Scientists to Study Anchor Damage to Sea Floor

By MarEx 2015-09-09 20:49:40

The University of Wollongong in Australia has initiated a study on the effect of anchors and anchor chains on the ocean floor near Australia’s busiest ports, including Port Kembla, Newcastle, Port Dampier in Western Australia’s Pilbara region and Townsville on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.

Marine biologist Professor Andy Davis said preliminary mapping and 3D imagery of the sea floor three nautical miles from Port Kembla had revealed the anchor chains of more than 250 meters in length, with individual links up to 200 kilograms, are dragging across seafloor habitat.

“Preliminary mapping has confirmed anchoring is occurring on reef near Port Kembla. This may well have damaging environmental impacts on important habitat-forming marine species with implications for fish populations. We will now seek to identify areas of high conservation value, then identify how these areas may best be conserved.”

Davis, a member of the Centre for Sustainable Ecosystem Solutions at UOW, said the project is the first of its kind to research the impact of anchors on the marine environment, with the aim of creating sustainable anchoring practices throughout the world. Davis hopes to work closely with the shipping industry to achieve this goal.

“There is a huge knowledge gap in the impact of deep-water vessels on environmental habitats. Even the shipping industry’s code of practice fails to recognize anchor scour as an important environmental threat. We are focusing on Port Kembla to begin with, but as each port and region is different, the impact on the ocean floor may vary dramatically from port to port,” he said.

Davis and his team have already been liaising with government, both state and federal, members of the shipping industry and environmental agencies to examine how much damage results from the 11,000 vessels that visit Australian ports annually and how impacts may be mitigated.

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Tianjin Explosions Could Cost $3.3 Billion

By MarEx 2015-09-09 20:23:46

New York reinsurance broker Guy Carpenter & Company has estimated that it could cost $3.3 billion to cover the extent of losses associated with the Tianjin explosions.

The company has released a report that estimates damages to be worth between $1.6 billion and $3.3 billion, more than double early estimates released by Credit Suisse of $1 billion to $1.5 billion.

The report provides initial loss estimates and outlines the many variables involved in assessing losses emanating from the two massive initial explosions that occurred at Tianjin Port on August 12.

“The explosions that occurred in Tianjin, China, are likely to constitute one of the largest insured man-made losses to date in Asia and will certainly be considered one of the most complex insurance and reinsurance losses in recent history,” commented James Nash, CEO of Asia Pacific Operations for Guy Carpenter.

The fireball and shock wave from the explosions blasted shipping containers; incinerated vehicles in the port and on an adjacent highway overpass; destroyed warehouses, production facilities and dormitories; impacted the nearby Donghai Road Railway Station and blew out windows within residential structures for several kilometers.

While access to the site is limited, Guy Carpenter’s satellite-based catastrophe evaluation service, was able to use high resolution pre- and post-event satellite imagery to understand what exposures were present at the time of the blast and therefore could contribute to the loss.

The study outlines the complexity of the event from an insurance and reinsurance perspective and provides a preliminary estimate of insured losses from many classes including: containers; cargo in containers; property; automobiles and general aviation.


Damage to property, analyzed using post-event satellite imagery. (Image: Google/skybox with Guy Carpenter analysis).

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Oil Spill Damage to Fish Underestimated

By MarEx 2015-09-09 19:31:23

For 25 years, methodical research by scientists has investigated the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 on Alaskan communities and ecosystems. A new study into the effects of the spill shows that embryonic salmon and herring exposed to very low levels of crude oil can develop hidden heart defects that compromise their later survival, indicating that the spill may have had much greater impacts on spawning fish than previously recognized.

The herring population crashed four years after the spill in Prince William Sound and pink salmon stocks also declined, but the link to the oil spill has remained controversial. The new findings published in the online journal Scientific Reports suggest that the delayed effects of the spill may have been important contributors to the declines.

“These juvenile fish on the outside look completely normal, but their hearts are not functioning properly, and that translates directly into reduced swimming ability and reduced survival,” said John Incardona, a research toxicologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. “In terms of impacts to shore-spawning fish, the oil spill likely had a much bigger footprint than anyone realized.”

The research builds on earlier work by the Auke Bay Laboratories, part of NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center, which found much reduced survival of pink salmon exposed as embryos to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) from crude oil.


Pink Salmon

“Our findings are changing the picture in terms of assessing the risk and the potential impacts of oil spills,” said Nat Scholz, leader of the NWFSC’s ecotoxicology program and a coauthor of the new study. “We now know the developing fish heart is exquisitely sensitive to crude oil toxicity, and that subtle changes in heart formation can have delayed but important consequences for first-year survival, which in turn determines the long-term abundance of wild fish populations.”

Scientists from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and Alaska Fisheries Science Center temporarily exposed embryonic salmon and herring to low levels of crude oil from the North Slope of Alaska and found that both absorbed chemicals at similar concentrations in their tissues. The embryos were then transferred to clean seawater and raised as juvenile fish for seven to eight months.

Few of the exposed embryos or larvae were outwardly abnormal in any way. However, closer examination of the fish revealed subtle defects that could reduce their long-term survival:

Juvenile salmon exposed to oil grew more slowly, with those exposed to the highest concentrations growing the slowest. For salmon, early survival in the ocean is strongly influenced by juvenile growth, with smaller fish suffering higher loss to predators.

Scientists used swimming speed as a measure of cardiorespiratory performance and found that fish exposed to the highest concentrations of oil swam the slowest. Slower swimming is an indication of reduced aerobic capacity and cardiac output, and likely makes fish easier targets for predators.

Exposure to oil as embryos altered the structural development of the hearts of juvenile fish, potentially reducing their fitness and swimming ability. Poor swimming and cardiac fitness is also a factor in disease resistance.

“With this very early impact on the heart, you end up with an animal that just can’t pump blood through its body as well, which means it can’t swim as well to capture food, form schools, or migrate,” said Mark Carls, toxicologist at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. “Crude oil is changing basic physiology, or what makes a fish a fish.”

Scientists reviewed data on measured oil concentrations in surface water samples collected in Prince William Sound after the oil spill and during the 1989 herring spawning season. Most of the 233 samples contained less oil than was believed to be toxic to herring at the time, based on gross developmental abnormalities. However, nearly all of the samples contained oil at or above concentrations shown in the new study to alter heart development.

If the Exxon Valdez spill impacted heart development among a large majority of fish that were spawned in proximity to oiled shorelines, the subsequent losses of juveniles to delayed mortality would have left fewer adults to join the population. Although not direct proof, this provides a plausible explanation for the collapse of the Prince William Sound herring stock four years later, when fish spawned during the oil spill would have matured.

The study concludes that the impacts of the Exxon Valdez spill on nearshore spawning populations of fish are likely to have been considerably underestimated in terms of both the geographic extent of affected habitat and the lingering toxicity of low levels of oil. The findings will likely contribute to more accurate assessments of the impacts of future oil spills, Incardona said. “Now we have a much better idea of what we should be looking for,” he said.

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Watch: New Ads Promote U.S. Crude Exports

By Wendy Laursen 2015-09-09 17:45:17

The American Petroleum Institute (API) has launched a new series of ads highlighting what it sees as the broad economic and national security benefits of crude oil exports.

“We’re speaking directly to the consumers and workers who will benefit from lifting these outdated trade restrictions,” said API’s executive vice president for government affairs, Louis Finkel. “The House and Senate are considering bipartisan legislation to lift the ban, and it’s important to share the facts on how free trade in oil could create new jobs, put downward pressure on fuel costs, and strengthen our energy security.”

The new television and online campaign will begin this week in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

The ads feature quotes from major U.S. news outlets explaining how lifting America’s ban on oil exports could spur additional U.S. energy production, generate jobs, protect consumers and strengthen U.S. allies. The campaign is a key component of API’s broader energy literacy efforts, emphasizing the importance of updating U.S. energy policies to reflect America’s rise as a global energy superpower.

“Study after study, including last week’s report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, shows that allowing U.S. oil exports could benefit consumers and sharpen America’s competitive edge. And our allies around the world are eager to reduce their reliance on less friendly nations. As lawmakers consider a deal that would put Iran’s crude on the global market, it’s worth asking why U.S. producers don’t yet have that same access to customers abroad. Now is the time to act, and we appreciate the efforts of leaders in Congress who are pushing to quickly harness America’s economic and diplomatic potential as an energy superpower.”

The Debate

A Columbia University study published this year examines the issues involved: Although the U.S. will likely continue to consume more oil than we produce, and thus remain a net petroleum importer, there are growing concerns about the ability of the U.S. refining system to absorb future growth in domestic crude production. Virtually all the recent and projected growth in U.S. crude output is lighter weight and lower sulfur than the Canadian, Mexican, Venezuelan and Middle Eastern crudes many U.S. refineries are currently configured to process. Refineries elsewhere in the world process light oil, but under current law, U.S. crude oil exports are largely (though not entirely) prohibited.

There are both proponents and opponents of increasing the amount of crude oil that can be exported from the U.S., say the study authors Jason Bordoff and Trevor Houser. “Domestic oil producers worry that without access to foreign markets, they will have to discount their oil to incentivize refiners to process it at existing facilities or cover the investment required to build new ones. Lower market prices for U.S. crude producers could reduce upstream investment and future domestic production growth. Many refiners worry that allowing crude oil exports will raise domestic crude prices, harm their competitiveness and reduce the incentive for new refining investments.

“Consumers worry that exporting oil could increase gasoline and diesel prices and leave them more vulnerable to future international supply disruptions. And some environmental groups worry that allowing exports will result in more shale development domestically and more greenhouse gas emissions globally.”

A Call to Politicians

Last month, API President and CEO Jack Gerard urged candidates at the upcoming presidential debates to outline their vision for harnessing the economic and national security opportunities created by America’s energy revolution.

“We can pursue an American future of energy abundance, self-determination and global leadership or take a step back to an era of scarcity, dependence and uncertainty,” said Gerard. “We’re calling on candidates – Republican and Democrat alike – to share with voters their vision for harnessing this American energy moment.

“Make no mistake – America’s role as an energy superpower is not ensured. We’ve seen the mission creep of federal agencies on full display under this administration. Thousands of pages of new roadblocks and mandates are making their way through the regulatory pipeline.

“We cannot afford for our next president to be blinded to the opportunities in front of us by a stale mindset of ‘70s-era scarcity. That is why those who seek to represent us must go beyond the talking points and outline a clear vision for energy that will advance our nation’s economy, security and standard of living.”

The Energy Trade

A mid-year trade report from the U.S. Commerce Department showed that the oil and natural gas industry continues to drive U.S. economic gains in 2015. It’s a trend that could accelerate under free trade policies, said API Chief Economist John Felmy.

“Despite a very competitive global market, the U.S. energy revolution continues to push our trade balance in a positive direction,” said Felmy. “Oil imports remain on the decline, and strong exports of petroleum and refined products are creating new opportunities for America to bring wealth and jobs back to U.S. shores.”

The total U.S. trade deficit peaked at $762 billion in 2006, prior to the surge in U.S. oil and natural gas production. By 2014, it had dropped to $508 billion. The latest report, covering trade data through June 2015, shows that the U.S. trade deficit among petroleum and petroleum products fell by 56.1 percent compared to the first six months of 2014.

That growth helped to hold the total U.S. year-over-year trade balance steady, despite a 23.1 percent increase in the trade deficit among non-petroleum products. Due to low commodity prices, the value of U.S. petroleum and petroleum product exports fell by $20.2 billion, despite high export volumes, but petroleum-related imports fell faster, down $78.6 billion compared to the first six months of 2014.

“Outdated trade policies are among the biggest threats to America’s continued growth right now,” said Felmy. “Accelerating approval of LNG export terminals and lifting the 1970s era ban on crude oil exports would put America in the driver’s seat on trade. America is now the world’s largest producer of natural gas, providing our workers an important competitive advantage in the global market. And study after study shows that lifting the ban on crude exports will mean more jobs, downward pressure on fuel costs and could reduce the power that foreign suppliers have over our allies overseas.”

The next United States presidential election of 2016 is expected to be held in November 2016.

Details

New Ads Promote U.S. Crude Exports

By Wendy Laursen 2015-09-09 17:45:17

The American Petroleum Institute (API) has launched a new series of ads highlighting what it sees as the broad economic and national security benefits of crude oil exports.

“We’re speaking directly to the consumers and workers who will benefit from lifting these outdated trade restrictions,” said API’s executive vice president for government affairs, Louis Finkel. “The House and Senate are considering bipartisan legislation to lift the ban, and it’s important to share the facts on how free trade in oil could create new jobs, put downward pressure on fuel costs, and strengthen our energy security.”

The new television and online campaign will begin this week in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

The ads feature quotes from major U.S. news outlets explaining how lifting America’s ban on oil exports could spur additional U.S. energy production, generate jobs, protect consumers and strengthen U.S. allies. The campaign is a key component of API’s broader energy literacy efforts, emphasizing the importance of updating U.S. energy policies to reflect America’s rise as a global energy superpower.

“Study after study, including last week’s report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, shows that allowing U.S. oil exports could benefit consumers and sharpen America’s competitive edge. And our allies around the world are eager to reduce their reliance on less friendly nations. As lawmakers consider a deal that would put Iran’s crude on the global market, it’s worth asking why U.S. producers don’t yet have that same access to customers abroad. Now is the time to act, and we appreciate the efforts of leaders in Congress who are pushing to quickly harness America’s economic and diplomatic potential as an energy superpower.”

The Debate

A Columbia University study published this year examines the issues involved: Although the U.S. will likely continue to consume more oil than we produce, and thus remain a net petroleum importer, there are growing concerns about the ability of the U.S. refining system to absorb future growth in domestic crude production. Virtually all the recent and projected growth in U.S. crude output is lighter weight and lower sulfur than the Canadian, Mexican, Venezuelan and Middle Eastern crudes many U.S. refineries are currently configured to process. Refineries elsewhere in the world process light oil, but under current law, U.S. crude oil exports are largely (though not entirely) prohibited.

There are both proponents and opponents of increasing the amount of crude oil that can be exported from the U.S., say the study authors Jason Bordoff and Trevor Houser. “Domestic oil producers worry that without access to foreign markets, they will have to discount their oil to incentivize refiners to process it at existing facilities or cover the investment required to build new ones. Lower market prices for U.S. crude producers could reduce upstream investment and future domestic production growth. Many refiners worry that allowing crude oil exports will raise domestic crude prices, harm their competitiveness and reduce the incentive for new refining investments.

“Consumers worry that exporting oil could increase gasoline and diesel prices and leave them more vulnerable to future international supply disruptions. And some environmental groups worry that allowing exports will result in more shale development domestically and more greenhouse gas emissions globally.”

A Call to Politicians

Last month, API President and CEO Jack Gerard urged candidates at the upcoming presidential debates to outline their vision for harnessing the economic and national security opportunities created by America’s energy revolution.

“We can pursue an American future of energy abundance, self-determination and global leadership or take a step back to an era of scarcity, dependence and uncertainty,” said Gerard. “We’re calling on candidates – Republican and Democrat alike – to share with voters their vision for harnessing this American energy moment.

“Make no mistake – America’s role as an energy superpower is not ensured. We’ve seen the mission creep of federal agencies on full display under this administration. Thousands of pages of new roadblocks and mandates are making their way through the regulatory pipeline.

“We cannot afford for our next president to be blinded to the opportunities in front of us by a stale mindset of ‘70s-era scarcity. That is why those who seek to represent us must go beyond the talking points and outline a clear vision for energy that will advance our nation’s economy, security and standard of living.”

The Energy Trade

A mid-year trade report from the U.S. Commerce Department showed that the oil and natural gas industry continues to drive U.S. economic gains in 2015. It’s a trend that could accelerate under free trade policies, said API Chief Economist John Felmy.

“Despite a very competitive global market, the U.S. energy revolution continues to push our trade balance in a positive direction,” said Felmy. “Oil imports remain on the decline, and strong exports of petroleum and refined products are creating new opportunities for America to bring wealth and jobs back to U.S. shores.”

The total U.S. trade deficit peaked at $762 billion in 2006, prior to the surge in U.S. oil and natural gas production. By 2014, it had dropped to $508 billion. The latest report, covering trade data through June 2015, shows that the U.S. trade deficit among petroleum and petroleum products fell by 56.1 percent compared to the first six months of 2014.

That growth helped to hold the total U.S. year-over-year trade balance steady, despite a 23.1 percent increase in the trade deficit among non-petroleum products. Due to low commodity prices, the value of U.S. petroleum and petroleum product exports fell by $20.2 billion, despite high export volumes, but petroleum-related imports fell faster, down $78.6 billion compared to the first six months of 2014.

“Outdated trade policies are among the biggest threats to America’s continued growth right now,” said Felmy. “Accelerating approval of LNG export terminals and lifting the 1970s era ban on crude oil exports would put America in the driver’s seat on trade. America is now the world’s largest producer of natural gas, providing our workers an important competitive advantage in the global market. And study after study shows that lifting the ban on crude exports will mean more jobs, downward pressure on fuel costs and could reduce the power that foreign suppliers have over our allies overseas.”

The next United States presidential election of 2016 is expected to be held in November 2016.

Details