Wednesday, August 28, 2013


  1. Texas Earthquakes Tied to Extraction in Fracking

    A recent wave of small earthquakes in and around the Eagle Ford formation in Texas was probably the result of extracting oil and in some cases water used for hydraulic fracturing, according to a study.

    Clusters of small-magnitude seismic events between November 2009 and September 2011 were “often associated with fluid extraction,” according to the study scheduled to appear this week in the online edition of the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The study follows previous research that links earthquakes to the disposal of drilling wastewater by injecting it underground.

    Oil production in the Eagle Ford basin in southern Texas, has surged to about 600,000 barrels a day from 15,000 barrels in 2010, according to the Texas Railroad Commission. Production is up as drillers use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process in which millions of gallons of chemically-treated water and sand are pumped underground, to free hydrocarbons.

    “You’re pulling out large volumes,” Cliff Frohlich, co-author of the study and associate director of the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas, said in an interview. “You remove stuff, and stuff adjusts or slumps around and either above or below the area where you remove it.”

    The drilling stage in which liquids are injected underground wasn’t implicated, he said.

    “We don’t see any evidence that injection in the Eagle Ford appears to routinely cause earthquakes,” Frohlich said.

    Seismograph Stations

    Frohlich used data from temporary seismograph stations to identify 62 small earthquakes, almost all of which occurred near wells extracting oil or water. In Dimmit County, Texas, 21 of 22 earthquakes were within 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) of wells used to produce water for fracking and agriculture, according to the study.

    A 2012 study by Frohlich of the Barnett Shale in northern Texas found that earthquakes were triggered by injecting drilling wastewater underground.

    Scientists have linked Oklahoma’s biggest recorded earthquake to the disposal of wastewater from oil production. The 5.7-magnitude quake in 2011 followed an 11-fold bump in seismic activity across the central U.S. in recent years as disposal wells are created to handle increases in wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, according to researchers at the University of Oklahoma, Columbia University and the U.S. Geological Survey.

    The researchers said the results point to the long-term risks the thousands of wells pose and show a need for better monitoring and government oversight.

    “This issue really boils down to effective risk management and continuously improving production processes,” Steve Everley, a spokesman for Energy in Depth, a group representing gas drillers, said in an e-mail. “The industry has the tools to do just that, has been doing it, and will continue to do it well into the future.”

  2. South Africa Shale Pits Shell Against Sheep Farmers

    “People don’t see what will happen,” Izak van der Merwe, a 59-year old sheep farmer, said as he sipped a beer while walking down a line of freshly slain antelope at the Murraysburg Hunting Competition, 620 kilometers (385 miles) northeast of Cape Town. “The people at Shell don’t realize the kind of ecosystem we have.”


    Opponents including Douglas Stern, a member of Agri Eastern Cape, representing more than 3,000 landowners in the province, say fracking could cause pollution, threatening the Karoo. The region covers about a third of South Africa, with its landscape of sparse grass and shrubs supported by annual rainfall that can be less than four inches, drier than California’s Mojave desert. South Africa as a whole averages about 18 inches of rainfall a year, according to the government.

    “We’re going to be polluting our water,” Stern said in an interview.


    “There will be pollution causing a loss of air quality and potential contamination of groundwater,” Light said in an e-mail. “These activities will impact negatively on agriculture and undermine food security” and tourism will be damaged, he said.


    Mineral Rights

    “If exploration licenses are issued to any company, we will immediately appeal that process,” said Jonathan Deal, who traded in his car this year for a Mercedes van covered with “Treasure the Karoo” stickers, the name of his group, and has campaigned in Karoo regions and towns. They will also sue the state, Shell and other explorers, he said.

    Landowners within the lease areas will probably only make a fraction of what people have been paid who sit above shale formations in Texas, Louisiana or Pennsylvania, because the farmers only hold surface rights while the government holds mineral rights.

    Fees paid to farmers “would be very nominal,” Megan Adderley, an associate with Cape Town-based law firm Bowman Gilfillan, said. “The major impact would be on them and their farms and they’re not really getting anything.”


    Proposed fracking in South Africa beauty spot blasted

    Environmental campaigners promise to fight government's plans to allow fracking for shale gas in the Karoo


    the name derives from a San phrase meaning Land of the Great Thirst‚ is bigger than Germany at more than 400,000 square kilometres. It contains about 100 towns and a million people and has been celebrated by poets for its bleak beauty. But this week Kgalema Motlanthe, South Africa's deputy president, announced in parliament that scientists had advised the government to allow fracking for the benefit of the economy.


    In a study of 32 countries, the US Energy Information Administration found that South Africa has the fifth biggest reserves of potentially recoverable shale gas with 485 trillion cubic feet. But activists argue that fracking is not the way to harvest this.

    Jonathan Deal, the chairman of the Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG), criticised Davies for short-term thinking on complex environmental issues.

    "Firstly, we believe that such a decision will have an impact which will endure far beyond the election cycle of the government," he said. "This decision cannot be rushed through before next year's election. It will be completely irresponsible.

    "Secondly, [mining] minister [Susan] Shabangu has promised on various occasions to consult with the public of this country prior to making any decision on shale gas mining. This has not happened, and the people of South Africa at all levels are entitled to be heard on an issue of this magnitude."

    Julius Kleynhans, the head of environmental affairs at AfriForum, a lobby group that has formed an alliance with TKAG, said: "Government is selling votes with this move, but it is an empty promise. Even if government issues the licences, exploration cannot legally proceed. We will not allow our constitutional rights to be breached; the alliance will appeal against government. These court cases will take a long time."

  3. This China boom will be the end of us all.


    China Power Seen Doubling With Renewables as Coal Holds Sway

    “It is hard to underestimate the significance of China’s energy consumption growth and its evolving generation mix,” said Michael Liebreich, BNEF’s London-based chief executive officer. “The impacts will reach far beyond China and have major implications for the rest of the world, ranging from coal and gas prices to the cost and market size for renewable energy technologies.”

    China will add 88 gigawatts of new power plants -- the equivalent of the U.K.’s entire installed capacity -- each year to 2030, BNEF said. Renewable plants such as large hydropower stations will account for half of the new capacity, it said.


    Outcomes will hinge on factors such as the cost at which China extracts shale gas reserves, water constraints on drilling and power generation and the speed with which environmental policies such as a carbon price are enforced, BNEF said.

    While coal-fired capacity will drop as renewables and gas generation rise, the fuel’s share in the power mix will remain highest at 58 percent in 2030, down from 72 percent last year, according to BNEF. China consumes half the world’s coal.

    “Despite significant progress in renewable energy deployment, coal looks set to remain dominant to 2030,” said Jun Ying, Beijing-based country manager and head of research for China at BNEF. “More support for renewable energy, natural gas and energy efficiency will be needed if China wants to reduce its reliance on coal more quickly.”


    It's certainly going to be the end of them.




    Barnett offers expertise to help Africa develop its mining industry

    WEST Australian Premier Colin Barnett has made a landmark offer to work formally with African governments to help boost their mining industries, dismissing long-held fears that the continent's emergence as a resources powerhouse poses a genuine threat to Australia.

    Mr Barnett told The Australian last night that he was poised to offer WA's expertise as a sophisticated mining economy to help African countries develop their mining laws, tenement systems, tax regimes, and environmental and safety standards to levels similar to those in Australia.


    State ban could lead to $500m in losses

    NSW government plans to ban coal-seam gas production near houses and some businesses could lead to more than $500 million of corporate writedowns this earnings season as some projects are slashed to just their real estate value.

    Yesterday AGL Energy wrote down $343m of the value of its NSW CSG land, including one asset by 95 per cent.


    Gas stockpiling a 'vote winner'

    MANUFACTURERS will today claim that most Australians want a policy of domestic gas reservation and that this would sway voter intentions, a move set to renew the acrimonious debate over rising gas prices.

    Manufacturing Australia will release a survey it commissioned where 35 per cent of people said it was "quite likely" and 13 per cent "extremely likely" that it would sway their decision at the election if a party made a policy pledge on the issue.



  5. Companies

    Rio admits African delays

    by: Matt Chambers

    RIO Tinto has delayed targeted production from the $US20 billion ($22.4bn) Simandou iron ore project in Guinea by three years, as African development plans hatched during the boom years continue to drift.

    It is understood the Simandou partners -- Rio, China's Chalco and the World Bank -- have signed a draft agreement with the Guinea government that says first exports are now not expected until the end of 2018.


    Corruption watchdog's findings into Doyles Creek mining licence

    The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption will today hand down findings into a second controversial Hunter Valley mining licence granted by former Labor Minister Ian Macdonald.

    The last of four major inquiries into former New South Wales Labor minsters - Operation Acacia - investigated the Doyles Creek licence issued by Ian Macdonald in 2008.

    The ICAC heard he "gifted" the licence to former union official John Maitland without a competitive tender and against departmental advice.

    The licence, which was announced on Christmas Eve, was described as a "goldmine" for John Maitland and a small group of entrepreneurs but a "financial disaster for the people of New South Wales".

    The inquiry heard John Maitland made $15 million three years after investing $165,000 in the project, but he denied it was that much.

    In July the ICAC found Mr Macdonald engaged in corrupt conduct over the Mount Penny licence he issued over land owned by his former labor colleague Eddie Obeid.

    Ian Macdonald was also found to have acted corruptly by accepting sexual favours from an escort called Tiffanie to arrange business meetings.


    Jerrys Plains resident Allen Barry has followed the ICAC proceedings closely.

    He says the only legitimate outcome is for the mining licence to be cancelled.

    "You get to a stage where you think what's the point in going on any further with it, but that's exactly what I believe the mines want you to do, to give in," he said.

    "We're just very fortunate there's a few people in the community who won't give in.

    "You really can't put in to words what it does to your thought patterns, to the way you feel about things, it's soul destroying, absolutely soul destroying."

    He says the effects on his family and the surrounding community have been horrendous.

    "You go to sleep thinking about mines, you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about mines.

    "It absolutely distracts you from your normal day to day, it divides families, it destroys friendships, and the whole situation is totally debilitating."

    Some Jerrys Plains residents say they have lost faith in all sides of politics over the mining scandal.

    Ian Moore and his wife Robyn have spent their life producing cattle in the area and have been members of the National party for over 40 years.

    Mr Moore has no time for the previous Labor government, but holds little regard for the current state government which he says has failed to deliver on promises to right the wrongs of the past.

    "The country party used to be the country party, when I joined it was the country party nationally to look after the man on the land," he said.

    "In my opinion we're not getting looked after very well at all.

    "We're just getting walked over the top of, coal mines seem to be the power.

    If you have a high-vis shirt on you seem to be god, if you have the the farming uniform you seem to be second class citizen.

    "I just can't see why any government, whether its Labor or Liberal, coalition or whatever, would want to destroy one of the finest agriculture valleys in the world by coal mining," he said.

    "Because they only ever made one lot of land and I think it'll be one hell of a time before they make any more so we should look after what we got."

    1. ICAC brands Macdonald corrupt

      The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption has found former mining minister Ian Macdonald acted corruptly when he granted a lucrative coal licence to a company run by his ex-union boss 'mate' John Maitland.

      The corruption watchdog published its report into Operation Acacia today, just a week before the struggling federal Labor government goes to the polls.

      It found the former NSW Labor MP, Mr Macdonald, granted an exploration licence covering a coal-rich area in the NSW Hunter Valley to Doyles Creek Mining to benefit Mr Maitland, who was a former Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union official.

      Mr Maitland and fellow directors Andrew Poole and Craig Ransley were also found to have engaged in corrupt conduct.

  6. Court defeat makes approvals process 'uncertain'

    National law firm Clayton Utz has told its clients that "fundamental questions" surround the certainty of WA's environmental approvals process in the wake of the Barnett Government's embarrassing James Price Point Supreme Court defeat.

    In commentary on its website about the Environmental Protection Agency, Clayton Utz said the case "puts a spotlight on past, present and future assessment practices and raises questions about the certainty of decision making in WA".

    "For the EPA, it's back to basics. This decision may trigger a wholesale review of EPA practices, not just those in respect to conflict of interest," Clayton Utz said. "As a result, proponents who have proposals in the pipeline may find the process delayed as the EPA sorts itself out. Even those proponents with a fresh approval in their hands might find that they are subject to challenge.

    "They will need to be prepared for what might turn out to be lengthy and expensive delays in their approval process, and be more vigilant to ensure similar mistakes don't vitiate any future approvals."

    The comments come as EPA board minutes, uncovered by Labor using Freedom of Information laws, reveal at least four other occasions since January last year when EPA board members participated in items despite declaring a conflict of interests.

    In his James Price Point judgment, Chief Justice Wayne Martin said that the EPA's practice, under chairman Paul Vogel, of dealing with conflicts did not accord with the structure and operation of the relevant section of the Environmental Protection Act.

    The EPA minutes reveal various board members declared interests in three items - Rio Tinto's Turee Syncline iron ore deposit, a BHP Billiton Iron Ore strategic assessment and a review of the Cockburn Sound environmental policy.

    Shadow environment minister Chris Tallentire said the Government had appointed too many EPA board members with industry connections, creating more conflicts.
    Acting Environment Minister John Day said Justice Martin's decision affected only the Browse assessment and whether other approvals were invalid was up to the courts.

  7. The woes of the Emperor have no end....


    Child protection staff struggling to keep up with increasing workload


    Hospital staff walk off the job over budget cuts


    Hospital staff walk off the job over budget cuts

    Western Australia's Criminal Lawyers' Association says the loss of a Supreme Court Judge will lead to lengthy trial delays and a backlog of cases.

    The State Government stands to save $4.4 million over four years by not replacing Justice Narelle Johnson, who retired last year.


    Schools told to spend $28m savings


    Ellenbrook high school delayed

    The Barnett Government has junked another promise to the northern Perth community of Ellenbrook, this time to build it a new high school by 2017.

    A month before the March election, Education Minister Peter Collier said the school in Ellenbrook North would be built in time for the 2017 school year, citing rapid population growth in the area.

    But this month's State Budget pushed its delivery out to 2018. The delay will heap pressure on the only other public school in the vicinity, Ellenbrook Secondary College, which has grown from 550 students in 2008 to 1369 this year.

    Ellenbrook Secondary College principal Bill Mann said yesterday a second school in the area was required to take pressure off his school.

    ...West Swan Labor MP Rita Saffioti said after abandoning a promise to build a rail line to Ellenbrook as well as a replacement rapid bus service, the Government's contempt for the area was "beyond words".
    "To be boasting about putting radios in toilets in the new football stadium while delaying the construction of much-needed schools shows this Government has lost its way," she said.


    Wellington Street ruled out for rail


    Termites and rust hit Freo Traffic Bridge

    Government tender documents have revealed corrosion and termite problems on the Fremantle Traffic Bridge, sparking fresh calls for the bridge to be replaced.

    The documents, lodged by Main Roads, are for "preventive and specific" bridge maintenance.

    The papers say "badly corroded" metal straps around bridge pylons must be treated and tightened, active termite infestations must be treated and more than 20 timber bridge bearers must be fixed.

    Two years ago, _The West Australian _revealed that a previously secret engineering report from 2004 had found the bridge was approaching the end of its serviceable life, with an unacceptably high risk of collapse and multiple fatalities if it was hit by a vessel.

    The report, commissioned by Main Roads and done by local engineering consultants Shawmac Pty Ltd, described the risk of doing nothing to replace or upgrade the predominately timber bridge as "intolerable".

    It said the risk of the bridge collapsing from being hit by a vessel was 66 times above accepted standards.

    1. *note : the story above re the judge - the headline should have read "Concern over decision not to replace judge"

      ...and not "Hospital staff walk off the job over budget cuts"