Blog Archive

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Oil, gas, methane news from rjs

As Marcellus Shale loses momentum, a reassessment - The Marcellus Shale industry, which arrived in this northern Pennsylvania city five years ago and turned Williamsport into the seventh-fastest-growing area in the nation, appears to have lost some momentum. Economic activity in this city affectionately known as "Billtown" has subsided noticeably in the last year as the pace of drilling natural gas wells slowed in response to low gas prices. Statewide, exploration companies drilled 30 percent fewer wells in 2012 and are on course to drill even fewer this year. About half as many drilling rigs are operating in Pennsylvania now as in early 2012, when the rigs began moving to more lucrative oil-producing regions.  In Lycoming County, motels and restaurants are not so crowded these days -- hotel-tax revenue was off last year by 13% after doubling the previous three years. Fewer out-of-state pickup trucks swarm the fuel pumps at the Sheetz stations.But local civic and business leaders insist the shale-gas industry has not gone bust. They say that it has merely taken a breather, and that all signs point to a long-term boost for this region.

U.K. Water, Gas Lobbies Sign Agreement to Minimize Fracking Risk - U.K. water and fossil-fuel industry lobbies agreed to work together to seek to minimize the risk of drilling for shale gas for the country’s water supply. Water U.K., after reviewing recent reports into shale gas extraction, believes threats can be mitigated as long as rules are enforced, the two groups said in an e-mailed statement. The hydraulic fracturing technique cracks open fossil-fuel deposits using high volumes of pressurized water mixed with chemicals. The industry is still emerging in the U.K. with Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. the only driller to have fracked for shale gas. The method is criticized by campaigners and local groups who say there is a threat of contaminating ground water. Fracking one well requires about 5 million gallons of water on average. Water U.K. signed a memorandum of understanding with U.K. Onshore Operators Group, representing the onshore oil and gas industry, to help minimize any effects on water resources. Their members will monitor the effect on quality and quantity of local resources, the composition and disposal of waste water and the long-term demand of explorers with expansion plans. “Our members are determined to ensure any potential risks of shale extraction are minimized,” Water U.K. Chief Executive Officer Pamela Taylor said in the statement. The agreement gives water companies “a crucial extra layer of safeguards” beyond current rules to ensure supplies are protected, she said.

Fracking Bonanza Eludes Wastewater Recycling Investors - After two years searching for a blockbuster investment in oilfield water management, fund manager Judson Hill is still holding on to his money. Hill’s NGP Energy Capital Management saw potential in what looked like a hot growth area in energy: treating and recycling the 21 billion barrels of wastewater flowing annually from U.S. oil and natural gas wells -- particularly from shale. Instead, it found the market “too fragmented and too frothy,” said Hill, a managing director at the private equity firm in Texas whose latest fund has invested $3.6 billion. “It’s not as though we look back and say, ’Wow, half the ones we passed on were just home runs.’ They weren’t.” Cleaning up water in the oil patch is a tougher slog than many expected. Geology and water chemistry vary so much by location that no one has devised a cheap, one-size-fits-all technology to convince most producers to recycle. While NGP and its peers have successfully invested in U.S. shale producers, picking a winner in water treatment eludes even Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB), the world’s largest oilfield services provider. Schlumberger jumped into water recycling years ago envisioning a fast-growing, vibrant new specialty. “We’ve spent millions and millions of dollars evaluating virtually every available and reasonable-looking technology out there, always hoping we’d find the silver bullet,” said Mark Kidder, who runs Schlumberger’s oilfield water management unit. “At this point, we found nothing.”

Obama Approves Major Border-Crossing Fracked Gas Pipeline Used to Dilute Tar Sands - Steve Horn - Although TransCanada's Keystone XLtar sands pipeline has received the lion's share of media attention, another key border-crossing pipeline benefiting tar sands producers was approved on November 19, 2013, by the U.S. State Department. Enter Cochin, Kinder Morgan's 1,900-mile proposed pipeline to transport gas produced via the controversial hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") of the Eagle Ford Shale basin in Texas north through Kankakee, Illinois, and eventually into Alberta, Canada, the home of the tar sands. Like Keystone XL, the pipeline proposal requires U.S. State Department approval because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border. Unlike Keystone XL -- which would carry diluted tar sands diluted bitumen ("dilbit") south to the Gulf Coast -- Kinder Morgan's Cochin pipeline would carry the gas condensate (diluent) used to dilute the bitumen north to the tar sands."The decision allows Kinder Morgan Cochin LLC to proceed with a $260 million plan to reverse and expand an existing pipeline to carry an initial 95,000 barrels a day of condensate," the Financial Post wrote. "The extra-thick oil is typically cut with 30% condensate so it can move in pipelines. By 2035, producers could require 893,000 barrels a day of the ultra-light oil, with imports making up 786,000 barrels of the total."

Black Smoke Friday: Missouri Gas Pipeline Explosion Causes 300-Foot Fireball - A 30-inch gas gas pipeline in a rural area of western Missouri ruptured and exploded early Friday morning and sent a 300 foot high fireball into the air, Fox 4 news reportsNBC station KOMU reported that the glow from the burning Panhandle Eastern Pipeline could be seen for miles. There were no injuries or fatalities, but three homes within a half-mile of the blast were evacuated. The blaze took more than two hours to extinguish and by mid-morning on Fridaythe residents had been allowed back in, according to Fox. Local news reports said that by morning, a “smoldering moon-like crater” could be seen at the site of the explosion. The flames also destroyed seven buildings on a nearby hog farm. One commenter on KOMU’s report said the fire “lit up the whole area like it was daytime.” Some residents reported their homes were shaking.  The explosion can be seen here courtesy of YouTube user John Pahlow:

Bridge Out: Bombshell Study Finds Methane Emissions From Natural Gas Production Far Higher Than EPA Estimates A major new study blows up the whole notion of natural gas as a short-term bridge fuel to a carbon-free economy. Natural gas is mostly methane (CH4), a potent heat-trapping gas. If, as now seems likely, natural gas production systems leak 2.7% (or more), then gas-fired power loses its near-term advantage over coal and becomes more of a gangplank than a bridge. Worse, without a carbon price, some gas displaces renewable energy, further undercutting any benefit it might have had. Fifteen scientists from some of the leading institutions in the world — including Harvard, NOAA and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab — have published a seminal study, “Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States.” Crucially, it is based on “comprehensive atmospheric methane observations, extensive spatial datasets, and a high-resolution atmospheric transport model,” rather than the industry-provided numbers EPA uses.  The US EPA recently decreased its CH4 emission factors for fossil fuel extraction and processing by 25–30% (for 1990–2011), but we find that CH4 data from across North America instead indicate the need for a larger adjustment of the opposite sign. How much larger? The study found greenhouse gas emissions from “fossil fuel extraction and processing (i.e., oil and/or natural gas) are likely a factor of two or greater than cited in existing studies.” In particular, they concluded, “regional methane emissions due to fossil fuel extraction and processing could be 4.9 ± 2.6 times larger than in EDGAR, the most comprehensive global methane inventory.” This suggests the methane leakage rate from natural gas production, which EPA recently decreased to about 1.5%, is in fact 3% or higher.This broad-based look at methane emissions confirms the findings of 3 recent leakage studies covering very different regions of the country:

US spewing 50% more methane than EPA says — The United States is spewing 50 percent more methane — a potent heat-trapping gas — than the federal government estimates, a new comprehensive scientific study says. Much of it is coming from just three states: Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Related StoriesThat means methane may be a bigger global warming issue than thought, scientists say. Methane is 21 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, the most abundant global warming gas, although it doesn't stay in the air as long. Much of that extra methane, also called natural gas, seems to be coming from livestock, including manure, belches, and flatulence, as well as leaks from refining and drilling for oil and gas, the study says. It was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The study estimates that in 2008, the U.S. poured 49 million tons of methane into the air. That means U.S. methane emissions trapped about as much heat as all the carbon dioxide pollution coming from cars, trucks, and planes in the country in six months. That's more than the 32 million tons estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration or the nearly 29 million tons reckoned by the European Commission.

Arctic Seafloor Methane Releases Double Previous Estimates: The seafloor off the coast of Northern Siberia is releasing more than twice the amount of methane as previously estimated, according to new research results published in the Nov. 24 edition of the journal Nature Geoscience. ... "Increased methane releases in this area are a possible new climate-change-driven factor that will strengthen over time." Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. On land, methane is released when previously frozen organic material decomposes. In the seabed, methane can be stored as a pre-formed gas or asmethane hydrates. As long as the subsea permafrost remains frozen, it forms a cap, effectively trapping the methane beneath. However, as the permafrost thaws, it develops holes, which allow the methane to escape. These releases can be larger and more abrupt than those that result from decomposition. ... Methane is an important factor in global climate change, because it so effectively traps heat. As conditions warm, global research has indicated that more methane is released, which then stands to further warm the planet. Scientists call this phenomenon a positive feedback loop. "We believe that the release of methane from the Arctic, and in particular this part of the Arctic, could impact the entire globe," Shakhova said.

Shakhova & Semiletov: East Siberian Arctic Shelf is venting at least 17 teragrams of the methane, double previous estimates, now on par with terrestrial permafrost release — The seafloor off the coast of Northern Siberia is releasing more than twice the amount of methane as previously estimated, according to new research results published in the Nov. 24, 2013, edition of the journal Nature Geoscience.  The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is venting at least 17 teragrams of the methane into the atmosphere each year. A teragram is equal to 1 million tons.  "It is now on par with the methane being released from the Arctic tundra, which is considered to be one of the major sources of methane in the Northern Hemisphere," said Natalia Shakhova, one of the paper's lead authors and a scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Increased methane releases in this area are a possible new climate-change-driven factor that will strengthen over time." Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. On land, methane is released when previously frozen organic material decomposes. In the seabed, methane can be stored as a pre-formed gas or asmethane hydrates. As long as the subsea permafrost remains frozen, it forms a cap, effectively trapping the methane beneath. However, as the permafrost thaws, it develops holes, which allow the methane to escape. These releases can be larger and more abrupt than those that result from decomposition. The findings are the latest in an ongoing international research project led by Shakhova and Igor Semiletov, both researchers at the UAF International Arctic Research Center. Their twice-yearly Arctic expeditions have revealed that the subsea permafrost in the area has thawed much more extensively than previously thought, in part due to warming water near the bottom of the ocean. The warming has created conditions that allow the subsea methane to escape in much greater amounts than their earlier models estimated. Frequent storms in the area hasten its release into the atmosphere, much in the same way stirring a soda releases the carbonation more quickly.

Methane blind spot - could be much bigger than we think  - The potent greenhouse gas methane (CH4) is given short shrift in climate science, and that's not even considering the methane hydrate or permafrost thaw issues. In fact, sustained methane levels from microbe-generated methane (microbial methanogenesis) could dwarf an Arctic methane hydrate pulse from the East Siberian Shelf. Current climate models ignore this issue. They use a set of prescribed greenhouse gas levels to run their simulations, and they generally follow the same standardized prescriptions, the RCP scenarios. These RCP scenarios assume that today's atmospheric methane level rises and falls only as a result of direct human activity. This activity is mostly things like methane-producing farming practices and methane releases from burning fossil-fuels.  But looking at the paleoclimate data for the past 800,000 years shows that methane is closely tied to carbon dioxide levels and temperature. I believe that it's reasonable this relationship will persist, and that therefore very faulty assumptions of methane levels underlie each of the four standard RCP (representative concentration pathway) scenarios. This is a serious problem because these pathways form the basis for almost all climate science studies and evaluations of potential impacts.   What's more, in the RCP scenarios, because methane is presumed to be entirely now under human direct control, its level remains at today's atmospheric concentration or even falls below it, despite significantly higher CO2 levels (even in the lowest RCP2.6, CO2 reaches about 450 ppm), except for just one scenario, the worst-case¹ scenario, RCP8.5. This worst-case scenario is used less often out of the four central scenarios for evaluating future impacts of global warming. In other words, the projections for agricultural output, sea level rise, temperature rise, rates of species extinction, droughts, and so on, are all based on what appears to be far-too optimistic assumptions about methane.

Methane Tracker - A very interesting site called Methane Tracker shows atmospheric methane over the Arctic.Best viewed when choosing the layers from 650 mb / 11775 feet through 469 mb / 19819 feet. . Take note that there is plenty of methane coming from other shelves around the Arctic, in particular off Greenland

US Court Denies Halt on Pipeline Set to Replace Keystone XL Northern Half - A story covered only by McClatchy News' Michael Doyle, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson shot down Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation's (NWF) request for an immediate injunction in constructingEnbridge's Flanagan South tar sands pipeline in a 60-page ruling.. That 600-mile long, 600,000 barrels per day proposed line runs from Flanagan, Illinois - located in the north central part of the state - down to Cushing, Oklahoma, dubbed the "pipeline crossroads of the world."The proposed 694-mile, 700,000 barrels per day proposed TransCanada Keystone XL northern half also runs to Cushing from Alberta, Canada, and requires U.S. State Department approval, along with President Barack Obama's approval.   Because Flanagan South is not a border-crossing line, it doesn't require the State Department or Obama's approval. If Keystone XL's northern half's permit is denied, Flanagan South - along with Enbridge's proposal to expand its Alberta Clipper pipeline, approved by Obama's State Department during Congress' recess in August 2009 - would make up that half of the pipeline's capacity and then some. Sierra Club and NWF argued for an injunction - or halt - in constructing and pumping tar sands through Flanagan South until the legality of issuing a Nationwide Permit 12 is decided, an issue still awaiting the decision of Judge Jackson. Like the Keystone XL southern half case, Nationwide Permit 12 was used instead of going through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  NEPA - unlike the fast-track Nationwide Permit 12 - requires the EPA to issue a full draft Environmental Impact Statement and final Environmental Impact Statement, with 1-2 month public commenting periods following each Statement. Use of Nationwide Permit 12 has quickly become a "new normal" for fast-track approval of tar sands pipelines and other controversial domestic energy infrastructure projects. 

Will Rail Become the Next Target of Oil Protests? - A watchdog report said the Canadian government isn't doing enough to ensure the rail transport industry is monitored effectively. With rail one of the few viable alternatives to pipelines, the concern may add another layer of frustration to the North American energy debate. "Transport Canada [the nation's transportation regulator] needs to address significant weaknesses in its oversight of safety management systems," Auditor General Michael Ferguson said. More than 40 people died in July when a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said parts of Quebec looked like a "war zone" following the wreck. There are some 27,000 miles of track in Canada carrying more than 50% of the goods transported by land. Oil production increases in North America, meanwhile, mean more petroleum products are delivered by rail because there aren't enough pipelines to keep up. Railway operators in Canada were told in 2001 to take steps to better their safety policies through training and risk control strategies. Ferguson, however, said Transport Canada completed about a quarter of the work necessary and questioned the skills of the inspectors themselves. Transport Canada's policies are "not robust enough to know that the companies are doing what they need to do to make sure their safety systems are working as they should be," he said. 

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