Environment
Reuters | 15 May 2017

Canadian Government, Industry To Spend CAD 70 Million on Oil Sands Clean Tech Projects

The Canadian and Alberta governments and three energy companies said on 11 May that they will spend CAD 70 million (USD 51.14 million) to develop three new clean technology projects, aimed at cutting costs and carbon emissions in the country’s oil sands.

Northern Alberta’s vast oil sands hold the world’s third-largest crude reserves but are costly to operate and require carbon-intensive production methods, factors that have prompted a number of international oil majors to pull back from the patch in recent months.

The sector is now concentrated in the hands of a smaller pool of domestic players, who have repeatedly said technology will be the key to remaining competitive.

Canada’s Ministry of Natural Resources is contributing CAD 26.2 million in funding under its previously announced Energy Innovation Program, which has CAD 50 million over 2 years to support the development of clean oil and gas technologies.

Provincial government-funded agency Alberta Innovates will invest CAD 5.2 million, while the three companies involved—Cenovus Energy, MEG Energy, and privately held Field Upgrading—will provide the additional CAD 43.3 million.

“Innovation like this is critical because, while the transition to a low-carbon future is well underway, the world will continue to rely on fossil fuels for years to come. Our responsibility is to make them cleaner,” said Canada’s Minister for Natural Resources Jim Carr.

The funding will help take all three technology projects toward the commercial demonstrations stage.

 

Zinke Announces USD 23.6 Million for Water Reclamation and Reuse Projects and Studies

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on 12 May announced that the Bureau of Reclamation awarded USD 23,619,391 to communities in seven states for planning, designing, and constructing water recycling and reuse projects; developing feasibility studies; and researching desalination and water recycling projects. The funding is part of the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse program.

Water in a California canal.

“This funding provides essential tools for stretching limited water supplies by helping communities reclaim and reuse wastewater and impaired ground or surface waters,” Secretary Zinke said. “These tools are just part of the toolkit for bridging the gap between water supply and demand and thus making water supplies more drought-resistant. In addition to this funding, Reclamation is actively supporting state and local partners in their efforts to boost water storage capacity.”

Read the full story here.

Bloomberg | 9 May 2017

Sale of Oil Leases on California Public Lands on Hold

The federal government is barred from auctioning off new drilling rights on public lands in California for at least another year under a settlement reached with environmental groups, one of the groups told Bloomberg.

The agreement details the US Bureau of Land Management’s obligations to comply with a 2016 court order requiring a more thorough analysis of potential environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing and other drilling activities before it opens the public lands for oil and gas development.

The settlement, approved by the US District Court for the Central District of California on 3 May, resolves a lawsuit the Center for Biological Diversity and Los Padre ForestWatch filed in 2015 Los Padres ForestWatch v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management , C.D. Cal., No. 2:15-cv-04378 MWF/JEM, 5/3/17 .

“Our hope is that this settlement puts the final nail in the coffin for BLM’s illegal practicing of rubber-stamping fracking in California without environmental review,” Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, who represented the groups, said in a prepared statement on 4 May.

Read the full story here.

The Associated Press | 3 May 2017

Justices Won’t Hear Challenge Over Alaska Polar Bear Habitat

The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal from Alaska and oil and gas industry groups protesting the government’s designation of more than 187,000 square miles in the state as critical habitat for threatened polar bears.

The justice on 1 May left in place an appeals court ruling that said the US Fish and Wildlife Service followed the law when it authorized the massive habitat in a coastal area larger than the state of California.

Alaska officials, the American Petroleum Institute, and others said the designation was too extensive and accused the agency over overreaching.

Read the full story here.

Bloomberg | 27 April 2017

Perry Says Trump Should Renegotiate, Not Exit, Paris Accord

Energy Secretary Rick Perry became the latest senior member of President Donald Trump’s administration to publicly advocate for staying in the Paris climate accord, saying the US should renegotiate the deal and push European nations to take on a larger share of emissions reductions.

“I’m not going to tell the president of the United States to walk away from the Paris accord,” Perry said at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York on 25 April. “I will say that we need to renegotiate it.”

The remark puts Perry among a small group of Trump advisers who favor sticking with the landmark United Nations agreement, which the president vowed to scrap during his campaign. The debate has largely played out behind closed doors, with environmental chief Scott Pruitt and top strategist Steve Bannon pushing for a pullout while White House adviser Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson advocate sticking with the deal.

The White House has said it will decide by next month what to do with the deal involving more than 190 nations struck in the French capital in 2015. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman joined a group of 14 state attorneys in urging Trump to reconfirm US involvement in the Paris deal, saying fighting pollution is a public health matter.

Read the full story here.

Reuters | 26 April 2017

Norway’s Statoil Plays Down Risks Ahead of Arctic Drilling

Norway’s Statoil on 24 April played down concerns that drilling in the Arctic is risky, days before it starts its drilling campaign in the Barents Sea, where the country believes around half of its remaining resources could be located.

The company logo of Statoil is seen during a company results presentation in London, 6 February 2015. Credit: Toby Melville/Reuters.

Despite opposition from environmentalists, the company plans to drill five wells in the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea, including Korpfjell, which will be the world’s northernmost well and in a formerly disputed border area with Russia

“We will start drilling the first well, Blaamann, during May … followed by Kayak, Gemini (Nord), Korpfjell, and Koigen (Central),” said a Statoil spokesman, adding each might take about a month to drill.

All the wells are in areas free of sea ice thanks to the warm Gulf Stream, with sea and wind conditions similar to the North Sea, and some 250 miles away from the “ice edge zone”—where at least 10% of the sea is covered by ice.

“All wells will be drilled so far south of the existing ice that, in the event of any spillage, no oil would never reach the marginal ice zone,” Statoil said.

Even in winter, there have only been 10 days of ice in the last 14 years in the areas where drilling is planned, it said.

Greenpeace, which is taking the Norwegian government to court over Arctic drilling plans, said any permanent oil platforms in the region would be particularly risky.

“Both the Korpfjell and Koigen Central licenses are within the reach of the historic marginal sea ice edge for the last 30 years,” Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace in Norway, said.

“Statoil should not drill in the Barents Sea because of the pending legal case, because of environmental risk, and because the world doesn’t need more oil,” he said.

Statoil said the statistical probability of a blowout, an uncontrolled oil spill from a well, was 0.014%—or one for every 7,100 exploration wells.

Read the full story here.

Reuters | 24 April 2017

Dutch To Cut Gas Output To Reduce Earthquake Risk

The Netherlands will reduce production of its Groningen gas field by 10% from October to limit the risk of earthquakes, the country’s economy minister said in a letter to parliament on 18 April.

Output has been cut several times from 53.9 billion cubic meters in 2013 to 24 billion cubic meters as criticism mounted that Dutch authorities had failed to adequately assess the risk to citizens from earthquakes caused by production at Europe’s biggest field.

Read the full story here.

Reuters | 19 April 2017

Eni Shuts Down Oil Center at Major Italy Field After Local Order

Italian oil major Eni said on 18 April it had decided to temporarily shut down a treatment plant serving its biggest domestic oil field in southern Italy to meet a local order.

Closure of the oil center in the Val d’Agri field follows a request by the regional government of Basilicata to halt operations because it said there were leaks from storage tanks at the site.

In a note on Saturday, the regional government said it had repeatedly asked Eni to meet a series of conditions it had laid down to stop contamination of the soil by the leaks.

Eni said on 18 April it had decided to shut down the plant to respect the position of the region but added it had met all conditions set out by the regional authorities.

EHS Journal | 4 April 2017

How Carbon Offsets Increase Organizational Sustainability

Has your company or organization invested in carbon offsets? Carbon offsets are proving an important tool for companies that want to reduce the effect of their carbon footprint. An offset is achieved through the funding of a “green project” that reduces emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases (e.g., nitrous oxide, methane) in the earth’s atmosphere in order to compensate for or diminish the effect of emissions made through other projects.

The end goal of carbon offsets is to achieve an overall reduction in carbon emissions over time, supporting the move to a lower carbon economy, through the funding of a significant number of green projects. A certificate is provided representing the reduction of one metric ton (2,205 lbm) of greenhouse gas emissions.

Sustainability Benefits for Global Organizations
Carbon offsets can achieve far more than simply reducing a company’s carbon footprint. They can greatly enhance the sustainability story of global companies, especially those in industries known to produce a high level of emissions (e.g., oil and gas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, metals, and mining). Sustainability goals vary from company to company and industry to industry. The Clean Development Mechanism, defined by the Kyoto protocol, identifies more than 200 types of projects eligible for carbon offsets. Projects are grouped into five categories: renewable energy, methane abatement, energy efficiency, reforestation, and fuel switching.

Central to improving a company’s sustainability story is the need to carefully choose which emission reduction projects best reflect a company’s overall mission, values, and vision. Realize too that offset projects undertaken by companies often result in additional community benefits such as improved air and water quality or a better overall quality of life. These cobenefits should be carefully considered when choosing a carbon offset project.

Read the full story here.

IOGP | 4 April 2017

Safeguarding Marine Life and the World’s Energy Future

According to the International Energy Agency, oil and gas will still be needed in 2040 to meet about half of the world’s growing energy needs—just as they do now. And, as the World Ocean Review reports, about one-third of oil and gas production comes from offshore.

Because marine seismic surveys are critical in finding offshore oil and gas, The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers and the International Association of Geophysical Contractors have collaborated on a position paper that assesses the effect of such work on marine mammals.

This joint report concludes that “After more than 50 years of worldwide seismic surveys and more than 15 years of extensive peer-reviewed scientific research, there remains no evidence that sound from properly mitigated seismic surveys has had any significant impact on any marine populations.”

The paper provides insights into the various aspects of marine sound, the techniques of seismic surveying and the mitigation measures in place to minimize any negative effect that oil and gas seismic work might have on marine populations. These measures include

  • Preprogram planning that includes risk assessments and management
  • Sound modeling that helps to avoid surveying in specific locations and during specific periods that might have particular sensitivity for some marine life
  • Soft-start techniques that involve a gradual increase in the loudness of the sound source to allow animals to move away as the sound grows louder
  • Exclusion zones of at least 500 m before seismic activity begins
  • Visual monitoring that alerts operators to any breach of an exclusion zone
  • Towed passive acoustic monitoring that detects marine mammal vocalizations before seismic work begins

Read the full story here.

Financial Times | 30 March 2017

Exxon Urges Trump To Keep US in Paris Climate Accord

ExxonMobil, the largest American oil group, has written to the Trump administration urging it to keep the US in the Paris climate accord agreed at the end of 2015.

Credit: Bloomberg.

The letter was sent last week, but has emerged as Trump is preparing to announce executive orders beginning a rollback of several of Barack Obama’s climate policies, while leaving the question of Paris open.

Trump administration officials have said a decision on participation in Paris is still “under discussion” and have been soliciting views from US energy companies.

Exxon argues in its letter that there are several reasons for the US to stay in the Paris accord, including the opportunity to support greater use of natural gas, which creates lower carbon dioxide emissions than coal when burnt for power generation.

Read the full story here.

AllAboutShale.com | 21 March 2017

A New Nanocomposite Forward Osmosis Membrane Custom-Designed for Treating Shale Gas Waste Water

Managing the waste water discharged from oil and shale gas fields is a big challenge because this kind of wastewater is normally polluted by high contents of both oils and salts. Conventional pressure-driven membranes experience little success for treating this waste water because of either severe membrane fouling or incapability of desalination.

Diagram of simultaneous oil/water separation and desalination by hydrogel/GO FO membrane. Credit: Detao Qin.

This study presents the design of a new nanocomposite forward osmosis (FO) membrane for accomplishing simultaneous oil/water separation and desalination. This nanocomposite FO membrane is composed of an oil-repelling and salt-rejecting hydrogel selective layer on top of a graphene-oxide- (GO) nanosheets-infused polymeric support layer. The hydrogel selective layer demonstrates strong underwater oleophobicity that leads to superior antifouling capability under various oil/water emulsions, and the infused GO in the support layer can significantly mitigate internal concentration polarization through reducing FO membrane structural parameter by as much as 20%.

Compared with commercial FO membrane, this new FO membrane demonstrates more than three times higher water flux, higher removals for oil and salts (>99.9% for oil and >99.7% for multivalent ions), and significantly lower fouling tendency when investigated with simulated shale gas wastewater. These combined merits will endorse this new FO membrane with wide applications in treating highly saline and oily wastewaters.

Read the full paper here.