Category Archives: News

Catholic Church Papal Encyclical Addresses Climate Change

In an unprecedented move, Pope Francis issued an encyclical, or papal letter to all bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, to highlight the crisis posed by climate change, particularly on poor countries. He places most of the blame on human activity and the burning of fossil fuel and warns of serious consequence for all of us” if corrective action is not taken swiftly”. He points to developed, industrialized countries as mostly responsible and obligated to help poorer nations.

Shell Drilling Rig Leaves Seattle for Alaska

The Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig Polar Pioneer that has been the focus of environmentalists while it was docked in Seattle left port on Monday for Alaska as the first step of a summer 2015 drilling campaign in the Arctic. Dozens of activists in kayaks dubbed “kayaktivists” tried to stop it, but the Coast Guard enforced the marine safety zone around the vessel and prevented any disruption. Around two dozen people were temporarily detained and fined $500 each for violations. Although final permits are still pending, Shell cleared major hurdles when a federal appeals court struck down a challenge to its oil spill response plans and after President Barack Obama upheld the 2008 Arctic lease sale. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates Arctic offshore reserves at 26 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Shell says developing these reserves could increase domestic oil supplies by more than 1 million barrels a day.

Chevron Big Foot Project in Gulf of Mexico Delayed Due to Tendon Damage

Chevron Corporation has announced that the Big Foot tension-leg platform (TLP) will be moved to sheltered waters from its location in the deepwater U.S. Gulf of Mexico following damage to its tendons during attempted installation of the platform late in May. Tendons are the long, ultra-strong steel pipes that connect the platform to the seabed and are typically buoyant. The tendons were pre-installed to the seafloor with the top end floating below the water surface in preparation for connection to the TLP. It appears that nine of the 16 tendons lost buoyancy and fell to the seafloor. No injuries or environmental damage have been reported with the incident, and the TLP itself was not affected.

The problem is quite serious and Chevron will need to rebuild at least some of the tendons. This will result in a significant delay in start-up of the platform and will likely increase project cost beyond its current $5.1 billion estimate. Big Foot will ultimately be installed in approximately 5,200 ft of water, which is the deepwater depth for a TLP. It will also be the largest TLP in the Gulf of Mexico.

San Francisco Renews PACE Program

San Francisco’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program was renewed in December. The PACE program allows qualified property owners to obtain accessible, affordable, long-term financing for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation improvements, and repay the loan through their property tax bills. PACE financing allows homeowners to install, for example, a home solar array with no initial cost and pay it off over a 20 year period.

Santa Barbara Oil Pipeline Spill

On Tuesday an onshore pipeline ruptured along the scenic coast north of Santa Barbara, California, spilling an initial estimate of 21,000 gallons of oil into the ocean and onto beaches before the flow could be controlled. Later reports increased this estimate to 105,000 gallons. What caused the spill is still under investigation, and clean-up activities are ongoing. The incident brought back memories of the 1969 Santa Barbara Channel oil spill that effectively shut down oil development offshore California for almost 10 years.

The Future of Solar Energy

According to a comprehensive new study on The Future of Solar Energy, released on May 14, 2015 by The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), solar energy holds the best potential for meeting humanity’s future long term energy needs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions. However, to realize this potential will require increased emphasis on developing lower-cost technologies and more effective deployment policy.