Selected tag(s): science

New study reveals gaps in the methods used to assess chemicals in oilfield wastewater

A new study led by researchers with Colorado School of Mines exposes limitations with the current methods used to detect chemicals in oilfield wastewater and offers solutions to help regulators make better decisions for managing this waste stream.

Oilfield wastewater is extremely salty and can contain multiple combinations of many potentially harmful chemicals (approximately 1600 on a national basis). However, most standard or approved analytical methods available to regulators were designed to work with fresh water. Because oil and gas wastewater is so salty—sometimes 10 times saltier than seawater or more—chemists often have to dilute wastewater samples to manage the high salt content.

This means they may also be diluting chemicals of concern to concentrations too low to detect, even though they may be present at risky levels. For example, benzene is a chemical associated with petroleum hydrocarbons and a known carcinogen. It also has a drinking water standard of 5 parts per billion – that’s 5 cents in 10 million dollars. It really doesn’t take much dilution of a sample to lose that level of precision. Read More »

Posted in Natural Gas, produced water, produced water| Tagged | Comments are closed

Scientists Question Risks of Using Oilfield Wastewater on Food Crops

The engineers and scientists who study the oil and gas industry’s wastewater know the term “beneficial reuse” well. It’s the seldom-used technique of taking wastewater produced from an oil or gas well, treating it, and then using it for other purposes — like watering crops (including organic crops) or feeding livestock.  It’s a rare practice that drought-stricken areas like California have used for a number of years, although little is known about associated health or safety risks since, usually, about 98% of wastewater is injected into disposal wells deep underground. However, as demands for water increase, and concerns about disposal wells (which have been linked to earthquakes) rise, beneficial reuse is being considered as a viable option.

But just because we can use wastewater for other purposes – does that mean we should? Read More »

Posted in Natural Gas, produced water, produced water| Also tagged | Comments are closed

Finding Industry Fingerprints on Atmospheric Methane

fingerprint-imgWe’ve all seen TV detectives dust a scene for fingerprints. In a study in the journal Nature, a team of scientists did something similar, using carbon isotopes to identify the “fingerprints” of methane– one of the world’s most powerful climate pollutants in the atmosphere.

The study examined the isotopic signature from two types of methane emissions: biogenic (sources like wetlands, landfills and agriculture) and thermogenic (encompassing geologic seepage, activities associated with the oil and gas supply chain or coal mines).

The evidence suggests that not only are we significantly underestimating the share global methane emissions from thermogenic sources, we’re also underestimating how much comes from the production, delivery and use of oil and gas and the production of coal. Read More »

Posted in Climate, Methane, Natural Gas| Also tagged | Comments are closed

What the New NASA 'Hot Spot' Study Tells Us About Methane Leaks

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Look up in New Mexico and on most days you’ll see the unmistakable blue skies that make the Southwest so unique.

But there’s also something hovering over the Four Corners that a naked eye can’t detect:  A 2,500-square mile cloud of methane, the highest concentration of the heat-trapping pollution anywhere in the United States. The Delaware-sized hot-spot was first reported in a study  two years ago.

At the time, researchers were confident the cloud was associated with fossil fuels, but unsure of the precise sources. Was it occurring naturally from the region’s coal beds or coming from a leaky oil and gas industry?

Read More »

Posted in BLM Methane, Climate, Colorado, Methane, Natural Gas| Also tagged , | Comments are closed

STUDY: A Closer Look at Urban Methane Pollution

7174642172_60f5ed16e8_kThe United States produces approximately 33 trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year. A majority of this gas is converted to electricity at power plants or used for industrial purposes, but about one third ends up making the journey from the well head, through underground pipelines, and into our homes and businesses. How much of this gas gets lost along the way—whether it’s through leaky equipment or other factors—is important because of the damaging climate impacts of methane pollution. And a new study published this week in Environmental Science and Technology is helping to expand our understanding of methane emissions in urban environments.

The study—a multi-year collaboration led by Washington State University and included researchers from Aerodyne, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, GHD, Purdue and Pennsylvania State universities—used a variety of techniques to measure the rate at which methane is lost to the atmosphere in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Read More »

Posted in Climate, Methane, Natural Gas| Also tagged | Comments are closed

Largest Methane Study to Date Confirms We Need to Do a Better Job Checking for Methane Leaks

By Matt Watson and David Lyon

Drive by an oil or gas well pad, and it may not look like much — a couple of storage tanks, some pipes, maybe a see-sawing pump jack. But fly over one of these facilities with an infrared camera and you might see something different: methane pollution.

We did exactly that for a new study accepted today in Environmental Science and Technology. In the largest sample size of any methane emissions study to date, we hired one of the nation’s most experienced leak detection companies to fly a helicopter over 8,000 well pads in seven regions across the country using infrared technology to capture images of methane and other pollutants. The goal was to better characterize the prevalence of “super emitters” – the large, enigmatic sources responsible for a big portion of industry’s methane pollution – so we could figure out how to stop them.

Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, Methane, Natural Gas| Also tagged | Read 4 Responses
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