18 August 2013

Groundwater Whack-a-Mole

In two high-profile cases, efforts to block the flow of contaminated groundwater resulted in short-term relief – until water tables rose and leaks started popping up all over the place. It’s groundwater whack-a-mole. Red and Bonita Mines Near Silverton, CO, owners of a metallic mine with an acid mine drainage problem and state regulators reached a consent decree that was supposedly going to solve the problem. A tunnel access to the …

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31 July 2013

The Ins and Outs of Fracking and Underground Waste Injection Wells

The Ins and Outs of Fracking and Underground Waste Injection Wells

When the Akron Beacon-Journal Online publishes its updated interactive map of active, permitted, and producing oil and gas wells in Ohio, it places another map right below it. The second map shows underground waste injection wells. These two maps belong together because underground injection wells are used to dispose of the polluted flowback water from high volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations. When thinking about potential for groundwater contamination, hydrofractured oil/gas …

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1 July 2013

Soil Anisotropy: Mechanisms and Hydrologic Consequences

Soil Anisotropy: Mechanisms and Hydrologic Consequences

Introduction Anisotropy, which is the opposite of “isotropy,” is a term used to denote preferential flow direction in soils and other geologic materials. If soil consisted of perfectly spherical grains, flow rates would be isotropic – the same in all directions, other factors being equal. Soil doesn’t consist of perfectly spherical grains, however. It’s commonly understood that flow of air and water through soils is greatly influenced by grain size, …

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17 May 2013

Deja Vu: Remembering the 1947 Texas City (Fertilizer) Explosion

Deja Vu: Remembering the 1947 Texas City (Fertilizer) Explosion

The 1947 Texas City Disaster is known as the worst U.S. industrial accident and the largest non-nuclear explosion in history. The disaster, like the recent West, Texas disaster (video), was preceded by a fire. Nearby firefighters and spectators were among many of those killed or injured. The Texas City incident began with a fire that broke out on the French registered SS Grandcamp, which was loaded with 2,300 tons of …

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28 April 2013

The Gas We Eat

The Gas We Eat

Nearly half of the world’s population owes its existence to food grown with industrial nitrogen fertilizer produced from natural gas. (1) In 2004, journalist Richard Manning published an intriguing, if somewhat controversial, article in Harpers magazine called The Oil We Eat: Tracing the food chain back to Iraq. Manning notes that growing our food under the usual practices requires about 10 calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of …

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21 March 2013

EPA to Enbridge: Dredge More Submerged Oil from the Kalamazoo River

EPA to Enbridge: Dredge More Submerged Oil from the Kalamazoo River

On July 25 2010, the 30-inch diameter Enbridge 6B pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan. Roughly 1 million gallons of diluted bitumen (DilBit) from Canadian oil sands spilled into Talmadge Creek, a tributary to the Kalamazoo River. Nearly three years later, the cleanup continues. Last week, the U.S. EPA issued a final Administrative Order requiring Enbridge, the owner of the pipeline, to conduct additional dredging to remove submerged oil from three portions of …

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15 February 2013

Dubai Flare Gas Slated for Motor Fuel

In the city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is a partnership between the city and the national oil company that will create a project to capture flare gas (see previous post), compress it, and use it for motor fuel. An excerpt from the press release: Emirates Gas LLC (EMGAS), a subsidiary of Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC), has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dubai Municipality to treat land …

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11 February 2013

The Letter: Closing Remarks from Outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu

Picking Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Chu to lead the Department of Energy signaled President Obama’s committment to having science influence policy and scientists running some of the government. Contrast Secretary Chu’s credentials with those of Gearge W. Bush’s first Energy Secretary, Attorney and Republican Party leader Spencer Abraham. In fairness, Bush’s second Energy Secretary, Samuel Bodman, held a doctorate in Chemical Engineering. I’ve been impressed with Secretary Chu’s accomplishments, …

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28 January 2013

Oil Well Natural Gas Flares Seen from Space

From the blog Random Policy: Waste Not, Want Not, Michael Cain presents an interesting NASA night time satalite image of North America. The continent is dark except for lights emitted from cities and other sources, notabley, waste gas flares from the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale oil fields. Near the North Dakota-Montana border is a cluster of gas flares roughly the size of Pittsburgh. The Eagle Ford flares trace a …

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28 December 2012

Dustbowl Adaptations: Conservation, Irrigation

Dustbowl Adaptations: Conservation, Irrigation

The excellent Ken Burns documentary, “Dustbowl” (see previous post) featured personal accounts of many individuals who experienced the disaster first hand. The film emphasized a mostly non-technical, human perspective that, I thought, did a good job of placing us into the shoes of those who endured incredibly tough circumstances – within the United States. In the second half of the film, Burns introduced Hugh Hammond Bennett and other soil scientists …

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