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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bakken the USSA: Toxic Gas, Oil-filled Railroad Cars, and Methane Monsters ... Oh My!


While Japan gets some much-needed press regarding its idiotic ice-wall boondoggle, the Bakken Goes Rolling along in its DOT-111 old railroad cars, with the usual assumption by the public of the enormous risks of an almost guaranteed derailment and explosion, while the profits from the ongoing exploitation of fracked oil follow the well-lubricated path that easy credit and free money tend to follow into the coffers of the already well-heeled.

Meanwhile the methane veil that is covering the entire North American continent just gets thicker as leaks from all those fracked wells accumulate in the atmosphere and continue a climate forcing that is completely out of the realm of the prognostications made by even the most pessimistic of climate scientists, since, as I've pointed out in this blog (what an ugly word, eh?) perhaps a few more times than I should have, the level of fossil fuel burned since the Kyoto protocol was signed, has, far from diminishing, exploded to ever-increasing amounts ... even in the teeth of a global economic downturn unprecedented in its severity and longevity.

But this is only one of the reasons, and one that could be easily rectified, given the fairly easily recognized trend in Asian and other "emerging" economies' growing use of fossil fuels. But what can't be measured, and what isn't even calculated in those Global Warming calculations is the vast amounts of methane that doesn't get burned, but simply is leaked via the production process right into the atmosphere.

And now, as if it were something new and remarkable has been discovered, a Princeton University study just confirmed what I've been saying for years, which is that leaks from abandoned oil and gas wellbores pose not only a risk to groundwater, a localized phenomena, but represent a growing threat to the climate, which is  a globalized threat, and one, despite the globalized nature of the world economy that has been ballyhooed for more than a generation, the world has no mechanism for dealing with.

This, however, should come as no surprise, as in the one SuperPower (don't hear that term, nor Unipolar, either, very much nowadays, do you? ... wonder why) in the world has no mechanism for dealing with it in its own Bakkenyard, and in fact, given that Crony Capitalism (seriously, though, is there really any other kind? Capitalism by its very nature depends on a close relationship between government and financial/business interests) gets the money it invests in such ventures printed up just for that very use by the captured FED.

To illustrate the point, we can first look at the article on dangerous levels of  hydrogen sulphide gas in crude (crude being the operative word. To see the level of unorganized spree across an unregulated environment by an unprincipled industry riding on waves of unprecedented cash, see Bakken's Facebook page entitled "Bakken Oilfield Fail of the Day") oil storage tanks earlier this month has sparked a furious row between pipeline operator Enbridge and Bakken crude shippers including Plains Marketing and Murex.

The article explains how Enbridge Energy Partners made an emergency application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to amend its conditions of carriage to give it the right to reject crude containing more than 5 parts per million of hydrogen sulfide (H2S). H2S being, as John Kemp, that article's author, explains, "a colorless, flammable and extremely hazardous gas formed by the breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen, and the most commonly occurring impurity in oil and especially gas fields."

He goes on to describe the fact that "Exposure to hydrogen sulfide causes severe irritation and respiratory problems, is explosive when mixed with air, and can cause severe corrosion to oil field equipment including pipelines.  It is immediately dangerous to life and health at concentrations above 100 parts per million (ppm), according to the federal government's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)."

The level of H2S in the Bakken storage facility in question? 1200 ppm. 
But since regulating such extreme levels of a very dangerous substance would leave the Bakken "in the extremely difficult position of potentially having to shut in up to 4,000 barrels per day of crude petroleum that might exceed the proposed standard,"  FERC will most likely do what FERC does, a la California's Enron-manipulated power blackouts, best, ie bow to industry demands and place consumers and citizens in peril rather than risk their own Crony-insured employment and promotions.  

And since that oil isn't destined to just sit at those terminals, but has to be shipped, one might wonder as to the preparedness of the railcars that are used to carry all that poisoned gas and oil. But, as explained in the article cited above, it would cost too much to actually upgrade the more than 5000 legacy tankcars or, failing that, for the insurance to transfer that elevated risk off of the company and onto the public, by paying for it, which is what insurance does, being as it is, a form of private enterprise taxation, its costs payed for by the elevated prices necessarily charged consumers to compensate both the industry and the Insurance Companies for risk amelioration. Instead that risk is first denied, then, once the data to document what is obviously risky behavior as such, is simply imposed onto an unsuspecting polity, mostly because we're stupid, greedy, and addicted to automobiles, and actually beg to be protected from the real costs of our enterprises, so it instead follows the easily taken and well-trod path of the KKK - Kamikaze Kapitalism Kultur - and pretends the risk to be non-existent, and readies the pamphlets and court briefs in advance that claim, "No one could have seen it coming", much like obits written in advance for celebrities, that will slough off the blame as a once-in-a-century occurrence that could in noway have been either foreseen, nor consequently, planned against, or - gasp! - simply not undertaken in the first place.

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