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Big Oil’s answer to melting Arctic: cooling the ground so it can keep drilling

Technology is keeping patches of Alaska permafrost frozen to preserve energy infrastructure even as indigenous residents’ world is transformed by the climate crisis

An oil pipeline stretches across the landscape outside Prudhoe Bay in North Slope Borough, AK on May 25, 2019.
 An oil pipeline stretches across the landscape outside Prudhoe Bay in North Slope borough, Alaska. Photograph: Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The oil company ConocoPhillips had a problem.

It wanted to pump 160,000 more barrels of oil each day from a new project on Alaska’s North Slope. But the fossil fuels it and others produce are leading to global heating, and the Arctic is melting. The firm’s drilling infrastructure could be at risk atop thawing and unstable permafrost.

A recent environmental review of the project describes the company’s solution: cooling devices that will chill the ground beneath its structures, insulating them from the effects of the climate crisis.

The oil development that is fueling climate change continues to expand in the far north, with companies moving into new areas even as they are paying for special measures to protect equipment from the dangers of thawing permafrost and increasing rainfall – both expected outcomes as Arctic temperatures rise three times as fast as those elsewhere.

Countries from Norway to Russia are advancing new Arctic oil developments. But under Donald Trump’s administration, Alaska has emerged as a hotbed of Arctic oil extraction, with big projects moving forward and millions of acres proposed to be opened to leasing.

The administration recently finalized its plan to open a piece of the Arctic national wildlife refuge to the oil industry. And drilling is expanding at an Indiana-sized region next door: the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, which, despite its name, also contains treasured subsistence areas for locals.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BP Is The Latest Major Oil Company To Shutter Operations In Alaska

BP Is The Latest Major Oil Company To Shutter Operations In Alaska

Yet another major oil company has backed away from one of the frontier oil discoveries of the late 20th century that not only cushioned them from OPEC, but helped them learn to drill in some of the most difficult areas of the globe.

After six decades, BP has officially exited Alaska with the sale of its business there for $5.6 billion to Hilcorp Energy, according to Bloomberg. The deal makes Hilcorp the second largest producer in the state behind ConocoPhillips. The deal includes BP’s stake in Prudhoe Bay, which is the largest producing oil field in U.S. history. It also includes BP’s Alaskan pipelines.

Alaska, meanwhile, is receding into a second tier oil province as a result of field depletion, cost-cutting and the rise of shale. The state’s oil output has slumped from its peak in the 1980s, as discoveries have dried up and major producers seek to produce crude elsewhere, most recently from shale in Texas.

Hilcorp and ConocoPhillips are two of the few big remaining oil companies still interested in investing fresh capital in Alaska.

Oswald Clint, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd. said:

“The divestment prov[es] that no asset is sacred even if it is 60 years old and synonymous with the company. We see the transaction as a positive catalyst, which should help the shares recover lost ground this year.”

The divestiture includes BP’s stake in the Trans-Alaskan pipeline system, which has been running below capacity for years as a result of declining oil production. Wood Mackenzie, Ltd. values the asses at a “slight premium” to the $5.6 billion purchase price, almost 1/3 of which will be paid subject to production over time. It’s a strategic move for BP, as the company looks to shift more towards shale basins and natural gas.

Jason Gammel, an analyst at Jefferies LLC, said:

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

North America Is Rattling: There Have Been 81 Significant Earthquakes In Alaska So Far In 2019

North America Is Rattling: There Have Been 81 Significant Earthquakes In Alaska So Far In 2019

Something is happening to our planet.  The mainstream media is not talking much about this, and the experts assure us that everything is going to be just fine, but the truth is that we have been witnessing an unusual amount of seismic activity all over the world.  Up until just recently, most of the shaking has been elsewhere on the globe, and so it has been easy for most Americans to ignore.  But now North America is rattling, and that isn’t going to be so easy to brush aside.  In fact, 2019 has barely even gotten started and the state of Alaska has already been hit by 81 significant earthquakes:

Alaska notoriously experiences a lot of seismic activity, and in the first nine days of 2019 has been shaken by 81 earthquakes of a magnitude 2.5 or higher according to the United States Geological Survey. Of these, five have been magnitude 4.5 or higher, with one reaching magnitude 6.1. This huge quake took place 54km south-southwest of Tanaga Volcano on January 5.

Is this normal?

No, of course it is not normal.  And the heightened seismic activity that has been taking place all along the Ring of Fire is not normal either.  Just ask the people that were devastated by the massive tsunami that just hit Indonesia.

We live at a time when major Earth changes are taking place, and this has tremendous implications for all of us.  In particular, the hundreds of millions of people that live along the perimeter of the Pacific Ocean need to understand that the Ring of Fire has entered a perilous new phase.  If seismic activity continues to escalate, we could soon be talking about major disasters in which millions of people suddenly die.

Sadly, I am not exaggerating about that one bit.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A brief review of the Buckland, Alaska, solar project

A brief review of the Buckland, Alaska, solar project

Buckland is one of a number of projects in remote Alaskan villages that aim to replace expensive diesel with “cheap” solar. Here I examine how much diesel the Buckland array will actually save and how cheap the solar electricity that replaces it will be. The results show that Buckland’s solar array will cut its annual diesel consumption by 3% at most and that any impacts on electricity rates will be imperceptible. If the array’s capacity is expanded to the level where the impacts do become perceptible then electricity rates will probably increase because solar electricity will likely be more expensive than the diesel electricity it replaces. The rationale for the project is therefore questionable (Inset: Buckland Village, Credit NANA regional corporation).

The article on Buckland solar in Blowout Week 252 attracted some interest, so I thought a more detailed review of the project would be in order. As is usual in such cases a number of assumptions have had to be made to complete the review, so the numbers and graphs presented here should be regarded as approximate.

The Figure 1 Google Earth map shows the location of Buckland relative to:

  • Three nearby native villages. The monthly electricity consumption data from these villages were used to estimate monthly consumption at Buckland.
  • Fairbanks, the closest place with data from operating solar arrays. These data were used to estimate monthly solar generation at Buckland. Fairbanks is 630km east of Buckland but lies at about the same latitude (64° 50’N vs. 65° 58’N).
  • Anchorage, the state capital.

Figure 1: Buckland location map

The Buckland solar array:

No specifications or costs for the Buckland array have been published, so I have made the following assumptions:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

We Are Seeing Heat And Drought In The Southwest United States Like We Haven’t Seen Since The Dust Bowl Of The 1930s

We Are Seeing Heat And Drought In The Southwest United States Like We Haven’t Seen Since The Dust Bowl Of The 1930s

Despite all of the other crazy news that is happening all around the world, the top headlines on Drudge on Monday evening were all about the record heatwave that is currently pummeling the Southwest.  Of course it is always hot during the summer, but the strange weather that we have been witnessing in recent months is unlike anything that we have seen since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s.  At this moment, almost the entire Southwest is in some stage of drought.  Agricultural production has been absolutely devastated, major lakes, rivers and streams are rapidly becoming bone dry, and wild horses are dropping dead because they don’t have any water to drink.  In addition, we are starting to see enormous dust storms strike major cities such as Las Vegas and Phoenix, and the extremely dry conditions have already made this one of the worst years for wildfires in U.S. history.  What we are facing is not “apocalyptic” quite yet, but it will be soon if the rain doesn’t start falling.

Large portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah are already at the highest level of drought on the scale.  In Arizona, things are so bad that wild horses have been dropping dead by the dozens, and now authorities are trying to save those that are left

For what they say is the first time, volunteer groups in Arizona and Colorado are hauling thousands of gallons of water and truckloads of food to remote grazing grounds where springs have run dry and vegetation has disappeared.

Federal land managers also have begun emergency roundups in desert areas of Utah and Nevada.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Two Mines Supply Half Of U.S. Silver Production & The Real Cost To Produce Silver

Two Mines Supply Half Of U.S. Silver Production & The Real Cost To Produce Silver

Just two mines supply the United States with half of its silver production, and both are located in Alaska.  It’s quite amazing that Alaska now produces half of the silver for the U.S. when only 30 years ago total mine supply from the state was less than 50,000 oz per year.  The silver produced in Alaska comes from the Greens Creek and Red Dog Mines.  One is a primary silver mine and the other a zinc-lead base metal mine.

Even though Hecla’s Greens Creek Mine is labeled as a primary silver mine, 56% of its revenues come from its gold, zinc, and lead metal sales.  However, Teck Resources, that runs the Red Dog Mine doesn’t even list its silver production in its financial reports.  Because Red Dog produces one heck of a lot of zinc and lead, their silver production doesn’t amount to much in the way of revenues.

For example, the Red Dog Mine produced 542,000 metric tons (1.1 billion pounds) of zinc and 110,000 metric tons (222 million pounds) of lead, while its estimated silver production was 6.6 million oz (Moz).  According to Teck’s 2017 Annual Report, total revenues from the Red Dog Mine were $1.75 billion.  With the estimated silver price of $17 in 2017, total revenues from 6.6 Moz of silver were $112 million, or just 6% of the total.

In addition, Hecla’s Greens Creek Mine in Alaska produced 8.4 Moz of silver this year, down from 9.2 Moz in 2016.  As I mentioned, the Greens Creek  Mine also generated a lot of gold, zinc, and lead, equaling $182 million of the total revenues of $326 million (including treatment costs).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“The Whole Town Is Evacuating” – Tsunami Headed For Alaska After 8.2 Magnitude Earthquake

A powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake detected in the Gulf of Alaska has triggered tsunami warnings in Alaska and tsunami watches across several Western states through British Columbia all the way down to San Diego…

Earthquake watches are also in effect for Hawaii

“Based on all available data a tsunami may have been generated by this earthquake that could be destructive on coastal areas even far from the epicenter,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

The earthquake struck about 175 miles southeast of Kodiak, Alaska, shortly after midnight in Alaska local time, according to preliminary figures from the United States Geological Survey. The quake had a depth of about 6 miles, according to USGS. That depth, meteorologists pointed out, is relatively shallow, raising the risk of dangerous tsunamis in Alaska.

In Kodiak, first responders drove through the streets warning residents to “evacuate immediately”…


@KoloheBoy@saimin@PHOTOlulu saw 1 data on one of the buoys in the AK area went up 32 feet. PHUQUE! @Meteo_Reporter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k104rX2QvxA 
VIDEO: Warning after 8.2 in , | Jan 23, 2018


Tsunami waves move surprisingly quickly, one meteorologist said, point to the following graphic.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why Americans Will Never Agree on Oil Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Why Americans Will Never Agree on Oil Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Mountains and meadows in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

After decades of bitter struggle, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge seems on the verge of being opened to the oil industry. The consensus tax bill Republicans recently passed retains this measure, which was added to gain the key vote of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

This bill, however, stands no chance of being the final word. ANWR has been called America’s Serengeti and the last petroleum frontier, terms I’ve seen used over more than a decade studying this area and the politics around it. But even these titles merely hint at the multifold conflict ANWR represents — spanning politics, economics, culture and philosophy.

Differing Views From the Start

Little of this debate, which stretches back decades, makes sense without some background. Let’s begin with wildlife, the core of why the refuge exists.

With 45 species of land and marine mammals and over 200 species of birds from six continents, ANWR is more biodiverse than almost any area in the Arctic. This is especially true of the coastal plain portion, or 1002 Area, the area now being opened up to exploration and drilling. This has the largest number of polar bear dens in Alaska and supports muskoxen, Arctic wolves, foxes, hares and dozens of fish species. It also serves as temporary home for millions of migrating waterfowl and the Porcupine Caribou herd which has its calving ground there.

All of which merely suggests the unique concentration of life in ANWR and the opportunity it offers to scientific study. One part of the debate is therefore over how drilling might impact this diversity.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

China Warns Japan: “Get Used To Our Warplanes”, Sends Spy Ship Near Alaska

China Warns Japan: “Get Used To Our Warplanes”, Sends Spy Ship Near Alaska 

In an unexpectedly brazen rattling of sabers, just days after China deployed troops to its first foreign base in Djibouti, a move which the Global Times clarified is “about protecting its own security, not about seeking to control the world, Beijing made a less than subtle reversal, when it told Japan on Friday to “get used to it” after it flew six warplanes over the Miyako Strait between two southern Japanese islands in a military exercise.

It all started late on Thursday night, when Japan’s defense ministry issued a token statement describing the flyover by the formation of Xian H-6 bombers, also known as China’s B-52, earlier that day as “unusual”, while noting that there had been no violation of Japanese airspace.

The flyover was hardly surprising: the Chinese navy and air force have been carrying out a series of exercises in the Western Pacific in recent month, both as they hone their ability to operate far from their home shores, as well as a trial balloon to gauge the reactions of their increasingly more nervous neighbors.

What made this flyover different, is that usually following a formal protest by the “offended” country, Beijing would take note and issue a token statement of its own, “neither admitting nor denying” guilt, but certainly without assurances of further transgressions. But not this time. On Friday the Chinese defense ministry said it was “legal and proper” for its military aircraft to operate in the airspace and that it would continue to organize regular training exercises according to “mission requirements.”

 

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Trump’s ANWR move could spawn epic oil, natural gas battle: Fuel for Thought

Trump’s ANWR move could spawn epic oil, natural gas battle: Fuel for Thought

Oil majors thirsty for reserves likely to line up for any lease sale

President Trump has uncorked yet another controversy over energy vs the environment and it promises to be a heavyweight battle.

The White House budget proposal includes a revenue line of almost $2 billion from selling oil and gas leases in the richly oil-prospective northeastern coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.

Until the climate change debate came along, leasing and drilling in the ANWR (pronounced an-war) Coastal Plain was arguably the most ferociously contested item on the oil and gas industry’s wish list at the national level.

First, a little background: In 1960, less than one year after Alaska became a state, Congress created the Arctic National Wildlife Range.

Twenty years later, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) expanded the Arctic Range to 18 million acres, renamed it the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, designated 8 million acres as National Wilderness, designated three rivers as National Wild Rivers, and called for wildlife studies and an oil and gas assessment of 1.5 million acres of the ANWR Coastal Plain (the 1002 area).

There is not enough space here to track the tortuous history of legal and regulatory battles and failed legislation that has marked efforts to either develop oil and gas in the ANWR Coastal Plain or to lock it up against development permanently.

Suffice to say that ANILCA granted surface and subsurface rights to the Inupiat Native Americans living near the North Slope village of Kaktovik on the ANWR Coastal Plain, seismic studies were conducted on Inupiat land, and what has been called the “the tightest hole of all time” (KIC-1) was drilled and plugged on that acreage by a group led by Chevron.

Only a handful of people have ever known the well results—and no one has spilled the beans yet.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

After Years’ Long Push, Fracking Has Quietly Arrived in Alaska

After Years’ Long Push, Fracking Has Quietly Arrived in Alaska

Hydraulic fracturing‘s horizontal drilling technique has enabled industry to tap otherwise difficult-to-access oil and gas in shale basins throughout the U.S. and increasingly throughout the world. And now “fracking,” as it’s known, could soon arrive at a new frontier: Alaska.

As Bloomberg reported in March, Paul Basinski, a pioneer of fracking in Texas’ prolific Eagle Ford Shale, has led the push to explore fracking’s potential there, in what’s been dubbed “Project Icewine.” His company, Burgundy Xploration, is working on fracking in Alaska’s North Slope territory alongside the Australia-based company 88 Energy (formerly Tangiers Petroleum).

“The land sits over three underground bands of shale, from 3,000 to 20,000 feet below ground, that are the source rocks for the huge conventional oilfields to the north,” wrote Bloomberg. “The companies’ first well, Icewine 1, confirmed the presence of petroleum in the shale and found a geology that should be conducive to fracking.”

Why the name “Project Icewine”? “Everything we do is about wine,” Basinski told Alaska Public Radio. “That’s why it’s called Icewine. Because it’s cold up here, and I like German ice wine”

Geographical Terrain

A report by DJ Carmichael, an Australian stockbroker firm, notes that the Project Icewine oilfield is located in close proximity to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which flows from northern to southern Alaska and is co-owned by BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Chevron.

Drone footage, taken in 2016 by a company owned by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s campaign manager, Steve Wackowski, shows a fracking test well being drilled for Icewine 1.

According to an Australian Securities Exchange filing, in April of this year, 88 Energy and Burgundy Xploration began pre-drilling procedures for Icewine 2, a second fracking test well. In the filing, which also noted receipt of a Permit to Drill from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, 88 Energy said it expects to begin “stimulation and production testing” in June or July.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is The End In Sight For Alaska’s Oil Based Economy?

Is The End In Sight For Alaska’s Oil Based Economy?

Alaska Rig

Alaska has long been one of the few U.S. states without an income tax. Thanks to its incredible bounty of natural resources, the state had more than enough cash coming in through oil company taxes and especially Prudhoe Bay production. All of that is starting to change. After a 40 year oil boom that transformed Alaska from a frozen tundra into one of the richest states in the country, the oil price crash is bringing reality back to bear.

Alaska’s problems go deeper than the current oil price collapse though. Simply put, the state is getting long in the tooth – at least as far as its productive assets go. The Prudhoe Bay Oil field, once the largest such field in North America, is starting to reach the end of its life. In 1985, the Prudhoe Bay field was pumping 2 million barrels per day – roughly a quarter of the total U.S. output. Today it is pumping 500,000 barrels a day. That’s leaving the 800 mile Trans-Alaska pipeline seriously under-utilized.

Roughly 90 percent of Alaska’s general fund revenues are tied to oil. Between the oil price collapse and the inexorable decline of oil production over time, Alaska now faces a $4B budget deficit, all while the state has slid into an oil related recession over the last year. With the State’s rainy day fund burning through $11 million per day, that energy fund will be exhausted in less than two years.

All of this is a new challenge for Alaska and its roughly three-quarters of a million residents. Alaska has traditionally lightly yoked its residents with the lowest tax burden of any state across the country. In contrast, it has also had the highest per capita spending in the country thanks to its vast swath of territory. Both facets of this social compact may have to change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Oil Industry Lobbyists Played the Long Game to Access a Fuel-Rich Corner of Alaskan Wilderness

How Oil Industry Lobbyists Played the Long Game to Access a Fuel-Rich Corner of Alaskan Wilderness 

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

This story was co-published by ProPublica and Politico Magazine.

From his seat in the small plane flying over the largest remaining swath of American wilderness, Bruce Babbitt thought he could envision the legacy of one of his proudest achievements as Interior Secretary in the Clinton administration.

Babbitt was returning in the summer of 2013 from four sunlit nights in Alaska’s western Arctic, where at one point his camp was nearly overrun by a herd of caribou that split around the tents at the last minute. Now, below him, Babbitt saw an oil field —  one carefully built and operated to avoid permanent roads and other scars on the vast expanse of tundra and lakes.

Under the deal he’d negotiated just before leaving Interior in 2000, that would be the only kind of drilling he thought would be allowed in the 23 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, which, despite its name, is a pristine region home to one of the world’s largest caribou herds and giant flocks of migratory birds. The compromise was fair and, he hoped, enduring —  clear-eyed about the need for more domestic oil but resolute in defense of the wilderness.

The deal lasted barely 15 years.

In February, the Obama administration granted the ConocoPhillips oil company the right to drill in the reserve. The Greater Mooses Tooth project, as it is known, upended the protections that Babbitt had engineered, saving the oil company tens of millions and setting what conservationists see as a foreboding precedent.

How ConocoPhillips overcame years of resistance from courts, native Alaskans, environmental groups and several federal agencies is the story of how Washington really works. It is a story that surprised even a veteran of the political machine like Babbitt.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Shell ends exploration in Arctic near Alaska ‘for the foreseeable future’

Shell ends exploration in Arctic near Alaska ‘for the foreseeable future’

Shell spent upward of $7 billion US on offshore development in Chukchi, Beaufort seas

Royal Dutch Shell will cease exploration in Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast following disappointing results from an exploratory well it just completed.

Shell found indications of oil and gas in the well in the Chukchi Sea about 120 kilometres off Alaska’s northwest coast, the company said Monday in a release from The Hague, Netherlands. However, the petroleum was not in quantities sufficient to warrant additional exploration in that portion of the basin, the company said.

“Shell continues to see important exploration potential in the basin, and the area is likely to ultimately be of strategic importance to Alaska and the U.S.,” said Marvin Odum, president of Shell USA, in the announcement. “However, this is a clearly disappointing exploration outcome for this part of the basin.”

Shell will end exploration off Alaska “for the foreseeable future,” the company said.

The decision reflects the results of the exploratory well in the Burger J lease, the high costs associated with Alaska offshore drilling and the challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska, the company said.

Marvin Odum

Shell Oil Co. President Marvin Odum, seen on Sept. 2 in Anchorage, said it was “a clearly disappointing exploration outcome for this part of the basin.” (Mark Thiessen/The Associated Press)

Shell has spent upward of $7 billion US on Arctic offshore development in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

Monday was Shell’s final day to drill this year in petroleum-bearing rock under its federal permit. Regulators required Shell to stop a month before sea ice is expected to re-form in the lease area.

The company reached a depth of nearly 2,075 metres with the exploratory well drilling in about 45 metres of water.

Environmental groups oppose Arctic offshore drilling and say industrial activity and more greenhouse gases will harm polar bears, walrus and ice seals.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Trouble With Tailings: Toxic Waste ‘Time Bombs’ Loom Large Over Alaska’s Salmon Rivers

There are a few unarguable truths about mine tailings, the pulverized rock, water and sludge left over from mineral extraction — mining is a messy business, the leftovers have to be dealt with forever and it’s impossible to guarantee against another tailings dam failure such as the Mount Polley catastrophe.

In B.C., there are 98 tailings storage facilities at 60 metal and coal mines, of which 31 are operating or under construction and the remaining 67 are at mines that are either permanently or temporarily closed

That means communities throughout B.C. and Alaska are looking nervously at nearby tailings ponds, which sometimes more closely resemble lakes, stretching over several square kilometres, with the toxic waste held back by earth and rock-filled dams. The water is usually recycled through the plant when the mine is operating, but, after the mine closes, water, toxins and finely ground rock must continue to be contained or treated.

It’s the realization that tailings have to be treated in perpetuity that worries many of those living downstream, especially as the Mount Polley breach happened only 17 years after the dam was constructed.

The concept of forever boggles people minds. In one thousand years is the bank account still going to be there? These people are going to be dead,” said Chris Zimmer of Rivers Without Borders.

There are time-bombs up there without a plan to deal with them. Are they going to be able to build a mine that’s going to keep its integrity forever?”

It raises the question of whether there should be any mining in an area that is vital to five species of salmon and sustains the livelihoods of so many Alaskans, said Heather Hardcastle, a Juneau fisherman and coordinator of Salmon Beyond Borders.

This is why this region of the world is so globally significant and why we care so much,” said Hardcastle, who is among those pushing for the issue to be referred to theInternational Joint Commission.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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