Natural Resources & Energy

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Protesters are gathering in Gillette this week to demonstrate against the Patriot Coal Company during Arch and Peabody Coal’s annual shareholder meetings. Patriot was formed in 2007 when Peabody unloaded its operations east of the Mississippi, along with its long-term health care obligations to some of its retirees. Arch formed a similar company, called Magnum, which was later acquired by Patriot along with another set of benefited retirees.  However, Patriot filed bankruptcy last summer, citing “substantial and unsustainable legacy costs.”

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission recently okayed an aquifer exemption that would permit Encana Oil and Gas to pump waste water from their oil and gas projects in the Moneta Divide into the Madison Aquifer, about 60 miles outside of Casper. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that the exemption isn’t exactly a rarity, but it does bring up some big questions.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has been running an Engine Emissions Study for almost two years now. For the most part, Wyoming oil and gas fields are not connected to the grid and so they end up running on engines, which emit pollutants into the air. The study set out to evaluate emissions from these generators around the state. Results from the study show that a large percentage of the engines fail the tests. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov spoke with the DEQ Air Quality Engineer in charge of the study, Jon Walker, about why that is.

Over the years, many researchers have looked at a variety of research and economic development projects using Wyoming coal.  The idea is to open up new markets for it and to make it more viable for businesses and the public to use.  Much of this has surrounded coal gasification.   There has been a belief that coal could be used as a form of liquid fuel.  That was especially useful when oil supplies appeared limited in the United States…but as the country entered a technology revolution and opened up more resources…the interest dropped.  Experts say that the other reason interest has waned i

‘Gasland’ is a documentary about the negative effects of natural gas drilling. The narrator in the movie is seeking answers about natural gas development in light of a growing play around his own home in the Delaware River Basin, and his inquiries take him on a road trip to communities around the U.S. that have already been drilled into and have something to say about it. When the movie came out, it made big waves, and ‘Gasland-2’ premiers this weekend. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports on what’s changed since the first movie came out in 2010.

Public interest groups that lost a suit about disclosing fracking chemicals are appealing that decision to the Wyoming Supreme Court. Groups like Earthjustice and the Powder River Basin Resource Council argue that the separate chemicals used in the fracking process should be public information under the Wyoming Public Records Act.  A Wyoming District court Judge sided in March with the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission as well as industry when it ruled that not disclosing chemical identities when they are deemed a trade secret is permissible.

The University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources is working to forge a relationship with Saudi Arabia’s national oil and gas company, Saudi Aramco, and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. Saudi Aramco is the biggest oil and gas company in the world and invests heavily in research and development. SER Director, Mark Northam, just returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia. He says Wyoming and Saudi Arabia face similar challenges when it comes to unconventional reservoirs and water shortages, and he says they would both benefit by sharing their resources.

The Environmental Protection Agency is asking for more information from Encana Oil and Gas before signing off on the company’s request for an aquifer exemption. Encana wants to pump waste water into the Madison Aquifer from their oil and gas field in the Moneta Divide. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has already approved the request, but the EPA says the modeling of the plume that Encana did is too broad and the agency wants more information about why, according to Encana, the relatively clean water can’t be used for other purposes .

Department of Energy EIA

The Sierra Club says it plans to sue railroad and coal companies in 60 days for spilled coal in the Northwest, and sent out letters of intent to the parties. The environmental group has been testing land and water around railroad tracks, and claims to have found pieces of coal and coal dust that, they say, blows off the train cars from mines in Wyoming and Montana.

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission is recognizing two Wyoming mines for their reclamation efforts. The IMCC represents environmental protection interests and awards one non-coal and one coal project each year. The M-I SWACO Bentonite Mine in Big Horn County won the non-coal award and the Bridger Coal Mine received honorable mention in the coal category.

Department of Environmental Quality spokesman, Keith Guille, says the IMCC only gives two awards each year and it’s significant that Wyoming was recognized for both.

Feedback Sought on Possible Wind Power Line

Mar 28, 2013

A proposed wind power transmission line wants feedback on its proposed route.  The Zephyr Power Transmission Project is an approximately 850-mile transmission line that would deliver wind energy generated in eastern Wyoming to population centers in the southwestern U.S. As proposed, the project will begin at the Pathfinder Wind Energy Development near Chugwater, cross portions of Colorado and Utah, and end up near the Eldorado Valley, just south of Las Vegas.  

Willow Belden

BOB BECK: The Department of Environmental Quality has released a plan for tackling the ozone problem in Sublette County. Emissions from the energy industry there have combined to form a type of pollution called ozone, which can be a health hazard. Ozone levels have been so high that they violate federal standards, and the Environmental Protection Agency has given Wyoming three years to fix the problem.

Willow Belden

Sublette County has an ozone problem. Ozone is produced by emissions from the oil and gas fields and contributes to smog, which can cause health problems.  Several times in the past few years, ozone levels have exceeded federal limits, and the Environmental Protection Agency has given Wyoming three years to fix the problem. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has been working with local residents and industry to come up with a solution. But that’s hard to do, because nobody understands the exact chemistry of ozone formation.

Courtesy of Pinedale Online

Last year, a task force of citizens, energy industry reps, and local leaders got together to tackle the ozone problem in Sublette County. They came up with a list of recommendations for the Department of Environmental Quality. Among other things, they called for tougher regulations on industry and more rigorous air quality monitoring. In January, the Department of Environmental Quality met with the task force to discuss how they would respond to the recommendations. They said nothing was off the table, but that some recommendations could take a long time to implement.

Coal producers in the U.S. are looking to markets abroad to make up for decreasing demand at home. But a recent investigation by Thomson Reuters news service suggests there might be royalty underpayments on those shipments. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that royalty question is still unresolved.

University of Wyoming just initiated a new program out of its burgeoning School of Energy Resources. The professional land management concentration will train landmen. Those are people who look for untapped oil and gas and other resources and negotiate contracts between their owners and companies that want to develop them.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that the program is just in time.

[sound from meeting]

Sublette County violates federal air quality standards, because of high levels of ozone, or smog. The ozone forms when emissions from oil and gas development mix together, under certain weather conditions. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality is responsible for fixing the problem, but there are a lot of unknowns about how ozone forms. Now, researchers at the University of Wyoming are trying to find some answers. We’re joined now by Rob Field. He’s an atmospheric scientist, and he’s been monitoring air quality in Sublette County for several years. to find some answers.

The School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming is funded in large part with money from the energy industry. Other universities have gotten heat lately for not being open enough with their funding sources. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that some stakeholders are concerned about too much influence from energy at UW, but SER promises transparency. 

The Department of Environmental Quality hosted a meeting on Thursday to discuss how it plans to fix Sublette county's air quality problems. Emissions from oil and gas production in the area have caused ozone, or smog, to form at levels that exceed federal limits. Wyoming Public Media's Willow Belden has the story.

Rep. Lummis appointed to US House Subcommittee on Energy

Jan 11, 2013

Wyoming’s Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis has been appointed to chair the U.S. House of Representatives’ Science Subcommittee on Energy. The subcommittee will oversee energy research, development and demonstration projects. Lummis spoke with Rebecca Martinez from the Capitol press room in Cheyenne this week.

Tim Considine is a professor at University of Wyoming and director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy. He’s done research on petroleum markets and written about Powder River Basin Coal. He helped organize a roundtable discussion about coal called “Powder River Basin Coal: Domestic Challenges and International Opportunities,” which took place yesterday, in Gillette…He said the industry has been facing challenges like ongoing uncertainty in regulations, yet coal exports are at record levels.

Willow Belden

In October, we reported that Chesapeake Energy had drilled a series of oil wells near Douglas, very close to people’s houses. Chesapeake says the area will likely continue to be a core drilling region. That has some area residents uneasy. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

Wyoming Republicans in Washington are advocating for phasing out the Wind Production Tax Credit, which has helped give the state a robust energy portfolio. Matt Laslo reports on the future of the tax credit in the near and long term.

Irina Zhorov

J.D. Darnell is a resident of Jeffrey City and has served as Sheriff's Deputy since the 1970s. The town is a lot quieter now than it was during the last uranium boom, which brought miners to the region, and plenty of excitement. That was all over by the mid-80s.Darnell looks back on Jeffrey City then, and now. 

To listen to the entire November 30, 2012 Wyoming Open Spaces program, please click here.

Many fossil fuel developers campaigned against President Obama this election season, fearing the effect of regulations and other restrictions on their industry, while environmental activists called for four more years. Now that Mr. Obama has won a second term, Wyoming Public Radio’s Rebecca Martinez spoke with some stakeholders about what that could mean for the energy industry in Wyoming.

Willow Belden

INTRO: This spring, an oil rig blew out near Douglas. Natural gas spewed into the air, and residents from a nearby neighborhood were evacuated for several days. Since the blowout, Chesapeake Energy has drilled several new wells around that same neighborhood, and residents have new concerns. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

A sculpture, called Carbon Sink, installed on the University of Wyoming campus, has generated a lot of controversy in the past couple of years. It was a pin wheel of charred logs that sought to draw a connection between coal, global warming, and increased beetle kill. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that this supposedly anti-carbon message certainly got the attention of law makers, donors, and those in industry.
 

IRINA ZHOROV: The piece was installed in 2011 and was removed in May of 2012, a year earlier than expected.

The Sinclair Refinery near Rawlins has had four fires or explosions since May, and Wyoming’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has been investigating what went wrong. OSHA has completed its investigation into one of the incidents. It was a fire on May 25, which injured two workers. Wyoming OSHA Administrator John Ysebaert joins us to talk about what they found. He says one of the main problems is that Sinclair wasn’t properly training its workers.

Over the past few years, a growing number of people in Wyoming have been constructing buildings with an eye to making them more energy efficient. But Wyoming still lags behind the rest of the country when it comes to “green” building. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

Bob Beck

Earlier this year we told you about an effort to turn coal into gas in Medicine Bow.  Today DKRW Advanced Fuels has announced that it has secured a contract to its Medicine Bow project with the Sinopec  Engineering Group in based out of China.   Bob Kelly is Executive Chairman and co-founder of DKRW, and he tells Bob Beck that getting an actual bid on the facility puts wheels in motion.  

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