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Winter ozone formation in Utah linked with atmospheric inversions and persistent snow cover

Oil and gas drillers must to more to protect the airsheds they operate in.

Oil and gas drillers must to more to protect the airsheds they operate in.

Air quality worsening in rural areas affected by fracking

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dangerously high levels of winter ozone pollution in parts of Utah can be traced directly to chemicals released into the air by oil and gas exploration. The volatile organic compounds, common byproducts of fossil fuel exploitation, get trapped under atmospheric inversion layers and sunlight reflected by snow sparks the chemical process that forms the corrosive gas.

For example, in 2013, ozone in Ouray, Utah, exceeded the national air quality standards 49 times during the winter season. By contrast, in the densely populated, urban area of Riverside, California, the standards were exceeded about half that amount that same year, but during the summer. Continue reading

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USGS study links fracking wastewater injection with surge in Raton Basin earthquakes

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U.S. Geological Survey researchers have linked a surge in earthquakes in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico with injection of fracking wastewater.

Scientists say it’s almost certain that massive injections of waste water caused recent quakes in the Raton Basin, including a 5.3 tremor in 2011

Staff Report

FRISCO — A surge in earthquakes in southern Colorado and New Mexico has almost certainly been caused by the injection of fracking wastewater deep into the ground, U.S. Geological Survey scientists reported last week.

The study details several lines of evidence directly linking the injection wells to the seismicity. The timing and location of the quakes is clearly linked with the  the documented pattern of injected wastewater.

Detailed investigations of two seismic sequences (2001 and 2011) places them in proximity to high-volume, high-injection-rate wells, and both sequences occurred after a nearby increase in the rate of injection. A comparison between seismicity and wastewater injection in Colorado and New Mexico reveals similar patterns, suggesting seismicity is initiated shortly after an increase in injection rates.

For example, two injection wells near the epicenter of a 2011 5.3 earthquake had about 5 million cubic meters of wastewater injected just before the quake — more than seven times the amount injected at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal well that caused damaging earthquakes near Denver, Colorado, in the 1960s. The August 2011 M 5.3 event is the second-largest earthquake to date for which there is clear evidence that the earthquake sequence was induced by fluid injection.

Continue reading

Oil-eating microbes in the Gulf of Mexico left behind the most toxic remnants of the Deepwater Horizon spill

Impacts likely to persist for decades

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Oil: Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Oil-eating microbes in the Gulf of Mexico may have helped break down some of the pollution from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, but some of the most toxic constituents of BP’s oil probably remain, most likely at the bottom of the sea.

Two new Florida State University studies in a deep sea oil plume found found that a species of bacteria called Colwellia likely consumed gaseous hydrocarbons and perhaps benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene compounds that were released as part of the oil spill — but not the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are a group of semi-volatile organic compounds that are present in crude oil and can cause long-term health problems such as cancer. Continue reading

4 years after Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, dispersant still found lingering in the environment

Study looks at concentrations of oil and dispersant in ‘sand patties’ found along the Gulf Coast

32 beaches were sampled, with contamination found at 26 sites. MAP COURTESY JAMES "RIP" KIRBY, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA.

In 2012, University of South Florida scientists found oil remnants all along the Gulf Coast, often at levels that pose a potential risk to human health. MAP COURTESY JAMES “RIP” KIRBY, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA.

New research in Florida shows

The mess from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is still not completely cleaned up.

Read more Summit Voice stories about dispersants and the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill here.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Fossil fuel companies involved in offshore oil drilling may have to rethink their emergency response plans for oil spills after a new study showed that dispersant used to prevent large slicks persists in the environment much longer than previously thought.

Scientists at Haverford College and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has found that the dispersant compound DOSS, which decreases the size of oil droplets and hampers the formation of large oil slicks, remains associated with oil and can persist in the environment for up to four years.

The EPA approved the use of massive quantities of dispersant after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in hopes of preventing oil from fouling beaches, reasoning that the chemicals degrade rapidly. The Deepwater oil spill was the largest ever, releasing at least 210 million gallons of oil. BP applied almost 2 million gallons of dispersant, much of it deep beneath the surface.

But it’s far from clear that the use of dispersant is an overall environmental benefit. Ongoing studies have shown that the mixture of dispersant and oil is far more toxic to many marine organisms than either substance on its own. For example, a study by scientists with the Georgia Institute of Technology and Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes, Mexico showed that the oil-dispersant mix was up to 52 times more toxic to tiny rotifers, microscopic grazers at the base of the Gulf’s food chain. Continue reading

USGS study shows that injecting wastewater from fracking can trigger earthquakes up to 20 miles away

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Oklahoma earthquake spike definitively linked with wastewater injection.

More monitoring and mitigation needed, scientists say

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Just a small number of wastewater injection wells associated with fossil fuel exploitation can lead to a dramatic increase in earthquakes, U.S. Geological Survey scientists concluded in a new study focusing on the spike in Oklahoma earthquakes since 2009. Wastewater injection can trigger earthquakes up to 20 miles away, the researchers found, far beyond the three-mile radius commonly used as a measure for diagnosing induced earthquakes.

The dramatic increase in earthquakes in central Oklahoma since 2009 is likely attributable to subsurface wastewater injection at just a handful of disposal wells. Oklahoma earthquakes constitute nearly half of all central and eastern U.S. seismicity from 2008 to 2013, many occurring in areas of high-rate water disposal, said Cornell University geophysics professor Katie Keranen, who led the study. Continue reading

Study: Exposure to crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster causes swimming deficiencies in juvenile mahi mahi

Evidence is mounting that BP’s oil harmed millions of large fish

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Crude oil spreads across a wide swath of the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

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By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with fouling beaches and wetlands along the Gulf Coast, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill also had profound impacts on the open ocean and deep sea environment. The four million barrels of crude oil that spewed into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s failed oil drilling operation potentially exposed millions of fish and other ocean organisms to highly toxic compounds.

That includes many commercially and ecologically important open-ocean fish species such as bluefin and yellowfin tunas, mahi mahi, king and Spanish mackerels. In one of the most recent followup studies on the impacts of the spill, researchers with the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science found that exposure to the crude oil resulted in decreased swimming performance in young mahi mahi. Continue reading

State, feds warn of increased Oklahoma earthquake risk

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Oklahoma earthquakes are on the increase.

Spike in tremors linked with injection of wastewater from fracking

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal and state geologists say there’s an increased risk of a strong earthquake in Oklahoma after the overall rate of quakes increased by about 50 percent since late 2013.

After statistically analyzing the increased rate of earthquakes, the scientists said they’re fairly certain it’s not just natural variability — deep injection of waste water from fossil fuel exploitation is seen as a likely cause. Continue reading

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