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Oil and Gas Roundup — Aug. 12

August 12, 2015
TOPICS: In the news
A roundup of oil and gas industry news from around the state, nation and world:

Tulsa World story on the American burying beetle: 'Some people really hate this bug'

STUART — Early one morning in the oil fields west of McAlester, two farmers are having a conversation on the side of a county road, one leaning out of the driver’s window of a Ford pickup, the other standing in knee-high grass in front of what is probably his house.

Andy Middick watches them in the rear-view mirror of his four-door Honda Ridgeline.

“We’re going to have to make this fast,” Middick says, “before they get too curious about what we’re doing.”

He’s not exactly the most popular guy in rural Oklahoma. Some people see him hiding five-gallon buckets in the underbrush and assume he’s a meth dealer. Others notice him cruising slowly down a gravel back road and think he’s a thief, looking for scrap metal or checking to see if anybody is home. Worst of all, some people realize what he’s actually doing — setting traps to find American burying beetles — and that really makes them mad.

Read the Tulsa World story:

To boost the safety of moving oil by rail, focus on the tracks, paper argues

WASHINGTON — More can be done to boost the safety of moving oil by rail by focusing on the tracks themselves, according to a white paper released Thursday by a group promoting infrastructure investments.

New rules requiring more resilient tank cars are an important step, said the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure, but regulators, railroads and shippers now need to more aggressively combat the leading cause of derailments, including broken rail and human error.

From integrity sensors to measurement systems, an array of technologies can help ensure tracks are sound, said Brigham McCown, chairman of the alliance and a former head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

“We tend to be reactionary. Something happened, so what are we going to do to fix it?” McCown told reporters Thursday. “We focus on the accident, rather than focusing on a long-term proactive engagement of reducing the potential for accidents to begin with.”

The issue has drawn attention amid a surge in oil-by-rail traffic, as trains heave crude across the United States to refineries and ports, and following a series of fiery derailments involving tank cars carrying that hazardous material.

Over 22 pages, the alliance’s white paper makes the case that railroads and regulators can leverage technology to make existing inspection programs more efficient and effective.

Read more:

New methane study finds low emissions from transmission and storage facilities

Researchers at Colorado State University, partnering with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), released a new study today focusing on methane emissions from natural gas transmission and storage facilities.  The study finds very low methane emissions that are very much in line with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) estimates in its Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

As the researchers explain, they found methane emissions to be lower that EPA’s estimates: “We estimate total methane emissions from the T&S sector at 1,503 [1,220 to 1,950] Gg/yr (95% confidence interval) compared to the 2012 Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory (GHGI) estimate of 2,071 [1,680 to 2,690] Gg/yr.”

Colorado State University states in its press release, “Because these ranges overlap, the researchers consider the two estimates statistically similar.”

Researchers included “super-emitters” in their data, yet still found low methane emissions.

Read more:

Why banning wastewater injection is the wrong response to earthquakes in Oklahoma

Over the past several years, much has been written about the increased rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma. Although the Sooner State has a long history of seismic activity, scientists and regulators are examining whether injection wells may be contributing to the recent uptick. More specifically, researchers have been studying whether underground disposal of produced water that comes out of oil and natural gas wells could be triggering seismic events by lubricating faults.

Meanwhile, drilling critics have been using the earthquakes to call for a ban or moratorium on wastewater injection. The activists claim this would either stop the seismic activity or at least provide a period of time to better assess the situation.
But the activists’ theory is neither scientific nor economic. In reality, banning wastewater injection is not an effective solution for Oklahoma’s earthquakes.

Despite the fact that induced seismicity requires a complex combination of forces to occur, environmental activists have oversimplified the situation. For example, the left-wing group currently hosts a petition from Food & Water Watch calling on Oklahoma’s governor to enact a “statewide moratorium on oil and gas wastewater injection wells,” which the activists claim will “stop the earthquakes.”

Other major environmental groups have endorsed the idea of at least a temporary ban. The head of the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club recently said:

“We think a 12-month moratorium [on injection] would be a long enough pause to get a much better handle on what is going on… We do think it would be enough time to give some indication on whether it is having an effect on the overall occurrence of earthquakes.” (emphasis added)

Earlier this year, another representative from the Sierra Club claimed it was “inhumane” not to ban injection wells in Oklahoma.

Read more:
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