April 1, 2023

Visions of a Greener Pipeline

Anticipating that standard, Canadian oil companies have embarked on a race to develop cleaner technologies that will make their production less damaging to the environment.

From improving valves to revamping giant boilers to exploring the storage of excess carbon deep underground, the companies are spending roughly $1 billion a year as they search for a breakthrough.

“We read the newspapers every day and we know what everyone is thinking,” said Harbir S. Chhina, an executive vice president for Cenovus Energy, Canada’s fourth-largest oil company. “The status quo is unacceptable.”

It is a tall order, since production of synthetic fuels made from oil sands creates substantially more greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline made from conventional oil, arousing assertions that the United States cannot be serious about controlling global warming if it gives Canada an export outlet for the oil. What’s more, the solutions that are being tried are probably decades from widespread adoption.

“There is a huge amount at stake for the oil companies,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, executive director for energy and sustainability at the University of California, Davis. “To the extent that they reduce the carbon intensity of the oil sands, they will have an easier time finding approval for pipelines. But if it’s just greenwashing, they are going to have an unproducible asset.”

The efforts are one part of an industrywide campaign chasing a coveted prize: winning the Obama administration’s approval for the proposed pipeline extension that would put more Canadian oil in American gas tanks.

Here amid the jack pines and white spruce of the great boreal forest, Cenovus Energy, for example, is testing towering boilers capable of recycling brackish wastewater and exhaust gas fumes to save energy and reduce air pollution. Cenovus is trying out a miniature rig that can be helicoptered in piece by piece to minimize the carving of boggy forests with service roads.

Canadian Natural Resources, an oil company, is preparing a pilot project that will pour carbon dioxide and wasted heat from its oil sands operations into giant tanks of algae that will generate a biofuel that could be used for jet planes.

Shell Canada, with financial help from the Canadian government, is planning a commercial-scale carbon capture and storage project to bury roughly a million tons a year of carbon dioxide at an oil sands processing plant.

“Oil sands are important and we need to make them wanted,” said Stale Tungesvik, president of the Canadian subsidiary of Statoil, the Norwegian oil giant. “Perception is reality.”

For the oil companies, the reality is that oil sands are arousing demonstrations against them around the United States and Europe, as well as in Canada, especially on the west coast, where outlets for eventual export to Asia must be found.

An Obama administration decision on the Keystone XL pipeline is expected in the next several months, after more than two years of delays, and even an approval would then probably be resisted in American courts. The proposed pipeline extension would carry roughly 800,000 barrels a day and help enable the Canadian industry to more than double oil sands production by 2030.

Canada has the world’s third-largest oil reserves after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, but most of them are found in bitumen, a gooey mix of clay, sand and crude oil that must be strip mined or steamed and pumped out of the ground. Producing fuel from bitumen is expensive and uses a lot of energy, meaning that oil companies need to know they have secure markets or they will look elsewhere to explore.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/27/business/energy-environment/oil-industry-in-canada-bolsters-efforts-for-cleaner-production.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Boeing Shows Dreamliner Battery Plan to Japanese Government

Japanese investigators, however, have maintained that there is still not enough evidence to show that the batteries themselves are the cause of fires, and that a shock could have caused them to overheat. That could complicate Boeing’s efforts to get regulators around the world to approve their fixes, because they focus only on containing any problems that might arise in the batteries.

The Japanese assertions have put Japan’s transport safety board at odds with American investigators, who have said publicly that there was no such surge in electrical current from outside the battery. The lithium-ion batteries on the 787 are made by GS Yuasa of Japan.

Raymond L. Conner, the chief executive of Boeing’s commercial airplane division, who is in Tokyo for talks with Japanese government officials, airliners and suppliers, gave a public apology for the problems with the 787 and said that he was confident that the battery fixes were a “permanent” solution that ensured the batteries would not be a danger going forward.

“What we did today was to discuss these solutions that we are looking at that could be final solutions,” Mr. Connor told reporters after meeting with the Japanese transport minister, Akihiro Ota.

“We feel this solution takes into account any possible event that could occur,” he said, “any causal factor that could cause an event, and we are very confident that we have a fix that will be permanent and allow us to continue to use the technology.”

He denied that there was any disagreement between the American and Japanese positions on the needed fixes. He said that Boeing continued to have a “great relationship” with GS Yuasa, the battery maker.

Boeing has delivered 50 787s so far to eight airlines, and it expects to sell thousands of the fuel-efficient jets. But a battery caught fire on one Japan Airlines plane parked in Boston on Jan. 7, and smoke forced another 787 operated by All Nippon Airways to make an emergency landing in Japan.

Boeing has proposed separating the battery cells with insulation to keep heat from spreading from one to another. It also would build a fireproof container around the batteries and add tubes to vent smoke or hazardous gases out of the plane.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/business/boeing-shows-dreamliner-battery-plan-to-japan.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

News Analysis: U.S., Walking Out in a Huff, Makes Its Point

At the global treaty conference on telecommunications here, the United States got most of what it wanted. But then it refused to sign the document and left in a huff.

What was that all about? And what does it say about the future of the Internet — which was virtually invented by the United States but now has many more users in the rest of the world?

It may mean little about how the Internet will operate in the coming years. But it might mean everything about the United States’ refusal to acknowledge even symbolic global oversight of the network.

The American delegation, joined by a handful of Western allies, derided the treaty as a threat to Internet freedom. But most other nations signed it. And other participants in the two weeks of talks here were left wondering on Friday whether the Americans had been negotiating in good faith or had planned all along to engage in a public debate only to make a dramatic exit, as they did near midnight on Thursday as the signing deadline approached.

The head of the American delegation, Terry Kramer, announced that it was “with a heavy heart” that he could not “sign the agreement in its current form.” United States delegates said the pact could encourage censorship and undermine the existing, hands-off approach to Internet oversight and replace it with government control.

Anyone reading the treaty, though, might be puzzled by these assertions. “Internet” does not appear anywhere in the 10-page text, which deals mostly with matters like the fees that telecommunications networks should charge one another for connecting calls across borders. After being excised from the pact at United States insistence, the I-word was consigned to a soft-pedaled resolution that is attached to the treaty.

The first paragraph of the treaty states: “These regulations do not address the content-related aspects of telecommunications.” That convoluted phrasing was understood by all parties to refer to the Internet, delegates said, but without referring to it by name so no one could call it an Internet treaty.

A preamble to the treaty commits the signers to adopt the regulations “in a manner that respects and upholds their human rights obligations.”

Both of these provisions were added during the final days of haggling in Dubai, with the support of the United States. If anything, the new treaty appears to make it more intellectually challenging for governments like China and Iran to justify their current censorship of the Internet.

What’s more, two other proposals that raised objections from the United States were removed. One of those stated that treaty signers should share control over the Internet address-assignment system — a function now handled by an international group based in the United States. The other, also removed at the Americans’ behest, called for Internet companies like Google and Facebook to pay telecommunications networks for delivering material to users.

Given that the United States achieved many of its stated goals in the negotiations, why did it reject the treaty in an 11th-hour intervention that had clearly been coordinated with allies like Britain and Canada?

In a Dubai conference call with reporters early on Friday, Mr. Kramer cited a few remaining objections, like references to countering spam and to ensuring “the security and robustness of international telecommunications networks.” This wording, he argued, could be used by nefarious governments to justify crackdowns on free speech.

But even Mr. Kramer acknowledged that his real concerns were less tangible, saying it was the “normative” tone of the debate that had mattered most. The United States and its allies, in other words, saw a chance to use the treaty conference to make a strong statement about the importance of Internet freedom. But by refusing to sign the treaty and boycotting the closing ceremony, they made clear that even to talk about the appearance of global rules for cyberspace was a nonstarter.

It may have been grandstanding, but some United States allies in Europe were happy to go along, saying the strong American stand would underline the importance of keeping the Internet open.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/technology/in-a-huff-a-telling-us-walkout.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: In Report, British Officials Question Testimony of Barclays’ Chief

Robert Diamond, the former chief of Barclays, appeared before a London panel investigating interest rates in July.Paul Thomas/Bloomberg NewsRobert Diamond, the former chief of Barclays, appeared before a London panel investigating interest rates in July.

LONDON — In a report released early Saturday in London, British politicians said the former Barclays chief Robert E. Diamond Jr. had not provided lawmakers a full account of the actions inside the bank during recent hearings into the rate-rigging scandal.

The report also challenges some of Mr. Diamond’s assertions about the bank’s relationship with regulators. It also questioned the top leadership at the bank and the candor of Mr. Diamond’s testimony.

“Mr. Diamond’s evidence, at times highly selective, fell well short of the standard that Parliament expects,” Andrew Tyrie, the British politician who led the recent hearings, said in a separate statement.

Documents released by local authorities show that officials had questioned the culture at the top of the British bank as far back as 2010, though Mr. Diamond had said regulators were happy with the firm’s leadership.

The doubts about Mr. Diamond’s testimony come after several of Barclays’ senior executives, including its chairman, resigned last month. The firm agreed to a $450 million settlement with American and

British authorities over the manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, one of the world’s most important benchmark rates.

Libor Explained

British lawmakers had called several of the firm’s executives and the country’s leading regulatory authorities to testify before Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee, which had been investigating the Libor scandal at Barclays.

The lawmakers’ latest report criticized Mr. Diamond’s recollection of concerns that regulators had raised when he was appointed chief executive, as well as issues with the culture at the British bank.

Also in his testimony, Mr. Diamond had said British authorities were pleased with his relationship with the Financial Services Authority, the country’s regulator. The regulators, however, testified that they had challenged the firm’s attitude toward risk and had called on Mr. Diamond to distance himself from colleagues in Barclays’ investment banking unit. In the latest report, it appears that lawmakers mostly sided with the authorities.

“It seems to us inconceivable that Mr. Diamond could have believed that the F.S.A. was satisfied with the tone at the top of Barclays,” the report said.

Mr. Diamond issued a sharply worded rebuke of the report.

“I am disappointed by, and strongly disagree with, several statements by the Treasury Select Committee,” Mr. Diamond said in a statement on Saturday. “There is little dispute that Barclays was both aggressive in its investigation of this matter and engaged in its cooperation with the appropriate authorities.”

The latest report also questioned the importance of a conversation that Mr. Diamond held with Paul Tucker, the deputy governor of the Bank of England, in 2008.

The discussion focused on the firm’s Libor submissions, and led to Jerry del Missier, a senior Barclays official, to ask some of the firm’s employees to alter their Libor rates. Mr. del Missier said he believed that he was acting on instructions from British government officials, though Mr. Tucker dismisses that contention.

Lawmakers said that Barclays’ employees had been manipulating rate submissions since 2007, and that Mr. del Missier’s ability to alter submissions showed a lack of regulatory compliance.

“It remains possible that the entire Tucker-Diamond dialogue may have been a smokescreen put up to distract our attention,” the report said. Poor judgment by the firm’s board led to a lack of controls, which could have stopped the rate manipulation from taking place, according to the report.

A Barclays spokesman said that the bank did not agree with all the report’s findings but was conducting an independent review of its business practices.

The report also highlighted failures by the Financial Services Authority to address the manipulation of Libor.

Concerns that firms were altering their Libor submissions were first brought to the attention of authorities in late 2007, according to regulatory filings. But British officials joined their American counterparts in investigating the abuses only in early 2010.

Adair Turner, chairman of the authority, told British lawmakers last month that regulators had not perceived Libor to be a major area of risk during the recent financial crisis.

“The manipulation was spotted neither by the F.S.A. nor the Bank of England at the time,” Mr. Tyrie said. “That doesn’t look good.”

The British government is reviewing how Libor will be set in the future. The inquiry may lead to greater regulatory oversight of the rate, while lawmakers are considering new laws that would make the manipulation of benchmark rates a criminal offense.

American and international authorities also continue to examine the actions of other global financial institutions, including Citigroup and HSBC. New York and Connecticut state regulators announced on Wednesday that they were widening their own rate-rigging investigations.

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/08/17/in-report-british-officials-question-testimony-of-barclays-chief/?partner=rss&emc=rss