Posts Tagged ‘oil’

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 09:02 AM gHale

The largest U.S. utility owner, Duke Energy Corp., wants to sell its interest in 13 power plants in the nation’s Midwest after Ohio regulators denied its request to raise rates.

Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley are advising Duke on the sale of stakes in the coal, oil and natural gas facilities in Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania that have a capacity of 6,600 megawatts, Duke said. The company will record a pretax charge of $1 billion to $2 billion in the first quarter from the sale, which it expects will take 12 to 18 months.

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Ohio regulators on Feb. 13 denied Duke’s request to bill customers in the state an additional $729 million through May 31, 2015 to help cover a shortfall between power-plant costs and wholesale electricity prices. The rate request refusal “informed” the decision to sell the plants, said Tom Williams, a company spokesman.

“Our merchant power plants have delivered volatile returns in the challenging competitive market in the Midwest,” Lynn Good, chief executive of Duke, said in the statement. “The earnings profile is not a good strategic fit for Duke Energy.”

The average price of wholesale power in the market for the plants Duke intends to sell, has fallen by nearly half since the 2008 recession due to lower industrial demand and a glut of cheap gas, based on the 2013 average compiled by Bloomberg.

The 13 plants represent the bulk of Duke’s commercial power segment. Eleven of the facilities are in Ohio, one is in Illinois and another is in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 @ 05:09 PM gHale

Oil and gas spill continue to ravage parts of Colorado in the wake of the severe flooding last week.

Regulators were tracking 11 oil spills in the north-central portion of the state, where eight people have died and thousands displaced, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) said Thursday.

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Three new spills totaling at least 7,600 gallons had been discovered as flood waters recede. Regulators are now tracking 11 notable leaks totaling at least 34,500 barrels, mostly from storage tanks that toppled or otherwise failed.

The full extent of the damage was still unclear as workers struggled to gain access to some of the worst-hit areas, but officials are now reporting leaks from well sites hit by torrential rains.

Images of tanks that store oil or drilling fluids, unmoored and floating in mud-brown floodwater, have raised concern.

The spills in Colorado present a “major public health issue”, Congressman Jared Polis of the second district of Colorado said in a letter to the COGCC. “In light of the serious conditions on the ground, the industry, at a minimum, must disclose all chemicals that may be contaminating soil and groundwater,” he said.

Fertilizer and pesticides and sewage all pose a major threat to the environment after the rains, but much of the worry surrounds the oil and gas hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Fracking pumps millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand at high pressure deep underground to fracture shale rock deposits that hold vast amounts of oil and gas. Large amounts of that water returns to the surface and ends up stored in the kind of tanks floating in the Colorado floods.

Some companies in Colorado, including Encana Corp. and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. disclose the fracking chemicals used in Weld County wells, according to Frac Focus, a website where energy firms can list substances they use. The drilling fluids contain hydrochloric acid, benzyl chloride and many other chemicals.

A storage tank owned by energy company Anadarko spilled an estimated 125 barrels of oil into the South Platte River in north-central Colorado, the COGCC said on Wednesday.

Denver-based Kerr-McGee Oil and Gas Onshore company, a unit of Anadarko, reported the spill of an unknown volume of condensate into the South Platte last Tuesday from a 300-barrel-capacity storage tank.

Anadarko deployed absorbent booms to the spills, but oil still escaped.

“In both cases, it appears the oil left the site in floodwaters,” the COGCC said in its statement Thursday.

Noble Energy Inc. discovered three wells that were leaking natural gas following the floods last week.

Two of the compromised wells shut down Wednesday, but a third that appeared to be leaking a “limited” amount of gas could not down because it was not safe to get to, the company said Wednesday.

Noble operates more than 8,000 active wells in the DJ Basin in Colorado. Between five and ten percent of those wells have been shut in due to the flood.

Thursday, September 5, 2013 @ 07:09 PM gHale

Seven technical reports released that together form the most comprehensive Michigan-focused resource on hydraulic fracturing, the natural gas and oil extraction process.

The studies, conducted by University of Michigan researchers and totaling nearly 200 pages, examine seven critical topics related to the use of hydraulic fracturing in Michigan, with an emphasis on high-volume methods: technology, geology and hydrogeology, environment and ecology, public health, policy and law, economics, and public perceptions.

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While considerable natural gas reserves exist in Michigan and high-volume hydraulic fracturing has the potential to help access them, they also have to address the possible impacts to the environment and to public health, the U-M researchers said.

Though modern high-volume hydraulic fracturing is not widely used in Michigan today, a main premise of the U-M study is the technique could become more widespread due to a desire for job creation, economic growth, energy independence and cleaner fuels.

“There’s a lot of interest in high-volume hydraulic fracturing, but there really isn’t much activity at the moment in Michigan,” said John Callewaert, project director and director of integrated assessment at U-M’s Graham Sustainability Institute, which is overseeing the project. “That’s why now is a good time to do this assessment.”

These reports conclude the first phase of a two-year U-M project known formally as the Hydraulic Fracturing in Michigan Integrated Assessment. The seven documents provide a solid informational foundation for the project’s next phase, an analysis of various hydraulic fracturing policy options. That analysis be ready to go in mid-2014 and will end up shared with government officials, industry experts, other academics, advocacy groups and the general public.

“Nothing like this has been done before in Michigan,” Callewaert said. “Having this comprehensive, state-specific set of reports will be an invaluable resource that will help guide future decision-making on this issue — and hopefully will help Michigan avoid some of the pitfalls encountered in other states.”

Conclusions of the reports, written by faculty-led, student-staffed teams from various disciplines, include:
• Technology. In view of the current low price of natural gas, the high cost of drilling deep shale formations and the absence of new oil discoveries, it is unlikely that there will be significant growth of the oil and gas industry in Michigan in the near-term future.
• Geology/hydrogeology. A recent flurry of mineral rights acquisitions in the state associated with exploratory drilling suggests the potential for growth in natural gas production through high-volume hydraulic fracturing.
• Environment/ecology. Potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on the environment are significant and include increased erosion and sedimentation, increased risk of aquatic contamination from chemical spills or equipment runoff, habitat fragmentation and resulting impacts on aquatic and terrestrial organisms, loss of stream riparian zones, and reduction of surface waters available to plants and animals due to the lowering of groundwater levels.
• Public health. Possible hazards in the surrounding environment include impaired local and regional air quality, water pollution and degradation of ecosystems.
• Policy/law. The state is the primary source of law and policy governing hydraulic fracturing in Michigan. The operator of a high-volume hydraulically fractured well must disclose the hazardous constituents of chemical additives to the state Department of Environmental Quality for each additive within 60 days of well completion.
• Economics. The gas extraction industry creates employment and income for Michigan, but the employment effects are modest compared with other industries and not large enough to “make or break” the state’s economy.
• Public perceptions. A slight majority of Michigan residents believe the benefits of fracking outweigh the risks, but significant concerns remain about the potential impacts to human health, the environment and groundwater quality.

In fracking, water, sand and chemicals (in a mix known as hydraulic fracturing fluid) end up injected under high pressure deep underground to crack sedimentary rocks, such as shale, and free trapped natural gas or oil. Though the process has been in use for more than half a century to improve well production, technical advances helped unlock vast stores of previously inaccessible natural gas and oil, resulting in a boom in some parts of the United States.

Chief among the technical advances are directional drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which often end up used together. In directional drilling, the well operator bores vertically down to the rock formation, then follows the formation horizontally.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 @ 05:09 PM gHale

Petrobot is now able to efficiently do the dirty work humans just don’t want to do.

Petrobot is a “robot snake arm” or “crawler” that will spend its days in huge vats of oil. Shell’s Petrobot project, also partially funded by the European Union, looks to “develop robots which can replace humans in inspections of pressure vessels and storage tanks widely used in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry.”

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Right now, people have to inspect those oil tanks, and it is very hazardous work with all the mess, the chemical fumes, and the hours spent in the giant toxic container.

The oil companies would rather see Petrobot do the job because inspecting an oil container by hand is expensive and time-consuming, and robots could do it faster and cheaper.

When humans do the job it costs the oil company money because “to ensure inspectors’ safety, oil, gas and petrochemical plants have to shut down during inspection operations.” Shutting down those operations, costs companies like Shell quite a bit. On top of that “vessels have to be decoupled from live sections of the plant; then vessels are extensively cleaned to remove all products that can emit flammable or toxic gases; scaffolding is then erected in larger vessels, so that inspectors can access all necessary areas.”

That is a considerable amount of time and labor. Bring in Petrobot instead, and you don’t even have to empty out the tank. Petrobot can dive in and do its assigned chores.

“When a pressure vessel is taken out of service, a robot (in the shape of a snake arm or a crawler) will enter it via a manhole or a nozzle; the robot will then scan along the vessel wall for damages,” Shell said. “A robot will enter the storage tank while the product (petrol or intermediate products) stays in place; the robot will then scan over the tank bottom for damages.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.”

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“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.

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“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.

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