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Mud Volcanoes Erupt in Santa Flora, Southern Trinidad (Trinidad & Tobago)

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Submitted by: Karl Ramjohn

Link to article …> Mud volcanoes erupt in Santa Flora | Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday : : 

By Cecily Asson, October 26, 2008 

An unexpected early morning volcanic eruption in an oilfield area in Santa Flora sent about 100 villagers including several children scampering out of their homes to safety. Many of them have since fled their homes and are now seeking shelter at relatives’ homes until a disaster relief shelter at Los Bajos is fully prepared. Up to Press time, mud continued spewing several feet into the air from two large craters lying in close proximity to a pumping jack in the Los Bajos Field located at Francis Trace. The erupting mud was accompanied by the strong scent of methane gas. Long time residents of the area told Newsday this was the first time that the area ever experienced a volcanic eruption and that there were never any signs of activity to cause concern. Shocked villagers said they were awakened by a loud rumble yesterday morning and later discovered that a flat piece of grassy land on which they had walked and played the day before had been transformed into two mud volcanoes. There were reports of similar activity at smaller type craters in the neighbouring Wadell Village and up to late yesterday officials were said to be monitoring the situation.


Mud Volcano Erupts in Santa Flora | The Trinidad Guardian -Online Edition Ver 2.0 

Mud volcanoes in Trinidad – The Geological Society of Trinidad and Tobago 


Further Notes [Ramjohn 2003, Ramjohn 2004] 

The occurrence of several mud volcanoes is considered to be a significant geological feature of South Trinidad. Mud volcanoes develop from natural gas emissions along fault-fracture trends and are characterized by conical vents, flows of mud and periodic eruptions. The mud flows form due to the presence of trapped hydrocarbons under supranormal pressures in underlying rocks. Mud volcanoes associated with the Southern Anticline of Trinidad are present at Islote, Anglais Point, Palo Seco, Chagonaray, Coora, the Los Iros Coastal Mud Mound, and the Chatham Mud Island. The Erin Group of mud volcanoes has at least 12 eruptive centres located close to the coastal area from Palo Seco to Los Iros. The periodicity of activity related to these mud flows is highly variable. For example in the marine area immediately south of this recent event (October 2008), a temporary island of mud occassionally forms in the sea at the Chatham Mud Island (off Erin Point in the Columbus Channel). This is related to the activity of mud volcanoes in the nearshore area and has occurred four times over the past 100 years – in 1911, 1928, 1964 and 2001. An event which occurred at Point Radix off the South East coast of Trinidad in July 2007 is also believed to have been related to mud volcano activity (along offshore extension of the Manzanilla Fault). Note, however, that these mud volcanoes are not associated with “normal” volcanic activity, which occurs throughout the island arc of the Eastern Caribbean. 

Notes Source: 

Karl Ramjohn 2003. “Mud Volcanoes of South Trinidad”. In Environmental Sensitivity Atlas Volume II: Southeast and South Coasts of Trinidad. On behalf of BHP Billiton (Trinidad-2C) Ltd as part of oil spill contingency plan for Greater Angostura Field Development, Offshore Block 2(c); Study Manager / Primary Author. March – June 2003; September 2003 

Karl Ramjohn 2004. “Mud Volcanoes”. In Environmental Impact Assessment for Proposed Exploration Drilling, Production and Maintenance Operations: South Quarry Farmout Block, Santa Flora. On behalf of Los Bajos Oil Ltd to support Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) Application. Principal Consultant (EIA Process). May – August 2003; April 2004.

Biomass Energy – Sustainable Solution to Livestock Wastes?

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Submitted by: Karl Ramjohn

Livestock production is an important food supply and economic activity, the primary goal of which is to supply high-quality protein (meat, eggs, dairy products, etc) for the needs of human populations. The animals serve as concentrated sources of typically dispersed nutrients. Subsidiary products may include leather, fertilizers, inputs to animal feeds, and energy sources (biofuels). The challenge of sustainable livestock production systems is to promote food security in a manner which is economically viable and socially acceptable without causing land degradation or irreversibly affecting ecological resilience. As such, sustainability must promote a favourable cost – benefit ratio, and as far as possible avoid reducing the set of options available to future generations. This has very significant social considerations, as seemingly obvious solutions may be difficult to implement, as they may be biologically but not economically sustainable.

The recycling of materials, and thus minimizing the generation of wastes is a basic process which must be implemented to meet the demands of sustainability in developed and developing countries alike. Systems which utilize energy produced from biomass are examples of energy-recycling systems. All biomass originates through carbon dioxide fixation by photosynthesis. Consequently, biomass utilization may be regarded as a critical component of the global carbon cycle of the biosphere.

Most biomass cannot be directly utilized, and must undergo some sort of transformation before being converted to fuel. Biological processes for the conversion of biomass to fuels include ethanol fermentation by yeast or bacteria, and methane production by microbial consortia under anaerobic conditions. Unlike ethanol fermentation, anaerobic digestion for methane production utilizes organic materials containing carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. Waste materials from livestock production are applicable to anaerobic digestion, with the added advantage of reducing environmental impacts, such as unpleasant odours and water pollution.

Methane fermentation is therefore a versatile biotechnology, which can convert almost all types of polymeric materials to methane and carbon dioxide under anaerobic conditions. It converts the waste products of livestock systems into useful products of commercial value, while reducing the environmental costs associated with other methods of livestock waste disposal. As such, it offers an effective means of pollution reduction, superior to that achieved by conventional aerobic processes. It is also an efficient method of converting unused biomass resources (crop residues, forestry, industrial/municipal and livestock wastes) into biofuels and fertilizers.

The digested slurry (by-product of methane production) retains the nitrogen and other mineral nutrients which are lost when biomass wastes are directly burned, while reducing BOD/COD. Methane is a principal constituent of natural gas, and extraction of this resource from livestock waste is a small-scale but useful method of supplementing extraction from geologic deposits. It also mitigates the problems associated with slow decomposition on the land surface, in the context of the large “greenhouse effect” of methane – up to 25 times that of carbon dioxide. The pathogens are also destroyed, reducing the health effects of the digested biomass, which also does not attract flies or rodents.

Biomass conversion is economically feasible within the constraints of scale and location. The main problems associated with biomass digestors is the relatively high price of implementation, the fact that the technology is still somewhat experimental, and the high standard of management and maintenance required.

Overriding issues in the future of biological energy systems are the overall efficiency of converting biomass to fuels, the economics of such processes, their environmental impacts, their competitiveness with thermochemical processes for biomass, and their compatibility with evolving economic and political structures.


Integrated Food–Energy Systems (IFES)

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Submitted by: Karl Ramjohn

Our life on Earth depends on a dynamic complex of linkages, synergies and interactions among the processes, components and sub-systems of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere. The ecological view of sustainability focuses on the stability of biological and physical systems. Of particular importance is the viability of sub-systems that are crucial to the global stability of the overall ecosystem. Protection of biodiversity is a key aspect. Furthermore “natural” ecosystems may be interpreted to include all aspects of the biosphere, including man-made environments like intensive agriculture, cities and industrial estates. The emphasis is on preserving the resilience and dynamic ability of the totality of systems to adapt to change, rather than conservation of some “ideal” static state of the environment. Therefore, expansion of renewable bio-energy will require not only advances in technology, but also tangible economic accounting of their environmental and social benefits, compared to fossil fuels.

The development of sustainable, multi-purpose, integrated biomass conversion systems, is based on highly efficient photosynthesis and microbial processes, generating a number of products including energy resources (biofuels). Such systems have the potential for reducing the adverse impacts of agriculture and forestry, while providing food, fibre, pharmaceuticals and supplementary biofuels, to enhance the requirements for an acceptable standard of living. Energy production via biomass conversion of agricultural wastes reduces the environmental costs of food production systems, and provides economic benefit for the farmer, as well as reducing social impacts. As such, it provides a platform for integrating food and energy production in a sustainable manner.

The major social aims of Integrated Food – Energy Systems (IFES) is to maximize synergies between food crops, livestock, fish production and sources of renewable energy (e.g. biodigestion of wastes). This is achieved by adoption of agro-industrial technology that allows maximum utilization of by-products, diversification of raw materials, waste production on a smaller scale, and encouraging recycling and economic utilization of residues, for harmonization of energy and food production.

The essential features of IFES include:

• Using technology mix to provide a minimum cost alternative;
• Meeting energy needs not only for agriculture, but also other social needs (e.g. domestic, commercial, industrial);
• Maximizing utilization of available bio-resources with minimum environmental impact;
• Benefiting all classes of the community;
• Increasing food productivity;
• Generating additional income and employment opportunities; and
• Requirement of minimum maintenance to integrate community participation in management.

The design of IFES requires a simultaneous consideration of:

• The bio-physical components of resource management;
• The social and ecological impacts of technologies used; and
• The institutional settings involved

For each site-specific configuration of climatic and environmental conditions, several socially desirable, ecologically sustainable and economically efficient production systems are conceivable, differing in output mix, forms of social organization and community participation, size of operation, complexity of design and technical sophistication. Ideally, they should have a modular structure, allowing progressive implementation by adding new modules to the initial structure. While, in practice, these systems are often implemented as private enterprises, they can provide a template for the design and adoption of IFES technology at the community level in other circumstances, with appropriate modification, to mitigate environmental impacts and supply other benefits, towards improving the sustainability of food and energy production systems.

Related Posts:;id=8635448;articleid=8635448

“Spatial Footprint” Challenges of Solar Energy Use

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Submitted by: Karl Ramjohn

Solar energy can be utilized in either passive or active systems. Passive systems do not contain any internal energy sources, and can be used for direct heating (e.g. solar dryers, water heaters, etc.) or day-time lighting (e.g. “green” office buildings). Photovoltaic devices are an example of active systems based on semiconductor technology, often using silicon (an indirect semiconductor).

The advantages of using solar radiation are well established and often cited – such as their ability (with proper design) to lower energy costs, reduce emissions and other environmental pollution, thereby initiating the process of competitively replacing hydrocarbon use, and thus contributing to sustainable development.

Solar energy approaches are also frequently suggested as a sustainable solution in less-developed countries in the tropical environment, on the assumption of having less seasonal variation in day-length and more hours of direct sunlight each day (i.e., usually a higher intensity and longer duration of incident solar radiation each day). The fuel medium (solar radiation) is also an “open-access” resource (no direct user cost). The overall decline in the operational costs seen over the past 35+ years is also typically acknowledged.

However, one major challenge remains with regard to conversion to solar energy use – their spatial footprint (land use requirement) in the event that larger scale utilization is proven feasible. In particular, for the use of flat-plate collectors or PV systems in tropical environments, this becomes an issue.

The primary reason is that to optimize the use of solar radiation, the panels (or plates) need to be sloped so as to correspond to the latitude of the specific area of the Earth, hence taking up more horizontal space in the tropics. If we take the example of an island in the middle-tropics such Trinidad & Tobago, implementation will require the slope of the panels to be 10 degrees (corresponding to latitude) for the same technology that may be placed at an angle of 40 degrees in countries within temperate regions. The implication is that the area set aside for power generation (or other solar energy use) will no longer be available for other land uses (such as agriculture) and this may be a significant limiting factor, especially in the case of small-island developing states. After all, any large-scale conversion will require much more than a rooftop, and island geography often restricts the feasibility of wind energy.

Some recent discussions aimed at solving or mitigating these potential challenges to sustainable energy:;id=8635831

Some perspectives on the science of climate change

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By: Karl Ramjohn – June 2008

“Climate” is distinguished from “weather”, in that weather is the day-to-day state of the atmosphere and environment, whereas climate is the statistical average of weather patterns over a limited region and a long period (usually, minimum 30 years). A number factors have some influence on variations in the climate in the various regions or zones of the Earth – but it must be noted that none of these changes work (or actually initiate themselves) in isolation.

The natural climatic systems of the Earth are primarily determined by a dynamic complex of linkages, synergies and interactions among the processes, components and sub-systems of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere. The hydrosphere in this context includes all of the Earth’s water – oceans, rivers, lakes and the cryosphere (ice caps and snow). The main variables which characterize climate are temperature and precipitation (rainfall), humidity and cloudiness (special disturbances such as droughts and hurricances are sometimes included). These elements are in turn dependent on the meteorological variables (of weather) – such as insolation (solar radiation), wind speed and direction, ocean surface temperature, etc. To this must be added the variability of the Sun’s radiation and the Earth’s orbit, which result in an extremely complex and dynamic system.

Thus the climate system is a global complex of linkages and interactions. Inhomogeneities of all scales exist from the very large scale (e.g., 10,000 km) to the very small scale (e.g., 1 mm). This complex system is acted upon by a range of stimuli associated with the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth’s orbit around the sun. The main factors affecting climate change (natural variability) include: (1) Diurnal oscillations, due to the Earth’s rotation; (2) Tidal oscillations, due to gravitational effects of the Sun and Moon, with main periods of 12.4 hr and 24.8 hr; (3) Seasonal oscillations, due to the inclination of the equator to the ecliptic, and to changes in Sun-Earth distance; (4) Synoptic oscillations, caused by Rossby waves, with scales of 1000 km and periods of days; (5) Global oscillations with periods from weeks to months; (6) Inter-annual oscillations with periods ranging from 2 to 5 years, including El Niño/La Niña phenomena in the Pacific; and (7) Secular or long period oscillations with periods ranging from years to tens of thousands of years (the ice ages), likely due to orbital variations.

Having established the above – one of the main issues in the current debate is the possible effects of human industrial and other activities on the global climate. Despite the assertions in some quarters, anthropogenic effects are for the moment much less significant than these natural effects, the main concern being time-scales – their effects are felt within lifetimes rather than thousands of years. The critical point, is that many of the factors (“forcers” and “reactors”) in our current environment never existed in the past – many of the culprits (such as CFC) do not occur freely in nature, further to which, the rate of change of the release of naturally occurring greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide) over the past 200 yr or so (since the “industrial revolution”) is unprecedented and likely a result of human activities (such as deforestation). While, it is very true that global warming and climate change are a natural process on the Earth; the main issue is that the new or additional parameters added by human activities make it very difficult to use past cycles of “Ice Ages” and “Tropical Ages” to predict what is to be expected. Even if our activities are less significant than natural variations (in the global context), they definitely are not helping the situation. Environmental changes by human activities also affect the micro-climate in which we live, on an obviously much shorter time-scale.

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Written by geoenergy

July 5, 2008 at 2:38 pm