Monday, January 30, 2012

Can Canada Leverage Its Hydrocarbon Wealth to Create An Abundant Future Based Upon Advanced Energy Sources?

Canadians are understandably upset at the US in general, and at US President Obama in particular. Obama's abrupt and corrupt killing of the Keystone XL pipeline sent an unfriendly message of contempt and disregard to the US' neighbors to the north.

While the US Republican Congressional members are attempting to devise a way to approve the Keystone XL pipeline's completion and border crossing, Canadians are forced to contemplate other markets for their increasingly valuable oil sands product. After all, oil sands production has been ramped up in anticipation of cheap & ready pipeline transport to the south, all the way to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. With the destruction of that rational plan by the congenitally feckless Obama, China is forced to look to China and India as alternative markets:
While the media fixates on the political spin around the Obama government's rejection of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, there's another, more important element to this story that has been grossly underplayed:... in Asia...demand for energy of all kinds will continue to soar, according to BP's 20-year forecast....

``By 2030 China and India will be the world's largest and third-largest economies and energy consumers, jointly accounting for about 35 per cent of global population, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and energy demand,'' the report says.

``Rapid economic development means industrialisation, urbanisation, and motorisation. Over the next 20 years China and India combined (will) account for all the net increase in global coal demand, 94 per cent of net oil demand growth, 30 per cent of gas and 48 per cent of the net growth in non-fossil fuels.''

No, that's not a typo. Let me repeat that: over the next 20 years, BP says China and India will account for 94 per cent of the net worldwide increase in oil demand.
The author goes on to warn of Canada's dependency on the US as an export market, at a time when US consumption of imported oil continues to decline.

Canada itself needs to also think about what kind of energy infrastructure it wishes to build for itself, using the oilsands wealth as a springboard. In the medium and long-term, advanced nuclear fission (and later, fusion) technologies make the most sense. Canada has rich ore resources for production of nuclear fuels, and with rational recycling and breeding technologies, the resource could last almost indefinitely, in practical terms.

Wisely, Canadian utilities are beginning to look toward building their nuclear infrastructure:
Utilities in Canada are expressing interest in the Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized waterreactor (PWR) and the Westinghouse Small Modular Reactor, a 200 MWe class integral PWR currently under development that is suited for smaller electrical grids, distributed generation, and process heat requirements. _Power-Eng
In an attempt to create a more sustainable oil sands industry, engineers are looking for ways to substitute geothermal heat in place of natural gas, for the production of oil sands. The key factor is industrial heat, which can be provided in multiple ways.

Al Fin energy analysts prefer the use of gas-cooled nuclear reactors for long term in situ production of oil sands, oil shales, heavy oils, and for even more unconventional fuels such as coal to liquids (CTL) and gas to liquids (GTL). Canada is rich in several hydrocarbon resources which could be economically converted to high quality fuels and high value chemicals, using process heat from gas cooled nuclear reactors.

All of these projects will require significant capital, which can be at least partially provided from export profits derived from sales of oil sands. The key issue is to convert a modern-day source of export wealth into a long term foundation for energy abundance, industrial sustainability, and commercial viability.

Neither large-scale wind power nor big solar power are rational foundations for a prosperous Canadian future, as both of these green approaches are inherently unreliable, expensive, intermittent, difficult to manage, and lead to exponential increases in customer energy bills.

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