Energy resources

  • ISIS insurgents take over Iraq’s largest refinery, continue advance toward Baghdad

    Earlier this morning (Wednesday) ISIS Islamic militants took over Iraq’s biggest oil refinery, located near the town of Baiji, 130 miles north of Baghdad. The fall of the refinery is a major blow to the already-reeling government of Nouri al-Maliki. The refinery provides about 40 percent of Iraq’s refined oil needs, and if the supplies dry up, the Iraqi economy would be paralyzed within a few days, and Iraqi citizens would be without power or gas for their cars. As was the case since the ISIS campaign began late last week, the Iraqi military and security forces put up only a token resistance, with most of their units melting away and leaving their arms and equipment behind without even engaging the militants. Iraq is the second largest oil producer in OPEC.

  • Carbon-cutting regulations may boost prospects of nuclear power plants

    In a report issued last Thursday, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services (S&P) predicted that new nuclear plant construction could benefit from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent carbon-cutting guidelines for current natural gas power plants.

  • Debate continues over controversial lawsuit-killing Louisiana oil bill

    Governor Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana) is facing a difficult decision over whether or not to veto a measure which would kill a contentious lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) against ninety-seven different oil and gas companies regarding long-term environmental damage claims, including those of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion.

  • Connecting dead ends increases power grid stability

    Climate change mitigation strategies such as the German Energiewende – the post-Fukushima German policy of phasing out nuclear power — require linking vast numbers of new power generation facilities to the grid. As the input from many renewable sources is rather volatile, depending on how much the wind blows or the sun shines, there is a higher risk of local power instabilities and eventually blackouts. Scientists now employed a novel concept from nonlinear systems analysis called basin stability to tackle this challenge.

  • New material captures CO2 at natural gas wellheads

    Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel. Development of cost-effective means to separate carbon dioxide during the production process will improve this advantage over other fossil fuels and enable the economic production of gas resources with higher carbon dioxide content that would be too costly to recover using current carbon capture technologies. Rice University chemists invented a porous material which sequesters carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, at ambient temperature with pressure provided by the wellhead, and lets it go once the pressure is released. The material shows promise to replace more costly and energy-intensive processes.

  • Algae biofuel can help meet world energy demand

    Microalgae-based biofuel not only has the potential to quench a sizable chunk of the world’s energy demands, researchers say. Microalgae produces much higher yields of fuel-producing biomass than other traditional fuel feedstocks and it does not compete with food crops. The researchers say that algae yields about 2,500 gallons of biofuel per acre per year. In contrast, soybeans yield approximately forty-eight gallons; corn about eighteen gallons.

  • Floating solar power plants offer many benefits

    Water-based solar plants are at least 50 percent more efficient than a land-based solar power system.The water on which the plant floats helps extending the life of the photovoltaic panels, meaning greater efficiency and performance from the solar panel system, and the plant also prevents nearly 90 percent of the evaporation for the surface area that it covers, an important benefit in dry climates.

  • Abundant shale gas, by itself, not likely to alter climate projections

    While natural gas can reduce greenhouse emissions when it is substituted for higher-emission energy sources, abundant shale gas is not likely substantially to alter total emissions without policies targeted at greenhouse gas reduction, a new study finds. If natural gas is abundant and less expensive, it will encourage greater natural gas consumption and less of fuels such as coal, renewables and nuclear power. The net effect on the climate will depend on whether the greenhouse emissions from natural gas — including carbon dioxide and methane — are lower or higher than emissions avoided by reducing the use of those other energy sources.

  • U.S. to require railroads to notify states when oil is shipped

    With the increase in available oil from fracking and larger pipeline capacity, railways are moving more and more oil. Rail companies moved 400,000 oil carloads in 2013, dwarfing 2005’s 6,000 oil carloads. The increase in oil shipments of oil has led to an increase in the number of accidents involving oil tankers. In the wake of recent accidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has released an emergency order to railroad companies which is designed to reduce the risk when shipping crude oil across the nation.

  • Limiting methane emissions would more quickly affect climate than limiting CO2

    When discussing climate change, scientists point to “radiative forcing,” a measure of trapped heat in Earth’s atmosphere from man-made greenhouse gases. The current role of methane looms large, they say, contributing over 40 percent of current radiative forcing from all greenhouse gases. The role of methane as a driver of global warming is even more critical than this 40 percent value might indicate, they note, since the climate system responds much more quickly to reducing methane than to reducing carbon dioxide. The implication is that while it is true that in order to slow, or even reverse, global warming we must limit emissions of both carbon dioxide and methane, it makes more sense to concentrate now on limiting methane emissions because reducing methane emissions would buy society some critical decades of lower temperatures.

  • Experts: Fracking-induced earthquakes are real, requiring scientific guidelines

    In the wake of increased seismic activity and rare advanced warnings, seismologists are urging the U.S. Geological Survey to include quakes resulting from hydraulic fracturing for underground oil and gas, or fracking, as an estimated hazard.

  • As fracking activity grows in Mexico, so does the number of fracking-induced tremors

    Mexico has the fourth largest amount of recoverable shale gas in the world, with 681 trillion cubic feet. As fracking activity has increased in the state of Nuevo Leon, so have the number of tremors. Between January and mid-April, forty-eight tremors, some reaching a magnitude of roughly 4.3, were recorded across the state of Nuevo Leon, compared to two tremors in the same period last year.

  • Energy-subsidy reform can reduce carbon emissions, add years to oil exports: study

    Reform of energy subsidies in oil-exporting countries can reduce carbon emissions and add years to oil exports, according to a new study. The study reviews the record of energy-subsidy reforms and argues that big exporters should reduce energy demand by raising prices, and that this can be done without undermining legitimacy of governments that depend on subsidies for political support

  • Producing more oil by capturing carbon

    Any method that leads to the production of more oil seems counter to the prevailing wisdom on climate change that says use of more greenhouse-gas-emitting fuel is detrimental. There is one oil-recovery process, however, which some say could be part of the climate change solution and now unites unlikely allies in industry, government and environmental groups.

  • More crude oil shipments by rail mean more accidents, but security measures lag

    American rail companies have long operated under federal laws, making it difficult for local officials to gather information on cargo and how rail companies select their routes. An increase in the number of trains transporting crude oil, accompanied by a series of derailments and explosions, has highlighted the dangers of transporting hazardous substances by rail.In February, the Department of Transportation announced that railroads had voluntarily agreed to apply the same routing rules to oil trains that they currently apply to other hazardous materials. Critics say more needs to be done.