Study: 15 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year escaping from Boston’s leaky pipeline network

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This map shows the geographical distribution of natural gas consumption during the year from September 2012 to August 2013 for the four states included in the study region. The research team used this data, along with air monitoring and analysis, to assess the fraction of delivered natural gas that was emitted to the atmosphere. Image courtesy of Kathryn McKain, Harvard SEAS.

Researchers say energy companies have little incentive to prevent leaks

Staff Report

FRISCO — A team of engineers and scientists say that up to 15  billion cubic feet of natural gas, worth some $90 million, may be escaping from leaky pipes in the Boston area.

The researchers, led by atmospheric scientists at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences calculated the figure by analyzing a year’s worth of continuous methane measurements, using a high-resolution regional atmospheric transport model to calculate the amount of emissions.

Tackling the problem will require innovative policy because  low prices and the way in which natural gas suppliers are regulated mean that gas companies have little economic incentive to make the necessary investments to reduce incidental losses from leakage, according to the Harvard researchers. Continue reading

Climate: Carbon capture test reaches milestone

Can carbon capture help mitigate the climate impacts of carbon dioxide?

Can carbon and underground storage capture help mitigate the climate impacts of carbon dioxide?

Heat-trapping greenhouse gas trapped in salt formation beneath shale layer

Staff Report

FRISCO — Engineers in the Midwest say they’ve managed to capture and store 1 million metric tons of CO2 in underground rock and mineral formations, helping to test the long-term viability of carbon-capture technology.

The project is part of the development phase of the Department’s Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships initiative, which is helping develop and deploy carbon capture and storage technologies across the country. Continue reading

50-foot section of failed Montana oil pipeline was exposed on bed of Yellowstone River near site of spill

Cleanup hampered by icy conditions

Cleanup crews try to contain oil from a pipeline spill in the Yellowstone River, near Glendive, Montana. Photo courtesy EPA.

Cleanup crews try to contain oil from a pipeline spill in the Yellowstone River, near Glendive, Montana. Photo courtesy EPA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Sonar surveys show that the failed Poplar Pipeline in Montana is exposed on the river bed for approximately 50 feet near the site of a breach that may have spilled as much as 50,000 gallon of oil into the Yellowstone River.

After the spill, oil sheens were spotted on the river as far as 60 miles downstream, according to the EPA. Residents in the town of Glendive, a few miles from the spill, were warned not to drink their tap water after testing found traces of oil in the town’s water supply, but after additional testing, the town’s drinking water system was deemed safe on Jan. 23.

According to the EPA, the bottom of the river bed is about one foot below the pipeline in one area, though the last official inspection of the pipeline in 2012 indicated that it was buried about eight feet below the riverbed. The EPA said the exposed section of pipeline doesn’t explain how the spill happened, but the information will help investigators determine the cause of the breach. More EPA updates at this web page. Continue reading

Global warming: Satellite images show dramatic, rapid thinning and acceleration of Svalbard ice cap

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Ice in the Greenland Sea, via NASA Earth Observatory.

Austfonna ice field has thinned by more than 150 feet in just 3 years

Staff Report

FRISCO — If sudden changes on a small island in the Svalbard Archipelago are any indication, then the Greenland Ice Sheet could be in big trouble as the Arctic warms up.

Satellite images show that the Austfonna ice cap has thinned by more than 50 metres since 2012 — about one sixth of its original thickness — and that the ice is flowing 25 times faster than just a few years ago.

Scientists analyzing the data said they’re not exactly sure why the ice cap has changed so suddenly, but noted that the island is smack in the middle of one of the fastest-warming areas on the planet. Continue reading

Environment: Oxygen-depleted dead zones caused by reservoirs killing endangered fish embryos

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Pallid sturgeon embryos are dying in the dead zones of the Missouri River. Photo via Nebraska Games and Parks Commission.

‘We’re basically talking about a living dinosaur that takes 20 years to reach sexual maturity and can live as long as the average human in the U.S.’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A river fish whose genetic lineage goes back ten of million years has survived dramatic climate shifts and other earth-changing events, but may not be able to persist through the age of dam-building.

Oxygen-depleted dead zones between dams in the upper Missouri River Missouri River are preventing pallid sturgeon from reproducing, and there’s no sign things will get better, at least not without a little help from humans. Continue reading

Morning photo: Winter wonders

Deep freeze


FRISCO — Sometimes words are superfluous …

Green groups push EPA to address airline emissions

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A commercial airliner flies over the Sierra Nevada.

Without regs, emissions could triple by 2050

Staff Report

FRISCO — With the EPA set to decide in May whether aircraft carbon pollution endangers public health or welfare, the battle over airline industry emissions in heating up.

Both the EPA and the airline industry have been dragging their feet for years, refusing to address one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas pollutants. This week, six major green groups called on the EPA and the  Federal Aviation Administration to move quickly to set emission standards to curb greenhouse gas pollution from the nation’s aircraft fleet. Continue reading

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