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Texas Adopts Disposal Well Rule Amendments

The three Texas Railroad Commissioners have unanimously adopted disposal well rule amendments that are designed to address disposal well operations in areas of historical or future seismic activity. Disposal wells are permitted by the Railroad Commission to safely dispose of non-hazardous produced water (saltwater) and hydraulic fracture flowback fluid from oil and gas wells.

The main components of the adopted rule amendments, which become effective Nov. 17, are:

  • requiring applicants for new disposal wells to conduct a search of the U.S. Geological Survey seismic database for historical earthquakes within a circular area of 100 square miles around a proposed, new disposal well;
  • clarifying the Commission’s staff authority to modify or suspend or terminate a disposal well permit, including modifying disposal volumes and pressures or shutting in a well if scientific data indicates a disposal well is likely to be or determined to be contributing to seismic activity;
  • allowing Commission staff to require operators to disclose the current annually reported volumes and pressures on a more frequent basis if staff determines a need for this information;
  • and allowing Commission staff to require an applicant for a disposal well permit to provide additional information, including pressure front boundary calculations, to demonstrate that disposal fluids will remain confined if the well is to be located in an area where conditions exist that may increase the risk that the fluids may not be confined. 

San Antonio Water Pipeline Proposed to Boost Supply

Now in their third year of a drought, San Antonio officials are considering the construction of a 142-mile water pipeline project that would pump roughly 16 billion gallons of groundwater annually to the region from Burleson County, TX. Local individual landowners in the county have signed over 3,400 leases to provide their water from the Carrizo and Simsboro Aquifers.

The Vista Ridge pipeline would cost $3.4 billion and boost the water supply to San Antonio residents by 20%. Critics say that the project is in direct conflict with water conservation techniques that would reduce demand.  

Sasol Building $8.1 Billion Petrochemical Complex in Louisiana

Sasol Ltd. recently announced the final approval of an $8.1 billion ethane cracker and derivatives complex at its existing site in Lake Charles, LA. An additional $800 million will be invested in infrastructure and utility improvements, as well as land acquisition, to establish the Lake Charles location.

At the heart of the project is an ethane cracker that will produce 1.5 million tons of ethylene annually, benefitting from significant economies of scale. The complex also includes six chemical manufacturing plants. Approximately 90% of the cracker’s ethylene output will be converted into a diverse slate of commodity and high-margin specialty chemicals.

Sasol has selected Fluor Technip Integrated as the primary engineering, procurement and construction management contractor for this project. 

The Case to Preserve, Improve Existing Nuclear Plants

“Observers watching the U.S. nuclear industry can tell you that the industry is struggling through a rough patch right now. Few new plants are being considered for construction. A number of those in the construction process – such as Southern Company’s Vogtle plant – have suffered delays and cost overruns,” Forbes reports.

That is why there are powerful advocates for preserving and improving the nation’s existing nuclear power plants. They argue that these plants “produce 20% of our electricity, that the plants run steadily and reliably – producing round the clock baseload power – and that if we are intent on creating a cleaner energy future, the last thing we should do is to prematurely retire them.”

USDA Providing $352 Million to Upgrade Rural Water Infrastructure

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is providing more than $352 million in loans and grants to upgrade rural water and wastewater systems nationwide and make infrastructure improvements.

Since 2009, USDA Rural Development has invested nearly $11 billion in new and improved water and wastewater infrastructure that has benefited nearly 15 million rural residents and almost 6 million households and businesses.

USDA is providing $175 million in loans and $165 million in grants through the Water and Environmental Program. This is part of more than $1.5 billion USDA invested in rural water and wastewater projects during the 2014 Fiscal Year, which ended September 30. 

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