Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

Error: Can't find file, "".

Project Healing Waters

Subscribe to "Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water" in Radio UserLand.

Click to see the XML version of this web page.

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A picture named leechpool.jpg

Over at the Colorado Independent, Jim O'Donnell is arguing against President-elect Obama's nomination of Senator Salazar. He lists, "Nine reasons not to trust Ken Salazar as secretary of interior." From the column:

I am deeply troubled by many of the president-elect's choices for his Cabinet. We've got an anti-family-farm, pro-Monsanto guy going to Agriculture, an inexperienced Republican hack going to Transportation and now Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar to Interior. These are not the changes we need.

The secretary of the Interior, as the head of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Mineral Management Services, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and enforcer of the Endangered Species Act, is the most important federal position tasked with the protection of America's terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. This is not a trifle. In my opinion, Sen. Ken Salazar is not a great choice for that position.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Our view of the Salazar nomination here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:54:05 PM    

A picture named salmonella.jpg

Here's a look back at the salmonella outbreak in Alamosa, from Matt Hildner writing for the Pueblo Journal. From the article:

Imagine a day when the water that came out of the tap couldn't be used for drinking, bathing or cooking. While not the end of the world for a bachelor cooking ramen noodles with bottled water for dinner, for a hospital with 49 beds, the loss of water coming through the faucet presents a logistical nightmare. That was the case for the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center which, along with the rest of the town, went 24 days without tap water while city and state officials cleaned out the municipal water system blamed for March's salmonella outbreak.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:39:14 AM    

A picture named colonyoilshaleproject.jpg

Oil shale is not ready for prime time. There are many questions as to the viability of the fuel source that has been the "Next Big Thing" here in Colorado for over a hundred years. Here's a background piece about the current state of affairs from Jack Roadifer writing in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

Should oil shale be developed and, if so, when and how? Many geologists, engineers, physicists, chemists and others have been studying oil shale and its potential for years and have established some basic facts...

The oil shale (technically marlstone) was deposited in a large lake or lakes that existed in western Colorado, eastern Utah and southwestern Wyoming during the Miocene epoch about 15 million years ago. Clay, sand and silt were washed into the lake from surrounding highlands, and prolific organic material lived and died in the lake. These deposits, called the Green River Formation, were covered by younger deposits and later exposed by erosion.

Importantly, the oil shale was not covered by a great enough thickness of sediment to create the heat and pressure necessary to generate conventional crude oil. The hydrocarbon produced is called kerogen. The heat to liquefy the kerogen and release it from the rock must be supplied by some process devised by humans.

The processes that have been attempted on an experimental basis can be lumped together as (1) mining the shale, crushing it and heating it in a retort and (2) heating the shale underground, in situ, and pumping the released oil to the surface. Engineers and geologists have invested a great deal of time in developing these methods, and chemists have studied the properties of the oil and the most efficient ways to get it out of the rock.

Mining the shale would leave a lot of spent rock to be disposed of (an average ton of rock contains about 30 gallons of oil, and there are 42 gallons to a barrel of oil).

Shell Oil has been a leader in developing new technologies in oil shale extraction in recent years. Much of the information discussed here is from an October 2007 article in Fortune magazine detailing Shell's method called the In Situ Conversion Process or ICP. The in situ method being used in Shell Oil's experimental tract involves drilling a well through the oil shale layer (about 2,000 feet) and lowering heated rods that will eventually heat the shale to 650 degrees Farenheit to release the oil. It may take about a year for the shale to reach the necessary temperature. Once the oil is freed from the rock, it is pumped to the surface much like in a conventional oil well. Shell recovered 1,700 barrels of light, high-quality oil from a 30-foot by 40-foot test area using this method. In a commercial-sized tract, an ice barrier would have to be formed around the tract to prevent contamination of the surrounding ground water. According to a Rand Corp. estimate, a power plant would have to be constructed that would consume 5 million tons of coal per year to produce 100,000 barrels of oil per day. However, Shell says it could obtain the needed energy from the natural gas produced by the process.

The shale for a retort could be obtained from an open pit mine that would be 2,000 feet deep. It is estimated that three barrels of water would be needed to process one barrel of oil and that about a million barrels of oil could be produced from an acre. Several companies were players in the development of shale oil during the 1960s and 1970s, including Tosco, Union Oil, Paraho, Occidental and others. Some of these companies produced some oil from their projects, proving it can be done. Union Oil, for example, produced a total of 13,000 barrels of shale oil from processing 1,200 tons of rock per day at its facility on Parachute Creek. A pipeline would then be needed to get the resource to market. Because the oil is a heavier grade and has some different chemical properties than most conventional crude oil, it would have to be heated to keep it liquid.

Meanwhile oil and gas companies are still bullish on developing oil shale, according to a report from the United Press international. They write:

The recent drop in oil prices is not likely to derail the push to develop shale oil deposits in the western United States, an oil executive says. Despite sagging crude prices and growing concern about the amount of water used to extract oil from shale, energy companies are forging ahead to exploit reserves on federal lands that last month were opened to production. "As long as we continue to be a nation that is hooked on liquid fuel, we need to look at anything we can do to tap the sources of energy in this country," Tracy Boyd, communications and sustainability manager at Shell Oil Co., told the Los Angeles Times.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Climate Change News
6:26:44 AM    

A picture named showerseep1977.jpg

Here's an article laying out some of the challenges U.S. Senator Ken Salazar will be facing as he takes over the leadership of the Department of Interior, from Anne C. Mulkern writing for the Denver Post. From the article:

One Interior Department scandal featured sex, drugs and influence peddling. Another involved politics trumping science in endangered-species rulings. Then there are the agency's intractable problems, such as the $8.7 billion maintenance backlog for national parks or a 12-year-old class-action lawsuit on behalf of Native Americans. The Interior Department manages 507 million acres, equal to about one-fifth of the country. But in recent years, it has had difficulty managing itself. When Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado takes over as interior secretary next month, he'll assume responsibility for a department beset by turmoil. He'll oversee everything from oil- and gas-leasing decisions to relationships with American Indian tribes. And he'll face large expectations from a new president and myriad special-interest groups. Changing the face and the politics of the department is not likely to happen easily or quickly...

Thirteen endangered-species-designation decisions made by the Fish and Wildlife Service between 2003 and 2007 were tainted, [Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney] said, because then-Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald sought to influence the outcome for political reasons. She resigned in 2007 after an earlier report by Devaney. "MacDonald's zeal to advance her agenda has caused considerable harm to the integrity of the (Endangered Species Act) program," Devaney wrote in a Dec. 15 letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kemp thorne. "Her heavy-handedness has cast doubt on nearly every ESA decision issued during her tenure." After Devaney's 2007 report on MacDonald, Fish and Wildlife reopened endangered-species decisions made under her supervision and reversed seven rulings. Devaney has credited Kempthorne with working to fix problems. Kempthorne became head of interior in May 2006 after previous Secretary Gale Norton of Colorado resigned.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:12:12 AM    

Click here to visit the Radio UserLand website. © Copyright 2009 John Orr.
Last update: 1/1/09; 6:46:43 PM.
December 2008
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31      
Nov   Jan