EU3C. Stay Current—Fossil Fuels

2024-04-15. Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Industry Are Triple Current Estimates. By Nathaniel Scharping, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The U.S. oil and gas industry is responsible for emitting 3 times more methane than current government estimates, according to a new study. Those emissions cost $9.3 billion annually because of their effects on global warming and air quality, the authors estimated. The study, published in Nature, used aerial surveys to track methane emissions from oil and gas fields, pipelines, processing facilities, and more in six fossil fuel–producing regions of the United States. It adds to a growing body of evidence indicating that methane emissions are far higher than previously thought.. See article at Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, often calculated to be 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (though some studies say it could be even more powerful), and is responsible for around a third of human-caused global warming to date. Curtailing these emissions has been a focus of recent regulatory efforts, such as the Global Methane Pledge, signed by more than 150 countries that agreed to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030. The U.S. EPA also recently unveiled new rules, set to take effect in May, that aim to cut 58 million tons of methane emissions over the next 15 years…. See article at

2024-04-10. An Oil Company Is Trespassing on Tribal Land in Wisconsin, Justice Dept. Says. [] By Rebecca Halleck and Dionne Searcey, The New York Times. Excerpt: The Department of Justice has weighed in on a court battle over an oil and gas pipeline in Wisconsin, saying that a Canadian oil company has been willfully trespassing on tribal lands in the state for more than a decade….

2024-03-26. When Natural Gas Prices Cool, Flares Burn in the Permian Basin. [] By Martha Pskowski, Inside Climate News. Excerpt: As the new federal methane rule enters the home stretch, stranded gas in the Permian Basin could contribute to more flaring this year. [Sharon] Wilson documented widespread flaring, venting and other methane releases during a week in the Texas Permian Basin this month. Natural gas prices in the Permian Basin fell below zero during March. When natural gas prices are low, companies are more likely to vent or flare methane. Pipeline capacity to transport the gas out of the Permian Basin is currently limited, which can also result in more flaring. That’s bad news for efforts to fight climate change. Natural gas is mostly made up of methane and the Permian Basin is the single-largest source of methane emissions in the U.S. oil and gas industry. As a greenhouse gas, methane is about 80 times more potent at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. …The quantity of this gas in the Permian has nearly tripled since 2018, according to the Energy Information Administration. …The Environmental Protection Agency issued its final rule to reduce methane emissions under the Clean Air Act in December. The new rules, as written, will eventually prohibit routine flaring, which is currently allowed in Texas. However, the attorneys general of Texas and another two dozen states have challenged the federal rule. The legal challenges may delay implementation….

2024-01-25. Industry reports drastically underestimate carbon emissions. [] By MEGAN HE et al, Science. Summary: The Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada represent the world’s largest deposit of crude bitumen—a dense, extremely viscous form of petroleum. Extracting oil from these deposits generates harmful carbon emissions, which have a significant impact on air quality. Although companies are often required to monitor and report these emissions, new research suggests these reports contain major gaps—and that the true amount of pollution is much higher than previously thought. …Using an aircraft belonging to the National Research Council of Canada, scientists directly measured carbon concentrations in the air above multiple facilities in the Athabasca oil sands. Their analyses suggested that the region emits more carbon than all the cars in Los Angeles each year—and the same amount as all other Canadian emission sources combined. Most notably, the aircraft-based measurements exceeded industry-reported values by 1900% to over 6300%, which implies that current methods of monitoring emissions are in desperate need of an overhaul….

2023-12-01. Surging U.S. Oil Production Brings Down Prices and Raises Climate Fears. [] By Clifford Krauss, The New York Times. Excerpt: American oil fields are gushing again, helping to drive down fuel prices but also threatening to undercut efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Only three years after U.S. oil production collapsed during the pandemic, energy companies are cranking out a record 13.2 million barrels a day, more than Russia or Saudi Arabia. The flow of oil has grown by roughly 800,000 barrels a day since early 2022, and analysts expect the industry to add another 500,000 barrels a day next year. …The United States now exports roughly four million barrels a day, more than any member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries except Saudi Arabia….

2023-11-13. Capturing wellhead gases for profit and a cleaner environment. [] By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley News. Excerpt: Burning of natural gas at oil and gas wells, called flaring, is a major waste of fossil fuels and a contributor to climate change. But to date, capturing the flared natural gas, estimated at some 140 billion cubic meters per year by the International Energy Agency, has not been economically feasible. University of California, Berkeley, chemists have now come up with a simple and green way to convert these gases — primarily methane and ethane — into economically valuable liquids, mostly alcohols like methanol and ethanol. The liquids are also easier to store. The alcohols can be used as feedstocks for production of numerous other petrochemical products, providing an additional revenue source for oil and gas companies but also lowering carbon dioxide emissions from flaring. Flaring is used to mitigate the more harmful effects of directly venting natural gas — methane is 34 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — into the atmosphere. Details of the process were published Nov. 2 in the journal Science….

2023-09-25. ‘Monster Fracks’ Are Getting Far Bigger. And Far Thirstier. [] By Hiroko Tabuchi and Blacki Migliozzi, The New York Times. Excerpt: Giant new oil and gas wells that require astonishing volumes of water to fracture bedrock are threatening America’s fragile aquifers. …energy giants are drilling not just for oil, but for the water they need. …Along a parched stretch of La Salle County, Texas, workers last year dug some 700 feet deep into the ground, seeking freshwater. Millions of gallons of it. The water wouldn’t supply homes or irrigate farms. It was being used by the petroleum giant BP to frack for fossil fuels. The water would be mixed with sand and toxic chemicals and pumped right back underground — forcing oil and gas from the bedrock. …Fracking a single oil or gas well can now use as much as 40 million gallons of water or more. These mega fracking projects, called “monster fracks” by researchers, have become the industry norm. They barely existed a decade ago. Now they account for almost two out of every three fracking wells in Texas….

2023-08-17. Bacteria stretch and bend oil to feed their appetite. [] By TERRY J. MCGENITY AND PIERRE PHILIPPE LAISSUE, Science. Excerpt: It is imperative to understand the fate of crude oil that escapes into the ocean to minimize its environmental, economic, and societal harm. Large amounts of crude oil enter the sea, as occurred this past month on a platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil does not easily mix with water, which can restrict oil degradation through microbes, a key pathway to remove hydrocarbons from the environment. However, turbulent seas and response measures, such as dispersant addition, generate smaller oil droplets that are attractive to voracious microbial activity. …Prasad et al report that bacteria attach to oil droplets, then grow as a film on the oil surface, sometimes reshaping spherical droplets into finger-like protrusions. This dynamic process increases the oil’s surface area and accelerates its biodegradation. The finding should improve predictions of spilled oil transport to ecologically sensitive sites….

2023-07-27. An American Energy Giant Sees Israel as a Springboard to Europe. [] By Stanley Reed, The New York Times. Excerpt: Chevron finds itself with an abundance of natural gas on Europe’s doorstep. Amid competing regional interests, the question is how to develop it….

2023-07-26. Ancient people in China systematically mined and burned coal up to 3600 years ago. [] By Celina Zhao, Science. Excerpt: Long before coal fueled the Industrial Revolution, ancient societies around the world were already exploiting its power to smelt metal or heat water for toasty baths. Now, excavations at a Bronze Age site in northwestern China show people were burning coal on a large scale up to 3600 years ago, 1 millennium earlier than previously thought. The research, reported today in Science Advances, also traces where the coal came from and how a shortage of other fuel may have encouraged ancient people to turn to this new energy source….

2023-03-14. An Oil Rush Threatens Natural Splendors Across East Africa. [] By Abdi Latif Dahir, The New York times. Excerpt: An oil rush is now underway in Uganda, a verdant, landlocked country in East Africa which has signed onto a multibillion-dollar joint venture with French and Chinese oil companies, arguing that the revenues will fund schools, roads and other development. …Land is being acquired and cleared to build a pipeline to carry the oil from the lush west of landlocked Uganda, through forests and game reserves in Tanzania, to a port on the Indian Ocean coast. …Environmentalists are alarmed that oil spills could threaten Lake Victoria, a vital source of freshwater for 40 million people, and ravage the park that protects Murchison Falls, one of the world’s most powerful waterfalls, where the Nile River roars through a narrow gorge. …Fishing communities as well as farmers are being displaced. …Babihemaiso Dismas, a village leader, said China National tells fishermen to stay off the lake for days on end because of the drilling — depriving them of food and income. Residents say they have seen little of the development the company promised. It paved only the roads leading to its drilling sites and offices, and hired few locals, bringing in outside laborers instead. “They are digging millions of dollars in our land but they don’t want to share it,” he said. “They are milking the cow without feeding it.”….

2023-02-09. ‘Monster profits’ for energy giants reveal a self-destructive fossil fuel resurgence. [] By Oliver Milman, The Guardian. Excerpt: Last year’s combined $200bn profit for the ‘big five’ oil and gas companies brings little hope of driving down emissions. …Exxon, the Texas-based oil giant, led the way with a record $55.7bn in annual profit, taking home about $6.3m every hour last year. California’s Chevron had a record $36.5bn profit, while Shell announced the best results of its 115-year history, a $39.9bn surplus, and BP, another London-based firm, notcheda $27.7bn profit. The French company TotalEnergies also had a record, at $36.2bn….

2022-11-03. China Is Burning More Coal, a Growing Climate Challenge. [] By Keith Bradsher and Clifford Krauss, The New York Times. Excerpt: China is poised to take advantage of the global urgency to tackle climate change. It is the world’s dominant manufacturer and user of solar panels and wind turbines. It leads the world in producing energy from hydroelectric dams and is building more nuclear power plants than any other country. But China also burns more coal than the rest of the world combined and has accelerated mining and the construction of coal-fired power plants, driving up the country’s emissions of energy-related greenhouse gases nearly 6 percent last year, the fastest pace in a decade. And China’s addiction to coal is likely to endure for years, even decades. As the world’s climate negotiators gather this weekend in Egypt for their 27th annual COP gathering, China needs to balance limiting greenhouse gas emissions with its concerns about securing its own energy. The country has long viewed coal, which it has in abundance, as the best way to avoid becoming overly dependent on foreign energy suppliers and remaining susceptible to unpredictable weather, like droughts that reduce the output of hydroelectric dams. In no country are the climate stakes higher than they are in China. Mainly because of its use of coal, China emits almost a third of all man-made greenhouse gases — more than the United States, Europe and Japan combined.…

2022-10-04. Protecting the Peatlands of Ireland as Fuel Costs Skyrocket. [] By Ed O’Loughlin, The New York Times. Excerpt: One in seven Irish households still burn peat for heat. New rules are aimed at discouraging a practice that many consider part of the culture. For centuries, the Irish have used peat from bogs to fuel the home fires. Stories of families coming together to bring home “the turf,” as peat is called in Ireland, evoke idyllic memories of a poorer, but simpler, life on the land. But now the Irish government, in the name of fighting climate change, conserving habitat and improving air quality, is moving to restrict the use of peat — and finding that it is not easy. Ireland has more than half the European Union’s remaining area of a type of peatland known as raised bog, one of the world’s rarest habitats and, scientists say, the most effective land form on earth for sequestering carbon. “The bogs are our Amazon rainforest. They are where most of our carbon is stored,” said Éanna Ní Lamhna, a botanist and author. Yet despite domestic and European laws that now ban the cutting of turf on many bogs, Ireland has so far proven unable, or unwilling, to stop people who insist on exercising what they see as their traditional right to cut turf.…

2022-09-19. Burning world’s fossil fuel reserves could emit 3.5tn tons of greenhouse gas. [] By Oliver Milman, The Guardian. Excerpt: Burning the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels would emit more planet-heating emissions than have occurred since the industrial revolution, easily blowing the remaining carbon budget before societies are subjected to catastrophic global heating, a new analysis has found. An enormous 3.5tn tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be emitted if governments allow identified reserves of coal, oil and gas to be extracted and used, according to what has been described as the first public database of fossil fuel production. The database, which covers around three-quarters of global energy production, reveals that the US and Russia each have enough fossil fuel reserves to single-handedly eat up the world’s remaining carbon budget before the planet is tipped into 1.5C (2.7F) or more of heating compared to the pre-industrial era. …Among all countries, there is enough fossil fuel to blow this remaining budget seven times over, propelling people and ecosystems into disastrous heatwaves, floods, drought and other impacts never seen before in human history. Governments have agreed to restrain global heating to 1.5C but have largely declined to actively halt new fossil fuel leases or extraction.…

2022-09-16. At Old Coal Mines, the American Chestnut Tries for a Comeback. [] By Elena Shao, Photographs by Maddie McGarvey, The New York Times. Excerpt: Billions of chestnuts once dominated Appalachia, with Americans over many generations relying on their hardy trunks for log cabins, floor panels and telephone poles. Families would store the trees’ small, brown nuts in attics to eat during the holiday season. …Now, Mr. French and his colleagues at Green Forests Work, a nonprofit group, hope to aid the decades-long effort to revive the American chestnut by bringing the trees back onto Appalachia’s former coal mines. Decades of mining, which have contributed to global warming, also left behind dry, acidic and hardened earth that made it difficult to grow much beyond nonnative herbaceous plants and grasses. As coal continues to decline and many of the remaining mines shut down for good, foresters say that restoring mining sites is an opportunity to prove that something productive can be made of lands that have been degraded by decades of extractive activity, particularly at a moment when trees are increasingly valued for their climate benefits. Forests can capture planet-warming emissions, create safe harbor for endangered wildlife species and make ecosystems more resilient to extreme weather events like flooding.…

2022-06-09. Fossil Fuels Drive Increase in Atmospheric Helium. [] By Jennifer Schmidt, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The release of carbon dioxide (CO2) during the extraction and burning of fossil fuels has contributed to major changes in Earth’s atmosphere in the centuries since humans realized their value as an energy source. Often accompanying CO2 are benign gases such as helium (He) that can be used to trace such emissions. Scientists have long speculated that the amount of 4He—an isotope of helium—in the atmosphere is increasing because it is found in the same reservoirs as natural gas and other hydrocarbons. But measurements have so far been conflicting and imprecise. Now, researchers have developed a new way to measure the noble gas, shedding light on the decades-old conundrum. “With our measurements, for the first time, we’re able to demonstrate that [the theory is] actually true, that helium concentrations in the atmosphere are increasing,” said Benjamin Birner, an atmospheric chemist and postdoctoral researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The new discovery could lead scientists to better identify sources of CO2 in the atmosphere, which could guide policies to curb emissions. The increase in 4He also raises questions about its isotopic companion, 3He, and a potential undiscovered reservoir of the gas—a critical resource in some research and commercial industries.…

2022-06-02. Once eager to drill, oil companies exit leases in Arctic refuge. By Steven Mufson and Joshua Partlow , The Washington Post. Excerpt: Three major oil companies have given up opportunities to explore for oil in Alaska’sArctic National Wildlife Refuge, after the industry and Republican politicians have spent decades workingto gain access to the sensitive region. Regenerate Alaska, a division of an Australian firm and the only oil company to directly acquire a tract on the refuge’s nearly 1.6 million-acre coastal plain, canceled its lease last month, after Chevron and Hilcorp, two other major oil companies,had also jettisoned their claims. The exits make it far less likely that drilling will take place soon in a vast, unspoiled landscape that has achieved iconic status among environmentalists and has been fought over for half a century. …Five major U.S. banks — Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — and a growing list of insurance companies have stopped giving financing for the Arctic oil business. …There are many obstacles to drilling in the Arctic refuge. There are no roads or facilities, so building the infrastructure to support oil exploration would be costly. There has long been strong opposition to drilling in the refuge, which has only intensified as climate change worsens, driven by burning of fossil fuels. The Alaskan Arctic has warmed at least three times more than other parts of the country, posing new risks to oil infrastructure on the North Slope as permafrost melts. “If you look at project proposals in other parts of the Arctic, they’re using things like chillers to freeze the permafrost so they can drill more,” said Jenny Rowland-Shea, deputy director for public lands at the Center for American Progress, a liberal thinktank. “It’s not getting any colder in the Arctic. It’s only getting harder to do things like drill, and it’s a vicious cycle.” …Some oil industry analysts see the departure from Alaska as a sign of increased fiscal discipline by oil companies as renewable energy becomes a more prominent focus for them. [

2022-06-01. The village that stood up to big oil – and won. By Jess Craig, The Guardian. Excerpt: Today, the oil industry in Nigeria faces a reckoning with Shell at the helm. According to Amnesty International, the oil company has come under “unprecedented legal scrutiny” in recent years for its negligent and criminal practices in the Niger Delta. Several lawsuits are ongoing while others have culminated in courts ordering Shell to pay plaintiffs billions of dollars in damages. The mounting pressure has Shell considering a rapid departure from the region’s oil market. In early August 2021, the company announced it would sell off all remaining onshore oilfields in Nigeria, citing challenges with community unrest, sabotage and a company-wide refocus on promoting green energy. But locals and lawyers see the move as Shell ducking its responsibility to clean up after itself. A court in March barred Shell from selling any more assets in Nigeria while the company appeals against a ruling in which it was found liable for a 2019 oil spill and ordered to pay affected communities nearly $2bn in damages…. [

2022-05-11. Revealed: the ‘carbon bombs’ set to trigger catastrophic climate breakdown. By Damian Carrington and Matthew Taylor, The Guardian. Excerpt: The world’s biggest fossil fuel firms are quietly planning scores of “carbon bomb” oil and gas projects that would drive the climate past internationally agreed temperature limits with catastrophic global impacts, a Guardian investigation shows. The exclusive data shows these firms are in effect placing multibillion-dollar bets against humanity halting global heating. Their huge investments in new fossil fuel production could pay off only if countries fail to rapidly slash carbon emissions, which scientists say is vital.  The oil and gas industry is extremely volatile but extraordinarily profitable, particularly when prices are high, as they are at present. ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron have made almost $2tn in profits in the past three decades, while recent price rises led BP’s boss to describe the company as a “cash machine”. The lure of colossal payouts in the years to come appears to be irresistible to the oil companies, despite the world’s climate scientists stating in February that further delay in cutting fossil fuel use would mean missing our last chance “to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”. As the UN secretary general, António Guterres, warned world leaders in April: “Our addiction to fossil fuels is killing us.”.… []

2022-02-22. Peat is the Unsung Hero of Carbon Capture. By Sabrina Imbler, The New York Times. Excerpt: …Although peatlands make up just 3 percent of land on Earth, they store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests combined.… []

2022-02-15. Coal Seam Fires Burn Beneath Communities in Zimbabwe. By Andrew Mambondiyani, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: As Zimbabwe’s coal industry expands, residents around the western town of Hwange are experiencing the effects of underground coal seam fires. Residents, particularly children, and livestock are at risk from falling into the smoldering fires beneath unstable ground. Unfenced areas above the fires are often used as outdoor toilets, playgrounds, and grazing areas. Victims suffer burned legs, and in one case, a young girl died of her burn injuries. …Most of these fires start with the ignition of exposed coal seams, but they can also spark in coal storage or waste piles. Coal seam fires, which can ignite naturally as well as through human activity, can burn for decades and even thousands of years. Thousands of fires are burning at any given time, releasing toxic fumes that account for 3% of the world’s carbon emissions and release 40 tons of mercury to the atmosphere every year.… []

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How can the CO2 released weigh almost 3x more than the gasoline I burned? (from Blog: Climate Change 101)

Price of oil–Watch it go up:

Clean Coal Technology Program –

Prospecting from Orbit — With help from the ASTER instrument aboard the NASA’s Terra satellite, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey have embarked on an ambitious effort to create a worldwide map of well-exposed metal ore deposits.