Saturday, January 4, 2014

Why frac

These maps clearly illustrates how Fracking on Roebuck Plains (Wetlands)will have a direct toxic effect not only on our ground water but also on Roebuck Bay a RAMSAR listed site. The Ramsar Convention (The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat 1971) is an intergovernmental multilateral treaty on the conservation of designated wetlands of international importance and the wise use of wetlands generally. Any significant groundwater pumping on Roebuck Plains (wetlands) will effect the quantities and quality of discharge of fresh groundwater into the Roebuck Bay ecosystem and our homes.


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  2. The Multi-Billion Dollar Water Services Industry

    In the Marcellus Shale, they say it costs $3 + per barrel (/bbl) to dispose of water — and $7-$10/bbl to haul it away. If a horizontal well uses 4.2 million gallons of water to frack (that would be a slightly bigger than average well, but it makes my math easy ;-)), then that’s 100,000 barrels (42 gallons=1 barrel).

    If you get 30% of that back in the first year, that’s 30,000 barrels x $10+ per barrel hauling and disposal costs=$300,000 in water costs per well. But that’s $300,000 in water REVENUE for the right company. Then there’s another 30% of that water you get back over the life of the well—assuming costs are constant, that’s $600,000 in revenue.

    And there are thousands of wells getting drilled in North America each year; more than 80% of them are now horizontal, and most of those require fracking. The dollar value of managing that water multiplies out fast.

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  4. It appears that industry cronies are hacking this comment section with their industry bullshit. Unless it is peered reviewed science, Redhand is not interested in this industry half baked sales talk.You cannot recycle radioactive waste.

    DURHAM, N.C. -- Elevated levels of radioactivity, salts and metals have been found in river water and sediments at a site where treated water from oil and gas operations is discharged into a western Pennsylvania creek.

    “Radium levels were about 200 times greater in sediment samples collected where the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility discharges its treated wastewater into Blacklick Creek than in sediment samples collected just upstream of the plant,” said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

    The new Duke study examined the quality of shale gas wastewater from hydraulic fracturing and the stream water above and below the disposal site. The study found that some of the discharged effluent is derived from the Marcellus shale gas flowback water, which is naturally high in salinity and radioactivity.

    High concentrations of some salts and metals were also observed in the stream water. “The treatment removes a substantial portion of the radioactivity, but it does not remove many of the other salts, including bromide," Vengosh said. "When the high-bromide effluents are discharged to the stream, it increases the concentrations of bromide above the original background levels. This is significant because bromide increases the risks for formation of highly toxic disinfection byproducts in drinking water treatment facilities that are located downstream.”

    “The radioactivity levels we found in sediments near the outflow are above management regulations in the U.S. and would only be accepted at a licensed radioactive disposal facility,” said Robert B. Jackson, professor of environmental science at Duke. “The facility is quite effective in removing metals such as barium from the water but concentrates sulfates, chlorides and bromides. In fact this single facility contributes four-fifths of the total downstream chloride flow at this point.”

    The Duke team also analyzed stream-bottom sediments for radium isotopes that are typically found in Marcellus wastewater. “Although the facility’s treatment process significantly reduced radium and barium levels in the wastewater, the amount of radioactivity that has accumulated in the river sediments still exceeds thresholds for safe disposal of radioactive materials," Vengosh said. "Years of disposal of oil and gas wastewater with high radioactivity has created potential environmental risks for thousands of years to come.”

    “While water contamination can be mitigated by treatment to a certain degree, our findings indicate that disposal of wastewater from both conventional and unconventional oil and gas operations has degraded the surface water and sediments,” said Nathaniel R. Warner, a recent Ph.D. graduate of Duke who is now a postdoctoral researcher at Dartmouth College. “This could be a long-term legacy of radioactivity.”

    Industry has made efforts to reuse or to transport shale gas wastewater to deep injection wells, but wastewater is still discharged to the environment in some states. “It is clear that this practice of releasing wastewater without adequate treatment should be stopped in order to protect freshwater resources in areas of oil and gas development,” Vengosh said.

    The Duke team published their findings Oct. 2 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology.

  5. "It appears that industry cronies are hacking this comment section with their industry bullshit."

    Dear Redhand,
    apologies for the misunderstanding I should have posted an explanation with the now deleted posts as I thought at the time they were after all "industry bullshit."

    The reasons I posted them were :

    With the huge water issue here how was Buru going to approach the "evaporation ponds" vs. "recycling."

    Would they claim "it's too expensive and anyway there is plenty of water going to waste in the Canning."(down the river & out to sea)

    As you pointed out,"You cannot recycle radioactive waste. "

    I thought the articles showed how far behind the US is in dealing with frack water - "We've been fracking for 50 years" etc. - but haven't come up with a financially viable scheme to recycle flowback yet.

    The idea that Buru can build massive ponds - "the size of football fields" - to store this waste long term and allow what's left to blow around on the 4 winds.

    The high cost of recycling and re using compared to the "endless supply of fresh water" option.

    How will Buru address these problems?

    Not just in a practical sense but politically.
    What is Neil McKenzies "solution" to all this?

    I felt the articles showed the pickle Buru were in for doing nothing or having to do something - no easy solution here yet.

    Sorry about that I should have explained it all better.

    However you did get the point ! And I don't blame you for deleting them.

    If anyone is interested the links are :
    "Today, it is not unusual to see well pads in which operators have drilled 20-plus wells while fracking can take place at dozens of different stages in the well. This, argued Pfeiffer, is driving the increasing complexity at the pads. "So if you take all of those components together you can understand that there are more and more services taking place … on the well pad," he said. "So, there are more wells being drilled ... and it becomes a very, very complex operation." Pfeiffer pointed out that the environmental footprint "is not only the actual physical footprint of the well site", but that it also consists of the amount of water consumed by the operation, how much gas is released into the atmosphere and other factors like how many trucks an operator might have moving water to and from the well site."
    "Ridgeline is developing a water purification and recycling technology for the oil and gas sector. CEO Tony Ker says the industry is just beginning to put a formal cost structure on their water, and it’s not always easy to see through the mist to a simple business model.

    “Customers in the oil and gas industry are finding their way into the water industry,” he told me in a recent interview. “Two years ago customers didn’t know what the water business meant. At some point they knew they would have to clean and re-use it, but didn’t understand how to do it."
    "And there are thousands of wells getting drilled in North America each year; more than 80% of them are now horizontal, and most of those require fracking. The dollar value of managing that water multiplies out fast."


    Happy New Year to all.

    (If the price is right........cont. - I was always amused at Mary Djaigween being in bed with Tony Proctor.........I am now doubly amused with Neil McKenzie being in bed with Jenny Bloom!)

  6. Of course another pickle is the Climate Change debate.


    "The oil and gas industry says fracking has been conducted for decades without incident and the development of the state's unconventional gas resources will create jobs, boost the economy and lower greenhouse emissions."


    "Mr McKenzie told The Australian yesterday that he supported fracking, which he described as "advanced technology", but he would not take part in any discussions at Yawuru board level about Buru Energy due to a conflict of interest.

    He said opponents of fracking had "lost touch with reality" and many were "jumping on board" only after the campaign to stop Woodside Petroleum building a $40 billion gas plant at James Price Point ended last year (2013).

    "Traditional owners are being misled by these people," he said."


    "Broome shire councillor Jenny Bloom says anti-gas fracking activists are spreading misinformation to frighten people."


    Record sparks hot debate on Tony Abbott's climate policy

    Australia smashed its previous annual heat record in 2013, sparking renewed political debate about climate change.

    The Bureau of Meteorology on Friday confirmed that last year was the hottest nationwide in more than a century of standardised records, with mean temperatures 1.2 degrees above the 1961-90 average.

    The 12 months easily eclipsed the previous annual record set in 2005, when mean temperatures were 1.03 degrees above average.

    Every state and the Northern Territory recorded at least their fourth warmest year by mean temperatures, underscoring the breadth of 2013's unusual heat.


    ...........''The policy he has is a con job that you have when you think that climate change is absolute crap,'' acting Labor leader Penny Wong said.

    Foreign Minister Julie Bishop retorted that Senator Wong was being ''nonsensical'' and said the Coalition would meet Australia's 5 per cent carbon reduction pledge through its ''direct action'' policy.

    The report also follows a fierce attack on climate change science this week by businessman Maurice Newman, the chairman of Mr Abbott's business advisory group. In a newspaper opinion article, Mr Newman branded climate change a ''scientific delusion''.

    Acting Greens leader Richard Di Natale accused Mr Abbott of ''listening to people who are part of the tinfoil hat brigade''.


    .................Unusual weather

    Unusual weather patterns have played havoc for some farmers – and backyard potterers - in other ways. September, for instance, posted Australia’s most exceptional heat.

    Nationally, maximums were 3.41 degrees higher than average, including 2.74 degrees in Victoria and 5.39 degrees in SA – the most for any state in any month.

    While mild by mid-summer standards, the warmth prompted “accelerated or premature development of plant and crops”, the bureau noted last year. Such growth exposed crops to late-season frosts across several states.

    Professor Will Steffen, a climate scientist at the Australian National University and a member of the Climate Council, said temperature trends have been “sharply upward” since the 1960s and predicted 2013 will look a lot less remarkable in years to come.

    “When you accumulate more heat in the atmosphere, the odds are you’re going to see more high-temperatures records broken,” Professor Steffen said.

    “If we keep emitting (carbon dioxide) at the rates we are now, in another three or four decades, 2013 will look like an average year - perhaps even a cool year.”


    While it will come as no surprise to anyone that Jenny Bloom is behaving like a crackpot - it will shock and disturb many to see and hear that Neil McKenzie is wearing "a tinfoil hat" and behaving like a crackpot.

  7. IF IT COSTS .................

    $4 million to frack a well in the US

    $6 million to frack a well in S. America

    up to $20 million to frack a well in Australia................AND

    up to $30 million to frack a well in the Canning

    THEN it stands to reason the only way Buru can ever hope to make a dollar profit is by cutting corners and doing everything,including well builds,on the CHEAP.


    .......................The oil and gas industry has propagated a vision that fracking unleashes vast amounts of gas which then flows relatively steadily for decades. But a growing mountain of evidence suggests that nothing could be further from the truth. Shale gas wells dry up, sometimes long before they have produced enough gas to cover the costs of drilling and fracking them.

    In the oldest shale formation, Texas’s Barnett shale, many aging wells have had to be re-fracked multiple times to keep them from running dry. Re-fracking costs millions of dollars and requires millions of gallons of water.

    A review last year by The New York Times found that less than ten percent of 9,000 Texas shale wells had recouped their estimated production costs within their first seven years.

    This is the dirty little secret that the oil and gas industry rarely will acknowledge. Oil and gas companies don't want to discuss it because high volume slickwater horizontal fracking is so new that there is paltry data to show how wells generally perform over the long run (read: twenty to fifty years).

    Over the past year, the total amount of Marcellus gas produced has indeed risen dramatically. But this gas only matters if drillers can pull it out of the ground at a profit. It also only matters if drillers can discern how much money they will have to throw at a well to keep that gas flowing via fracking.

    This is why the production data from places like Pennsylvania is so fundamentally important. Not to judge whether more gas is coming out of the Marcellus now -- the current drilling boom means that new wells are constantly drilled across the state, adding an enormous burst of gas each time a well is brought online. But because data about individual wells, tracked over time, can show how quickly each well runs low.

    The answer to that question is about far more than whether oil and gas companies can make a profit on the gas or whether investors will lose out. It's ultimately a far higher-stakes issue: whether renewables will not only be far cleaner, but also cheaper than shale gas over the long run.

  8. Will fracking's legacy be like the one left by coal?


    Despite Flaws, Pennsylvania Regulators Fast Track FirstEnergy Coal Ash Disposal Plans

    Across the U.S., the shale rush has unleashed a frenzy of excitement about domestic energy supplies.

    But the oil and gas produced from fracking comes along with billions of gallons of wastewater and tons of mud and rock that carry radioactive materials and heavy metals.

    As problems with disposal mount, the industry has offered mostly vague promises of “recycling” to describe how the waste will be handled over the long run.

    As the nation gears up to produce vast amounts of shale oil and gas — and the toxic waste that comes along with it — it’s worth taking a look back at the failures of another industry to handle its toxic waste responsibly — the coal industry.

    Communities across America are still struggling to resolve problems left behind decades ago from coal mining and related industrial pollution.

    These aren’t merely yesterday’s problems – the ash from burning coal at coal-fired power plants remains the single largest wastestream in the U.S.

    In Pennsylvania, state officials have begun to quietly fast-track plans to allow barges to haul 3.5 million tons a year of hazardous coal ash from one disposal site to a new one, despite objections from the state's environmental regulators describing the disposal plans as seriously deficient.

    The hazards of shipping the coal ash in rivers are similar to those associated with fracking waste. A spill could directly pollute the rivers that serve as drinking water supplies to millions with an entire barge full of the heavy-metal laden waste. And with coal ash, there are unique hazards -- there are no rules that would require the ash to be hauled in covered barges to prevent the arsenic- and mercury-laced dust from blowing into rivers and onto neighboring communities, according to Coast Guard officials.

    And, the state still lacks a long-term plan for how to safely handle the coal waste without polluting air or water once the barges arrive at their desination.

    For decades, entranced by economic benefits of mining and burning coal, state and federal regulators allowed coal giants to put off dealing with their toxic waste– with the result that these waste piles and pits have grown to enormous proportions.

    Since 1974, coal company FirstEnergy has mixed ash and scrubber waste from its Bruce Mansfield power plant in Shippingport, PA with water and pumped it via pipeline to an enormous lagoon called Little Blue Run. Little Blue Run is now the nation's largest unlined wastewater pit, spanning two states and bordering a third. Under orders to close the pit down and clean up Little Blue Run, FirstEnergy must now tackle the enormous challenge of clean up.

    Early indicators suggest that state regulators may once again kick the can down the road. Currently FirstEnergy plans to ship its waste from Little Blue Run to another unlined disposal site, the La Belle coal mine waste dump in Luzerne Township, PA. This is a site where residents have long complained of a litany of health problems they say are tied to the coal waste.

    FirstEnergy’s plan has drawn fire from a broad array of community groups. Even the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has voiced concerns. In October, the DEP sent a 29-page letter to FirstEnergy, detailing over 100 problems with the company’s plan to empty Little Blue Run, cap the site with a foot of soil and leave much of the ash buried with no liner below to keep water from washing heavy metals downwards towards the water table. The rest will be shipped to Luzerne.

    Community groups in both Luzerne and Shippingport are lining up in opposition to the plan, citing pollution hazards at both the old storage site and the new one.

  9. Will fracking's legacy be like the one left by coal?

    Nonetheless, the state has moved behind the scenes to grease the wheels for FirstEnergy. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, First Energy’s barging plan “could be approved by the state before the public gets a chance to fully comment on important parts of the proposal, according to four environmental organizations.”

    The barging permit is being pushed through in what lawyers for the groups say is a break with precedent. "For some reason FirstEnergy doesn't want to say in the general permit what it's going to do with the waste, and DEP seems to be taking the position that the permit doesn't require that,” Alayne Gobeille, an Environmental Integrity Project attorney told the paper. "But that's different from my understanding of the general permit provisions and different than what DEP required in the past."

    The contractor that FirstEnergy plans to use to barge the waste from Little Blue Run to La Belle has a long history of environmental violations. In March, the Environmental Integrity Project and Public Justice announced a lawsuit against the contractor, Matt Canestrale Contracting Inc., over improper disposal of tons of coal-ash waste at the La Belle coal mine dump.

    That contractor has even previously sunk a barge carrying coal waste at that very same La Belle site. On May 16, 2006 at approximately 1:30 am, a 24-inch gash from a submerged mooring ring caused a Matt Canestrale barge carrying over a thousand tons of coal waste to sink in the Monongahela River. This sent a plume of over 35 tons of the coal waste into the river, which serves as a drinking water source for Pittsburgh and other towns.

    The company’s slow response to the spill prompted the DEP to send a Jan. 2, 2007 letter to the company complaining. Their employees, “seemed unaware that a spill to the Monongahela River needed to be properly remediated and reported to the Department,” the letter said, adding that that the company’s clean-up methods used after the spill were “inadequate.”

    FirstEnergy’s plan calls for Matt Canestrale to haul 45 barge loads a day from Little Blue Run to the La Belle site starting as soon as next year.

    The health hazards from coal ash are increasingly drawing attention from federal regulators, as evidence of its toxicity slowly mounts, but locals say the problems in their community are already clear.

    "We’ve had problems with cancer and everything else," Luzerne Township Supervisor Ted Kollar told CBS News, describing how the coal ash already stored in La Belle has affected his town.

  10. Will fracking's legacy be like the one left by coal?

    The EPA is currently considering a move to label coal ash hazardous waste, which would bring it under federal oversight through the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

    Pennsylvania regulators have opposed that plan, saying it would complicate efforts like FirstEnergy's plan to empty Little Blue Run. In October, then-head of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Michael Krancer, sent a letter to the EPA in opposition.

    "Jumping the gun to regulate coal ash as hazardous waste would actually be environmentally detrimental," Krancer wrote. "We have particular concern on that front here in Pennsylvania, since it would block the use of coal ash for beneficial reuse for such uses as, among other things, abandoned mine reclamation and acid mine drainage remediation."

    But lawyers say using coal ash to reclaim unlined mines is just mixing two wastes together and calling it clean.

    "Dumping coal ash onto unlined gob piles is not a solution to mine drainage pollution and isn’t fair to communities living near these sites," said Ms. Gobeille. "It doesn’t make sense to ship the same toxic waste Pennsylvania acknowledges is a threat to health and the environment at the Little Blue Run impoundment to an unlined mine dump and call it beneficial."

    Despite the state’s struggle to handle the billions of gallons of waste produced by coal plants, state officials are doubling down on fossil fuels and demonizing anyone who parts company with them.

    In June, Governor Corbett issued a statement in response to Pres. Obama’s climate change proposal, calling it "not only a war on coal, as suggested by a White House climate adviser, but also a war on jobs."

    The governor also recently spoke at a shale gas industry conference in Pittsburgh, where he similarly focused on fracking jobs rather than public health impacts. "The opponents of drilling have really become what I would call economic change deniers," he told the crowd.

    Of course, the question remains whether, decades from now when the jobs are largely gone, the accumulated waste from both fracking and coal ash will still be plaguing the state and its residents.

    In the meantime, the wastewater from both industries continues to flow.


    "..................Domestic gas market

    The Australian domestic gas market is one of continental contrast: the West has a shallow market and higher prices; the East has the reverse. There is a risk that a major shale play in WA will swamp the domestic gas market and hammer local prices. Curiously though, it is another part of the gas industry which could help ameliorate this risk.

    Australian LNG projects themselves use substantial volumes of gas: approximately 220 petajoules (PJ) per year for each LNG train. To put this in context, the annual volume of gas required by the four trains already committed in Australia (two each by BG Group and Gladstone LNG) will equal the current eastern Australian demand. These volumes must be supported by proved and probable reserves equalling the volume of gas committed to buyers in offtake contracts, plus margins for risk management purposes.

    Committed projects therefore require an enormous volume of gas, and additional trains for Inpex / Total’s Project Ichthys and Origin / ConocoPhillips / Sinopec’s Asia Pacific LNG will only add to this requirement."


    Barbecuing the Planet: With Fracking, we’ll go on investing 3x in Hydrocarbons what we will in renewables

    .....................Many other experts share this view, assuring us that increased reliance on “clean” natural gas combined with expanded investments in wind and solar power will permit a smooth transition to a green energy future in which humanity will no longer be pouring carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. All this sounds promising indeed. There is only one fly in the ointment: it is not, in fact, the path we are presently headed down. The energy industry is not investing in any significant way in renewables. Instead, it is pouring its historic profits into new fossil-fuel projects, mainly involving the exploitation of what are called “unconventional” oil and gas reserves.

    The result is indisputable: humanity is not entering a period that will be dominated by renewables. Instead, it is pioneering the third great carbon era, the Age of Unconventional Oil and Gas.

    That we are embarking on a new carbon era is increasingly evident and should unnerve us all. Hydro-fracking — the use of high-pressure water columns to shatter underground shale formations and liberate the oil and natural gas supplies trapped within them — is being undertaken in ever more regions of the United States and in a growing number of foreign countries. In the meantime, the exploitation of carbon-dirty heavy oil and tar sands formations is accelerating in Canada, Venezuela, and elsewhere.

    It’s true that ever more wind farms and solar arrays are being built, but here’s the kicker: investment in unconventional fossil-fuel extraction and distribution is now expected to outpace spending on renewables by a ratio of at least three-to-one in the decades ahead.

    According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), an inter-governmental research organization based in Paris, cumulative worldwide investment in new fossil-fuel extraction and processing will total an estimated $22.87 trillion between 2012 and 2035, while investment in renewables, hydropower, and nuclear energy will amount to only $7.32 trillion. In these years, investment in oil alone, at an estimated $10.32 trillion, is expected to exceed spending on wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels, hydro, nuclear, and every other form of renewable energy combined.

    In addition, as the IEA explains, an ever-increasing share of that staggering investment in fossil fuels will be devoted to unconventional forms of oil and gas: Canadian tar sands, Venezuelan extra-heavy crude, shale oil and gas, Arctic and deep-offshore energy deposits, and other hydrocarbons derived from previously inaccessible reserves of energy. The explanation for this is simple enough.



    ...............Surviving the Third Carbon Era

    Barring unforeseen shifts in global policies and behavior, the world will become increasingly dependent on the exploitation of unconventional energy. This, in turn, means an increase in the buildup of greenhouse gases with little possibility of averting the onset of catastrophic climate effects.

    Life in the third carbon era will not be without its benefits. Those who rely on fossil fuels for transportation, heating, and the like can perhaps take comfort from the fact that oil and natural gas will not run out soon, as was predicted by many energy analysts in the early years of this century. Banks, the energy corporations, and other economic interests will undoubtedly amass staggering profits from the explosive expansion of the unconventional oil business and global increases in the consumption of these fuels. But most of us won’t be rewarded. Quite the opposite. Instead, we’ll experience the discomfort and suffering accompanying the heating of the planet, the scarcity of contested water supplies in many regions, and the evisceration of the natural landscape.

  13. China's smog toll revealed

    A FORMER health minister has broken a long tradition of silence and censorship to admit that air pollution in China is killing as many as half a million people each year.

    The comments by Chen Zhu, which appeared in the Lancet medical journal, come as the administration of Xi Jinping confronts the same grim trade-off as its predecessors between soaring economic growth and the nation's health.

    In the decade leading up to 2011, lung cancer rates in the Chinese capital nearly doubled, and at a national level lung cancer deaths have more than quadrupled as the mostly coal-powered frenzy of construction and industrial expansion has filled the air with a cocktail of concrete dust, chemicals and soot.

    Mr Chen, the health minister until last year and president of the Chinese Medical Association, used the article to draw attention to a 2010 World Health Organisation study which found that air pollution - particularly the type carried by tiny, invisible 2.5 micrometer particles - had become the fourth-biggest threat to the health of the nation.

    China began publishing hour-by-hour air quality readings last year - but only after the US Embassy in Beijing began supplying its own, highly embarrassing readouts.

    As well as the estimate that between 350,000 and 500,000 people die prematurely every year, Mr Chen referred to a 2010 Global Burden of Disease study by the WHO, which put a far higher figure of 1.2 million on the number of premature deaths from air pollution.

    Mr Chen highlighted the difficulties that China will encounter in its efforts to tackle the crisis, despite pledging $550 billion over five years.

    "Prevention and control is difficult because there are multiple pollution sources and pollutants across cities and regions,"

  14. Aluminium smelting industry on its knees

    THREE years of price pain and the usual bundle of hindrances bedevilling Australian manufacturing has brought the aluminium smelting industry to its knees.

    And barring a collapse in the exchange rate or an equally unexpected surge in prices for the light metal, smelter after smelter is tipped to fall by the wayside.

    The plug was pulled on the Kurri Kurri smelter in NSW in 2012 and, as revealed in The Australian earlier this week, dark clouds now hang over the 500 jobs at Alcoa's Point Henry smelter at Geelong in Victoria.

    Alcoa is to decide on the future of the loss-making and ageing Point Henry by the end of March. It has been living off a $40 million government grant since June 2012 and the Abbott government has made clear that the days of "corporate welfare" are over.

    While the union at Point Henry is hopeful that served-up efficiencies from the workforce, and the revenue benefits of the recent fall in the dollar, might put off the plant's execution, hard-nosed industry analysts say its time is up.

    The likely closure of Point Henry and that of Kurri Kurri by its Norwegian owners will reduce Australia's fleet of aluminium smelters from six to four.

    But such is the scale of the secular change in the global industry, question marks also hang over the near-term future of the remaining smelters -- Bell Bay in Tasmania (Rio Tinto), Boyne Island in Queensland (Rio), Tomago in NSW (Rio, CSR and Norsk Hydro) and Portland (Alcoa, Citic and Marubeni).

    Among that lot are the three smelters Rio withdrew from sale last year after failing to find buyers, such is the depth of despair in the industry.

    Once a shining example of the benefits of value-adding to Australia's abundant bauxite resources, the smelters are now either all loss-makers or barely profitable.

    Direct exports of lower-value, and less job-creating, bauxite and the intermediate product of alumina, where the resource base and quality considerations continues to give Australia a competitive advantage, share some but not all the challenges that now threaten the shrinking fleet of local smelters.

    As a result, the future of the precursor products to the smelting of aluminium is somewhat brighter.

    The smelters meanwhile are left to wrestle with weak prices, the high exchange rate, rising energy costs, high labour costs, increased raw material and capital costs, and an anti-energy intensive industry regulatory regime, which the Abbott government has undertaken to partly demolish by removing the carbon tax and reviewing Australia's renewable energy target.

    Certainly for Kurri Kurri, and perhaps the rest of the Australian aluminium smelting fleet, it is a set of overwhelming circumstances.

    However, the single biggest challenge has been the steady erosion in aluminium prices during the past three years, notwithstanding remarkable growth rates in aluminium's use in the auto and aircraft industries, where its weight advantages deliver major fuel savings.

    And there has been no bigger factor in aluminium's price malaise than the rise and rise of the Chinese aluminium industry.

  15. WA swelters with forecasts for 50C day

    THE town of Onslow in Western Australia's Pilbara has roasted through one of its hottest days on record, with temperatures soaring to an almost unbearable 48.7C.

    And forecasters are warning of an even hotter day to come on Thursday, with the national heat record of 50.7C likely to come under threat.

    The weather station at Onslow Airport, nearly 1400 kilometres north of Perth, was in danger of frying as it recorded temperatures of more than 40C at 9am local time on Wednesday.

    It peaked at 48.7C at 2.12pm (WST).

    The Bureau of Meteorology predicts the Pilbara region around Emu Creek will potentially reach more than 50C on Thursday afternoon.

    Temperature higher than 50C has been documented three times in Australia since records began over a century ago.

    Mardie, also in the Pilbara, was the most recent to reach the level, in 1998, failing to beat the record set in the South Australian outback town of Oodnadatta on January 2, 1960, which reached 50.7C.

    Soaring temperatures in the west follow an unprecedented new-year heatwave in which 34 locations - mostly in Queensland and NSW and with at least 40 years of data - recording their hottest-ever days between December 30 and January 4.

    Queensland recorded its hottest day on January 2, with a statewide average maximum of 41.82C.

    Narrabri in NSW broke the record high temperature by 3.6 degrees - the largest margin by which a long-term record has been topped.

    And cities and towns including Tamworth, Gunnedah, Moree, Glen Innes and Inverell in NSW, and Toowoomba, Roma, Blackall, St George and Gympie in Queensland all experienced their hottest-ever days.

    The heat in the Pilbara is caused by the super-heated air mass that hit the east coast earlier in the month, and which has circled the continent since forming over the Nullarbor in late December.

    The bureau's Annual Climate Statement from 2013 confirmed last year was Australia's hottest on record.

  16. Global sunscreen plan could wreck tropics: study

    AN idea by the father of the H-bomb to slow global warming by sowing the stratosphere with light-reflecting particles could wreck the weather system in the tropics, a study says.

    The scheme may benefit northern Europe and parts of Asia, but around the equator rainfall patterns would be disrupted, potentially drying up tropical forests in South America and intensifying droughts in Africa and Southeast Asia.

    "The risks from this kind of geoengineering are huge," said Andrew Charlton-Perez, a meteorologist at Britain's University of Reading.

    In 1997, US nuclear physicist Edward Teller and other scientists suggested spreading sulphate particles into the upper atmosphere, reflecting some sunlight back into space to attenuate the Earth-warming greenhouse effect from fossil fuels.

    This sunscreen - similar to the cooling effect from ash spewed by volcanic eruptions - would be cheaper than switching out of coal, gas and oil which cause the global warming problem, they said.

    The idea is a favourite among geoengineers, who nevertheless concede that manipulating the climate system on a planetary scale should be a last-ditch option.

    In a paper published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the British scientists said it would take a staggering volume of particles, called aerosols, to reverse warming.

    "To reduce global temperatures enough to counter effects of global warming would require a massive injection of aerosol," said Angus Ferraro at the University of Exeter, south-western England.

    Each year, it would require the equivalent of five times the volume of ash disgorged by Mount Pinatubo in 1991 - the biggest volcanic eruption in the last quarter of a century.

    The model was based on upper-end projections of having to reverse the warming impact of atmospheric CO2 levels of 1,022 parts per million - compared to about 400 ppm today.

    Such a high level would drive the Earth's surface temperature up by about 4.0 degrees Celsius.

    The investigation, however, found that releasing the particles would have at least one serious side-effect.

    They would start to warm the stratosphere and weaken upward convection from the troposphere, the lower levels of the atmosphere where weather takes place.

    The result would be to put the brakes on a mechanism of atmospheric turnover and cause a sharp drop in rainfall in the equatorial belt.

    "A reduction in tropical rainfall of 30 per cent would, for example, quickly dry out Indonesia so much that even the wettest years after a man-made intervention would be equal to drought conditions now," said Charlton-Perez.

    "The ecosystems of the tropics are among the most fragile on Earth. We would see changes happening so quickly that there would be little time for people to adapt."

    In August 2012, a cost analysis, also published in Environmental Research Letters, found that the basic technology to distribute aerosols exists and could be implemented for less than $US5 billion a year.

    This compared to a cost, in 2030, of between $200 billion and $2,000 billion, to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) to safer levels, it said.

    That estimate, though, did not factor in any environmental risks. In a 2009 overview of geoengineering, the Royal Society, Britain's academy of sciences, said the advantage of aerosols was that they could be deployed quickly and start reducing temperatures within a year.

    But they would not stop a build-up of CO2 from fossil fuels, nor prevent acidification of the oceans, which absorb the gas. There could also be a knock-on effect on rainfall patterns and on Earth's protective ozone layer, the Royal Society said.

  17. and demand......

    "Australian households and industry do not buy through a market mechanism. They pay according to the long-term supply contract price set by our LNG exports to Korea, China and Japan. This is more like export parity pricing than a "market"."

    Interesting because this means the very high gas prices that would make Buru near profitable would kill the local industries it needs for Australian sales.
    The very high cost of extracting the gas from the Canning all but rules out building an export plant and possibly would be uneconomic even if liquefied at an existing plant.


    Dropping the ball in gas balancing act

    PETER Reith's Gas Market Taskforce report for the Victorian government came with high expectations. Victoria has the nation's highest rate of gas usage, is home to one of Australia's largest gas fields and effectively has a moratorium on coal-seam gas extraction.

    ......... Yet the report failed to resolve the real issue; the soaring price of domestic natural gas and the effect on Australian manufacturers.

    Wholesale gas prices have spiralled from $2$3 per gigajoule three years ago and are expected by some to reach $12 per gigajoule next year. These price hikes are contrary to the behaviour of a balanced market since gas production has also been increasing.

    The Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics' Australian Energy Projections 2011 report found that Australian gas production will increase fourfold to 2035.

    The Victorian taskforce on gas says the market will sort out this paradox. However, Australian households and industry do not buy through a market mechanism. They pay according to the long-term supply contract price set by our LNG exports to Korea, China and Japan. This is more like export parity pricing than a "market".

    This reliance on export pricing rather than a market means many large chemicals companies are unable to secure gas supply beyond 2016.

    And it's not hard to see why: the three LNG plants being built in Queensland will export about 1300 petajoules of gas annually to Asia, roughly the annual amount used by the whole east coast gas market.

    The Reith taskforce report does acknowledge that rising gas prices will negatively impact manufacturing, jobs, investment and costs of living and it does call for the ACCC to be allowed to investigate the gas producers' joint marketing arrangements. But it dances around the crucial question: should Australian natural gas be an integral part of a robust industrial base? This is actually one of the pivotal questions that any government should be asking itself.


    Australians should understand that natural gas is not just for heating and power-generation: it is transformed into everyday goods with very smart technologies. Items such as water pipes, plastic milk containers and fertiliser all come from transforming natural gas with the power of chemistry.


    We also need financial capital to sustain our vital industries. We have already lost the Incitec Pivot project to Louisiana: the ammonia plant planned for Koorangang Island in Newcastle found it could buy $4 per gigajoule gas in the US compared with gas at around twice the price in Australia. Also, Coogee Chemicals is on the record as being keen to invest $1 billion in Victoria to build a methanol plant and create 200 direct jobs.

    For the production of fertiliser, plastics, industrial chemicals, explosives and packaging, Australia has the most vital component required to be competitive: a stable supply of affordable natural gas. And there's enough for both energy export and a strong domestic manufacturing industry.


    The good news is there is enough gas. Now it's time to decide what we do with it. The opportunity is there, but are governments listening?

    Peter Bury is the director of strategy and innovation at the Plastics & Chemicals Industry Association.

  18. The difference between concerns in "wild" WA and "built up" Europe.
    But the same cover up is sought by some.


    Draft: EU Bosses Recommend Shale Gas Rules

    BRUSSELS, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Shale gas should only be developed in the European Union if a set of conditions is met, such as making public the chemicals used to extract it and taking stringent measures to prevent water contamination, a European Commission document said.

    The measures are not binding, following heavy lobbying against formal law for shale gas, including a letter to the Commission, the EU executive, from Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron.

    Other steps the Commission invites member states to carry out include an assessment of the environmental impact and keeping to a strict minimum any flaring, or controlled burning of surplus gas, and venting, or the release of gases, such as methane, into the atmosphere.

    They are expected to be made public later this month as part of a package of 2030 climate and energy policy steps to follow on from existing 2020 rules meant to increase EU security of supply and lower its carbon emissions.

    The draft shale gas document, seen by Reuters, says shale can play a part in helping to avoid the use of coal, which emits around twice as much carbon as gas, and to curb reliance on imports from suppliers such as Russia.

    Some eastern EU nations are almost 100 percent dependent on Russian gas and are locked into expensive contracts linked to oil prices.

    The United States, in contrast, has benefited from a shale gas revolution, which has drastically reduced its gas and electricity prices.

    Although lower than Asian prices, EU natural gas prices are between three and four times higher than in the United States, putting pressure on energy intensive industries, such as aluminium and the chemical sector, the Commission document says.

    At the same time, it underlines previous comment from the executive that shale gas would have a much more limited impact in Europe, where public opposition is strong and geology is very different.

    Prospects in Poland, which like Britain has high hopes of developing shale reserves, have so far disappointed energy majors such as ExxonMobil, which withdrew from Polish shale gas exploration in 2012.

    "In a best case scenario, it (shale gas) could maintain the EU's gas import dependency (currently approaching 70 percent) at a stable level," the draft document said.

    The Commission does not comment on unpublished documents.

  19. Drastic changes reshaping Asian LNG market where elevated prices fail to dull demand

    Asia is the fastest growing market for gas and increasingly dependent on LNG, but the region suffers from elevated gas prices.


    Australia sees LNG revenue soar as onshore and FLNG projects advance

    Australian LNG exports will grow by almost 30 percent a year from 24 million tonnes this year to 83MT in 2018 and export revenues will show an annual growth rate of 35 percent, soaring from $14.3 billion in 2013 to $68.3Bln in five years.

  20. The Mud Plant eyesore planned for Roebuck Bay (right on the corner opposite the Fuel Farm - such a dumb place for the many trucks to enter/exit) and the dangers of Crystalline Silica.

    "Health Effects

    Inhalation of respirable crystalline silica particles has long been known to cause silicosis, a disabling, non-reversible and sometimes fatal lung disease.

    Respirable crystalline silica also causes lung cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has designated crystalline silica as carcinogenic to humans, and the U.S. National Toxicology Program has concluded that respirable crystalline silica is known to be a human carcinogen.

    The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has also recommended that respirable crystalline silica be considered a potential occupational carcinogen. In addition, exposure to respirable crystalline silica has been associated with other respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (including bronchitis and emphysema), as well as kidney and immune system diseases."


    How will the Silica be transported to Broome?
    How much dust will be released into the air when transferring it into/out of the trucks and bulk bins?
    What happens in the case of a spill?


    "RESPIRABLE CRYSTALLINE SILICA. These very tiny, sharp silica particles are small enough to be breathed deep into our lungs. Once they settle in the lungs, they never dissolve and never leave. Some people call Respirable Crystalline Silica “Silica Dust”."

    "Eyes: Dust may cause irritation and inflammation of the eyes and aggravate pre-existing eye
    Skin: Repeated heavy contact with the dust may cause drying of the skin and can result in skin
    rash (dermatitis) typically affecting the hands. Over time this may become chronic and can
    also become infected.
    Inhaled: Repeated exposure to the dust may result in increased nasal and respiratory secretions and
    coughing. Inflammation of lining tissue of the respiratory system may follow repeated exposure to
    high levels of dust with increased risk of bronchitis and pneumonia. Pre-existing upper respiratory
    and lung diseases including asthma and bronchitis may be aggravated."

    "Exposure to silica dust can lead to obstructive pulmonary disease. It can create breathing problems for people who have asthma, emphysema, and other obstructive lung diseases. Because the dust never leaves the lungs, its sharp edges can continue to cause irritation and inflammation for many years to come. Disease may not show up until years later, even if a person is no longer breathing silica dust.

    Children, the elderly, and people who already have health problems are more affected by silica dust, but anyone can be made ill by breathing this air pollutant.

    There's always dust in the air......

    Yes, but remember, you cannot see the dangerous sizes of silica dust. With mining planned for 50 years to come, there will always be freshly fractured, sharp-edged, crystalline silica dust in the air.

    Expert toxicologists believe CSP will produce significant amounts of silica dust from mining, transporting, and processing operations."


    .................and it's not just Silica - many of the substances used to make up different types of drilling mud are health hazards.


    ............and just how much of our precious water will this Mud Plant use anyway?

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