Marine Protected Areas and Offshore Natural Gas Basins

Australia, with the world’s largest network of Marine Protected Areas plans to be the world’s largest exporter of LNG, and ocean fracked natural gas. Every Australian MPA shown, is also mapped by basin for drilling and corresponding development (FLNG) or pipeline to shore facility, except the Coral Reef MPA. If California is to follow Australia’s lead in Marine Protected Areas, Floating LNG processing facilities (FLNG) will be moored offshore. We may even see warmer oceans caused by Cyclic Steam Injection and fracking of conventional oil and gas wells on the seafloor just beyond California State waters and nearshore ecosystems.

Marine Protected Areas and Offshore Natural Gas Basins, or 
Ecology and The 21st Century Biosphere Nightmare

By Tomas DiFiore

The biosphere refers to all of the life on Earth. The biosphere can be visualized as a thin surface layer on the Earth from 11,000 meters below sea level to 15,000 meters above sea level.

If California is to follow Australia’s lead in Marine Protected Areas, Floating LNG processing facilities (FLNG) will be moored offshore. We may even see warmer oceans caused by Cyclic Steam Injection and fracking of conventional oil and gas wells on the seafloor just beyond California State waters and nearshore ecosystems.

How will regulations apply to:
High Volume High Pressure Slick Water Directional Horizontal Deviant Hydraulic Fracturing or fracking the unassociated gas fields off the California coast, drilling back towards shore to frac from beyond the 3 mile limit of State Waters jurisdiction.

As Dan Bacher pointed out his article on Monday Jan 14th, 2013-
California’s New ‘Marine Reserve’ Network Doesn’t Protect The Ocean

And David Gurney, independent journalist and co-chair of the Ocean Protection Coalition, blasted Reheis-Boyd’s role in pushing for increased fracking in California.

Last year, “when Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced new lease-sales for Bureau of Land Management lands in California for ‘fracking’ development,” said Gurney. “Offshore areas were showing up on maps: reservoirs of underwater natural gas deposits, that lie under the ocean off Santa Barbara and Southern California.”

“It’s clear the government and petroleum officials want to ‘frack’ in the very same areas Reheis-Boyd was appointed to oversee as a ‘guardian’ of marine habitat protection for the MLPA ‘Initiative,'” emphasized Gurney.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and former Chair of the California Marine Life Protection Act Initiative Initiative (MLPAi) Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, and BRTF member on the Central Coast, the North Central Coast, and the North Coast, thinks ‘fracking is safe’.

The innovation of FLNG may reduce the immediate need for Enhanced Oil Recovery by virtue of the fact that once production drops at a wellsite, the well can be abandoned and the FLNG vessel can move on to a virgin gas field and new well. But what Agency will oversee well abandonment, certainly not BLM with their track record? Does DOGGR have wetsuits?

Even at $13 Billion per mega-ship, it’s less than half the cost of land based facilities, less pipeline, and likely no Federal or International Standards for Environmental Regulation or Air Quality.

Marine Protection, Wastewater Injection Wells
The criteria and procedures for ocean dumping permits and for the designation of ocean dumping sites can be found in EPA’s ocean dumping regulations at 40 CFR Parts 220 to 229.

In 1972, Congress enacted the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA, also known as the Ocean Dumping Act) to prohibit the dumping of material into the ocean that would unreasonably degrade or endanger human health or the marine environment.

Summary of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act

The MPRSA implements the requirements of the London Convention, which is the international treaty governing ocean dumping.

Oil and Gas fracking flowback and wastewater may not be covered under the London Convention. The London Convention prohibits the disposal at sea of radioactive wastes and other radioactive matter. However, all materials, including natural and inert materials, contain natural radionuclides and are frequently contaminated with artificial radionuclides from such anthropogenic sources as fallout due to past atmospheric nuclear testing. Therefore, the Contracting Parties to the London Convention recognized the need to develop definitions and guidelines whereby candidate materials (those wastes or other matter not otherwise prohibited from disposal at sea in accordance with Annex I to the Convention) containing de minimis levels of radionuclides could be disposed of pursuant to the provisions of this Convention.
de minimis (PDF 15 pp, 717K)

Oil and Gas fracking flowback and wastewater may not be covered under the Ocean Dumping Act of the US.

Royal Dutch Shell has placed an order for the first ever floating LNG plant, September 20 2012.
The vessel, called Prelude, will be the largest in the world, weighing six times more than the largest aircraft carrier, and measuring more in length than the Empire State building is in height. The huge ship will be built in Korea and then moved to the north-west coast of Australia, where it will provide a cheaper option to onshore LNG plants there.

Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. to GDF Suez SA of France likewise want to turn gas into liquid at sea, where many of the largest finds were made in the last decade.

Royal Dutch Shell is first, as the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas producers readies to move their $170 billion industry onto barges at sea and tap remote (stranded) gas fields.

Global Demand, Supply, and Technology, Stepping Across New Boundaries
According to Shell, “there is a lot of undeveloped gas in deep water in the world. There are several hundred trillion cubic feet of gas that have already been found.”

Demand for LNG will more than double to about 460 million tons by 2025, according to Deutsche Bank AG forecast in August 2012. Floating LNG plants will supply about 3 percent of the fuel. Customers imported about 331 billion cubic meters of LNG last year worth about $170 billion based on an average price in Japan, according to BP Plc (BP/) and LNG Japan Corp. data.

Korea is currently the world’s largest builder/exporter of Nuclear Power Plants (4 this year) and is also building the Prelude for Shell. Because it’s being constructed in Korea, Shell is not exposed to labor costs in Australia. Shell’s partner building Prelude is Korea Gas Corporation.

Shell plans to use FLNG technology beyond Australia’s shores and expand to Europe, Africa and the Americas. Floating LNG technology doesn’t have the same “complexities” of onshore developments. Once a field is depleted, the FLNG vessel will be able to relocate to another virgin field.

The California MLPA(i) refused petitions for over two years by the North Coast to ban drilling and hydrocarbon transport through MPAs.

As Australia proudly boasts of having the world’s largest Marine Reserve Network, including the NW offshore waters. Australia’s shoreline here is 250 km (150 miles) from the 2009 Montara blowout. The government’s response from the beginning through to the settlement, has been driven by its determination to expand the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry as quickly as possible, providing a bonanza for giant corporations, such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell, that have projects underway off the north-west coast.

Oil Slicks, Seaweed Farms, Value Added Compensation
In 2009, and 2010, significant impacts to marine fisheries and seaweed harvests occurred across the globe from each other due to oil leaks at the wellhead on the seafloor.

The BP Deepwater Horizon wellhead was at an ocean depth of almost 5,000 feet.
The Montara Oil Field wellhead leak in the Timor Sea, was at an ocean depth of 250 feet.

Thousands of barrels of oil gushed into the Timor sea over a period of 74 days following a blowout at PTTEP Australasia’s West Atlas rig in the Montara Oil Field in the Timor Sea between NW Australia and Timor three years ago. The slick from the Montara oil field spread as far as Indonesian waters and it grew to almost 35,000 square miles.

In the Gulf of Mexico, from April 20 to Sept 19, 2010, 4.9 million barrels, or 205 million gallons had escaped from the BP Horizon Deepwater rig and wellhead disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil spill covered an area of about 68,000 square miles of ocean. The final estimate reported that 53,000 barrels per day were escaping from the well just before it was capped on 15 July. It is believed that the daily flow rate diminished over time, starting at about 62,000 barrels per day and decreasing as the reservoir of hydrocarbons feeding the gusher was gradually depleted.

In 5000 feet of ocean, underwater oil plumes developed in the water column.
On 15 May 2010, researchers from the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology, identified oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots. The shallowest oil plume the group detected was at about 2,300 feet, while the deepest was near the seafloor at about 4,593 feet.

In June, NOAA released a report which confirmed deepwater oil plumes in the Gulf and that they did originate from BP’s well, citing a “preponderance of evidence” gathered from four separate sampling cruises. In October 2010, scientists reported a continuous plume of over 22 miles in length at a depth of about 3,600 ft. That plume persisted for several months without substantial degradation.

Laden with dispersants; oil accumulated on the seafloor.
On 10 September 2010, Samantha Joye, a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia on a research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico announced her team’s findings of a substantial layer of oily sediment stretching for dozens of miles in all directions suggesting that a lot of oil did not evaporate or dissipate but may have settled to the seafloor. She describes seeing layers of oily material covering the bottom of the seafloor, in some places more than 2 inches thick.

By January 2011, USF researchers found layers of oil near the wellhead that were “up to 5 times thicker” than recorded by the team in August 2010. USF’s David Hollander remarked, “Oil’s presence on the ocean floor didn’t diminish with time; it grew” and he pointed out, “the layer is distributed very widely,” radiating far from the wellhead.

Another Settlement, Another Hemisphere Around The Globe, Near Jakarta: October 2012
PTT Exploration Production (PTTEP) has been fined A$550,000 (US$526,000) by the Australian Government for the 2009 Montara incident. The company got off lightly, given it had faced maximum fines of US$1.75 million.

Considered to be Australia’s worst oil disaster, the well blowout on the Montara platform in August 2009 resulted in oil and gas condensate leaking into the Timor Sea for a total of 74 days. According to the Australian Associated Press (AAP), three of the charges had carried a maximum penalty of A$550,000. AAP reported that Magistrate John Lowndes had offered PTTEP a 25% discount for the guilty pleas, fining it A$495,000 for the first three charges, which related to the Offshore Petroleum and greenhouse Gas Storage Act. The company was fined A$15,000 for the fourth charge, well below the maximum of $50,000, AAP stated.

Let’s see: $550,000 divided by 74 (days) = a fine of $7400.00 a day.

Indonesia had sought US$2.4 billion in compensation for damage to reefs and fisheries.

Australia’s estimated gas reserves: $1 trillion, and a forecast that LNG exports would exceed a total $24 billion by 2017-18, nearly doubling over a decade.

According to one report prepared by an investigation commission from Australia, 2,000-4,000 barrels of oil and gas and poisonous condensate leaked to the Timor Sea daily, polluting more than 35,000 square miles of Australian waters. Meanwhile, independent geologists in Australia and Indonesia stated that the Montara well spilled out 5,000-10,000 barrels of oil a day to the Timor Sea and 95 percent of the polluted waters were in Indonesian waters and territory.

Australia Committed To Resolve Timor Sea Pollution Issue, September 21 2012 Kupang,
The Australian government will continue to hold talks with the Indonesia government in order to resolve the pollution problem in the East Nusa Tenggara waters, according to Australian ambassador to Indonesia Greg Moriarty. “The Australian government remains committed to settle the pollution issue,” he said here on Friday.

Talks with the Government, but no money for the villagers, fishers and harvesters.

It may be that the Gillard government’s response has been driven by its determination to expand the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry as quickly as possible, providing a bonanza for giant corporations, such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell, that have projects underway off the north-west coast. Ferguson last year estimated Australia’s gas reserves at $1 trillion and forecast that LNG exports would total $24 billion by 2017-18, nearly doubling over a decade.

Baled Seaweed Exports were limited in 2012
Months after the Montara oil spill, the domestic seaweed processing industry has not grown rapidly. From DKP 2008 data, 15% of exports are processed seaweed, while the rest is in the form of raw baled weed. The chairman of the Indonesian Seaweed Commission, Farid Ma’ruf, said that 50% of global baled seaweed supply originates from Indonesia.

Even more toxins were added to the environment:
The Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre began mobilizing aircraft and equipment on 21 August 2009. On 23 August 2009, a Hercules C-130 aircraft sprayed 10,000 litres of chemical dispersant (Corexit) onto parts of the slick, with ongoing aerial spraying with dispersants being the primary early response to the spill.

Tanoni believe all waters of NTT and East Timor have been contaminated with the Montara oil spill dispersant Corexit 9500 and which has been almost three years without being followed by a scientific study that should be transparent. The use of hazardous substances to sink the oil by Australia, and Indonesia has been detrimental to the people and as usual, the victims are all marine Timorese and the fishermen who depend on the sea.

At the time, a second leak from the Chinese-owned Sinopec operation, about 50 kilometres north-west of Montara, had started many weeks previous.

Who pays?
“Many of the villages on the south-facing coasts of Timor and Rote are extremely poor and remote, with few or no paved roads and a poor communications, making it hard to confirm Indonesian media reports,” Senator Siewert said.

An inquiry found that the immediate source of the blowout, was the failure of the primary well control barrier, a cemented shoe casing, and that the causes of the spill were systemic. Not one well control barrier on the H1 Well had complied with the company’s own standards; the cement casing had not been pressure-tested, despite major problems in installing it; and only one of the two required secondary well barriers was ever installed. Despite being advised of this highly dangerous situation, PTTEP ordered drilling to proceed. None of PTTEP’s five wells at the Montara oilfield had proper safety controls.

Timor Sea FLNG – Who’s Counting The Royalties?
Billed as the world’s largest LNG project, Gorgon has Chevron as the operator with ExxonMobil and Shell as minority partners.

The project will utilize a subsea gathering system to develop the greater Gorgon-area gas fields. Is it any wonder, the government of Timor Leste, which opposes the FLNG concept and instead wants the gas piped across the Timor trench to an LNG plant on the island nation’s southwest coast. The country is entitled to 20% of the gas that would be developed.

California is going to have to consider entirely new ocean protections in the era of frac.


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