Millions of abandoned oil wells are leaking methane, a climate menace

Millions of abandoned oil wells are leaking methane, a climate menace

SOURCE: Reuters DATE: June 16, 2020 SNIP: More than a century of oil and gas drilling has left behind millions of abandoned wells, many of which are leaching pollutants into the air and water. And drilling companies are likely to abandon many more wells due to bankruptcies, as oil prices struggle to recover from historic lows after the coronavirus pandemic crushed global fuel demand, according to bankruptcy lawyers, industry analysts and state regulators. Leaks from abandoned wells have long been recognized as an environmental problem, a health hazard and a public nuisance. They have been linked to dozens of instances of groundwater contamination by research commissioned by the Groundwater Protection Council, whose members include state ground water agencies. Orphaned wells have been blamed for a slew of public safety incidents over the years, including a methane blowout at the construction site of a waterfront hotel in California last year. They also pose a serious threat to the climate that researchers and world governments are only starting to understand, according to a Reuters review of government data and interviews with scientists, regulators, and United Nations officials. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year recommended that U.N. member countries start tracking and publishing the amount of methane leaching from their abandoned oil and gas wells after scientists started flagging it as a global warming risk. So far, the United States and Canada are the only nations to do so. The U.S. figures are sobering: More than 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells together emitted 281 kilotons of methane in 2018, according to the data, which was included in the...
Flood of Oil Is Coming, Complicating Efforts to Fight Global Warming

Flood of Oil Is Coming, Complicating Efforts to Fight Global Warming

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: November 3, 2019 SNIP: A surge of oil production is coming, whether the world needs it or not. The flood of crude will arrive even as concerns about climate change are growing and worldwide oil demand is slowing. And it is not coming from the usual producers, but from Brazil, Canada, Norway and Guyana — countries that are either not known for oil or whose production has been lackluster in recent years. This looming new supply may be a key reason Saudi Arabia’s giant oil producer, Aramco, pushed ahead on Sunday with plans for what could be the world’s largest initial stock offering ever. Together, the four countries stand to add nearly a million barrels a day to the market in 2020 and nearly a million more in 2021, on top of the current world crude output of 80 million barrels a day. That boost in production, along with global efforts to lower emissions, will almost certainly push oil prices down. Lower prices could prove damaging for Aramco and many other oil companies, reducing profits and limiting new exploration and drilling, while also reshaping the politics of the nations that rely on oil income. The new rise in production is likely to bring economic relief to consumers at the gas pump and to importing nations like China, India and Japan. But cheaper oil may complicate efforts to combat global warming and wean consumers and industries off their dependence on fossil fuels, because lower gasoline prices could, for example, slow the adoption of electric vehicles. Years of moderate gasoline prices have already increased the popularity...
Oil spill disaster unfolds in Solomons marine reserve

Oil spill disaster unfolds in Solomons marine reserve

SOURCE: Radio New Zealand DATE: February 27, 2019 SNIP: An environmental disaster is unfolding in Solomon Islands, on the island of Rennell, with tonnes of oil spilling into an internationally-significant marine reserve. In Kangava Bay, the azure waters have been blackened by oil, the reef thick with sludge. Metres away, where the rich rainforest barrels down to the coast, the white sand gets coated by a heavy goop with each wave that rolls in. The air is thick with the stench of heavy chemicals, residents say. Each day for the past three weeks, locals have looked out to a giant ship, the MV Solomon Trader, as it sits wedged on a reef, a gash on its side leaking as much as 60 tonnes of oil into a marine sanctuary. The spill is still not contained. Meanwhile, the spill could taint a Unesco world heritage area already threatened by climate change, mining and logging. And for locals, it’s poisoning their food sources and livelihoods. Willie Kaitu’u, who hails from the Tehakatu’u tribe in Kangava Bay, said the beaches were covered with oil, the air was pungent, and fishing grounds that his people have long relied on ruined. Since 4 February, it’s sat where it was grounded. Cyclone Oma lingered for more than a week, stirring heavy swells and preventing tugboats from attempting to salvage the ship, from where it’s proved stubborn to remove. The reef the Hong Kong-flagged Solomon Trader sits on is part of a World Heritage Area, recognised by the United Nations as a global site of ecological significance that’s already under threat. Rennell is the largest raised...
Seabirds face “agonizing death” as Newfoundland offshore oil spill becomes impossible to clean

Seabirds face “agonizing death” as Newfoundland offshore oil spill becomes impossible to clean

SOURCE: The Energy Mix DATE: November 23, 2018 SNIP: Newfoundland and Labrador has no hope of cleaning up from its worst-ever oil spill, after stormy waters off the east coast broke up at least two ocean oil sheens to the point that 250,000 litres of toxic material can no longer be recovered. The spill “happened on Friday morning while Husky Energy’s SeaRose platform was preparing to restart production during a fierce storm that was, at the time, the most intense in the world,” The Canadian Press reports. By Monday and Tuesday, the oil was no longer visible on the ocean surface, and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) had shifted its attention to monitoring wildlife and investigating the incident. Husky said it had found 15 oiled seabirds so far, but biologists were watching out for a much heavier toll. “Absolutely, any regulatory agency would look at the track record of a company in a case like this, and this will certainly be no exception,” he told CBC. “In this case, the volume of the discharge is significant, and the history of the company, and the fact that it did happen during a severe weather occurrence.” But the Sierra Club Canada Foundation is already pointing to the spill as evidence that “this country is not prepared to handle a major oil spill and is lax in regulating its offshore industry,” iPolitics reports. “Husky is reporting they are unable to confirm the extent of the spill, never mind try and clean it up—a virtually impossible task in seven-metre seas,” said National Program Director Gretchen Fitzgerald. “The fact that they...
A 14-year-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico verges on becoming one of the worst in U.S. history

A 14-year-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico verges on becoming one of the worst in U.S. history

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: October 21, 2018 SNIP: An oil spill that has been quietly leaking millions of barrels into the Gulf of Mexico has gone unplugged for so long that it now verges on becoming one of the worst offshore disasters in U.S. history. Between 300 and 700 barrels of oil per day have been spewing from a site 12 miles off the Louisiana coast since 2004, when an oil-production platform owned by Taylor Energy sank in a mudslide triggered by Hurricane Ivan. Many of the wells have not been capped, and federal officials estimate that the spill could continue through this century. With no fix in sight, the Taylor offshore spill is threatening to overtake BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster as the largest ever. On Sept. 15, 2004, when Hurricane Ivan unleashed 145 mph winds and waves that topped 70 feet as it roared into the Gulf. Deep underwater, the Category 4 storm shook loose tons of mud and buckled the platform.The avalanche sank the colossal structure and knocked it “170 meters down slope of its original location,” researcher Sarah Josephine Harrison wrote in a postmortem of the incident. More than 620 barrels of crude oil stacked on its deck came tumbling down with it. The sleeves that conducted oil from its wells were mangled and ripped away. A mixture of steel and leaking oil was buried in 150 feet of mud. As oil continues to spoil the Gulf, the Trump administration is proposing the largest expansion of leases for the oil and gas industry, with the potential to open nearly the entire outer continental shelf to offshore...