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Guest Post: John Jeglum’s Letter to John Horgan re: Site C

with 3 comments

Site C Construction July 2017 2

Dear Premier Horgan:

 Your explanation for continuing Site C was quite inadequate. How can terminating a project that has cost 2.1 billion plus remediation at 1.8 billion be more costly than completing it for a total of 10.7 billion?  The 2.1 billion has already been spent. Your ability to carry out social programs should be aided by not needing to spend another 8 billion (or more) to complete another mega dam that is not needed.

 You argue that cancelling construction would immediately add to the provincial debt. Jan Slomp (2017) of the National Farmer’s Union writes: “BC Hydro is a provincially owned Crown Corporation, with net earnings that contribute to the annual provincial budget. If the Horgan government wanted to shut down Site C, BC Hydro’s net earnings, debt and equity would allow for an internal schedule to recover the costs already incurred on Site C. These payments would affect BC’s budget very marginally and it would definitely save BC residents in the long term, whether in taxes or hydro rates. From a strict financial perspective, cancelling a project with a $2.1 billion sunk cost would be more prudent than locking BC residents into an open-ended juggernaut, with a budget exceeding $10 billion and more unforeseen construction costs down the road.”

 Continuing the project, even though it is not fully justified, requires a certain degree of stubbornness and inability to recognize when continuing is irrational. It’s a phenomenon in which people stick with something because they’ve already invested so much time, money or energy, even if it’s not the best decision. “Just because you’ve lost money on something or spent some money on something doesn’t mean you should keep doing it.” The financial term for this is the ‘sunk cost fallacy’ (Azpiri 2017).

 The estimated debt of 1.8 billion for remediation is an estimate in the mid-range of a wide range of guesses. There is no existing remediation plan, so the reasonable thing to do would be to form a land planning group consisting of Peace Valley residents, First Nations, and government. There would be basic remediation  such as bank stabilization, trees, shrubs and ground cover. A certain amount of fill in would be accomplished by natural regeneration.   The cost would certainly be less than 1.8 billion, perhaps between 0.3 to 0.5 billion. This could be covered by the same internal schedule as the sunk costs.

 Unfortunately, you ignored all the good economic advice you got, and you followed Christy Clark’s decision, based primarily on BC Hydro recommendations with no second expert review by BCUC. You ignored the recent BCUC review and Deloitte’s review, and expert opinions by Harry Swain, Marc Eliesen, Robert McCullouch, and others, and you gave greatest weight to economic elites, business and labor organizations, entrenched civil servants, and a Crown Corporation whose main objective is maintenance of its authority and control of BC electricity.

 You did not take account of other economic factors, environmental impacts and social impacts by the dam: loss of thousands of hectares of highly productive agricultural land and economic potential for increased agriculture and food supply; loss of land and livelihoods of landowners and farmers; loss of ecosystem services from the Peace River watershed, vegetation and wildlife diversity; lost Carbon Capture and Sequestration by destroyed vegetation; migrations of mammals and birds with international implications, and fish movements in the river; impacts on the downstream water supply for wetlands in Wood Buffalo Park in Alberta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Nikiforuk 2017); and critically, infringement on the Treaty 8 rights of the First Nations on the Peace River–hunting, fishing, trapping, protection of grave and sacred sites, etc.

 How are you going to establish good relations, nation-to-nation, and an accord on Indigenous Rights, if you and developers keep unilaterally taking away or degrading the land and water? And more philosophically, is it morally right to destroy a river passage that is like none other in western Canada, cutting deeply through low mountains and plains, with unique microclimates and innumerable ecosystems and species such as exist nowhere else. This land and water is the birth-right of the FN who have lived here for millennia. When are we going to develop an honest Land Ethic in which we honor and respect the Rights of Nature? (Leopold 1949; David Boyd 2017).

 The most important thing you forgot, in my view, is the impact this mega-dam will have on Climate Change. The news now regularly contains items on climate change, and we know the big changes in climate and weather patterns–temperature, glacier and ice cap melting, ocean rise, increasing ocean acidity, increases in storm strengths (hurricanes, typhoons), extreme precipitation and drought, increasing incidence of wildfires —  the impacts go on and on. This means that in all our development actions, we must consider the impacts of each action on climate. And we need to save ecosystems for their carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) abilities, and forest and agricultural production.

 Why did you not consider what climate impacts the damming of a large river and creation of a large reservoir would have on the environment and climate? What would its carbon footprint be? Several decades of study have shown that mega-dams are not clean energy—they release both CO2 and methane(CH4)  from soil disturbance and flooded decomposing vegetation. Further, a high amount of CO2 is produced in the manufacture of cement, steel and other components (Schindler 2017). And the scores of excavators and trucks give rise to tonnes of CO2, NOx, and black carbon. In the present crisis of climate change, any development activity must take into account the carbon footprint (impact of GHGs causing heating of the atmosphere).

 I understand that you will soon travel to the far east to visit Japan, Korea and China. A major topic will be LNG. So again you follow the path of Christy Clark. I suspect that extracting LNG and fracked natural gas was a big factor in your decision to complete Site C, and also those who influenced you. Perhaps you were thinking to complete the dam to give the possibility for supplying more water and electricity to support fracking and LNG plants?

 Fracked natural gas and LNG  is the wrong path for BC, and for the world. Fracked natural gas, predominantly composed of methane (CH4) is not a bridge to a cleaner atmosphere. CH4 is a full-fledge fossil fuel! Experts peg fracked natural gas with a Global Warming Potential higher than oil or petrol, and similar to that of coal, sometimes depending on coal grade even greater (Howarth 2014). Fracked natural gas loses considerable CH4 during its extraction, processing, pipeline transportation, LNG liquefaction, shipping, regasification, distribution, and final burning. Christy and her ‘clean energy’ was only talking about the final burning of the gas at the end of the life cycle. LNG liquefaction also has significant emissions. Liquefaction is usually done by burning incoming natural gas; electricity can be used in combination with gas.

In fracking, huge volumes of water containing a wide range of possible chemicals, sand and other agents are forced under great pressure down vertical then horizontal bore pipes, emerge from exploded holes in the horizontal pipe, and are forced into a system of cracks in adjacent geologic layers. After a period of time fracking is stopped and gases and wet organics flow back into the pipe and upwards to the surface, where the gases and organics are collected and separated, and wastewater held  in containment ponds.

 It is well documented that not all of the ‘slickwater’ containing the gases moves back into the bore pipes. Some escapes and travels outside of the pipes, some reaching the ground surface. Cement caps and encasements around the vertical bores are supposed to stop this upward flow, but cracks develop over time in the cement, maybe from earthquakes. Some of the fracked gas-liquid  may even move considerable distances away from the drilling site in natural faults, and pollute aquifers and surface waters. It is documented that escape of gasses and organics have tainted water wells of houses and farmsteads, rendering the water undrinkable. The most spectacular effect is tap water that can be ignited! As well, studies in the US have shown that proximity to fracking operations, has influenced adult health and birth defects in infants.

 The Pembina Institute and Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions published a report in 2014 on the use of  LNG in B.C (Horne & MacNab 2014). The Clark government’s claim that LNG exports offer the “greatest single step British Columbia can take to fight climate change” is inaccurate [actually wrong!] in the absence of stronger global climate policies. The Report states that “Natural gas does have a role to play in a world that avoids two degrees Celsius in global warming, but only if strong emissions reduction policies are put in place in the jurisdictions that produce and consume the gas.”[my emphasis]

 By going the natural gas route we simply slow down the rate of adoption of truly clean alternative energies. Even if we manage to get CAPP and oil companies to act responsibly to reduce the fugitive losses of CH4 (they say by 2025, but this is doubtful; they will not do this until the US-EPA mandates it, which is highly unlikely under Trump and Pruitt) we may only achieve a reduction of 40 to 45% of the present losses of CH4.  CH4 is 108 times more powerful in Global Warming Potential than CO2 over a time-frame of 10 yrs; 86 times over 20 yrs; and 34 times over 100 yrs (Howarth 2014). We are so far along in climate change, with air temperature increase over 1.0 0C (since ca. 1900), that we must work for much faster reductions of green house gas (GHG) emissions, and much sooner.

 The UN climate program and the world’s top climate scientists and activists urge levelling off and reduction of GHG emissions in the next 3 years (Figueres et al. 2017). In my reading, fracked natural gas will not provide a bridge to zero-carbon clean energy before we reach 2 0C. Canadian and provincial government actions to reduce fugitive emissions are dreadfully slow.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a possibility, but so far no fully effective techniques have been developed (Hawken 2017). The only fully effective CCS so far seems to be the natural CO2 capture by green plants, especially forests and grasslands, transfer and storage as underground carbon. Agricultural land if managed correctly can be quite effective for CCS in soil.

 If you have dreams for natural gas and LNG, I think you should abandon them, and leave the gas in the ground. If we can stabilize at 2.0 0C or less, we can always come back to natural gas, it will still be there. It seems to me that the Asian countries will be buying LNG and natural gas cheaper from producers closer to them than Canada. Besides, China and India are moving rapidly along paths of alternative clean energies, and other countries know they should move away from fossil fuels, including natural gas. If you try to play the LNG export game, you will be hindered by the tax- and subsidy-favorable deals that Clark cut with Petronas, which is embedded in B.C. legislation for years. So we would end up selling the LNG at bargain basement prices. (This would be comparable to selling electricity from Site C at far less than its cost to generate.) And we will be wasting our time and money on the fossil fuel energies of the previous industrial revolution, when we should be transitioning rapidly into the clean energies industrial revolution.

 We should be moving toward a sustainable economy based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) enunciated by the UN. It is essential to rapidly switch off the fossil fuels with high GHG emissions, and move to affordable clean energy, SDG 7. This can be done developing local grids and distributed energy, which can be linked to the existing hydro grid of BC Hydro. First Nations and local communities have much interest in local clean energy systems (mostly run-of-river, solar, wind). Several have already have built or are interested in community energy systems, and these could be promoted.

 BC already has plenty of electricity to last for decades. Any shortfalls can be supplemented by several sources we already own—Columbia River entitlement, Burrard Inlet natural gas plant, adding generation capacity to dams already in the BC system, and actually using existing run of river facilities. Wind and solar prices are falling rapidly, and are comparable to hydro, even cheaper. Geothermal, although more expensive, could readily be geared up, drawing on existing expertise in fracking. Low periods of production by solar and wind can be augmented by storage in our hydro reservoirs, pumped storage, and developing big battery storage technology (e.g. Elon Musk, European battery systems). There are numerous potential jobs in clean renewable energy, as well as immediate jobs in energy conservation programs, new housing and energy retrofits.

 I urge you to abandon the LNG idea, and to focus on Clean Energy. I hate the idea that my children and grandchildren, and BC citizens, will be paying for un-needed hydro from Site C for generations, especially since we don’t need it AND because hydro is not the cleanest of energies. You should stop Site C now, it was Christy Clark’s project and you and your party should not have to assume the blame for it. You should get with the new age of Sustainable Development, first by whole-heartedly adopting Clean Energy alternatives, then working on your progressive, socially-orientated programs that would make Tommy Douglas, and David Lewis and Jack Layton proud.

 Please reverse your decision on Site C, it will drag you and the NDP down. But worse, it will unnecessarily burden all of us, the rate and tax payers, the Greens, and the Liberals, and slow up the inevitable conversion to Clean Energy and Sustainable Development. Adopt sustainable development and establish yourself as a champion of climate action and clean energy! Then of course, work on critically needed social and sustainability programs – indigenous rights, housing, efficient mass transportation, electric vehicles, child care, health care, poverty and living wages, bikes-ridesharing, education, and so on. Lots of jobs will be produced by clean energies, new housing, energy conservation in new and retrofit building, sustainable forestry and agriculture, etc.

 I believe the majority of people of BC are ready and anxious for these changes. Your government should help to make these changes happen!

 References

 1) Op Ed_Renegades Rewarded at Public Expense in Site C Dam Decision—Jan Slomp, Natl. Farmer’s Union, 24Dec2017;

2) Site C didn’t need to be approved just because money was already spent_ critics–  Jon Azpiri  Global News 12Dec2017

3)A Sand County Almanac–Aldo Leopold, Oxford 1949;

4) The Rights of Nature–David Boyd, ECW Press 2017; 

5) A bridge to nowhere–methane emissions and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas–Robert Howarth-Energy Science & Engineering (Society of Chemical Industry and JohnWiley&SonsLtd.) 15May2014;

6) Drawdown: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming–Paul Hawken Penguin Books 2017;

7) LNG and Climate Change: The Global Context— Matt Horne & Josha MacNab, Pembina Inst and Pacific Inst Climate Solutions;

8) United Nations Says Canada’s Largest Park Under Threat, Calls for Site C Review–Andrew Nikiforuk, TheTyee.ca 13 Mar 2017;

9) Opinion_ Decision to approve Site C undermines reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and long-term action on climate change–David Schindler & Faisal Moola, Van Sun 20Dec2017; 10) Three years to safeguard our climate–Christiana Figueres et alnature.com 28June2017;

11) Comment_ Reverse direction on Site C, or pay the price—Vicky Husband  Times Colonist 21Dec2017;

12) Past time to take First Nation consent on developments seriously–Judith Sayers, First Nations in BC Knowledge Network,  December 21, 2017.

Yours sincerely,

John K. Jeglum

Duncan BC

Written by Stephen Rees

December 31, 2017 at 4:51 pm

Posted in energy, Environment

Tagged with , ,

The Site C Decision

with 2 comments

Site C Construction July 2017 2

De Smog Canada image of Site C Construction

As I am sure most of you know, I think John Horgan has made a huge mistake. But this article in MacLeans comes to the opposite conclusion. So go read that then come back here, and I will tell you why Blake Shaffer is wrong.

OK he starts off on the right foot

Regardless of the decision, B.C. Hydro has spent $2.1 billion on the project that it cannot get back. It’s sunk. It’s irrelevant.

But then he conducts his analysis in terms of cost. And he picks the wrong conclusion from the right data. Cost overruns will quickly make this project uneconomic. That seems to me to be inevitable. It is well documented that transportation projects always seem to cost far more than anyone expected. And that applies to major infrastructure projects in general and very large hydro dams in particular.

If $10.7 billion becomes $12 billion, completing Site C becomes questionable.

It’s not “if” it is “when” – and based on the track record of this project so far, that will be sooner rather than later – although I also confidently expect that, also based on experience to date, that information will be obfuscated, withheld and even outright lied about.

There is only one brief paragraph about First Nations – and that seems to me to send a signal too. As though these concerns are somehow minor, just to be expected and easy to get around. I think he is wrong about that. It is one of those things where you cannot be relatively decent. You are either committed to improving relations or not. This is not something to be treated lightly. The track record of governments’ treatment of indigenous people in Canada is shameful. Sadly this simply continues in the same pattern and calling the dam “Reconciliation” instead of “Site C” is simply PR fluff. The BC government is going to find itself in court, once again, with the West Moberly First Nation. Nothing has changed. 3.5 million Google references to “west moberly first nations v. british columbia”.

the cost of alternative technologies will decrease – a reasonable stance, given history – then termination can be justified

No shit, Sherlock. The recent history of wind, solar and battery technology (just to name one of many storage options) has been declining cost. And it has always been true that investing more in conservation – better energy efficiency or “demand-side management” – was always cheaper than new build generation. That was true when I first came to BC to work in the Energy Efficiency Branch (of sacred memory) and is still true now.

But then the analysis stops. What, they ran out of space in the magazine? Because there is no mention of opportunity cost. Flooding the Peace River valley means you lose the ability to grow food there. There aren’t many in places in BC where you can grow fruit and vegetables. And with climate change we already know that we have lost the present source of much of those. California is where it came from up to now. In future, who knows. Not northern BC that’s for sure. And given that we know we have to adapt to climate change and become much more local in our focus if we are going to have a sustainable life style, that does not depend on air freight and trucking  – both heavily dependent on fossil fuels right now and having a hard time changing – losing the ability to grow our own food close to home might at least get a mention don’t you think?

POSTSCRIPT

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And here is a working version of that link for the doubters

ALSO read this article in De Smog blog about how the media failed to report this story all along the way.

And this piece in the Times Colonist by Marc Eliesen who is the former president and CEO of B.C. Hydro. He was an expert intervener in the BCUC Site C inquiry, and has served in executive positions throughout the energy sector in Canada, including chairman/CEO of Ontario Hydro and chairman of Manitoba Hydro. He says Horgan’s reasons are “utter nonsense”.

Furthermore, three experts state that the NDP can’t even do the basic math properly

Eoin Finn, a retired partner of KPMG, one of the world’s largest auditing firms, U.S. energy economist Robert McCullough and Harry Swain, a retired bank president with expertise in project financing,

and here are some choice quotes

“This is the stupidest capital decision ever made by a B.C. premier. I don’t know who is giving them accounting advice.” [Finn]

What’s appalling about this is that Cabinet has been advised by some people who simply don’t understand how the finance system works,” said Swain, the former CEO of Hambros Canada Inc. and a former board member of Hambros Bank Ltd. of London.

McCullough, whose testimony to a U.S. Senate Committee helped spark the criminal investigation into Enron, said recovery of an energy project’s termination cost is “a very common practice in the utility business and is addressed in every utility’s annual report.”

McCullough also pointed out that B.C.’s triple A credit rating has just been confirmed.

AND SOME MORE NEWS (January 11, 2018)

Manitoba Hydro is now not only facing cost overruns on its huge dam project but also a dramatic drop in demand for power due to the cancellation of the Energy East pipeline.

And here is Charlie Smith in the Straight: “it’s still irredeemably terrible public policy”.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 12, 2017 at 5:56 pm

Posted in energy, Environment

Tagged with

Book Review “The Patch”

with 5 comments

Alex McLean Oilsands 11 Suncor site, Alberta, Canada 140407-0617_0

The People, Pipelines, and Politics of the Oil Sands

by Chris Turner

Written by Stephen Rees

September 10, 2017 at 4:27 pm

BC Natural Gas Revenues

with 2 comments

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The graph comes from a tweet by Eric Neilson.

When you listen to Carole James present her interim budget in the fall this picture is what you need to bear in mind.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 22, 2017 at 10:59 am

There Will Be Spills

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o-PIPELINE-facebook

My opposition to the TransMountain Pipeline expansion is that it will be redundant sooner rather than later. But if course that is not taken into account by any regulatory process. The pipeline has been approved and the new BC government seems to rewinding its pre-election promise to stop it. It will not just feed the export terminal in Burnaby, it will also feed the oil refineries in Washington state. It is also very unlikely that much of dilbit will be exported to Asia: most of it will go to the US refineries that can cope with heavy crudes. This will inevitably lead to the extirpation of the resident orca population in the Salish Sea already suffering due to the lack of salmon that they depend on. The rest of this post is taken from a Greenpeace press release. Once again I doubt that the corporate media will do anything but soft shoe shuffle around this issue and perhaps bleat again about jobs (just as they did with LNG) even though the employment prospects for renewables are far better than fossil fuels.


New report reveals one spill a week in US from three tar sands pipeline companies

3 August 2017 (EDMONTON) — A map and policy brief released today by Greenpeace detail a legacy of spills — roughly one every week in the United States since 2010 — from three companies proposing to build four tar sands pipelines. The map plots the location and size of 373 spills from pipelines owned by Kinder Morgan, Enbridge, TransCanada and their subsidiaries, totaling 63,221 barrels of hazardous liquids in just seven years.

These “Dirty Three” of pipeline companies, two of which are Canadian, are at varying stages of building four controversial oil pipelines from Alberta’s tar sands across North America. Data in the map and brief covers spills in the United States, where TransCanada is attempting to re-ignite the Keystone XL pipeline and Enbridge is in the late stages of permitting for its Line 3 Expansion pipeline, which would travel over 1,000 miles, crossing North Dakota and Minnesota to its destination on Lake Superior in Wisconsin. Kinder Morgan hopes to begin construction on the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline in British Columbia this fall, while TransCanada has restarted the approval process for its Energy East pipeline, which would pass through six provinces.

Key findings in the brief include:

  • Despite industry claims, pipeline spills have remained a steady problem, with significant spills of crude oil and petroleum products increasing over the last several years across many states along the three companies’ pipeline networks. The companies’ 373 spills since 2010 account for a total of 63,221 barrels of hazardous liquids, the largest being Enbridge’s 20,082 barrels of tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River.

  • Extrapolating from current rates of incidents, Kinder Morgan can expect 36 significant spills (see Note 2 below), Keystone XL can expect 59 significant spills in its lifetime and Line 3 Expansion can expect 51.

  • Along with being far more carbon-intensive than conventional crude, diluted bitumen has been shown to be much harder to clean up when spilled in water. Both Line 3 Expansion and Keystone XL make multiple water crossings and run near key watersheds and wetland habitats.

“This data exposes these tar sands pipeline companies’ worrying safety records. There’s good reason for concern among Indigenous Peoples and communities living along these companies’ pipeline routes on both sides of the border — it’s their lands and waters that would be directly contaminated by an oil spill. With these three companies and their subsidiaries creating one spill a week in the US, it’s not a question of ‘if’ there will be a spill, but ‘when and how big’ that spill will be,” said Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.

Financial support for these pipelines is being provided by banks including TD, RBC, CIBC and JPMorgan Chase. Credit union association Desjardins has also provided financial support, but recently announced a moratorium on oil pipeline financing and investments in response to concerns about the threats pipelines pose to the environment and Indigenous rights. Greenpeace Canada and Greenpeace USA are part of an international coalition of civil society and Indigenous organizations campaigning to urge financial institutions to pull their investments in tar sands pipelines given the high financial, reputational and environmental risks they pose.

(1) In Canada, pipeline spill reporting falls under a combination of federal and provincial jurisdictions, leaving Canadians without a central, up-to-date set of data due to discrepancies in the transparency, quality and user-friendliness across jurisdictions. One of the most comprehensive spill databases in Canada was actually compiled by Global Television, which showed that Alberta (the epicentre of tar sands production) averaged 2 spills a day for the 37 years covered by the dataset. [Note that the map linked to in this paragraph only covers Alberta.]

(2) PHMSA data for crude oil pipelines shows 0.001 significant incidents per year per mile, so assuming the U.S. rate for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline, we would expect to see 0.001 sig spills/yr/mi x 715mi x 50yr = 36 significant spills in a 50 year lifetime.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 3, 2017 at 10:22 am

How Industry is Constraining Canadian Climate Action on Methane

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methane

Flares burn off excess methane at oil and gas refineries, landfills, and other industrial plants. Flares are used to control release of methane into the atmosphere but recovery options are also available that capture methane for use as fuel. source: http://www.pnnl.gov/

This is a guest post by John Jeglum. He is a retired peatland scientist who worked at the Great Lakes Forestry Centre, Natural Resources Canada, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, until 1994, and then at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science, Department of Forest Ecology and Management. He retired from Sweden in 2005, and returned to BC, first in Victoria, now in Duncan.

Much of the material in this post comes from a webinar run by the Climate Action Network in May of this year. It was originally sent to Fraser Voices as an email that included attachments. When these came from internet sources, I have substituted links.


 

You will recall the recent decision by the federal government to delay the institution of new procedures and regulations to reduce methane emissions in fracked natural gas and oil operations by 2 to 3 years. Part of this delay was owing to objections by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) to high extra costs for methane reductions (see Oilpatch accused of using ‘myth’ to delay Canada’s Climate Action  Carl Meyer 2017), and part owing to the new Trump administration, especially with new EPA head Scott Pruitt, which may delay the application of procedures and regulations in the USA.

Recently (18 May 2017), the Climate Action Network sponsored a webinar “How industry is constraining Canadian Climate Action on Methane.” Attached are three powerpoint presentations, and two sets of notes taken from oral presentations. The presenters are five knowledgeable persons with first hand information about the progress the industry/government’s program of constraining release of methane in the gas industry.

Andrew Read (Pembina)

Drew Nelson (EDF)

Keith Stewart (Greenpeace)

Dale Marshall (ED Natl. Prog. Manager) ‘Addressing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.’ Notes–audio presentation

John Werring (Suzuki Foundation). 3 summers of field work on methane, Montney Play, NE BC. Notes — audio presentation

Read’s presentation gives information on methane gas leakages from a number of pieces of equipment / structures / practices —fugitives (33%), venting (23%), pneumatics (20%), compressor systems (9%), well completions (1%), other (13%). The other presentations give their interpretations for the delay. Especially interesting was the final presentation by John Werring, which noted an absence of in-the-field inspection and monitoring. Monitoring of methane release has had rather little serious attention in NE BC.

In the listing of known methane leaks, what is missing is an assessment of the methane leakage owing to leakage from the vertical and horizontal well bores. The vertical well bores consist of one or several nested steel pipes, sealed on the outside surfaces with cement. The cement surrounds each pipe, including the outermost pipe, and is meant to keep the fracking water, and returning water and contained liquids, inside the pipe. The horizontal steel pipe has holes exploded through it to allow for the water containing fracking fluids to be forced under tremendous pressures out into adjacent shale layers. When the forced injection of fracking fluid and sand (or other propping material) is stopped, the fracking water, containing methane and other carbonaceous liquids from the surrounding shale parent material, moves into the bore and travels up to the surface. It is not clear how far the the cement casing extends from the vertical along the horizontal bore. So probably not all the fracking water plus dissolved organics gets back into the horizontal bore pipe. Some may escape through discontinuities in the parent material or by travelling along the outside of the bore pipe to the surface. This results in loss of desired methane and other gas and liquid materials, which may bubble to the surface at the well, or at distance from the well into aquifers, surface waters and water wells. Fracking wells have demonstrated this kind of uncontrolled loss of methane, increasing for several years after fracking well abandonment  (Ingraffia et al. 2013 and others, e.g. Cherry, Dusseault, Jackson).

After well abandonment, the cement casements can develop cracks owing to natural ground movements, probably caused by earthquakes which are stimulated by fracking (Ingraffia et al. 2014). The degree of cracking increases over time after well abandonment, such that 40% or more of the wells develop leakages of produced water with methane other gases, carbonaceous materials, and fracking chemicals. These compounds can rise upwards and are the ones often reported as spilling over at the well sites, and contaminating groundwater aquifers, wells used for animal and human consumption, and surface waters. As part of the environmental assessment, methane and other compounds escaping from the drilled wells need to be assessed to get a complete picture of fugitive methane and potential groundwater contamination. Very few human and livestock groundwater wells are being monitored in NE BC for methane and other fracking contaminants, before, during and after fracking and gas production. The release of methane and other materials from the drilled well, increasing with time, is a major characteristic of fracked wells (ibid.). As fracking is presently conducted, the fugitive methane leaking from the gas wells, as well as the rest of the sequence of gas capture, processing, and pipeline transportation, wipes out any benefits that may be obtained by low emissions at final burning of the gas (Romm 2014). Many authors have noted that owing to large gas leakage, it is highly doubtful that natural gas can act as an effective bridge fuel (Magill 2014).

With the rate of rising temperature associated with rising GHGs, can humankind really afford to put off serious and immediate action to minimize fugitive emissions of methane, a serious global warming gas? I don’t think we can afford to put off even by three years serious action on reducing fugitive emissions, establishing reasonable rates of carbon pricing, and lowering or removing subsidies to industries for fracking.  The temperature curve is rising steeply, and knowledgeable climate scientists indicate that we need to start immediately a wartime level effort to reduce emissions. Dr. James Hansen declares that we need to start reducing the emissions by 2-3% yearly, immediately, to have any chance of keeping temperatures below 2 degrees (see new temperature chart by James Hansen).

 

David Suzuki Foundation: New Science Reveals Unreported Methane from B.C.’s oil and gas industry threatens Canada’s international climate commitments.

Ingraffea, Anthony. 2013. Lethal Gas-Oil Wells in Pennsylvania, Seminar in NY State Seminar with illustrations. , 13Dec2013– “Lethal Gas/Oil Wells in Pennsylvania” (TEDx Albany 2013 via YouTube)

 

Written by Stephen Rees

August 2, 2017 at 4:41 pm

“It’s our environment and our economy”

with 3 comments

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A guest post by Andy Shadrack

If Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Trudeau think that they can dictate to British Columbians on the basis of whose economy and environment is more important, then they need to think again.

We have an important sport and commercial salmon fishery, and a coastline that is the envy of every tourism operator in the country. And yet Ms Notley and Mr Trudeau think we should sacrifice our economic interests for theirs.

First, no amount of money could fix a crude oil spill. Just ask the Alaskan fishermen and First Nations people impacted by the Exxon Valdez spill. So we are not talking about exporting twinkies, lumber, natural gas or even coal. We are talking about a substance that could severely damage or destroy our marine ecosystem.

BC has only one marine ecosystem and no amount of money could help rebuild it. Question: why are Alberta and Ottawa not supporting refining tar sands crude where it is being mined?

That way we could all benefit from purchasing Canadian refined oil products and end the importation of foreign oil. The answer I keep getting is that it is too expensive and not a viable economic solution.

Well, guess what, exporting crude oil through BC’s fragile marine ecosystem is not a viable economic alternative either. Nor do we want to be held hostage to Alberta’s economic needs.

We in BC have as much right to protect our environment and economy as Albertans. So, Ms Notley, a little less of “it’s our right” and “the federal government has made adecision”, as Mr Trudeau also promised us that the impacts of resource extraction would be balanced against the needs of protecting the environment.

It’s our environment and our economy that’s at stake here, so please start by respecting us and that fact. After that, we can negotiate as equal partners in confederation and not from some subservient position of just because you mined it, you have a right to export it.

Andy is someone I met when I joined the Green Party of BC. He posted this on his facebook page today. I decided to copy and paste it here.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 13, 2017 at 5:25 pm