Two-in-one Chemical Analyzer Enables On-site Virtual Mixture Analysis

Thermo Fisher Scientific recently announced a software update to its Thermo Scientific Gemini handheld analyzer.  The new functionality integrates HazMasterG3, a support system designed to allow chemical response personnel to virtually mix chemical substances, interpret the results rapidly, and better protect themselves and the public from the effects of potentially dangerous chemical combinations.  The Gemini analyzer leverages the strengths of two techniques – FTIR and Raman spectroscopy – in one device to address a broader range of samples than either technique alone.

Military personnel, bomb technicians, hazmat teams and first responders can now perform virtual mixture analysis in the field with a software update to the Thermo Scientific Gemini handheld analyzer.  The update is designed to enable informed and safe decision-making when analyzing chemical substances in the field.

The analyzer includes an extensive onboard library designed to allow users to identify unknown solids and liquids, including explosives, chemical warfare agents, industrial chemicals and precursors.  Operators can determine the most likely formulations that could be made with the identified ingredients, as well as estimated quantity and potential reactions.

 

New B.C. Guidance Documents for Contaminated Sites Released

The British Columbia Ministry of the Environment recently released draft guidance documents for contaminated sites for comment.  The following four documents are open for comment:

The B.C. Ministry of the Environment will accept comments until April 28, 2017.  Comments should be sent to site@gov.bc.ca.

Technical Guidance 17 (PDF), while not open for comment, is available for review in conjunction with Protocol 4.

The changes in Administrative Guidance 3 and Administrative Guidance 5 are minimal and the limited revisions have been highlighted in yellow.  However, Protocols 4 and 18 have undergone significant re-writing and need to be reviewed in their entirety to see the full scope of changes.

North Dakota Senate approves bill that reduces oil spill reporting

As reported in the Bismark Tribune, North Dakota Senate lawmakers recently voted to raise the threshold for reporting oil spills, a proposal the oil industry supported but many landowners opposed.

Under House Bill 1151, oil companies will no longer have to report spills of oil, produced water or natural gas liquids that are less than 10 barrels, or 420 gallons, if the spills stay on the well site or facility location.

The reporting exemption only applies to oil wells and facilities constructed after Sept. 1, 2000, under the version approved by the Senate.  The bill does not eliminate the requirement to clean up all spills.

Sen. Jessica Unruh, R-Beulah, said well pads are designed to contain far more than 420 gallons, and the change would allow regulators to focus resources on spills that get off a location.

Unruh said North Dakota has more “stringent” spill reporting requirements than the federal government and most other oil-producing states, which can make it appear that North Dakota has more spills than other states.

The Northwest Landowners Association, which advocated for all spills to be reported, plans to write a letter to Gov. Doug Burgum urging him to veto the bill, said Chairman Troy Coons.

“It really feels like it’s going the wrong way and setting the wrong tone for the legacy of the Bakken play,” Coons said.

Department of Mineral Resources rules that took effect on Sept. 1, 2000, require well sites to be constructed with dikes that are “sufficiently impermeable” to provide emergency containment in the event of a spill.

Patty Jensen, a landowner near Tioga, said she’s not aware of any study that shows how impermeable those layer of protections are over the long term.  Jensen, whose family’s land is being cleaned up after a major 2013 oil pipeline spill, said she is also concerned about small, contained spills to protect her family’s water supply for future generations.

“We used to have the assurance that every spill over 1 barrel would be reported and the state would be watching what happens on a location to keep the oil companies in compliance on cleanups,” Jensen said. “We will no longer will have that assurance.”

Alison Ritter, spokeswoman for the Department of Mineral Resources, said field inspectors will have to pay closer attention when they visit well sites to make sure all spills have been cleaned up. Inspectors also will likely have to do more work when the well site is reclaimed, Ritter said.

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, noted that spills of all volumes that get off a well pad will continue to be reported, which is more stringent than federal requirements.

Nanotech Sponge Removes Mercury from Water

As reported in the Science News Journal, a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Sciences (CFANS) created a sponge to address this growing problem. Within seconds, the sponge can absorb mercury from a polluted water source.

The team used nanotechnology to develop a sponge that has outstanding mercury adsorption properties.  Mercury contamination can now be removed to below detectable limits from tap and lake water in less than 5 seconds.  It takes about 5 minutes to remove the mercury from industrial wastewater.  The contamination is converted into a complex that is not toxic and the sponge can be disposed of in a landfill after use.  The sponge also kills fungal and bacterial microbes.

As an illustration, if Como Lake in St. Paul were contaminated with mercury at the U.S. EPA limit, a sponge the size of a basketball would be needed to remove all of the mercury.

This is an important development for the state of Minnesota.  More than 66% of the waters on Minnesota’s 2004 Impaired Waters List are compromised as the mercury contamination in those waters ranges from 0.27 to 12.43 ng/L (the EPA limit is 2 ng/L).

Many Great Lake States and Provinces have had to establish fish consumption guidelines, as mercury contamination of lake waters leads to mercury accumulation in fish.  It is advised that a number of fish species store bought or caught in the Great Lakes should not be consumed more than once a week or even once a month.

A reduced deposition of mercury is also projected to have economic benefits.  U.S. EPA forecasts show that reducing mercury emissions to the latest established effluent limit standards would result in 130,000 fewer asthma attacks, 11,000 fewer premature deaths and 4,700 fewer heart attacks each year.  That translates to between $37 billion and $90 billion in annual monetized benefits.

The new technology would have an impact on inspiring new regulations in addition to improving aquatic life, air and water quality, and public health.  Technology shapes regulations and this, in turn, determines the value of the market.

Experts successfully test a novel oil spill cleanup technology

As reported in Science Daily, researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) successfully tested a novel technology that can accelerate the combustion of crude oil floating on water.  By combusting spilled fuel, it is argued that the potential for long term environmental impacts are minimized.  The Flame Refluxer, developed by fire protection engineering researchers, could make it possible to burn off spilled oil quickly while producing relatively low levels of air pollutants.

The research from the technology was partially funded by the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).  The recent tests were conducted at the United States Coast Guard’s (USCC) Joint Maritime Test Facility on Little Sand Island, located in Mobile Bay, Alabama.  The tests involved controlled burns of oil in a specially designed test tank on the island.

“In-situ burning has been used with great success, and it is our goal to support research that makes a good method even better,” said Karen Stone, oil spill response engineer at BSEE.  “This research and the results of these tests are particularly exciting.  We saw hotter fires increase the amount of oil that was consumed, what appears to be cleaner emissions, and a significant reduction in burn residue after the burn.  Initially we were hopeful that the technology could capture any remaining residue after the burn, but the fires burned so efficiently there was very little to collect.”

When oil is spilled in open water, burning it in place (called in-situ burning) can be an effective method for removing the oil before it can settle into the water column and cause ecological harm.  In fact, the current research project is based, in part, on the experience of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, during which more than 400 controlled burns removed between 220,000 and 310,000 barrels of oil from the ocean’s surface.

 

While that experience demonstrated the potential for burns to become an effective clean-up tool, they also made clear the limitations of current techniques.  For example, open-water oil fires can be difficult to sustain, they produce smoke, and they leave behind a tar-like residue that can harm marine life.  The Flame Refluxer is designed to overcome each of those issues.

According to Scott Fields of the USCG Research and Development Center “in-situ burning is already a very successful process, but we want to improve the air quality for our first responders who are engaged in oil spill cleanup.”

The Flame Refluxer consists of metal coils attached to a blanket made from copper wool sandwiched between two layers of copper mesh.  The blanket is designed to be placed on top of floating oil that has been collected with a boom towed by boats.  After the oil is ignited, the coils and blanket transmit heat from the flames to superheat the oil, which increases its burning rate and efficiency.  As a result, the oil burns more completely.  The more complete combustion produces fewer airborne emissions, and any solid residue is captured by the copper wool and kept out of the water column.

The technology was developed at WPI as an outgrowth of research funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior aimed at assessing the feasibility of using in-situ burns to clean up oil spills in remote locations in the Arctic, where harsh weather can make it difficult to quickly mobilize clean-up equipment and crews.  When laboratory tests identified the challenges of igniting and sustaining oil fires on ice and in cold water, researchers at WPI began exploring methods for making the oil easier to burn by transmitting heat from the flames to the oil.  The Flame Refluxer is the product of that exploration.

“The technology is so simple, it has no moving parts, it’s inexpensive, and it significantly enhances the burning rate of oil.  The tests we conducted at this unique facility will allow us to advance the technology closer to actual deployment” said Professor Rangwala, a fire protection engineer at WPI and lead researcher.

During test burns conducted with and without the Flame Refluxer, the researchers measured a number of parameters, including temperatures above the oil fire and the flow rate of oil delivered to the test apparatus, in order to determine how effectively the Flame Refluxer conveyed heat from the flames to the oil (a process known as heat flux) and how it changed the oil burning rate.  An air sampling station collected emissions produced by the fire and continuously measured several combustion byproducts: carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10).  The copper blanket was weighed before and after each test to see how effectively it trapped residue from the oil fires.

While it will take time to analyze the large volume of data collected during the test burns and report official results, Professor Rangwala said the research team made several observations that suggested that the Flame Refluxer technology performed as expected.  “Where we observed thick black smoke during a baseline test, where we burned crude oil without the blanket and coils, when the Refluxer was in use, the smoke was thinner and grey, even though more oil was being combusted.  In fact, our measurements show that between four and five times as much oil was burned per minute with the Flame Refluxer in place.  Finally, we observed that virtually no residue was left over after our burns with the Refluxer, an indication that it promotes more complete combustion of the oil.”

Cleantech one of the fastest growing industries in B.C.: KPMG

The cleantech industry was worth $1.8 bilion to British Columbia’s economy in 2016, and it is outpacing most other sectors in terms of growth and job creation, according to a recently releasedKPMG report.

The number of B.C. cleantech companies, which include those whose primary purposes are clean energy production, water treatment and energy or resource management, increased from 202 in 2010 to 273 last year.  The sector employed 8,560 people last year, and the average salary was $84,000 – up from $68,000 in 2009.

“The cleantech sector continues to both experience and drive growth in our province as well as provide an attractive investment opportunities for British Columbians,” said KPMG Canada’s Lorne Burns, who authored the report.

“The jobs it offers are desirable ones; average salaries are high and the technologies those jobs produce contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable world.”

Globally, the cleantech industry is worth $3 trillion, and this is growing, according to KPMG’s study. The United States is the biggest customer of B.C.’s cleantech sector, and this is expected to grow over the next three to five years. As well, sales to Europe, Asia and other countries are expected to increase to one-third of total cleantech revenue by 2021.+

Tersus Environmental, LLC Enters Into Patent License for ISCR Technology

Tersus Environmental, LLC (Tersus) and Provectus Environmental Products, Inc. (PEP) recently announced today they had entered into a patent licensing agreement granting Tersus with a non-exclusive sublicense to the Innovative Environmental Technologies, Inc. (IET) patents related to in situ chemical reduction (ISCR).  Under the agreement, Tersus will develop and commercial products for ISCR including its new product, , MicroEVO™ ISCR.

MicroEVO™ ISCR, is composed of controlled-release water mixable oil (EDS-ER™) and zero valent iron (ZVI) particles used for the in situ treatment of groundwater and saturated soil.  The incorporation of ZVI enhances chlorinated contaminant remediation by enabling various chemical reduction pathways.

“We are pleased to have added Tersus to our growing list of sub-licensees,” said Michael Scalzi, CEO, Provectus; President, IET.  “Our position has been to share this technology across the environmental remediation industry, at a nominal cost, so that the most efficient and proven process for the degradation of chlorinated solvents in groundwater may be utilized by as many practitioners as possible.”

“We appreciate IET’s willingness to share this technology.  This license agreement with Provectus enables us to further expand our family of products for chlorinated solvent remediation,” said Tersus’ Managing Partner, Gary Birk.

Tersus Environmental develops and commercializes of technologies for the remediation of soil and groundwater.  Provectus Environmental Products develops and commercializes environmental biotechnologies.  Innovative Environmental Technologies, Inc. is a remedial contractor.

Oil Spills: Preventing Future Spills by Learning from Past Incidents

Last November saw the Canadian federal government approve the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Plan and the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Plan. Both projects have been met with fierce opposition from First Nations communities, local governments and environmentalists. Chief among their concerns is the risk of crude oil spilling into the environment. So it would be prudent to look at past spills involving each line and reflect on the possible dangers they pose.

A Note on Diluted Bitumen

One of the products that both the Kinder Morgan and Enbridge pipelines transport is diluted bitumen.  Bitumen is a semi-liquid mixture of oil, sand and clay. This initial bitumen is difficult to transport due to its high density, viscosity and adhesive properties. To move bitumen, it is mixed with a diluent like naphtha or other light hydrocarbons.

When diluted bitumen is spilled onto a water body, it initially floats and spreads like conventional oil. Overtime, the volatile components in the oil evaporate and pose a possible health and fire hazard. As the spilled oil undergoes weathering, it becomes more viscous and dense. This weathered substance than mix with sediment to form tar balls and sink, making subsequent recovery very difficult.

Cleaning up a bitumen spill is a challenge. The oil on the surface of the water can be recovered using mechanical skimmers and booms. Meanwhile commercial chemical dispersants have limited effectiveness when used on diluted bitumen. The best practices for recovering bitumen that sinks underneath the water are still being researched.

Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain: Alberta to the Coast of British Colombia

The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline currently transports light and heavy crude oils including diluted bitumen. It began transporting oil from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Colombia in 1961. Since it began operations, there have been 82 spills that have been reported to the National Energy Board for the Trans Mountain line.

One noteworthy spill occurred on July 24, 2007 at 12:32 pm in the City of Burnaby (Population of 223 220). An excavator bucket which belonged to a contractor struck and punctured the line. The heavy crude oil sprayed into the air for 25 minutes until the pipeline was isolated. About 234 000 L was released, covering local residences and roads and contaminating the surrounding soil. 100 000L of oil seeped into the storm drain system affecting both the Burrard Inlet and to a smaller extent the Kask Creek.

To respond to the 2007 spill in Burnaby, a unified command was set up involving Kinder Morgan Canada, the National Energy Board and BC Ministry of Environment. The RCMP and Burnaby Fire Department secured the area evacuated about 225 residents from their home. Meanwhile, the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation responded to the spill on the Burrard Inlet at 1:24 pm and was booming the area by 2:15 pm. Boomings, skimmers and absorbent pads were all deployed along the rocky shoreline along with a cleaning formula. The contaminated soil was excavated while surrounding homes were re-landscaped and cleaned. While more than half of the residents were able to return the same day, five of the houses were deemed unlivable for four months. Since the spill was deemed an accident, Kinder Morgan and the other two offending parties were fined $1 000 and had to contribute $149 000 to B.C.’s Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. Kinder Morgan also had to pay $100 000 towards a new education and training program.

Enbridge Line 3: Alberta to Wisconsin

The Line 3 Pipeline is one of a series of pipelines used by Enbridge to transport crude oil and natural gas. It was constructed in 1967 and currently transports crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin.

The initial spill was found near Clearbrook, Minnesota (Population of 533) on November 13, 2007 at 7:00 am. About two barrels of crude oil were released due to two pinhole leaks caused by fatigue cracks along the longitudinal seam of the DSAW pipe. The spill was reported to the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety Duty Officer at 8:22 am while the line was closed. The contaminated soil was extracted and moved to a disposal site.

The second release occurred when Enbridge attempted to replace the damaged pipe.  On November 28, 2007 at 3:47 pm when the replacement pipe was being tested, the coupling used for the replacement failed. Oil was emitted as a spray and ignited once it reached a nearby heater being used by the workers.

 

The resulting fire and explosion led to the death of two Enbridge employees and the evacuation of several households. Local police, ambulances, fire departments and the Red Cross responded to the accident and Line 1, 2 & 4 were also shut down within minutes. Since the released oil was contained within a worksite excavation, it was allowed to burn off. However the thick smoke and soot were still a cause for concern.

Every pipeline incident is a teachable moment. Companies learn from past incidents to improve safety and operational practices to prevent future incidents.  Both Enbridge and Kinder Morgan have made changes to their safety and operational procedures after these spills. Kinder Morgan formed the Pipeline Protection Group who focuses solely on pipeline protection. Enbridge made changes to their pipeline repair and replacement protocols. But it’s important to look back at these past incidents when considering the risk pipelines present.

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About the Author

Jerdon Small Phillips is an Engineer-in-Training and graduate from Sheridan College’s Environmental Control program with a B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering from Queen’s University.  He is currently volunteering with the WEAO Professional Development and Communications Sub-Committee.  He can be reached at Jsphillips990@gmail.com.

Webinar on Leveraging Resources for Brownfields Revitalization:

Brownfield grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are one of many sources of funds that can support redevelopment of contaminated sites. This webinar will highlight a number of redevelopment resources available from the National Park Service (NPS), The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to leverage your brownfield dollars. The webinar will also feature a presentation from a community that has successfully used grants, loans and other support from these agencies for its revitalization efforts. It is the fourth in OBLR’s webinar series on what communities need to know to successfully leverage resources for brownfields revitalization.

The webinar is scheduled for February 28th from 1:00 pm until 2:30 pm EST.

To register, visit the webinar registration website.

Science March – April 22, 2017

March for Science is planned in Washington D.C. and around the world on April 22nd, 2017.  The marches, organized by scientists to highlight the importance of research, are meant to be a celebration of science as opposed to a protest.

The organizers of the March for Science are scientists and science enthusiasts.  They claim that we all recognize that science is everywhere and affects everyone.

To determine if your community is holding a satellite march, visithttps://www.marchforscience.com/satellite-marches/.