Fines for oil and gas accidents, in the US and Scotland

There is a commonly held belief that US Courts award larger monetary fines and penalties than European Courts. This perhaps can be tested by some recent comparisons. BP paid $18.7Bn in fines to the US Government after the Macondo blowout in 2010, after already having paid $42Bn in the settlement of criminal and civil suits, and trust fund payments. The blast killed 11 people and discharged 686,000 tonnes of oil into the sea.

The Total Elgin blow-out

In the UK, Total E+P experienced a blow-out on the Elgin offshore platform in 2012, which caused considerable inconvenience to neighbouring offshore operators, where production and other drilling work had to be suspended. The high pressure natural gas leak continued for 51 days. The accident led to a total discharge of 6000 tonnes of gas and condensate into the atmosphere. Closing the well down cost Total around $127m, but also they lost production output from the Elgin-Franklin project for around a year.

Last year the Scottish Courts fined Total E+P $1.67million for the mistakes that led to the discharge and pollution. This makes the Scottish fine per tonne of gas discharge on Total around 1% of the US fine imposed on BP, per tonne of oil discharge. Is this factor a measure of the difference between oil and gas, or the difference between the Courts?

What does this mean for SoCalGas?

Southern California Gas has currently a problem with a major gas leak from the Aliso Canyon gas storage well, which is an abandoned oil well used to store natural gas. This blew in October last year, and is on schedule to be stopped by the end of March. The Californian Air Resources Board has monitored the leak rates, which have now reduced significantly, as the reservoir empties. They suggest the discharge to date has been 83,000 tonnes of methane, also suggesting this is 2.1m metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

On the basis of a Scottish Court fine, pro-rata for the discharge of 83,000 tonnes, SoCalGas would face a fine of $23m, if it were based in Scotland. If the US Courts treat a gas discharge in the same way as an oil discharge, then following the BP example, the fine will be 100x greater, or around $2Bn. I think it is more likely that US Courts, even with their normal high value fines, will view air pollution and global warming as far less significant than oil pollution and damage to their local sea environment and beaches. We will wait for some years to see what the fine will be.

Feb 10: UK Courts fine ConocoPhillips

February 10th: Another UK Court ruling relates to ConocoPhillips, who have been fined GBP3m ($4.5m approx) over three dangerous gas releases on the Lincolnshire Offshore Gas Gathering System (LOGGS) between 30 November and 1 December 2012. In the first incident 603Kg of hydrocarbon gas was released.

The fine was related more to the lack of proper procedures and danger posed by the release, to the offshore workers, than the environmental damage.

References

For the SoCalGas leak information website, see www.AlisoUpdates.com.

For the Californian ARB website: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/aliso_canyon_natural_gas_leak.htm

For the original INSIDER comment on this topic, see https://nickdenbow.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/us-climate-change-contribution/

(c) Nick Denbow – Processingtalk.info

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US climate change contribution

….65 tonnes per hour of methane, discharging to atmosphere for 6 months!

The Climate Change conference in Paris, in December, was bracketed by yet more “once in 200 year” floods in Northwest England, and followed, or maybe even preceded, by the UK Government announcing the cancellation of CCS research support, and all subsidies to solar power. OK they are now rethinking solar power subsidy.

But the USA was already digging itself deeper into the mire by having a major methane gas leak in California. Already, the methane gas leak from underground storage tanks had been venting to atmosphere for two months when they sat down at the table. The problem is, current plans to stop the leak will take three further months, if it works. Why can’t the US machine do it faster?

So at 65 metric tonnes per hour of gas discharge of methane, this is 1560 T per day; 46,800 T per month; and 234 thousand tonnes over the five months of the leak, all things being well.

Now methane is 70 times more damaging to the atmosphere than CO2, so that means the leak will be equivalent to 16 million, 380 thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide, released into the atmosphere because of a leak that was not ‘controllable by the US industry involved’, from natural gas storage, presumably it was storing their fracked gas. We don’t get told the equivalent of this air pollution in terms of vehicle emissions or power station homes supplied with power: maybe we should measure it in terms of numbers of houses flooded, and cyclone casualties instead?

Actually, it can be measured against one of the biggest coal fired stations in the UK, Longannet in Scotland. Longannet power station is closing because it consumes 1000 Tonnes of coal per hour, say that is 4000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per hour. It does not have any CCS capture technology, so it is closing because it is a major source of European pollution.
The gas leak in California is 65T per hour methane, equivalent to 4550 Tonnes per hour of CO2 equivalent.
So this one gas leak is more polluting than one of the UK power stations that is now paying fines for its pollution emissions!
Are the US owners of this methane storage facility paying any fines for their climate damage? Does anyone in the USA care about this enough to put a major effort in to close the leak in less than another three months, maybe, if everything works like they hope?

See http://www.hazardexonthenet.net/article/107539/Massive-gas-leak-from-California-underground-storage-reservoir-causes-1-800-families-to-relocate.aspx?

January 2016 Update:

The leak rate has slowed considerably over the past months, and the Californian Air Resources Board reckon the total discharge to date has been about 83,000 tonnes of methane. They consider the well storage is being exhausted. This equates to 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. SoCalGas suggest the leak capping process will be completed in the month of March.

February 2016 Update:

On Feb 11th SoCalGas announced that they had completed the drilling down to intercept the base of the leaking well, and they had succeeded in plugging the flow with heavy mud followed up by cement. So the leak had been stopped – but it was probably stopped anyway, all the gas having been exhausted. 11,300 residents can now return to their homes.

More important is that attention has now been focussed on the problem of these leaky old wells used for gas storage, and the Los Angeles Daily News has the bit between its teeth and is turning investigative reporters onto similar stories. Main focus is on the Hattiesburg Gas Storage site in Mississippi and Lake Gas Storage site in Texas.

 

Emerson helps Qatargas LNG recover jetty boil-off gas

Emerson Process Management has provided automation and engineering services for a Qatargas project that will hopefully reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.6 million tonnes annually. Now fully operational, the Jetty Boil-Off Gas (JBOG) Recovery facility is the biggest of its kind and one of the largest environmental investments in the world. It is expected to recover more than 600,000 tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year – equivalent to the energy supply for more than 300,000 homes.

The facility is designed to recover the gas flared during LNG loading at the six LNG berths in Ras Laffan Port. The gas is compressed and sent to the Qatargas and RasGas LNG production facilities for use as fuel, or to be re-converted to LNG.

Emerson won this contract based on its leadership in oil and gas automation technologies, services, and expertise. Emerson specialists managed key elements of the project including automation engineering, configuration, startup, training, commissioning support and other services.

“Without Emerson’s highly skilled team, completing the project would have been vastly harder,” said Michael Koo, the Qatargas Project Manager.

The Emerson automation solution for the project used their DeltaV distributed control system to control and monitor operations, as well as Fisher control valves and Rosemount measurement instruments.

“The Emerson team welcomed this opportunity to help Qatargas execute the project safely, reliably and efficiently,” said Alvinne Rex Abaricia, Emerson’s senior programme manager for Qatargas. “We were able to apply flexible approaches to increase efficiency, such as testing hardware and software in parallel, and brought in dozens of experts from our own organisation as well as other suppliers to manage interfaces between existing and new systems.”

The $1 billion JBOG project is a landmark for the State of Qatar, demonstrating its commitment to balance industrial expansion with care for the environment.

Emerson acquires Cascade Technologies

The acquisition is intended to expand Emerson’s gas analysis portfolio, adding laser-based measurement analysers and systems for enhanced industrial emissions monitoring, production efficiencies and regulatory compliance.

Emerson has announced that it has acquired Cascade Technologies Ltd, based in Stirling in Scotland, UK, a leading manufacturer of gas analysers and monitoring systems using their Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) technology. This innovative technology measures multiple gases simultaneously, helping companies improve industrial emissions monitoring, production efficiencies and environmental compliance.

Emerson is expanding its analytical measurement capabilities by adding this innovative laser technology to its Rosemount Analytical gas analysis portfolio.  QCL technology provides a step change in gas analyser performance through its increased sensitivity, speed of response, and fingerprinting capability. These technology advances in the gas analysis market space provide a powerful solution for customers in various industries such as petrochemical, food and beverage, marine, automotive and pharmaceutical. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

“The acquisition of Cascade Technologies is an exciting step as we further strengthen our gas analysis portfolio,” said Tom Moser, group vice president of Emerson Process Management’s measurement and analytical businesses. “Our customers depend upon Emerson to solve their toughest analytical measurement problems. We are now better positioned to serve that need.”

Dr. Iain Howieson, chief executive officer of Cascade Technologies, added: “Joining a global leader like Emerson represents an incredible opportunity for business growth. The Emerson global presence and market leadership will have an immediate impact on the adoption of cutting edge QCL gas analysers and monitoring systems.”

CCS and Government funding for innovation

The UK Government has announced that it will provide GBP100m ($160m) for FEED work on two Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, which by 2015 will be submitted for review in a GBP1Bn commercialization competition, which will lead to support for the design and construction of commercial scale CCS. The two initial projects supported are at the Peterhead natural gas driven CCGT power station, in Scotland, and at the Drax solid fuel power station, in England.

Peterhead CCGT CCS Project

All initial press coverage was devoted to the Scottish investment, as the London-based UK Government is trying to show how they support Scotland, in the face of a possible Scottish devolution vote in September. Here Shell and Scottish and Southern Electricity plan to capture up to 10m tonnes of CO2 over 10 years, ie over 85% of the CO2 emissions, and transport this by pipeline offshore to the depleted Goldeneye gas reservoir, 100km away under the North Sea. The gas could then potentially be used for enhanced oil recovery projects in other North Sea oil wells. The CO2 capture process here is based on the use of amine solvents to treat the exhaust gases.

White Rose CCS Project

The second FEED project financed is the White Rose CCS Project, run by Capture Power Ltd, a consortium of Alstom, Drax Power and BOC. The project will involve the creation of a new oxy-fuel combustion plant, where coal is burnt in pure oxygen to produce a stream of 2m tonnes a year of pure CO2: it would be based at Drax power station, which is a coal and biomass fuelled plant, located inland at Selby, Yorkshire. A new 17m tonnes pa pipeline by the Yorkshire Humber CCS Trunkline would transport the gas to storage offshorein saline aquifers – this is being developed by National Grid Carbon Ltd, and would serve a cluster of CCS plants around the Humber estuary.

Other CCS Projects by Shell

Shell is already participating in a number of CCS projects worldwide including the largest CO2 capture demonstration facility in the world, the European CO2 Technology Centre in Mongstad, Norway.  In January 2013, Cansolv Technologies Inc (a Shell group company), working in partnership with RWE npower, successfully captured the first tonne of CO2 at the Aberthaw Power Station in South Wales, the world’s first integrated sulphur dioxide and CO2 capture plant. Cansolv Technologies is also providing the CO2 capture technology for the SaskPower Boundary Dam project. This C$1.35Bn development will see the integration of a rebuilt coal-fired 110MW power generation unit with carbon capture technology. The facility will be fully commercial by the summer of 2014, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1m tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per annum. Also in Canada, Shell announced plans in 2012 to progress with the Quest CCS project.

Different approaches between the UK and USA over funding

In the UK, the Government-funded Technology Strategy Board suggests which areas of technology and innovation should receive encouragement: for each identified major subject area, a ‘Knowledge Transfer Network’ is established, to facilitate the relevant UK innovation communities of manufacturers, users and researchers to connect, collaborate and find out about new opportunities in key research and technology sectors. Priority areas are established where seed funding is made available to promote further projects. Typical relevant areas are advanced materials; the digital economy; high value manufacturing; energy and greenhouse gases; electronics, sensors and photonics.  The EU runs similar schemes, for example on robots, and Carbon capture/storage (CCS).

Last Month the INSIDER reported on a visit by President Obama to Vacon Drives in North Carolina, where he started the second manufacturing innovation hub, concentrating on energy efficient electronic systems. In another presentation he has announced that four new US hubs are planned this year. A hub in Detroit, Michigan will concentrate on advanced lightweight materials, and a major hub in Chicago, started with $70m of Dept of Defense funding, but supplemented by $250m of State and private funding, will concentrate on ‘Digital Manufacturing design and Innovation’ taking advantage of digital technology and data management. This already involves 40 companies, 23 Universities and 200 small businesses. Obama believes Germany has over 60 such hubs, which develop the ideas, then the production, and then train the workers: so why should the USA not learn from this model, to re-invigorate US manufacturing industry? Obama hopes that Congress will follow his lead.

 

 

E+H acquires Kaiser Optical Systems

Endress+Hauser is to acquire the US company Kaiser Optical Systems. Regulatory authorities in the United States have approved that the former parent company, Rockwell Collins, is to complete the transaction initially announced in August. The acquisition is effective from 22 November 2013.

Kaiser Optical Systems is a world leader in spectrographic instrumentation and applied holographic technology. Principal products include Raman sensors and instrumentation, advanced holographic components for spectroscopy, telecommunications, astronomy and ultra-fast sciences, and display systems for aircraft.

The company employs a staff of 76 in its headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Seven employees in an office in Lyon, France, coordinate European sales activities. The terms of the transaction will not be disclosed.

Technology with high value

The Kaiser Optical Systems core competencies are in the field of Raman spectroscopy. This technology is based on the interaction of an inclined beam of light with the material analyzed: single photons transmit energy on molecules, and reciprocally also molecules transfer energy on single photons. The resulting light diffusion creates a specific pattern for every material – comparable to a fingerprint – and thus provides information on composition and consistency.

Kaiser Optical analyzers work fast, reliably and precisely and can also be used on inline processes. “That’s the big potential of advanced analytics,” said Klaus Endress, CEO of the Endress+Hauser Group, emphasizing the strategic dimension of the acquisition. “Raman technology can replace laborious sample-taking and consequent laboratory analysis, enabling customers to continuously control quality and optimize their processes.”

Rockwell Collins

Rockwell Collins Inc is a pioneer in the development and deployment of innovative communication and aviation electronic solutions for both commercial and government applications. The expertise in flight deck avionics, cabin electronics, mission communications, information management, and simulation and training is delivered by approximately 19,000 employees, and a global service and support network that crosses 27 countries.

PAC adds oil in water analyzers

PAC, the Houston based provider of advanced analytical instruments for laboratories and online process applications,  announce that Advanced Sensors, a supplier of oil in water analyzers, has joined the PAC team. Advanced Sensors has served oil and gas and marine customers with such accurate and reliable process analyzers since 2006.

The Advanced Sensors oil in water analyzers help to ensure process and environmental control by giving early warning indicators of leaks and discharges. Advanced Sensors has combined numerous technologies, such as ultrasonics, fluorescence, video microscopy, optical spectrometry and mass spectrometry, to ensure that its analyzers stay clean and provide precise readings.

“Advanced Sensors provides a proprietary technology that is the preferred choice when customers focus on meeting their regulatory oil in water discharge requirements with confidence. This technology will make the PAC Process Analytics division even stronger and more competitive,” said Eric Schellenberger, PAC President. “With its strong product technology and its penetration in the oil and gas production market segment, Advanced Sensors will enable PAC to deliver a highly differentiated technology to our current process refining customers and expand our market penetration in the upstream market.”