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Transporting Crude Oil by Rail: State and Federal Action

August 29, 2014 Comments off

Transporting Crude Oil by Rail: State and Federal Action
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Technological advances such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are driving the increase in oil and natural gas extraction and allowing access to shale resources in Canada and the U.S. that were previously uneconomical to develop.

In fact, the United States became the No. 1 producer of oil in the world in 2014—overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia. The U.S. produced 8.4 million barrels per day of oil in April 2014, which is the highest monthly production volume in more than 25 years—with North Dakota and Texas supplying almost half of the total U.S. crude oil production. The rapid expansion of crude oil production in North America has increased the use of rail, truck, barge and pipeline to carry crude to refineries.

Upon extraction, crude oil is transported to refineries to be processed into useful petroleum products—such as heating oil, diesel fuel or gasoline. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in 2009 70.2 percent of crude oil and petroleum products were transported by pipeline while 23.1 percent were shipped by oil tankers, 4.2 percent by truck and just 2.6 percent by rail. In 2013, crude oil accounted for just 1.4 percent of the commodities carried by rail. Although oil makes up a small percentage of rail freight, this proportion is increasing rapidly.

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Public-private partnerships: The reenergizing of US infrastructure

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Public-private partnerships: The reenergizing of US infrastructure
Source: IBISWorld

In August, the Highway Trust Fund, which provides federal funding for highways, roads and mass-transit systems, was expected to run out of money. Since the fund relies on a federal gas tax that is not indexed to inflation and has therefore not increased since 1993, its ability to finance infrastructure projects has eroded. Although lawmakers across party lines scrambled to extend the fund’s lifetime, disagreements over revenue sources prevented any serious development. On July 15th, 2014, just two weeks before the Department of Transportation would be forced to cut funding for major projects, the US House of Representatives passed a $10.8 billion short-term fix to extend the fund into May 2015.

Protracted political gridlock is just one of the many challenges burdening public infrastructure in the United States. Underfunding and underinvestment, crippled state and municipal budgets and delayed maintenance and repair have also contributed to the country’s glaring infrastructure deficit. Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) grades the nation’s major infrastructure industries according to factors like capacity and funding. In 2013, the average grade for these industries was a D+. By comparison, solid waste management received a B-, while aviation, dams, roads, transit, inland waterways, wastewater, hazardous waste and even drinking water all earned dismal Ds. According to the ASCE, based on current investment trends in public infrastructure, the country will develop a $1.1 trillion gap between projected infrastructure funding and expenses by 2020. To make matters worse, this deficit could widen to $4.7 trillion by 2040.

Success of public-private enterprise

In response to these challenges, state governments are increasingly experimenting with public-private partnerships (PPPs) to finance new infrastructure projects or maintain existing assets. PPPs are financing tools whereby a joint venture between public and private sector participants executes the delivery of a public-purpose project. The degree to which a private enterprise is involved varies according to the risk and responsibilities that the partner assumes. The government usually claims residual ownership rights, while the private firm finances the construction, maintenance or operation of the project, collecting revenue during a contract period. For example, in transportation, a PPP contract can range from a private contract fee service agreement, which transfers only project management into private hands, to design-build-finance-operate-maintain concessions, which transfer all activities to the private partner. The degree of private involvement is captured in the PPP spectrum, allowing for greater flexibility in adapting to specific project objectives and needs. Typically, a PPP concession begins at the state level and PPP legislation is required to define qualifying projects, create the framework for concession terms and impose rules of accountability.

DHS OIG — Implementation Status of the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services Program

August 20, 2014 Comments off

Implementation Status of the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services Program (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General

The National Protection Programs Directorate (NPPD) is primarily responsible for fulfilling the DHS national, nonͲlaw enforcement cybersecurity missions. Within NPPD, the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications is responsible for the implementation of the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program. Our overall objective was to determine the effectiveness of the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program to disseminate cyber threat and technical information with the critical infrastructure sectors through commercial service providers.

NPPD has made progress in expanding the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program. For example, as of May 2014, 40 critical infrastructure entities participate in the program. Additionally, 22 companies have signed memorandums of agreement to join the program. Further, NPPD has established the procedures and guidance required to carry out key tasks and operational aspects of the program, including an inͲdepth security validation and accreditation process. NPPD has also addressed the privacy risk associated with the program by developing a Privacy Impact Assessment. Finally, NPPD has engaged sector-specific agencies and government furnished information providers to expand the program, and has developed program reporting and metric capabilities to monitor the program.

Although NPPD has made progress, the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program has been slow to expand because of limited outreach and resources. In addition, cyber threat information sharing relies on NPPD’s manual reviews and analysis, which has led to inconsistent cyber threat indicator quality.

CRS Insights — Shale Gas Gathering Pipelines: Safety Issues (August 1, 2014)

August 13, 2014 Comments off

CRS Insights — Shale Gas Gathering Pipelines: Safety Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The recent expansion of U.S. natural gas resources extracted from unconventional sources, primarily shale, has resulted in a glut of U.S. natural gas supply and the lowest domestic gas prices in over a decade. Absent any new constraints, unconventional gas is projected to become the dominant source of the U.S. natural gas supply by 2040. This unprecedented growth of natural gas production is driving massive infrastructure investments by the U.S. gas industry. Such infrastructure includes new roads to access gas fields, well sites, drilling equipment, gathering pipelines to collect produced gas from the wells, processing facilities to separate the natural gas from other products, transmission pipelines to transport the gas long distances, and natural gas storage facilities. Of these infrastructure investments, new pipelines have received particular attention among policy makers because they are widespread and essential for transporting natural gas from producing regions to consuming markets.

Most older pedestrians are unable to cross the road in time: a cross-sectional study

August 11, 2014 Comments off

Most older pedestrians are unable to cross the road in time: a cross-sectional study
Source: Age and Ageing

Objectives: to compare walking speed in the UK older population with the speed required to utilise pedestrian crossings (≥1.2 m/s), and determine health and socio-demographic associations with walking impairment.

Design: cross-sectional study using Health Survey for England 2005 data.

Setting: private households in England.

Participants: random population sample of 3,145 adults (1,444 men) aged ≥65 years.

Main outcome measures: walking speed was assessed by timing a walk of 8 feet at normal pace. Walking impairment was defined as walking speed <1.2 m/s or non-participation in the test due to being unsafe or unable.

Results: the mean walking speed was 0.9 m/s in men and 0.8 m/s in women; 84% of men and 93% of women ≥65 years had walking impairment. Female gender, increasing age, lower socio-economic status, poorer health and lower grip strength were predictors of walking impairment.

Conclusion: most older adults either cannot walk 8 feet safely or cannot walk fast enough to use a pedestrian crossing in the UK. The health impacts on older adults include limited independence and reduced opportunities for physical activity and social interaction. An assumed normal walking speed for pedestrian crossings of 1.2 m/s is inappropriate for older adults and revision of these timings should be considered.

EIA mapping tool shows which U.S. energy facilities are at risk from flooding

August 8, 2014 Comments off

EIA mapping tool shows which U.S. energy facilities are at risk from flooding
Source: Energy Information Administration

The public now has a new online tool to help inform them about energy facilities’ exposure to flooding caused by hurricanes, overflowing rivers, flash floods, and other wet-weather events. Developed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Flood Vulnerability Assessment Map, shows which power plants, oil refineries, crude oil rail terminals, and other critical energy infrastructure are vulnerable to coastal and inland flooding.

The mapping tool combines EIA’s existing U.S. Energy Mapping System with flood hazard information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and represents EIA’s latest step in making energy data more accessible, understandable, relevant, and responsive to users’ needs.

A Guide to Regional Transportation Planning for Disasters, Emergencies, and Significant Events

August 1, 2014 Comments off

A Guide to Regional Transportation Planning for Disasters, Emergencies, and Significant Events
Source: Transportation Research Board

TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 777: A Guide to Regional Transportation Planning for Disasters, Emergencies, and Significant Events uses foundational planning principles, case studies, tips, and tools to explain implementation of transportation planning for possible multijurisdictional disasters, emergencies, and other major events. In addition to the guide, there is a research report and a PowerPoint presentation describing the entire project.

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