Oil

Arctic Ship Traffic and Oil Spill Worries Rise as Ice Recedes

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 25, 2014   View Article

Ships packed with frozen mackerel and herring will sail in convoy behind a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker from Norway to Asia this summer along the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic Ocean — a trial run as companies rush to capitalize on the world’s hunger for fish and to extract minerals from the top of the world.

Dozens of ships now transit the Arctic each year amid decreasing summer ice — in 2013,71 vessels plied the Northern Sea Route, including the first container ship. In another first, a bulk carrier transited coal through the famed Northwest Passage on a voyage from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to Finland. And that traffic is only likelier to get busier.

Hundreds more ships “go up to the Arctic and perform some activity and then they come out,” Lawson Brigham, a professor of geography and Arctic policy at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, explained to NBC News. Most of these ships transport equipment to mines and other industrial sites and leave with commodities such as oil, gas, copper, nickel, and iron ore.

Fracking Tie to Earthquakes Raises Question of Liability

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 13, 2014   View Article

Earthquakes like the one that woke residents from their beds on March 10 in Poland Township, Ohio, might become a more frequent occurrence in areas where fracking is becoming big business. Scientists are reporting mounting evidence that tremors can be tied to the much-debated drilling technique and related activities. What’s not clear is who might be held responsible for the quakes.

Fracking refers to the method the petroleum industry uses to break apart chunks of shale rock deep within the earth to free trapped oil and gas. Geologists in Ohio established a “probable connection” between fracking and the magnitude 3.0 quake on March 10. In Oklahoma, geologists report a spike in earthquakes associated with injecting into deep underground wells the wastewater generated during fracking operations.

The heightened awareness of seismic activity associated with fracking and wastewater injection raises the question of who is responsible should an earthquake occur that causes damage to people or their property.

Pacific Northwest’s Salish Sea Eyed as Fossil Fuel Gateway

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 9, 2014   View Article

Trains loaded with crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation rumble past the outfield bleachers of the Seattle Mariners’ baseball stadium several times a week. From there, the trains head north, their cargo destined for multiple refineries in Washington State.

The traffic is new: Just three years ago, no oil trains were coming to Washington. Bakken crude is filling a void created by dwindling shipments from aging oil fields on Alaska’s North Slope, and the petroleum industry wants to bring in more. But the push to build more rail and shipping capacity in the Pacific Northwest is spurring debate over how that oil flow will affect the region—and where it should ultimately go.

The Next Exxon Valdez? Remote Alaskan Waters, Experts Fear

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 24, 2014   View Article

A quarter-century after 10.8 million gallons of crude oil gushed from the Exxon Valdez and scarred Alaska’s Prince William Sound, oil spill responders fear that another disaster looms in more remote Alaskan waters where ship traffic is on the rise, due in part to the North American energy boom.

The largest concern centers on the Arctic, where oil exploration and development is progressing in fits and starts, and Unimak Pass in the Aleutian Islands, a choke point on a major shipping route between North America and Asia. Both regions are expected to see increased traffic as summer sea ice disappears and producers of North American crude oil and coal look to export fossil fuels to Asia.

Fracking and energy exploration connected to earthquakes, say studies

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 11, 2013   View Article

The rivers of water pumped into and out of the ground during the production of natural gas, oil and geothermal energy are causing the Earth to shake more frequently in areas where these industrial activities are soaring, according to a series of studies published today.

While the gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) causes some small quakes, it’s the disposal of wastewater following that process — and many others relating to energy production — that lead to the largest tremors.

“Fortunately, there have been no deaths and damage has been limited to date, but it is obviously of concern to people as we think about the future of the energy economy,” William Ellsworth, a seismologist with the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., told NBC News.

Mystery ‘oil sheen’ grows near site of BP Gulf disaster, says researcher

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 31, 2013   View Article

A persistent, mysterious “oil sheen” in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster grew to more than seven-miles long and one-mile wide during a recent stretch of calm seas, based on aerial observations made by a former NASA physicist turned environmental activist.

“We had maybe three or four days (of calm weather) and that’s all it took for the stuff to build up considerably,” Bonny Schumaker, the physicist who now runs the non-profit On Winds of Care, which makes regular flights over regions of the Gulf affected by the 2010 oil spill.

Graphene-coated sensors to strike oil?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: July 20, 2011   View Article

Tiny sensors coated with the wonder-material graphene and powered by flowing water could expedite the discovery of oil and natural gas reserves, according to university researchers supported by the energy industry.

The idea is to plop the sensors into the water injected down exploration wells where they can then move sideways through cracks and crevices in the Earth in search of hydrocarbons. The electricity generated by the flow of water would allow the sensors to relay their findings to the surface.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach