EPA Issues a Draft Report on Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources

Natural gas drilling and surrounding pollution problemsThis assessment provides a review and synthesis of available scientific literature and data to assess the potential for hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas to impact the quality or quantity of drinking water resources, and identifies factors affecting the frequency or severity of any potential impacts. The scope of this assessment is defined by the hydraulic fracturing water cycle which includes five main activities:

  1. Water acquisition – the withdrawal of ground or surface water needed for hydraulic fracturing fluids;
  2. Chemical mixing – the mixing of water, chemicals, and proppant on the well pad to create the hydraulic fracturing fluid;
  3. Well injection – the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into the well to fracture the geologic formation;
  4. Flowback and Produced water – the return of injected fluid and water produced from the formation to the surface, and subsequent transport for reuse, treatment, or disposal; and
  5. Wastewater treatment and waste disposal – the reuse, treatment and release, or disposal of wastewater generated at the well pad, including produced water.

This report can be used by federal, tribal, state, and local officials; industry; and the public to better understand and address vulnerabilities of drinking water resources to hydraulic fracturing activities. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of published literature and hints on environmental data management challenges facing hydro fracking industry.  For more information please visit Upstream and Hydrofracking Software.

 

For more information and to download report please visit the EPA site: http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/hfstudy/recordisplay.cfm?deid=244651

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Climate Change, Environmental Compliance, Environmental Data Management, hydraulic fracturing, Sustainability Management, Water Footprint, Water Quality, water quality management

Duke Energy Sentenced for Clean Water Act Violations

Neighborhood FloodedThree subsidiaries of North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corporation, the largest utility in the United States, pleaded guilty today to nine criminal violations of the Clean Water Act at several of its North Carolina facilities and agreed to pay a $68 million criminal fine and spend $34 million on environmental projects and land conservation to benefit rivers and wetlands in North Carolina and Virginia. Four of the charges are the direct result of the massive coal ash spill from the Dan River steam station into the Dan River near Eden, North Carolina, in February 2014. The remaining violations were discovered as the scope of the investigation broadened based on allegations of historical violations of environmental laws at the companies’ other facilities.

Under the plea agreement, both Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress, must certify that they have reserved sufficient assets to meet legal obligations with respect to its coal ash impoundments within North Carolina, obligations estimated to be approximately $3.4 billion.

Environmental data management will be an important aspect of enforcing the Judgment imposed by the court. Violations of the Clean Water Act are serious crimes and companies must be vigilant in complying with requirements of the Act. The alleged violations included unlawfully failing to maintain equipment at facilities and unlawfully discharging coal ash and/or coal ash wastewater from impoundments at the Dan River, Asheville and not maintaining proper environmental data and compliance records that could have prevented this disaster.

Duke’s subsidiaries operating 18 facilities in five states, including 14 in North Carolina, will also be required to develop and implement nationwide and statewide environmental compliance programs to be monitored by an independent court appointed monitor and be regularly and independently audited. Results of these audits will be made available to the public to ensure compliance with environmental laws and programs. The companies’ compliance will be overseen by a court-appointed monitor who will report findings to the court and the U.S. Probation Office as well as ensuring public access to the information.

Coal burning has been widely criticized over recent years for contributing to carbon dioxide emissions. A very little discussion took place on dealing with consequences of coal burning to water contamination. Massive amounts of coal ash exist in unlined surface impoundments at many coal-burning power plants throughout the country. This accident is a wakeup call to those facilities to take a better stewardship of this problem.

Posted in Environmental Data Management

A Better Way to Organize and Manage Environmental Compliance Data

Better-Way-to-Organize-and-Manage-Environmental-Compliance-Data

Better-Way-to-Organize-and-Manage-Environmental-Compliance-Data

Current Practice

How do companies currently handle and store their environmental information?

Managing an environmental project (contaminated site, emission source, or GHG inventory) is similar to making a Hollywood movie, with one difference: duration.  A movie is usually made in few months, whereas an environmental project typically spans years or decades.

The work involved in investigating, remediating or monitoring of contaminated or emissions sites is almost universally performed by outside consulting firms. Large companies rarely “put all their eggs in one basket,” choosing instead to apportion their environmental work amongst several to 10, 20, or even more consulting firms.  The actual work at a particular site is generally managed and performed by the nearest local office of the firm that has been assigned to the site.

At larger production facilities such refinery or a Superfund site, the environmental work is likely to span 10, 20, or 30 years while monitoring may continue even longer. Over this period of time, investigations are planned, samples collected, reports written, remedial designs created, and following agency approval, one or more remedies may be implemented. Not only is turnover in personnel commonplace, but owing to the rebidding of national contracts, the firm assigned to do the work typically changes multiple times over the life span of a remedial project.

The investigation of a single large, potentially contaminated site often requires the collection of hundreds or even thousands of samples. A typical sample may be tested for the presence of several hundreds of chemicals, and many locations may be sampled multiple times per year over the course of many years. The end result is an extraordinary amount of information. Keep in mind that this is just for one site. Large companies with manufacturing and/or production facilities often have anywhere from a few to several hundred sites. Those that also have a retail component to their operations (e.g., oil companies) can have thousands of sites. Add to this list compliance and reporting data, engineering studies, real time emission monitoring, and the amount of data becomes staggering and unmanageable by conventional databases and spreadsheets. Given the magnitude and importance of this information, one would expect environmental data management to be a high priority item in the overall strategy of any company subject to environmental laws and regulations. But this is not so; instead, our surveys of the industry reveal that a large portion of information sits in spreadsheets and home-built databases. In short, you have an entire industry with billions in liability making decisions using tools that are not up to the task. Robust databases are standard tools in other industries – but for whatever reason, the environmental business has failed to fully embrace them.

As a result, many organizations and governmental agencies are simply “flying blind” when it comes to managing their environmental information.

The lack of standards and inconsistencies in information management practices among the firms performing environmental work for a company impose a significant cost on the company’s overall environmental budget.  The fact that some firms may use spreadsheets, others their own databases, and still other various commercial applications may appear on the surface to be a benign practice, as each firm’s office uses the tools it is most comfortable with. But the overall cost to the customer in fact is enormous.

A Better Way

Is there a better approach that companies (both consultants and owners of environmental liability) can adopt to manage their environmental data?  The solution seems obvious:  get all the information about sites out of paper files, spreadsheets, and stand-alone or inaccessible databases and into an electronic repository in a structured and formatted form that—and this is the crucial point — any project participant can access, preferably from the web, at any time or any place. In other words, the solution is not merely to use computers, but to use the web to link the parties involved in an emission management or site cleanup, and this includes not only site owners and their consultants but also regulators, laboratories, and insurers, thus making them, in current jargon, “interoperable.” This may be obvious, but today it is also a very distant goal.

What would the ideal IT architecture of environmental industry in future look like? It would start, with wireless data entry using mobile devices by technicians in the field and wireless sensors where feasible. Labs would upload the results of analytical testing directly from their instrumentation and LIMS systems into the web-based database. During the upload process any necessary error checking and data validation would take place automatically. Consultants would review these uploads and put their stamp of approval on the data before it becomes part of the permanent database. Air monitoring devices and sensors would automatically upload their measurements into the same system. Ditto for any water or air treatment systems installed at facilities, metering devices for consumption of energy, water, or fuel, etc. Anything with an IP address and connected to the internet that produces data relevant to environmental or sustainability monitoring should feed data into the same system. (In today’s word there is a word for it: Internet of Things or IoT).

Behind the scenes, all data would be formatted and stored according to recognized and standard protocols. Contrary to widespread concerns, this does not require a single central repository for all data or any particular hardware architecture. Instead, it relies on common software protocols and formats so that individual computer applications can find and talk to one another across the Internet. The good news is that the most of these standards, such as XML, SOAP, AJAX, REST, and WSDL, already exist and are used by many industries. Others, such as DMR, SEDD, GRI, CDP, EDF, CROMERR, or EDD (spelling them out makes them sound no less obscure) are unique to the environmental industry and govern data interchange between, laboratories, consultants, clients and regulatory agencies. On top of these, there needs to be hacker-proof layers of authentication and password protection so that only the right people can access critical or sensitive information.

There is still some work to do to refine these technologies but the basic building blocks are already readily available and implemented by few progressive companies and regulatory agencies. The problems that this changed approach would address are many. First, data would be entered or uploaded just once, preferably electronically. Secondly, data transfer costs would drop and data quality would improve. No longer would the need exist to transfer data whenever one consulting firm is replaced by another or to maintain multiple databases that must be kept in sync. Third, the significant amounts of time that engineers, managers, and scientists now spend determining where a particular report is correct or looking up information on a site would dramatically decline. Fourth, by having their data in a consistent electronic format, companies would be in a better position to comply with the emerging demand to upload   information on their sites to state or federal agencies and organizations. Several progressive states have already imposed electronic deliverable standards (e.g., California and New Jersey), and US EPA is working on its own standards based on XML technology.  Last, and most significantly, site owners would assume possession of their data and as such, finally gain ready access to information about their own sites. This would seem particularly beneficial to public companies attempting to comply with the SOX.

The good news is that a system described above already exists.

We would love to discuss your environmental data situation with you. We can be reached at (650) 960-1640 or sales@locustec.com.

Posted in CEO'S Blog, Cloud Computing, Environmental Data Management, Environmental Software, SaaS

California Governor Orders New Target for Emissions Cuts

Locus Air and Greenhouse Gases Earth Sun Tilt
California Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order Wednesday, April 29, 2015 sharply speeding up California’s already ambitious program aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, saying it was critical to address “an ever-growing threat” posed by global warming to the state’s economy and well-being. In an executive order, Brown said the state must cut the pollutants to 40% below 1990 levels by the year 2030.
Brown’s order aligns the California’s goals with standards set by the European Union.
Mr. Brown said this tough new interim target was essential to prod the energy industry to act and to help the state make investment and regulatory decisions that would assure that goal was not missed.

Posted in big data, carbon emissions, Climate Change, Cloud Computing, Environmental Compliance, Environmental Data Management, Environmental Software, Greenhouse Gases, Sustainability Management, Water Quality, water quality management

California to Cut Water Use by 25 percent

Locus WaterFor the first time in the state’s history, Californians have been ordered to cut water consumption by 25 percent over the next year.
Following a move to accelerate the deployment of funding for projects designed to ease the state’s severe drought, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed an executive order mandating a 25% cut in water use around the state. The order directs the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions in the state’s cities and towns, with specific measures and programs to be developed and implemented by California’s more than 400 water agencies.

Posted in carbon emissions, Climate Change, Water Footprint, Water Quality, water quality management

Environmental and Sustainability Software

Clean drinking water  is the mankind's biggest challenge.

Clean drinking water is the mankind’s biggest challenge.

We believe that every company that wants to be credible with their environmental reporting must own their data and organize it in centralized database on the web.

Our market category is not shaped by explosive growth of software companies like ones associated with social media or search engines. Our software manages and organizes a type of information on which the future of humankind depends. We organize it in a serious and very scalable way.

 

To read the full story and interview please click here.

 

Posted in big data, carbon emissions, CEO'S Blog, Climate Change, Cloud Computing, Environmental Compliance, Environmental Data Management, Environmental Software, Greenhouse Gases, SaaS, Sustainability Management, Water Footprint, Water Quality, water quality management

U.S. to Submit Plans to Fight Global Warming by Deadline

Global Warming and Climate ChangeThe United States will submit plans for slowing global warming to the United Nations  this week but most governments will miss an informal 31 March 2015 deadline, complicating work on a global climate deal due in December. The United States plans to cut emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

The U.S. submission adds to national strategies beyond 2020 already presented by the 28-nation European Union, Mexico, Switzerland and Norway.

Together, they account for about a third of world greenhouse emissions. But other emitters such as China, India, Russia, Brazil, Canada and Australia say they are waiting until closer to a Paris summit in December, meant to agree a global deal.

 

Posted in carbon emissions, Climate Change, Environmental Data Management, Greenhouse Gases, Sustainability Management
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31 other followers