Archive for the ‘geology’ Category

CRS — Human-Induced Earthquakes from Deep-Well Injection: A Brief Overview (December 22, 2014)

January 14, 2015 Comments off

Human-Induced Earthquakes from Deep-Well Injection: A Brief Overview (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The development of unconventional oil and natural gas resources using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has created new demand for wastewater disposal wells that inject waste fluids into deep geologic strata. An increasing concern in the United States is that injection of these fluids may be responsible for increasing rates of seismic activity. The number of earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater in the central and eastern United States has increased dramatically since about 2009, from an average of approximately 20 per year between 1970 and 2000 to over 100 per year in the period 2010-2013. Some of these earthquakes may be felt at the surface. For example, 20 earthquakes of magnitudes 4.0 to 4.8 have struck central Oklahoma since 2009. The largest earthquake in Oklahoma history (magnitude 5.6) occurred on November 5, 2011, near Prague, causing damage to several structures nearby. Central and northern Oklahoma were seismically active regions before the recent increase in the volume of waste fluid injection through deep wells. However, the recent earthquake swarm does not seem to be due to typical, random, changes in the rate of seismicity, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The relationship between earthquake activity and the timing of injection, the amount and rate of fluid injected, and other factors are still uncertain and are current research topics. Despite increasing evidence linking some deep-well disposal activities with human-induced earthquakes, only a small fraction of the more than 30,000 U.S. wastewater disposal wells appears to be associated with damaging earthquakes.

Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (Phase One Trial) in MDL 2179, In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon”

September 8, 2014 Comments off

Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (Phase One Trial) in MDL 2179, In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” (PDF)
Source: U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana

Although drilling operations concluded without major catastrophe, the decision to drill the last 100 feet of the well with little or no margin left the wellbore in an extremely fragile condition.29 This resulted in the presence of a large amount of debris in the well when the production casing was set in the well a few days later. As will be explained, this debris compromised the production casing, which led to the incorrect placement of cement, which in turn permitted hydrocarbons to enter the well on April 20, 2010. Therefore, BP’s decision to drill the final 100 feet was the initial link in a chain that concluded with the blowout, explosion, and oil spill.

Water level response in back-barrier bays unchanged following Hurricane Sandy

May 31, 2014 Comments off

Water level response in back-barrier bays unchanged following Hurricane Sandy
Source: Geophysical Research Letters

On 28–30 October 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused severe flooding along portions of the northeast coast of the United States and cut new inlets across barrier islands in New Jersey and New York. About 30% of the 20 highest daily maximum water levels observed between 2007 and 2013 in Barnegat and Great South Bay occurred in 5 months following Hurricane Sandy. Hurricane Sandy provided a rare opportunity to determine whether extreme events alter systems protected by barrier islands, leaving the mainland more vulnerable to flooding. Comparisons between water levels before and after Hurricane Sandy at bay stations and an offshore station show no significant differences in the transfer of sea level fluctuations from offshore to either bay following Sandy. The post-Hurricane Sandy bay high water levels reflected offshore sea levels caused by winter storms, not by barrier island breaching or geomorphic changes within the bays.

New Maps of Afghanistan Provide “Fingerprint” of Natural Resources

March 11, 2014 Comments off

New Maps of Afghanistan Provide “Fingerprint” of Natural Resources
Source: U.S. Geological Survey

A coalition of scientists from the United States and Afghanistan today released high tech maps that will help Afghanistan chart a course for future economic development. These maps represent a milestone as Afghanistan is the first country to be almost completely mapped using hyperspectral imaging data.

The coalition of the U.S. Geological Survey, the Afghanistan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, and the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), was created by the U.S. Department of Defense, to share American international science and technology as a strategic tool for promoting economic development.

“Hyperspectral data from this research provides a fingerprint that identifies Afghanistan’s natural resources,” said Dr. Suzette Kimball, acting USGS director. “This detailed data serves as the backbone of crucial scientific information needed for economic development of natural resources as well as the potential to identify water, biological and natural hazard information.”

Hyperspectral imaging is an advanced imaging technique that measures visible and near-infrared light reflecting off the Earth’s surface. Researchers use hyperspectral imaging spectrometer data to identify and characterize mineral deposits, vegetation, and other land surface features.

CRS — Geoengineering: Governance and Technology Policy

December 6, 2013 Comments off

Geoengineering: Governance and Technology Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The term “geoengineering” describes an array of technologies that aim, through large-scale and deliberate modifications of the Earth’s energy balance, to reduce temperatures and counteract anthropogenic climate change. Most of these technologies are at the conceptual and research stages, and their effectiveness at reducing global temperatures has yet to be proven. Moreover, very few studies have been published that document the cost, environmental effects, sociopolitical impacts, and legal implications of geoengineering. If geoengineering technologies were to be deployed, they are expected to have the potential to cause significant transboundary effects.

In general, geoengineering technologies are categorized as either a carbon dioxide removal (CDR) method or a solar radiation management (SRM) method. CDR methods address the warming effects of greenhouse gases by removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. CDR methods include ocean fertilization, and carbon capture and sequestration. SRM methods address climate change by increasing the reflectivity of the Earth’s atmosphere or surface. Aerosol injection and space-based reflectors are examples of SRM methods. SRM methods do not remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, but can be deployed faster with relatively immediate global cooling results compared to CDR methods.

To date, there is limited federal involvement in, or oversight of, geoengineering. However, some states as well as some federal agencies, notably the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Defense, have taken actions related to geoengineering research or projects. At the international level, there is no international agreement or organization governing the full spectrum of possible geoengineering activities. Nevertheless, provisions of many international agreements, including those relating to climate change, maritime pollution, and air pollution, would likely inform the types of geoengineering activities that state parties to these agreements might choose to pursue. In 2010, the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted provisions calling for member parties to abstain from geoengineering unless the parties have fully considered the risks and impacts of those activities on biodiversity.

With the possibility that geoengineering technologies may be developed and that climate change will remain an issue of global concern, policymakers may determine whether geoengineering warrants attention at either the federal or international level. If so, policymakers will also need to consider whether geoengineering can be effectively addressed by amendments to existing laws and international agreements or, alternatively, whether new laws and international treaties would need to be developed.

Interior Releases First-Ever Comprehensive National Assessment of Geologic Carbon Dioxide Storage Potential

July 11, 2013 Comments off

Interior Releases First-Ever Comprehensive National Assessment of Geologic Carbon Dioxide Storage Potential
Source: U.S. Geological Survey

The United States has the potential to store a mean of 3,000 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in geologic basins throughout the country, according to the first-ever detailed national geologic carbon sequestration assessment released today by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The assessment comes on the heels of a national plan to combat climate change announced by President Obama yesterday.

“This USGS research is ground-breaking because it is the first realistic view of technically accessible carbon storage capacity in these basins,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “If enough of this capacity also proves to be environmentally and economically viable, then geologic carbon sequestration could help us reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change.”

Based on present-day geologic and hydrologic knowledge of the subsurface and current engineering prac­tices, this assessment looked at the potential for CO2 storage in 36 basins in the United States. The largest potential by far is in the Coastal Plains region, which accounts for 2,000 metric gigatons, or 65 percent, of the storage potential. Two other regions with significant storage capacity include the Alaska region and the Rocky Mountains and Northern Great Plains region.

Technically accessible storage resources are those that can be accessed using today’s technology and pressurization and injection techniques. The most common method of geologic carbon storage involves pressurizing CO2 gas into a liquid, and then injecting it into subsurface rock layers for long-term storage.

Mines and Mineral Processing Facilities in the Vicinity of the March 11, 2011, Earthquake in Northern Honshu, Japan

March 29, 2011 Comments off

Mines and Mineral Processing Facilities in the Vicinity of the March 11, 2011, Earthquake in Northern Honshu, Japan
Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (470 KB)

U.S. Geological Survey data indicate that the area affected by the March 11, 2011, magnitude 9.0 earthquake and associated tsunami is home to nine cement plants, eight iodine plants, four iron and steel plants, four limestone mines, three copper refineries, two gold refineries, two lead refineries, two zinc refineries, one titanium dioxide plant, and one titanium sponge processing facility. These facilities have the capacity to produce the following percentages of the world’s nonfuel mineral production: 25 percent of iodine, 10 percent of titanium sponge (metal), 3 percent of refined zinc, 2.5 percent of refined copper, and 1.4 percent of steel. In addition, the nine cement plants contribute about one-third of Japan’s cement annual production. The iodine is a byproduct from production of natural gas at the Miniami Kanto gas field, east of Tokyo in Chiba Prefecture. Japan is the world’s second leading (after Chile) producer of iodine, which is processed in seven nearby facilities.

+ Full Report (PDF)


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