Friday, January 11, 2013

WA fears green hit to gas hub

WA Premier Colin Barnett is concerned the $30 billion Kimberley gas hub involving some of the world’s biggest oil companies could become the next casualty of pressure from green groups before the next election.

The federal government on Thursday defended its approvals process after Queensland and Western Australia claimed big mining projects were being held up by the Commonwealth. 
These included Rio Tinto’s $1.4 billion South of Embley project in Cape York and Toro Energy’s Wiluna project in WA.
The states warned Environment Minister Tony Burke against blocking or delaying mining projects to boost its support among green voters.
Mr Barnett, already seething over Mr Burke’s decision late last year to delay final approval for the Toro project, which would be the state’s first uranium mine, said the approvals process should be apolitical.
“There’s been some indication in the Kimberley that despite a process that was agreed to by all groups, including environmental groups, that the Labor government in Canberra now tends to be back-tracking,” he said.
“I just don’t think you play politics with environmental approvals or any type of approval. There are set criteria, most environmental issues come down to a matter of science, and the science should prevail.”
Woodside Petroleum’s Browse gas project, to be built at James Price Point north of Broome, has divided the local community and is the subject of legal challenges from environmental and indigenous groups.
Mr Burke is yet to sign off on the project and Woodside and its joint-venture partners are due to make a final investment decision later this year. Former Greens leader Bob Brown has been one of the project’s most vocal critics, describing it as the “world’s biggest gas factory”.
Queensland acting premier Jeff Seeney said the extra environmental approvals placed on Rio’s South of Embley project in north Queensland – after complaints by environmentalists over shipping routes in the Great Barrier Reef – were politically motivated. “It’s a good example of where credible evidence-based, science-based process has been overtaken for political games,” he said.

“It’s an example of the approval process that has been delayed because of unnecessary political interference,” he said.

It is understood the federal government backed away from giving up its veto rights over the final approval of resources projects because the states and territories could not agree on a single approach. It believed this could provide less certainty for business and possibly open up legal risks.

Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson was overseas yesterday and unavailable for comment. Mr Burke is on annual leave.

A spokeswoman for Mr Burke said the federal government was committed to streamlining environmental assessment and approval processes.

“This commitment includes introducing legislative reforms in 2013 and also working with states, through strategic assessments and by improving existing single assessment arrangements,” the spokeswoman said.


  1. Barnett is just worried that Burke will send his faulty report back marked "total crap."


    And oh no here we go,all over again,what next?
    (sounds like Darwin vs PTTEP or The Gulf vs BP)

    State Focused on Capacity of Towing Vessel to be Towed, Not on Its Ability to Tow

    WASHINGTON--(ENEWSPF)--January 10 - The State of Alaska’s oil spill prevention requirements did not cover the towing capacity for the ship that lost the Royal Dutch Shell PLC drilling vessel that recently ran aground, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Instead, the state only looks at the ability of the towing ship to be towed itself.

    ick Steiner, an expert in oil spill response and a retired University of Alaska professor and PEER board member, submitted a public records request to the state on January 5th asking for documents on “the towing system on the Aiviq, including specifications of its towing winch, tow lines, and all associated equipment.” In a reply dated January 8, Gary Mendivil, from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, explained that the ability of Aiviq to tow a vessel was never examined because Shell –


    “…wanted the flexibility of using the vessels carrying oil as cargo (e.g. transporting fuel from Dutch Harbor to other support vessels in the drilling arena, etc.) Tank vessel plans require information about towing equipment on the vessels for its rescue but, because most tank vessels aren’t towing vessels or anchor handlers, we do not address in the C-plans [Contingency plans] anything about towing capabilities of the vessels themselves. Therefore, the department does not have any information or detail in the C-plan regarding the Aiviq’s towing capabilities, towing winches, tow lines, or associated equipment.”

    “In other words, the state only looked at what Shell told them to look at, not what was most important – the towing capability of the Aiviq,” said Steiner, who previously uncovered that there had been no realistic testing of the well-head capping stack system which Shell proposes to use to respond to blow-outs in Arctic waters. “This latest episode underlines the continued inadequacy of official contingency planning when it comes to Arctic conditions that demand we expect the unexpected.”

    PEER is also suing the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the agency overseeing offshore oil and gas operations, to force public release of the safeguards required to protect against such known hazards as sea ice, subsurface ice scour and blowouts, as well as specifications for well design and well integrity control.

    “As events unfold, the more that is learned about the true state of preparations against environmental disaster in Arctic waters, the more scared everyone should become,” state PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the State of Alaska repeatedly proclaims its commitment to “responsible Arctic development” by requiring “Best Available Technology” in offshore operations, a standard misplaced for the runaway Kulluk. “Alaska learned the hard way that trusting Shell can come back to bite them.”


    1. Royal Dutch Shell may have moved an oil rig that ran aground last month in order to avoid $6 million in taxes to Alaska, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., charged in a letter to the oil behemoth's president.

      Markey, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee and an outspoken critic of BP after the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill, said in the letter that Shell officials made statements that "may have been driven, in part, by a desire to avoid tax liability on the rig."

      NOTE : Because the rig broke free and grounded and was still in Alaska waters on Jan 1st - Shell had to shell out the tax anyway.

    2. Friday, 11 January 2013

      DAMAGED lifeboats dislodged from the Kulluk oil rig may have released more than 1000 litres of diesel onto the coast of Sitkalidak Island, according to the US Coast Guard.


      Avoiding a state tax played a role in Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s decision to move a drilling rig from Alaska waters, though the company said the vessel’s grounding days later was the result of an unforeseen worsening of weather.

      The Kulluk broke free from its tugboat in stormy seas on Dec. 31 and ran aground on an uninhabited Alaskan island, another embarrassment for a company that has spent $4.5 billion and seven years in pursuit of oil beneath the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in the Arctic Circle.

      A Jan. 1 tax assessment was “a consideration,” in the timing of the rig’s move, Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman, said in an e-mail


      EPA issues Shell air pollution violation notices

      EPA issues Shell notices of air pollution coming from its Arctic drilling operation

      The federal agency announced Thursday that it issued Shell notices of air quality violations coming from its drill rig and drill ship during what was a shortened Arctic drilling season of about two months. Shell's drill rig Kulluk and drill ship Noble Discoverer emitted excessive amounts of nitrogen oxide. There were multiple violations for each ship, the agency said.

      Salazar said the administration is committed to exploring potential energy resources in frontier areas such as the Arctic, but also recognizes that the "unique challenges posed by the Arctic environment demand an even higher level of scrutiny."

  2. Some interesting puzzles for Woodside.

    Lebanon, Cyprus Look to Natural Gas Reserves

    BEIRUT — Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Lebanese President Michel Sleiman have agreed to boost cooperation and look into ways to explore offshore oil and gas fields that experts believe may have abundant natural gas deposits. But these energy fields lie in a politically tricky area in the waters between Lebanon, Cyprus and Israel.

    In a meeting Thursday with the Lebanese president, the Cypriot leader touted the economic growth prospects that could come from the discovery of large reserves of hydrocarbons off the coasts of the two countries.

    Those hydrocarbon fields lie in waters between Cyprus and Lebanon and Israel, spanning what are called the exclusive economic zones of each country.

    Lebanon and Israel have overlapping claims to an area that spans about 850-square-kilometers of sea.

    While all three countries could all profit from finding energy reserves, maritime border disputes have prevented expedient exploration.

    "Now that we have the technology, our second problem becomes the politics. We know where the border stands between Lebanon and Cyprus, what we did not know was the northernmost extent and the southernmost extent of the zone, said Lebanese University professor George Nasr, who is a civil engineer and researcher on sustainable development. "How do you draw the line from Lebanon to Cyprus? Cyprus signed a deal with Israel but the point was not the southernmost point, but the point northward of it. But basically we lost an entire triangle."

    Some experts have estimated the natural gas reserves in Lebanon's claimed economic zone to be worth more than $40 billion at current market prices.

    Developing such reserves would be a boon to Lebanon, which does not produce any of its energy domestically.

    David Rowlands, chief executive officer of Spectrum, a Norway-based company that is doing seismic surveys of the area, says the potential energy reserves for Lebanon could exceed domestic needs.

    "At the moment, Lebanon imports all its energy, if there’s going to be sufficient gas stocks for Lebanon, it would way exceed domestic needs," he said. "There would be a considerable amount, maybe as much as 90 to 95 percent of the gas found which would be excess to domestic requirements that would go into the international market."

    The Lebanese government has said it will open a bidding round in May. But once contracts are set for exploration, Nasr, of Lebanese University, says harnessing the energy would take at least seven years.