Tag Archives: Bakken Shale

Cleaning dirty gas enabling CO2 sales to dirtier oil producers

Note: This sentence pretty much sums it all up: “He’s betting hydrocarbon consumers will increasingly opt to trap emissions from natural gas, if not to help the environment then to duck potential government sanctions — or to sell CO2 at a profit.

Capturing carbon from gas used to extract tar sands–and using that gas to extract more tar sands!  We wish this one was for April Fools.

-The GJEP Team

By John Lippert, April 1, 2014. Source: Bloomberg

Drillers burn off the natural gas that surfaces with oil on a farm in North Dakota. Photo: Spencer Lowell/Bloomberg Markets

Drillers burn off the natural gas that surfaces with oil on a farm in North Dakota. Photo: Spencer Lowell/Bloomberg Markets

Andre Boulet, chief executive officer of Inventys Thermal Technologies Inc. in Burnaby, British Columbia, holds up a 6-inch piece of charcoal, showing how light passes through toothpick-sized air shafts. He says the crevices in this filter offer a cheap way to capture carbon dioxide before it ascends into the atmosphere and haunts future generations.

Boulet, who has spent $12 million on his seven-year-old company, predicts Inventys’s sales may reach hundreds of millions of dollars in five years — driven in part by North America’s natural gas boom, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its May issue.

President Barack Obama calls gas a bridge fuel for the U.S. economy. Power plants, factories and refineries are jumping onboard, lured by a 73 percent plunge in U.S. prices from 2005 to March 31. The country generated 28 percent of electricity with gas in 2013, up from 22 percent six years earlier, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Buoyed by gas, the fossil-fuel industry is trying to bask in a newfound green image.
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Filed under Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Coal, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Hydrofracking, Tar Sands

‘Skies roast’ above North Dakota as gas flaring on the rise

Note: The gas industry loves to cite concerns around flaring natural gas during oil production as an imperative to rapidly build new pipeline infrastructure, so the escaped gas (a ‘natural’ byproduct of oil production) can be captured and distributed, instead of burn at the drilling site.

However, this undermines the real solution (leaving fossil fuels in the ground), and fails to realize the ecological destruction caused by both oil and gas production and consumption.  A small deviation from business-as-usual, i.e. capturing the gas in pipelines for distribution as opposed to flaring, only solves the economic ‘problem’ at hand.  It fails to realize the simple fact that if the oil and gas were left in the ground, the health of surrounding communities and of the land would fare much better.

-The GJEP Team

By Lauren McCauley, July 29, 2013. Source: Common Dreams

Natural gas flares burning above North Dakota's Bakken oil fields can be seen from space. Photo: NASA Earth Observatory/ NOAA NGDC 2012

Natural gas flares burning above North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields can be seen from space. Photo: NASA Earth Observatory/ NOAA NGDC 2012

Bright torches of natural gas are to become an ever-more common sight along the horizon of North Dakota as the environmentally devastating practice of flaring, or burning off natural gas as a byproduct of oil production, continues to skyrocket, according to a report released Monday by sustainability research group Ceres.

Analyzing oil and gas production data on the Bakken oil fields, researchers estimate that the volume of flared gas “more than doubled between May 2011 and May 2013,” and in 2012 alone, the greenhouse gases emitted from flared wells was equivalent to “adding nearly one million cars to the road.”

Further, as report authors Ryan Salmon and Andrew Logan note, because the flares only partially combust the natural gas, “a variety of other hazardous pollutants are generated by the process, including black carbon, another potent driver of climate change with adverse health effects.”
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Filed under Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Hydrofracking, Oil, Pollution

KPFK Sojourner Truth Earth Minute: Quebec oil spill highlights dangers of ‘fracked’ oil from Bakken Shale

kpfk_logoGlobal Justice Ecology Project teams up with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Pacifica Los Angeles for a weekly Earth Minute each Tuesday and a weekly Earth Watch interview each Thursday.

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By rail or by pipeline: Can tar sands be safely transported at all?

Note: Predisposition to explosion aside, the resounding answer to the question, “Can we safely transport tar sands” is, “of course not.”  If tar sands are being transported, it means they are being extracted at one end, refined and burned on the other.  That means First Nations in Alberta are being poisoned, and their land base destroyed.  And it means communities in places like the ‘Toxic East End’ of Houston, Tx. are being poisoned, essentially trapped into breathing a chemical cocktail due to decades of environmental racism.

The oil and pipeline industries will surely to use this event to justify building more pipelines.  But let us not be distracted by the issue at hand: we oppose pipelines – and transporting oil via rail, ship, truck, or any other means – because we oppose its extraction and consumption.  There is NO safe way to extract, transport or burn oil, especially tar sands.

-The GJEP Team

By Jonathan Flanders, July 8, 2013. Source: Counterpunch

My last years working as a railroad machinist were spent working on locomotive air brakes. In most situations, the system is fail safe. I always chuckle when I see a movie where a train separates, as it did in the latest James Bond thriller, and  both ends of the train keep going. This is close to impossible in real life, the air brake system automatically will go into emergency braking if there is a break in two. When a locomotive engineer applies the brakes to a train, he or she makes a “reduction”of the equalizing or control air, which then triggers a brake application. This reduction of equalizing air, in the case of a break is the key to emergency brake applications. There is much more to the system, of course as it was refined over time, but its all based on this concept.

What we know so far in Quebec, is that the oil train was parked on a grade. The brakes were set by the crew, at some point the brakes came off, and the train rolled into the little town of Lac-Megantic, derailed and exploded, leaving many dead and the town devastated.

Why would the brakes come off? After all, I seriously question that this was the first train parked on this grade, it must have been a routine practice for a crew, they must have felt that this was not a big risk. And most of the time it probably wasn’t.
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Welcome to prosperity: Violence against women in the Bakken oil fields

Note: Once again the consequences of extreme energy fall disproportionately on women.  And once again we see that ending the era of extreme energy is about so much more than reducing the concentration of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere.

-The GJEP Team

By Jay Taber, June 18, 2013. Source: Intercontinental Cry

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As CNN reported in October 2011, the oil boom at the Bakken formation in the Dakotas and Montana comes with a price. The resultant crime wave, due to tens of thousands of oil workers descending on the area and looking to party, has overwhelmed small town law enforcement. Narcotics, strip clubs and prostitution have soared. So have burglaries and alcohol-related assaults.

As CBS reported in February 2012, rapes have increased as well. With tens of thousands of single men living away from home, that might not be surprising, but for once safe small communities, it is a traumatic development. As Oil Patch Dispatch observed in July 2012, the consequent housing shortage and lack of available abused women shelter space is causing victims of domestic violence to stay with their abusers. Local agencies that deal with domestic violence and sexual assault are tapped out.

As noted in High Country News in April 2012, the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation has raked in hundreds of millions from the Bakken boom. Some tribal members who once lived in poverty are receiving $10,000 monthly checks. But like other communities off the reservation, drunk driving, hard drug use and sex-trafficking is rampant. Domestic violence has doubled.
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Land grab cheats North Dakota tribes out of $1 billion, suits allege

Note: Looks like time-tested colonial practices of lying, deceit and outright theft are alive and well in the Bakken shale.  The below story is not an isolated incident of corruption, but an example of government-backed, systematic oppression of native peoples.

-The GJEP Team

By Abraham Lustgarten, February 23, 2013. Source: Pro Publica

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Native Americans on an oil-rich North Dakota reservation have been cheated out of more than $1 billion by schemes to buy drilling rights for lowball prices, a flurry of recent lawsuits assert. And, the suits claim, the federal government facilitated the alleged swindle by failing in its legal obligation to ensure the tribes got a fair deal.

This is a story as old as America itself, given a new twist by fracking and the boom that technology has sparked in North Dakota oil country. Since the late 1800s, the U.S. government has appropriated much of the original tribal lands associated with the Fort Berthold reservation in North Dakota for railroads and white homesteaders. A devastating blow was delivered when the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Missouri River in 1953, flooding more than 150,000 acres at the heart of the remaining reservation. Members of the Three Affiliated Tribes — the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara — were forced out of the fertile valley and up into the arid and barren surrounding hills, where they live now.

But that last-resort land turns out to hold a wealth of oil, because it sits on the Bakken Shale, widely believed to be one of the world’s largest deposits of crude. Until recently, that oil was difficult to extract, but hydraulic fracturing, combined with the ability to drill a well sideways underground, can tap it. The result, according to several senior tribal members and lawsuits filed last November and early this year in federal and state courts, has been a land grab involving everyone from tribal leaders accused of enriching themselves at the expense of their people, to oil speculators, to a New York hedge fund, to the federal government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.
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Trains carrying more oil across U.S. raise concerns amid North Plains boom

December 28 2012. Source: Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — Energy companies behind the oil boom on the Northern Plains are increasingly turning to an industrial-age workhorse — the locomotive — to move their crude to refineries across the U.S., as plans for new pipelines stall and existing lines can’t keep up with demand.

Delivering oil thousands of miles by rail from the heartland to refineries on the East, West and Gulf coasts costs more, but it can mean increased profits — up to $10 or more a barrel — because of higher oil prices on the coasts. That works out to roughly $700,000 per train.

The parade of mile-long trains carrying hazardous material out of North Dakota and Montana and across the country has experts and federal regulators concerned. Rail transport is less safe than pipelines, they say, and the proliferation of oil trains raises the risk of a major derailment and spill. Continue reading

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Fracking our food supply

By Elizabeth Royte, November 28, 2012.  Source: The Nation

This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an investigative reporting nonprofit focusing on food, agriculture and environmental health.

Photo: The Nation

Photo: The Nation

In a Brooklyn winery on a sultry July evening, an elegant crowd sips rosé and nibbles trout plucked from the gin-clear streams of upstate New York. The diners are here, with their checkbooks, to support a group called Chefs for the Marcellus, which works to protect the foodshed upon which hundreds of regional farm-to-fork restaurants depend. The foodshed is coincident with the Marcellus Shale, a geologic formation that arcs northeast from West Virginia through Pennsylvania and into New York State. As everyone invited here knows, the region is both agriculturally and energy rich, with vast quantities of natural gas sequestered deep below its fertile fields and forests.

In Pennsylvania, the oil and gas industry is already on a tear—drilling thousands of feet into ancient seabeds, then repeatedly fracturing (or “fracking”) these wells with millions of gallons of highly pressurized, chemically laced water, which shatters the surrounding shale and releases fossil fuels. New York, meanwhile, is on its own natural-resource tear, with hundreds of newly opened breweries, wineries, organic dairies and pastured livestock operations—all of them capitalizing on the metropolitan area’s hunger to localize its diet.

But there’s growing evidence that these two impulses, toward energy and food independence, may be at odds with each other.

Tonight’s guests have heard about residential drinking wells tainted by fracking fluids in Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Colorado. They’ve read about lingering rashes, nosebleeds and respiratory trauma in oil-patch communities, which are mostly rural, undeveloped, and lacking in political influence and economic prospects. The trout nibblers in the winery sympathize with the suffering of those communities. But their main concern tonight is a more insidious matter: the potential for drilling and fracking operations to contaminate our food. The early evidence from heavily fracked regions, especially from ranchers, is not reassuring.
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