The Failure of Edenville Dam & Sullying of Lake Huron: Safety -vs- Vanity

One of the greatest tragedies in Michigan environmental history has occurred this past week when the Edenville Dam failed May 19, 2020.   The environmental devastation from Midland to Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron is incalculable. The financial damage will crush the equity of so many downstream and strain Michigan’s environmental remediation budget for decades for cleanup of toxic sediment where we pull our drinking water & fish.  The failure of the Edenville Dam & loss of Wixom Lake is a disaster it seems that could have been avoided by targeting safe lake levels rather than vanity lake levels.  Safety wasn’t put first and the dam is gone.

In the days ahead we will hear political attacks & see sensational video of devastation of homes & property.  We will have reporters, scientists, & engineers from across the state investigating what went wrong to get to where we are today.  Two reports that RMP will investigate today are good reports to help shed light on what was going on before the dam failed:   

1) The Four Lakes Lake Level Study prepared by Spicer Group & with support from Clark Hill at the behest of the Four Lakes Task Force (FLTF), the Gladwin County Board of Commissioners & the Midland County Board of Commissioners.  The lake level study was published in April 2019.  It was the support case used to get Judge Stephen Carras’ signature.

2) The Four Lakes Task Force 2019 Annual Report and Operating Plan published April 16, 2020.   It is very interesting that the comprehensive annual report for the Four Lakes Task Force was published just a few weeks before the dam would have catastrophic failure.  The annual report gives a comprehensive view into many legal & financial considerations of fixing the dam just before Edenville’s dam failure became a national spectacle; the financial report is a snapshot of the situation just before disaster struck.

The table shown above will be a key piece of evidence supporting what “legal levels” were for Wixom Lake before it disappeared.  Table shown above comes from the appendix of the 332 page Four Lakes Lake Level Study published in April 2019.  You can read the whole document by clicking here.

A term you will read again & again in the coming weeks will be the “legal level” of the lake that was set by Judge Stephen Carras when he signed the Lake Level Order under Part 307 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended (MCL 324.30701 et seq) (“Part 307”). Judge Carras’ signature established normal or legal lake levels for Wixom, Sanford, Smallwood and Secord Lakes (“Four Lakes”). The Four Lakes Special Assessment District (SAD) recognized the authority of FLTF as the County Delegated Authority, to acquire, repair and then operate the four dams on behalf of Midland and Gladwin counties.  The “normal levels” of the lake were provided in The Four Lakes Lake Level Study published by the Spicer Group commissioned by the FLTF.  Dana Nessel, Michigan’s Attorney General, has already referenced the “legal level” on her twitter account stating officially “The State did not set the water level for Wixom Lake, a court did”.  She also goes on to say the purpose of EGLE & DNR’s lawsuit is not to raise water levels but it “seeks damages for the past illegal lowering of the lake” in 2018 & 2019 that killed mussels.

This notion that Boyce should not lower water levels because it could kill mussels seems illegitimate with evidence from the two key documents referenced in this article.  A more likely scenario of events seems plausible after reading both documents in conjunction with each other: the lake levels were raised for vanity, not to protect mussels.  That leads us to serious questions that need to be answered:  Why would the State be going after money from a company that doesn’t have enough money in its coffers to make safety upgrades to the dam?  The “mussels” story doesn’t pass the smell test.  A thorough investigation into what motivated the impetus of the “legal level” will be focus in this post.   Safety of the citizens of Michigan & our fresh water resources were assumed to be givens that could carry on operating safely based on the report commissioned by the FLTF that was used to set the lake levels.  But make no mistake, the levels were set to provide recreation & beauty more than they were focused on safety.

Safety does not appear to be the short term focus of the recent Four Lakes Lake Level Study but rather a long term goal to be achieved by 2024.   It was well known for years the Edenville Dam was in disrepair and did not meet State of Michigan dam safety standards, in accordance with Part 315 “Dam Safety” of NREPA, MCL 324.31501 et seq. (Part 315).  There was a long term plan to achieve safe status, but the  paramount short term impetus of the Four Lakes Lake Level summary was to keep lake levels high.  It’s stated as the first point in the in the very first page of the introduction & summary of the Lake Level Study where it reads: 

“The flowage rights for remaining lakes, for the most part, are currently held by Boyce Hydro. Due to this private ownership of lake bottoms, the riparian rights of most of the property owners surrounding the lakes are limited. Thus, the lakes can be lowered or drained with minimal consideration to the interest of the property owners who have invested into the properties surrounding the lakes. The Counties of Midland and Gladwin have petitioned the Circuit Court to establish legal lake levels to protect the interests of the property owners who directly benefit from the existence of these lakes as well as the interests of the Counties.”  Further stated in the study is that the FLTF  “are pursuing preemptive action to avert the draining of the lakes”.

Public letters in support of higher lake levels look like typical form letters to support the “legal level” but they don’t say anything about mussels or safety.  This public letter and others like it can be found in the 332 page Four Lakes Lake Level Study by clicking here. (click image to enlarge)

The property owners who have invested in lake frontage on these man made lakes commissioned a report to establish legal levels of the lakes to protect the interests of the property owners who benefit from the existence of shore front property on these lakes.  That is literally what it says in the introduction of the document.  In the 332 page comprehensive study into the establishing a legal lake level, the word “mussel” appears exactly ZERO times.  It’s a ridiculous notion that the spirit of the State of Michigan’s lawsuit filed against Boyce Hydro is about harming mussels; it’s a trumped up charge tantamount to abuse of power by the State Attorney General.  The State of Michigan surely wanted to sue Boyce Hydro, but the mussels angle doesn’t seem legitimate, it seems like a regular old schoolyard bully message “just to show you who’s boss, I’m going to sue you for millions so you’ll think twice before ever lowering that lake again” .  This is a man made lake, why would you sue someone for $5M that you’re supposed to be working with to help finance dam repairs?  If you can’t afford dam repairs before a $5M lawsuit, your ability to afford them afterward would be, well, less.  Why would you attack the company entrusted to work with the MDEQ/EGLE to operate the dam?  Even if you’re pissed off at Boyce, you have to put on a professional face and work to make things safe to protect our natural resources.  But how did we get to this adversarial point where Michigan’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the dam operator for not maintaining “legal levels” established by the Spicer Group report commissioned by the FLTF that acted as a key instrument in support of the decision that was signed by Judge Stephen Carras?

What prompted the FLTF to form?

The formal work of Four Lakes Task Force (FLTF) was set in motion in September 2018 when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) revoked the power generation license from Edenville Dam.  The FERC license was revoked because the dam was determined to be non-compliant with FERC regulations.  Shortly after FERC’s revocation of the license, the dam owner drained Wixom Lake by approximately 8 feet. The FLTF was not aware of objections or violations from MDEQ or MDNR to lowering the lake and this angered homeowners and was the genesis of the FLTF. 

The motivation of the FLTF is clearly stated throughout documentation they have published.  Many letters like this support RMP’s thesis of pressure to raise lake levels. (click to enlarge)

Its logical that the FLTF was formed because private owners of lake front parcels & private owners of parcels with dedicated easement access were pissed off that Boyce Hydro controlled the lake levels without their input & lowered the lake level by 8 feet.  This is the precipitous moment that ultimately led to establishing higher lake levels through a lengthy legal process not bounded to common sense & in fact made it illegal to lower the lake levels to safe levels.  Think about that:  it was now illegal to lower the lake levels even if you thought it could be for safety reasons.  Remember also that the Edenville Dam was noted for being in serious disrepair for many years & should have NEVER had its level raised until repairs were completed.

It’s obvious that the FLTF was working hard and doing all they could to establish a plan to protect the investments of parcel owners.  The FLTF was not trying to create one of the biggest environmental catastrophes in Michigan history.  To work hard to protect your investment is noble & American but oversight of the safety was drowned out for the vanity of lake levels and aesthetics.  None of the parcel owners on the lake would have wanted to see their equity lowered through this disaster for sure but that’s what happened with poor oversight.  The FLTF was trying to do what red blooded Americans do:  protect their investments as best they know how.

There are 6,555 private parcels of property with lake frontage & 1,961 parcels of private property having dedicated easement access to the four lakes.  That’s a lot of people who’s stated motivation is to raise the lake levels.  That’s a lot of peer pressure.  While the stated purpose in all the legal documents is to have the court set a “legal level” based on historical levels, there is a reasonable amount of evidence to show the mission of the FLTF was to keep the lakes at levels that looked good for their investment properties.   Who would want a dock & boat sitting on dry land because the water receded?   So if you have competing motivations of keeping the lake levels high from the FLTF and trying to keep the lake levels safe from dam failure, who would referee that debate?

Upon revocation of the FERC license to generate electricity, the FERC relinquished its regulatory oversight to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) now called EGLE.  A serious investigation of the criteria EGLE used in setting safe lake levels & applicable contingencies for emergency lowering of the lake levels must be done as it appears this disaster could have been avoided with common sense actions.  The MDEQ/EGLE should be working to put safety first.   If the dam was known to be deficient, why allow lake levels to be set to “normal historic levels”?   Shouldn’t the levels be a much lower given the dam is in need of serious repair estimated at $20 million dollars & May is historically the most rainy month in Midland?  Rumblings percolating on twitter in the echo chamber look like EGLE’s defense is going to be it was climate change that caused the dam failure which reeks of a cop out excuse.  It is reasonable to assume that if you’re threatened with multimillion dollar lawsuits from the State Attorney General, you’re going to be afraid to lower the lake level even if you think it could prevent a disaster.  Everyone knows that May is historically the rainiest month in in Midland every year for a 1000 years. Shouldn’t May have been a month that lake levels were set to restricted levels until after upgrades were to be completed in 2024?

I have worked back & forth with MDEQ employees for more than 10 years now as a volunteer watchdog over our freshwater resources.  I have worked with MDNR employees, and the MPSC to be able to provide the best oil well spill maps of any non-profit 501(c)3 website in Michigan.  I learned so much from exchanging emails with Larry Organek  to learn how Antrim gas wells are grouped into a production unit across multiple parcels & multiple gas wells.  Larry sends me details of Carbon Dioxide Sequestration Units in Michigan too, very helpful and professional.  Susanne Biteman is a knowledgeable geologist who worked in the Kalkaska area when high volume hydraulic fracturing came to Michigan and she got an earful from all those anti-frack groups but she always stayed professional.  Susanne always returned my emails and helped explain things to me even though much of the geology is difficult to understand.  Rick Henderson always returned my emails and would explain oil well construction to me back when I didn’t know much about oil wells.  My point is the employees of the MDEQ/EGLE are outstanding people working hard to protect our environment.  I believe this through & through.  I believe more funding should be going toward engineers who assess the condition of our dams & geologists & hydrologists that protect our fresh water. I believe we should be making it easier for the safety of our water to be the loudest voice in the room with good science to back it up.  If you can’t afford the engineers to make good assessments, you should always error on the side of safety and be careful with every single dollar you have to work with.

Tweets like this one and others have been “liked” by Liesl Clark in past 24 hrs and still no official statement from the MDEQ/EGLE. For the top environmental officer of the State of Michigan to “like” this tweet right now demonstrates her mind is not on the tragedy that we think she should be focused on. (click image to enlarge)

Consternation is forming with the high leadership of the State’s natural resources not the rank & file engineers, scientists, biologists, geologists, hydrologists, and others who work at the MDEQ now called the EGLE.  Consternation is forming with the Attorney General who seems to be bullying the dam owner with a $5M lawsuit when the money is desperately needed for more engineers & remediation, not lawyers & court fees.  The director of the EGLE, Liesl Clark, has seemed to have a laissez-faire approach to the top environmental officer job in our state.  We know Liesl is on Twitter because she continues to like superficial tweets since the dam failure but has not been visible or vocal about what’s going on since this failure.

Workers in tough conditions across Michigan considered essential through COVID-19 are getting $12/hr and get two 20 minute breaks & one half hour lunch in a 10 hour shift, if they are on their phone checking social media, they get written up & possibly can get let go from their job.  The director of the MDEQ/EGLE, however, has time for Twitter during work hours & has not made any serious statements regarding this catastrophe since it occurred on her watch.

This tweet liked by Liesl Clark gives you your pandemic name.  This tweet was from just a couple days ago & liked by Liesl after the flood.  Still no official statement on one of the worst environmental catastrophes in Michigan history, however.  To like this superficial tweet at a time like this is shows mixed up priorities when serious hard work & investigation should be the #1 priority. (click image to enlarge)

Liesl Clark was appointed by  Governor Gretchen Whitmer.  The story taking shape to all this is the leadership of Whitmer, Nessel, and Clark are acting as if they’re absolved from culpability in the dam failure when their actions or lack of actions have certainly played a part in this tragedy.  Michigan leadership is not putting safety first or erring on the side of caution.  Michigan leadership does not seem to be working with dam owners but instead has become so adversarial that the State is suing the dam owner when money is desperately needed for safety related repairs.  Bullying the dam owner into being scared to lower the lake levels to safe levels, regardless of the dam owners shortcomings, was an important failure leading up to this tragedy.  Spending too much time being snarky & cheeky on Twitter when Michigan should be showing complete seriousness is a sad commentary.   Negligence by State leaders with the stewardship of our our most precious resource [our freshwater] is part of this story.  Michigan’s director of EGLE is tweeting jokes & nonsense after this crisis instead of knee deep in floodwater showing solidarity with people who’s lives have been irrevocably devastated on her watch from what appears to be a preventable disaster.  Liesl Clark has said nothing official on her Twitter in the six days since this catastrophe occurred.

I know our leaders can’t stop every problem & have to react to tough situations with lots of people coming at them.  But, it’s sad to see no seriousness or serious message from our Director of EGLE about this crisis that happened on her watch with her department in charge.  One would hope we could get some seriousness or show of kinship from the top position of the EGLE/MDEQ.

This Halle Barry tweet liked by Liesl Clark is just another example of where Liesl Clark’s focus is without giving any official statement on the dam failure crisis.  It’s disappointing we don’t have a serious response from the person we’re all looking toward for leadership in this terrible hour.  (click image to enlarge)

Please read the two documents that are linked in the introduction of this article and decide for yourself where the investigation should go.  RMP is not writing this post at the behest of any political lobbying group nor has RMP ever accepted money from any politically affiliated group.  RMP cares about the water first and foremost as motivation to write about & grieve about this terrible tragedy.  The water is the true victim. 

Lost in the near term chaos of this catastrophic environmental event is just how deep the damage goes beyond financial.   The dioxins at Dow Chemical downstream of Lake Wixom are a known issue by all Michiganders.   The sediment on the river banks of the Tittabawassee is polluted with dioxins & dioxin like compounds (TCDD, Furans, PCBs).  The containment ponds not 10 feet away from the contaminated river banks were breached in this colossal failure of the Edenville Dam.   The overflow of the Dow Chemical containment ponds has washed out to Lake Huron.  The damage is done.  Fish are dead and where we pull our drinking water just got nastier.

Whitmer’s & Clark’s decision to market the DEQ as the EGLE cost a lot of money.  It’s a microcosm of how the Whitmer administration has misappropriated focus & poorly allocated money meant for substantive environmental funding like fixing dams.  Whitmer substituted investments in dams and instead spent on marketing.  New EGLE letterhead, business cards, catalogs of digital logos needed to be created, graphic designers hired to make the logo, the logo had to be replaced in 1000s of URLs and standard forms throughout the entire department top to bottom.  Tens of millions of dollars of previously published materials with MDEQ letterhead & credits are now disconnected from the mothership MDEQ.

This is Whitmer’s & Clark’s decision to spend our tax dollars on marketing instead of substantive environmental protection or new energy solutions to create jobs.  A lot of fingers will be pointed in the coming weeks because this is big.  Lake Huron is now more polluted because of this and fingers will point.  There needs to be a serious investigation into the motivations behind setting “legal levels” to the four lakes as it regards safety.  The mussels story is not legitimate.  To even elude to climate change as the cause this dam failure is not legitimate.  Let’s point our fingers toward investigating whether safety trumped aesthetics.  Lake Huron has been sullied.  This disaster could have been avoided.  The EGLE should not be able to investigate itself on this one.  We need an independent investigation as the EGLE & Dana Nessel have culpability & a conflict of interest in investigating the Edenville Dam failure.

Gelman DIoxane 1,4 Plume Map Ann Arbor Michigan

Welcome to RMP’s new Generation 2 map of the Ann Arbor Dioxane 1,4 Plume.  This is RMP’s first Gen2 map and is a leap forward in RMP’s environmental mapping software and it’s free to use for anybody with an internet connection.

CLICK HERE TO OPEN THE MAP IN NEW WINDOW, THEN BOOKMARK IT IN YOUR FAVORITES

Continue reading more about RMP’s new map of Ann Arbor, Michigan… Continue reading “Gelman DIoxane 1,4 Plume Map Ann Arbor Michigan”

2016 Michigan Hydrocarbon Production Results – Full Year

The MDEQ publishes full year numbers for hydrocarbon production about 4 to 5 months lagging behind calendar date.  That means these 2016 full year numbers are a little late, but better late than never.  The good news is 2017 results will be ready in May of this year so full year results for 2017 will be just around the corner.

Michigan Natural Gas Production 2016

One of the things RMP talked about in October 2016 was Riverside LLC becoming Continue reading “2016 Michigan Hydrocarbon Production Results – Full Year”

Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly – December 2016

The lead story in RMP’s December 2016 Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly is the MDEQ’s Office of Oil, Gas & Minerals (OOGM) funding woes.  But first, it should be noted that the MDEQ announced plugging instructions for the Word of Faith 16-27 on December 19, 2016 which means the well does not look like it’s going to become a long term producer.  RMP predicted last month the possible potential of the well producing oil for years to come but this latest bit of news dashes that prediction for the well to be an oil producer.   RMP will file a Freedom of Information Act request for the initial production report to get the numbers as soon as they’re available.  The public must wait 90 days subsequent to the completion of testing before requesting information.  Now on to RMP’s lead story for December 2016…

michigan_state_budget_office
RMP follows Michigan’s budget & legislative process very closely to understand where your tax dollars are going and why. RMP’s research philosophy is the same with energy as it is with everything else: follow the money.

The OOGM’s funding has taken a big hit in the past two years with the decline of oil & gas prices.  The OOGM’s funding is a function of oil & gas sold to market in Michigan.  We have seen entire countries whose funding is singularly tied to oil & gas production take massive Continue reading “Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly – December 2016”

Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly – November 2016

The Word of Faith oil well in Southfield, Michigan is RMP’s top story this month.  This November 2016 Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly is the “what to expect when you’re expecting” edition for Southfield residents. This is because RMP is expecting to find out that the Word of Faith 16-27 oil well is going to be a long-term oil producer.   One year year ago today the top story was that Jordan Development had filed an application to drill an oil well in Southfield, Michigan at the old Duns Scotus property now owned by Keith Butler’s Word of Faith Ministries. It was a big story because many people in the City of Southfield did not want the well and protested it. Keith Butler, however, who owns the mineral rights to the property, wanted to exercise Continue reading “Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly – November 2016”

Jordan Development’s Word of Faith 16-27 Niagaran Oil Well in Southfield, Michigan

Jordan Development’s Word Of Faith 16-27 Niagaran oil well has been completed and is flow testing as of today November 8, 2016.   By the size of that flare, it looks like this well will be a long term producer.  The well was completed in October of 2016 which means the well completion report can be FOIA requested in January of 2017.   RMP will get the initial production report and well completion reports as soon as they’re available to get the numbers, but I can tell you this much…  based on that flare, this well is going to be a long term producer.

Check out the video below and let me know what you think?   RMP feels pretty safe making the prediction this well will produce for the next 30 years and Keith Butler is going to make some $$$.   Check back to RMP on November 30, 2016 when RMP publishes our Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly magazine. On November 30, 2016 RMP will have a report on what Southfield residents can expect to see happen over the next year and next 30 years with a Niagaran oil well in such a heavily populated area.  RMP will post more pictures & videos of the Word of Faith 16-27 well on November 30, 2016 along with pictures of well pad equipment that you’re likely to see arriving in Southfield over the next couple of months if RMP speculation is correct.

Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly – October 2016

oil & gas production michigan

In June of 2015, the MPSC was challenged to determine the appropriate regulatory response to applications filed pursuant to R 460.867 (Rule 17) for operation of  Antrim Shale Formation (ASF) wells under vacuum on Michigan Public Service Commission Case# U-16230. RMP wrote about this story in our August 2015 MOGM.  Prior to June 2015, battles had been fought over the issue of operating ASF wells on a vacuum for years.  Administrative Law Judge Mark D. Eyster held a pre-hearing on June 15, 2010 to officially get the Continue reading “Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly – October 2016”

2016 Michigan Hydrocarbon Production Results January – June

It’s that time of year again to report production numbers in Michigan for oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids for the first six months of 2016.   As stated many times here, the production data lags behind real time so we have to wait until just about this time of year to get all of the data from January to June.  After compiling the data for the first six months of 2016 we see a couple of Continue reading “2016 Michigan Hydrocarbon Production Results January – June”

Carbon Capture & Sequestration (#CCS) – Michigan’s Leading Role

Respectmyplanet.org (RMP) is a Michigan based 501(c)3 organization dedicated to water conservation through smarter energy production & waste management logistics. RMP, like many environmental groups, advocates for the increased adoption of wind energy and solar energy to meet the world’s energy needs. RMP advocates for the adoption of fuel cell electric vehicles for cleaner air, a stronger economy, and energy independence.  RMP seeks common sense energy solutions to wean ourselves off of oil & coal and to improve our economy and national security. To read RMP’s thesis post on the responsible migration away from crude oil as an energy source you can click here.

Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (RCSPs)
Seven different Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (RCSPs) have been established by the US Department of Energy to help develop the technology, infrastructure, and regulations to implement large-scale CO2 storage. (Credit: US Dept of Energy)

RMP understands, however, coal and crude oil will be around years to come even if we try our best to adopt better alternatives for producing energy. RMP takes a rational, common sense, & global approach about energy feed stocks like crude oil & coal.  We have to do our best to mitigate adverse effects from fossil fuels as long as we continue to use them.

This post is about Carbon Capture & Sequestration (#CCS) in Michigan and RMP’s exclusive new map of all #CCS wells in Michigan. Even as RMP advocates for the responsible migration away from crude oil as an energy source, RMP supports #CCS oil production as a means to keep our American workers working as we wean ourselves off of oil and work to build clean and sustainable hydrogen infrastructure for future generations. Michigan is well poised to produce secondary recovery oil by sequestering CO2.  Michigan can be a leader in this technology’s research and development.  #CCS technology learned and proven in Michigan can be exported to help poorer countries that will be burning coal for a long time to come.  India, for example, on October 2, 2016 signed the Paris Climate Agreement which is almost fully ratified.  Indian President Narendra Modi called on fully developed countries like ours to export technology like Michigan’s #CCS tech to help India produce cleaner energy. Later in this post we will go over why Michigan is well suited to truly be a global leader in R&D for #CCS technology, but first let’s go over the basics of #CCS.

What is Carbon Capture & Sequestration (#CCS)?

If you’ve been following RMP, like you should be on either Twitter or facebook, you already know what Carbon Capture & Sequestration is. Carbon Capture & Sequestration (also known as #CCS) is the capture of Carbon Dioxide from anthropogenic sources like power plants, cement manufacturing, and fertilizer manufacturing where the CO2 is piped to an abandoned oil well and pumped underground rather than being released to atmosphere.   CO2 is a greenhouse gas (GHG) and there is broad consensus amongst scientists that our planet’s climate is being impacted in a negative way by human activities like producing energy using fossil fuels that emit CO2 when burned. You’ll often hear the term anthropogenic CO2, which means CO2 produced by human activities as opposed to naturally occurring CO2.

#CCS Carbon Capture & Sequestration
Merit Energy’s #CCS unit in Kalkaska, Michigan. The well pictured, the State Kalkaska F 2-24 WIW, is a water injection well that is part of a three well #CCS unit. Often times in Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) there are two methods to “shape” the recovery of Remaining Oil In Place (ROIP) within the reservoir. Sometimes the first part of EOR using #CCS is called the immiscible portion of the project whereby water is injected into the reservoir. The second part, the miscible portion, is when the CO2 is injected into the reservoir. Immiscible means that water and oil do not mix, and miscible means that CO2 & oil do mix.

The Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP) is a great place to start if you want to learn about #CCS in Michigan or other Midwestern states. The US Department of Energy has divided North America into seven different Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (RCSPs) and Michigan falls into the MRCSP. RMP encourages you to check out the MRCSP website and to read about the many things going on in our region. You can also check out the US Dept of Energy’s Carbon Capture & Storage Resource Center’s webpage by clicking here. I also encourage you to read Senate Bill S.3179 which is new legislation being sponsored by Heidi Heitkamp that incentivizes #CCS by offering up to a $20 per metric ton credit of CO2 sequestered into a secure geologic formation.

An estimated 1.2 billion barrels of potential oil recovery by CO2-EOR was calculated for our MRCSP region based on available data for 265 oil fields in the Midwest. Oil and gas reservoirs within the MRCSP region have an estimated storage resource capacity of 8,511 million metric tons (MMt). Based on an estimated 850 MMt per year of CO2 emissions, these reservoirs could sequester approximately 10 years worth of CO2 in our region.(1) Detailed reservoir characterization, geologic mapping, and modeling and simulation at the field-scale level are the next steps required to delineate prospective areas for future pilot floods and to plan successful CO2-EOR and sequestration projects within our region.

CO2 Wells in Michigan
This is a static map of all CO2 flooding EOR units in Michigan. This map is the kind you often see on most websites, a static screenshot. RMP, however, hosts this map as an interactive map where you can zoom in, click on the markers, get access to the well files, upload pictures to the location & more! Scroll to the bottom of this post to see our interactive map, or click here to open our new interactive map of Michigan CO2 wells in a new window.  Click image to enlarge.

In addition to geological considerations, other factors that come into play when evaluating CO2-EOR potential in a region include (1) location and availability of CO2 sources (e.g., power plants, steel mills, cement plants) and proximity to oil reservoirs, (2) well spacing, (3) unitization issues, (4) location of improperly plugged wells and well-bore integrity, and (5) economic considerations.

The Department of Energy has divided the process of #CCS into three distinct phases which have been ongoing for years now.   Phase 1 was the characterization phase which led to the Carbon Sequestration Atlas of the US & Canada which was last updated in 2012. Phase 2 was the validation phase where 20 small scale geologic storage tests were completed to validate reservoir simulation models, demonstrate accounting methods, and develop guidelines for future projects. Phase 3 is the development phase which is where we are now. Currently there are only six sites throughout the US & Canada that are undergoing Phase 3 long-term CO2 injection projects to validate the science on storage of large volumes of CO2. Michigan is home to one of those six sites.  The Dover 2-33 well in Otsego County, which is pictured as the featured image on this post (photo credit: MCRSP) is a well in this small cadre of exclusive projects in North America. As of August 31, 2016 Michigan’s Dover 33 EOR Unit (as it’s called) has sequestered 580,687 tons of CO2, produced 515,284 barrels of oil, provided 170 jobs yielding more than $7.1 million dollars of income, generated $1.3 million in severance & sales taxes, and provided $3.6 million of other taxes & royalties(2). We’ll talk more about what’s going in Michigan with #CCS later in this post.

Why is #CCS Important?

We must face the reality that fossil fuels will be in use for years to come.  We must mitigate damaging effects of producing energy from fossil fuels while we work earnestly to move away from them.   RMP uses data and science to support our work and we are hoping  folks  will educate themselves about the ugly truths regarding energy production and why it’s important to face facts.   RMP hopes that impassioned environmentalist types against fossil fuels will do more than just cheerlead wind & solar.   Supporting wind & solar are great initiatives, but we have to give consideration to the reality of fossil fuels in our lives, our dependency on them, and how we can reduce pollution from them while we work to get off of them.

CCS Carbon Sequestration
This is a representation of a CO2 injection well in Michigan prepared by Batelle. In this example, the Otsego Central Processing Facility separates CO2 from CH4 in raw Antrim gas. The CO2 is piped over to an injection well and about 6,000 feet to a Niagaran Pinnacle Reef formation (orange bubble near bottom of image). That CO2 “pushes” the oil over to the production well where the pressure forces it up to the surface. The CO2 is removed from the oil again and piped back over to the injection well.

If fossil fuels were eliminated overnight there would be big problems because of disruptions to our energy needs. This is because crude oil and coal have become an entrenched part of our economy and energy mix over decades.   Crude oil and coal didn’t come about overnight and they’re not going to disappear overnight. RMP is a leading non-profit research & watchdog organization of oil production in Michigan and we take on the API on a regular basis with regard to avarice, ignobility, and their misleading ad campaigns. RMP understands, however, that ending the use of crude oil for energy will be a migration that takes time and we must protect the workers who will need new jobs as we make a transition to smarter forms of energy production. RMP will never give the API or their cohorts a free pass for misleading the public, but we have to be realistic about our own culpability in the energy infrastructure that surrounds us today. RMP advocates for education and understanding with regard to our own complicity of oil usage in our economy; pots calling kettles black will get us nowhere. We all must work together to learn geology and energy science to make real progress.

 

#CCS
The MRCSP surveyed multiple locations within our midwest region for Phase 2 sequestration projects. In all of North America, Michigan now has one of only six Phase 3 sequestration projects underway in all of North America. (Image Credit:  MRCSP)

#CCS is a must for becoming GHG Negative and keeping American oil field workers employed while we ramp up new and less volatile jobs in a sustainable hydrogen economy.  Producing oil from the sequestration of CO2 is one of the ways environmentalists and an oil industry in its winter years should be able to find common ground.

#CCS is important right now to help us make an impact on reducing anthropogenic GHG emissions to atmosphere. Not only is coal going to continue to be an part of providing energy for American consumers for years to come, it is integral to bringing energy to developing countries around the world. Coal is also used in the manufacture of cement all over the world. Fertilizer production is also a large contributor of CO2. There is no magic wand to wave when it comes to a creating a carbon neutral or GHG negative economy.

RMP recently blogged about how ExxonMobil is poised to be one of the biggest difference makers in reducing GHG emissions because of their partnership with Fuel Cell Energy using #CCS & molten carbonate fuel cells.

#CCS is an immediate concern.  We must reduce GHGs from established sources that currently produce a majority percentage of our energy and will continue to persist for the foreseeable future. The longer term concern is developing new energy infrastructure that does not produce GHGs like wind & solar coupled with the production of hydrogen for fuel cells.  Making H2 for storage from wind and solar is important for using renewable sources for base load energy for those times when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

#CCS carbon dioxide
As of June 21, 2016 the atmospheric concentration of CO2 registered at 406.6 ppm.  This is the brand new statistic from the famous Mauna Loa Observatory that everyone has been talking about all week long. As you can see from the this graph, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is rising steadily and the #1 contributor is power generation through the combustion of coal. RMP works hard to educate people about how coal & natural gas can be used without combustion and without releasing CO2, SOx, NOx, Mercury, or particulate matter to atmosphere. Solar and wind are great and RMP advocates for them, but this graph trend will not change without #CCS. If you don’t think #CCS is higher priority than solar & wind growth for climate change, you’re peddling junk science. (source: Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Michigan can be a leader for #CCS technology in the world. Developing and proving out the processes of capturing and sequestering CO2 can be shared with countries like India, China, and many other countries that will be using coal for decades to come.

What Is Going On With #CCS In Michigan?

Michigan has 10 different EOR units employing #CCS made up of 37 wells. One unit is in Kalkaska and the other 9 are in the Gaylord area. You can click here to see RMP’s map of all of Michigan’s CO2 sequestration wells or you can scroll to the bottom of this post to see our brand new CO2 sequestration map of well units. RMP has been developing PHP, JavaScript, and MySQL software using the Google Maps API v3 for over 7 years now. RMP’s new #CCS interactive Google map is one of the new showcase features we can program up that you just can’t find elsewhere on the Internet. RMP’s Michigan made software is becoming more powerful by the month and soon major upgrades are going to be implemented to make our maps even more user-friendly and easy to use. It’s easy to make a Google Map of restaurants or store locations, but RMP’s software is much different. RMP’s environmental mapping software allows us to use SQL queries to map specific data that can help scientists and educators get the maps that matter.

CO2
Roughly three quarters of all CO2 emissions come from power generation. This is why RMP advocates for coal gasification, HELE coal plants, and carbon dioxide capture & sequestration. Coal is going to be used for decades to come whether you would like it not. We might agree that solar & wind are capable of providing all of our energy one day, but that day is in the future. Let’s focus on science and education and stop witch hunting energy producers. We need to work together on solutions that make progress.  How can energy consumers have any less culpability than energy producers?  We must get rational and speak out against the fear mongering and junk science rhetoric of groups like Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch, and so many others that  ironically threaten our environment and water more than they help it.

RMP has been publishing our Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly watchdog magazine for two years now and we have been writing about a Michigan company named Core Energy LLC. Core Energy LLC is a leader in Michigan #CCS and is one of the only operators in Michigan currently capturing and sequestering CO2 into secure geologic formations. Core is the only operator in Michigan currently executing a US Department of Energy Phase 3 long term high-volume CO2 sequestration project. Merit Energy & Jordan Development are also pursuing #CCS in Michigan to a lesser extent.

In EOR using CO2, one or more wells are the injection wells and one or more wells are the producing wells. The idea is that the injection well is being used to push the oil over to the other well. Think of two straws poked vertically through the lid on either end of a shoebox where the shoebox is the hydrocarbon reservoir and the straws are the well bores.   You inject something, in this case CO2, down the one straw into this closed loop system and that injection forces something out the other straw.

Michigan is a great test bed for developing #CCS technology because we have all the proper ingredients to make it cost effective. Remember RMP’s philosophy: always follow the money. If things can’t be done economically, they won’t get done. Money always has a critical role in energy projects. The cost of developing new technology is always higher because there is a learning curve associated with it. Michigan has a lot going for it with regard to #CCS because we have an abundance of all the ingredients to help keep the R&D costs of #CCS projects low. Let’s look at the fundamental things needed to make a #CCS project economical:

  • You need formations that can accept the CO2 and produce oil which helps offset the costs of the R&D, labor costs, and CO2 infrastructure costs. Michigan has 800 known Silurian (Niagaran-Age) Pinnacle Reefs in our Niagaran formation from Manistee to Gaylord and then some.
  • You need oil & gas know-how, infrastructure, and regulatory agencies that can oversee the safety of the project and the protection of our most valuable natural resource: fresh water. Michigan has thousands of wells drilled into the Niagaran formation, experienced operators, and we also have the MDEQ to oversee regulatory requirements to protect our fresh water.
  • You need an abundant supply of anthropogenic carbon dioxide nearby to pipeline over to these Niagaran wells in order to pump the CO2 underground and sequester it. Michigan has thousands and thousands of Middle Devonian Antrim Shale gas wells very near the Niagaran wells that produce roughly 80% natural gas and 20% carbon dioxide.  The Antrim makes over 1 million tons of CO2 each year that has otherwise just been vented to atmosphere.

Michigan is a prime candidate to develop #CCS technology as we meet all the main requirements very well. This is why the US Department of Energy chose Michigan as one of only six sites developing Phase 3 #CCS projects in the United States and Canada. Michigan’s Middle Devonian Age Antrim Shale generates approximately 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide each year from six central processing facilities which is currently vented to atmosphere. One of the largest gas-processing facilities in Otsego County generates about 1 billion cubic feet of CO2 each month on average over the last 10 years that has been vented to atmosphere.   The average CO2 vented to atmosphere each year from this facility is about 15 billion cubic feet and the average CO2 produced from the Antrim as a whole is about 21 billion cubic feet each year. This CO2 is high quality CO2 for pipelines at about 99% purity.(3)

CO2 map
This map shows locations of carbon storage field tests under the United States Department of Energy partnership program. Field tests are an essential step toward commercial deployment of #CCS technology. (source: U.S. Dept of Energy)

Let’s do some math to put Antrim CO2 production into perspective: If we convert 21 billion cubic feet of CO2 to pounds or tons, which is how most newspapers write about CO2 emissions, we have to multiply by a factor of 0.1146 and we get about 2.4 billion pounds of CO2 per year vented from the Antrim. If we divide that figure by 2,000 lbs per ton we get about 1.2 million tons of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere from Michigan’s Antrim Shale each year.

For comparison’s sake, the Monroe Power Plant, the biggest power plant in Michigan @ 3,300MW and powered by burning coal, emits about 34.8 billion pounds of CO2 per year to atmosphere, which is about 17.4 million tons. So, the Monroe Power Plant emits about 14 to 15 times more CO2 to atmosphere than the Antrim Shale as a whole. The Monroe Plant also emits about 104k tons of Sulphur Dioxide, 32k tons of Nitrous Oxides, and 780 lbs of Mercury to atmosphere. The Monroe Plant is ranked 7th in the United States for Carbon Dioxide emissions to atmosphere according to SourceWatch.  The Monroe Plant was ranked 11th in the US for GHG emissions in a September 29, 2016 @freep article you can read by clicking here.

Plants like the Monroe Power Plant and many more are what #CCS technology is really all about down the road.   Companies like Core Energy can use their knowledge and expertise to help reduce the CO2 emissions of plants like the Monroe Power Plant. This is the ultimate goal of #CCS ambitions and why the Department of Energy is helping to fund projects like those undertaken by Core Energy LLC in Northern Michigan. There will be many factors in reducing CO2 emissions from large emission sources but we are closer now than ever before to making these goals safe & economically feasible.

Recently RMP wrote about ExxonMobil & Fuel Cell energy teaming up to add molten carbonate fuel cells to a natural gas power plant in our Fuel Cells 101 post. There is perhaps no greater technology to get excited about than these molten carbonate fuel cells as their CO2 capture signature is like no other diagram out there: they create energy while concentrating CO2 rather than taxing the power plant of energy to capture CO2. Furthermore, molten carbonate fuel cells are modular and can be added as necessary to the power plant depending on the size of the plant thus making their economics better too.

What’s Next for #CCS Proliferation?

As we say repeatedly at RMP: always follow the money. The biggest hurdle with the ambitions of #CCS is and will always be cost.   We are in the nascent stages of #CCS now but these are exciting times for advancements in the entire scope of #CCS technology. Michigan is demonstrating itself as a leader in CO2 sequestration with Core Energy LLC’s work in Northern Michigan at the Dover 33 EOR Unit. Fuel Cell Energy in Danbury, Connecticut is demonstrating that molten carbonate fuel cells are a potential game changer for the mass adoption of #CCS because of their cost effectiveness on the “capture” side of CO2. ExxonMobil is providing financial support to small companies like Fuel Cell Energy to take technologies like molten carbonate fuel cells to the next level of mass adoption.

core energy
RMP covers energy for Michigan and the world. RMP has been writing about oil & gas and fuel cells and other topics like #CCS in Michigan for a long time. Many outlets in Michigan are turning to our organization to get the real data on what’s going on. We are out in the woods and we cover every corner of Michigan. This picture is of a Core Energy well which you can find on our map. RMP cares about Michigan and we are different than any environmental group you’ve ever seen. Follow us to keep up with what’s happening on the Michigan and global energy scene. (Photo Credit: Neo)

RMP is Michigan’s authority on sustainable energy production and you can follow us on Twitter or like us on facebook to get regular updates as we create new energy maps and blog about sustainable energy advancements. Stay tuned as RMP continues to cover developments in #CCS and other advanced energy technologies. RMP will be writing many more posts about #CCS as news and additional information becomes available.

Check Out RMP’s Carbon Dioxide Sequestration Wells in Michigan Map

RMP has been demonstrating our watchdog oil well mapping software since High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF) came to Michigan.   We wanted to know where the HVHF wells were in our state and learn more about them but the maps just didn’t exist. We could not get straight answers to our many questions. Sure there was the MDEQ’s GeoWebFace and other mapping applications out there but we needed something more robust. That’s when RMP was born. I have been working as a watchdog regarding Michigan oil well data and writing my own software for about 7 years now and what separates RMP data from other data sources is our supplemental data table and exclusive software. By creating an RMP exclusive table that works in conjunction with MDEQ public data, has added hooks & sorting criteria to Michigan data you just can’t find anywhere else. Want to know which oils have ground water contamination issues? Want to know which wells target the Niagaran formation? Or which wells use CO2 EOR?   There is no other place on the web that can match the Michigan made mapping software exclusive to RMP. Our CO2 EOR map shown below is a great example of a map you just won’t find anywhere else on the internet.

RMP is a small and unfunded non-profit organization and I write this software in my free time. I have a full time job to pay my bills, but we really could use your financial support to get our organization to the next level. If RMP had funding to work full time and pay our volunteers, we could be a leader in environmental organizations in Michigan when it comes to helping Michigan make the transition to sustainable energy and high paying jobs for Michigan workers. RMP is a Michigan based 501(c)3 organization so if you can make a donation to help us continue and expand our organization your donation will be tax deductible. RMP is registered with the Michigan Attorney General’s office to solicit for your donations and we would really appreciate your support to expand what we do. Our overhead is next to nothing as we use all free software apps like PHP, JavaScript, MySQL, HTML, WordPress, and the Google Maps API to bring you this website for free. Our volunteers are also the best researchers in the state and every one of the “big” environmental organizations in Michigan comes to us when they need reliable fact base information. Check out the map below which shows all EOR CO2 wells in Michigan.  This map will evolve as the layout changes in our state and new information becomes available. Click here if you can afford to make a tax-deductible donation to respectmyplanet.org to help our organization grow.   Thank you.

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RMP’s Interactive Map of Michigan’s Carbon Dioxide Sequestration Wells


Click Here To Enlarge RMP’s Michigan’s Carbon Dioxide Sequestration Wells Map

Click Here To Open RMP’s Michigan’s Carbon Dioxide Sequestration Wells Map Map In A New Full Screen Tab

 

Footnotes

1. Geologic Storage Options and Capacities for Carbon Dioxide
Sequestration in the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership
by MRCSP

2. Michigan Phase III Project Update by MRCSP – Note this is a dynamic link and numbers are updated monthly so the numbers quoted at the time of publication will not match the link depending on when you click the link.

3. Matthias Grobe, Jack C. Pashin, Rebecca L. Dodge, Carbon Dioxide Sequestration in Geological Media: State of the Science – American Association of Petroleum Geologists (2009)

Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly – September 2016

Each month respectmyplanet.org (RMP) recaps oil & gas activity in the Michigan Basin right here in our Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly (MOGM) magazine.  RMP is a Michigan based 501(c)3 non-profit organization.  If you want to know what’s going on with oil & gas development in Michigan, you should follow this publication each month by liking us on facebook or following @respectmyplanet on Twitter so you don’t miss a publication.

Antrim Shale
This is a screen shot from Bill Harrison’s paper linked in this article about the location of three of the “J-style” Antrim wells targeting the Upper Devonian Lachine, Paxton, and Norwood layers of the Antrim Shale.  Delta Oil’s ACOWS targeting the same formation with multiple horizontal drainholes are closer to the county line of Montmorency & Alpena Counties.  Click image to enlarge on your screen.

In September, we  saw some interesting activity in the Michigan Basin that we will keep our eyes on as it unfolds.  Delta Oil out of Oak Brook, Illinois filed numerous ACOWS to drill multiple horizontals off of their State Avery D1-32 well (PN45601) & off of their State Albert A4-1 well (PN53617).   The ACOWS calls for a horizontal drainhole (HD) targeting the Upper Devonian Lachine formation.  The other ACOWS calls for an HD targeting the Continue reading “Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly – September 2016”