Posts Tagged ‘Geoscience’

By Trish Choate

WASHINGTON — The federal government decided not to list the dunes sagebrush lizard as an endangered species, much to the delight of the oil and gas industry, landowners and the Big Country congressional delegation.

Some environmental groups, however, were far from pleased by the decision announced Wednesday. The lizard that lives in the Permian Basin, an area active with energy development in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

Environmentalists object to the same thing federal and Texas state officials and energy groups are rejoicing over: an unprecedented voluntary conservation plan with no means of enforcement.

Federal officials said they expect state governments in Texas and New Mexico, landowners and energy producers to carry through on their states’ respective plans to conserve and restore the lizard’s habitat. If not, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service can always move to list the lizard as an endangered species again.

To read more Click Here


Cable-free node deployed near Pecos in the Permian Basin in west Texas. Photos courtesy of FairfieldNodal

Seismic data acquisition systems dubbed cableless, wireless, cable-free, no-cable, etc. were viewed as a kind of novelty in the industry only a few years ago.

That has changed dramatically as the success stories emanating from increased numbers of field applications are being reported evermore often.

It had to happen, not just offshore but also on land in particular.

Think about seismic crew members traipsing around rugged, inhospitable terrain lugging the heavy, cumbersome cables and accompanying equipment required by cable systems, the longtime industry stalwart.

Then consider the cost and time to load and move all of this weight via helicopter – a transport frequently necessary to reach the often-inaccessible areas where data must be acquired.

There are other issues.

Besides the potential to leave an undesirable environmental footprint using cable systems, gnawing sharp-teeth varmints feast on these wires wherever possible – troubleshooting, anyone?

Even ordinary thunderstorms pose a risk.

“A lot of wire on the ground is a big problem where you have thunderstorm activity because of the static it generates into the cable,” said Darin Silvernagle, vice president of technology at SAExploration, or SAE, (nee NES LLC). “When you have 400 miles of wire laid out on the ground, static can be a big problem.”

The available cableless, i.e. nodal, land systems include the FairfieldNodal ZLand® system and its transition zone, shallow water counterpart Z700, INNOVA HAWK®, Sercel UNITE and OYO GSR, among others.

Nodal systems are designed to meet a number of industry needs:

  • More flexible acquisition geometries, e.g. wide and full azimuth for land surveys.
  • Reduced downtime and maintenance.
  • Increased productivity.
  • Improved health, safety and environment conditions (HSE).
  • Enhanced access to challenging locales.

To read more CLICK HERE

From the New York Times:


Published: June 13, 2012

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration is pursuing a plan to limit the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing to portions of several struggling New York counties along the border with Pennsylvania, and to permit it only in communities that express support for the technology.

The plan, described by a senior official at the State Department of Environmental Conservation and others with knowledge of the administration’s strategy, would limit drilling to the deepest areas of the Marcellus Shale rock formation, at least for the next several years, in an effort to reduce the risk of groundwater contamination.

Even within that southwest New York region — primarilyBroome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga Counties — drilling would be permitted only in towns that agree to it, and would be banned in Catskill Park, aquifers and nationally designated historic districts.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations in the administration are still continuing.

 To read more CLICK HERE

Ethics Meeting

Thursday, July 19

Oil Spills, Ethics and Society:
How they intersect and where the responsibilities reside
Dr. W.C. ‘Rusty’ Riese,
AAPG Distinguised Speaker

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp recently announced the formation of a new A&M system center to address multiple water issues in and develop solutions for Texas.

Texas AgriLife ResearchTexas AgriLife Extension ServiceTexas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) and Texas A&M University–San Antonio are collaborating on the development of the Water Conservation and Technology Center, which will support high priority projects that focus on Texas’ water issues.

“The state of Texas has a rich history that has always been linked to water—rights, conservation and control. This unique agency collaboration will lead to development of more efficiency and effectiveness in managing this vital resource,” Sharp said.

Administered by the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI), the center will increase the System’s ability to meet existing and emerging statewide needs in water conservation and technology, according to Dr. Neal Wilkins, TWRI director.

“The center will accelerate the development and adoption of new and innovative technologies to solve emerging water problems and meet future water supply needs,” Wilkins said.

The center includes a collaborative relationship with TEES through the Texas Center for Applied Technology (TCAT) and will be located at the TEES South Presa campus in San Antonio.

Cindy Wall, TCAT executive director, said the center will target its work on four high priority efforts: water conservation, water reuse, groundwater desalination and energy development and water use.

“The center will establish a team of scientists, engineers and water professionals dedicated to applied research and development, testing and validation, technology transfer, and training and extension education in these four areas,” Wall said.

The center will work with industry, state and federal agencies, municipalities, trade associations, and other research institutions to undertake projects and develop solutions within these four areas.


Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Christopher C. Mathewson of College Station to the Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2017. The board licenses and regulates the public practice of geoscience.

Mathewson is a regents professor emeritus and a senior professor of geology at Texas A&M University. He is a licensed professional engineer in Texas and Arizona, and a licensed professional geologist in Texas and Oregon. He is a life member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Society of American Military Engineers, a fellow of the Geological Society of America, and is a member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Division of Environmental Geosciences, and the American Geophysical Union. He is also a member of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical & Petroleum Engineers, American Institute of Professional Geologists, the International Association of Engineering Geologists, the International Code Council, National Association of Geology Teachers and the South African Institute of Engineering Geologists. Mathewson is also a member of the Council of Examiners of the National Association of State Boards of Geology and participates in the writing and review of the licensure examination for professional geologists. He is past president and former executive director of the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists, and is past chairman of the Texas Section of the Association of Engineering Geologists, the Geological Society of America Engineering Geology Division, and the U.S. National Committee for International Association of Engineering Geologists. He is past president of the American Geological Institute and a former trustee of the Geological Society of America Foundation. He also served as a commissioned officer in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Mathewson received a bachelor’s degree from Case Institute of Technology, and a master’s degree and Doctorate of Geological Engineering from the University of Arizona.

From Energy In Depth

1) Why the huge difference between what EPA found in its monitoring wells and what was detected in private wells from which people actually get their water?

  • Contrary to what was reported yesterday, the compounds of greatest concern detected by EPA in Pavillion weren’t found in water wells that actually supply residents their water – they were detected by two “monitoring wells” drilled by EPA outside of town.
  • After several rounds of EPA testing of domestic drinking water wells in town, only one organic compound (bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate) was found to exceed state or federal drinking water standards – an additive in plastics and one of the most commonly detected organic compounds in water. According to EPA: “Detections in drinking water wells are generally below established health and safety standards.”
  • Bruce Hinchey, president of Petroleum Association of Wyoming: “Let me be clear, the EPA’s findings indicate that there is no connection between oil and natural gas operations and impacts to domestic water wells.” (PAW press release, Dec. 8, 2011)
  • In contrast, EPA found “a wide variety of organic chemicals” in its two monitoring wells, with greater concentrations found in the deeper of the two. The only problem? EPA drilled its monitoring wells into a hydrocarbon-bearing formation. Think it’s possible that could explain the presence of hydrocarbons?
  • According to governor of Wyoming: “The study released today from EPA was based on data from two test wells drilled in 2010 and tested once that year and once in April, 2011. Those test wells are deeper than drinking wells. The data from the test wells was not available to the rest of the working group until a month ago.” (Gov. Mead press release, issued Dec. 8, 2011)

2) After reviewing the data collected by Region 8, why did EPA administrator Lisa Jackson tell a reporter that, specific to Pavillion, “we have absolutely no indication now that drinking water is at risk”? (video available here)

  • Of note, Administrator Jackson offered those comments to a reporter from energyNOW! a full week after Region 8 publicly released its final batch of Pavillion data. In that interview, Jackson indicates that she personally analyzed the findings of the report, and was personally involved in conversations and consultations with staff, local officials, environmental groups, the state and the operator.
  • After reviewing all that information, and conducting all those interviews, if the administrator believed that test results from EPA’s monitoring wells posed a danger to the community, why would she say the opposite of that on television?
  • And if she believed that the state of Wyoming had failed to do its job, why would she – in that same interview – tell energyNOW! that “you can’t start to talk about a federal role [in regulating fracturing] without acknowledging the very strong state role.” (2:46) A week later, why did she choose to double-down on those comments in an interview with Rachel Maddow, telling the cable host that “states are stepping up and doing a good job”? (9:01, aired Nov. 21, 2011)

3) Did all those chemicals that EPA used to drill its monitoring wells affect the results?

  • Diethanolamine? Anionic polyacrylamide? Trydymite? Bentonite? Contrary to conventional wisdom, chemicals are needed to drill wells, not just fracture them – even when the purpose of those wells has nothing to do with oil or natural gas development.
  • In this case, however, EPA’s decision to use “dense soda ash” as part of the process for drilling its monitoring wells could have proved a bad one.
  • One of the main justifications EPA uses to implicate hydraulic fracturing as a source of potential contamination is the high pH readings it says it found in its monitoring wells. But dense soda ash has a recorded pH (11.5) very similar to the level found in the deep wells, creating the possibility that the high pH recorded by EPA could have been caused by the very chemicals it used to drill its own wells.
  • According to Tom Doll, supervisor of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: “More sampling is needed to rule out surface contamination or the process of building these test wells as the source of the concerning results.” (as quoted in governor’s press release, Dec. 8, 2011)