Business

  • Energy companies prime targets for hackers

    A third of the cyber incidents handled in 2014 by DHS’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team involved energy companies. Oil and gas operators face the greatest cyber risks among energy producers because their projects often involve multiple companies working together, sharing information, and trying to integrate systems. Still, 60 percent of energy companies around the world said they do not have a cyberattack response plan.

  • Combination of gas field fluid injection and removal likely cause of 2013-14 Texas quake

    Seismologists found that high volumes of wastewater injection combined with saltwater (brine) extraction from natural gas wells is the most likely cause of earthquakes occurring near Azle, Texas, from late 2013 through spring 2014. SMU seismologists have been studying earthquakes in North Texas since 2008, when the first series of felt tremors hit near DFW International Airport between 30 October 2008 and 16 May 2009. Next came a series of quakes in Cleburne between June 2009 and June 2010, and this third series in the Azle-Reno area northwest of Fort Worth occurred between November 2013 and January 2014. The SMU team also is studying an ongoing series of earthquakes in the Irving-Dallas area that began in April 2014.

  • Changing human behavior key to tackling California drought: Expert

    California is experiencing a drought that has gone far beyond a “dry spell,” and the state has imposed the first water restriction in state history, aiming to cut back on water consumption by 25 percent. One expert says that strict water conservation measures are long overdue, and that “what is happening is a realization that you can’t simply transplant another ecosystem onto a California desert system or arid southwestern system. In a sense, California and much of the U.S. southwest are living beyond their ecological means. Certain lifestyles have been adopted and crops are being grown that are not endemic or sustainable for this particular bioregion.” He adds: “This is a moment for not just cutting off personal water use and turning the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth, as important as that is. This is a moment of reflection, invitation and, I hope, legislation that will cause people to think about water use in the industrial sector too. This is for the long-term prosperity of the state and sustainability of the ecosystem.”

  • Readying California’s infrastructure for the 21st century

    California’s infrastructure has allowed some of the world’s most innovative technology companies to thrive here. For that infrastructure to handle the tsunami of advanced communications and energy technologies that consumers and business are demanding and that state climate change goals require, however, the need for continued investment is pressing, according to a new report.

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  • New approach would boost use of geothermal energy

    Existing U.S. geothermal power plants generate up to 3.4 gigawatts of energy, making up about 0.4 percent of the nation’s energy supply. Geothermal power is generated by tapping the heat that exists under the Earth’s surface to extract steam and turn power plant turbines. Conventional geothermal power plants rely on the natural presence of three things: underground water, porous rock, and heat. A new approach to geothermal power, called enhanced geothermal systems, pumps fluids underground, a step which is called “reservoir stimulation,” to enable power production where conventional geothermal doesn’t work. It is estimated that enhanced geothermal systems could boost U.S. geothermal energy output 30-fold to more than 100 gigawatts, or enough to power 100 million typical American homes.

  • Cybersecurity firms hire former military, intelligence cyber experts

    Over the past two years, U.S. cybersecurity firms have brought in several former military and intelligence community computer experts to help combat hackers targeting the U.S. private sector. For the new private sector employees, the wages are higher and opportunities are endless. Hundreds of ex-government cybersecurity workers represent the competitive advantage of a cybersecurity services industry expected to bring in more than $48 billion in revenue next year, up 41 percent from 2012. “The people coming out of the military and the intelligence community are really, really good,” says a cyber startup founder. “They know the attackers. They know how they work.”

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  • Shipping oil by rail is booming. Technology can make it safer

    Last year, trains transported more than one million barrels of oil per day in 2014 — a huge jump from 55,000 barrels per day in 2010. This increase in oil-by-rail transportation has come with a number of high-profile derailments. Can technology improve safety? Yes. While the risk associated with oil train derailments has not been eliminated, the transportation of crude oil by rail has certainly become safer through extensive research, development, and implementation of new technologies. Continued efforts by railroads, government agencies, research institutions, and universities will continue to improve the safety of crude oil transportation by rail, reducing risk and potentially alleviating public fears associated with railroad transportation.

  • PG&E to pay $1.6 billion in gas explosion settlement

    The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has levied the largest penalty in the agency’s history on Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), ordering the company to pay $1.6 billion for failures which led to a 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno. The explosion killed eight people and destroyed or damaged thirty-eight homes.Afaulty weld on the pipeline caused the explosion and the resulting fire. The company may also owe an additional $1.13 billion in federal criminal fines connected to the blast, and has committed to spend $2.8 billion in reassessing pipeline safety.

  • Despite disasters, oil-by-rail transport is getting safer

    Oil production in the United States is booming. Last year, for the first time since 1987, annual U.S. field production of crude oil topped three billion barrels, a 170 percent increase since 2008. As pipelines quickly reached capacity, oil shippers turned to the railroads, which provided multiple incentives, including: flexibility in shipping options and contract timelines, shorter transit times to the refineries (five to seven days by rail compared with 40 days by pipeline), and the ability to choose which refineries to use. Oil production in the Bakken formation in North Dakota has increased from 81,000 barrels per day in 2003 to more than one million barrels by mid-2014 — with more than three-quarters of those barrels moving daily by rail out of North Dakota. With U.S. crude oil transport by rail nearing all-time highs, many are expressing fears about the potential of a crude oil spill in their community.

  • Cyber espionage campaign, likely sponsored by China, targets Asian countries: FireEye

    FireEye has released a report which provides intelligence on the operations of APT 30, an advanced persistent threat (APT) group most likely sponsored by the Chinese government. APT 30 has been conducting cyber espionage since at least 2005, making it one of the longest operating APT groups that FireEye tracks. APT 30 targets governments, journalists, and commercial entities across South East Asia and India.

  • Former Israeli PM Ehud Barak invests $1 million in emergency reporting app developer

    Israeli start-up Reporty Homeland Security has raised $1 million from former prime minister and minister of defense Ehud Barak. The company’s technology aims to streamline communication between citizen and government agencies at the same time that it protects the user’s privacy. The company’s application establishes a two-way video and audio connection to the emergency help center, transmitting information which gives the precise location of the person making the report and allowing for an evaluation of the incident report’s credibility.

  • Renewables win, coal loses as shift in electricity generation lead to net job growth in energy

    In the four years following the 2008 recession, the coal industry lost more than 49,000 jobs, while the natural gas, solar, and wind industries together created nearly four times that amount, according to a new study. A county-by-county geographical analysis of the losses and gains shows that few new jobs were added in regions hardest hit by coal’s decline, particularly counties in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

  • 70 percent of glaciers in Western Canada will be gone by 2100

    There are over 17,000 glaciers in B.C. and Alberta and they play an important role in energy production through hydroelectric power. The glaciers also contribute to the water supply, agriculture, and tourism. A new study says that 70 percent of glacier ice in British Columbia and Alberta could disappear by the end of the twenty-first century, creating major problems for local ecosystems, power supplies, and water quality.

  • Police department pays ransom after hackers encrypt department’s data

    Last December, cyberterrorists hacked into servers belonging to the Tewksbury Police Department, encrypted the data stored, and later asked for a $500 bitcoin ransom to be paid before department officials could regain control of their files. The attack is known as the CryptoLocker ransomware virus, and it points to a new frontier in cyberterrorism.

  • A very big concept lifts off

    In 2010, a group of defense contractors led by Northrop Grumman received a contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to create a so-called Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) — a super-sized surveillance aircraft that had the capability of spending days in the air on a single mission. The first test flight of the Airlander took place in August 2012. In 2013, however, budget cuts led to the cancellation of the project, and U.K.-based Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), which was part of contractors group, bought the Airlander back from the DoD at effectively scrap value. So the Airlander came back to the United Kingdom, where it lives in a giant hangar in Cardington, Bedfordshire. It is there because it is the only place in the United Kingdom that can house it, having been built for airship manufacture in 1915. HAH has big plans for it.