Molecular Tracers for Fracking Fluid

by Emil Morhardt

Stephanie Kurose, a law student at the American University in Washington DC, calls our attention to both the concept of, and two startups trying to push, micro-tracers which could be injected into fracking fluid so that if it escapes, we know whodunit. The idea is simple, if not yet operational; create some long-lived non-toxic chemical compound with enough potential variation that a different version could be mixed in with the fracking fluid for each individual well. The arguments for it, espoused by Kurose, are equally simple; drilling companies would know if they had a problem with leakage and could change their technology, falsely-accused drilling companies could exonerate themselves, and the public should feel much less angst about fracking if evidence of leaked fracking fluid fails to materialize (or vice versa.) It might be that drilling companies would resist in order to avoid any conclusive evidence that their wells have leaked, but so far no one knows because suitable tracers have yet to be deployed. The two startups giving it a shot are BaseTrace and FracEnsure. Continue reading

Restoring Floral and Pollinator Populations at Remediated Landfill Sites

by Hilary Haskell

Post-closure, landfills require after-care and remediation. Additional after-care may involve restoring landfills into semi-natural habitats for flowering plants and insect pollinators. Tarrant et al. (2013) compared the floral characteristics, species richness and abundance, and pollinator assemblages at reference sites of ecological value and restored landfill sites. Pollinator populations were similar across the reference and restored sites. The authors found no differences in floral species richness or abundance between reference sites and restored sites. Some seasonal differences in species richness and abundance occurred at restored landfill sites. There are over 28,000 ha of landfills in England and Wales, and habitats are rapidly declining due to agricultural practices. Landfill restoration may provide a means to both remediate landfills and mitigate habitat loss. Continue reading

Factors Influencing CO2 Emissions in South Africa

by Monkgogi Bonolo Otlhogile

With an average growth rate of 4.3% between 2001 and 2007, South Africa joined Brazil, Russia, India and China as the fifth member of BRICS, an association for the five emerging economies of the world in 2010. However, South Africa also joined these countries as one of the major carbon dioxide emitters, producing 1% of the world’s emissions. The environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) hypothesis states that early economic development will result in an increase in environmental degradation. This includes pollutants such as carbon dioxide and sulfur, which are considered by-products of economic activity. Eighty-seven percent of the carbon dioxide emitted by South Africa is a by-product of coal-fueled Continue reading