief investment officer of Santa Barbara, California-based Peritus Asset Management LLC. “People lose their discipline. They stop doing the math. They stop doing the accounting. They’re just dreaming the dream, and that’s what’s happening with the shale boom.”

Gassed by Gas: Turns out that “America’s clean burning abundant 100-year supply natural gas” is also a great way to gas people with carcinogenic benzene. Which provides work. For oncologists. Benzene is a “byproduct” of oil and gas production. Like other “byproducts” such as radon, it is normally vented at the drilling site with the raw gas or vented at the gas processing plant – after it is separated from the methane, propane, butane and ethane. It’s invisible, but the venting can be seen with an infrared camera. Once in the air, it’s inhaled and shows up in people’s blood. Gassed with gas. Read MoreAir samples taken near a gas well in Denton showed increased levels of benzene, along with other chemicals, according to data released by the Denton Drilling Awareness Group on Thursday. The data, and infrared video of vapor releases from energy company facilities, comes days before the group is expected to officially file a petition to ban the fracking process in the city.The air testing was done in a backyard in the Vintage neighborhood on the city’s south end. The neighborhood has been a focal point for the fracking fight in Denton, with gas wells within just a few hundred feet of homes.A California lab showed benzene readings at 6.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air. That is two points higher than the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s limits for long-term exposure risks.

The Bacteria That Can Mitigate Fracked Natural Gas Before It Pollutes the Atmosphere -- By the ton, methane from fracking has about 20 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide. Researchers at a college in the United Kingdom believe they have found a tiny way to mitigate the greenhouse gas before it spreads into the atmosphere. Methylocella silvestris, a single bacterial strain found in soil and other environments around the world, is capable of growing on methane and propane, according to research by a team at the University of East Anglia that was published in Nature, one of the world's premier peer-reviewed science publications. “The findings could help mitigate the effects of the release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere from both natural gas seeps in the environment and those arising from man-made activity such as fracking and oil spills,” according to a statement from the university. While some previously believed that different groupings of bacteria could metabolize methane and propane, researchers say their recent findings mean that just one bacteria could “mop up” natural gas components to reduce pollution.“This is very important for environments exposed to natural gas, either naturally or through human activity,” said Colin Murrell, the lead researcher and a professor from UEA’s school of Environmental Sciences. “These microbes may play an important role in mitigating the effects of methane and other gases before they have a chance to escape into the atmosphere.”

Architect of NY local fracking ban wins Goldman prize -– The architect of New York’s local fracking ban strategy is being awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize today. Helen Holden Slottje, an attorney from Ithaca, NY, is one of six grassroots environmental activists from around the globe being honored by the Goldman Environmental Foundation. Recipients of the Goldman Prize, often referred to by those in the environmental movement as the ‘Nobel Prize for environmentalists,’ are each awarded a $175,000 cash prize. Invoking the state constitution and implementing legislation, which give municipalities the right to make local land use decisions, Helen and her husband David empowered towns across New York to defend themselves from oil and gas companies by passing local bans on fracking. Their work helped pave the way for more than 170 communities in New York to take action. One such community was Dryden, NY -- one of the first municipalities in New York to enact a fracking ban. The town was subsequently sued by a billionaire-owned oil and gas company. Earthjustice attorneys are defending the town in court, working closely with the Slottjes to make sure the legal rights of communities across New York are upheld. Following is a statement from Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen: “Helen Slottje is a true hero of the American environmental movement. When New York communities felt helpless at the onslaught of fracking, her work gave them hope. More importantly, it gave them power. “Not only has Helen’s groundbreaking work empowered communities in New York state – it has helped inspire similar movements across the country in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, California, and even Texas."

New York state shale gas: Not so much -  A drilling foreman once told me, "Don't believe ANY reserve number unless it's linked to a price." And, that is just what petroleum geologist and consultant Arthur Berman and his colleague Lyndon Pittinger have done in a new report on the viability of shale gas in New York state. Not surprisingly, when Berman and Pittinger considered what it would cost to extract the shale gas beneath New York state at a profit, the mammoth claims about recoverable reserves made by the oil and gas industry appeared heavily inflated. The stunning conclusion of the report is that at current prices--in the mid-$4 range per thousand cubic feet (mcf)--NONE of the natural gas trapped in the New York portion of the Marcellus can be profitably extracted. It's possible, of course, that someone would try. But, the economics look very shaky at current prices given what we know about the nature of the underground deposits. The natural gas in the Marcellus is deep, and it does not flow in commercial quantities on its own after a well is drilled. A new variant of an old technique called hydraulic fracturing--namely, high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing--combined with horizontal drilling has made this resource available for the first time. The fractures that result allow the gas to flow out of the formation, and the horizontal wells provide a relatively economical way to do a lot of fracturing or fracking from just one drilling pad. Industry spokespersons, analysts and reporters often quote the total technically recoverable natural gas resource when discussing the Marcellus. Berman and Pittinger note a 2009 estimate of 489 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of which about 71 tcf were thought to be under New York state.There are two problems with this estimate. First, just because something is technically recoverable doesn't mean that it will be profitable to bring out of the ground. Second, these estimates (and they are only estimates) keep going lower as actual drilling reveals just how little of the Marcellus is turning out to be amenable to extraction.

Frackers Vow To Buy Governorship for Gastorino - According to none other than the New York Post.  Frackers Ready to Contribute Millions to Gastorino  Republican challenger Rob Astorino, badly trailing Gov. Cuomo in campaign cash, expects “several millions of dollars’’ in windfall Super PAC funding from across the nation as a result of last week’s federal court ruling in Manhattan, GOP insiders say. Some of the funding is expected to come from wealthy oil- and gas-industry executives furious at Cuomo’s nearly 3¹/₂-year delay in making a decision on “fracking’’ for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region of the Southern Tier near Binghamton. Other pro-Astorino contributions are expected from Second Amendment supporters and firearms-industry executives, who strongly opposed Cuomo’s anti-gun-ownership “Safe Act,’’ as well as from well-heeled social conservatives outraged over the governor’s claim that “extreme conservatives’’ have “no place in New York.’’“There could be a lot of money coming into New York as a result of the ruling. There are a lot of folks across the country who have come to see Cuomo as a symbol of the Democrats’ hostility to the use of our nation’s oil and gas resources and who resent his positions on guns and traditional values,’’ said a prominent Republican activist.

No Toxic Radioactive Frack Goo On These Roads - (New York) - The Karen has been mapping county and town ordinances that prohibit spreading frack goo on roads. Now that counties and towns are banning dumping frack filth into municipal water plants, she’s going to start mapping that too. Bravo The Karen. Go here to see the full data set, go to “Layers” to show the frack waste bans shown in camo green below – and coming soon – the bans on dumping Genuine Imported Fracksylvania Frack Filth into water treatment plants. Have your elected officials not banned frack goo yet ? If not, get some new elected officials. Or get fracking slimed. There is no “economic upside” to splattering encrusted frack goo on your car. There is no benefit to dumping radioactive drill cuttings into the local landfill - unless of course you are a politician on the take from the waste haulers.

Paper trail for Pa. shale waste leads to ex-IBM site in NY. Official dismisses DEP record of cuttings shipped upstate: An issue over what – exactly -- is arriving in tanker trucks for disposal at a manufacturing plant in Endicott, New York, is a recent and vivid example of the fear and uncertainty over the endpoint of waste produced by the shale gas industry, and the lack of regulatory wherewithal to track it. It’s a matter of record with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that the tanker trucks in question are importing more than 80,000 gallons of waste a day to the plant in the heart of the village. That sum includes 30,000 gallons of leachate from the Seneca Meadow’s landfill, and 50,000 gallons from the Broome County landfill. But there is much that is not on the record, and I will get to that in a moment.  The i3 Electronics site and the surrounding residential and retail district is a Class 2 state Super Fund site, meaning existing pollution there poses a “significant threat to public health or the environment.” Since 1979, IBM Corp. has been pumping toxic solvents from the ground that have seeped from the micro-electronics plant into the community, affecting more than 470 homes. There have been multiple spills since.  It is no surprise that Endicott residents are generally concerned about becoming a waste destination, and specifically concerned about waste from shale gas development, which have been banned in New York pending a health review.

The Seismic Link Between Fracking and Earthquakes - New research indicates that wastewater disposal wells—and sometimes fracking itself—can induce earthquakes. Ohio regulators did something last month that had never been done before: they drew a tentative link between shale gas fracking and an increase in local earthquakes. As fracking has grown in the U.S., so have the number of earthquakes—there were more than 100 recorded quakes of magnitude 3.0 or larger each year between 2010 and 2013, compared to an average of 21 per year over the preceding three decades. That includes a sudden increase in seismic activity in usually calm states like Kansas, Oklahoma and Ohio—states that have also seen a rapid increase in oil and gas development. Shale gas and oil development is still growing rapidly—more than eight-fold between 2007 and 2o12—but if fracking and drilling can lead to dangerous quakes, America’s homegrown energy revolution might be in for an early end.  But seismologists are only now beginning to grapple with the connection between oil and gas development and earthquakes. New research being presented at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America this week shows that wastewater disposal wells—deep holes drilled to hold hundreds of millions of gallons of fluid produced by oil and gas wells—may be changing the stress on existing faults, inducing earthquakes that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Those quakes can occur tens of miles away from the wells themselves, further than scientists had previously believed. And they can be large as well—researchers have now linked two quakes in 2011 with a magnitude greater than 5.0 to wastewater wells.

Wastewater disposal may trigger quakes at a greater distance than previously thought | Science Codex: Oil and gas development activities, including underground disposal of wastewater and hydraulic fracturing, may induce earthquakes by changing the state of stress on existing faults to the point of failure. Earthquakes from wastewater disposal may be triggered at tens of kilometers from the wellbore, which is a greater range than previously thought, according to research to be presented today at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America (SSA). As an indication of the growing significance of man-made earthquakes on seismic hazard, SSA annual meeting will feature a special session to discuss new research findings and approaches to incorporating induced seismicity into seismic hazard assessments and maps.The number of earthquakes within central and eastern United States has increased dramatically over the past few years, coinciding with increased hydraulic fracturing of horizontally drilled wells, and the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells in many locations, including Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Ohio. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), an average rate of 100 earthquakes per year above a magnitude 3.0 occurred in the three years from 2010-2012, compared with an average rate of 21 events per year observed from 1967-2000. A new study of the Jones earthquake swarm, occurring near Oklahoma City since 2008, demonstrates that a small cluster of high-volume injection wells triggered earthquakes tens of kilometers away. Both increasing pore pressure and the number of earthquakes were observed migrating away from the injection wells. "The existing criteria for an induced earthquake do not allow earthquakes associated with the well activity to occur this far away from the wellbore," said Katie Keranen, assistant professor of geophysics at Cornell University, who led the study of the Jones earthquake swarm. "Our results, using seismology and hydrogeology, show a strong link between a small number of wells and earthquakes migrating up to 50 kilometers away" said Keranen.

Fracking-triggered earthquakes could get stronger, seismologists say -- Fracking-triggered earthquakes could become stronger over time as more wastewater is injected deep underground, new research suggests. It follows the release of several studies linking hydraulic fracturing directly to increased seismic activity. Scientists attending the Seismological Society of America (SSA) annual meeting Thursday said that underground disposal of wastewater and fracking likely induce earthquakes by changing the state of stress on existing faults to the point of failure. Most seismic events linked to fracking had been magnitude 3.0 or less. Researchers had previously believed that such induced earthquakes could not exceed magnitude 5.0. But in 2011, two stronger earthquakes were recorded in heavily drilled areas near Trinidad, Colorado and Prague, Oklahoma. The larger quakes led researchers brought together by the SSA meeting to believe there may be a cumulative effect and that larger, "outlier" earthquakes could become the norm. “I think ultimately, as fluids propagate and cover a larger space, the likelihood that it could find a larger fault and generate larger seismic events goes up.”

Stronger ‘Frackquakes’ Are On The Way, Scientists Warn - The man-made earthquakes that have been shaking up the southern United States only stand to get stronger and more dangerous as the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, increases, scientists warned at a Thursday conference.  According to multiple reports, scientists attending the Seismological Society of America annual meeting agreed that fracking can change the state of stress on existing faults to the point of failure, causing earthquakes. That stress is generally not caused by fuel extraction itself, but by a process called “wastewater injection,” where companies take the leftover water used to frack wells and inject it deep into the ground.  Though it was previously believed that the man-made earthquakes could not exceed a 5.0 magnitude, many now say that larger quakes could become the norm as more and more water is stored underground.  Because of this and other warnings, the U.S. government also announced on Thursday that it would begin to track the risks that these so-called “frackquakes” pose, and start including them on official maps that help influence building codes. Though the U.S. Geological Survey is known for mapping regular earthquakes and alerting local governments about their risks, it has never taken man-made quakes into account. It made the decision to do so, however, after finding that two strong earthquakes in heavily-drilled areas of Colorado and Oklahoma in 2011 were likely the result of wastewater injection from fracking.

Three Oklahoma earthquakes recorded today; 8 recorded Monday -  Latest Earthquake Information From The U.S. Geological Survey: The U.S. Geological Survey recorded three more earthquakes today in Oklahoma, with 11 recorded in the past two days. At 9:08 a.m. today, a 2.5 magnitude recorded about 14 miles north-northwest of Healdton in Carter County. Then, at 9:59 a.m., a 2.7 magnitude recorded about 4 miles northwest of Yale in Payne County. Finally, at 12:06 p.m., another 2.7 magnitude recorded about 14 miles north-northwest of Heraldton. Eight earthquakes ranging from 2.5 to 3.0 magnitude were recorded on Monday in Oklahoma, according to USGS. Oklahoma has recorded 122 earthquakes of at least 2.5 magnitude this month, and more than 300 earthquakes so far this year, according to the USGS.

Fracking’s Personal Tragedies: Shalefield Stories - About a year ago, an Ohio operator was caught after dumping an estimated 250,000 gallons of fracking wastewater into the Mahoning River. Since then, scarcely a month has gone by without some new fracking incident adding to the toll of damage done. Fracking fluids flowed into Colorado’s rivers and communities during flooding last fall. Then, researchers in Pennsylvania found high levels of radioactive material in the sediment of a creek where fracking waste is discharged from a treatment plant. Across the country, fracking is contaminating drinking water, making nearby families sick with air pollution, and turning forest acres into industrial zones. Yet as we read news stories or even peer reviewed scientific studies on fracking, we can sometimes forget that we are talking about real people whose lives have been gravely damaged by dirty drilling. Judy Armstrong Stiles of Bradford County, Pa., tells of finding barium and arsenic in her drinking water, and then in her own blood, after Chesapeake began drilling on her land. Mayor William Sciscoe of Dish, Texas, explains how air quality tests near a compressor station found cancer-causing substances at 400 times the safe exposure levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And then there’s Jaime Frederick of Coitsville, Ohio, who discovered barium, strontium, toluene and other contaminants in her water after 25 drilling wells began operating within a mile of her home. Eventually a drill was placed right next to her house, “as close as the law would allow.” She was given no advance notice before the three straight days of hydraulic fracturing, explosions, and noise “like an airport runway.” Now she has a view of gas storage tanks and radioactive toxic waste tanks from her bedroom window.

New legislation would undo state laws on fracking toxics -- The current draft of the Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA), made public today, would add another special oil and gas industry loophole to federal environmental law. CICA legislation that aims to “reform” the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), would block states and localities from requiring the oil and gas industry to reveal the toxics they inject through the water table during hydraulic fracturing. The legislation would also prohibit states or localities from regulating or banning toxic chemicals used in the drilling and fracking process, such as benzene and diesel fuel. As hydraulic fracturing has facilitated the extraction of shale oil and gas across the country, affected states and communities have increasingly required some form of public disclosure of the chemicals used during fracking. “Oil and gas industry apologists in Congress have sunk to a new low,” said Lauren Pagel, Policy Director for Earthworks. “This toxics reform legislation risks public health in favor of energy industry profits. It would undo even modest efforts by states to protect and inform the public about fracking risks.” Nationwide, toxic fluids and waste from fracking are polluting our air and water and making nearby residents sick. There are more than one thousand documented instances of fracking-enabled oil and gas development contaminating water – from the residential wells in Dimock, PA, to the more than 400 waste pits that have leached into groundwater in New Mexico alone.

Fracked, Dumped And Abandoned in Ohio -- BP, Antero,  EQT, Halcon are all pulling out of Ohio Utica shale. Which Deborah Rogers predicted two years ago. What’s Ohio to do for frackquakes and toxic dumping ?  Here’s a summary of how Ohio was teed up by the frackers for a good fracking - first they paid the state off to eliminate Home Rule protections for towns, then they sent in the landmen to dupe the landowners.  If that sounds familiar, they did the same thing in Fracksylvania and tried it in New York. BP Pulls Out of Ohio’s Utica Shale  One of the world’s largest oil company is calling it quits in Ohio’s Utica shale. BP announced today that it is pulling out of the region after disappointing results from test wells in Trumbull County. The energy giant invested $300 million in the Utica’s northern play, and according to the Youngstown Business Journal, holds leases for 80,000 acres. Last month, Houston-based Halcon Energy also said it’s suspending drilling in the northern Utica.

Big Oil Eyes Florida’s Public Lands, Plans to Drill in the Everglades - Plans to drill for oil close to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge on the western edge of the Everglades have environmentalists worried. A number of companies want to drill and test beneath the Big Cypress National Preserve where prospectors believe significant new oil and gas resources lie buried. People living near the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge first learned about these plans when they received a surprise notice in May 2013 advising them about evacuation plans if a gas leak or explosion occurred at the proposed drilling site located less than a mile west of the refuge. “Initially I was concerned about the one well proposed next to the Florida Panther Refuge. There will be a lot of noise and a gigantic construction site for the well next to the pristine wetlands,” says Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association that’s leading a grassroots effort to protect the Everglades from drilling. “[Then] I found out the leasing company had about 115,000 acres and includes most public lands in southeast Florida. Other companies want to come in. A giant swath of land will be turned over to drilling companies.

Nevada Is Open To Frack -- Nevada has become the newest state to frack for oil.  Noble Energy Inc. first used fracking to explore for oil in Nevada in March, and as the AP reports, the company hasn’t yet determined the monetary potential of the region’s previously inaccessible oil deposits. The company is seeking oil underneath a 580-square-mile stretch of land, 67% of which is privately owned, with the rest managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. So far, two exploratory wells have been drilled (both of which are on on private land) and fracking has occurred on one.  “What’s unique about Nevada is it really is a frontier area,” Kevin Vorhaben, Rockies business unit manager for Noble Energy, told the AP. “It’s a chance to get in and really do the right thing for oil and gas development. We’re excited to be in Nevada.” Not everyone is excited to have the oil company in Nevada, however. Some are concerned that fracking will use too much of the desert state’s precious water supplies. Some are worried that fracking could contaminate the groundwater. Other states have already seen fracking use up considerable portions of their water supplies — in one county in Texas, fracking accounted for almost one quarter of total water use in 2011. Last year, in the midst of a severe drought, some Texas residents wondered why so much water was still being shipped to fracking operations — especially when, according to one resident, “getting one oil well fracked takes more water than the entire town can drink or use in a day.”

Two Texas Oil Field Workers Die In Explosion - Two people are dead and nine injured from an oil well explosion in West Texas Wednesday morning. Those are two more workers to add to the rising count of on-the-job fatalities in America’s oil fields.  Updated data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that oil worker deaths rose 3.2% to a 545 total. The Houston Chronicle reports that Texas led the states with 216 deaths or 40% of overall fatalities over the same period. Many more suffered a temporary or permanent injury on the job: 18,000 workers had amputations, were crushed, burned, broke bones, or suffered other work-related injuries. The oil and gas industry fatality rate is almost eight times the average industry rate. There are a couple of reasons behind that, and most of them suggest these deaths are preventable. In Texas, 78% of fatal accidents were safety violations — meaning, they could conceivably have been prevented with tougher oversight. Experts say worker fatigue from 12- to 14-hour shifts and inexperience are also both to blame in the oil boom rush. Other sites of rising deaths are all located in states that have had drilling booms: North Dakota and Pennsylvania both reported 300% increases 2008-2012 compared to the years prior, and Oklahoma saw a 24% rise. Another man died at a North Dakota drilling operation this week from a toxic gas byproduct from oil drilling.

The Government Corruption Case Against Fracking and Keystone - America is struggling with at least three major environmental policies: fracking, Keystone, and climate change. Climate change needs its own post. This one focuses just on the first two, which are so critical because of their potentially devastating impact on our water.  The debate on whether to frack or not, whether to build the Keystone pipeline or not, focuses on jobs vs. environment. The claims are two: the jobs will be many and good paying (and implicitly, there’s no alternative source of such jobs) and the environmental consequences are overblown because both fracking and oil pipelines are safe (or could be done safely.) Both are flawed. Sure, these projects will create large numbers of good paying jobs, and we desperately need such. However, they are not the only way to get such jobs. Building and restoring decrepit infrastructure is an easy way to generate good jobs. And we could invest in cleaning up contaminated soil and water too–the Superfund list is quite long. Second, the track record of contamination and secrecy is shows that both fracking and pipelines are currently done in ways that produce large amounts of contamination and have very high contamination risk profiles. (See below, after the corruption example.) Let’s assume, however, that it is possible to frack and pipe oil in a way that poses very very little risk to our water supply. Do we have any reason to believe that is what will happen as fracking expands? The answer is no, because of the corrupt relationship between industry and government at all levels. Americans cannot trust industry to act safely on its own; Americans cannot trust the government to ensure industry acts safely.

Company Halts Plans On 500-Mile Pipeline Through Kentucky - Plans for a 500-mile pipeline that would carry natural gas liquids through 13 Kentucky counties have been tabled indefinitely, an update that has thrilled the project’s opponents who have been outspoken in their opposition to the pipeline over the last year.  Williams Co. and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, the companies in charge or the Bluegrass Pipeline, announced online Monday that they had halted all investments in the pipeline “primarily in response to an insufficient level of firm customer commitments,” meaning the companies felt they hadn’t won enough buyers for the natural gas liquids that would be transported through the pipeline. Their decision to back off from pursuing the project for now doesn’t mean the pipeline is dead completely– it could one day be started back up, but for now, the companies are no longer trying to acquire land for the pipeline and are closing its offices along the pipeline’s route.

Gulf Stream: Williams Suspends Bluegrass Gas Export Pipeline, Announces New Export Line -- Right before the champagne bottles began popping for activists engaged in a grassroots struggle to halt the construction of Williams Companies' prospective Bluegrass Pipeline project — which the company suspended indefinitely in an April 28 press release — Williams had already begun raining on the parade. The pipeline industry giant took out the trash on Friday, April 25, announcing its intentions to open a new Louisiana pipeline named Gulf Trace. Akin to TransCanada's ANR Pipeline recently reported on by DeSmogBlog, Gulf Trace is not entirely “new,” per se. Rather, it's the retooling of a pipeline system already in place, in this case Williams' Transco Pipeline system.  The retooling has taken place in the aftermath of Cheniere's Sabine Pass LNG export facility receiving the first ever final gas export permit from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) during the fracking era. Both ANR and Gulf Trace will feed into Sabine Pass, the Louisiana-based LNG export terminal set to open for business in late 2015. Also like ANR, Transco will transform into a gas pipeline flowing in both directions: “bidirectional” in industry lingo. Bluegrass, if ever built, also would transport fracked gas to the Gulf Coast export markets. But instead of LNG, Bluegrass is a natural gas liquids pipeline (NGL). “The project…is designed to connect [NGLs] produced in the Marcellus-Utica areas in the U.S. Northeast with domestic and export markets in the U.S. Gulf Coast,” it explained in an April 28 press release announcing the project's suspension. With Bluegrass tossed to the side for now, Williams already announced in a press release that the company has launched an open season to examine industry interest in Gulf Trace. It closes on May 8, 2014.

Pipeline Regulator Cutting Its Staff By 9% Despite An Increase In Pipeline Spills In 2013 -- The U.S. agency in charge of regulating pipelines and oil-shipping rail cars could shrink its staff by 9% by mid-June, if employees accept the buyouts the agency is offering them. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is offering buyouts to 33 employees on top of the 13 buyouts it offered at the end of last year, InsideClimate News reports. If all the employees accept their buyouts, the agency would experience a net loss of 40 workers (it hired six recently). A PHMSA spokesman told InsideClimate News that the agency would continue to hire in other key areas, and that the buyouts were done to help manage the agency’s workforce in areas where a large percentage of workers are eligible for retirement. But some pipeline safety advocates are worried that, in this period of surging oil-by-rail activity and blossoming pipeline networks across the U.S., a smaller PHMSA could be bad news for fossil fuel transport safety.

Train Derails In Lynchburg, Massive Fire Erupts, "Flames Stories High" - In what can only be explained as a massive oil pipeline derailment, because trains are obviously so much safer when transporting flammable commodities, moments ago another train derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia with numerous railcars falling in the river, and a massive fire erupting with flames that are "storeys high" according to ABC13. And moments ago it was also announced that the train belongs to CSX and the burning product is, expectedly, crude oil. Additionally, it appears that the CBTX on the side of the train cars indicates they are associated with CIT Croup/Capital Finance. Some more photos from the scene of the accident...

BBC News - Derailed US train in bursts into flames in Lynchburg: A freight train carrying crude oil has derailed and burst into flames in Lynchburg, Virginia. Hundreds of people have been evacuated from a number of buildings in the city, but no injuries have been reported. Oil has been spilling into the James river, according to reports. Three or four tanker cars carrying crude oil were breached, according to a tweet by the city of Lynchburg, and more than a dozen tanker cars were involved in the collision. A city spokeswoman said several train cars derailed at about 14:00 local time (18:00 GMT), and about 300 people have been evacuated from nearby buildings. It happened very close to the city center. Lawyer John Francisco, who works in the city, told local TV station WSET 13 he heard a loud noise that sounded like a tornado and then saw flames rise high into the sky.

Crude Oil Train Derails, Catches Fire, Spills Into Virginia's James River - A CSX freight train carrying crude oil derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia, Wednesday afternoon around 2 p.m. according to local authorities, “causing extensive flames and dense black smoke” to reach into the air. The City of Lynchburg said that between 12 and 14 crude oil tanker cars derailed next to the James River, though fortunately there have been no reported injuries. The cause “has not been determined” at this time, according to a statement posted on the city’s website. WSET reporter James Gherardi estimated that the tankers were no more than 100 feet from river. “You don’t often imagine the James River on fire,” said WSET anchor Len Stevens during his station’s live broadcast.  Amherst County Public Safety Director Gary Roakes confirmed to WSET that “there is product in the river” — meaning crude oil — and that “there are three cars in the river.” Three or four of the tankers were reported breached, ostensibly the source of the spilled oil. There were initial reports that downtown residents were being evacuated to a local gym, but when Mr. Roakes was asked about public safety in Lynchburg and the surrounding area, he said “we are not evacuating anyone from Amherst County.” However, deputy city manager Bonnie Svrcek told the Washington Post that “we have evacuated the downtown area from the river up about 3 or 4 blocks… It looks like there’s a buffer of trees between the river and any buildings, so it doesn’t appear right now any buildings have been affected.”

As New Shipping Rules Are Studied, Another Oil Train Derails - In the latest accident involving rail cars carrying crude oil, a CSX train derailed and erupted into black, smoky flames on Wednesday in downtown Lynchburg, Va., forcing scores of people to evacuate and causing a spill in the James River.Hours later, the Transportation Department said that a long-awaited package of rules aimed at improving the safety of oil transport by rail had been sent Wednesday night to the White House for review. The proposed regulations were not made public, but they follow Canada’s announcement of stiffer regulations last week and are expected to include measures requiring transport companies to replace old tank cars with more robust models that are resistant to puncture. It was the second train accident involving crude oil for CSX this year. As smoke billowed into the air, frightened shoppers, office workers and residents evacuated a 20-block area of Lynchburg, a city of 77,000. There were no reported injuries.

Less Than 24 Hours After Virginia Oil Train Spill, Same Company Derails Again In Maryland  - Less than 24 hours after an oil train operated by CSX derailed and caught fire in Lynchburg, Virginia, on Wednesday, another CSX train carrying 8,000 tons of coal derailed in Bowie, Maryland, early Thursday morning.  CSX spokeswoman Kristin Seay said about 10 cars of the coal train went off the tracks, though the cars were all still upright and there are currently no safety or hazardous material concerns. According to the Baltimore Sun, however, it appears from initial photos that one coal train overturned, spilling its load of coal. CSX officials are currently investigating the scene of the derailment and don’t yet know the cause. FD clearing the scene. @CSX taking the incident over. 8000 tons of coal onboard. No Injuries.— Bowie Volunteer Fire. The CSX coal train derailement occurred less than a day after an oil train operated by the same company derailed near Lynchburg, Virginia, an accident which resulted in the loss of about 50,000 gallons of crude oil, according to a Lynchburg spokesperson.

Accident Leads to Scrutiny of Oil Sand Production — In the annals of oil well blowouts and pipeline disasters, the 7,400 barrels of oily slush that oozed out of the mossy bogs of the boreal forest in northeast Alberta last summer may seem like a trivial matter. No one was hurt in the accident, which spread across at least 17 acres in the Primrose oil sands field, and the most damage to wildlife came from the killing of about 70 frogs in a lake contaminated by the leak. It has since been drained. But while the accident has so far been overshadowed by the controversy over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline south of the border, it has nevertheless stirred nervous misgivings throughout the oil sands industry and drawn an unusually intense response from Alberta regulators, who have traditionally had a cozy relationship with the oil companies. In a move that has raised eyebrows in the industry, officials of the Alberta Energy Regulator have refused to accept the explanations for the cause of the accident by Canadian Natural Resources, the field’s operator and one of the country’s largest oil companies. In March, the agency also rejected the company’s bid to restart its operation until a complete investigation had been completed. The full implications of the Primrose accident are still unclear, as are the causes of the accident. But the regulators’ new interest in what caused it has raised questions, more broadly, about the way oil companies are planning to tap Alberta’s richest deposits.

BP Well Sprays Crude Oil Mist Over 27 Acres Of Alaskan Tundra  -- A large pipe attached to a BP-owned well pad on Alaska’s North Slope has sprayed an oily mist of natural gas, crude oil, and water over an area of tundra larger than 20 football fields, state officials confirmed Wednesday. The discovery at BP’s Prudhoe Bay oil field operation comes one week after federal scientists released a report warning that the United States is woefully unprepared to handle oil spills in the Arctic.  A statement provided by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said BP discovered the release on Monday during routine inspections, and that the spray was active for about two hours before it was contained. The pipe spewing the gas mixture was facing upwards while strong 30 mph winds blew, which ultimately caused the spray to spread over 27 acres. It is unclear at this point how much of the mixture was released, the DEC statement said. A spokesperson for BP told the Associated Press that it is “still assessing repairs.” Federal scientists from the National Research Council recently confirmed the difficulty of cleaning up spills in the Arctic. According to their 198-page report, the Arctic’s environment is uniquely challenging due to pockets of oil that get trapped under freezing ice, sealing it beyond the reach of traditional cleanup equipment. The Arctic also lacks a variety of infrastructure, including paved roads, which could make response time exponentially longer than typical spills.

Oil and gasoline prices: many still missing the big picture - Hamilton - Gasoline prices in the United States have risen sharply recently, leading some newspapers to round up the usual suspects. But the reality is the price of crude oil has been remarkably stable over the last three years. The international price of crude oil ultimately determines the price Americans pay for gasoline at the pump. Seasonal factors can bring the price temporarily below the long-run relation, and this accounted for the temporarily low gasoline prices that we saw last fall and winter. Movements in gasoline prices back up this spring are basically a return to normal. And crude oil prices have remained stable despite impressive gains in U.S. production of shale oil, referring to oil produced from tight geological formations using horizontal fracturing methods. These new drilling techniques have added 2.5 million barrels of daily U.S. oil production since 2010. Why hasn’t that new oil brought lower prices? Here are some updated data on the answer I gave to that question last September. What the EIA reports as total oil supply grew by 5.7 mb/d between 2005 and 2013. But about half of this increase came in the form of natural gas liquids like ethane and propane, whose uses don’t include making gasoline, along with biofuels, at best a marginal addition to net energy supply. The total increase in actual field production of crude oil globally since 2005 has only been 2.3 mb/d. U.S. production of oil from tight formations is up 3.5 mb/d since 2005, and yet total global field production of crude from all sources is only up 2.3 mb/d. In other words, more than all of the increase worldwide over the last 8 years is attributable to U.S. tight oil production. Without U.S. tight oil, world oil production would be lower today than it was 8 years ago.

Just keeping up --- HERE is a striking fact from James Hamilton: U.S. production of oil from tight formations is up 3.5 mb/d since 2005, and yet total global field production of crude from all sources is only up 2.3 mb/d. In other words, more than all of the increase worldwide over the last 8 years is attributable to U.S. tight oil production. Without U.S. tight oil, world oil production would be lower today than it was 8 years ago. Petrol prices have been ticking up in recent weeks, mostly for seasonal reasons. But the broader picture, Mr Hamilton points out, is one of surprising stability in prices. For most of the last three years oil has hovered around $100 a barrel, and the price of petrol has been correspondingly flat. But there is another way of looking at this stability; prices have remained relatively high in order to temper demand growth and keep it in line with available supply growth. But for the North American oil bonanza, global demand would have to have been considerably more muted; indeed, it may have needed to decline (at a time while the world economy was growing steadily). That would presumably have taken a far higher price of oil. It's interesting: the public may underestimate the economic benefits of new oil production because prices have not been falling. But that oil has allowed the economy to continue growing even as older fields are generating less output, and without suffering a massive and economically damaging oil-price spike.

BBC News - Fossil fuel subsidies growing despite concerns: Government subsidies for renewable energy cause great consternation to those who believe in the sanctity of free markets. "If they can't stand on their own feet, then why support them?" the argument goes. But in actual fact, most energy sources are subsidised, and none more so than fossil fuels. Indeed in straight numerical terms, subsidies for oil, coal and gas far outweigh those for renewables. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2012 global fossil fuel subsidies totalled $544bn (£323bn; 392bn euros), while those for renewables amounted to $101bn. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) puts the total for hydrocarbons nearer $2 trillion.

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