ALEXANDER, N.D. (AP) — A lightning strike sparked a fire and explosion that destroyed the third North Dakota saltwater disposal facility in recent weeks, sending thick black smoke billowing into the sky and leaving the smell of oil in the air.
As the Gulf of Mexico sees increased offshore oil and gas activity four years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Interior Department’s top offshore safety regulator says drilling safety culture is improving.
However, there are still challenges to be overcome as the industry and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement move ahead with new regulatory systems, agency director Brian Salerno said Sunday.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the lack of stabilization equipment in North Dakota Bakken Shale facilities means the crude oil produced there is more prone to explosion, a serious problem facing federal regulators as they look to make crude-by-rail transport safer.
One year after a deadly oil train derailment and explosion killed 47 in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, residents are anticipating that crude-by-rail will return to the town as other shipping fails to produce enough business, The Wall Street Journal reports.
BEIRUT (AP) — Islamic militants seized an eastern Syrian oil field near Iraq and inched closer to the Turkish border on Friday as they try to consolidate their control of an area along the length of the Euphrates river stretching through Syria and Iraq.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that fighters from the Islamic State group seized the al-Tanak oil field early Friday. Another group, the activist collective of Deir el-Zour, also reported the seizure.
The field is in the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour, near Iraq, and it followed the Islamic State group's seizure of Syria's largest oil field on Thursday. Both oil fields were taken from other rebel groups.
LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec (AP) — Backhoes and bulldozers are still digging out oil-seeped soil and pavement in the center of this lakeside Quebec town. Where the post office, public library and restaurants once stood, there is only the clanging of machinery kicking up dust over the emptiness.
It is the daily soundtrack of a town fighting to rise up from one of the worst railway disasters in North American history.
A year has passed since a runaway oil train slid quietly down a hill in the middle of the night and derailed in a series of explosions that obliterated a large swath of downtown Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people. Paved roads and new buildings remain a long way off in the fenced-off disaster zone. The damage to the surrounding river system hasn't been fully made public, and the environmental cleanup alone will cost at least $200 million.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. safety officials say the dangers posed by a sharp spike in oil shipments by rail in North America extend beyond shipments from the booming Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, and include oil from elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada.
Acting National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Chris Hart says all crude shipments are flammable and can damage the environment — not just the Bakken shipments involved in a series of fiery accidents.
He cited recent accidents in Mississippi, Minnesota, New Brunswick and Pennsylvania that involved oil shipments from Canada, and said they exemplify "the risks to communities and for the environment for accidents involving non-Bakken crude oil."
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Dozens of mile-long trains loaded with crude are leaving western North Dakota each week, with most shipments going through the state's most populous county while en route to refineries across the country.
The U.S. Department of Transportation ordered railroads last month to give state officials specifics on oil train routes and volumes so emergency responders can better prepare for accidents. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said a pattern of fiery accidents involving trains carrying crude from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana had created an "imminent hazard" to public safety.
Washington has posted on its Emergency Management Division website information on oil trains transiting the state, reporting that BNSF alone sends up to 19 shipments a week carrying at least 1 million gallons of crude, according to Platts.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials said Wednesday they intend to release details next week on the frequency of oil trains passing through the state, despite efforts by railroads to keep the information from the public after a string of fiery accidents raised safety concerns.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx last month ordered railroads to provide specifics on oil-train routes, crude volumes and other information to state emergency officials. The order was meant to guard against further accidents.
Higher gasoline sales may translate into a higher Renewable Fuel Standard, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy told an investors’ conference in New York, although she didn’t provide any specific figures, Bloomberg reports.
Worry that weak manufacturing data from China and Europe might slow global demand weighed on oil prices Tuesday, as did a strong dollar. WTI for October delivery plunged $3.08, or 3.2 percent, to settle at $92.88 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while in London Brent crude slumped $2.45 to hit a 16-month low of $100.34 a barrel, Bloomberg reports.
Republicans from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as well as the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee -- who are investigating the influence the Natural Resources Defense Council has on Environmental Protection Agency policy decisions in the wake of a New York Times story on the issue -- have written to the regulators and the environmental advocacy group demanding that they turn over documents, The Hill reports.
The first half of 2014 saw the country’s electricity prices -– averaging 12.3 cents per kilowatt hour -- increasing faster than they have for the last five years, according to statistics from the Energy Information Administration, The Hill reports.
Texas has enough generating capacity to handle autumn demand including potential emergencies, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said Tuesday, adding that preliminary projections figure the same for winter as well, barring a period of unusually high demand that also coincides with fuel shortages, Platts reports.
George P. Bush, a candidate for Texas Land Commissioner, told the Texas Tribune in an interview that he believes climate change poses a serious threat for the state, particularly from Gulf coast flooding, adding that he supports more reliance on natural gas and renewable energy for electricity.
Project on Government Oversight investigator Michael Smallberg says Department of Energy waivers allowing national lab consultants to serve on DOE’s Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories run counter to the panel's mandate from Congress, according to E&E, which provides details of the waivers revealed through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Pam Haze, who retired Friday after decades of government service, was the top career budget official at the Interior Department for the past six years, winning plaudits from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, E&E reports.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have both approved permits for the Formosa Plastics Corp. to start work on expanding its Port Comfort petrochemical facility to include a unit to convert propane to propylene, as well as an ethane cracker, a company spokesman told FuelFix.