What close to $3 billion a day can buy!


Offshore oil rig in the Pechora Sea, Russia

The oil and gas industry has delivered $2.8 billion a day in pure profit for the last 50 years, a new analysis has revealed.

The vast total captured by petrostates and fossil fuel companies since 1970 is $52 trillion, providing the power to “buy every politician, every system” and delay action on the climate crisis, says Prof Aviel Verbruggen, the author of the analysis. The huge profits were inflated by cartels of countries artificially restricting supply.

The analysis, based on World Bank data, assesses the “rent” secured by global oil and gas sales, which is the economic term for the unearned profit produced after the total cost of production has been deducted.

The study has yet to be published in an academic journal but three experts at University College London, the London School of Economics and the thinktank Carbon Tracker confirmed the analysis as accurate, with one calling the total a “staggering number”. It appears to be the first long-term assessment of the sector’s total profits, with oil rents providing 86% of the total.

If you find yourself, your peers, wondering how many of the politicians controlling your country might be owned by the masters of the fossil fuel industry…the answer is “as many who are willing to have their pockets, bank accounts, investment portfolios, filled with enough money to make them richer than they ever dreamed”.

Earthquake trends in Oklahoma related to wastewater injection


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❝ According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the number of earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains has increased dramatically since 2009. More earthquakes in these areas have coincided with the increase in oil and natural gas production from shale formations. Seismic events caused by human activity — also known as induced seismicity — are most often caused by the underground injection of wastewater produced during the oil and natural gas extraction process…

Before 2009, Oklahoma might have experienced one to two low-magnitude earthquakes per year. Since 2014, Oklahoma has experienced one to two low-magnitude earthquakes per day, with a few instances of higher magnitude (between magnitude 5 and 6) earthquakes that caused some damage.

In addition to the increased use of wastewater injection related to oil and natural gas production in the region, the geologic conditions in central Oklahoma are conducive to triggering seismic activity. The rock underlying the formations where disposal water is being injected in the region has existing faults that are susceptible to the changing stresses caused by fluid injection. Without these geologic conditions, induced seismicity would be much less common. For example, induced seismicity in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana is relatively rare.

❝ The USGS in 2017 issued an updated seismic hazard forecast for the central and eastern United States. This forecast attempts to estimate the chance of damage caused by earthquakes in the region of interest. The 2017 forecasted seismic rates are still significantly elevated compared with pre-2009 levels but lower than their peak in 2015.

The USGS report indicates that the recent decline may be related to decreased wastewater injection, because production in the region has decreased since the 2014 drop in oil prices. Actions by authorities in various states to regulate wastewater injection practices and restrict injection into the most sensitive areas may also be helping to reduce both the number and intensity of small earthquakes.

Give ’em a chance, folks. My experience with fossil fuel producers in Gulf States and the Permian Basin tell me nothing trumps profits. Not damage to the environment. Not light-to-medium damage to homes and businesses. It will take heavy-duty death and destruction to press these greedy bastards to find healthier ways to fill their pockets.

Back-To-Back Deadly Oil & Gas Explosions in Colorado Communities


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❝ An Anadarko oil tank battery exploded in flames on Thursday afternoon, killing one worker and injuring three more, just 3.5 miles from the site of a deadly home explosion in Firestone, Colo., that killed two last month…

On the same day, state officials confirmed that two pockets of methane gas were discovered in the Oak Meadows community, in Firestone. Todd Hartman, spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) noted that the elevated readings on the left side of the image below were likely related to the existence of a tank battery and so not necessarily abnormal. The second pocket of gas was located underneath Oak Meadows Boulevard. According to the DNR, a preliminary investigation indicates that a flowline heading towards that road may have been cut when a sewer was installed there.

❝ Earlier this month, Governor John Hickenlooper ordered a statewide review of all oil and gas operations following the Firestone home explosion. The explosion was traced to an uncapped flowline from a newly activated gas well, both owned by Anadarko. The line was buried seven feet underground but was accidentally severed near the home’s basement. It leaked odorless gas that exploded, killing homeowner Mark Martinez and his brother-in-law Joey Irwin, both 42.

❝ Oil and gas producers in the state faced a deadline of May 30 to complete inspections and a deadline of June 30 to fix any problems found. In the meantime, about a hundred homeowners in the Oak Meadows neighborhood have filed suit against the owner of the well, Anadarko Petroleum, the past owner of the well, Noble Energy, as well as the home builders and developers.

❝ For years anti-oil and gas activists have been clamoring for greater distances between homes and oil and gas activity. In 2013, Colorado increased setbacks for new wells to 500 feet. But there are no statewide regulations regarding what is known as “reverse setbacks,” the distance that new homes must be built from older wells.

Anyone think people are more important than profits? Get in the way of serious money-making natural resources and you will learn about eminent domain faster than a bolt of lightning. Or a natural gas explosion.

Scientists map safe locations for wastewater injection in Texas and Oklahoma


Jens-Erik Lund Snee

Stress maps of Texas and Oklahoma, with black lines indicating stress orientation. Blue-green colors indicate regions of extension in the crust, while yellow-orange areas are indicative of crustal compression.

❝ Stanford geophysicists have compiled the most detailed maps yet of the geologic forces controlling the locations, types and magnitudes of earthquakes in Texas and Oklahoma.

These new “stress maps…provide insight into the nature of the faults associated with recent temblors, many of which appear to have been triggered by the injection of wastewater deep underground…

❝ To create these stress maps, Mark Zoback and his graduate students Jens-Erik Lund Snee and Richard Alt interpreted data from different parts of Texas and Oklahoma donated by oil and gas companies…

When combined with information about the faults present in a given area, the scientists were able to assess which faults are likely to be problematic and why. In the areas where induced earthquakes have occurred in Texas and Oklahoma, the Stanford scientists show that a relatively small increase of pore pressure – the pressure of fluids within the fractures and cavities of rocks – would have been sufficient to trigger slip…

❝ In a related paper…graduate student F. Rall Walsh and Zoback present a methodology for assessing which faults are susceptible for earthquake triggering and which are not.

❝ The Stanford scientists also found that many of the recent earthquakes in Texas that have been suspected as being triggered by wastewater injection occurred on faults that – according to the new map – have orientations that are nearly ideal for producing earthquakes. Hence, doing this kind of study in advance of planned injection activities could be very helpful.

Useful, that is within the context of oil and gas well drillers actually making use of this information. Unless attitudes have changed greatly from the days when I was involved with that industry – I don’t expect much of a response to this study. This is an industry concerned, first and last, with easy profits, comparatively cheap costs – even when they don’t seem that way to mere mortals who worry about household budgets and even the occasional mid-strength earthquake.

Example: I got a call one sunny autumn morning in New Orleans from a Texas driller – in Dubai. Doesn’t matter what broke on what machinery. He had to stop work.

He told me he’d already spoken to one of our warehousemen and parts were now waiting outside the front door of my office in a taxi. Waiting for me to accompany them to New Orleans International Airport. I walked downstairs and got in the cab. At the airport I picked up the few boxes of parts and walked to the tarmac next to the air freight terminal. There was a full-size Boeing air freighter waiting and I placed the boxes inside an open doorway along with appropriate paperwork. The hatch closed. The jet took off headed for Dubai. No other cargo on board besides the $300 worth of parts I’d delivered.

Part of the cost of doing business. To be passed along to consumers.

Texas bill will forbid towns and cities from banning fracking


Click to enlargeSpencer Platt/Getty ImagesTrucks near a fracking site in Odessa, Texas

Last time I was in Odessa I commented on the absence of birds on the prairie – dotted with pumpjacks and pipelines. Bubba said, “Smell that air. That’s the smell of money. Of course, it killed all the birds.”

A bill supported by energy companies that prevents cities and counties from banning the practice of fracking on their land has been passed by the first tier of state legislators in Texas and is on course to become law.

The proposed law would stop municipalities and other local authorities from enacting their own bans on the practice of hydraulic fracturing and drilling for crude oil and natural gas. The state would have the power to override any such efforts and give gas and oil companies the access they desire to extract resources, against the wishes of voters and politicians at local level if necessary.

The bill was approved by the Republican-controlled Texas House…and will now proceed to the Senate, where it is expected to be approved, and then to Governor Greg Abbott. Abbott has previously decried the level of regulation placed on such companies by local authorities.

Abbott fears democracy as much as any of his peers. As much as Republicans lie about reining in the power of the state – using that power to benefit corporate greed is OK.

The move came in response to a recent decision by Denton, a college town about 30 miles from Dallas, to ban fracking inside its city limits over concerns about recurring small earthquakes and other safety worries linked to deep gas wells. Denton sits on a gas-rich shale formation that stretches across 24 counties in north Texas…

Moves by local authorities to try to keep fracking out of their backyards are afoot in other parts of Texas. Opponents of the bill now going through the Texas legislature complain that the state is grabbing power from local government and say the new law will jeopardise safety close to homes and schools.

Some of the most archaic laws this side of sharia are still on the books in this land of freedom, the American West. They were written by the owners of extractive industries like mining and logging, by the patrons of Spanish land grants who wished sole governance over access to water.

The best any ordinary mortal can generally hope for is a pittance of the profits or an even smaller fraction of water rights, surface water or ground water. Our bought-and-paid-for politicians – especially at the state level – play all the traditional games, dance the traditional dances. Hallowed ancestors, freedom-loving settlers is one of the most hypocritical concepts – generally describing someone who stole this land from Native Americans.

Just one more trick bag Americans have to get mad enough to tear up and scatter to the wind – like all baronial declarations.

Surprising complexity, insights into global effects of wood fuel burning

The harvesting of wood to meet the heating and cooking demands for billions of people worldwide has less of an impact on global forest loss and carbon dioxide emissions than previously believed, according to a new Yale-led study.

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, a team of researchers, including Prof. Robert Bailis of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, concludes that only about 27 to 34 percent of wood fuel harvested worldwide would be considered “unsustainable.” According to the assessment, “sustainability” is based on whether or not annual harvesting exceeds incremental re-growth…

According to the authors, the findings point to the need for more nuanced, local-specific policies that address forest loss, climate change, and public health. They also suggest that existing carbon offset methodologies used to reduce carbon emissions likely overstate the CO2 emission reductions that can be achieved through the promotion of more efficient cookstove technologies.

The study identifies a set of “hotspots” where the majority of wood extraction exceeds sustainable yields. These hotspot regions — located mainly in South Asia and East Africa — support about 275 million people who are reliant on wood fuel.

However, in other regions, the authors say, much of the wood used for this traditional heating and cooking is actually the byproduct of deforestation driven by other factors, such as demand for agricultural land, which would have occurred anyway…

The results stand in contrast to a long-held assumption that the harvesting of wood fuels — which accounts for more than half of the wood harvested worldwide — is a major driver of deforestation and climate change…

Emissions from wood fuels account for about 1.9 to 2.3 percent of global emissions, the study says. The deployment of 100 million improved cookstoves could reduce this by 11 to 17 percent, said Bailis, who also studies the factors that influence the adoption of cleaner cookstoves in developing nations…

“We need to be able to understand where these different components of non-renewability are coming from in order to get a better sense of the positive impacts of putting stoves into peoples’ homes or promoting transitions to cooking with gas or electricity,” he said.

Economics rules. IMHO The first reason to choose wood-burning for fuel is cost. There is none. Yes, there is the cost of labor-time; but, the discussion covers a majority of rural families who are self-sustaining farmers…with little or no cash income.

Cost factors of electricity, natural gas, butagaz, etc. aren’t part of the equation. These folks generally can’t budget to buy fuel. Income-generation from local/regional small-scale manufacturing or more efficient, more productive methods of agriculture offering surplus to sell can remedy that core problem.

Massive volcano eruption in Indonesia grounds flights in Australia


Click to enlargeSofyan Efendi

A huge volcanic eruption in Indonesia has covered the region in a vast cloud of ash, grounding flights in Australia and south east Asia.

Sangeang Api, a volcano off the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, which lies in one of the most active areas of the Pacific ‘ring of fire’, has erupted at least three times since Friday…

Dramatic images show smoke, ash and debris shooting into the sky, while a flying saucer shaped current of gas wraps around the plumes.

All flights have been cancelled from Darwin airport, Australia’s Northern Territory capital, and disruption is expected for days as the cloud could reach as far south as Brisbane.

The ash cloud from the first eruption is around 20,000 and 50,000 feet high and around 15 km wide, according to reports. It is moving south-easterly over Australia. A second, now over Darwin is sitting at around 45,000 feet, while a third is over Bali.

Wow!

A new way to clean and recycle waste water from industry

A startup called Axine Water Technologies has developed a new low-cost way to clean the waste water created by industries like oil and gas extraction, chemical processing and chip manufacturing. The idea is that if the waste water is cleaned at a lower cost and with a simple process it can be more easily reused, and thus less fresh water is required in the industrial processes.

Axine makes modules that are filled with cells that use electricity to create a reaction. The waste water flows across the electrified cell, and any particles in it are oxidized. The byproduct is pure hydrogen, which can be collected.

The startup, which is based in Vancouver, says the technology costs five times less than competitive solutions and is also beneficial because it uses no chemicals and doesn’t produce any sludge. The modules can scale up to create larger multiple container-sized systems.

The company is still in the ramp-up phase. Axine intends to deliver pilot projects to customer sites early next year, and this week announced that it’s raised a $5.6 million Series A funding round from new investors the Roda Group, and including current investors Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital and BDC Venture Capital…

While water technology hasn’t traditionally been easily funded by venture capitalists and investors, some promising water startups are finding backers, through accelerator programs like Imagine H20.

As usual, Katie Feherenbacher manages to find productive green tech which actually might be commercially affordable.