• Geologists report new findings about Kansas, Oklahoma earthquakes

    In the more than three decades between 1977 and 2012, only 15 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or greater were recorded in the entire state of Kansas. Since 2012 more than 100 earthquakes of 3.0 or greater have been recorded in only two counties in the state, Sumner and Harper. These include the largest earthquake ever monitored in Kansas in November 2014, a magnitude 4.9 event near the Sumner County town of Milan. The frequency of earthquakes has continued to increase. Between May 2015 and July 2017, sensors detected more than 2,400 earthquakes in Sumner County alone, ranging in magnitude from 0.4 to 3.6. As concern rises about earthquakes induced by human activity like oil exploration, geologists report a new understanding about recent earthquakes in Kansas and Oklahoma.

  • Reusable sponge soaks up oil, revolutionizing oil spill and diesel cleanup

    When the Deepwater Horizon drilling pipe blew out seven years ago, beginning the worst oil spill in U.S. history, those in charge of the recovery discovered a new wrinkle: the millions of gallons of oil bubbling from the sea floor weren’t all collecting on the surface where it could be skimmed or burned. Some of it was forming a plume and drifting through the ocean under the surface. Scientists have invented a new foam, called Oleo Sponge, that addresses this problem.

  • MSU urged to pull the plug on an “eco-terrorism” video game

    Michigan State University’s award-winning computer game development lab has developed a new computer game called “Thunderbird Strike.” Dr. Elizabeth LaPensee, the game’s designer, says that, among other things, the game is designed to “bring awareness to pipeline issues and contribute to the discontinuation of [Enbridge’s] Line 5.” Enbridge’s Line 5 is a 645-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline that travels through Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. In the game, players get to blow up pipelines. Oil industry officials argue that the game, in effect, encourages players to engage in acts of domestic terrorism.

  • Battelle completes 15-year CO2 storage project at Mountaineer Power Plant

    One of the first tests for geologic storage of carbon dioxide at a commercial, coal-fired power plant has concluded, more than fifteen years after it began, completing a journey from an initial exploratory well to successful operations and site closure. The Mountaineer project helped establish the technical viability of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, and to store carbon dioxide in geologic layers with limited prior data.

  • Concerns about safety of rail transport of energy liquids, gases

    The U.S. increased production of crude oil, natural gas, and corn-based ethanol created unforeseen demands and safety challenges on their long-distance transportation via pipelines, tank barges, and railroad tank cars. A debate is underway about whether the domestic energy revolution was placing stress on the transportation system that would sacrifice safety.  

  • Climate action window could close as early as 2023

    As the Trump administration repeals the U.S. Clean Power Plan, a new study underscores the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions—from both environmental and economic perspectives. For the U.S. most energy-hungry sectors—automotive and electricity—the study identifies timetables for action, after which the researchers say it will be too late to stave off a climate tipping point. And the longer the nation waits, the more expensive it will be to move to cleaner technologies in those sectors—a finding that runs contrary to conventional economic thought because prices of solar, wind and battery technologies are rapidly falling, the study’s authors say.

  • Why Rick Perry’s proposed subsidies for coal fail Economics 101

    In a controversial proposal, Energy Secretary Rick Perry has asked federal regulators to effectively subsidize coal and nuclear power plants at ratepayers’ expense. Subsidizing utilities to burn more coal would worsen coal’s major negative externalities in the name of some dubious positive externalities. Deregulated power markets already have measures in place to support efficient levels of investment in reliability and resilience. There is surely room for refinement, but Perry’s proposal is the opposite of refined. It asks government to interfere in well-functioning markets, which is not something Republicans usually support – especially since it will come at great expense to ratepayers. Subsidizing coal for its reliability attributes is like subsidizing bacon for its nutritional content. There are better ways to get your vitamins, and better ways to keep the lights on.

  • Filter removes fracking-related contaminants from water

    A new filter produced has proven able to remove more than 90 percent of hydrocarbons, bacteria and particulates from contaminated water produced by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations at shale oil and gas wells. The process turns a ceramic membrane with microscale pores into a superhydrophilic filter that “essentially eliminates” the common problem of fouling.

  • Western energy sector target of sophisticated attack by Russian-linked group Dragonfly

    The energy sector in Europe and North America is being targeted by a new wave of cyberattacks that could provide attackers with the means to severely disrupt affected operations. The group behind these attacks is known as Dragonfly. The group has been in operation since at least 2011 but has re-emerged over the past two years from a quiet period following exposure by Symantec and a number of other researchers in 2014. This “Dragonfly 2.0” campaign, which appears to have begun in late 2015, shares tactics and tools used in earlier campaigns by the group.

  • 139 countries could be powered by 100 percent wind, water, and solar energy by 2050

    The latest roadmap to a 100 percent renewable energy future from twenty-seven experts is the most specific global vision yet, outlining infrastructure changes that 139 countries can make to be entirely powered by wind, water, and sunlight by 2050 after electrification of all energy sectors. Such a transition could mean less worldwide energy consumption due to the efficiency of clean, renewable electricity; a net increase of over twenty-four million long-term jobs; an annual decrease in 4-7 million air pollution deaths per year; stabilization of energy prices; and annual savings of over $20 trillion in health and climate costs.

  • U.S. advanced nuclear program unlikely to deliver on its mission

    Despite repeated promises over the past eighteen years, the U.S. Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) is unlikely to deliver on its mission to develop and demonstrate an advanced nuclear reactor by the mid-twenty-first century. That is the conclusion of a new study which used data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act to reconstruct the program’s budget history.

  • Wind energy: Technology advancements, improved project performance, low prices

    Wind energy pricing for land-based, utility-scale projects remains attractive to utility and commercial purchasers, according to an annual report released by the U.S. Department of Energy. Prices offered by newly built wind projects in the United States are averaging around 2¢/kWh, driven lower by technology advancements and cost reductions.

  • Human-induced and natural earthquakes in central U.S. are “inherently similar”

    Between 1980 and 2000, Oklahoma averaged about two earthquakes greater than or equal to magnitude 2.7 per year. That number jumped to about 2,500 in 2014 and 4,000 in 2015, then dropped to 2,500 in 2016. On Sept. 3, 2016, a magnitude-5.8 earthquake struck Oklahoma, the state’s largest earthquake to date. According to USGS, many earthquakes in Oklahoma and other parts of the central U.S. have been triggered by wastewater fluid injection associated with oil and gas operations.

  • Nuclear power project abandoned as energy landscape changes, costs escalate

    On Monday, after working nine years to expand a nuclear power plant in South Carolina, Santee Cooper and SCE&G announced they were pulling the plug on the $14 billion reactor project in Fairfield County. The companies cited rising costs, falling demand for energy, construction delays, and the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse. SCE&G customers have paid $1.4 billion through higher monthly utility bills – customers saw their rates increase nine different times over the last four years – and consumer groups in the state say they would demand that the money be refunded to consumers.

  • Climate change threatens European electricity production

    The vulnerability of the European electricity sector to changes in water resources is set to worsen by 2030 as a consequence of climate change. Thermoelectric power stations—including coal, gas, and nuclear plants—use significant amounts of fresh water for cooling purposes. A large gas power station can use an Olympic-sized swimming pool of water per minute. If water is not available, or if it is too warm, power stations have to reduce electricity production, or cease production completely.