Tag Archives: fracking

Did Big Fossil Pressure Scientists To Lay Low on Fracking Earthquakes in Oklahoma?

It seems that oil executives, possibly in concert with the Oklahoma University administration, may have pressured scientists to downplay the link between fracking and earthquakes, according to EnergyWire. It is a long and complicates story and you should go to the source to learn more. Briefly,

Oklahoma’s state scientists have suspected for years that oil and gas operations in the state were causing a swarm of earthquakes, but in public they rejected such a connection.

When the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) did cautiously agree with other scientists about such a link, emails obtained by EnergyWire show the state seismologist was called into meetings with his boss, University of Oklahoma President David Boren, and oil executives “concerned” about the acknowledgement.

One of the oilmen was Continental Resources Chairman Harold Hamm, a leading donor to the university.

The seismologist, Austin Holland, told a senior U.S. Geological Survey official that as far back as 2010, OGS officials believed an earthquake swarm near Oklahoma City might have been triggered by the “Hunton dewatering,” an oil and gas project east of the city.

“Since early 2010 we have recognized the potential for the Jones earthquake swarm to be due to the Hunton dewatering,” Holland wrote to USGS science adviser Bill Leith in 2013. “But until we can demonstrate that scientifically or not we were not going to discuss that publicly.”

Instead, he pointed to changing lake levels.

And when USGS officials linked a “remarkable” surge in earthquakes in Oklahoma and other states to drilling waste disposal in 2012, OGS criticized their “rush to judgment.”

Holland told EnergyWire the intense personal interest shown by Boren, Hamm and other leaders hasn’t affected his scientific findings or those of OGS.

“None of these conversations affect the science that we are working on producing,” Holland told EnergyWire. “We have the academic freedoms necessary for university employees doing research.”

But Holland and OGS have been the voice of skepticism in the scientific community about connections between oil production activities and the hundreds of earthquakes that have shaken the state.

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Graphic from here.

Keystone XL and other pipelines will phase out

Keystone XL is effectively obsolete.


James Lenfesty, a retired editori
Oil Spill
Fracking spills, earthquakes, pipeline spills, global warming, add up to making Keystone XL and similar projects a bad idea.
al writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, has an Op Ed in that paper suggesting that by the time Keystone XL pipeline is built it would be obsolete. He acknowledges that by out dated reckoning the pipeline might have been a good idea, but not by modern standards.

… zero carbon emissions is what the times require, for carbon emissions are dangerously altering the global climate and the chemistry and temperature of oceans and lakes, endangering almost every living thing.

Which is why I, a 70-year-old grandfather, along with thousands of other citizens, have pledged that if the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline is approved, we will peacefully contest every foot of its construction across the heart of America.

He also discusses oil trains and carbon taxes. Go check it out.

Pipelines like Keystone XL would mainly carry costly crude

Keystone XL Protest
Keystone XL Protest
One of the costs of that crude is the side effects of mining and fracking. And, a new cost is being added to fracking; liability for earthquakes caused by it.

In a case expected to set a precedent for future earthquake claims in Oklahoma, the state Supreme Court will consider whether two oil companies can be held liable in state court for injuries a Prague woman suffered during the 2011 earthquake.

An attorney for one of the companies has said the lawsuit, if successful, would cause energy companies to abandon wastewater disposal wells across the state.

“These wells will become economic and legal-liability pariahs,” attorney Robert Gum told a Lincoln County judge during an October hearing in the case. Gum represents New Dominion LLC, a Tulsa-based oil and gas company, in the lawsuit.

Tulsa World has the story.

Not all pipeline spills are oil

Here’s an update on a North Dakota salt water pipeline spill:

More than 4 million gallons of a mixture of fresh water, brine and oil have been pumped from the area affected by the largest saltwater spill of North Dakota’s current energy boom, according to a report issued Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

…brine, is an unwanted byproduct of oil and natural gas production that is much saltier than sea water and may also contain petroleum and residue from hydraulic fracturing operations. Some previous saltwater spills have taken years to clean up….

The mixture of fresh water… is being transported to a well site to be injected underground. Saltwater is usually pumped underground for permanent storage …

…The latest spill is almost three times larger than one that fouled a portion of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in July. Another million-gallon saltwater spill in 2006, near Alexander, is still being cleaned up nearly a decade later.

Democratic state lawmakers have promised to file legislation that would mandate additional monitoring and safeguards for pipelines that carry briny oilfield wastewater…

The story is here.

Keystone XL Debate Does Not End

Meanwhile, in the US Senate, the current Keystone XL pipeline debate has continued, moving a likely vote to next week. The reason is that several Democrats who actually support the pipeline wanted to continue the debate, joining the majority of Democrats who also want to see the debate continue. This may reflect a strategy to be to get as many pro-Carbon fuel advocates on record as being on the wrong side of an issue many expect to turn over during the next two years. This is largely done through the amendment process, which requires Senators (if the amendments come to a vote) to put their position on record. This record, in turn, can make or break later election bids. From The Hill:

“We don’t want Sen. McConnell especially after all the hop-de-do about an open process, open amendments, to shut it down at his whim. We are not ready to do that yet, there are more amendments pending,” [Democrat Chuck] Schumer said….

Schumer wouldn’t say how many more amendment votes Democrats would like to see. Over 150 amendments have been filed to the Keystone bill.

Ahead of Monday’s vote, McConnell laughed at Democrats for wanting more amendments, arguing they have had more opportunities to add measures to the underlying bill than Republicans had all of last year.

We shall see. He who laughs last votes first.

Greenhouse Gas Levels Reach New Record High

You may have heard that the release of greenhouse gases has recently gone down, to match levels of several years ago. Why, then, do we have someone saying that greenhouse gasses have reached a new record high?

There are two, maybe three, reasons.

First, even though CO2 release from the US may be lower now than it has been in a few years, it is still high (it was high a few years ago, so we’ve reduced to a level that is high!). More importantly, the US has reduced its release of CO2 primarily for incidental economic reasons. With a recession/depression going on, there is less money being spent on things that burn fuel. But, we are also producing more fossil carbon-containing products that we send to other countries, where that fuel is burned, thus releasing the CO2. So, globally, CO2 release is probably as high as it has ever been, more or less.

Second, the greenhouse gasses stay in the atmosphere for a long time. Releasing less does not make what is there go away, really. So if we add less for a couple of years, we still increase the amount.

Third, and less understood, and perhaps not even part of the current calculation of greenhouse gas release, is the extra methane that is being released at large but as yet understudied quantities from drilling operations including those that involve fracking.

So, with those caveats, we have this report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization:

Greenhouse Gas Concentrations Reach New Record: WMO Bulletin highlights pivotal role of carbon sinks

Geneva, 20 November (WMO) – The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2011, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Between 1990 and 2011 there was a 30% increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping long-lived gases.

At this point I would like to pause and note something important. Here we learn that there has been a 30% increase in warming effects from 1990 onward. This does not mean, however, that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) started in 1990. You will often see Climate Science Denialists refer to events earlier in the last 100 years as evidence that global warming is not real. If global warming supposedly causes large storms, and there was a large storm in the 1930s, or if global warming supposedly causes droughts, and there was the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, then global warming is not real, the story goes. However, global warming is largely the result of the release of Carbon from the burning of coal and petroleum, and that (especially the coal) started way back in the 18th century and really took off in the mid 19th century. Global warming and its effects have certainly been much more significant over the last several decades, but the effects are much older than that. To return to the UN report…

Since the start of the industrial era in 1750, about 375 billion tonnes of carbon have been released into the atmosphere as CO2, primarily from fossil fuel combustion, according to WMO’s 2011 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, which had a special focus on the carbon cycle. About half of this carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, with the rest being absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial biosphere.

“These billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on earth,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “Future emissions will only compound the situation.”

“Until now, carbon sinks have absorbed nearly half of the carbon dioxide humans emitted in the atmosphere, but this will not necessarily continue in the future. We have already seen that the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide uptake, with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs. There are many additional interactions between greenhouse gases, Earth’s biosphere and oceans, and we need to boost our monitoring capability and scientific knowledge in order to better understand these,” said Mr Jarraud.
“WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch network, spanning more than 50 countries, provides accurate measurements which form the basis of our understanding of greenhouse gas concentrations, including their many sources, sinks and chemical transformations in the atmosphere,” said Mr Jarraud.

The role of carbon sinks is pivotal in the overall carbon equation. If the extra CO2 emitted is stored in reservoirs such as the deep oceans, it could be trapped for hundreds or even thousands of years. By contrast, new forests retain carbon for a much shorter time span.
The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports on atmospheric concentrations – and not emissions – of greenhouse gases. Emissions represent what goes into the atmosphere. Concentrations represent what remains in the atmosphere after the complex system of interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere and the oceans.

CO2 is the most important of the long-lived greenhouse gases – so named because they trap radiation within the Earth’s atmosphere causing it to warm. Human activities, such as fossil fuel burning and land use change (for instance, tropical deforestation), are the main sources of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The other main long-lived greenhouse gases are methane and nitrous oxide. Increasing concentrations of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are drivers of climate change.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, quoted in the bulletin, shows that from 1990 to 2011, radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases increased by 30%, with CO2 accounting for about 80% of this increase. Total radiative forcing of all long-lived greenhouse gases was the CO2 equivalent of 473 parts per million in 2011.

The report goes on to state that CO2 is the single most important human generated greenhouse gas, but also discusses methane, which I mentioned above, and discusses Nitrous oxide as well.

(Thanks to Brad Johnson for the info on hydrocarbon exports.)