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Threats To The Southern Hills Aquifer System Grow In Louisiana

This text is published in “The Louisiana Weekly” in the Might 19, 2014 version.
A ten-parish space from larger Baton Rouge to St. Tammany Parish will get its drinking water from the Southern Hills Aquifer system — a number of interdependent models that start to the north in Mississippi. Over half a century of efforts to guard the aquifer from industry have yielded outcomes however more needs to be achieved. Fracking within the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale play in Southeast Louisiana is one threat. New Orleans-based mostly Helis Oil & Fuel desires to drill down through the aquifer close to Mandeville, La. this summer time. A much bigger menace, nevertheless, is salt’s entry into the system as water demand swells in Baton Rouge.

Meanwhile, New Orleans makes use of some groundwater for trade, together with power generation, from the Gonzales-New Orleans aquifer. However the Crescent Metropolis relies on the Mississippi River for drinking water.

Salinity has increased within the Southern Hills Aquifer system due to water needs in and around Baton Rouge. “Both business and public supply users, such because the Baton Rouge Water Company, are drawing saline water north across the Baton Rouge fault from the south towards a demand middle — a cluster of industries north of downtown Baton Rouge,” geologist and hydrologist Douglas Carlson, an assistant professor of analysis at Louisiana State University, mentioned final week. “Public provide wells are typically unfold out in East Baton Rouge Parish, and their demand is extra diffuse than industries concentrated north of downtown Baton Rouge.”

Appreciable salt water intrusion has occurred north of the Baton Rouge fault. “This fault lies roughly along I-10 by East Baton Rouge Parish,” Carlson said. Salt water threatens a significant drinking water supply, the Lula Pumping Station, close to the intersection of Choctaw Dr. and No. Acadian Thruway.

Water use in East Baton Rouge Parish expanded 50 percent from 1960 to 2010. Based mostly on plenty of research, industry’s water demand in the parish fell to 44 p.c of complete utilization in 2010 from 78 p.c in 1960, whereas public supply use grew to 50 p.c from 20 p.c in 1960, Carlson said. Higher Baton Rouge’s population has elevated, especially since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Paper producers account for about half of business’s withdrawals of aquifer water in East Baton Rouge Parish, Carlson stated. One third of industrial demand is from chemical firms, and one sixth is from petroleum refineries. That pattern is little modified from 25 years in the past, he noted. Municipal drinking water within the parish is generally from the 1,500-foot sands, whereas industrial customers, together with Georgia-Pacific and ExxonMobil, draw from the 1,seven-hundred- to 2,400-foot sands. Foot-sands discuss with depths below the bottom’s surface.

The Capital Space Ground Water Conservation Commission — a five-parish management district created by the state legislature — set limits on water used by business from 2,000-foot sands in 1991 and reduced these caps last September, CAGWCC director Anthony Duplechin stated last week. In September, the fee additionally placed some limits on 1,500-foot sands reserved for public provide users. Caps on trade and public supply users are greater than current water withdrawals, however.

In November, state american petroleum equipment &nstructionmpany 2017 Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh despatched a letter to CAGWCC recommending that it develop a plan with particular steps and goals to deal with saltwater intrusion. The Office of Conservation, he stated, is ready to assist and supply steerage.

State Consultant “Ted” James II, D-Baton Rouge, drew up a invoice this spring that might have limited industrial usage from the aquifer in Baton Rouge over the subsequent six years. “The bill did not get out of committee,” Hays Town Jr. founding father of Baton Rouge Citizens to save lots of Our Water, Inc. mentioned last week. “Business is simply too strong within the legislature.” Groups and commissions have studied the realm’s salt water intrusion for years however residents have to take an interest and exert pressure on legislators to protect the aquifer, City mentioned.

In the meantime, at ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge refinery and chemical plant, dependence on groundwater has declined and about half the water used now could be from the Mississippi River, spokeswoman Lana Venable mentioned final week. “We constructed our clarified river water unit in 1971, and over the years upgraded it to deal with extra river water,” she mentioned. “We transformed six cooling towers from groundwater to river water in the last seven years.” The corporate plans to continue expanding its river water usage, she stated.

In 2012, ExxonMobil Baton Rouge submitted a 2013-14 groundwater reduction plan of 1.6 million gallons a day to the state’s Division of Natural Sources and expects to satisfy that goal by subsequent 12 months’s finish. “Our reductions in use from the 2,000-foot aquifer will come from utilizing clarified river water, and a few of it’s going to come from using various aquifers,” Venable mentioned.

As a member of the CAGWCC, ExxonMobil is committed to using sound science to develop efficient, lengthy-time period methods to guard groundwater, she mentioned. For the 2,000-foot aquifer, the corporate helps building of scavenger wells, which capture salt seeping towards close by production wells. Venable said studies by the U.S. Geological Survey and others using computer fashions have shown that the best approach by all users to managing the 2,000-foot aquifer is a combination of scavenger wells and less recent water pumping.

At Georgia-Pacific’s Port Hudson facility in East Baton Rouge Parish, spokeswoman Patty Prats-Swanson mentioned paper production is water intensive. “It is 99 percent water,” she mentioned. “To make paper towels and bathroom tissue, we want good clean water.” Nonetheless, the Port Hudson facility has cut its floor water use by 20 % within the final two decades.

Georgia-Pacific will get a third of its water from the very shallow part of the aquifer system that doesn’t contribute to the area’s drinking water, Prats-Swanson mentioned. That water is lower in quality and have to be processed earlier than the corporate uses it. Another third of the bottom water utilized at Port Hudson is from 2,800-foot sands, which aren’t thought-about by hydrologists to be below stress.

“We continually consider reduction, reuse and recycling projects that may help in conservation,” Prats-Swanson mentioned. Water that’s sprayed on piles of logs so they do not dry out is from shallow wells, and it is collected and reused.

Elevated fracking within the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale play in recent years has raised issues about aquifer contamination and extra water demand. In two shows final year, one in April and one other in September, Commissioner of Conservation Welsh stated the state encourages frackers to make use of surface relatively than ground water

Frackers sometimes require 3 million to 10 million gallons of water per effectively, LSU’s Carlson said. Hypothetically, if a thousand wells had been developed in the TMS and they all depended on the Southern Hills Aquifer, 3 to 10 billion gallons of ground water can be used, he mentioned. Compared, the Baton Rouge Water Company alone withdrew 20 billion gallon a 12 months from the aquifer in 2010, he famous.

Helis Oil & Gasoline, which plans to drill in St. Tammany this summer, says it will not rely on the Southern Hills Aquifer. “All water for the venture might be obtained off premises from floor water ponds or industrial sources,” the company mentioned in a public statement earlier this month. “We is not going to be utilizing water from the local aquifer in any way.” Helis last week didn’t reply to a cellphone inquiry about its water plans.

Final week, St. Tammany President Pat Brister said Helis will drill down 13,000 ft for knowledge and samples and can analyze its findings over three to four months. If commercially viable portions of oil are discovered, Helis will conduct horizontal drilling and can frack to extract oil.

At Canada-primarily based Encana Corp. which operates 18 producing wells in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale play — together with three in Louisiana and 15 in southwest Mississippi, the company relies on the Amite River and its East and West forks, together with private surface water ponds for water. “As well as, Encana drills groundwater wells to provide the water needed for drilling,” Encana Services Co. spokesman Doug Hock in Colorado stated final week. “These are usually solely 100 to 250 toes in depth,” and above Southern Hills Aquifer sands, usually starting 400 feet or extra beneath floor, he stated.

“Encana would sometimes never use american petroleum equipment &nstructionmpany 2017 a groundwater supply that was an area’s main supply of drinking water for our needs,” Hock said. And produced water or waste water from Encana’s TMS wells is disposed of in state-licensed, deep injection wells, under guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Safety Agency, he stated. The injection wells can be, however aren’t necessarily, near drill sites.

When requested whether or not Encana is contemplating fracking in St. Tammany Parish, Hock mentioned the corporate’s efforts are centered on Mississippi now. “Amite County is where we now american petroleum equipment &nstructionmpany 2017 have the majority of our exercise,” he mentioned.

At Houston-based Goodrich Petroleum Corp. which has wells producing in the TMS play, the company typically makes use of surface water from personal lakes, streams or ponds, spokeswoman Kristie Buchanan stated last week

Fracking companies declare that drilling, when completed correctly, isn’t any risk to drinking water. But in late 2011, the EPA mentioned fluids used to drill for natural gasoline almost certainly polluted an aquifer near Pavillion, Wyoming. Encana, which owns the oil and gas wells in query there, disagreed with these findings, and mentioned the chemical compounds have been naturally occurring. The state of Wyoming is investigating the matter and plans to situation a report by late September.