Thursday, September 30, 2010

Obama Devastates Gulf Coast, Rejuvenates Alberta's Oil Sands

While Obama's inept moratorium on oil drilling along the US Gulf Coast heaps misery upon millions of Americans, Alberta's economy is being rejuvenated by the shift of resources northward to the oil sands. If Obama's political agenda prevents oil companies from investing in the United States, they will naturally turn to the vast hydrocarbon resources of other nations such as Canada -- while Mexico, Cuba, Russia, China, and Brasil move to take advantage of deep sea oil resources that the US government eschews.
In a research note this week, investment bank Peters & Co. said as much as $30 billion will be spent from 2011 to 2015 on mining and in situ oilsands projects to boost production by almost one million barrels per day.

"Most new sizable projects are controlled by majors with less financing risk and lower costs of capital than juniors of previous cycles," wrote research analyst Todd Garman.

"Based on our assessment of currently planned oilsands mining and in situ projects, including phase expansions, we forecast total potential production additions of about 900,000 bpd, with mining and in situ production of 300,000 bpd and 600,000 bpd, respectively."

..."Specifically, we anticipate that ConocoPhillips' Surmont, Husky's Sunrise, Imperial's Kearl, MEG's Christina Lake and Suncor's Firebag 4 projects provide potential oilsands construction growth opportunities for Flint, with these projects expected to be awarded by 2010 year-end," Garman wrote.

He said the biggest risk for development is related to oil prices -- the projects are projected to break even at between $55 and $65 US per barrel. _CalgaryHerald
As long as oil is priced in terms of the weak Obama Dollar, the price of oil is likely to be above $55 per barrel.

As peak oil drifts ever further into the distance, the more relevant and proximal causes of energy shortages derive from "political peak oil", and the disastrous decisions being made daily by incompetent clowns in public office.

Cross-posted to Al Fin

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Age of Unconventional Methane

We are seeing the rise of methane from numerous unconventional sources as a rival player to petroleum and oil field natural gas. Already, the rapid expansion of shale gas resources has changed the local, regional, and global energy outlook. Other forms of unconventional gas -- including coal bed methane and tight sands methane -- only add to the global bonanza.

Bio-methane from the anaerobic digestion of agricultural waste provides yet another source of the clean combustible fuel for farm, ranch, and dairy regions. There is also a push to utilise the rich methane deposits being generated in municipal landfills around the world.

The Japanese are moving to exploit the rich fields of undersea methane clathrates -- which may represent a hydrocarbon resource equal to or greater than all other hydrocarbon deposits on Earth combined.

Finally, the impending tsunami of the use of synthesis gas as a niche replacement for methane and natural gas, promises to extend the already-massive reserves of methane and natural gas into the distant future.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Saudi Arabia's Giant Ghawar Oilfield to Ramp Up Production

Saudi Arabia is investing in more advanced technology to increase production from its giant Ghawar oilfield. Most national oil companies are reluctant to invest oil profits in new technology, choosing instead to use the oil wealth for weapons, social programs, other means of power brokering, or corrupt and conspicuous consumption. The Saudis are demonstrating a fiscal discipline which is uncommon in the third world, and which speaks well about how seriously the Saudis looking into the future.
Saudi Arabia is planning to deploy new technology to extract more crude from the world’s largest oilfield that pumps more than double the combined output of the UAE and Kuwait, its state hydrocarbon operator has said.

...The field now pumps more than 60 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s crude production, six per cent of the world’s oil supplies and over 15 per cent of Opec’s output.

Located in the eastern part of the Empty Quarter desert along the western Gulf coast, Ghawar pumps nearly five million bpd of the top quality light crude and around 2.5 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas.

The field’s production reached a peak of about 5.7 million bpd by 1981 — a world record for continuous production in a single field — but output was reduced later that decade due to declining global demand. Still, the field’s current, sustained five million bpd output is unrivalled. _Emirates24/7_via_EnergyTribune


Monday, September 27, 2010

Ambitious Plans for Pyrolysis in Malaysia

The Malaysian government has ambitious plans for the pyrolytic conversion of palm waste to biofuels -- intending to have 9 pyrolysis plants operating by 2015, using Canadian technology.
Malaysia plans to have nine plants in operation by 2015 generating 1.1 million tonnes of biofuel annually.

Ensyn and its partner Honeywell, a U.S. engineering giant, will provide the expertise to build the plant. Terms of the Malaysian project were not disclosed.

The partners are working on similar projects in Canada and Europe based on Ensyn's rapid thermal conversion technology.

Ensyn won a contract to run a company-owned $80- million plant in northern Alberta which will turn sawmill waste into biofuel used to generate electricity.

The technology processes waste under intense pressure in the absence of oxygen.

Ensyn founder and chief executive officer Robert Graham has been working since 1984 on rapid thermal technology. An Ensyn Renfrew refinery has been producing and selling biofuel for seven years for a variety of industrial customers. It also has six plants in Wisconsin.

With Honeywell, it recently won a $25-million award from the U.S. department of energy for a demonstration plant in Hawaii to process algae, wood and agriculture waste. It is also working on a project in Italy which will generate electricity. _OttawaCitizen_via_BiofuelsDigest
Pyrolysis and gasification are two of the more promising near-term approaches to making fuels, chemicals, and electric power (plus co-products) from waste cellulosic biomass.


CSU Researchers Say Algal Biodiesel Net Energy Ratio Better than Soy

Researchers at Colorado State University state that a detailed engineering model for one algal species -- Nannochloropsis -- in a photobioreactor model using current technology will show the superiority of algal biodiesel over soy biodiesel in terms of net energy ratios and greenhouse gases.
Their analysis of this process and organism found the Net Energy Ratio (MJ consumed·(MJ produced)-1) for microalage biodiesel to be 0.93; for soybean biodiesel to be 1.64; and for petroleum diesel to be 0.19.

Although the energy required to support the growth stage during microalgae cultivation is 2.1 times higher than the energy required to support soy growth, they found that microalgae extraction uses less energy than soy oil extraction.

The primary energetic advantage of the microalgae process, relative to soy, is related to the energy embedded in the feedstock. Soybeans contain 18% lipid by dry weight, whereas Nannochloropsis salina contains 50%. This means that less microalgae is required to produce 1 unit of biofuel energy than is required of soybeans.
—Batan et al.

Soy is a very efficient food crop, with an excellent protein profile. But it will not be able to compete with more efficient oil crops such as micro-algae as the agro-industrial processes to produce fuel from algae is developed.

Initially, a more economical and efficient way of producing fuel from algae would utilise fast-growing, low oil species of algae for their biomass. As Craig Venter and other synthetic biologists develop better species of algae as oil crops, and as industrial engineers design better ways to extract the oil, the oil-to-fuels (and chemicals) approach is likely to edge out the algal biomass approach for most applications.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Abundant Energy a Crucial Requirement for Prosperity

Energy is the crucial factor which determines how well a people can live. In fact, the availability of energy also determines how many people can live comfortably in a given area. Leftists in the faux environmental movement want to shut down energy so as to eliminate at least 90% of the humans currently living on Earth.
Giving society cheap, abundant energy ... would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun. - Paul Ehrlich, ``An Ecologist's Perspective on Nuclear Power'', May/June 1978 issue of Federation of American Scientists Public Issue Report

If you ask me, it'd be a little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it. We ought to be looking for energy sources that are adequate for our needs, but that won't give us the excesses of concentrated energy with which we could do mischief to the earth or to each other."
—Amory Lovins, The Mother Earth - Plowboy Interview, Nov/Dec 1977, p. 22 _YVY_via_SeekerBlog

The map above is a look at world poverty by nation. The image below is a graphic look at global electric power production by region and nation. The comparison is stark.
With an abundant and relatively inexpensive source of energy, the Earth could comfortably support ten times the current human population of Earth -- living in health and prosperity. But such a large population would want to utilise the third dimension for both living and agricultural space. If they had the energy, it would be simple.

The political left, of course, is choosing the opposite tack -- energy starvation. Choking off energy supplies will force a rapid and drastic population shrinkage across the third world -- via famine, sickness, war -- and across the developed world via a further dropping of already-low birthrates.

It is clear that Mr. Obama is taking the low road of energy starvation at this particular crossroads. It is the easy and mindless choice, thus it is the one he chooses.

The best choice is to breed a tougher breed of human -- a pioneer breed who is eager to take up the challenge of the vast spaces beyond the current limits of human habitation and expansion. More on that topic later.

From a previous article at Al Fin


Friday, September 24, 2010

Carnival of the Nukes #20!

Brian Wang points us to the Carnival of Nuclear Energy #20 at djysrv. Some excerpts:

Brian's blog also has a roundup of news on nuclear reactors in China, India, Pakistan and uranium in Kazakhstan, Australia and Kyrgyzstan.
At Atomic Insights Rod Adams writes that Peabody Coal has published a presentation that explains the benefits of affordable, abundant coal fired energy. It throws down the competitive gauntlet and shows why low cost energy is a boon to mankind. Will nuclear industry leaders take on the challenge of facing coal in the market?
Mark Flanagan’s has a piece at NEI Nuclear Notes on the nuclear cluster in the Carolinas whose “ultimate goal is to establish a network of suppliers in South Carolina that can serve the nuclear industry worldwide.”
At Nuke Power Talk Gail Marcus has a "personal reflection" about Gail de Planque [NRC profile], who died recently. Marcus writes that the posting "is based on some of my interactions with her."
At Vermont Yankee Meredith Angwin writes that if Vermont Yankee closes, job losses at the plant are merely the tip of the economic iceberg. She discusses the effect of plant closure on small manufacturing industries in Vermont.
What's up with MIT and spent nuclear fuel?
At Areva North America blog, David Jones, Vice President, Used Fuel Management, writes that recycling used fuel from America’s nuclear power plants, using technology available in the near term, represents a solid option for the United States.
More at the link above.

The race is on to build much more nuclear energy capacity. From India to China to Pakistan to the middle east, and elsewhere, governments are beginning to understand energy equations a bit better -- while learning to laugh at the faux environmentalists such as those who pull the strings at Obama Pelosi, who would prefer to starve their people into energy death.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Microbe Power: The Possibilities are Endless

Microbes have been around the longest of any living Earth creature. They have invented a lot of ways to survive, but they have barely scratched the surface of possibilities of what they can do. With the addition of modern synthetic biology and systems biology, the permutations of what is possible are rising exponentially.

Finland's Neste Oils is developing microbial means to convert bio-wastes into bio-oils, which Neste can then hydrogenate into NExBTL -- a high quality diesel-equivalent.

Genencor and Zymetis are collaborating to develop Zymetis' patented bacterium into a high-value biochemicals bio-factory.

Academic researchers at Rutgers are hoping to gene-engineer a profitable CO2 to fuels algae within the next 3 years.

The first installment of a 10 part series on Biorefineries from BiofuelsDigest. The key to profitable biorefineries is matching a cheap, abundant feedstock with a prolific and adaptable microbe.

Actually, Al Fin industrial microbiologists believe that cooperative assemblies of different micro-organisms will provide a more productive and efficient biorefinery core. But as long as Exxon is willing to pay $600 million so that Craig Venter can try to pack everything he needs into a single microbe, we at Al Fin Syndicates will continue to wish them well.

Europe could replace all the natural gas it imports from Russia by utilising its own biomethane potential -- methane it could generate using anaerobic digestion of biowaste.

Actually, the possibilities ARE endless.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gasification Begins to Hit Its Stride

Brian Westenhaus takes a look at advances in gasification science coming from Purdue University.
Gasifiers are reactors in which biomass, coal or other carbon rich substances are heated and flooded with steam, oxygen or both. Simply put, the heat decomposes the carbon-based molecules and the steam makes more hydrogen available for constructing the desired product coming out. Gasifiers are messy and difficult to control reactors with intense operational experience needed and constant supervision for optimal output. As Al Fin noted last week the sources for the heat can range from plasma to simple heating by fuels.

But what is actually happening in the gasifier? Answering this matter would offer a great deal of knowledge on designs, construction and operations. It would put solid scientific foundations into the synthetic fuel economy, which is not so far past the basic making of charcoal and saving back the exhaust gases in fuel forming. Gasifiers are already quite interesting and have some potential for making fuels economically now.

Jay Gore, the Reilly University Chair Professor of Combustion Engineering at Purdue said, “A major focus is to be able to produce a significant quantity of synthetic fuel for the U.S. air transportation system and to reduce our dependence on petroleum oil for transportation.” The research is part of work to develop a system for generating large quantities of synthetic fuel from agricultural wastes, other biomass or coal that would be turned into a gas using steam and then converted into a liquid fuel. _BrianWestenhaus
Projects are ongoing to convert a wide array of feedstocks into advanced fuels, electric power, and useful heat. The University of Wyoming, in conjunction with General Electric, is optimising gasification technology for the clean use of Wyoming's Powder River coal. Westinghouse plasma gasification technology is to be used in the conversion of municipal waste to electric power and heat in the American Midwest. The University of North Dakota is partnering with Cummins Power Generation to demonstrate the feasibility of using gasification to convert fuels such as "forestry, agricultural, and industrial biomass waste; animal waste; waste plastics; and railroad ties or cable poles, as well as a range of coals," to electric power and process heat.

Gasification is a brute force approach to converting cellulose and other carbonaceous materials into useful power, fuels, and heat. But it works, and it works now. The challenge is to increase efficiencies and yields so as to maximise profits. That is the only way for the approach to become sustainable over the long term.


Monday, September 20, 2010

The Big Wind SteamRoller and Political Crusade

1. Wind proponents are not asked to independently PROVE the merits of their claims before (or after) their product is forced on the public,

2. There is no penalty for making specious assertions about their product’s “benefits,” so each contention is more grandiose than the last, and

3. Promoting wind is a political agenda that is divorced from true science. True science is based on real world data — not carefully massaged computer models, which are the mainstay of anti-science agenda evangelists. _MasterResource
If you have not yet watched the SlideShare presentation on wind energy by John Droz, you are doing yourself a vast disservice. The huge government mandate being forced on the taxpaying public by the Obama Pelosi regime is economically ruinous, and totally pointless from the standpoint of energy production. No, I am being much too kind to Obama Pelosi. The big wind crusade is also ruinous from the standpoint of energy production, because spending many billions on big wind means that we cannot spend those resources developing power generation methods that actually work.

In other words, the long range forecast for the future as a result of the big wind steamroller and political crusade of the O-P regime is: cold in the winter, hot in the summer, and widespread poverty, ignorance and hardship.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nuclear Energy Carnival #19

Brian Wang hosts the 19th Carnival of Nuclear Energy. Here are some entries:
2. Nucleargreen has "Energy: Renewables and Efficiency won't work, but the Molten Salt Reactor can."

Renewable energy plans all forecast large renewable energy shortfalls in meeting consumer energy demands. These plans fall back on energy efficiency to bridge the gap between consumer energy demands and and limited renewable generating capacity. A postulate of classic economic theory, Jevons paradox, maintains that increased energy efficiency leads to increased energy use. Nuclear power generation offers the only way out of the renewables energy gap, and in particular Molten Salt Reactor technology offers a highly scalable, low cost and safe solution to a rapid deployment of the nuclear energy gap solution.

3. 4 Factor consulting has why baseload is irrelevant to the power discussion.

Mr. Wellinghoff of the FERC famously said “I think baseload capacity is going to become an anachronism. Baseload capacity really used to only mean in an economic dispatch, which you dispatch first, what would be the cheapest thing to do.” Since then the debate between those that believe baseload is, for the foreseeable future, required and those that believe, like Mr. Wellinghoff that baseload is an anachronism of the 20th century. In fact, recently a paper published by an economist at Duke University claims that North Carolina (apparently serving as a proxy for the entire country) does not require any baseload capacity and that wind and solar can pretty much take care of everything.

4. ANS Nuclear cafe has Setting the stage for dialogue about the future of nuclear power

Former American Nuclear Society President Gail Marcus has just finished a book -- Nuclear Firsts: Milestones on the Road to Nuclear Power Development -- that chronicles the history of nuclear power through the stories of the milestones in the development and deployment of the technology. Looking backward can illuminate the path forward as well, and some of the key messages that she took from my review of history are relevant to the on-going discussions about the future of nuclear power are distilled in this post.

5. Yes Vermont Yankee has A post about politics in Vermont. Peter Shumlin is running for Governor of Vermont. His opponent seems to be Vermont Yankee power plant.

6. Rod Adams Atomic insights has Sierra Club, Shell Oil, Cato, RMI, Exelon and ExxonMobil All Agree - Just Do Without So We Do Not Build Any Disruptive New Capacity

When Shell Oil Company, the Sierra Club, the Cato Institute, the Rocky Mountain Institute, Exelon, and ExxonMobil (among many other strange bedfellows) all agree on the "best" source of new energy that is not really a source at all, Rod Adams gets suspicious of the underlying motives. Is the only needed solution to our energy supply challenges using what we already have more efficiently, or is that just a good reason to stop trying to replace our current sources - and suppliers?

7. Nuclear reactors are the main ways to approach or exceed high density 1 kg/kw power sources, which would enable VASIMR rocket to get to Mars in 39 days.

Molten Salt Fast Reactor would take about 50 kg of plutonium and get to about 3 kg/kw.

Uranium nitride reactors are funded and being commercially developed for 2013-2018 and could get to 2-3 kg/kw.

Vapor Core Reactors have a bunch of academic study and are expected to achieve 0.3-1 kg/kw.

Stretched lens solar arrays could go from 3kg/kw to 1kg/kw.

A proposed strontium 90 beta decay thermophotovoltaic system could achieve 10kg/kw and better photovoltaics and other improvements might enable about 5kg/kw

The New York Times reveals an MIT report that claims we will have plenty of uranium as long as we store used nuclear fuel where we can get to it.

Here is the PDF Summary Report from MIT on Uranium Fuel Cycles which is behind much of the recent optimism over long term uranium fuel supplies PDF H/T Seeker Blog


Friday, September 17, 2010

Turning $25 of Natural Gas into a $75 Barrel of Oil?

Natural gas costs about 1/3 the cost of oil in terms of energy content (see graph). What if we could convert natural gas into long chain hydrocarbons and high value chemicals cheaply and cleanly? How would that change the balance of the energies?
A cheap and efficient way of turning methane into liquid chemicals and fuels could free the chemical industry from its dependence on pricier and dirtier petroleum. But knocking off one of the four hydrogen atoms arrayed around methane's sole carbon atom requires so much energy that the process tends to run out of control, burning up the entire gas molecule. "If you can't stop it, you end up with CO2," says Charles Musgrave, a computational chemist at the University of Colorado.

...Siluria's discovery system was invented by MIT bioengineer Angela Belcher, who developed it further in a startup called Cambrios Technologies, which she cofounded. The system was then spun out into Siluria in 2008, when Cambrios focused in on commercializing a transparent electrode for solar cells and other electronic devices. Tkachenko says 95 percent of Siluria's effort is now devoted to the methane-to-ethylene process.

The company came out of stealth mode this summer because it had identified a novel nanowire catalyst that it believes could be commercially viable. Erik Scher, Siluria's vice president for R&D, says that Siluria's nanowire catalyst can activate methane at "a couple of hundred degrees" cooler than the best existing catalysts, which he says operate between 800 °C and 950 °C.

Relatively mild conditions should deliver two benefits, he says. Not only should they keep the methane from burning up, they also mean that the resulting methyl radicals are more likely to stay on the surface of the nanowire in the company of other methyl radicals, which can then react with each other to form ethylene rather than flying off the nanowire to engage in other reactions--including ones that degrade the precious ethylene product.

Tkachenko says the catalyst, if applied widely to ethylene production, could cut costs to the chemical industry by tens of billions of dollars annually and reduce global carbon-dioxide emissions by over 100 million tons per year. The company hopes to use its anticipated financing to move into the pilot process next year. Validation with a lab scale reactor running continuously for thousands of hours would then lead to commercial demonstration plants, hopefully in less than five years--an aggressive pace for a major chemical process. _TechnologyReview
This process is in the early stages. But it is just the beginning of what is coming, with a clever application of ingenious new catalysts. Nano-fabrication techniques will provide a range of industrial catalysts undreamed of since the down of the machine. It will take time to work through the vast array of what is becoming possible.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Will the Price of Oil Sink to $20 to $40 a Barrel?

In today's economic and financial maelstrom, oil prices are affected by far more than supply and demand. The world's biggest investors have rushed to oil as a safe haven from the wealth-shrinking effects of the inept economic policies of the corrupt governments which they themselves helped to put into power.
Price of Oil in Terms of Natural Gas
A barrel of oil has about six times the energy content of a thousand cubic feet of natural gas. The graph [above] compares the dollar price of a barrel of oil with the oil-equivalent cost of natural gas, calculated by multiplying the price (in $/1000 cu ft) by six.

Based on the NG equivalence, oil should be about 6 times the price of natural gas and given today's price of natural gas, that means oil should be $23 a barrel. That is another fact for the oil bulls to ignore, link found here. _SeekingAlpha

There are two common questions regarding the price of oil: "Why is the price so high?" and "Why is the price so low?" With the ascendancy of Peak Oil Orthodoxy, a variant of the latter question is more common, "Why doesn't oil cost more?"

John Galt is suggesting in a Seeking Alpha article that oil is likely to sink into the $20 to $40 price range:
The fact is that the world is NOT running out of oil. World oil reserves have gone up every year, year over year since 99' to 00'. I've done my due dilligence and and know why, but I doubt many of the oil bulls have even bothered researching the data. They've all read TIME, Newsweek, and maybe even a book or two about peak oil. To them it's the alarmist, " where are we going to find more oil? We are running out!". If they ever bothered to look at the data they'd see 10 years of increased World oil reserves.

US Oil Consumption
2005 = 20.80 mbpd
2006 = 20.60 mpbd
2007 = 20.68 mpbd
2008 = 19.50 mpbd
2009 = 18.77 mpbd
2010 = 18.93 mpbd ( predicted)
2011 = 19.06 mpbd ( estimated)

So American oil consumption peaked in 2005, dropped 5 years in a row and "might" increase this year to 18.93 mbpd which is what we consumed over a decade ago in 1998. (Link to the EIA data.) The idea that we are using more and more and have less and less is simply not true.

...Why is it $70-$80 now? The reason is contango. If you can buy oil now at $70 today and sell it for $85-$90 in five years, the price is going to stay around $70. Somebody is betting on higher oil prices in five years.

Supply and Demand
I've seen this movie before. Supply and demand dictate that when prices soar demand goes down but we are told, "Nope, oil demand is inelastic." MasterCard (MA) showed a huge drop in gasoline sales in the Spring and Summer of 2008, miles driven were way down, even mighty China was using less oil but people still believe in peak oil and inelastic demand. If the "rich" US consumer is going to cut back on expensive oil, then why wouldn't the "poor" consumers in the emerging markets cut back?

On top of that, oil was over $100 for only five months and then promply crashed after that. Once oil hit $100 a barrel, demand dropped. The $70-$80 range seems to be the highest price oil majors can get without demand dropping off and without huge hits to world GDP. _SeekingAlpha
Mr. Galt is correct to focus on the demand side. Historically, the price of oil has gyrated wildly due to fluctuations in supply -- the discovery of vast new oil fields as the industry matured and oil exploration went "global." Now that OPEC has achieved a fairly stable price structure along with supply quotas, oil prices have remained within a fairly narrow range -- when looked at historically (most people are incapable of looking back further than 20 years or so).

The hyper-inflated sense of urgency over the impending shortage of oil supplies tends to cast a sense of doom over most energy analysis. A multi-$trillion transition from one energy infrastructure regime to another would normally take a number of decades. If the public (and many other people who should know better) can be railroaded into believing that the energy infrastructure regime transition ABSOLUTELY HAS TO occur over the next 5 years to avoid doom, then over half the battle is won for the doomers.

And never forget this: Peak Oil Doom only works as long as the ruling class accepts the idea of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming. Because if the ruling class is not drunk or paralysed by Carbon Hysteria, there are huge quantities of substitute fuels just waiting to be used cleanly and economically.

What you can see within the ruling class is stupidity piled upon stupidity. Obama Pelosi has nearly destroyed the economy, and is hard at work creating energy starvation by any means necessary.

It's not too late to join the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.


Send in the Clowns

Oil analyst Charles Maxwell is making news recently with his "new" forecast for "Peak Oil" around the year 2017. Of course, this is the same Robert Maxwell who (as reported by Robert Hirsch) predicted in the spring of 2008 that gasoline prices were headed right on up to $12 to $15 a gallon. In other words, Mr. Maxwell (along with Mr. Hirsch) knows how to jump on a bandwagon.

The interesting thing about Maxwell's pronouncement is not that it is being picked up and blared out by all the doomers ("See! We told you so!), but rather that it is being used as confirmation of previous bias by cautious and respected energy bloggers such as Robert Rapier.
Here is Robert Rapier discussing his reaction to Maxwell's prediction:
While there are some differences in the details, what Maxwell articulated approximates my own views.

I view a global oil production peak within the decade as a near-certainty.
I think there is a small probability that the peak has already occurred, but we won’t know that until several years after the fact.
I don’t believe that there is anything in the technology pipeline that can prevent a growing gap between supply and today’s demand.
I believe that gap will be closed by price-induced rationing, which will be very hard on businesses and individuals.
Higher prices will result in a very difficult transition period in which we are forced to use less because we simply don’t have the money to use the oil that we have historically used. This will be a period of great economic difficulty, lasting for years. At the same time that the economy is in great difficulty, oil companies will continue to reap big profits, causing an enormous amount of resentment and calls for higher taxation and greater regulation of the oil industry.

However, I also believe that humans are very resilient, and that we will eventually come through this. This is why I do not characterize myself as a ‘doomer.’ We do use a lot more energy than we absolutely have to use. I would bet that most people – if they really had to – could cut their fuel consumption by 50%. It wouldn’t necessarily be convenient or easy, but it could be done. _RobertRapier
Toward the end of his piece, Rapier begins to clearly diverge from the simplistic doomer view of Peak Oil -- when he says that Americans (and presumably others in the advanced world) could cut their fuel consumption by 50%.

Think of it! An energy reduction of 50%? What would that do to oil demand? And what if people just went ahead and reduced their energy consumption (including fuels) by 50% without even trying -- just as a reaction to general economic conditions? What would that do to Peak Oil?

People who talk about historic peaks in oil production generally assume that peak production occurs due to supply problems. But in most realistic scenarios -- other than temporary production peaks due to political causes -- peak oil production is likely to occur due to demand reduction. I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine why this is true.

More: Here is an interview with Robert Hirsch, famous Peak Oil analyst and author of a 2005 report: The Peaking of World Oil Production PDF. Hirsch has recently published a book, "The Impending World Energy Mess."

Hirsch's 2005 Peak Oil report (PDF linked above) helped to boost Peak Oil well into the mainstream of conventional and political thinking. Unfortunately, once one jumps onto the doomer bandwagon, it becomes difficult to think clearly enough to do anything else from then on. Just as an actor may be "typecast" in a particular sort of role, authors and speakers can very easily allow themselves to fall into a theme du jour, and wallow about in the muck for the rest of their lives -- never again rising to a vantage point that allows them to see beyond the rut.

But one must remember that Peak Oil predictions have been flying through the memeways ever since oil was used as an economic commodity. And predictions of peak oil tend to ebb and flow with the times -- and have always ultimately failed.

The current Peak Oil fad owes more to the spectacular rise of demand from China and India than from any problems on the supply side. What Peak Oilers must eventually learn, is how fickle demand can be. They will soon learn.

Clarifiction: I am not calling for a reduction of energy consumption by 50%, although a reader might honestly get that impression. With a rational investment in small modular nuclear reactors -- particularly molten salt reactors -- individuals could increase their energy use immensely without any harmful impact on the planet or on their communities.

The goal should be toward prudent reductions in fossil fuel use, by substitution of other forms of energy. First we will want to move from petroleum to other fossil fuels -- in an environmentally clean manner (disregarding carbon hysteria, of course). Then from those fossil fuels we will move to advanced nuclear, enhanced geothermal, microbial and biomass-derived fuels and energy, and eventually we will find an economic way to use solar energy (perhaps orbital solar). The transition should take between 20 to 50 years -- depending upon the urgency.

Currently, urgency has been artificially propped up by the doomers of Peak Oil and the doomers of Carbon Hysteria. The doomers are fabricating a situation where a transition to a new energy infrastructure must occur within 5 years -- or we are all doomed. That comes from their doomer instincts, they really can't help themselves.

But rational and responsible observors and commentators should attempt to spare society from unnecessary hysterias and abrupt, damaging dislocations. That is where our governments, media, punditry, and academics are failing us abysmally.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

15,000 GPAcre Biodiesel? 25,000 GPAcre Ethanol? A Joule of a Claim

Joule Unlimited -- a company that uses genetically engineered cyanobacteria to produce biofuels -- has been granted another patent on its engineered cyanobacteria. At the same time, it is announcing some rather ambitious yield targets for two different biofuels from its newly patented organism.
Joule says its microbes can produce the equivalent of 25,000 gallons of ethanol per acre per year and 15,000 gallons of diesel per acre per year. Pilot production on diesel begins later this year. It says it has already shown it can produce 10,000 gallons of ethanol a year, or 40 percent of its goal, on its pilot lines in Leander, Texas.

Those production figures are far higher than the usual industry claims, which at this point are still largely in the theoretical realm themselves. No one is in mass production with microbe fuels just yet. Most algae companies talk about producing the equivalent of 5,000 to 10,000 gallons of diesel-like hydrocarbons a year. Some researchers have noted that fuel production will be capped by the finite amount of sunlight that falls on a given plot of land.

Then there are the practicalities. Joule grows its organisms with water and companies, including the now defunct Greenfuel Technologies, have found that separating organisms and/or their byproducts from water isn't easy.

Organisms, many critics note, also can't produce fuel as fast and in the same quantities as thermochemical processes. Cambrios Technologies started out as a company that designed bugs to develop green chemicals. The company found it was easier to produce the chemicals the good old fashioned way and spun off its biological division into Siluria.

If Joule can achieve these numbers, it could leap to the front of the biofuel pack. The fact that Joule says it can produce hydrocarbons and an alcohol like ethanol is intriguing too. _GTM
The ability to produce either ethanol or hydrocarbons would make any micro-organism particularly versatile. But to produce either in the quantity yields which Joule is projecting, would make it a champion among microbial species. Should it be disqualified because it has an unfair advantage from genetic modification? Only if you are deeply into Political Peak Oil.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Plasma Gasification is Nothing Like Simple Incineration

Wisconsin-based AFE has licensed Westinghouse plasma gasification technology from Canadian company Alter NRG, for $11.4 million. AFE plans to build a number of waste-to-energy plasma gasification plants in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. AFE's first plasma gasification plant is to be a $225 million, 25 MW Project Apollo in Milwaukee.

What can plasma gasification do that simple incineration can't do?
Plasma Gasification:  The Ultimate Solution for Multiple Waste Streams now Going into our Landfills
A plasma gasification plant ends the need for landfills - and their problems by converting the free "fuel" that would have been placed in the landfill, in the form of municipal sold waste, and hazardous waste. The plasma gasification plant "converts" carbonaceous (carbon-containing) materials such as municipal solid waste and even hazardous waste such as biowaste from hospitals, into two useful and beneficial byproducts;

1. an energy-rich fuel called synthesis gas, which is used to generate "green electricity" from a sustainable and renewable resource.

2. a commercially useful, inert solid, referred to as “slag”. The slag can be used for road aggregate and building materials.

Plasma Gasification provides for a sustainable waste solution for all types of waste streams, including MSW , hazardous wastes, and even low-level radioactive waste, which delivers tangible economic and environmental benefits.
  • Plasma Gasification does not produce hazardous bottom ash and fly ash.
  • Plasma Gasification is "fueled" by the "free" waste, and is "powered" by electricity, and can be turned off with the flip of a switch.
  • Plasma Gasification unit does not need to be brought up to temperature over 24/36 hours burning expensive fuel oil as does mass burn incineration.
  • Plasma Gasification systems require very little maintenance and unlike traditional power plants, do not need to be shut down for weeks at a time for cleaning and maintenance while waste-streams back-up.
  • Plasma Gasification is just as efficient in smaller-scale systems (25 and 50 TPD units) as large-scale systems.
  • Plasma Gasification can provide a high degree of flexibility over the longer term and it can operate at less than 100% of capacity so there is flexibility when waste-stream decline.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cummins NG Generator Modified to Run on Bio-Syngas

Syngas is just H2 and CO, with a small pinch of CH4 and a tiny dash of CO2 thrown in for variety. You can create syngas from coal, natural gas, biomass, bio-waste, or any carbonaceous material. The ability to use bio-syngas from high-moisture biomass, to power natural gas generators and natural gas turbines, provides a very quick and convenient means of extracting useful power from cellulosic biomass -- without the messy acids, enzymes, fermentations, distillations, or catalysations of other cellulosic biofuels methods. Just direct biomass to power via syngas.
The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota, in partnership with Cummins Power Generation, Inc., has begun a project to demonstrate the production of heat and power from high-moisture biomass. Cummins Power Generation has provided the electrical generator for the project, a key component in producing 35-40 kilowatts of power a day, enough for one home.

The Cummins generator, which normally runs on natural gas, has been modified to run on synthetic natural gas (syngas) produced by an EERC-developed advanced gasification unit.

The EERC’s gasification unit can convert a range of fuels, such as forestry, agricultural, and industrial biomass waste; animal waste; waste plastics; and railroad ties or cable poles as well as a range of coals, into clean syngas. Together, the Cummins and EERC technologies will work in harmony as a gasification-based combined heat and power technology, with a variety of applications.

The physical properties of the biomass feedstocks, such as their origin, storage, and aging, can often vary. That variation can affect the performance and, ultimately, impact stack emissions when used in a typical internal combustion generator. The synergistic and seamless integration of an advanced gasifier and the engine generator will overcome this limitation and achieve environmentally acceptable emissions. The project aims at demonstrating this fact. _GCC
Biomass is a low energy density fuel. But it grows anywhere, and can provide moderate heat and power levels for a wide range of purposes far off the beaten track. Portable gasifiers can be airlifted into a remote site, providing full functionality for a wide array of powerful machines in remote wilderness, far from any highway.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Master Resource on Wind: Not Power at All?

Kent Hawkins at Master Resource has written a 3-part series on wind power, in which he demonstrates that wind is not power at all! We will excerpt from each of the 3 parts in an attempt to provide Kent's argument in an abridged form.
Wind appears to be an electrical power source because it has some ability to generate electricity, which can be expressed as watt-hours, that is, energy. This is a term that we are fairly familiar with because it is the common measure of our use of electricity. But this is not power, which can be expressed as watts.

Power is the rate at which electrical energy is delivered, and can alternatively be viewed as watt-seconds per second, or watt-hours per hour, representing energy flux at any point in time or over an extended period of time. For effective use of electrical energy this must be consistently delivered, and reliable electrical power is the means to achieve this.

... reliable electrical power is vital for the needs of our modern world. It provides the necessary access to electrical energy in a timely manner. It is an important part of the foundation of the most developed countries. A reliable supply of adequate power enables us to do as much work as we need in the required time. In other words, the absence of adequate and reliable power limits our ability to access the energy that could be available to us.

...power can be viewed as the ‘portal’ through which energy is accessed. Two important dimensions of power are:
Power density, in this context is the relationship between power and the land or water area required to sustain the power source, as explained by Smil. High densities are measures of the suitability of a power source’s capability to provide any worthwhile share of the total energy need. A measure of this is energy flux per unit of horizontal surface and can be measured in watts per square meter (W/m2). Our energy flux needs, especially those of the large developing nations, are too great, and our energy conversion and use infrastructures too established to allow the consideration of employing significantly lower power densities to access energy than now being widely utilized, for decades if at all.

Capacity (power) value is the rate at which energy flux can consistently be provided. In electricity terms it is, again, watt-hours per hour (or watts), representing the amount of useful activity that can reliably be performed in a given period of time (for example, lighting, heating, running computers and machines). This extends the view of power beyond power density considerations.
...all renewable energy sources are ten to over a thousand times less effective than those serving our needs today, with wind providing one of the poorest performances of the renewable sources shown, outside of wood. Areas required for renewables are large because of the dispersed, and often remote, nature of their energy supply.
...the current rush to massive implementations of wind plants is an extremely premature, unwise policy. Of the two, wind and solar, direct tapping of solar energy has by far the most useful and effective outlook for renewables, but the entry point for utility-scale commercialization of this is still many decades away. We need a well thought out energy use evolution in the meantime, not a revolution.

...for electrical energy to be useful, we must be able to switch it on and off at the level needed and rely on it being available during the period of use. To accomplish this, capacity (in this context capacity and power are interchangeable terms) must be reliably available on a continuous basis. This is as opposed to wind “activity” as described in Part I, which is available only randomly and in continuously varying amounts over time.

...For utility-scale wind plants to have value, they must provide renewable power, not just renewable energy. This means wind capacity must be reliably available on demand and throughout the period of use, and it is not....In summary, reliable capacity is the means by which useful electrical energy is provided. In its absence, the availability of energy, regardless of the reliability of the energy source, is of very little, if any, value. _Master Resource
If you are interested in the future of large scale energy -- which amounts in many ways to the future of the civilised human race -- I recommend reading Kent's series in entirety, 1...2...3...

The energy policies of much of the developed world are being written by faux environmentalists -- who as we have seen, are devoted to the elimination of at least 90% of the human population of the planet. If you are content with that state of affairs, then do nothing, and accept the consequences of trusting half-brain baboons with your future and the futures of your loved ones.

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Are Baboons Running the Environmental Movement?

Sorry, the title above is unkind -- to baboons. In reality, you would have to remove at least one half a baboon's brain for the primate to be as unintelligent as the average (faux) environmentalist. One of the latest of the host of environmental faux-llies is the organised movement against waste-to-energy gasification plants. Wisconsin legislators are trying to attract a gasification waste-to-energy plant to Milwaukee. But (faux) environmental organisations have banded together to stop them:
Earlier this year, the state Legislature passed a law that would qualify the waste-to-energy system as a renewable energy technology complying with the state’s green-power mandate. At the time, Gov. Jim Doyle said the technology has real potential to help us address the growing need for clean renewable power."

But bill was opposed by environmentalists who objected to the trash-to-energy project and its potential impact on air pollution. Environmental groups that are actively opposing these types of projects in other states have branded them as “incinerators in disguise.”

Josh Morby, a spokesman for Alliance Federated Energy, said that characterization is unfair because no incineration is involved in the plasma gasification process.

Under this technology, the municipal waste is not burned but is instead converted into a syngas that can be used to generate electricity, steam or biofuels. _JSOnline
Gasification -- particularly ultra-hot plasma gasification such as is being planned for Milwaukee -- reduces waste to its component atoms and plasma. Environmentalists may lack the brain power to understand the difference between simple incineration and plasma gasification, but most humans would perceive the distinction fairly quickly.

In New York state, SUNY Cobleskill plans to install a gasification plant on campus as part of a research and training program for the new Environmental and Energy Technology Program. Not a bad idea, given how much garbage is generated at the average institution of higher indoctrination learning. But SUNY plans to turn the gasification program into a 4 year degree! Sorry, SUNY, but while 4 years may be required for a rigorous thermochemical / thermomechanical waste and biomass to energy program, learning to tweak and operate one single gasifier should not take nearly so long.

Tampa Electric will be installing a 250 MW IGCC (integrated gasification combined cycle) demonstration plant in partnership with RTI. Not a bad idea. But what genius is forcing them to incorporate CO2 sequestration as part of the demonstration? Don't they know they will lose up to half the generated energy and do no one any good at all by sequestering the plant food otherwise known as CO2? Oh, yes -- the idiots geniuses at Obama - Pelosi's DOE!

And to prove that gasification is nothing if not versatile, companies in Israel, Colorado, and elsewhere are developing solar powered gasification plants, using concentrated sunlight to gasify biomass and waste.

Faux environmentalists, deep down, want to reduce the human population of Earth by at least 90%. You do not expect these neo-Luddites to be looking for solutions to real world problems such as potential energy shortages. No, they oppose every form of energy that might possibly work -- including nuclear, biomass gasification, IGCC for clean coal, shale gas, and so on.

It requires a lot of energy to support heavily sub-specialised civilisations such as those in the developed world. If your goal is to reduce the human population of the planet well below 1 billion members, cutting off the energy supply to civilisation would be one of the more obvious steps. Clearly, these quasi- half-baboons will not hesitate to take that step and any others they feel necessary to reach their goals.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Carnival of Nuclear Energy #18 at ANSNuclearCafe

Here are some excerpts from Carnival #18 at ANS Nuclear Cafe:

Brian Wang reports from Next Big Future that information on the General Atomic EM2 reactor was presented at the Blue Ribbon Commission meeting held in late August.  Nuclear and defense supplier General Atomics announced in February, 2010 that they would launch a 12-year ($1.7 billion) program to develop a new kind of small, commercial nuclear reactor in the U.S. that could run on spent fuel from big reactors.

Wang writes that NuScale, which is developing a 45 MW light water reactor, alsogave a presentation to the BRC.  The company’s initial pre-application review meeting was held with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on July 2008.  NuScale anticipates filing design certification application in 2012. NuScale forecasts the first plant can be online producing electricity from 2018.  NuScale’s reactor will be factory built.  The entire reactor will be prefabricated and shipped by rail, truck or barge.  It will weigh about 300 tons for each module for 60 foot long and 14 foot in diameter cylinder......
Kirk Sorensen, who blogs at Energy from Thorium, also had a chance to speak to the BRC.  He told them thorium’s performance means that it is possible to build a reactor that, once started on fissile material, requires no additional fissile input and runs only on thorium. This has profound consequences for our energy future.

Charles Barton weighs in at NuclearGreen with a look at claims that nuclear energy bloggers are “shills” for the industry. For those not up on early 20th century idiom, a shill was someone hired by an aspiring opera singer to stand in the galleries and yell “bravo” at the end of a solo piece, or duet, to motivate audience applause and favorable write-ups in newspaper music reviews.  Barton, who is an opera fan, does not take the insult lightly.
_Much more at_ANSNuclearCafe

Hyperion is to build its first prototype small reactor at the DOE Savannah River complex in South Carolina, USA.
The parties aim to build an operational prototype by 2017 or 2018, said
Mike Nevetta of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, which operates the Savannah
River Site. He also said Thursday that the demo reactor will not connect to
the grid but will produce electricity for internal use on site.

Constructing the Hyperion prototype will cost $50 million, which will
largely come from private sources, said Deborah Blackwell, Hyperion vice
president of licensing and public affairs.

She said Thursday that she is "confident" the company will secure the
funding but declined to give more details.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions is talking with five or six other
companies about building prototypes at the complex "in which manufacturers of
small reactors can come and prove their technologies," said Nevetta.

He added that all the demo designs will use "plutonium, high-enriched
uranium and spent fuel," which means light water models will be excluded.
Brian Wang provides more details on the Savannah River small reactor plans

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Peak Oil Belief: Unfalsifiable, not Prone to Logic

Until we explore the entire planet as carefully as we did Oklahoma and Texas, our assessment of global oil reserves will have plenty of room for surprises. _Vaclav Smil

Repent, Sinners, The End is Near!

Deeply held beliefs go beyond evidence and logic. Thus they tend to be unfalsifiable, invulnerable to demonstrable facts or reason.

Take belief in Peak Oil Doom. There are several blurred and shifting definitions of "Peak Oil", but none of them stand up to sustained examination. With any belief -- such as belief in a deity -- as long as one is not pressed for a rigorous definition of exactly what it is one believes in, there is little point to the argument. So what, exactly is this "Peak Oil" that so many people either do or do not "believe in?" Is it:
  1. The point at which half the world's oil supply has been extracted and consumed?
  2. The point at which oil production is at its historically highest point?
  3. The point at which the cost of oil production can only go up?
  4. The point where it costs as much to produce the oil as the oil is worth?
  5. The point where oil consumption outruns oil production?
  6. The point at which old oil fields are depleted faster than new oil field can be found to replace them?
  7. None of the above
  8. All of the above (including none of the above)
You might point out to the peak oil religionist that "authorities" have been declaring "Peak Oil" since the 1800s or before. Geologists, oil executives, government leaders, spy agencies, military organisations -- a wide array of authorities -- have declared peak oil every few years over the past 140 years or so. There is nothing new about this belief. But every new generation of believers is certain that it is living in "the last days of oil." Their belief is strong -- and unfalsifiable.

You can never really know whether what you have is "true peak oil" or "fool's peak oil" except perhaps in hindsight, and even then you may not live long enough to ever know the truth. Price controls on gasoline, for example, might artificially create supply shortages that last as long as the price controls, but clearly that is only one variety of "political peak oil." It goes away when the price controls are revoked.

Peak Oil believers -- like all religious believers -- rely upon "revealed truth", or argument from authority. Whether a retired geologist, an investment banker, an energy economist, a sleazy con artist, or whatnot -- a believer must have someone in whom he can place his trust. Once a belief is established, it extends tentacles deep beyond ordinary logic into the territory of faith -- which is not subject to reason.

What is the finding and development cost per barrel of oil these days? The figure has varied over the years, going up and down. From 2001:
Thanks to new exploration, drilling, and recovery technology, the worldwide finding and development cost per barrel of oil equivalent (boe) has dramatically declined over the last 20 years, from an average of about $21 in 1979–81 to under $6 in 1997–99 (in 2001 dollars) (9). _EnergyBulletin
A recent Citigroup source says that the finding and development cost in 2010 has gone up to $18 from $14 in 2004. So you see that these costs can fluctuate over time, according to technology and politics. Keep in mind that the Obama dollar is worth less now than it was 30 seconds ago, so all costs in dollars should be standardised.

Another interesting question is the amount of oil that is left in the ground when a well is depleted. As technology improves, we are recovering a higher percentage of the oil -- meaning that we can now often go back to old and "depleted" wells and reap another rich harvest of oil.
At the same time, the recovery rate from world oil fields has increased from about 22% in 1980 to 35% to-day. _Energy Bulletin
By 2030 more than 50 percent of the known oil will be recoverable. Also, by that time the amount of known oil will have grown significantly, and a larger portion of unconventional oils will be commonly produced, bringing the total amount of recoverable reserves to something between 4,500 billion to 5,000 billion barrels of oil. What’s more, a significant part of “new reserves” will not come from new discoveries, but from a new ability to better exploit what we already have. _SciAm
What is the "life index of world reserves?" It is the ratio between proven oil reserves and current production. In other words, about how long can we expect reserves to last? Funny thing about that, the life index of world reserves has been improving -- the opposite of what one might expect in the face of "Peak Oil."
All these factors partly ex-plain why the life-index of world reserves...has constantly improved, passing from 20 years in 1948 to 35 years in 1972 and reaching about 40 years in 2003.

Today, all major sources estimate that proven world oil reserves exceed 1 trillion (10 12 ) barrels, while yearly consumption is about 28 billion barrels (10–13).

Overall, the world retains more than 3 tril-lion barrels of recoverable oil resources (14). _EnergyBulletin
North America has seen about a million exploratory oil wells, whereas the oil rich regions of the Persian Gulf have seen only a thousand or two. [S] The planet has barely been explored or surveyed for hydrocarbons.

What we are looking for here are demonstrable or refutable facts, observations, data. We are not looking for authority figures to put our faith in. That is for religious believers and disciples. The religious faithful argue from revealed authority. The rest of us choose to look at what we can see, touch, and reason with.

For example, the mundane reality that motivates modern oil production has a lot more to do with the development policies of oil dictatorships -- which shut out modern internation oil concerns -- than with how much or how little oil is in the ground.
Critics could note that new oil discov-eries are only replacing one-fourth of what the world consumes every year (fol-lowing a declining trend that began in the mid- 960s), and that increases in re-serves largely derive from upward revi-sions of existing stock. However, the real issue is that neither major producing countries nor publicly traded oil compa-nies are keen to invest money in substan-tial exploration campaigns. The countries richest in oil have minimized their oil in- estments during the last 20 years, main-ly for fear of creating a permanent excess capacity such as that which provoked the crisis in 1986 (when oil prices plummet-ed to below $10/bbl). In fact, countries such as Saudi Arabia or Iraq (which to-gether hold about 35% of the world’s proven reserves of oil) produce petroleum only from a few old fields, although they have discovered but not developed more than 50 new fields each. Moreover, in countries closed to foreign investments, the technologies and techniques used are, in most cases, obsolete.

Nevertheless, international public oil companies have faced two sets of limits to their expan-sion in the last 20 years. The first is inaccessibility to foreign in- estment in the largest and cheap-est reserves—those in the Persian Gulf. Second are the demands of financial markets, which for years have insisted that compa-nies provide unrealistic, short-term financial returns that are in-consistent with the long-term na-ture of oil investments. This has compelled private operators to reject op-portunities that would normally be deemed economically worthwhile. _EnergyBulletin
We would better understand the political undercurrents behind production fluctuations, if we were more aware of them and took them as seriously as they deserve to be taken. If a country lacks the technical expertise to develop an oil field -- or to retrieve as much oil as possible from that field -- production numbers are artificially depressed for political and bureaucratic reasons. The oil is still there, but you would never know this merely by looking at production figures.

Peak oil disciples and believers reap much secondary gain from their faith. An important bonus is the pride of knowing something that other people don't know -- the end is near. It takes something much more potent than mere logic and data to overcome such advantages.


Bioenergy's Incremental Growth

A Rutgers professor is using radical synthetic biology techniques on E. Coli to boost production of bio-oils and hydrocarbons.
Instead of performing minor changes to specific genes he said, the work will modify large sections of the genome and put in “entirely new traits rather than modifying existing traits.” By using the computer modeling approach, the team will speed up the development process and make it a faster, better process according to Lun. There is currently no timetable for work on the new strain. _Biodiesel

Rentech's new Rialto, California, facility will use gasification and F-T to convert bio-waste to fuels plus generate 35 MW of baseload electric power. Rentech recently announced that it will use technology from a Honeywell subsidiary in the conversion of cellulosic biomass to hydrocarbon fuels.

Blue Northern's new continuous biodiesel production process may reduce capital costs by 40% and production costs of biodiesel by 30%.

The US DOE is investing in the basic research of biomass pyrolysis to fuels and associated feedstock concerns:
W. R. Grace & Company (MD) – New Technology for Processing Bio-oils to Produce Gasoline, Diesel and Jet Fuels – up to $3.3 million. This project will evaluate a specialized catalytic reactor designed to resist corrosion and extend catalyst life.

· Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (WA) – Catalytic Deoxygenation of Pyrolysis Oils – up to $3.1 million. This project will collaborate with Albemarle Corporation and UOP, a Honeywell Company in a three-year project to develop better processes to upgrade pyrolysis oil to hydrocarbon fuels.

· Gas Technology Institute (IL) – Long-Term Processing in the Production of Gasoline and Diesel from Biomass – up to $2.4 million. This project will demonstrate long-term processing and catalyst stability in an automated, integrated pilot plant that converts biomass directly to gasoline and diesel fuel.

· Battelle Memorial Institute (OH) – Upgrading of Biomass Fast Pyrolysis Oil – up to $3.2 million. This project will develop catalysts and an integrated process tailored to upgrade pyrolysis bio-oil, demonstrate system operation for more than 1,000 hours using a single catalyst charge, and produce a final product that can be blended to 30 percent by weight with petroleum fuels or that is compatible with existing petroleum refining operations.

• North Carolina State University – North Carolina State University... and partners will investigate biomass production options compatible with forest management with a focus on pine and switchgrass intercropping. The total cost-shared project value is $4,807,390.

• Purdue University – Purdue University will receive up to $1,592,385 for its project that will conduct a sustainability assessment of multiple species of energy crops including miscanthus, switchgrass, and hybrid poplar, and examine the impacts of removing of crop residues within two watersheds representative of conditions in the Upper Midwest.

• University of Minnesota – The University of Minnesota will receive up to $790,943 for its project that will analyze the Mississippi River watershed using a set of models to help stakeholders make informed decisions about what bioenergy feedstocks to use, where to produce or collect them, and what environmental impacts they will have... _BiofuelsDigest

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Oil Supplies Rise, Oil Demand Flattens -> Oil Glut

While ever new supplies of petroleum continue to grow from Iraq, Africa, Central Asia, Canada, Brazil, and elsewhere, oil demand keeps dropping due to the global economic doldrums, and due to many countries cutting their subsidies for oil and gas to consumers.
In a process will almost surely take years and vary significantly from one country to the next, the hydrocarbon-rich countries of the Persian Gulf are slowly but surely moving to phase out heavily subsidized energy prices, starting at the pump. _EnergyTribune

The UAE, the world's third largest oil exporter, cut oil subsidies twice in 2010, and one oil official said petrol prices could rise again this month as the government moves to phase out subsidies that have strained the budget. Abu Dhabi's state oil firm denied that such a move had been decided. _ArabianBusiness

...several countries in the Middle East still experience domestic supply shortfalls due to growing demand in the electric power and industrial sectors. To address this, the Middle East and North African region is now developing various approaches to phasing out price subsidies to align domestic natural gas prices with export prices, the agency in its International Energy Outlook 2010 (IEO), said. _Zawya
Energy pundits continue to predict huge new oil demand from China -- even while China is teetering on the brink of a deflating construction bubble and blowback from massive economic corruption. With the US and Europe struggling with economic slowdowns and institutional mismanagement, China had been the one bright spot for energy commodity optimists.

The only thing holding oil prices above $50 a barrel has been the massive use of energy financial instruments as a "safe haven" for big investors. But big investors can quickly flee a stagnating sector -- as was seen in the summer of 2008 -- causing cascading price collapses.
Miles driven by U.S. motorists have fallen over the last couple of years for the first time since such statistics have been collected, indicating that the American love affair with the automobile could be waning. And gasoline demand in China, the world's largest automotive market, may not skyrocket after all, as the government ramps up its drive to replace internal combustion engines with electric vehicles.

An Israeli economy running on, and exporting, large domestic supplies of natural gas is only the most glaring of the geopolitical game-changers that $50-per-barrel oil would entail. Big growth in Iraq's oil industry would lead that country into discussions, and possible disputes, with Saudi Arabia over OPEC's production quotas. The worldwide gas surplus has already reduced the incentive and ability for Vladimir Putin's Russia to engage in power games with gas importers in Eastern Europe. And, of course, cheaper oil from non-OPEC nations could limit the political focus in the U.S. on foreign oil supplies -- and reduce Congress's urgency to pass a comprehensive clean-energy bill.

More than anything, though, the looming oil surplus calls into question the concept of peak oil, at least in the near future, along with the whole science of forecasting future oil supplies. Adam Brandt, a professor at Stanford's Department of Energy Resources Engineering, released a study last month examining the various models that have been used to predict the future of world oil supplies. "Data do not support assertions that any one model type is most useful for forecasting future oil production," Brandt concludes. "In fact, evidence suggests that existing models have fared poorly in predicting global oil production." _Fortune
Predictions for global oil production along with predictions for global climate change, have been abysmally bad -- perhaps due to the shoddy nature of current computer models being used to preduct these dynamic situations.

Perhaps in 20 or 30 years, newer and better models for predicting oil production and global climate change may give us a better idea what to expect in the future.

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