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From Dinosaurs to Data Networks: Texas and the Arctic in the Anthropocene

“Report from the Top of the World!”

The flier caught my attention immediately. The U.S. Embassy in Oslo and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Washington, DC wanted to send graduate journalism students to the Norwegian Arctic as part of a new internship program.

I applied because I wanted to gain a global perspective on my research and reporting. Less than a year later, I found myself standing on an empty beach near Bugøynes on the northern coast of Norway, silent except for the call of a distant bird and the lapping of cold water against the shore. Towering overhead were the sharp black rocks and dark islands of the fjords, silhouetted by midnight sun that glowed a soft, radiant white behind a sheet of fog…

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The History Behind Texas Coal Power

ANDERSON — Straddling a dammed-up creek 20 miles east of College Station squats the Gibbons Creek Steam Electric Station, a massive coal-fired power plant supplying the city-owned utilities of Denton, Bryan, Garland and Greenville.

In the plant, a boiler is suspended from a steel beam like a glowing bee’s nest hanging from a giant tree limb. A conveyor feeds the boiler finely ground coal, fueling a fireball hotter than flowing lava. . . The control room on top of the plant is aglow with computer screens where workers in overalls press buttons to control feeders, fans and flow rates, and monitor the behavior of the fireball inside the boiler. Good behavior is determined by how much and what form of sulfur, carbon, mercury, nitrogen, particulates and other contaminates the burning coal produces.

“All this is just a giant chemistry experiment,” said Jan Horbaczewski. 

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Landfill Gas and Biogas Symposium

The Landfill Gas and Biogas Symposium March 16-19, 2015 in New Orleans will give biomass managers a chance to assess their system and look for ways to increase efficiency using successful case studies. “At a DTE Biomass Energy site consisting of (2) CAT 3520 engines, a series of incremental improvements cascaded on each other, leading to a drop in plant operating costs of over 35% from 2010 to 2013 and a plant on-stream rate improvement from 93.2% to 96.6%. What appear to be common sense applications of problem solving proved themselves to be game changers…”

Find out more about the event–>

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Not a lot of thanks-giving after OPEC’s Nov. 27 meeting

End-of-year Company Update

Dec. 2, 2014 — The world’s largest publicly traded energy company is weathering the storm of falling oil prices with a show of healthy profits, but the oil giant may not be exempt from facing further price drops that could mean curbing investments in 2015.

Over the course of 2014 ExxonMobil led explosive growth in production in a booming energy market, a market which today suffers from a glut of supply that has continued to push the price of oil down since June — to $70 a barrel Friday for a four-year low.

The company’s stock dropped a whopping 4% on Friday after OPEC did not to agree to reduce oil production, pushing down oil prices in order to push out unwanted competition — a move analysts are calling “commodity gamesmanship” aimed at targeting U.S. shale producers.

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IPCC Climate Change Report makes a strong case for change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Nov. 2 issued its Synthesis Report – a combination three IPCC Working Group reports, which IPCC says are “the most comprehensive assessment of climate change ever undertaken.”

The report is the joint effort of 800 lead authors, almost 1,000 more supporting authors and a combination of 30,000 scientific papers. The report “distills and integrates the findings” and provides information critically important for policymakers, IPCC says.

But David Malakoff poses the pertinent question in his article in Science magazine: “whether the new IPCC report can help overcome the political and economic obstacles that have blocked major movement of reducing emissions.”

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Vexed by Earthquakes, Texas Calls in a Scientist

[Image: David Craig Pearson, the Texas Railroad Commission’s new seismologist, is giving serious attention to the state’s earthquakes. Friday, Sept. 26, 2014, in Austin. Credit: Marie D. De Jesus / Houston Chronicle]

“Surely the seismologist – this man of science, highly educated and blessed with good ol’ boy roots in West Texas – must know what he’s getting himself into. The Texas oil boom is the envy of the nation, a source of strength in uncertain geopolitical times. Smart people are moving in from the coasts. Investors are getting rich. Even a high school dropout can make decent money behind the wheel of a truck. Life is good…”

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Permafrost thaw cracks urban infrastructure, students dig in

[Image: Google satellite image of the city of Norilsk, Russia.]

Students from Russia, U.S., Norway, Germany, Italy, China and U.K. arrived this week in Norilsk, Russia where they will spend two weeks in a field school to assess the effects of permafrost thaw on Russian urban infrastructure.

The student researchers will conduct permafrost research in the field as well as meet with representatives of the Norilsk-Nickel mining company and of local production plants and geological, planning, social and migration services to form a science-based dialogue about problems and solutions.

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“You can’t breathe in air with 7,000 micrograms of sulfur dioxide.”

[Image: The nickel smelting plant in Nikel, Russia located just over the Norwegian border produces pollution that has been a problem for northern Norwegians for decades and is nearly six times the amount of pollution produced in all of Norway. Photo by Amelia Jaycen.]

Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology on Tuesday told representatives of “MMC” Norilsk Nickel of the planned decommissioning some of Nikel plant rundown facilities by 2016 and reorganization of metallurgical production at the Monchegorsk plant, which must be upgraded and modernized, the ministry said in a press release yesterday. Monchegorsk is owned by the same company and located some two-hour drive south of Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula.

The program involves modernization and renovation of all stages of processing and consolidation of smelting and refining capacity to a more modern venue including technological upgrading and expansion of refinery at Monchegorsk during 2016-2017. Capital investments in the program total more than 50 billion rubles, the release says.

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N-ICE: Studying Arctic ice from cradle to grave

[Image: Researchers collect an ice core to measure its temperature and salinity near “RV Lance” during the N-ICE test cruise in February 2014. Photo by Paul Dodd/Norwegian Polar Institute]

When spring 2015 approaches, sun spilling the landscape will find a group of scientists adrift at sea on “RV Lance” – once a top-of-the-line seal hunting boat, now turned research vessel.

On board the ship, an international collection of researchers will watch up-close as the arctic wakes, with instruments tuned not only to wildlife but to the most important creature of them all – the sea ice.

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Climate change study heats up Arctic soil

[Images: Amelia Jaycen]

Students from Russia, U.S., Norway, Germany, Italy, China and U.K. arrived this week in Norilsk, Russia where they will spend two weeks in a field school to assess the effects of permafrost thaw on Russian urban infrastructure.

The student researchers will conduct permafrost research in the field as well as meet with representatives of the Norilsk-Nickel mining company and of local production plants and geological, planning, social and migration services to form a science-based dialogue about problems and solutions.

Continue Reading–>