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HPIn Brief

08.01.2011  |  Thinnes, Billy,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX

Keywords:

Yellowstone River spill

A pipeline running underneath the Yellowstone River in Montana, owned by ExxonMobil, ruptured on July 1. This resulted in a spill of crude oil into the river approximately 20 miles upstream from Billings, Montana. According to the company’s estimates, 1,000 barrels of oil entered the river (which was in flood stage) before the pipeline was cut off.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting both air and water sampling to determine what impacts the spill may have on air or water quality. Air monitoring using real-time instruments that look for volatile organic compounds and hydrogen sulfide have shown no detections in ambient air along the Yellowstone River. Additionally, air sampling for benzene was conducted between Billings and Laurel, Montana, with no detections.

Water sampling conducted by the EPA between Laurel and Miles City, Montana, indicates there are no petroleum hydrocarbons above drinking water levels standards in that region. Preliminary results indicate that the Yellowstone River poses no threat to agriculture use. Prior sampling and ongoing monitoring indicate that the municipal drinking water supplies in these areas remain safe. The EPA will also be coordinating domestic well water testing and conducting indoor air sampling at residences impacted by the spill.

As of Thursday, July 7, approximately 544 people were involved in the incident response and over 360 are in the field conducting cleanup operations and recovering oil. The responders continue to walk the shores and deploy absorbent boom along the river banks to absorb oil that has collected in slow water areas along the shoreline. While most of the oil has been encountered within 30 miles of the spill, a pocket of emulsified oil has been spotted approximately 80 miles downstream. No evidence of visible oil staining or emulsified oil has been sighted beyond this point during ground and aerial reconnaissance in the affected area.


Total has signed a sale and purchase agreement to sell most of its marketing assets in the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man to Rontec Investments, a consortium led by Snax 24, an independent forecourt operator in the UK. The assets included within this agreement consist of Total’s UK retail network, comprising 810 Total-branded service stations, its Butler heating-oil business, its associated logistics infrastructure, as well as its Channel Islands and Isle of Man businesses. The transaction is expected to be completed later this year. The sale process for Total’s refining assets in the UK is ongoing. In addition to its exploration and production operations, Total will retain a direct market presence in the UK through its lubricants, aviation fuels, special fluids and chemicals businesses.


Carbon Sciences is developing a catalyst technology to make gasoline and other fuels from natural gas and carbon dioxide. The company says recent commercial tests show conversion efficiency rates that are better than what was observed in the laboratory. The premise for the process is that the catalyst transforms natural gas and carbon dioxide into a syngas that can then be transformed into gasoline and other fuels using conventional Fischer-Tropsch gas-to-liquids technology. Carbon Sciences prefers dry reforming using carbon dioxide as the process to produce syngas from natural gas, due to lower projected capital and operating costs. These tests are of interest because there is currently no commercial catalyst robust enough to sustain dry reforming reactions on an industrial scale. The technology in development uses carbon dioxide as part of the feed and does not require the use of a capital-intensive air-separation unit.


BASF was presented with the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) top award for political leadership, recognizing the company’s efforts to mobilize grassroots employee participation in advocacy at both site manufacturing and managerial levels in coordination with Washington, DC, and state capital activities. BASF maintains a government affairs office in Washington. The award is given to ACC member companies and state chemical industry councils for ongoing efforts to politically support, advocate and promote issues on behalf of the entire industry. The key element of BASF’s grassroots program is its Capital Club, a volunteer organization of BASF employees at more than 70 sites across the US dedicated to staying informed about public policy matters and taking action when necessary, such as writing letters to legislators or participating in site visits by members of Congress.


US legislation designed to speed the opening of the National Petroleum Reserve—Alaska to production of oil and natural gas should be approved as part of a larger effort to make more of the country’s energy resources available, according to the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPPA). NPRA President Charles Drevna testified before the US House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources in support of The National Petroleum Reserve Alaska Access Act. Mr. Drevna said more oil production is needed in Alaska to produce enough oil to keep the 800-mile Trans Alaska pipeline operating. If the pipeline is forced to shut down, Western states would become more reliant on imported oil. The US Geological Survey estimates that the National Petroleum Reserve—Alaska sits on top of more than 2.7 billion barrels of oil and more than 114.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.


British singer Sting cancelled a concert in Astana, Kazakhstan, to protest the treatment of oil workers in the country. Several thousand workers at UzenMunaiGas went on strike on May 26 after a salary dispute with the company. The lawyer for the striking workers was subsequently jailed on disputed charges. The company has called the strike illegal and fired approximately 250 employees for breaching their contracts. Sting made his decision to cancel the concert after consulting with Amnesty International. HP



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