81,000 metric tonnes of methane released since October 23 and growing by the hour
Attempts to plug the 1000 feet deep well leak failed
What contingency plans do Australian gas companies have for a similar catastrophe?
California Governor Jerry Brown finally declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, concerning the ongoing, currently unstoppable methane gas leak spewing from Aliso Canyon that has created a nightmare for residents of Porter Ranch.
“I will tell you, this goes well beyond Porter Ranch. We’ve had complaints from as far as Chatsworth, Northridge, and Granada Hills,” emphasized Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander during a Porter Ranch town hall meeting on December 28. “Apparently this plume of toxic chemicals and whatever it might be, doesn’t know zip codes […] This is the equivalent of the BP oil spill on land, in a populated community.”
Brown has been widely criticized for lack of decisive action on the leak, which is erupting from its underground storage area with all the force “of a volcano.” Under Wednesday’s declaration, “all state agencies will utilize state personnel, equipment, and facilities to ensure a continuous and thorough state response to this incident.”
Porter Ranch residents have been evacuating the area for some time, though SoCalGas’ rather maladroit handling of the relocation procedure has been a nightmare — and the cause for a mounting number of lawsuits, including one from the L.A. city attorney’s office.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer filed a civil lawsuit last month concerning the massive methane leak’s impact on area residents’ health and damage to the environment — which alleged failure by SoCalGas to prevent the leak and further exacerbation of “the effects of that failure by allowing acute odor and health problems faced by the community to persist for more than a month, to say nothing about the indefinite time it will persist into the future.”
Pediatrician Dr. Richard Kang gave an ominous warning during the Porter Ranch meeting, saying, “Unfortunately, the only real way to get away from the symptoms is… you have to relocate — you have to get away from the environment.” Health complaints include severe headaches, nosebleeds, respiratory issues including increasing cases of asthma, and a number of other issues.
SoCalGas, in the meantime, stated they were “providing air filters for people’s homes,” but though “the odor added to the leaking gas can cause symptoms for some, the gas is not toxic and county health officials have said the leak does not pose a long-term health risk.”
But, as the Los Angeles Daily News reported on December 25, “Los Angeles County health officials said prolonged exposure to trace chemicals, some of which are known carcinogens, can cause long-term health effects.” Nevertheless, they also “cautioned that levels examined so far here are not believed to be associated with long-term health problems.”
The gas company says, ‘This is just the smell you’re reacting to, it’s just temporary, it’s not a problem, it’s not serious’ — these people aren’t stupid,” said attorney Rex Paris. “How could somebody possibly say that? We have children whose noses are bleeding every day, we have people who suffer from chronic headaches [and] are nauseous every, single day. How does that not become a serious issue? Why are they saying something nobody here believes? […] They’re trying to convince everybody that it’s all in our heads. It’s a trick.
In fact, as Erin Brockovich pointed out, “no one really knows the long-term side effects of benzene and radon, the carcinogens that are commonly found in natural gas.”
Additionally, area house pets seem particularly vulnerable — possibly acting the part of unwitting canaries — as veterinarian Dr. David Smith described in the town hall meeting. Noting he has seen dozens of sickened animals, Smith said, “I’ve seen dogs, cats, birds, pocket pets… the primary symptoms I’ve seen are gastrointestinal vomiting […]These are not things you should be inhaling.” He added, “We have seen dermatological issues as well, some very unusual bacterial infections in dogs,” including one case in which a dog had such an infection on its face, and “the client developed almost the exact same kind of symptoms soon after that […] their physician thinks it’s related [to exposure from the gas leak] and so I tend to think these correlations are real.”
Though the declaration of emergency states “the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources shall continue its prohibition against Southern California Gas Company injecting any gas into the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility,” it does not make that moratorium dependent on stoppage of the leak; rather, only “until a comprehensive review, utilizing independent experts […] is completed.”
Physician Dr. Brooks Michaels, addressing the town hall meeting, gave the sternest advice to those still in the area surrounding the unprecedented leak:
If you have a chance to leave, if you’re able to leave… if you have a chance to relocate, do it now. I’m telling you, it’s really critical.
Understandably, Brown’s state of emergency seems almost too little, too late for many.
You can watch the Porter Ranch town hall meeting here:
LNG returns wiped out for State Government
from the Maritime Executive
Over a dozen liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers are parked, many idle, in and around Singapore – one of the world’s biggest trading hubs for the fuel – in a sign that the slowdown engulfing world gas markets may be worsening into a crisis.
With Asian spot LNG prices down by almost two-thirds since February 2014 as slowing demand combines with rising output, shipping companies are parking their tankers close to ports like Singapore where unused ships can be easily maintained and serviced until new orders come in.
Leading ship brokers estimate over one-tenth of the global fleet of 400 LNG tankers is currently unused because of slowing growth in Asia’s biggest economies. The impact just in Singapore suggests the problem could be worse.
“There are currently 30 to 40 (oil and gas) tankers sitting in Singapore, many without anything to do,” said Javier Moret, head of LNG origination at Germany’s biggest power producer RWE during a conference in Singapore this week.
According to shipping data on Thomson Reuters, seven tankers have been sitting idle off the east coast of Johor, Malaysia, for over two weeks, and another two ships have been anchored south of Batam, Indonesia, for several months. Half a dozen LNG tankers are in Singaporean docks.
The 15 ships have a combined capacity to carry 2.26 million cubic metres of LNG, about two weeks’ worth of Singapore’s gas demand.
For shipowners, idled tankers mean a loss of $60,000 in daily chartering fees per vessel. The gas these 15 tankers can carry would be worth over $200 million in current market terms.
Around a year ago, that amount of LNG would have been worth almost $600 million.
Singapore’s location between producers in the Middle East, Australia and the Atlantic basin and large consumers in Japan, South Korea and China means that most tankers stop by here to take on fuel or undergo repair and maintenance work.
At least partly triggered by the oil price crash, gas markets have seen an Asian price premium over Europe drop from over $10 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) a year ago to a discount of over $1.50, making it unattractive to ship gas between the two regions and eroding tanker demand.
In Asia, LNG prices have fallen to around $6.90 per mmBtu from over $20/mmBtu a year ago. The benchmark British price, meanwhile, is around $8.50/mmBtu.
The crash in demand in Asia is so severe that some analysts say the future of the entire LNG industry may be impacted.
“The weakness in energy markets is threatening to derail LNG’s emergence as the pre-eminent energy source,” ANZ bank said this week in a research note.
TUMBLING TANKER RATES
Along with energy prices, tanker rates have also tumbled. British-based shipping services firm Clarkson says daily LNG charter rates have fallen from $90,000 in 2013 to $60,000 currently.
“Our view is that LNG freight rates will remain in the doldrums this year,” said Erik Stavseth, shipping analyst at Arctic Securities, adding that he only saw gradual improvement before 2018.
Traders said LNG tankers weren’t just being idled around Singapore, but that this was also an issue in the Atlantic basin where Europe’s economies struggle to return to growth.
The sharp fall in LNG prices and freight costs comes as slowing demand clashes with rising output.
Japan and South Korea, the world’s biggest LNG importers, have both reduced imports as their economies stutter.
An expected restart of Japanese nuclear power stations later this year following a shut-down in the wake of the reactor meltdowns at Fukushima in 2011 is expected to further pull down LNG demand.
With China’s economy growing at its lowest rate in over 20 years, imports there are also slowing, while at the same time as supplies are rising.
Australia’s LNG export capacity is set to more than triple to 86 million tons a year before 2020, putting it ahead of current leader Qatar which exports 77 million tons annually and U.S. expectations of selling 61.5 million tons per year by 2020.
A Mareeba farmer has warned Tableland landowners that dealing with coal seam gas mining companies can take a heavy toll on family life, finances and the environment.
FNQ Lock the Gate Alliance has been holding meetings in the far north campaigning against unconventional gas extraction after an application to explore for coal and gas was made over the historic Mt Mulligan coal field, northwest of Dimbulah.
Speaking at a gathering of landowners at Dimbulah on Sunday, Kane Booth said his involvement with coal seam gas extraction on one of his farming properties had placed a heavy burden on his personal life and distracted from his ability to run the business.
“I have been dealing with gas companies wanting to access our family’s Chinchilla property for five years and it has been a big financial effort to fight them which has placed a hold on our feedlot business forcing us to sell cattle at a loss,” Mr Booth said.
The (CSG) fracking process had already destroyed a part of the underground water aquifer in the district where some water bore levels have dropped and he said that he had seen a film where bore water can be light with a match.
“I am warning the local traditional owners at Mt Mulligan that there will be very little money or jobs in any gas activities and I hope people don’t think they will be getting much work from this industry,” Mr Booth said.
“When the exploration stage finishes there will be no local jobs available because most companies use fly-in-fly-out workers.”
Protest group Knitting Nannas Against Gas (KNAG) spokeswoman Mary-Beth Gundrum said the evidence of adverse health effects from gas wells located near dwellings was overwhelming.
“Families in and around the Tara and Chinchilla areas have been bullied by the gas companies and had their health negatively impacted by fugitive gas,” Ms Gundrum said.
“These gas companies are 83 per cent-foreign owned and do not care about our economy or sending domestic gas prices through the roof.”
Atherton geologist Rob Ryan told the meeting that if proper gas drilling methods were used there was little chance of cross-contamination of water aquifers with gas or fracking chemicals.
He said he believed the Mt Mulligan gas field on its own would not contain sufficient reserves to sustain a local CSG industry.
Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps said Calcifer Industrial Minerals Pty Ltd had applied for a permit under the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 to explore for gas at Mt Mulligan.
“That application is going through a rigorous State Government assessment process and no decisions have yet been made whether or not to grant the permit application,” Mr Cripps said.
If granted, coal seam gas exploration could soon begin at Mt Mulligan.
Dimbulah businesswoman Gaye Taylor, geologist Rob Ryan, Mareeba farmer Kane Booth, and Djungan elder Maxene Thompson attended a coal seam gas meeting held at Dimbulah on Sunday.
Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) has joined forces with FracFocus.ca to get oil and gas companies to publicly disclose information on the fluids used in their hydraulic fracturing operations.
On Wednesday, the NEB signed an agreement with the BC Oil and Gas Commission – which runs the FracFocus website – the US-based Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.
“We understand that Canadians demand that hydraulic fracturing be done safely, responsibly and transparently,” NEB CEO Gaétan Caron noted in a statement. “Joining FracFocus.ca is another step in making sure Canadians have ready access to important information on the process and understand how the NEB promotes safety and environmental protection for these types of activities.”
All companies regulated by the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act will have 30 days after a fracturing operation is complete to post on FracFocus.ca details of their practices and the fluids they used. The areas under this jurisdiction include the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, the Arctic offshore and certain frontier lands and offshore areas not covered by provincial and federal agreements.
The NEB expects this intiative to be fully operational by early 2014.
Hydraulic fracturing is strongly opposed by various environmental groups, primarily because of the chemicals used in the process. Hydraulic fracturing blends are often exempt from disclosure because they’re considered a trade secret.