A new review of fracking published by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society in the UK provides a summary of relevant findings and makes detailed recommendations that may be of value to other jurisdictions and exploration companies, such as those in Canada, that are considering exploiting shale gas resources.
The report finds that hydraulic fracturing is not completely risk-free and that “Strong regulation and robust monitoring systems must be put in place and best practice strictly enforced if the Government is to give the go-ahead to further exploration.”
The report’s recommendations include:
- Strengthening the UK’s regulators, including providing additional resources as needed.
- Allocating lead responsibility for regulation of shale gas extraction to a single regulator;
- Strengthening the system of well inspections to ensure that well designs are considered not only from a health and safety perspective, but also from an environmental perspective;
- Undertaking appropriate well integrity tests as standard practice;
- Mandating and enforcing Environmental Risk Assessments for all shale gas operations, which should be submitted to the regulators for scrutiny;
- Ensuring robust monitoring of methane in groundwater, seismicity and methane leakages before, during and after hydraulic fracturing;
- Establishing integrated management processes to ensure water is used sustainably and to minimise wastes.
Gallondaily commends the report for its readibility and for its approach to providing information for both non-technical and technical audiences.
The report is available at http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/releases/shownews.htm?NewsID=771
What could be one of the largest contaminated site clean ups ever undertaken is being proposed for the village of Middleport, New York, by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Middleport has a population of about 2,000 and is located about 65km northeast of Buffalo on the Erie Canal.
A plant operated by FMC, formerly Food Machinery and Chemical Corporation, in Middleport used to manufacture arsenic-based and other pesticide products. As a result of past manufacturing operations and waste disposal practices at this facility, chemical releases have occurred that have affected sediment, surface water and groundwater at the facility’s property and also in adjacent off-site areas. After studying various options, NYDEC is recommending excavation of soil from about 260 hectares of residential gardens and commercial and institutional lands, including land around the community school. Excavated soil will either be landfilled or impounded on the 36 hectare FMC site.
The world’s largest remediation site is believed to be Hong Kong’s former Kai Tak Airport site, at 328 hectares but not all of that site is being remediated and the remediation is via use of wells to remove VOCs rather than by excavation of the soil.
The NYDEC is currently engaging the community in a consultation process that appears to be a model of its kind. Extensive details of the DEC review and plan can be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/54220.html
Last week the UN Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility published a book entitled Frontline Observations on Climate Change and Sustainability of Large Marine Ecosystems. With examples from around the world the book illustrates that all is not well with our planet’s oceans.
GallonDaily recommends this publication because of its readability and excellent illustrations. For those who are aware of the impacts of ocean acidification this book provides an update and some very specific examples. For those who are not so aware of how the ecology, and hence the productivity, of our oceans is changing, this text provides a fairly easy to read but still science-based account of what is going on in various locations as well as in the oceans as a whole.
Just two quotes from Chapter 10, by James R.D. Oliver of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and colleagues, help to illustrate the rest of the book:
If ocean acidification continues to proceed as many predict, many commercial interests, from commercial and recreational fishing to tourism, as well as ecosystem services such as the protection of shorelines by coral reefs, are likely to be harmed. More difficult to quantify are the cultural and lifestyle changes that communities will have to make to adapt to changing marine ecosystems. Ocean acidification is therefore not just a problem for corals and other marine life. It has the potential to change the way humans feed themselves, earn their livings, run their communities, and live their lives.
Ocean acidification is no longer a theoretical marine chemistry issue. The trend towards more acidic ocean conditions is already being measured in the open ocean, and this has been recorded with increasing accuracy in recent years through the Hawaii Ocean Time-series and the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series. As acidity and sea temperature increase, the ocean’s ability to absorb atmospheric CO2 will be reduced, thus exacerbating the rate of climate change. Since 2005, major scientific studies have started around the world and although there are many unanswered questions, there is considerable scientific consensus that ocean acidification is both real and is a major threat to our way of life.
A press release announcing the publication and a link to the complete book (free) are at http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2012/06/19/climate-change-is-degrading-marine-habitats-and-threatening-fish-supplies-worldwide.html
Rand Corporation, a non-profit US research and analysis organization, last week published a report for the US Air Force on world oil markets, pricing, and peak oil that seems to GallonDaily to be of value to other large users of petroleum products.
According to Rand, no one can predict where petroleum prices are headed over the next few decades. Controlling costs should include such actions as improving fuel efficiency, investing in technologies that achieve necessary objectives with less energy, adopting less fuel-intensive methods of operation, and eliminating unnecessary fuel use. Rand also observes that even the US Air Force is much too small to have a significant influence on the world oil market.
Contrary to what some in the industry sometimes claim, Rand states that the question is not whether but when the peak in oil production comes about. Rand estimates that it will be sometime between 2030 and 2050 and that it is more likely to be in the form of a plateau that continues for some decades before slowly declining than the sharp peak that some have projected. Consumer prices are likely to rise but the prices paid to producers may fall.
In its conclusions, Rand seems to question why the US Air Force is trialling alternative fuels. On a purely economic basis the conclusions may be justified but GallonDaily is inclined to the view that it is sometimes useful for government agencies to do more than operate in a purely business-like fashion. US military involvement in many fields has historically helped to stimulate economic development and new product manufacturing. We see US military involvement in renewable fuels as being something that is likely to bring similar benefit to the US economy.
An abstract of the report, with a link to the full report, can be found at http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/TR1144z1.html
Last week, as part of Rio+20, a group of banks, investors, insurers and corporations joined with more than 50 countries to launch their own commitment to work towards integrating Natural Capital considerations into their financial products and services for the 21st century.
The commitment included acknowledgment and re-affirmation of the importance of Natural Capital in maintaining a sustainable global economy. The group proposed:
- Requiring companies to disclose the nature of their dependence and impact on Natural Capital through transparent qualitative and quantitative reporting.
- Using enforceable fiscal measures to discourage business from eroding Natural Capital, while at the same time offering incentives to companies that integrate, value and account for Natural Capital in their business model.
- Endorsing and implementing international agreements, including but not limited to, those agreed through the Convention on Biological Diversity.
- Setting an example through requiring public spending and procurement to report and eventually account for its use of Natural Capital.
Signatories committed themselves to:
- Building an understanding of the impacts and dependencies of Natural Capital relevant to our operations, risk profiles, customer portfolios, supply chains and business opportunities;
- Supporting the development of methodologies that can integrate Natural Capital considerations into the decision making process of all financial products and services – including in loans, investments and insurance policies. We recognize that given the diversity of the financial sector, embedding Natural Capital considerations will differ across asset classes and types of financial institutions. We therefore aim to build on work undertaken through other initiatives, such as the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment, the Equator Principles, the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Principles for Sustainable Insurance, and The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), so that we can develop methodologies to:
- Apply a holistic approach to evaluating bonds and equities through the integration of Natural Capital considerations in environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk analysis in short, medium and long-term growth forecasts of investee companies;
- Systematically consider and value Natural Capital in the credit policies of specific sectors, including commodities, that may have a major impact on Natural Capital either directly or through the supply chain;
- Systematically consider and value Natural Capital in core insurance business strategies and operations including risk management, risk underwriting, product and service development, claims management, sales and marketing, and investment management;
- Collaborating, when appropriate, with the International Integrated Reporting Committee and other stakeholders to build a global consensus around the development of Integrated Reporting, which includes Natural Capital as part of the wider definition of resources and relationships key to an organization’s success.
- Working towards building a global consensus for the integration of Natural Capital into private sector accounting and decision-making; supporting, when appropriate, the related work of the TEEB for Business Coalition, and other stakeholders.
Signatories include 39 banks and financial institutions from around the world, including the US and the UK, but none from Canada, and 20 ngos, including IISD from Canada. Corporate supporters include Unilever , Puma, Dow Chemical and Mars Incorporated.
More information can be found at http://www.naturalcapitaldeclaration.org/
As part of its regular coverage of environmental initiatives, during the next few weeks GallonDaily will be highlighting some of the private sector and ngo sustainability initiatives announced during last weeks Rio+20 sustainable development summit.
Most Canadians will have heard of BPA, the substance first identified in baby bottles and then demonized in food can linings, some reusable water bottles, and many other products. Now get ready for the same fuss over BPS, found in thermally printed papers such as some cash register receipts and possibly, by transfer, in bank notes (cash).
Bisphenol S is being used in some applications as a replacement for BPA but recent research suggests it might be just as toxic. The just published study found BPS in thermal receipts, paper currencies, flyers, magazines, newspapers, food contact papers, airplane luggage tags, printing paper, kitchen rolls (i.e., paper towels), and toilet paper! The major source of human exposure to BPS appears to be thermal cash register receipts. The presence of BPS in bank notes may be because many people wrap receipts into their in-pocket bundle of banknotes. It may be in toilet paper because of recycling of thermal cash register receipts along with regular paper products.
There is much yet to be known about BPS, its presence in common products, and its human toxicity and endocrine effects. It is a good guess that, while possibly no worse than, or even not quite as bad as, BPA, BPS is still a bad actor that is not really needed. Watch your local environmental community for future criticism of your thermal cash register receipt.
The article about BPS is published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es300876n?prevSearch=bps&searchHistoryKey= The abstract is free; a fee or a membership in American Chemical Society is required for the full article.
Companies generally hide their political leanings for fear of alienating customers who support other political parties but Patagonia, Inc., a California-based high-end outdoor clothing company with 28 stores across the US and one in Canada, has decided to participate openly, though a little gently, in the 2012 US election.
Patagonia has announced the launch of its Vote the Environment campaign – a campaign that asks customers to register to vote, learn about candidates’ environmental records and vote for the world they want to live in. The Company has partnered with the League of Conservation Voters, the rock band, Wilco, and the non-profit voter registration advocate HeadCount to achieve the campaign’s objectives. It has also launched a Twitter campaign around the hashtag #becauseilove. People in Patagonia retail stores, at Wilco shows, and online will be encouraged to tweet messages and images that complete the sentence “I vote the environment because I love …”.
A Patagonia press release quotes Patagonia’s founder and owner Yvon Chouinard as saying “It’s time to hold our candidates accountable to environmental issues: if you care about clean air and water, how do the candidates on the national, state and local levels measure up on those topics? Get informed before casting your vote.”
GallonDaily sees the Patagonia campaign as bold. Although Patagonia has traditionally supported the environmental movement a foray into public politics is a big step beyond that. The campaign is ostensibly non-partisan but the environment is clearly not a strength of the Republican campaign. It will be interesting to see whether Patagonia’s high-end customers appreciate the Company’s foray into the political arena.
The Patagonia press release is at http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/patagonia-launches-vote-the-environment-campaign-in-advance-of-presidential-election-159688695.html
The campaign is presented on a Company website at http://www.patagonia.com/us/vote-the-environment/
The United States’ Environmental Protection Agency has scored green in all categories of a scorecard system established by the US Office of Management and Budget to determine federal agency performance on energy and environmental issues.
The 2011 performance of EPA includes:
- For Scope 1&2 GHG Reduction Target of 25% by 2020: 56.9% reduction in 2011 and on track
- For Scope 3 GHG Reduction Target of 8% by 2020: 10.1% reduction in 2011 and on track
- Reduction in energy intensity in goal-subject facilities compared with 2003: 19.9% and on track for 30% by 2015
- Use of renewable energy as a percent of facility electricity use: Total of 123.7% from renewable electricity sources including at least 2.5% from new sources (thermal, mechanical, or electric)
- Reduction in potable water intensity compared with 2007: 15.3% and on track for 26% in 2020
- Reduction in fleet petroleum use compared to 2005: 32.7% and on track for 20% by 2015
- Sustainable green buildings: 7.84% of buildings sustainable; 5.68% GSF (gross square feet) of inventory sustainable
The OMB approach represents a useful tool for implementation of a sustainability program in what is essentially a service organization. There will be more about tools for Sustainability in next week’s Gallon Environment Letter.
For details of the EPA’s energy and environment performance, visit http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/ombscorecard.html
Literature research conducted by a blue ribbon expert panel convened by the National Academies in the United States has reached the conclusion that proposed injection volumes of liquid CO2 in large-scale sequestration projects (> 1 million metric tonnes per year) have the potential to increase the pore pressure over vast areas. Relative to other technologies, such large affected areas may have the potential to increase both the number and magnitude of seismic events. In other words, sequestration of carbon dioxide in deep rock formations may cause earthquakes.
No commercial scale sequestration sites of this scale are currently operating anywhere in the world but the Canadian government has announced an investment of approximately $1.4 billion in Carbon Capture and Storage development and the Government of Alberta has announced a $2 billion investment in four large-scale carbon capture and storage projects.
The National Academies study describes what we know about the potential for induced seismicity related to energy development. It highlights areas where our knowledge is weak and discusses inherent difficulties in dealing with an issue that does not have a well-defined regulatory “home.” The committee concludes that:
- the process of hydraulic fracturing a well as presently implemented for shale gas recovery does not pose a high risk for inducing felt seismic events;
- injection for disposal of waste water derived from energy technologies into the subsurface does pose some risk for induced seismicity, but very few events have been documented over the past several decades relative to the large number of disposal wells in operation; and
- CCS, due to the large net volumes of injected fluids, may have potential for inducing larger seismic events.
The report, to be published as a book by The National Academies Press, is currently available in prepublication form from http://download.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13355
A study published today reminds us that the energy requirement of species at each trophic level in an ecological pyramid is a function of the number of organisms and their average mass. In 2005, global adult human biomass was approximately 287 million tonnes, of which 15 million tonnes were due to overweight (BMI > 25), a mass equivalent to that of 242 million people of average body mass (5% of global human biomass). Biomass due to obesity was 3.5 million tonnes, the mass equivalent of 56 million people of average body mass (1.2% of human biomass).
North America has the highest average body mass of any continent (80.7 kg). In North America one tonne of human biomass corresponds to 12 adults. More than 70% of the North American population is overweight and biomass due to obesity is 1.2 million tonnes. North America has 6% of the world’s population but 34% of world biomass due to obesity.
The study concludes that global trends of increasing body mass will have important resource implications and that unchecked, increasing BMI could have the same implications for world energy requirements as an extra 473 million people. Tackling population fatness may be critical to world food security and ecological sustainability.
Published in the online peer-reviewed journal BMC Public Health, an abstract and a link to the full article may be found at http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/12/439/abstract