Energy resources

  • Texas appoints seismologist to examine wave of Irving-area quakes

    Research over decades has shown the fracking process — injecting fluid underground to release oil — has been the cause of fault slips and fractures. The fluid can often lubricate existing faults and cause them to slip. The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) has turned to David Craig Pearson to help study a series of quakes which hit the area of Irving within a span of a few days. A UT-Austin seismologist has already published a report which found that most earthquakes in Texas’s oil-rich Barnett Shale occurred within two miles of an injection well, essentially proving that some of the quakes are caused by fracking. Pearson’s appointment was not universally welcomed, as some see him as too close to industry. “I’m absolutely engaged with trying to figure out the cause of all earthquakes throughout Texas,” said Pearson. “I’m a scientists first, and a Railroad Commission employee second.”

  • Floating wind turbines bring electricity – and power generation -- to customers

    Most wind turbine manufacturers are competing to build taller turbines to harness more powerful winds above 500 feet, or 150 meters. Altaeros is going much higher with its novel Buoyant Airborne Turbine — the BAT. The Altaeros BAT can reach 2,000 feet, or 600 meters. At this altitude, wind speeds are faster and have five to eight times greater power density. As a result, the BAT can generate more than twice the energy of a similarly rated tower-mounted turbine. The BAT’s key enabling technologies include a novel aerodynamic design, making it, in effect, a wind turbine which is being lifted by a tethered balloon. In the future, the company expects to deploy the BAT alongside first responders in emergency response situations when access to the electric grid is unavailable.

  • More crude-oil trains means more accidents, spills

    In 2013 U.S. railroads carried more than 400,000 car loads of crude oil, a sharp increase from the 9,500 they carried in 2008. Crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale region has fueled most of the surge, and this surge has increased the potential for rail accidents. Each train carrying more than a million gallons of Bakken crude could cause damage similar to what occurred in July 2013, when a runaway train derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing forty-seven people. Another derailment near Lynchburg, Virginia in April 2014, spilled about 30,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil into the James River.

  • Missing oil from Deepwater Horizon 2010 accident found

    After 200 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, the government and BP cleanup crews mysteriously had trouble locating all of it. Now, a new study finds that some six million to ten million gallons are buried in the sediment on the Gulf floor, about sixty-two miles southeast of the Mississippi Delta.

  • Need for oil the most important reason for interfering in another country’s war

    Researchers have for the first time provided strong evidence for what conspiracy theorists have long thought — oil is often the reason for interfering in another country’s war. Civil wars have made up more than 90 percent of all armed conflicts since the Second World War, and the research builds on a near-exhaustive sample of sixty-nine countries which had a civil war between 1945 and 1999. About two thirds of civil wars during the period saw third party intervention either by another country or outside organization. The researchers found that the decision to interfere was dominated by the interveners’ need for oil over and above historical, geographical, or ethnic ties.

  • Boston's aging pipes leak high levels of heat-trapping methane

    The aging system of underground pipes and tanks that delivers natural gas to Boston-area households and businesses leaks high levels of methane, with adverse economic, public health, and environmental consequences. Now a group of atmospheric scientists at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has produced hard numbers that quantify the extent of the problem.

  • view counter
  • Invention slows water evaporation, generates energy

    A new technology offers a positive environmental impact by slowing the evaporation of water from bodies of water such as mining tailings ponds and reservoirs, while simultaneously generating solar energy. The invention, called Hexocover, consists of floating hexagonal plastic panels that sandwich 4-inch balls linked together to form a cover to prevent evaporation. The panel design addresses the need for mobility through the inclusion of a propulsion system as well as GPS, so the panels can be built to be remotely configurable. Further, when configured with solar cells, the panels can generate electricity.

  • Fracking-induced tremors lead to changes in building codes, insurance rates

    For its upcoming National Seismic Hazard Map, used by engineers to update building and construction codes and by insurers to set policy rates, the U.S. Geological Survey(USGS) will take into account risks posed by induced or man-made earthquakes. For North Texas, where earthquakes are historically uncommon, an increase in earthquake risk is likely as the Dallas area has suffered more than 120 earthquakes since 2008. Scientists have attributed these earthquakes to nearby fracking operations.

  • Challenges for sustainability as many renewable resources max out

    The days of assuming natural resources can be swapped to solve shortages — corn for oil, soy for beef — may be over. An international group of scientists demonstrate that many key resources have peaked in productivity, pointing to the sobering conclusion that “renewable” is not synonymous with “unlimited.” The researchers examined renewable resources, such as corn, rice, wheat, or soy, which represent around 45 percent of the global calorie intake. They also reviewed fish, meat, milk, and eggs. The annual growth rate of eighteen of these renewable resources — for example, increase in meat production or fish catch — peaked around 2006.

  • Louisiana governor seeks to uphold law blocking wetlands damages lawsuit

    Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (R) has asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of Act 544, a law passed to block the wetlands damages lawsuit levied by the East Bank Levee Authority against more than eighty oil, gas, and pipeline companies for the damage their operations have inflicted on Louisiana wetlands. On 3 December of last year by the 19th Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark declared the law unconstitutional.

  • Which fossil fuels must remain in the ground to limit global warming?

    A third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves, and over 80 percent of current coal reserves globally should remain in the ground and not be used before 2050 if global warming is to stay below the 2°C target agreed by policy makers, according to new research. The study also identifies the geographic location of existing reserves that should remain unused and so sets out the regions that stand to lose most from achieving the 2°C goal.

  • Fracking in Ohio confirmed as cause of rare “felt” earthquake

    In March 2014, a series of five recorded earthquakes, ranging from magnitude 2.1 to 3.0, occurred within one kilometer (0.6 miles) of a group of oil and gas wells operated by Hilcorp Energy, which was conducting active hydraulic fracturing operations at the time. Due to the proximity of a magnitude 3.0 event near a well, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) halted operations at the Hilcorp well on 10 March 2014. A new study links the March 2014 earthquakes in Poland Township, Ohio to hydraulic fracturing that activated a previously unknown fault. The induced seismic sequence included a rare felt earthquake of magnitude 3.0.

  • Geochemical reactions may limit effectiveness of carbon storage schemes

    New research shows that the natural reactions taking place in some of the underground reservoirs used to store carbon dioxide may prevent carbon emissions from being transported to greater depths, where it may be less likely to leak into the atmosphere. Geochemical reactions taking place in aquifers — underground layers of water-bearing porous rock — may lead to carbon dioxide being “pooled” for hundreds or even thousands of years, and may force a rethink of how these underground reservoirs are used in carbon capture and storage (CCS) schemes.

  • United States must seize opportunity to build sustainable energy system: IEA

    The United States is in a strong position to deliver a reliable, affordable, and environmentally sustainable energy system, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said, as it released a review of U.S. energy policy. To do so, however, the country must establish a more stable and coordinated strategic approach for the energy sector than has been the case in the past.

  • Nuclear power should play “substantial role” in mitigating climate change: Environmental scientists

    Leading conservation scientists from around the world have called for a substantial role for nuclear power in future energy-generating scenarios in order to mitigate climate change and protect biodiversity. In an open letter to environmentalists with more than sixty signatories, the scientists ask the environmental community to “weigh up the pros and cons of different energy sources using objective evidence and pragmatic trade-offs, rather than simply relying on idealistic perceptions of what is ‘green’.”