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Posts Tagged ‘Colorado flood’

Vortex Tools looks at the damage done to and from the oil and gas industry during the Colorado flood, as well as why this industry is often unfairly targeted during catastrophic events.

Last time I wrote about the Colorado flood and how it didn’t help the reserve levels in Lakes Mead and Powell (short version: it’d have to flood like that for nearly a year to make up the decades of drought).

Although the 24-hour news cycle went rampaging off to the latest event, there’s still massive amounts of cleanup to do in Boulder County. A woman I know has a fiancé in Lyons (an hour-and-a-half northwest of Denver). They don’t have power there and won’t restore it until the water is out and everything is dry. With limited access, workers (and residents) can’t even get in to start the process. It’ll likely be Christmas before it’s done.

Christmas. Three-and-a-half months after the initial flooding. Could you survive that long without going home or to work?

Now here’s what didn’t happen: No one logically grilled the builders of these homes and businesses for these structures getting overwhelmed by a raging body of water that unexpectedly shows up once every thousand years. No one logically went after road makers and bridge builders when they literally broke off from the force of the flood.

Why? Because most sane people get that you can’t build around rare, catastrophic events.

Sure, it’s an engineer’s dream to build a structure that would hold up to Godzilla or Mothra (clearly not both, that’d be nuts), but it’s not feasible or affordable on a widespread level.

Yet the oil and gas industry isn’t afforded that same understanding.

I get it. I work on the green side of oil and gas: reducing the environmental impact of flares and harmful CO2 vapors, recovering 10 times more natural gas liquids than conventional methods, etc., but being around the unreasonable brand of environmentalism long enough, I know their thinking. I hear the comments on how the U.S. should quit our oil addiction (coupled with an image of an evil, yet delightfully ripped Uncle Sam jamming a needle full of crude in his arm).

Oh yes, he will wear (patriotic) white after Labor Day

Oh yes, he will wear (patriotic) white after Labor Day

This is where I start asking for items—smart phones, glasses—that wouldn’t be possible without the plastic made from oil and gas. I offer to take a sledgehammer to the plastic parts of their Priuses and mountain bikes so that they can remain principled, but thus far, no one has taken me up on the offer or allowed me to pawn off their iPhone.

Still, there’s a valid question as to the damage done to and from the Colorado oil and gas market as a result of the flood.

These are actually some scary stats: Thus far, 43,000 gallons of oil have been reported to be in or near the South Platte River. As 20% of the fields in the Wattenberg Basin have yet to be examined, other problem areas will likely arise. Before the flood hit, oil and gas companies in the area raced to shut in nearly 1,900 oil and gas wells to prevent damage both to their production and the surrounding areas. Noble Energy is reported to take a hit of $7 to $17 million from lost production and flood damage, but the final tally is not yet in.

Officials from the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission think that, with the flood and road damage, it’ll take about 90 days to repair—so pretty much the same reparation timeline that everyone else is forced to work with.

This is the type of pain point no one wanted (save the types of people who never want to see a good catastrophe go to waste). Everything in the area got affected by the flood, and yes, everything includes oil and gas. So why are they specifically targeted?

Because no one likes a dirty industry making money.

The perception of the oil and gas is that it’s a rich industry. Sure, it makes billions, but the overall net profit margin is low because it also spends billions to capture those values. Of the 215 total industries, major integrated oil and gas comes in at #114 with 6.2% net profit margin. Drilling and exploration does better at a 9.9% (placing at #60), but overall, oil and gas is not the flush industry that should be hit up before all others with more taxes and fewer subsidies. If there is such a slot, it belongs to Closed-End Fund Equity with an 81% net profit margin.

Still, some are using the damage from the flood to move against the oil and gas industry: “Researchers from the University of Colorado studying how to limit the natural gas industry’s impact on the environment and communities are collecting soil samples along the river looking for evidence of benzene, a carcinogen, and benzene compounds, left behind by the spilled oil.”

If you’re going to play around in a fantasy land of no negative consequences in moving away from the energy resources generated by oil and gas, you might as well project how much time and money could’ve been saved from not flooding, but this is the reality we get to deal with.

Sigh. Looks like I’ve got some university Priuses and mountain bikes to smash.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Some of the damage done to Jamestown, CO

SpiroFlo looks at the how much impact the 2013 Colorado flood had on drought levels in the area.

It’s a bit of a strange time in Colorado. We were supposed to have the two driest years on record, Denver Water was enforcing water restrictions for the stage-two drought, and there were record-breaking highs over the summer.

And then it rained. A lot. As in a whole year’s worth in one week a lot.

Schools shut down; homes and businesses flooded out. It became easier to take a canoe around certain towns and people had to call and ask, likely for the first time, “Do I have flood insurance?” Odds are most did not, as insurance companies aren’t even allowed to provide flood insurance to places that aren’t normally at risk of flooding—you know, like a land-locked state that was about 14 years into its latest drought.

The hard numbers (as of today): 19,000 homes damaged (1,500 destroyed), 11,000 people evacuated, six confirmed dead, and 500 still unaccounted for (though not necessarily considered missing). If it were a snow storm, it would’ve been a 15-foot event (and I’ve seen this state shut down and struggle with three).

So what happened? While I’m sure there was the occasional climate Nostradamus who saw it coming, there wasn’t a widely noted, credible source that figured a thousand-year flood would bust on into this year. I’ve seen a couple of recent articles debunking climate change (again) and there will likely be a swift series of rebuttals again (again), but regardless of what some on both sides want you to believe, the evidence for or against climate change is not so open and shut (though the phrase ‘global warming’ has fallen out of favor).

Still, I’m not sure what to think here. Can you argue that the heavy drought and the heavy rainfall both come from climate change? I’m sure some will, whereas others will likely focus on an anomaly like a thousand-year flood being just that—a data point not normally found on the chart. Does it make it less valid—I mean, we apparently have a term for it because it’s happened before—or simply far more limited in relevance?

Here’s something to think about: It’s been so dry that the Colorado River hasn’t reached the ocean in years. Lakes Mead and Powell—they’ve been at half-capacity for a long while, 100 feet below what they should be (thanks to a dry period from 2000-2009 and drought issues stemming back to the eighties). The lakes have mostly sat below the drought line and are continuing to etch closer to the critical shortage line with our growing population consuming water at a rate that will exhaust the reserves. This critical shortage is that line where hydropower falls apart and they stop giving water to states like Nevada.

Oh yeah, this critical shortage is scheduled for 2020—less than seven years from now.

Surely the flood must have helped there, right? Want to place your bets on how many feet the flood restored to that 100-foot drop?

Two.

Here’s the thing: simply because we had a flood, that doesn’t mean the water went in the right area. It’s not as if Colorado is a glass that water has slowly been evaporating out of for years and then someone casually came and filled it back up. This rainfall was more like a toddler trying to aim a wild fire hose. Even if the water was in the general area, that doesn’t mean it was going where it should, and the consensus is that the rain fell on the wrong side of the Rockies. Even when it did fall on the right areas, it was too much, and everything was essentially on drain mode to prevent flood damage.

Lake Mead: July 2009

So two of 100 feet have been restored. That means it’d have to flood like this for nearly a year to restore the drought loss to Lakes Mead and Powell. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but you can’t restore decades’ worth of damage from one mad week of rain (and one big snow season won’t help either). This would mean anomalies like this thousand-year flood do get to stand as is, because they’re overwhelmed by all the dry years that leave us still facing that critical shortage in 2020. You can predict critical shortage dates for other parts of the world, too, but it’s the same story—with our growing population, we’re consuming water at a rate that will exhaust the reserves.

This means that my interest in what’s to blame—climate change damage or not—is vastly overshadowed by the reality that this water crisis (which is still far undervalued) is not our grandchildren’s problem, but ours.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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