October 24, 2014
Capitol Update

In this issue:


Advancing Manufacturing Partnership 2.0 Report to be Released October 27th

The Innovation Policy Forum of The National Academies will release the final report of the President's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP2.0) on Monday, October 27 during an event that will take place in the Lecture Room of the National Academy of Sciences Building located at 2100 C Street, NW, Washington, DC. A reception will follow in the West Court of the National Academy of Sciences.

Rafael Reif, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Wes Bush, Chairman of Northrop Grumman, will introduce the report, followed by a briefing on the report's findings and recommendations by the AMP industry and academic workgroup leaders and experts. The event will be presided by the co-chair of The National Academies Innovation Forum, Dr. Luis Proenza, who is also a member of the AMP2.0 Steering Committee. Commerce Secretary Pritzker has been invited to provide remarks on the implementation of this report's recommendations.

To register to attend, visit http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1845651/Presenting-the-Advanced-Manufacturing-Partnership-2-0-Report-Accelerating-Advanced-U-S-Manufacturing

The report as well as the webinar, will be available on http://ppec.asme.org under the Manufacturing/Innovation & Competitiveness link next week.


IG Special Report: "Management Challenges at the Department of Energy – Fiscal Year 2015"

Earlier this month, the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report identifying what it considers to be the most significant Management Challenges facing the Department. The overall goal is to focus attention on significant issues with the objective of working with DOE managers to enhance the effectiveness of agency programs and operations.

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 challenge areas remain largely consistent with those in previous years and include the following:

  • Contract and Financial Assistance Award Management
  • Cybersecurity;
  • Environmental Cleanup;
  • Nuclear Waste Disposal;
  • Safeguards and Security; and,
  • Stockpile Stewardship.

The OIG also prepares a Watch List, which incorporates other issues that do not meet the threshold of a management challenge, yet warrant special attention by DOE officials. For FY 2015, in addition to the newly added Human Capital 2 Management topic, the Watch List includes Infrastructure Modernization, Loan Guarantee Program, and Worker and Community Safety.

To read the report, which includes a brief summary of each Management Challenge, go to: http://ppec.asme.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/IG-0924.pdf

For daily updates on energy policy and industry developments, visit: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/


NRC Staff Issues Volume 3 of Yucca Mountain Safety Evaluation Report

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff has published Volume 3 of its safety evaluation report on the proposed underground geologic nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, NV.

Volume 3 covers the period after a repository at Yucca Mountain would be permanently closed should NRC authorize construction following completion of the remaining steps in the licensing process. Volume 3 contains the staff's finding that DOE's repository design meets the requirements that apply after the repository is permanently closed, including but not limited to the post-closure performance objectives in NRC's regulations (in 10 CFR Part 63, Subpart E). These performance objectives include the requirement that the repository be composed of multiple barriers to isolate radioactivity from the environment. The staff also found the proposed repository design meets the NRC's limits or standards (in 10 CFR Part 63, Subpart L) for individual protection, human intrusion and groundwater protection.

Publication of Volume 3 does not signal whether the NRC might authorize construction of the repository. A final licensing decision, should funds beyond those currently available be appropriated, could come only after completion of the safety evaluation report, a supplement to DOE's environmental impact statement, hearings on contentions in the adjudication, and Commission review.

NUREG 1949, Safety Evaluation Report Related to Disposal of High-Level Radioactive Wastes in a Geologic Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, Volume 3, http://ppec.asme.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ML14288A121.pdf

For daily updates on energy policy and industry developments, visit: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/


GAO Report: Allowing Exports Could Reduce Consumer Fuel Prices

Almost four decades ago, in response to the Arab oil embargo and recession it triggered, Congress passed legislation restricting crude oil exports and establishing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to release oil to the market during supply disruptions and protect the U.S. economy from damage. After decades of generally falling U.S. crude oil production, technological advances have contributed to increasing U.S. production. Meanwhile, net crude oil imports (imports minus exports) have declined from a peak of about 60 percent of consumption in 2005 to 30 percent in the first five months of 2014. According to Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts, net imports are expected to remain well below 2005 levels into the future.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to provide information on the implications of removing crude oil export restrictions. GAO reviewed four studies on crude oil exports, including two sponsored by industry, and summarized the literature and views of a non-probability sample of stakeholders including academic, industry, and other experts.

The studies suggest that removing crude oil export restrictions is likely to increase domestic crude oil prices but decrease consumer fuel prices. Prices for some U.S. crude oils are lower than international prices—for example, one benchmark U.S. crude oil averaged $101 per barrel in 2014, while a comparable international crude oil averaged $109. Studies estimate that U.S. crude oil prices would increase by about $2 to $8 per barrel—bringing them closer to international prices.

At the same time, studies and some stakeholders suggest that U.S. prices for gasoline, diesel, and other consumer fuels follow international prices, so allowing crude oil exports would increase world supplies of crude oil, which is expected to reduce international prices and, subsequently, lower consumer fuel prices. Some stakeholders told GAO that there could be important regional differences in the price implications of removing crude oil export restrictions. Some stakeholders cautioned that estimates of the implications of removing export restrictions are uncertain due to several factors such as the extent of U.S. crude oil production increases, how readily U.S. refiners are able to absorb such increases, and how the global crude oil market responds to increasing U.S. production. Other findings include:

  • Crude oil production. Removing export restrictions would increase domestic production—eight million barrels per day in April 2014—because of increasing domestic crude oil prices. Estimates range from an additional 130,000 to 3.3 million barrels per day on average from 2015 through 2035.
  • Environment. Additional crude oil production may pose risks to the quality and quantity of surface groundwater sources; increase greenhouse gas and other emissions; and increase the risk of spills from crude oil transportation.
  • The economy. Removing export restrictions is expected to increase the size of the economy, with implications for employment, investment, public revenue, and trade. For example, removing restrictions is expected to contribute to further declines in net crude oil imports, reducing the U.S. trade deficit.

To read the 51-page report, visit http://ppec.asme.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/666274.pdf

For daily updates on energy policy and industry developments, visit: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/


New Tracers Can Identify Frac Fluids in the Environment

Scientists have developed new geochemical tracers that can identify hydraulic fracturing flowback fluids that have been spilled or released into the environment. The tracers have been field-tested at a spill site in West Virginia and downstream from an oil and gas brine wastewater treatment plant in Pennsylvania.

Using the tracers, scientists can determine where frac fluid contamination has--or hasn't--been released to the environment and, ultimately, help identify ways to improve how shale gas wastewater is treated and disposed of.

The researchers published their findings on October 20th in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Their study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is the first to report on the development of the boron and lithium tracers.

Hydraulic fracturing fluids--or frac fluids--typically contain mixes of water, proprietary chemicals and sand. Mixtures can vary from site to site.

Drillers inject large volumes of the fluids down gas wells at high pressure to crack open shale formations deep underground and allow natural gas trapped within the shale to flow out and be extracted. After the shale has been fractured, the frac fluids flow back up the well to the surface along with the gas and highly saline brines from the shale formation.

Some people fear that toxic frac fluid chemicals in this flowback could contaminate nearby water supplies if they're accidentally spilled or insufficiently treated before being disposed of. It is possible to identify the presence of frac fluid in spilled or discharged flowback by tracing synthetic organic compounds that are added to the fluid before it's injected down a well, but the proprietary nature of these chemicals, combined with their instability in the environment, limits the usefulness of such tracers.

By contrast, the new boron and lithium tracers remain stable in the environment. When drillers inject frac fluids into a shale formation, they not only release hydrocarbon, but also boron and lithium that are attached to clay minerals in the formation.

As the fluids react and mix at depth, they become enriched in boron and lithium. As they're brought back to the surface, they have distinctive fingerprints that are different from other types of wastewater, including wastewater from a conventional gas or oil well, and from naturally occurring background water.

The study is available at http://ppec.asme.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/es5032135.pdf


DOE Launches New Carbon Capture Demonstration Project

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Skyonic Corporation have launched a new carbon capture demonstration project at a San Antonio cement plant. The $40 million project will capture 75,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and covert the gas into other commercial products, include sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, hydrochloric acid, and bleach. In addition to CO2, the facility will also remove sulfur oxides, nitrogen dioxide, mercury, and other heavy metals from flue gas streams.

Funded in part by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the project includes $28 million in support from DOE. The project was paired with over five years of research and laboratory testing from Skyonic, as well as other private investment. The project has successfully completed its phase 2 implementation plan, which included a testing and process optimization effort to collect technical and cost data for the process and an update to the overall process techno-economic analysis and CO2 life cycle study.

Founded in 2005, Skyonic developed the first carbon capture technology designed to capture CO2 emissions via a mineralization process. Developed by inventor and CEO Joe Jones, Skyonic's patented technology is a first-in-kind process.

For additional information on the Skyonic Skymine project, visit: http://www.netl.doe.gov/research/proj?k=FE0002586


The articles contained in Capitol Update are not positions of ASME or any of its sub-entities, unless specifically noted as such. This publication is designed to inform ASME members about issues of concern being debated and discussed in the halls of congress, in the states and in the federal agencies.


ASME Government Relations
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Website: http://www.asme.org/about-asme/advocacy-government-relations

  • Melissa Carl covers public policy-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and diversity issues for ASME. She can be reached at carlm@asme.org
  • Paul Fakes covers public policy-related energy, standards and environmental issues for ASME. He can be reached at fakesp@asme.org
  • Roy Chrobocinski covers public policy-related research and development (R&D) and manufacturing issues for ASME. He can be reached at chrobocinski@asme.org