Energy Exchange

EDF issues new framework to help make oil and gas wells safer

The United States onshore oil and gas industry operates nearly one million production wells across 30 states. To protect our health and environment, these wells must be designed, constructed, operated, maintained and closed in a way that prevents leaks and explosions.

To help regulators keep current on leading practices for protecting our environment from the risks associated with oil and gas production, EDF teamed up with Southwestern Energy and dozens of experts in industry, government, academia and advocacy to develop a Model Regulatory Framework for Hydraulically Fractured Hydrocarbon Production Wells in 2014. The framework has been used by states around the country as they have developed or updated well integrity regulations — notably, when Texas adopted several dozen ideas from the framework, blowouts fell 40% (and injuries from blowouts 50%) the next year.

EDF recently launched a new edition of the framework, which contains around 60 improvements based on the latest research and recommendations from oil and gas industry’s technical societies.

Here are some of the key changes in this new edition.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Natural Gas, produced water / Comments are closed

If we’re not careful, EPA’s new water reuse plan could lead to more pollution

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency released details of a new plan that aims to address concerns about future water shortages. The Water Reuse Action Plan suggests that by recycling and reusing more wastewater, we can “improve the availability of freshwater” and avoid a water access crisis.

There are certainly a number of opportunities we can and should seize to make better use of our water resources, but the plan leaves out a lot of crucially important details that must be a part of any truly sustainable water plan.

One of the biggest concerns EDF has is how the plan frames (or, more specifically doesn’t frame) important issues with reusing the oil and gas industry’s wastewater.

Oil and gas wastewater is extremely complicated. It’s very salty and it can contain radioactive chemicals from deep underground, toxic substances used in the drilling process, and a slew of other concerning pollutants. What’s in the water varies from day-to-day, well site-to-well site and state-to-state, which makes it even more difficult to set any kind of safety standard for how to treat it.

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Also posted in Natural Gas, produced water / Tagged | Comments are closed

Long considered a “clean” energy source, hydropower can actually be bad for climate

A new EDF study published this week in Environmental Science and Technology shows that hydropower — the leading renewable energy technology projected to grow rapidly — is not always as good for the climate as broadly assumed. Moreover, continuing to assume that it is could mean that projects meant to reduce greenhouse emissions will unintentionally increase them instead.

Motivated by pervasive misconceptions of the climate impacts of hydropower, we assessed the warming impacts over time of sustained greenhouse gas emissions estimated from nearly 1,500 existing hydropower plants around the globe. We also looked at the implications of future hydropower development.

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Also posted in Methane / Comments are closed

Scientists identify opportunities to better understand oilfield wastewater

By Cloelle Danforth and Nichole Saunders

Collaborative research is a critical element for identifying unforeseen risks associated with using the oil industry’s wastewater outside the oilfield. That’s the recommendation of a new peer-reviewed paper accepted this week in the Journal of Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management (IEAM).

The paper comes at a crucial moment for the oil and gas industry, which generates some 900 billion gallons of salty, chemical-filled water (also called produced water) each year. Traditionally, companies dispose of this wastewater deep underground where it is less likely to cause contamination. But economics and water scarcity are forcing questions about other ways to treat, reuse and even repurpose this wastewater. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will release a report very soon that could make it more common for companies to discharge their wastewater into rivers and streams.

The IEAM paper outlines the conclusions of a multi-day toxicity workshop where experts from the oil and gas industry, academia, government and the environmental community collectively identified key knowledge gaps associated with this waste stream and determined tools, technologies and methods needed to help close those gaps.

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Posted in Water / Tagged | Comments are closed

California fixes a major problem with oilfield wastewater injection

A new rule goes into effect today that will help protect California’s groundwater.

The rule applies to injection wells – the underground facilities that enable enhanced oil recovery and the long-term disposal of the oil industry’s wastewater. California has around 55,000 oilfield injection wells, nearly one-third of the nation’s total, and the state’s oil industry injects over 100 billion gallons of water a year into them. The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) came under scrutiny in recent years when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discovered state regulators accidentally allowed thousands of wells to pump oilfield wastewater directly into drinking water aquifers, along with other program deficiencies.

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Also posted in California, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Trump’s EPA may weaken restrictions on disposal of oilfield wastewater — here’s what you need to know

Many Americans are aware that we are experiencing a major energy boom. But what many folks may not realize is that with this increase in oil and gas, also comes an increase in waste – specifically wastewater. In fact, for every barrel of oil produced wells can generate 10 times as much chemical-laden wastewater. All told, the industry produces over 900 billion gallons of wastewater a year, and we know very little about the chemicals in it.

Traditionally, companies have pumped this wastewater deep underground, but the growing volume is creating new challenges– leading many to wonder whether there may be different options for managing or reusing it. One of those options is treatment and discharge to rivers or streams.

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Also posted in produced water / Tagged | Comments are closed