Texas

December 27, 2013

Fracking Saves Water, Prevents Droughts, New Study Claims

Source: http://www.ibtimes.com, December 23, 2013
By: David Kashi

Even though hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses millions of gallons of water to blast shale rock to release trapped gas, the controversial technique actually saves water, according to a recent study by the University of Texas.

The study claims that the Lone Star State is less vulnerable to drought because of its transition from coal to natural gas as the main fuel source used to generate electricity.

“Natural gas also enhances drought resilience by providing so-called peaking plants to complement increasing wind generation, which doesn’t consume water,” the study said.

Thanks to fracking, Texas is now extracting more oil and gas than ever. The state’s production could surpass that of Kuwait, UAE, Iraq, Iran and even Canada by the end of next year. The drilling technique has been heavily criticized, as some environmentalists contend fracking contaminates and wastes groundwater.

“The bottom line is that hydraulic fracturing, by boosting natural gas production and moving the state from water-intensive coal technologies, makes our electric power system more drought-resilient,” Bridget Scanlon, senior research scientist at the university’s Bureau of Economic Geology, who led the study, said.

While the study asserts that fracking accounts for less than 1 percent of the water consumed in Texas, it also acknowledged that it strains local water supplies in areas where the technique is heavily concentrated.…

December 16, 2013

New look at old refinery aims to assess sources of pollution

Source: http://www.news-journal.com, December 8, 2013
By: Peggy Jones

Federal oversight of the old Longview Refinery property on Premier Road entered a new phase this past week when environmental experts from across Texas met there to inspect existing groundwater monitoring wells and pick locations for new soil and groundwater testing that will begin early next year.

The new round of Environmental Protection Agency testing is aimed at determining whether toxic hazards still exist at the refinery, which operated from 1935 until 1992, and if so, to what degree. Officials said they hope results can determine the source of contamination and help them draw up a plan to remediate it.

Owner Ken Williams, under the gun to clean up the property, is making a case to the EPA that any contamination present today migrated from off-site, because there has been no activity on the property for 21 years.

In February the EPA will install 14 groundwater monitoring wells, collect subsurface soil samples from the monitoring well borings, and develop the new and existing monitoring wells according to an agreement reached between Williams and the federal agency. All data will be analyzed at the EPA laboratory in Houston.

The tour Monday was guided by Williams, president of Gregg County Refining, who told the group, “We have nothing to hide.”

They spent hours trudging through often-times shoulder-high brush to determine locations for the new test sites, most of which were selected based on topography and the flow of groundwater.…

November 14, 2013

Drillers recycle water

Read here about oil and gas drillers turning toward water recycling.

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November 13, 2013

Could fracking boom peter out sooner than DOE expects?: Will U.S. fracking boom soon go bust?

Source: USAToday.com, November 3, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Surging oil and gas production is nudging the nation closer to energy independence. But new research suggests the boom could peter out long before the United States reaches this decades-old goal.

Many wells behind the energy gush are quickly losing productivity, and some areas could hit peak levels sooner than the U.S. government expects, according to analyses presented last week at a Geological Society of America meeting in Denver.

“It’s a temporary bonanza,” says J. David Hughes, an energy expert at the Post Carbon Institute, a research group focused on sustainability. He studied two of the nation’s largest shale rock formations, now the source of huge amounts of oil and gas, and said they could start declining as early as 2016 or 2017.

The reason: “sweet spots” small areas with the highest yields. Hughes says these spots simply don’t last long. Unless more wells are drilled, the Bakken shale of North Dakota and Montana loses 44% of its production after a year and the Eagle Ford shale of Texas, 34%. Most of the nation’s major shale regions produce both oil and gas.

“You have to keep drilling more and more just to maintain production,” says Hughes, adding this can become too costly to be profitable. He notes oil production in the Bakken, which skyrocketed between 2008 and 2012, has already started to slow down and Eagle’s Ford may soon follow. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects both shale plays will hit their oil peak in 2020, declining afterward.…

November 13, 2013

Below-ground gas injection linked to Texas quakes

Source: AFP World News, November 4, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

A method of storing harmful greenhouse gases by injecting them below ground has likely triggered a series of earthquakes in Texas, some larger than magnitude 3, a US study said Monday.

The findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences mark the first time that carbon storage has been linked to temblors ranging from 3.0 to 4.4 in severity.

Researchers warned last year in the same journal that carbon capture and storage risked causing earthquakes, but there had been no direct evidence of such quakes until now.

The study focused on seismic activity in petroleum fields in Scurry and Kent Counties in northwest Texas, known as the Cogdell and Kelly-Snyder oil fields.

A process called water flooding was used in the Cogdell field to boost oil production from 1957 to 1982, and previous research has found that the practice caused small quakes in the area from 1975 to 1982.

More recently, methane and CO2 have been injected into the oil field at high volumes, said the research by Wei Gan and Cliff Frohlich at The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics.

It was done in an area where the US Department of Energy has funded research on the potential impacts of carbon capture and storage (CCS), a proposed technique for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by capturing CO2 and injecting it deep underground for long-term storage.…

October 9, 2013

Ohio will soon authorize fracking wastewater pools

Source: Vindicator (Youngstown, OH), October 7, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Ohio regulators will soon approve and permit large, exposed centralized impoundments that hold fracking flowback water.

These are used widely by oil and gas companies in other states to recycle the waste and serve multiple wells near one another .

The impoundments, or pits, which sometimes exceed the size of a football field and can hold millions of gallons of water, are now banned in Ohio.

But they’ve proved a useful asset to companies operating in other states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The impoundments serve as water-transfer stations for multiple wells nearby, greatly reducing the amount of truck traffic and the water necessary to drill and frack those wells.

Existing Ohio regulations permit use of lined impoundments that hold freshwater for drilling. Flowback, or fracking wastewater, however, must be stored above ground in covered steel tanks before disposal or reuse.

But effective Jan. 1, the centralized impoundment pools will be authorized by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as part of a regulatory change state legislators made in the biennial budget bill signed in June.

Changes to the law likely came after input from the industry. Operators consider centralized impoundments a key to further developing the Utica Shale play.…

September 25, 2013

Sites sought for region's fracking residue

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, September 23, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Battelle scientists are leading a search for sites where companies can pump fracking waste underground in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The two-year project, funded by a $1.8 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, is a response to the growing amount of polluted wastewater that bubbles out of fracked shale wells. Millions of barrels of the waste are pumped into disposal wells, many of which are in Ohio.

With more drilling and fracking expected, oil and gas companies will need to find the best locations to safely inject more waste, said Neeraj Gupta, senior research leader for Battelle’s subsurface-resources group.

“That’s one of our objectives. Where is the injection capacity?” Gupta said.

Right now, it’s in Ohio, where more than 14.2 million barrels of fracking fluids and related waste from oil and gas wells were pumped into 190 disposal wells last year. That was a 12 percent increase over 2011.

Much of the waste — 8.16 million barrels last year — came from Pennsylvania, which has seven active disposal wells. West Virginia has 63 disposal wells.

The fracking process pumps millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to shatter shale and free its trapped oil and gas. Some of the fluid bubbles back up, along with ancient saltwater that contains toxic metals and radium.

Environmental advocates say they worry that old, poorly maintained disposal wells will leak pollutants to groundwater.…

September 13, 2013

BP toxic gas trial is first of many

Source: Houston Chronicle, September 10, 2013
Posted on: http://fpn.advisen.com

Tons of toxic gases spewed from a tower at BP’s Texas City refinery for more than 40 days in 2010 without warning to the public. This week four of more than 48,000 residents who sued BP claiming health damage from the release will be the first to have their day in court.

They are asking a jury to give each of them up to $200,000 and to punish BP by awarding 10 percent of its estimated $147 billion net worth. The punitive damages would be given to charity, said attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the four Galveston County residents.

The lawsuit alleges that BP could have shut down a unit that caused the release but refused to do so because it would have cost $20 million in lost revenue.

Jury selection began Monday in the trial, which is expected to set the tone for many trials to follow.

“These test cases are all bellwethers,” Buzbee said. “Whatever decision is made by the jury will not be binding on any clients but these, but it will give a strong indication of the … value of the cases.”

The mixture of gases escaped through a flare, a tower designed to burn away pollutants released into the air, between April 6 and May 22, 2010.…

August 15, 2013

TX Company Fined For Violating Environmental Laws

Read here about a chemical recycling and processing company in Texas that will pay millions for not complying with environmental laws.…

June 25, 2013

PDC Energy to pay $35,000 for February fracking fluid spill

Source: Greeley Tribune (CO), June 18, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

PDC Energy on Monday formally agreed to pay $35,000 in response to February’s 30-hour, 84,000-gallon fracking flow back fluid spill north of Windsor.

During the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s meeting in Grand Junction, PDC offered to go above and beyond an otherwise minor fine by entering into an administrative order by consent. Typically, the commission weighs its enforcement options to the tune of $1,000 per violation per day, but in the case of the PDC incident — which was contained to the well pad and largely based on “bad luck” — that would have totalled only about $9,000.

“We understand that there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on the commission,” said Adell Heneghan, vice president of environmental health and safety with PDC. “We also understand that the community is crying out for more enforcement, and we believe that this is the appropriate thing to do.”

In addition to the fine, PDC will also arrange for three Weld County training classes titled “Effective Strategies and Tactics for Municipal Responders,” which will focus on strategies emergency workers can use when responding to an oil or gas well situation. Those classes, hosted by Texas-based Wild Well Control, will be held July 6, July 19 and July 20.…