Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Malthusian Illiteracy and Peak Oil

Global economy optimists however say that "Malthusian illiteracy" lurks behind remaining adherents of Peak Oil theory - which basically says conventional oil production will stagnate and fall but demand will go on growing. _MarketOracle
As knowledgeable analysts come to understand that oil demand, rather than oil supply, is currently in the driver's seat, some of the impetus behind the peak oil panic has subsided. And yet the "Malthusian Impulse" continues to drive many observers, against their more rational proclivities. Still, global hydrocarban reserves continue to grow, year after year, and oil demand is slated to decrease in time.

New sources for transport fuels are likely to come from many directions, including new gas-to-liquids (GTL) technologies. Oxford Catalyst's microchannel GTL technology is very much in demand, as are other new varieties of GTL technologies. The market for GTL fuels may be more than 20 million barrels per day! Imagine the impact of that huge new supply on the global oil market. (Note that approximately between 5 and 10 million barrels per day could be produced via GTL from currently flared gas alone. Stranded gas could double that number.) More information at this PDF white paper download from Velocys, creator of the Oxford Catalysts microchannel technology.

A more conventional source for GTL transport fuels is the large scale technology championed by Shell.
In 2011, Shell began shipments from its Pearl GTL project in Qatar...The project is able to produce 140,000 b/d of fuel and 120,000 b/d of ethane and condensates... _Petroleum Economist

And that is just the beginning. As long as the huge price spread between the cost of natural gas and the cost of crude oil remains, more and more projects will kick in to take advantage of this "easy money."

Second and third generation biofuels from biomass technologies are beginning to come on line, slowly. Advanced biofuels and microbial fuels technologies are not likely to take an appreciable bite out of crude oil demand for another 5 or 10 years. As long as natural gas prices stay low, only the most efficient biofuels projects will be able to compete in the liquid fuels markets without government subsidies. But by the year 2030 if the technology continues to develop, the writing will be on the wall. This is a biological world, after all.

Advanced nuclear power technologies are likely to aid the development of new fuels technologies of all kinds, supplying safe and abundant power and heat for a multitude of energy development projects from oil sands to oil shales to biomass and aquaculture projects in cold climates, irrigation and desalination of saltwater in arid climates etc etc.

Other factors leading to a decreased demand for crude oil includes the increasing use of both natural gas and biomass as feedstock for the vast chemicals industry -- an industrial sector previously dependent upon petroleum for feedstock. (see Al Fin Energy blog for much more)

The ongoing global economic downturn and demand destruction extends from Europe to Japan to the US, and is beginning to put stress on the Chinese and Indian economies -- despite all the rah! rah! hype about the coming age of the Chindian global economy. Many nations which have maintained hefty consumer subsidies for transport fuels are being forced to reduce the subisidies. More downward pressure on demand.

Malthusian theories are appealing in their simplicity, and for their false sense of predictive power. And yet the never-ending and never-fulfilled Malthusian predictions of doom ignore the most salient and disruptive human technology of all -- the goal-oriented innovativeness of the human mind.

Despite the best efforts of energy-starvationists in the Obama administration, in the EU bureaucracy, in national bureaucracies of EU nations and advanced nations around the globe -- the prospects for abundant energy and fuels in the future are quite good, as long as the clowns in power do not destroy the economies they oversee.

If you have abundant clean energy and fuels, everything else is doable.

Cross-posted from Al Fin blog

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