Posts Tagged ‘oil’
Tuesday, June 18, 2013 @ 09:06 AM gHale
A campaign called Naikon targets communications, oil, government, media and other types of organizations from Asia.
The cybercriminals rely on the RARSTONE Remote Access Tool (RAT), which is similar to PlugX, to take complete control of their targets’ computers, said researchers at Trend Micro.
Attackers send out spear-phishing emails that claim to contain documents related to diplomatic discussions in the Asia-Pacific region, Trend Micro researchers said.
When a user opens the documents attached to the emails, a vulnerability in Windows common control ends up exploited, and RARSTONE pushes onto the victim’s computer . In the meantime, a bait document displays to avoid raising suspicion.
Once it finds itself on a device, a backdoor component downloads from a command and control (C&C) server directly to the memory. This allows the threat to go undetected by classic file-based scanning technologies .
Unlike other RATs, RARSTONE checks the Uninstall Registry Key and uses it to find out what applications are on the computer. The programs that interfere with its functions end up removed.
In addition, command and control communications occur via SSL to protect the connection and to make sure malicious traffic blends in with legitimate traffic.
The individuals behind the Naikon campaign, named so because of the “NOKIAN95/WEB” user agent string identified in the attacks, want to ensure their infrastructure is difficult to analyze. They use dynamic DNS domains or registrars that have privacy protections.
“Targeted attacks like this are typically part of broader campaigns meant to stay under the radar and steal information from target entities,” said Maharlito Aquino, Trend Micro Threats analyst.
“Traditional technologies like blacklisting and perimeter controls are not enough to detect or block the components of these campaigns. Instead, enterprises need to increase their visibility and control over their networks in order to identify dubious network traffic .”
Tuesday, May 28, 2013 @ 05:05 PM gHale
General Electric Co. is opening a new laboratory in Oklahoma, buying up related companies, and placing a big bet that cutting-edge science will improve profits for clients and reduce the environmental and health effects of fracking.
“We like the oil and gas base because we see the need for resources for a long time to come,” said Mark Little, a GE senior vice president. He said GE did “almost nothing” in oil and gas just over a decade ago but has invested more than $15 billion in the past few years.
GE doesn’t drill wells or produce oil or gas, but Little said the complexity of the fracking boom plays into the company strengths. As wells end up drilled horizontally at great depths in a variety of formations all around the country, and that means each location may require different techniques.
There are also big differences in how surrounding communities view the boom. There’s been little controversy in traditional oil and gas states such as Oklahoma, but nearby landowners in Pennsylvania, Colorado and other states complained of environmental and health effects.
“My own view is there things can be managed,” Little said of concerns about drilling, adding they need to be managed carefully. He drew a parallel to GE’s work with the aircraft industry, since many decades ago flying was a risky business, but the industry evolved so that even as the speed, distance and number of flights increased, overall safety improved greatly.
Little also pointed out GE has significant experience in wind energy, solar, and in nuclear power. “I think the world needs all of these kinds of systems,” Little said.
Little said the GE strategy ultimately comes down to looking at “minds and machines together.” For example, they have devices that can literally be put down into a well to give people on the surface information about exactly what’s happening a mile or two below ground.
“We’ll get more information than ever before,” he said, and that can be used to help improve production and profits, and to monitor and reduce environmental impacts.
One scientist said that the approach makes sense, and there are past examples of success.
Modern cars are “incomparably cleaner” than older ones, said Neil Donahue, a professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “There are some real technical issues that these folks at GE might be able to make real progress on.”
Friday, March 15, 2013 @ 01:03 PM gHale
A “dirty blizzard” of sediment was the end result of the oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill acting as a catalyst for plankton and other surface materials to clump together and fall to the sea floor.
The dirty blizzard phenomenon may explain what happened to some portion of the more than 200 million gallons of spilled oil. Microbes likely processed most of the oil within months of the spill, but government assessments have not accounted for all of the spilled oil.
“Some of the missing oil may have mixed with deep ocean sediments, creating a dirty bathtub effect,” said Jeff Chanton, the John Widmer Winchester Professor of Oceanography in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science at Florida State University and one of the members of the Deep-C Consortium who presented the dirty blizzard hypothesis at a conference in New Orleans that focused on the effects of the oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. “The sediments then fell to the ocean floor at a rate 10 times the normal deposition rates. It was, in essence, an underwater blizzard.”
The consortium confirmed the never before observed dirty blizzard hypothesis by using thorium, lead and radiocarbon isotopes in addition to DNA analyses of sediments.
The oily sediments deposited on the sea floor could cause significant damage to ecosystems and may affect commercial fisheries in the future, Chanton said.
The dirty blizzard hypothesis explains why layers of water that would normally be cloudy with suspended plankton instead appeared transparent during the spill, except for strings of particles falling to the bottom.
“The oil just sucked everything out of the surface,” Chanton said.
Chanton and his Deep-C colleagues are continuing their research to determine exactly how much of the oil ended up on the sea floor.
The Deep-C (Deep Sea to Coast Connectivity in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico) Consortium consists of 10 major institutions, including FSU, Eckerd College, the University of South Florida and Georgia Institute of Technology, involved in a long-term, interdisciplinary study of deep sea to coast connectivity in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. The study is investigating the environmental consequences of the 2010 oil spill on living marine resources and ecosystem health. The spill left 11 dead and devastated the Gulf Coast environment.
The research was possible in part by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), a 10-year independent research program investigating the effects of the Deepwater Horizon incident.
The mission of the GoMRI is to improve society’s ability to understand and mitigate the impacts of hydrocarbon pollution and stressors on the marine environment and public health. The program started up through a $500 million financial commitment from BP.
Friday, March 1, 2013 @ 04:03 PM gHale
Houston-based Swift Energy Co. brought under control Thursday an outflow of water, oil and natural gas after a marine vessel collided with a shut-in well head Tuesday in the shallow waters of its Lake Washington field in Plaquemines Parish, LA.
Now that Swift achieved containment and a repair, the company will be able to determine any volumes leaked into the water.
The well was leaking mostly water and a small amount of oil, according to Swift. State, federal and local authorities were on the scene to develop a plan to bring the well under control.
There were no injuries, and primary containment boom and oil skimming equipment ended up deployed around the well site to protect shorelines, facilities and private property. Additional containment and skimming equipment was also out to protect any nearby marshlands.
The well involved in the incident has been out of commission for five years and has not produced since that time, according to the statement. It is in the shallow water of the Lake Washington field.
Located in the northwest corner of Plaquemines Parish, Lake Washington field is an inland-water field.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 @ 05:02 PM gHale
Discussion flows over the benefits of fracking over the environmental issues it may or may not cause, but there continues to a limit on quality data and unreliable estimates on air pollution from oil and natural gas production and that is a problem for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as it deals with the drilling boom.
Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. said the EPA failed to directly measure emissions from some pieces of equipment and processes, and some estimates it does have are of “questionable quality.”
“With limited data, human health risks are uncertain, states may design incorrect or ineffective emission control strategies, and EPA’s decisions about regulating industry may be misinformed,” Elkins said.
The EPA, under President Barack Obama, has stepped up regulation of natural gas drilling, which has been booming thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. About 25,000 wells a year are undergoing fracking, which is a process in which water, chemicals and sand end up injected at high pressure underground to release trapped natural gas.
Obama also wants to expand natural gas production, as long as it doesn’t damage the environment.
The oil and gas industry has said the EPA overestimated emissions of methane and argued they already were working to reduce pollution, without the agency’s intervention.
The EPA last year issued the first-ever standards to control smog- and soot-forming gases from gas wells site, and updated existing rules to reduce cancer-causing pollution, such as benzene, from other equipment.
The agency, in response to the report, agreed to develop a comprehensive strategy to improve its pollution figures.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 @ 02:02 PM gHale
Coffeyville Resources Refining & Marketing (CRRM) agreed to pay a $556,244 civil penalty and $1.7 million for reimbursement of federal response costs associated with the cleanup of the Verdigris River following a 2007 flood and oil spill, said officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
On July 1, 2007, the CRRM facility in Coffeyville, KS, discharged 2,145 barrels of crude oil, diesel fuel, and oil water from its petroleum refinery into the Verdigris River during a flood.
“The settlement with CRRM requires the company to make upgrades to its facility that will protect human health and the environment from future spills,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks. “In addition to these changes, CRRM is required to pay back the taxpayers for the response costs associated with cleaning up their spill.”
CRRM will also complete other projects to further mitigate the risk of illegal spills or discharges.
Among these are the completion and installation of river modeling and monitoring procedures and the implementation of a Wet Weather Plan and training of refinery personnel to ensure proper emergency shutdown of the refinery in the event of a future flood.
Thursday, January 31, 2013 @ 05:01 PM gHale
There may soon be a process out there that not only benefits every uniformed service member, but everyone else as well: Protection from Chemical/Biological agents.
Not only will this new discovery help ward off chemical and biological agents, it could also lead to self-cleaning apparel, to effortless thermal management, to fuel purification as well as enhanced control of leaks, especially with oil and fuels.
A research team led by Anish Tuteja, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor assistant professor of materials science and engineering, specializing in chemical engineering and macromolecular science and engineering, demonstrated surfaces can effectively perform as “chemical shields against virtually all liquids.”
In 2006, Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Program Manager Dr. Charles Lee funded Professor Gareth McKinley at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology exploring nanocomposite technology for Defense applications. Tuteja, an MIT doctoral student at the time, was exploiting the unusual surface properties of a nanocomposite with fluorinated nanoparticles, to create a superoleophobic surface. After graduation, Tuteja moved to the University of Michigan. He earned the Young Investigator Program grant from AFOSR in 2011, and continued to conduct the same line of research begun at MIT.
To create chemical shields against liquids, surfaces undergo preparation using a nanoscale coating approximately 95 percent air, which in turn, repels liquids of any material in its class, causing them to literally bounce off the treated surface. The surfaces “possess hierarchical scales of re-entrant texture that significantly reduce the solid-liquid contact area,” Tuteja said. It all comes down to controlling how much contact the liquid ultimately has with the treated surface. To accomplish that the researchers apply the nanoscale coating using a process called electrospinning, using an electric charge to create fine particles of solid derived from a liquid solution.
The coating is a mixture of cross-linked “polydimethylsiloxane,” or PDMS, and liquid-resisting nanoscale cubes developed by the Air Force that contain carbon, fluorine, silicon and oxygen. While the material’s chemistry is important, so is its texture, because it hugs the pore structure of whatever surface it is applied to, and creates a fine web of air pockets within those pores, so any liquid that comes in contact with the coating is barely touching a solid surface.
Tuteja said when an untreated surface and a liquid get in close proximity, “they imbue a small positive or negative charge on each other, and as soon as the liquid comes in contact with the solid surface, it will start to spread….we’ve drastically reduced the interaction between the surface and the droplet.” By effectively eliminating the contact between the treated surface and the liquid, there is almost no incentive for the liquid to spread, as such, the droplets stay intact, interacting only with molecules of themselves, and maintaining their spherical shape.
The research team has tested more than 100 liquids and found only two that were able to penetrate the coating: They were both chlorofluorocarbons—chemicals used in refrigerators and air conditioners. In Tuteja’s lab demonstrations the surface repelled coffee, soy sauce and vegetable oil, as well as toxic hydrochloric and sulfuric acids, and the surfaces are also resistant to gasoline and various alcohols.
This program is can be useful to the Air Force and the Department of Defense for self-cleaning surfaces (in particular, integral breathable protective Chemical/Biological Warfare defense in uniform clothing and sensor systems), improvement of thermal management efficiency in phase change cooling systems, fuel purification and the control of oil and fuel leakages in rockets and airplanes.
Don’t forget, it can also protect against dreaded everyday coffee spill.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013 @ 03:01 PM gHale
It took two days, but an oil well that went out of control the Friday before Christmas five miles west of Watford City, ND, ended up plugged early Sunday night.
A crew from Wild Well Control was able to install a temporary plug at the well and all flow of fluids ceased, said Keith Schmidt, spokesman for well owner Newfield Exploration Co.
A workover rig crew lost control of the oil well while trying to bring it from hydraulic fracturing stages into oil production.
The well had been blowing a geyser of oil, gas and salt water some 95 feet into the air and spreading contamination more than a mile downwind from the well site.
Kris Roberts, environmental geologist with the state Health Department, said the initial height of the blowout was the result of intense pressure from the well and because the blowout forced the well pipe up out of the well and it ended up caught in the workover rigging.
Schmidt said the flow reduced considerably Sunday ahead of the temporary plug.
Roberts said the elevation and the wind caused much of the contamination to drift away from the well, covering a large area of agricultural land.
He said the workover crew had been flowing back frack fluids for five or six days, so it wasn’t clear whether any of the escaped fluids are from fracking, or were the oil, natural gas and salt water from the oil formation.
Roberts said he will take samples to identify the spilled fluids.
This is the second well blowout in the area this month. A Slawson Exploration Co. well near Lake Sakakawea, ND, spilled about 1,500 barrels of oil, gas and salt water. The company said they recovered most of the fluids and an environmental cleanup was under way.
Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 06:12 PM gHale
Investigators are still trying to understand the cause of an out-of-control oil well that spewed an orange-colored mix of gas, oil and saltwater as high as 50 feet into the air Thursday near Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota.
Kyle Waliezer, Rockies area superintendent for Slawson Exploration Co., said an equipment malfunction caused workers to lose control of the well Wednesday night. There were no injuries in the incident.
Crews on Friday regained control of the oil well and the cleanup process has begun.
When the blowout first occurred, workers tried to gain control so as a quick stop gap measure, they lowered a backhoe bucket over the wellhead, capping the spew and forcing all the escaping liquids to remain inside a containment berm around the well.
The Slawson Exploration well is 10 miles southwest of Parshall, ND.
Waliezer said they pulled the bucket off the well later Thursday afternoon because of fire and safety concerns. Crews then started to prep the location to get the well under control, he said.
Slawson called in Wild Well Control of Houston, and five of its crew were at the scene. The blowout roared as the escaping gassy liquids exited through a 2 3/8th inch pipe under very high pressure.
Waliezer said well control was lost at about 6 p.m. Wednesday during a workover rig operation conducted by Magna Energy Services.
Waliezer said he doesn’t yet know what failed during the workover operation. He said the well had been in production for about a month and is among 20 Slawson wells in the immediate area and 300 in North Dakota.
Vacuum pumpers were removing spilled liquids from inside the berm around the well and there was no off-site runoff other than the plume spray. As a precaution, the company built an emergency berm between the well and the lake. The closest lake water is about 1 ½ miles from the well, he said.
Kris Roberts, state Health Department environmental engineer, said well records will detail out how much oil, gas and saltwater spilled during the blowout.
The escaped oil pumped out of the berm is of good quality and will be salvageable, Waliezer said.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012 @ 06:12 PM gHale
Deepwater Horizon disaster is over, but the methods to control the catastrophe are now under review and the dispersant used to help contain the spill remains a hot topic.
As the Deepwater Horizon incident unfolded, in an effort to prevent the oil from coming to the surface and reaching coastal and marsh ecosystems, chemical dispersants ended up injected at the wellhead. These powerful dispersants, typically used to break up oil slicks at the sea surface never saw use before in such large quantities and over such a prolonged period of time in the deep ocean.
A new study led by University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science Associate Professor of Applied Marine Physics Claire Paris, examined the effects of the use of unprecedented quantities of synthetic dispersants on the distribution of an oil mass in the water column, based on a modeling approach.
A team of researchers developed and tested models that ended up showing the application of oil-dispersing chemicals had little effect on the oil surfacing in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Deepwater drilling into large, high-pressure reservoirs of oil and gas located far offshore and hundreds of meters below the ocean’s surface involves risks for which we were not adequately prepared,” Paris said.
“As the oil gushed uncontrolled into the Gulf, injection of chemical dispersant into the deep ocean may have had little effect because the oil was coming out with such pressure that it was already dispersed in small droplets,” Paris said. “It is impossible to know whether the synthetic dispersant was well mixed with the oil as it was injected. Our models treat both scenarios, and regardless of whether you have the dispersant in the water mixture or not, the amount of oil reaching the sea surface remained relatively unchanged.”
The researchers estimated the distribution of oil droplet sizes with and without injection of dispersant at the wellhead.
They then applied a novel oil-mass tracking model of the Connectivity Modeling System (CMS) developed shortly after the incident and presented a three-dimensional simulation of the spill showing the unfolding of the disaster to examine the effect the synthetic dispersant may have had on the oil transport in the water column.
The model indicated the dispersant injected at BP’s Macondo wellhead was not necessary to break up the oil. The subsea application of dispersant did not have its expected outcome.
“This study is notable because it presents a comprehensive estimate of the Macondo blowout from the microscopic oil-water interface through the macroscopic transport of crude oil.” said team member, chemical engineer and Ph.D. Candidate Zachary Aman from Colorado School of Mines. The work served as a milestone in assessing the three dimensional transport of oil in the water column.
“Since the beginning of the spill our model accurately predicted the decoupling between the surface and subsea oil transport, and was unique in showing the southwest extension of the deep plume,” said team member, physical oceanographer and UM Rosenstiel School Assistant Scientist Matthieu Le Henaff. “Correct assessment of upwelling and downwelling currents for the circulation model created a realistic scenario that we then used to test the effect of the injection of dispersant on the oil partition.”
As global deep-sea oil exploration expands, the model will be helpful in quantifying the utility of synthetic dispersants for deep water oil leaks.
“The CMS oil model was able to predict the strange layering of oxygen deficit anomalies that we observed during our field sampling and provided us a three dimension view of a phenomena that was constantly changing in time,” said team member, biological oceanographer and Research Associate Professor Ajit Subramaniam from Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. “For us, it was like being able to track the ghosts of the oil plume because the oil itself had been consumed by the microbes and all that was left were the oxygen anomalies and the model was critical for us to understand what we were observing in the field.”