Sponging up oil droplets? Hilcorp gas gets green light. Regan cleans EPA house.

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Sponging up oil droplets from Arctic wastewater
Pavani Cherukupally, Advanced Science News, March 29, 2021

A re-usable sponge can capture and recover crude oil droplets from cold water to generate clean water in a fragile ecosystem.

After ten years, the Deepwater Horizon oil spills cleaning efforts are still struggling to remove crude oil droplets from the contaminated water. The removal of oil droplets from wastewater is even more challenging in the Arctic, where an estimated 13% of the world’s undiscovered fossil fuel reserves exist. In the Arctic region, due to ultra-cold temperatures, the crude oil’s viscosity increases, causing oil/water mixtures to become a gel, which poses removal challenges.

Currently, the Arctic oil spills are cleaned by burning or melting the crude oil (warming it from 5ºC to 90ºC) then collecting it from the spill site using secondary methods. This is because as the temperature lowers, the heavier organic compounds in the oil, known as paraffin waxes, precipitate from the crude oil as liquid and solid crystals that accumulate at the droplet’s surface or the oil/water interface. These wax crystals have a preference to join together in an attempt to become stable, pulling surrounding oil droplets along and forming oil-in-water-in-oil mixtures — known as double emulsions and gels — cannot be separated without investing energy.

These onsite heating strategies are far from perfect and could dissolve or evaporate the volatile organics found in the crude oil, causing further damage to the environment. Developing strategies that are better for the environment and more effective at collecting crude oil without having to heat it are sorely needed.

Oil-collecting sponges have been proposed as an alternative, and one that adapts to the crude oil’s environment-dependent properties could offer a simple solution in capturing and recovering oil droplets.

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Hilcorp gas wells near Anchor Point get green light
Sabine Poux, KDLL, March 30, 2021

The state has approved Hilcorp’s plans to drill two gas exploration wells near Anchor Point.

As early as Thursday, the company could start construction on a gravel exploration pad for the company’s Whiskey Gulch prospect. Hilcorp plans to drill two exploration wells there — an oil-gas combination well and gas-only well. An ENSTAR Natural Gas line runs by the site. 

Hilcorp proposed drilling the first well in May, testing it in June and suspending and securing it in July. It would drill the second well in July and secure it in September. 

Hilcorp also wants to improve the access road to the pad, which begins at the intersection of Cape Ninilchik Avenue and Opportunity Lane.

Plans for Whiskey Gulch are still in the exploration stage. But Hilcorp is slated to begin production soon on another well on the southern Kenai Peninsula: Seaview 8, south of Anchor Point. Hilcorp plans to start production there later this year, after construction delays in 2020.

Related:  Judge throws roadblock into Hilcorp oil exploration in Cook Inlet, citing potential impacts to beluga whales


BMW, Volvo, Google, and Samsung call for ban on deep-sea mining
Cecelia Jamasmie, Mining.Com, March 31, 2021

BMW, Volvo, Google and Korean battery maker Samsung SDI, have vowed not buy metals produced from deep-sea mining until the environmental risks of the activity are “comprehensively understood”.

The companies are the first global businesses to support a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) call for a moratorium on mining the seabed, which could deal a major blow to firms planning to mine the deep ocean this decade.

The signatories have also said they will not finance any deep-sea mining companies.

“Before any potential deep seabed mining occurs, it needs to be clearly demonstrated that such activities can be managed in a way that ensures the effective protection of the marine environment,” they said in the statement.

“All alternatives to deep sea minerals must be explored as a matter of urgency, with a focus on reducing demand for primary metals, transitioning to a resource-efficient, closed-loop materials economy, and developing responsible terrestrial mining practices,” the four companies noted.

Mining the ocean floor has been promoted as an alternative to land-based mining, as demand for minerals needed for a green energy transition, such as cobalt and nickel, are set to exceed current production rates by 2030.

Yet regulations to support the emerging activity have yet to be agreed upon by the International Seabed Authority (ISA). The UN-backed body of 167 countries has already issued exploration contracts to 21 companies, but they cannot begin mining until regulation is passed.

An international team of researchers published in 2018 a set of criteria to help the ISA protect biodiversity from deep-sea mining activities while it prepares global rules.

According to the US Geological Survey, the deep-sea accounts for more than half the world’s surface and contains minerals in concentrations several times higher than those found in all land reserves combined.

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Biden’s clean energy infrastructure plan draws interest of lobbyists
Ben Geman, Axios, March 31, 2021

President Biden’s attempt to steer huge energy infrastructure plans through Congress and his wide-ranging executive agenda are together creating intense lobbying and advocacy efforts to shape the policies.

Why it matters: The new proposal for an energy infrastructure package is vastly larger than the roughly $90 billion for clean energy in the 2009 stimulus, and the constellation of interests in play is huge.

Driving the news: Fresh signs are everywhere of efforts to influence the unprecedented infrastructure plan, as well as Biden’s executive agenda.

They range from a burst of K Street lobbying hires by energy interests to new public advocacy campaigns and more.

Here’s just a few snapshots…

  • The auto industry’s main U.S. trade group and the United Auto Workers yesterday unveiled an open letter to Biden and Congress on their goals for the package.
  • Environmentalists are spending millions on advertising in support of clean energy infrastructure.
  • A coalition of green groups and labor this week sent Biden and Democratic leaders a letter calling for a $4 trillion economic package. Bloomberg has more (subscription).
  • The oil industry’s most powerful lobbying group laid out its agenda for the administration and Congress last week.
  • On Tuesday a coalition that includes Google, Adobe, environmentalists, and energy trade groups sent the White House a letter and memo with proposals for federal clean power procurement.

What we’re watching: One thing is pressure from the left on Biden and lawmakers for an even larger package.

  • The umbrella Green New Deal Network is launching a series of efforts today — including billboards in Pittsburgh ahead of Biden’s speech — and in coming weeks in support of the “THRIVE” agenda.
  • It’s a $10 trillion, 10-year proposal from progressive Democrats. HuffPost has more.


AP interview: EPA head committed to ‘scientific integrity’
Matthew Daly, AP, March 31, 2021

Moving forward on a pledge to restore “scientific integrity,” the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency is reversing Trump administration actions that sidelined many academic scientists from key advisory boards in favor of industry figures.

Administrator Michael Regan, in an Associated Press interview, said the “reset” of the Science Advisory Board and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee will return EPA to its time-honored practice of relying on advice from a balanced group of experts. He is clearing out the two important panels, although current members can apply for reinstatement.