Oil And Gas Wastewater Presents A Business Opportunity For One Colorado Company — KUNC

February 27, 2015

Deep injection well

Deep injection well

From KUNC (Leigh Paterson & Inside Energy):

In 2013, Colorado and Wyoming produced around 128 million barrels of oil and a little more than 2.4 billion barrels of wastewater combined. North Dakota produced 300 million barrels of oil and nearly 360 million barrels of wastewater in 2013.

Wastewater disposal is a massive but little-known part of the oil and gas business. According to Boston-based water consulting firm Bluefield Research, the U.S. hydraulic fracturing industry spent over $6 billion in 2014 on water management. For those reasons, Colorado-based T-Rex Oil believes now is the perfect time to get into the business of wastewater disposal.

T-Rex Oil is looking to operate a wastewater disposal well in Western Nebraska, but may face an uphill battle to get the required permit. NET News Nebraska has reported that the company is facing strong opposition from residents. T-Rex’s application [.pdf] says the proposed project would be the largest operation of its type in the state, accepting upward of 80 truckloads a day of wastewater from Colorado, Wyoming and possibly Nebraska. The brine – a super salty, sometimes chemical-laden fluid – would then be processed on site before being pumped underground.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are around 144,000 class II wells spread across the country. Most are actually aging oil wells that companies inject with carbon dioxide or other substances to get them to produce more oil, a process known as enhanced oil recovery. Other wells are used to store fossil fuels and about 20 percent are used to dispose of wastewater.

The wells used for brine disposal is what worries residents of Nebraska’s panhandle, who have concerns about spills, groundwater contamination, and an increased risk of earthquakes.

“I just have reasonable doubts about the safety,” Jane Grove told NET Nebraska. Her ranch sits near the T-Rex’s well site.

Spills have been a concern in North Dakota, where on average, more than 2 gallons of wastewater spills per minute. Most spills occur during transportation – the wastewater has to get to the well either by truck or pipeline – or storage tanks can leak.

Earthquakes are another concern of the residents. Injection wells and oil and gas exploration have been linked to human-caused quakes, also known as “induced seismicity.” In 2014, Oklahoma was found to have had more magnitude 3 or greater quakes than California. Greeley, Colorado had a brush with a human-caused temblor in 2014 as well, where activities at an injection were linked to a magnitude 3.2 shake. Geological activity in the area later tapered off when the well was shut for evaluation and later allowed to start operating again, albeit at lower pressures and volumes.

To many they are invisible, but injection wells, for now, are vital to the industry because they are the cheapest and most available way to dispose of oil and gas wastewater. As Justin Haigler, president of Black Bison — Wyoming’s largest water services company — notes, “without this water management, oil and gas doesn’t happen.”

More oil and gas coverage here.

On Monday the City of Aspen officially ended its pursuit of a hydroelectric generation plant on Castle Creek — Aspen Journalism

February 25, 2015

The state of oil and gas pipeline regulation in Colorado

February 24, 2015
DJ Basin Exploration via the Oil and Gas Journal

DJ Basin Exploration via the Oil and Gas Journal

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A spill from an underground pipeline northeast of Denver has contaminated soil and possibly groundwater — the latest of at least 13 spills over the past year from oil and gas pipelines that are largely unregulated.

While none of the recent spills appears unusually large, they highlight a gray area in how Colorado and other states are handling the domestic energy boom.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission receives spill reports but does not regulate or inspect pipelines beyond well pads, COGCC spokesman Todd Hartman said. Federal authorities say they regulate interstate pipelines that transport oil and gas, but this does not cover tens of thousands of miles of production-related pipelines within states.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission regulates nonliquid gas lines around the state, PUC pipeline safety chief Joe Molloy said.

But no government agency regulates the proliferating production and other pipelines that carry natural gas liquids, Molloy said. These can be hazardous, containing ethane, propane and cancer-causing benzene.

A DCP Midstream operator saw stained surface soil about 7 miles north of Keenesburg on Jan. 30 and reported the spill. DCP has excavated 7 cubic yards of the soil and deployed a contractor to conduct lab tests for benzene and other toxic chemicals and to find the leak.

DCP officials “don’t have any more information just yet on source or contamination levels or groundwater impacts of the spill near the Tampa Compressor,” corporate spokeswoman Sarah Rasmussen said. “All of that is still being investigated and assessed.”

Moving oil and gas through pipelines promises safety and environment benefits — an alternative to trains and tanker trucks. For companies, pipelines can be cheaper, depending on fuel costs. In recent years, more trains are hauling crude oil from North Dakota and tar sands from Canada, leading to accidents such as last week’s disasters in Ontario and West Virginia.

Nationwide, more than 2.6 million miles of underground pipelines carry natural gas, crude oil and natural gas liquids from producing fields to refineries, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

But PHMSA officials estimate more than 200,000 miles of “gathering line” pipelines are unregulated in Colorado and other states.

The federal authorities are considering expanding their purview to regulate and inspect these pipelines, PHMSA spokesman Damon Hill said.

“We’re here to make sure operators are doing all they can to protect the environment and the safety of the public that may live near these pipelines,” Hill said.

“There’s a lot of development in the country where pipelines that were once in rural areas are no longer as rural. A lot of homes and businesses are now located near these pipelines. We want to make sure operators are indeed making sure the unregulated pipelines are safe.”

In recent Colorado legislative sessions, industry officials pushed to bolster companies’ power to condemn private property in order to install more pipelines.

Yet the impact of pipelines and spills from pipelines remains uncertain.

The COGCC spill database shows DCP reported 13 spills from its pipelines since February 2014. Most appear relatively minor, due to human error or equipment problems, though toxic material in some cases has contaminated groundwater.

Among the spills:

• In January, a DCP trencher hit a pipeline in Weld County, causing a spill, leading to an excavation of 40 cubic yards of contaminated soil.

• In November, a trencher hit an 8-inch pipeline and the spill contaminated groundwater — within a half mile of two water wells — spreading contamination at levels above the standards. DCP contractors excavated 370 cubic yards of soil and removed 40 barrels of contaminated groundwater.

• In September, five to 100 barrels of liquids leaked from a 10-inch underground pipeline inside the town of Frederick.

Colorado regulators have not taken enforcement action in response to any of these spills, according to COGCC records.

“A spill by itself doesn’t necessarily result in enforcement steps, but failure to report it, contain it and clean it up will,” Hartman said.

DCP officials pointed out that the COGCC lowered its threshold for reporting spills in 2014.

“In general, increases in reported releases in 2014 are likely attributable to this substantially lower reporting threshold,” Rasmussen said. For example, she said, DCP reported five spills in 2013 compared with 11 in 2014.

DCP Midstream operates 4,000 miles of various natural gas and natural gas liquids pipelines, Rasmussen said.

Oil and Gas Accountability Project organizer Josh Jos wick said state regulators must do more to regulate and inspect pipelines.

“What are the ages of the pipelines that the product is put through now? How well were they put in? Are they being inspected? Was the right material used? The state does not know,” Joswick said.

“We should not just sit here saying ‘Yeah, you can go wherever you want to go.’ That’s too dangerous. There’s too much potential for really negative impacts if something goes wrong.”

More oil and gas coverage here.

Small scale hydropower enjoys bipartisan support — Diana DeGette

February 12, 2015

“Don’t Frack Denver” asks city leaders to prohibit exploration and production in the city limits

February 11, 2015
Denver City Park sunrise

Denver City Park sunrise

From TheDenverChannel.com (Alan Gathright, Jennifer Kovaleski):

A coalition including conservationists and neighborhood activists is asking Denver’s mayor and City Council to block fracking in the city and the river valleys that supply its drinking water.

The “Don’t Frack Denver” alliance on Tuesday called for elected leaders to impose an immediate moratorium on fracking in the city.

Opponents want to prevent “fracking wells being sunk into an area where Denver draws nearly 40 percent of its drinking water supply,” Sam Schabacker, regional director of Food & Water Watch, told an afternoon rally outside Denver’s City and County Building.

He’s talking about the Platte River Basin, a watershed that also “supplies thousands of jobs and an immense about of economic activity for the recreation industry.”

“Out in northeast Denver, residents that live in communities like Montbello and Green Valley Ranch are faced with the risk of having fracking wells put next to their homes or [where] they send their children to school,” Schabacker said. He asserted that contamination from fracking chemicals could place people at “increased risk of things like cancer, birth defects, lower birth rates.

Whether local governments can regulate fracking is the subject of debate. A task force appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper is considering how much control local governments should have.

Hickenlooper, a geologist and the former mayor of Denver, has argued the state should regulate drilling.

In response to the alliance’s call for a fracking moratorium, Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s spokeswoman Amber Miller issued this statement:

“Mayor Hancock hears their concerns loud and clear and will continue to work toward a shared goal of preserving our environment and quality of life here in Denver. The Mayor is keeping a keen eye on this issue, and eagerly anticipates the recommendations from the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force before any action would be considered on a municipal level. Understanding the Task Force is working on a responsible balance, the Mayor asks for the community and stakeholders to remain patient and allow a thoughtful process to take place.”

Backers of the new campaign include nature photographer John Fielder, local affiliates of Food & Water Watch and the Sierra Club, three microbreweries and others.

At the rally, Fielder expressed concern about potential oil spills and protecting Colorado’s beauty.

“We want to make sure that they hear us, and hear our voices and that is that South Park is the last place we want to see oil and gas exploration in Colorado,” Fielder said of the high plain where the Platte River flows through Platte County. It’s a popular area for trout fishing and other outdoor recreation.

The Bureau of Land Management issued this statement about the South Park drilling site:

“The Bureau of Land Management Royal Gorge Field Office will be conducting a Master Leasing Plan for South Park as part of its upcoming Resource Management Plan revision. The purpose of a Master Leasing Plan is to provide BLM managers a way to strategically plan for oil and gas leasing and development and address potential resource conflicts. The BLM anticipates starting the public planning process this summer, in which public participation plays a vital role. “

From The Denver Post (Jon Murray):

Oil and gas representatives Tuesday assailed a campaign to ban new fracking operations in the state capital, with one pro-industry group equating the effort to “declaring war on Denver’s economy.”

Activists behind “Don’t Frack Denver” countered that they want to ward off the threat of expanded fracking in a city where oil extraction near homes is much less common than in some suburbs.

The push by environmental and community groups, activists and businesses received no immediate commitment from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock or the City Council.

It spurred Vital for Colorado, a pro-industry business advocacy group, to issue a blistering statement that referred to the activists as “anti-science extremists.”

“Groups that peddle fear, instead of facts, are out to hurt Colorado’s economy and out to reduce the tax base that supports our schools, parks and libraries,” said Peter Moore, the group’s board chairman.

But with fracking operations planned or setting up just outside far northeast Denver, the activists say they’re right to worry. Environmental group Food & Water Watch is coordinating the effort, The Denver Post reported in Tuesday’s print editions.

A Hancock spokeswoman said he understood the activist coalition’s concerns, but she said he wouldn’t consider backing any local action until a state oil and gas task force looking at regulatory issues publishes its recommendations. Those are due Feb. 27.

Councilman Chris Herndon, who represents northeast Denver, echoed Hancock’s comments.

A moratorium also could be in murky legal territory, given recent state court rulings that have overturned other cities’ fracking bans. Those are on appeal.

The most noticeable fracking in Denver occurs at Denver International Airport, which has 70 active wells leased out to oil and gas companies.

The activists also asked Hancock and the council to voice opposition to potential fracking leases on federal land in South Park near the headwaters of the South Platte River, a major source of drinking water for the metro area. Those could be years from winning approval, though, since the Bureau of Land Management has hit the pause button while it begins extensive studies that it says will consider environmental safety.

About three dozen activists Tuesday delivered letters to the mayor’s office and to City Councilwoman Susan Shepherd.

The signatories included environmental, community and social justice groups, businesses — including two microbreweries concerned about water quality — and nature photographer John Fielder.

Pro- and anti-fracking forces sparred over science, safety, air quality and water quality.

Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals to break up underground rocks, releasing oil and gas. The industry says it has been safe for six decades and is subject to intense federal and state regulations that keep it from harming the environment.

But Rossina Schroeer-Santiago and other residents of Greenwood Valley Ranch, where Hancock lives, have watched oil companies lease ground nearby in Aurora.

“I want protection from these airborne hazards — not just for myself, but as a mother, for my children and for the other families in the community,” Schroeer-Santiago said. “Don’t frack my community.”

A spokeswoman for Green Valley Ranch’s developer, Oakwood Homes, told The Post this week that it has no plans for mineral exploration in the neighborhood.

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

Colorado’s fracking wars arrived at Denver city hall Tuesday, with a coalition of 25 groups that included some of the standard bearers of the anti-fracking movement in the state delivering a statement calling for Mayor Michael Hancock and the City Council to ban the use of hydraulic fracturing within the city limits.

“We think it’s just a matter of time before they start fracking in Denver,” Sam Schabacker, the western region director for Food & Water Watch, who’s been working on the fracking issue in Colorado for the last few years, told the Denver Business Journal.

The Don’t Frack Denver coalition includes photographer John Fielder, Food & Water Watch; Greenpeace, Kids Against Fracking, Mercury Café, MM Local, Mo’ Betta Green Marketplace, Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, Rosenberg’s Bagels, Sierra Club – Denver Metro Network, Slow Food Denver; and the WildEarth Guardians.
And if the coalition is looking for a fight, the chairman of Vital for Colorado, a coalition of more than 35,000 Coloradans, businesses, civic leaders and trade organizations that support the oil and gas industry, says the organization is ready.

“We cannot let anti-science extremists destroy Denver’s economy over hype and environmental hysteria,” said Peter Moore, a Denver attorney and Vital’s board chairman, noting that fracking has been done in Colorado for decades and fracking fluid has never been discovered in underground water supplies.
“Groups that peddle fear, instead of facts, are out to hurt Colorado’s economy and out to reduce the tax base that supports our schools, parks and libraries. Extreme environmentalists are declaring war on Denver’s economy and thousands of Coloradans are ready for the fight,” Moore said…

On the one hand, fracking already has occurred in Denver. Denver International Airport owns 76 oil and gas wells, all of which have been fracked, a spokesman said.

The 76 wells have generated between $5 million and $7 million a year in revenue for the airport since 2010, money that’s used to pay for airport operations, according to the airport’s figures.

On the other hand, the group’s concerns Tuesday focused on Green Valley Ranch in northeast Denver, the home of Mayor Michael Hancock.

No drilling has taken place and no drilling is planned on the Denver side of that community, according to Wendy Aiello, a spokeswoman for the Oakwood Homes developer of the community.
ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) owns mineral rights near Green Valley Ranch, but they’re on the Aurora side of the Denver-Aurora border.

“However, we do not have any plans to drill there in 2015,” a company spokeswoman said Tuesday…

Food & Water Watch, based in Washington, D.C., wants the nation to shift to greener, renewable energy sources, Schabacker said.

“We think we need to move away from these forms of extreme energy extraction and need to be moving toward renewable energy,” he said.

“This ‘Don’t Frack Denver’ is asking for a moratorium on fracking in the Denver city limits to protect Denver’s residents, and also asking for Denver to ask the BLM {Bureau of Land Management] to not allow fracking in the water shed,” he said.

The group wants the BLM to halt plans to explore a master plan for leasing and drilling in the South Park area, a project the federal agency launched in response to environmental groups’ criticisms of previous efforts to explore the area for oil and gas.

Schabacker said the coalition worries that if the BLM finishes its plan and leases the South Park area for oil and gas operations, and if oil and gas companies drill for oil, then a spill could happen that contaminates the South Platte River, which supplies water to Denver.

“There will be an accident and spills into Denver’s water supply,” Schabacker said. “The question is what will it cost, and what are the implications for Denver’s residents and businesses who rely on that water.”
Karen Crummy, spokeswoman for an oil and gas advocacy group called Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence, said the new Denver anti-fracking group is “looking for a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “has never found a case where fracking has contaminated groundwater, but this shows what happens when extreme, Washington-D.C. groups come into Colorado: they scare the heck out of people by peddling propaganda to further their agenda,” Crummy said.

More oil and gas coverage here.

The vast potential of small hydropower — Rocky Mountain PBS I-News

February 9, 2015

Micro-hydroelectric plant

Micro-hydroelectric plant

From Inside Energy via The Durango Herald:

A prime example of the future of hydropower is perched in the rugged peaks outside of Silverton.

This is no behemoth new dam blocking one of America’s rivers. It’s a humming generator no bigger than a wheelbarrow, pulling in water from a mountain stream and making enough power to serve 10 homes.

“I think the days of the megaprojects in hydropower are gone,” said Boulder-based energy analyst Cameron Brooks.

Instead, a fledgling industry is taking shape, focused on putting small electricity generation on already existing non-powered hydro infrastructure. It’s a flurry of new economic activity for which Congress can take much credit, and it’s an issue with opportunity for further political compromise as Republicans take control in the U.S. Senate.

The San Juan County Historical Society operates an 8-kilowatt plant near the historic Mayflower Mill that overlooks the Animas River about a mile northeast of downtown Silverton. The group was given the mill site about 15 years ago.

Millworkers used the pipeline in the early 20th century to help process gold and silver ore mined in the neighboring mountains.

Historical society chairwoman Beverly Rich wanted to use the pipeline to generate electricity. Yet, the project stalled when she was told her generator would have to go through a federal licensing process akin to what would be required if the historical society wanted to build a new Hoover Dam.

In the summer of 2013, the Silverton mill project was a poster child in hearings on legislation meant to showcase an overly-burdensome federal regulatory process for small hydropower. The hearing proved persuasive to lawmakers.

“Incredibly enough, in this horrible time of gridlock, it passed unanimously,” Rich said of the bill.

President Barack Obama went on to sign that and another major reform bill for small hydro.

These laws dramatically streamlined the federal licensing process for projects like the mill.

Brooks said the package of legislation hit a rare bipartisan sweet spot. For lawmakers on the right, the legislation shrank federal bureaucracy. On the left, it meant a win for renewable energy without building new dams.

Fans of small hydropower are actually happy with Congress right now. Still, they are looking for more.

Kurt Johnson is a Colorado-based hydropower consultant who testified at a congressional hearing for the 2013 bills. He agrees that the new laws have been very helpful in spurring more development of small hydro. Yet, he describes them as a kitchen knife gently cutting the government’s red tape, when what really is needed is a machete.

For Johnson, it shouldn’t just be a matter of reducing the licensing process.

“If the projects are tiny and non-controversial,” he asked, “why is the federal government involved at all?”

Johnson said 97 percent of the nation’s nearly 80,000 dams currently do not have hydropower, showing the scope of the opportunity. But to really make it happen will require more congressional slashing of remaining red tape.

Removing all federal oversight may be a tall order even for this new Republican-controlled Congress.

However, hydropower legislation likely will make a reappearance. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is set to be the new chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Her office declined multiple interview requests for this story, but she’s on record calling hydropower an under-developed resource, saying more hydro could support economic growth and create jobs. As far as the country’s energy needs, there is vast potential.

Johnson recently met for an interview at the base of Button Rock Dam near Longmont, where a surging jet of water was launching at least 50 feet into North St. Vrain Creek.

“This is a great example of an enormous amount of mechanical energy which is currently being completely wasted,” he said.

There is no generator hooked up at the outlet of Button Rock Dam. If there were, it could power 500 homes.

A project of that size is considered small hydro; in fact, a project more than double that size would be labeled as such. Johnson said a developer for Button Rock is in the early stages of the federal application process set out under the 2013 bills.

The Department of Energy estimates that if generators were put on all existing non-powered dams in the U.S., such as Button Rock, it would create about as much power as a dozen large coal-fired power plants – or, to put it another way, enough electricity for at least 4 million homes.

The Durango Herald brings you this report in partnership with Rocky Mountain PBS I-News. Inside Energy is a reporting collaborative led by Rocky Mountain PBS. Email Dan Boyce at danboyce@rmpbs.org.

More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here.

USGS: Wonder where all the wind turbines in the US are?

February 8, 2015


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