Friday Update: As Many As 73 “Gas Explosions” Reported North of Boston, Massachusetts Thursday Evening

September 14, 2018


Residents remained evacuated from their homes Friday morning in the Merrimack Valley region of Massachusetts after a number of natural gas-related explosions and fires were reported in three communities.

One man was killed as he sat in a car that was crushed by a falling chimney from a home that exploded, authorities say, and at least ten people have been hospitalized…..

University of Houston DOE Study Targets Safer Storage of Nuclear Waste

About 20 percent of the electricity produced in the United States is generated at nuclear power plants, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

This means one out of every five U.S. homes turn on their lights, use refrigerators and make toast – among other things – using energy generated by nuclear power.

Nuclear materials and technology is used in other areas, too, including radioactive isotopes to help diagnose and treat medical conditions and irradiation to help make pest-resistant seed varieties.

Nuclear power reactors don’t directly emit greenhouse gases, but they do produce nuclear waste, making it crucial to find ways to safely store and dispose of radioactive waste.

An engineer with the University of Houston is leading an $800,000 project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to address the issue.

“Whenever we deal with nuclear energy, we are always concerned about how we deal properly with the waste that is generated,” said Jeffrey Rimer, the Abraham E. Dukler Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering.

“We want to make sure that the nuclear waste is going to be stored for a sufficient time and not have issues with the release of this material into the environment.”

Rimer is principal investigator for a multi-agency project to study the corrosion behavior of glass containers often used to store nuclear waste and find ways to reduce or avoid the degeneration of the containers.

The basic components of glass are also the components of crystalline materials known as zeolites – silica and alumina, which are present there initially in an amorphous state but then eventually form zeolites.

“During the process of glass dissolution and recrystallization to zeolites, cavities are opened within the amorphous glass that can potentially allow the radioactive material to be released,” Rimer said.


Exploring the role of zeolites


Zeolites have been used for years as adsorbents and catalysts in a variety of chemical processes, from gasoline production to additives in laundry detergent, among thousands of other applications.

Rimer, an expert on crystallization, conducts groundbreaking research in the field, including drug development and oil and gas industry projects that target scaling in pipes and increasing the efficiency of catalysts.

But he said this isn’t a new area of research. “On a basic level we are asking the same types of questions in all of our research: What are the fundamental driving forces of new zeolite formation?” said Rimer.

His previous experience with zeolites is relevant to the DOE project, he said. “That knowledge gives us a foundation to move forward and start thinking about questions: What is causing nucleation from an amorphous precursor? What are the rates of growth under a broad range of conditions? How do we tailor these properties to reduce zeolite formation?”

Other members of the research team are: James Neeway, Radha Motkuri and Jarrod Crum, all from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL); and Yanni Bourmpakis from the University of Pittsburgh.

The PNNL researchers are experts on storage and glass dissolution and will be handling the assessment calculations, Rimer said.

Bourmpakis has expertise in computations and will conduct density-functional theory calculations on the progression of the aluminosilicate dissolution and zeolite nucleation.

“I think the project will, as a result of our collaborative efforts, make significant headway to improve the efficiency of nuclear waste storage,” Rimer said.

TIPRO Statement on New EPA Proposal to Improve Oil & Gas Regulations

September 11, 2018


Austin, Texas – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced several proposed improvements to the 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the oil and gas industry to help streamline implementation, remove duplicative EPA and state requirements under the rule, and ease unnecessary regulatory burdens on U.S. energy producers. According to the EPA, the regulatory package is expected to save up to approximately $484 million in regulatory costs from 2019 – 2025 or $75 million annually.


The following statement on the EPA’s proposal can be attributed to Ed Longanecker, president of the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO):


“TIPRO commends EPA for their efforts to alleviate red tape and remove unnecessary and overly burdensome federal methane regulations for domestic oil and natural gas producers.


On its own initiative, the U.S. oil and gas industry continues to lead efforts to reduce energy emissions through innovation, best practices and voluntary industry programs. As an example, exploration and production companies have reduced methane emissions by more than 14 percent since 1990, while overall natural gas production has increased by over 50 percent during this timeframe. This decline is attributable to voluntary actions from operators, including investment of over $250 billion in greenhouse gas mitigating technologies by U.S. oil and natural gas companies over the past 20 years. Increasing use of natural gas for electricity generation has also resulted in reductions in the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and criteria air pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in recent years. In fact, in 2017, the U.S. led the world in carbon emission reductions for the third consecutive year and for the ninth time this century, achieving better results than any other country that signed the Paris Agreement on climate change last year.


As a result of proactive, voluntary actions, continuing innovation and an increasing use of natural gas, U.S. energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are now at their lowest level in nearly 25 years. The Texas oil and gas industry remains committed to supporting sound, science-based regulations and proactive efforts to protect the environment.”

Update: Concern About Possible Tropical Storm Heading To Texas: NHC

September 10, 2018


The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says it will be closely watching an area of disturbed weather that will likely head across the Gulf of Mexico to Texas, possibly as a tropical storm by the end of the week — and there is added concern about its potential for flooding along the coast.

They suggest all along the Texas and Louisiana coast watch closely too.

Now just a tropical disturbance in the Western Caribbean — a cluster of thunderstorms named Invest 95L — weather conditions are favorable for the storms to move across the tip of the Yucatan peninsula and into the Gulf by midweek.

The NHC says the disturbance has a “medium chance” of developing into a tropical depression, and then possibly a tropical storm, and arriving at the coast by week’s end.

Of greatest concern: The possibility that the storm could head to the Houston area and park itself along the coast, bringing very heavy rainfall and flash flooding, when some areas of South and Southeast Texas have already seen flooding over the past week or two.