OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Study on earthquakes, fracking arrives Friday

Coming Friday: The National Research Council (NRC) will release a report on the potential for energy technologies — including wastewater injections associated with natural-gas drilling — to cause seismic activity.

“Hydraulic fracturing, carbon capture and storage, geothermal energy production, and conventional oil and gas development are various energy technologies that require injecting fluid deep underground, an adverse side effect of which is the potential to cause earthquakes,” the NRC notes in an announcement of the upcoming analysis.

Much of the attention around energy tech and quakes has centered on natural gas developed through hydraulic fracturing. The re-injection of large volumes of wastewater from gas drilling has been linked to seismic activity.

The report “examines the scale, scope, and consequences of earthquakes caused by subsurface fluid injection during energy production and identifies gaps in knowledge and research that could advance the understanding of man-made earthquakes,” according to the NRC.

The topic has caught the attention of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee leaders, who have scheduled a June 19 hearing on the matter.


Chu challenges conventional wisdom on efficiency

Energy Secretary Steven Chu does more than oversee his department’s energy efficiency programs — he’s wading deeply into the economics of efficiency in a way that could prove groundbreaking, according to Greenwire.

Chu is co-authoring a paper that’s going to upend a commonly held view about boosting the efficiency of appliances such as refrigerators. Here’s a quick blurb from the lengthy Greenwire piece:

For decades, the government has placed minimum energy standards on household appliances like fridges, once a notorious power hog. The expectation has been that, while purchase prices might temporarily bump up, electricity savings would balance that expense down the road.

It seems a reasonable assumption. And it's one that has, until recently, powered most of the Energy Department's models, said Chu, sitting on the couch in his expansive top-floor office, with Smithsonian views, in an interview with Greenwire.

The thing is, historical data don't show it to be true. There is no bump, he said.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Interior vows 24/7 presence on Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs

The Interior Department, as E2 noted in yesterday’s Overnight Energy, is vowing robust testing and inspection of equipment that Royal Dutch Shell plans to use for drilling in Arctic seas off Alaska’s coast this summer.

James Watson, who heads Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, told reporters Thursday that this will include the presence of inspectors round-the-clock on the two drilling ships that Shell will use in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

He said this will help ensure compliance with safety standards and add to knowledge for future Arctic exploration. It would also be impractical, given the lack of shoreline infrastructure in the remote region, to have inspectors trying to come and go during the drilling project.

Watson spoke to reporters after examining the “capping stack” — a piece of equipment to control runaway wells — that Shell plans to deploy in the Arctic (it’s now in Oregon).

Watson, who toured the drilling rigs Shell plans to use Wednesday in Seattle, talked up testing of the capping stack that’s planned in coming weeks and tests and inspection of other equipment that will precede the project.

The company still needs final drilling permits from Interior to proceed with the controversial plan to begin looking for oil in the remote Arctic seas, which environmentalists bitterly oppose.

Vote on Inhofe plan penciled in for June 20

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) says he’ll bring his resolution to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s power plant air toxics rule up for a vote on Wednesday, June 20.

The Congressional Review Act resolution can’t be filibustered, but Inhofe is nonetheless highly unlikely to win the 51 votes needed to nix the EPA rule to curb mercury and other pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

It’s not clear how many Democrats Inhofe could get on board, especially because Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) have floated a competing proposal to delay the rule without killing it.

So far three Democrats — Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — are supporting the plan, according to Inhofe.


On Thursday E2 explored a study that says wildfires will become more frequent as the planet warms and reported on new data showing that last month was the second-hottest May on record globally.

Elsewhere, we noticed that Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is trying to tether EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to President Obama’s recent gaffe about the economy, and reported that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has tough words for deniers of human-induced global warming.

Please send tips and comments to Ben Geman, ben.geman@thehill.com

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