Archive for the 'oil' Category

Oil spill coats river, sea in Nigeria’s impoverished Niger Delta

Photo retrieved from: www.america.aljazeera.com

“A large oil spill near Nigeria’s Brass facility, run by ENI, an Italian energy company, has spread through the sea and swamps of the oil producing Niger Delta region, local residents and the company said Monday.

ENI said it was not yet possible to determine the cause of the spill.

“During loading operations on a tanker on November 27, an oil spill in the sea was seen. Operations were immediately suspended and resumed only after it was verified that the vessel’s structures were not damaged and were not leaking,” the company said in an emailed statement, according to Reuters.

Vast stretches of the delta’s unique mangrove swamps are blackened and dead from oil pollution caused by hundreds of leaks every year from pipelines that pass through the delta’s creeks.

ENI in particular reported 471 spills in the Niger Delta, compared with the 138 from Shell from January to September, according to a recent Amnesty International report. ENI’s Nigerian subsidiary frequently blames saboteurs, but Amnesty said there’s “absolutely no information” to support their claims.

“For the last decade oil companies in Nigeria, in particular Shell, have defended the scale of pollution by claiming that the vast majority of oil spills are caused by sabotage and theft of oil,” the report said. “There is no legitimate basis for this claim.”

Nigerian legislators are considering a law to impose new fines on operators responsible for oil spills, a measure that could land major foreign companies with penalties running into tens of millions of dollars a year.

Francis Clinton Tubo Ikagi, chairman of the Odioama fishing community in Bayelsa, where a large part of the Niger river fans out through creeks into the Atlantic, told journalists on the scene that he saw a large oil slick on Nov. 20.

“I saw a very thick layer of crude oil on the river,” he said.” “The community is affected seriously. Our women and men whose main livelihood source is fishing are complaining bitterly to us that the whole river is full of oil.”

Read more: Aljazeera America

 

The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“In Louisiana, the most common way to visualize the state’s existential crisis is through the metaphor of football fields. The formulation, repeated in nearly every local newspaper article about the subject, goes like this: Each hour, Louisiana loses about a football field’s worth of land. Each day, the state loses nearly the accumulated acreage of every football stadium in the N.F.L. Were this rate of land loss applied to New York, Central Park would disappear in a month. Manhattan would vanish within a year and a half. The last of Brooklyn would dissolve four years later. New Yorkers would notice this kind of land loss. The world would notice this kind of land loss. But the hemorrhaging of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands has gone largely unremarked upon beyond state borders. This is surprising, because the wetlands, apart from their unique ecological significance and astounding beauty, buffer the impact of hurricanes that threaten not just New Orleans but also the port of South Louisiana, the nation’s largest; just under 10 percent of the country’s oil reserves; a quarter of its natural-gas supply; a fifth of its oil-refining capacity; and the gateway to its internal waterway system. The attenuation of Louisiana, like any environmental disaster carried beyond a certain point, is a national-security threat.

Where does it go, this vanishing land? It sinks into the sea. The Gulf of Mexico is encroaching northward, while the marshes are deteriorating from within, starved by a lack of river sediment and poisoned by seawater. Since 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has delisted more than 30 place names from Plaquemines Parish alone. English Bay, Bay Jacquin, Cyprien Bay, Skipjack Bay and Bay Crapaud have merged like soap bubbles into a single amorphous body of water. The lowest section of the Mississippi River Delta looks like a maple leaf that has been devoured down to its veins by insects. The sea is rising along the southeast coast of Louisiana faster than it is anywhere else in the world.

The land loss is swiftly reversing the process by which the state was built. As the Mississippi shifted its course over the millenniums, spraying like a loose garden hose, it deposited sand and silt in a wide arc. This sediment first settled into marsh and later thickened into solid land. But what took 7,000 years to create has been nearly destroyed in the last 85. Dams built on the tributaries of the Mississippi, as far north as Montana, have reduced the sediment load by half. Levees penned the river in place, preventing the floods that are necessary to disperse sediment across the delta. The dredging of two major shipping routes, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, invited saltwater into the wetlands’ atrophied heart.”

Read more: The New York Times

 

Fracking, Seismic Activity Grow Hand in Hand in Mexico

Photo retrieved from: www.ipsnews.net

“Scientists warn that large-scale fracking for shale gas planned by Mexico’s oil company Pemex will cause a surge in seismic activity in northern Mexico, an area already prone to quakes.

Experts link a 2013 swarm of earthquakes in the northern states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León to hydraulic fracturing or fracking in the Burgos and Eagle Ford shale deposits – the latter of which is shared with the U.S. state of Texas.

Researcher Ruperto de la Garza found a link between seismic activity and fracking, a technique that involves pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into the well, opening and extending fractures in the shale rock to release the natural gas.

“The final result is the dislocation of the geological structure which, when it is pulverised, allows the trapped gas to escape,” the expert with the environmental and risk consultancy Gestoría Ambiental y de Riesgos told IPS from Saltillo, the capital of the northern state of Coahuila.

When the chemicals are injected “and the lutite particles [sedimentary rock] break down, the earth shifts,” he said. “It’s not surprising that the earth has been settling.”

De la Garza drew up an exhaustive map of the seismic movements in 2013 and the gas-producing areas.

His findings, published on Mar. 22, indicated a correlation between the seismic activity and fracking.

Statistics from Mexico’s National Seismological Service show an increase in intensity and frequency of seismic activity in Nuevo León, where at least 31 quakes between 3.1 and 4.3 on the Richter scale were registered.

Most of the quakes occurred in 2013. Of the ones registered this year, the highest intensity took place on Mar. 2-3, according to official records.”

Read more: IPS

 

BP confirms oil spill into Lake Michigan from Whiting refinery

Photo retrieved from: www.nbcchicago.com

“It remains unclear how much oil spilled into the lake or how long the discharge continued. Workers at the refinery reported an oil sheen on the water about 4:30 p.m. Monday, and an official from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the leak was plugged by the time he arrived at 9 p.m.

Mike Beslow, the EPA’s emergency response coordinator, said there appeared to be no negative effects on Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for 7 million people in Chicago and the suburbs. The 68th Street water intake crib is about eight miles northwest of the spill site, but there were no signs of oil drifting in that direction.

Initial reports suggest that strong winds pushed most of the oil toward a sandy cove on BP’s property between the refinery and an Arcelor Mittal steel mill. A flyover Tuesday afternoon revealed no visible oil beyond booms laid on the water to prevent the oil from spreading, Beslow said.

“There is no known impact to wildlife or human health at this time,” Beslow said.

Frigid temperatures caused some of the oil to harden into a waxy consistency that made it easier to collect, said Scott Dean, a BP spokesman. Crews used vacuum trucks to suck up any liquid oil that washed ashore.”

Read more: Chicago Tribune

 

 

An Environment-Wrecking Pipeline Hangs in Limbo

Photo retrieved from: www.ipsnews.net

“The Keystone XL is the final of four phases of the Keystone Pipeline system that brings highly corrosive oil called diluted bitumen (dilbit) from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada south to the Gulf of Mexico to be refined.

Oil sands, by far the most polluting of any fuel, require huge quantities of energy to be extracted and leave behind byproducts like “petcoke”, a high-sulphur coal-like substance that burns dirtier than coal.

The U.S. portion of the fourth phase would be built between the frontier town of Morgan, Montana and Steele City, Nebraska, where it would join existing pipelines headed south.

This final northern segment would cross several major rivers including the Red Rivers, the Missouri and the Yellowstone Rivers and pass over the Ogallala Aquifer, a shallow underground water table that supplies over a quarter of the United States’ irrigated land.

If it is completed, the pipeline would transport fuel equivalent to 181 million metric tonnes of CO2 per year, the equivalent of 51 coal plants.

Though technically skirting the reservation’s borders, the proposed pipeline would pass between Pine Ridge and the Rosebud Reservoir, where communities draw their water.

“In our mind, that’s our water,” Plume told an August gathering in Bridger, South Dakota. “We love our water and we have to protect our water.”

Plume says the Lakota have been joined by non-native ranchers and farmers in places like Nebraska who fear contamination could ruin their cropland.

Spills

With the Alberta oil sand boom pumping out record levels of Canadian crude, accidents are on the rise. In March 2013, between 5,000 and 7,000 barrels of Canadian heavy crude spilled from a gash in ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas, leading to catastrophic environmental damage.”

Read more: IPS

In Plan to Dump Contaminated Soil, Classic New Jersey Politics Emerge

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“Beyond this fence, a 125-acre expanse of yellow swamp reeds, vines and cottonwood trees extends north to the Rahway River. Decades ago, American Cyanamid ruined this wetlands expanse, once home to rich oyster beds, with cyanide-contaminated sludge, the chemical detritus of the past century.

Years ago, it was partially cleaned and covered with a few feet of topsoil. With the passing of the seasons, nature has commenced its repair work.

But the Christie administration has another idea for this land. It appears poised to let a company, Soil Safe, truck in millions of tons of petroleum-contaminated soils and dump it on this site, which lies directly west of Staten Island and the Arthur Kill.

When Soil Safe is finished, a mound 29 feet high would cover most of this acreage.

The scientific staff at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection examined this proposal, and a number of members came away appalled. They said a flood could erode the Rahway River bank and cause the mound to collapse into the water.”

Read more: The New York Times

 

Fracking is depleting water supplies in America’s driest areas

Photo retrieved from: www.theguardian.com

“America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found.

Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found.

Fracking those wells used 97bn gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America’s energy rush.

“Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors’ network.

Without new tougher regulations on water use, she warned industry could be on a “collision course” with other water users.”

Read more: The Guardian

 

Fossil Fuel Divestment in the UK & Sustainability Through Finance

Retrieved from People and Planet

 

Fossil Fuel Divestment in the UK & Sustainability Through Finance

by Miles Ten Brinke

Miles, Peak Water columnist and avowed Hydrophilic energy-head, has found his way to Britain where he’s lost his California perma-tan and is now a 1st year PhD student at the University of Manchester  after studying an Energy Policy MSc at the University of Exeter in Cornwall.  He’s now trapped in the Nexus, researching the transition to sustainability of the global water-energy system.

Divestment’s come to Britain, in a big way. On the back of rising success stateside and a growing global influence, the fossil fuel divestment campaign’s finally taking hold in the UK with progress already gained at the University of Surrey. I’m chuffed really, so pleased to be able to check in periodically on the whole movement and see it constantly progress and expand. This is brilliant news, emblematic of the curious characteristics of this approach. We’re talking about a very strategic tactic here.

They are the boycott-direct-action of our modern globalised capitalism. Divestment doesn’t seek to radically transform the financial system to achieve its ends, rather it bends to fit the prevailing structure. In doing so these structures can erode, creating  crisis and opportunity for change. As Tutu frames it in the piece, you fight your moral cause by bleeding away profits. Though the current global economic system is a significant part of the problem, by targeting financial instruments you might hit where it hurts most. Take away steady sources of capital like pension funds or university endowments and financing that next big oil exploration project or new coal mine becomes all the more difficult. Pragmatic activism, who would have guessed?

Not to mention how much this all lends itself to the environmental economics approach, simply internalising more accurately the full costs and risks of energy production. That a coalition of 70 investors (worth $3 trillion) is calling on the global heavy hitters in energy to reassess their business plan financial risks in light of climate change and the current anaemic action is another vital step, and an encouraging sign of what else may soon be possible. In moving investment funds away from fossil energy we’re opening up new capital flows to be tapped by the truly transformational projects out there. There is no guarantee that more accurately accounting for carbon risk and moving out of fossil fuel portfolios will directly lead to more investment in low carbon energy solutions, or technologies to consumer our natural resources (such as water) more efficiently. Indirectly however you can bet there will be some such effects if for no other reason than the weakened business case for less sustainable competitors. Reforming the financial system has a role to play in driving forward the transition to sustainability of the energy-water nexus.

I’ve done a bit of work in energy economics and finance and the political economics of sustainability but having joined Manchester Business School I now have access to some of the world’s leading practitioners and thinkers on innovation and sustainability in business & finance. There’s a lot more to say about this and with at least three years left to sponge off of my peers’ collective genius I guarantee you will see this again soon. That is, of using the contemporary political economic structures as they are now to foster fundamental change towards sustainability, and for that matter more effective management of the Water-Energy Nexus itself.

Here’s to People & Planet’s Fossil Free UK campaign and a lot more like it! And to the victories ahead, many as they will be.

~Miles On Water


 

This Sinkhole Sucked Down 11 Barges Like They Were Rubber Duckies

Photo retrieved from: www.motherjones.com

“Lake Peigneur, the site of one of the state’s most spectacular industrial disasters in 1980, kept coming up in my conversations with residents of Bayou Corne, the Cajun community in south Louisiana that has been evacuated for more than a year due to a massive, mining-induced sinkhole that now spans 24 acres—and is still growing. Last week, the state filed suit against Texas Brine and Occidental Chemical Company for damages relating to the disaster. (Read my story on Bayou Corne, which appears in the September/October issue of Mother Joneshere.) So on a sticky Sunday morning in June, I crossed over the Atchafalaya spillway to see the place for myself.

In November of 1980, in the process of generating revenue for (of all things) an environmental cleanup fund, a Texaco oil rig accidentally punctured the top of a salt mine situated beneath the lake. The water above emptied into the mine, creating a whirlpool that sucked 11 barges into the caverns below, turned the lake from freshwater to saline, and caused the Delcambre Canal to flow backwards. Three days later, nine of the 11 barges “popped up like iron corks,” the Associated Press reported; the other two were never found. Miraculously, all 55 workers who were inside the mine at the time of the accident managed to escape.

The disaster caused drilling in Lake Peigneur to cease—at least for a time. The lake showed signs of recovering from its industrial past after that, although it was several hundred feet deeper and stocked with a new species of fish that could live in the saltwater ecosystem. But industry slowly began to creep back.”

Read more: Mother Jones

The Alberta Oil Sands Have Been Leaking for 9 Weeks

Photo retrieved from: www.motherjones.com

“The sites are located in a remote area which has restricted access to the public. The emulsion is being effectively cleaned up with manageable environmental impact. Canadian Natural has existing groundwater monitoring in place and we are undertaking aquatic and sediment sampling to monitor and mitigate any potential impacts. As part of our wildlife mitigation program, wildlife deterrents have been deployed in the area to protect wildlife…We are investigating the likely cause of the occurrence, which we believe to be mechanical.”

The Primrose bitumen emulsion site, where the leak occurred, sits about halfway up Alberta’s eastern border and pulls about 100,000 barrels of bitumen—a thick, heavy tar that can be refined into petroleum—out of the ground every day. But unlike the tar sand mines that have scarred the landscape of northern Alberta and added fuel to the Keystone XL controversy, the Primrose site injects millions of gallons of pressurized steam hundreds of feet into the ground to heat and loosen the heavy, viscous tar, and then pumps it out, using a process called cyclic steam stimulation (CSS). Eighty percent of the bitumen that can currently be extracted is only accessible through steam extraction. (CSS is one of a few methods of steam extraction.) Although steam extraction has been touted as more environmentally friendly, it has also been shown to release more CO2 than its savage-looking cousin.

There have been accidents before with steam injection mining. At another kind of steam injection site, the high pressure at which the steam is injected exceeded what the terrain could bear and blasted wild-looking craters, hundreds of feet wide, into the landscape.”

Read more: Mother Jones