Alberta Air Pollution Levels High in Sulphur and Nitrogen Reports Environment Canada

Environment Canada recently released images showing air emissions modelling results across Alberta. These images are a reminder of how a small number of large sources mix together to pollute the air Albertans breathe, resulting in increased risks to human health.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.pembina.org

“[…] SO2 and NOx emissions impact human health not only because they can cause direct harm, but also because they can react in the atmosphere to create fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The Alberta government has found that NOx and SO2 are the main causes of past incidents where PM2.5­ concentrations have exceeded Canada’s air quality standards.

PM2.5 can cause asthma attacks, hospitalizations and even premature death, as we’ve summarized before. It’s a particular concern in Alberta, where PM2.5 is putting us on track to have the worst air quality in Canada, and Edmonton’s pollution levels are exceeding Toronto’s.

These images underscore the cumulative impacts of a small number of very large industrial emissions sources — particularly coal plants, the oilsands and refineries — in addition to distributed industrial activities such as oil and gas operations. Those may all be separate sources, but their emissions end up in the same air. Pollutants from these different sources mix together in the air Albertans breathe, resulting in increased risks to human health. […]

Alberta is unique in the western half of North America for its mid- and high-level readings. The province more closely resembles the densely populated mid-Atlantic region of the United States, or the coal-burning Midwest, than our western neighbours.

Problem spots near coal plants, refineries and the oilsands

Another image shows how SO2 and NOX that is released into the atmosphere returns to ground level, or “deposits.” The image reveals a clear concentration (the orange and red spots) of the two pollutants being deposited around both Edmonton and the oilsands in northeast Alberta.

Edmonton is sandwiched between three large coal-burning power plants, which are clustered near Wabamun Lake west of Edmonton, and refineries on the east side of the city.

The video that AEMERA posted shows modelled SO2 plumes from large emitters across British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The three-dimensional plumes reflect SO2 concentrations of at least three parts per billion. How the plumes travel was modelled using real weather conditions from a four-week period in the fall of 2013.

The video visually represents where SO2 is generated, how it moves through the atmosphere and where it eventually lands. As SO2 deposits on the ground, the land surface in the video changes colour to indicate where higher depositions are modelled. Although the specifics will differ for other pollutants, the video is representative of how airborne pollutants generally are dispersed and deposited.

It’s not particularly surprising to see that SO2 pollution originates from oil and gas production, coal plants and the oilsands — Alberta’s three largest-emitting sectors, by far. But seeing how much of the province is affected by these plumes may come as a shock.

The video shows that major industrial emissions do not blow in the direction of the prevailing wind pattern. Rather, they shift directions and can be combined with pollutants emitted in different areas. This raises concerns about environmental evaluations for new industrial emitters, since those evaluations focus on a much smaller area around the polluter — and focus on prevailing winds — rather than these dynamic wind patterns.

The data used for the oilsands is from 2010, so it discounts the emissions growth in that region over the last five years. The data for the rest of the sources is from 2006. In terms of coal emissions, these images correspond closely to today’s reality: NOx and SO2 in 2014 are at nearly the same levels as in 2006. […]”

 

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In Supreme Court, a Battle Over Fracking and Citizens’ Rights

Jessica Ernst’s long fight to challenge legislation putting energy regulator above the law reaches top court.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.thetyee.ca

“[…] After years of legal wrangling, Jessica Ernst and Alberta’s powerful energy regulator finally squared off in the Supreme Court of Canada yesterday.

For almost two hours, all nine justices questioned lawyers from both sides in a case that will determine if legislation can grant government agencies blanket immunity from lawsuits based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

At times the debate was so bogged down in legal jargon and little known cases that it felt as though the participants were holding a conversation in a foreign language. […]

Ernst alleges the Alberta Energy Regulator violated her rights by characterizing her as a “criminal threat” and barring all communication with her.

The claims are part of her multipronged lawsuit related to the regulation of fracking. She says fracking contaminated aquifers near her homestead near Rosebud, about 110 kilometres east of Calgary, and is seeking $33 million in damages. […]

The Supreme Court hearing dealt with Ernst’s allegation that the provincial energy regulator denied her the right to raise her concerns about groundwater contamination. She argues that the legislation shielding the regulator from citizen’s lawsuits should not bar charter claims.

Lawyers for Ernst, the BC Civil Liberties Association and the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights all argued that the Alberta Energy Regulator’s immunity clause undermined the spirit of Canada’s charter, which is designed to protect citizens from government abuses of power.

It is patently unfair to allow a government to violate a citizen’s basic freedoms and then deny them an appropriate remedy in the courts, especially when the charter itself grants that right, they argued. […]

Eight years ago, Ernst sued Alberta Environment, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (which has since become the Alberta Energy Regulator) and Encana, one of Canada’s largest unconventional gas drillers. She claimed her well water had been contaminated by fracking and government agencies had failed to investigate the problems.

But the regulator argued that it couldn’t be sued because it had an immunity clause that protected it from civil action.

After an Alberta Court of Appeal agreed, Ernst’s lawyers appealed the matter to the Supreme Court in 2014.

Initially three provincial governments and the federal government announced their intention to intervene in the case.

“But once they looked at the arguments, they withdrew,” said Murray Klippenstein, another of Ernst’s lawyers, after yesterday’s hearing.

“So there was no government here to support the argument of the [regulator],” added Klippenstein. “It kind of shows in a common sense sort of way how ridiculous the position is.”

The case made legal history, too. “This is the first time the Supreme Court has heard a case about human rights with an environmental context,” noted Lynda Collins, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Environmental Law and Global Studies.

She said the case concerns the right of a citizen to pinpoint environmental wrongs, such as groundwater contamination, without being penalized by a regulatory body.

Whenever a regulator allegedly takes punitive measures against a citizen addressing key environmental issues in the public interest, “you have a serious allegation,” added Collins. […]

The case is being closely watched by Canada’s oil and gas industry. In 2014, Borden Ladner Gervais, Canada’s largest national full-service law firm, included the Ernst case in a top 10 list of important judicial decisions affecting the energy industry.

“The Ernst case has brought into focus the potential for regulator or provincial liability arising out of oil and gas operations…. If Ernst proceeds to trial, it will likely provide more guidance on the scope of the duty of care and the standard of care required by the province and the oil and gas operator to discharge their duties in the context of hydraulic fracturing.”

The fracking industry has been the subject of scores of lawsuits across North America. Landowners have sued over property damage and personal injury related to industry-caused earthquakes, air pollution and the contamination of groundwater.

In one major Texas case, a jury awarded one family $3 million. The verdict found that Aruba Petroleum “intentionally created a private nuisance” though its drilling, fracking and production activities at 21 gas wells near the Parrs’ Wise County home over a three-year period between 2008 and 2011. […]”

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Fox Creek Fracking Operations Stopped After Latest Earthquake

A hydraulic fracturing operation near Fox Creek, Alta., has been shut down after an earthquake hit the area Tuesday.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.cbc.ca

“[…] The magnitude 4.8 quake was reported at 11:27 a.m., says Alberta Energy Regulator, which ordered the shutdown of the Repsol Oil & Gas site 35 kilometres north of Fox Creek.

Carrie Rosa, spokeswoman for the regulator, says “the company has ceased operations … and they will not be allowed to resume operations until we have approved their plans.”

Rosa added the company is working with the energy regulator to ensure all environmental and safety rules are followed.

In a statement, Repsol confirmed the seismic event and said the company was conducting hydraulic fracturing operations at the time it happened. […]

Jeffrey Gu, associate professor of geophysics at the University of Alberta, said the area surrounding Fox Creek has been experiencing a proliferation of quakes lately.

He estimates in the last six months there have been hundreds of quakes in the area ranging in magnitude from 2.0 to 3.0.

But it is not considered a risky area with a such low population, said Gu, who added that Fox Creek and the surrounding region is carefully monitored by the energy regulator.

“There are faults in this area that have been mapped, have been reported in that area, but nothing of significance,” he said.

“It’s a relatively safe area without major, major faults.”

Still, Gu said, there were two fairly large quakes in the area in January 2015, one of which had a magnitude of 4.4.

He wasn’t able to confirm that they were caused by fracking, but said it is “highly probable.”

The energy regulator said at the time that the 4.4 magnitude quake was likely caused by hydraulic fracturing. […]

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New EPA Emissions Rules To Cut GHG Methane Emissions By 40 Percent in Oil and Gas Sector

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will propose regulations on Tuesday aimed at cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent over the next decade

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.huffingtonpost.com

>”WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will propose regulations on Tuesday aimed at cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent over the next decade from 2012 levels, a source familiar with the issue said on Monday.

The regulations on methane are one part of the Obama administration’s strategy to curb greenhouse gases and combat climate change.

The targets in Tuesday’s proposal are in line with a January announcement by the Obama administration that it wanted to reduce oil and gas industry methane emissions by up to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025, the source said.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama unveiled the final version of his plan to tackle greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants, requiring carbon emissions from the sector be cut 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Peter Cooney)”<

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Alberta Pipeline Spills 5 Million Liters in Major Leak Near Oil Sands

Nexen Energy apologized Friday for a major leak in an Alberta pipeline that was only installed last year and said a warning system failed to detect it.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.news1130.com

>” […] A contractor discovered the leak Wednesday about 35 kilometres southeast of Fort McMurray, Alta. Nexen shut down the pipeline soon after, but not before some five million litres of bitumen, produced water and sand spilled into muskeg.

Nexen, which was taken over by China’s CNOOC Ltd. in 2013, says the affected area is about 16,000 square metres, mostly along the pipeline’s route. […]

John Bennett, national program director of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, said he was worried.

“We’re always concerned when petroleum products get spilled into the environment. There’s always damage, and it’s usually permanent of some nature,” said Bennett. “It’s full of toxic elements that should not be released into the environment.” “<

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Water Quantities Used for Hydraulic Fracturing Varies According to Drilling Methods

The amount of water required to hydraulically fracture oil and gas wells varies widely across the country, according to the first national-scale analysis and map of hydraulic fracturing water usage detailed in a new USGS study accepted for publication in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.usgs.gov

>” […]  from 2000 to 2014, median annual water volume estimates for hydraulic fracturing in horizontal wells had increased from about 177,000 gallons per oil and gas well to more than 4 million gallons per oil well and 5.1 million gallons per gas well. Meanwhile, median water use in vertical and directional wells remained below 671,000 gallons per well. For comparison, an Olympic-sized swimming pool holds about 660,000 gallons.

“One of the most important things we found was that the amount of water used per well varies quite a bit, even within a single oil and gas basin,” said USGS scientist Tanya Gallegos, the study’s lead author. “This is important for land and resource managers, because a better understanding of the volumes of water injected for hydraulic fracturing could be a key to understanding the potential for some environmental impacts.”

Horizontal wells are those that are first drilled vertically or directionally (at an angle from straight down) to reach the unconventional oil or gas reservoir and then laterally along the oil or gas-bearing rock layers. This is done to increase the contact area with the reservoir rock and stimulate greater oil or gas production than could be achieved through vertical wells alone.

However, horizontal wells also generally require more water than vertical or directional wells. In fact, in 52 out of the 57 watersheds with the highest average water use for hydraulic fracturing, over 90 percent of the wells were horizontally drilled.

Although there has been an increase in the number of horizontal wells drilled since 2008, about 42 percent of new hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells completed in 2014 were still either vertical or directional. The ubiquity of the lower-water-use vertical and directional wells explains, in part, why the amount of water used per well is so variable across the United States.

The watersheds where the most water was used to hydraulically fracture wells on average coincided with parts of the following shale formations:

Eagle Ford (within watersheds located mainly in Texas)Haynesville-Bossier (within watersheds located mainly in Texas & Louisiana)Barnett (within watersheds located mainly in Texas)Fayetteville (within watersheds located in Arkansas)Woodford  (within watersheds located mainly in Oklahoma)Tuscaloosa  (within watersheds located in Louisiana & Mississippi)Marcellus & Utica (within watersheds located in parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and within watersheds extending into southern New York)

Shale gas reservoirs are often hydraulically fractured using slick water, a fluid type that requires a lot of water. In contrast, tight oil formations like the Bakken (in parts of Montana and North Dakota) often use gel-based hydraulic fracturing treatment fluids, which generally contain lower amounts of water. […]”<

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EPA and the Petroleum Industry: Fracking, Cover-ups and Academic Freedom

Thyne says he’s not the only one who’s been subjected to undue pressure from the oil and gas industry. He says he knows of faculty around the nation who have been targeted as well, including an engineer at Cornell University who called for an outright fracking ban in his state.

“Industry did a bunch of nasty pieces on him, trying to make him look like a wild-eyed, pistol-waving lunatic,” Thyne says.

There was even one woman from the tiny town of Raton, N.M., who claimed she was being followed and harassed after complaining about her water well being contaminated by nearby drilling operations.

“This ain’t shit,” Thyne says of his own situation. “I’ve talked to people who’ve been shot at. … It’s a real sticky situation, because there are some people getting jobs in the community, because of the development, and they’re good-paying jobs, and this is changing our economy, so it’s all positive, and then you say, ‘Yeah, well, so-and-so screwed up my well, and they won’t compensate me for it, so I’m going to take them to court, or I’m going to make waves.’ And you’ve got your neighbors mad at you.”

In addition, taking a big oil or gas company to court isn’t a walk in the park.

“You’ve got to have really deep pockets, you’ve got to go to court for a couple of years,” Thyne says. “They’re going to push it back and push it back and push it back, and then they’re going to wait until the last second, literally, and they’re going to settle. And they’re probably going to simply buy your land for what you paid for it, and get you to sign a nondisclosure [agreement] and say bye bye.”

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.boulderweekly.com

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Renewable Geothermal Power with Oil and Gas Coproduction Technology may be Feasible

The U.S. has been harnessing geothermal energy since 1960 and if recently announced research projects and startups are successful, even more geothermal power might soon be available.

Source: www.renewableenergyworld.com

>” […]  in the past, wastewater from oilfield production processes was viewed as a nuisance byproduct that needed to be disposed of. But new research has shown that much of the 25 billion barrels of this geothermally heated “wastewater” produced at oil wells each year in the U.S. is hot enough to produce electricity. It is estimated that many of the wells might have clean energy capacities of up to 1 MW.

Oil and Gas Coproduction in the US

In 2008, the DOE developed the first low-temperature geothermal unit in an oil field at the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center (RMOTC) in Wyoming. The well is producing energy and has a capacity of approximately 217 kW. RMOTC continues to test power units produced by Ormat Technologies and UTC/Pratt and Whitney Power Systems at the center and more than 30 oil firms have visited the center to learn about coproduction technology. The technology is also being implemented in Nevada, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Dakota and Texas.

In Nevada, Florida Canyon Mining Inc. is using the 220°F groundwater in a coproduction project that uses ElectraTherm’s 50-kW waste heat generators, aka “Green Machines” to generate electricity.

Energy can be harnessed at working oilfields and used to power them without interrupting their operation. A Gulf Coast Green Energy (GCGE) coproduction project at the Denbury oilfields in Laurel, Mississippi, is using this technique again with ElectraTherm Green Machines.  It replaced Denbury’s electric submersible pump and cut electricity costs by a third. GCGE has a second 50-kW geothermal natural gas coproduction project in Louisiana.

University of North Dakota was awarded $1.7 million through the DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Program to install a geothermal Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) system at another oilfield operated byDenbury. For two years the plant will be used to develop engineering and economic models for geothermal ORC energy production. The technology could be used throughout the Williston Basin.

Liberty County Pilot Project

Texas is oil country, and the 4000+ dormant oil and gas wells speckled across the landscape provide a new, or perhaps recycled, frontier in geothermal energy production.  To tap some of that energy,Universal GeoPower CEO and petroleum geologist George Alcorn Jr. and his partner, Chris Luchini, a PhD physicist will use the $1.5 million in federal stimulus funds that they were awarded to bring geothermal energy to Liberty County, Texas. The company said that to prepare its DOE application, it worked with Southern Methodist University. The university has performed extensive research on coproduction and has found that it is applicable to an estimated 37,500 oil and gas wells in the Gulf Coast region.

Universal GeoPower’s pilot project is expected to be one of many that will recomplete the wells to produce low temperature, geopressured brine water. The brine will run through a commercial off-the-shelf turbo expander and an ORC binary generator.

Alcorn spoke recently at GEA’s global geothermal meeting in Washington, DC, offering a snapshot of the economic benefits of the process. “The lead-time to revenue generation is about 6 months, whereas traditional geothermal can take up to five years,” he said. “The wells already have known geothermal potential, and capital costs are dramatically reduced.”

Additionally, Alcorn noted, units are installed at existing oil wells, eliminating the need for investment in drilling, new roads or transmission lines. […]”<

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The Precautionary Principle | Canadian Environmental Law Association

The precautionary principle denotes a duty to prevent harm, when it is within our power to do so, even when all the evidence is not in. This principle has been codified in several international treaties to which Canada is a signatory. Domestic law makes reference to this principle but implementation remains limited.

Source: www.cela.ca

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Oil price loss seen as gain for consumers: ‘What is saved at the pumps will be spent at malls’

Financial Post | Business

OTTAWA — The federal government isn’t fretting, just yet, over the drain on Canada’s finances caused by a seemingly endless weakening in oil prices, a situation aggravated by OPEC’s decision Thursday not to cut its production levels.

But there will be some obvious benefits to four-year-low oil prices — cheaper gasoline at the pumps, for one, and a possible knock-on buying effect for some consumer-dependent sectors of the economy.

“What is saved at the pumps will be spent at the malls,” said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets.

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Crude prices experienced the biggest single-day drop since May 2011 after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries kept its production levels on hold — a move widely telegraphed by the cartel — despite the current glut of oil and reduced global demand.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver, who was previously Canada’s natural resources minister, played down…

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