Oil on Trains

The Department of Transportation is taking steps to address concerns about the safety of transporting oil by rail. The concern is fueled by several severe accidents in 2012 that caused deaths and damage as rail cars carrying oil, especially Bakken oil that seems to be especially volatile, exploded or burned. Recent information about the large number of oil cars that move through highly populated areas has raised additional concerns.

In mid-2013 the industry adopted voluntary actions to improve oil train safety, reducing train speeds to 40 mph in major cities, increasing track inspections and improving emergency response planning. Unsafe tank car designs were not addressed. Many groups considered the voluntary …

EPA Regulation of Induced Seismicity and Injection Wells

UIC Primacy

Induced seismicity frequently is in the news, especially in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Ohio, where an increase in the number of earthquakes may be tied to injection wells.

Induced seismicity has been definitively tied to only one hydraulic fracturing procedure in the U.S. (Okla. Geological Survey, 2011), but seismicity has been associated with a small percentage of disposal wells that, in comparison to hydraulic fracturing, inject much larger volumes over longer periods.

These injection wells are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Underground Injection Control Program (UIC) as Class II wells, and are used for disposal of fluids associated with oil and gas production. EPA reports that …

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The Ukraine Crisis and European Natural Gas Supplies

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that:

  • Europe, including all EU members plus Turkey, Norway, Switzerland, and the non-EU Balkan states, consumed 18.7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas in 2013. For comparison, the U.S. consumed 26 Tcf in 2013.
  • Russia supplied 30% (5.7 Tcf) of this volume, and 16% (3.0 Tcf) of the total natural gas consumed in Europe passed through Ukraine’s pipeline network.
  • Slovakia gets 80 percent of its gas, and Bulgaria gets 90 percent of its gas from Russia via pipeline through Ukraine.

In mid-June, Russia stopped supplying gas to Ukraine as part of a pricing and payment dispute. The Russian government claims that volumes of gas for …

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Global Impacts of U.S. Shale Production

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently published a series of reports assessing how rapid growth in U.S., and possibly global, oil and gas production from shales may impact various net-energy exporting or importing countries.

The reports also consider how the U.S. energy and geopolitical strategies will evolve in light of a changing global energy balance. Perhaps the major unknown that the reports highlight is whether other countries will follow the U.S. in aggressively developing their shale resources. Under most future energy scenarios the CSIS authors considered (ranging from a baseline in which shale gas production is a mostly U.S. phenomenon, to global shale gas production, and tight oil …

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