A Quick Whirl Around The Fracking World:
*Everywhere. Are oil prices plummeting because of “increased US production, slowing economies in Europe and China and steady production from . . . Opec”? Or an attempt to put the squeeze on Russia and Iran? Or is Saudi Arabia sitting out the price drop until it proves too much for US oil frackers and they “move out of the business”? Will falling prices lead to Venezuela defaulting on its debt, taking “painful steps” that will lead to more political instability? Will Egypt’s former petroleum minister’s prediction of $60/barrel pan out? More, including a graph showing the “break-even” point for oil-producing countries, excluding US.
*Everywhere. The sudden decrease in international oil prices—whatever the cause—is benefitting some countries, the oil importing ones. That list used to be headed by the US; this year China surged to the top.
*Everywhere. Eight conservation experts from several major universities say we have “significant ‘knowledge gaps’ as to how shale-gas operations impact ecosystems and wildlife.” There’s a huge data gap in reporting “on spills, wastewater disposal and the composition of fracturing fluids.” (Related item at WV below.)
*US-France. Researchers claim they’ve figured out to “distinguish fracking wastewater pollution from other contamination that results from other industrial processes—such as conventional oil and gas drilling”. Frackers are not required to disclose the chemicals they use, but the new process by-passes that problem.
*US. Some frackers are reportedly “using 10,000 tons of sand for one well [which is] a mile long train of sand, to just frac one well”, says US Silica Holdings Chief Executive. They’re anticipating producing 14 million tons of fracking sand by 2016.
*US. Frackers have a way around federal law requiring “a permit before using diesel fuel in the drilling process.” Diesel contains benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. Why not just use benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene separately since there’s no law against them? Not only that, but they can be obtained in an even stronger state when purchased separately.
*CA. InterState Oil Co. will “stop loading train shipments of crude oil at McClellan Business Park” in Sacramento beginning November 5th. EarthJustice filed suit in September, arguing that no full environmental impact review, as required, was made prior to issuing InterState a permit “to transfer what is believed to be highly flammable North Dakota crude oil from trains to tanker trucks bound for Bay Area oil refiners.” EarthJustice has also sued to halt Kern County’s planned “largest crude-by-rail project in the state.”
*CA. That ballot measure in Santa Barbara County prohibiting fracking is becoming “one of the most expensive local ballot initiatives in history” since the oil and gas industry has targeted it. Chevon is reportedly spending $2.5 million in opposition, Aera Energy “almost $2.1 million”, Occidental Petroleum $2 million. Proponents of the measure have about $300,000.
*CA. Kevin De Leon is the new President Pro Tem of the CA Senate. Chevon (at $25,000) and ExxonMobil (at $4,000) contributed to the California Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation which gave $50,000 to De Leon’s inauguration. De Leon did vote for the recent fracking moratorium bill, but three Democrats who voted ‘nay’ and two who abstained, are reportedly members of the Latino Caucus.
*NC. A petition to reinstate a ban on fracking “and horizontal drilling for natural gas”, signed by 59,500 people, was delivered by the Frack Free N.C. Alliance to the governor and other elected officials.
*ND. Well, hip hip hooray, or whatever: Cumulative oil production in the Bakken and Three Forks formations in ND has reached 1 billion barrels.
*ND. Seems an XTO Energy oil well in McKenzie County was out-of-control “for more than two days”, leaking oil, gas and brine, reportedly 650 barrels of oil and 520 barrels of brine. The well is now under control and the situation is being assessed.
*ND. Since they didn’t spend the money to capture it, an estimated one-third of ND’s natural gas “has been flared rather than sold to customers or consumed on-site.” However, they’re planning to flare only 26% by the end of the year, with the goal of 10% by 2020.
*PA. Gov. Tom Corbett (R), a friend to fracking (see here and here, for examples), has a picture of an African-American woman standing beside and smiling at him on his re-election website. Turns out, it was photoshopped. Another subject, another flub.
*SD. Three-way race underway for retiring Democratic Senator Tim Johnson’s seat. Republican Gov. Mike Rounds supports the Keystone XL Pipeline, former-Republican-now-Independent Larry Pressler doesn’t think it’s particularly necessary and Democrat Rick Weiland is wholeheartedly against it. Update: Per the polls: Rounds at 36.3%, Weiland at 31.3%, Pressler at 26%. However, Pressler’s “Former Staffers” have launched a big ad campaign for him.
*WV. Scientists have field-tested geochemical tracers that “can identify hydraulic fracturing flowback fluids that have been spilled or released into the environment . . . and distinguish them from wastewater coming from other sources”.
*Canada. Falling oil prices to delay Conservatives’ promised tax cuts?
*Canada. A Russian container ship loaded with oil and mining equipment lost power and began drifting toward Moresby Island (or Gwaii Haanas to the Haidu) off the coast of British Columbia. Update: All is well, but the “incident is likely to rekindle debate over oil tanker safety on the Canadian West Coast, the expected terminus of the Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Enbridge. Map is here.
*Bolivia. In 2003, over 60 people were killed during the so-called Gas War during the administration of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada who “is currently living freely in the US”. Last Friday, thousands marched in El Alto, demanding Sanchez de Lozana and his Defense Minister Carlos Sanchez de Berzain be extradited so they can be tried for the “many widows, orphans and injured people that are still demanding justice.” Inspiring photos.
*UK. In London, Tories are raising the specter of hostile environmentalists and greenies standing in the way of a marvelous economic opportunity brought on by fracking south of London. Is London Mayor Boris Johnson aligning with the Cameron-Osborne pro-fracking “Coalition”?
*UK. The University of Glasgow has agreed to divest fossil fuels, and now there’s a campaign—Move Your Money— to have customers of HSBC, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds and Santander threaten “ to withdraw their money unless [the banks] commit to a five-to-10-year plan to pull out of investments that contribute to climate change.”
*Russia-France. The CEO of the French oil company Total died when his plane met with a snow-clearing machine at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport. Christophe de Margerie, the CEO, was Russia’s ally. Total has had a series of upsets over the years, not due to tragedy, but to bad decisions. As for the accident itself, you might be interested in Emptywheel’s take.
*Russia-India-Iran. Seems India will be paying Russia for oil that will actually be coming from Iran to India, and Russia will assume “the risk of routing the funds to Tehran.” Not only that, but the money changing hands also changes currencies as it moves along its way.