February 16 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2011 Rating: 4 Hot
Oil Supply Crunch ahead
The world's leading authority on oil markets is warning that these days of cheap ($40 barrel) oil are just a mirage and that the world is likely to experience 'an oil supply crunch' next year (2010) as markets begin to recover.
Reuters reports on IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka describing a potential short-term reality: "Currently the demand is very low due to the very bad economic situation, but when the economy starts growing, recovery comes again in 2010 and then onward, we may have another serious supply crunch if capital investment is not coming."
The Real Problem with Oil - No Alternative
Oil's biggest problem is 'lack of substiitutability'. There is no other 'reserve' of liquid fuel that can compare to the energy locked up inside the hydrogen-carbon bonds of oil.
If we talk about using oil as gasoline for the transportation sector there is no commercially viable alternative that offers the same volume and performance. Even 'Next Generation' biofuels from algae and cellulose-eating bacteria cannot provide the scale to fill even a tiny gap in global oil production vs demand.
People who push 'solar', 'wind' or 'nuclear' (which produce electricity) as an 'alternative to oil' simply do not understand the combustion engine. You cannot put electricity inside your gas tank. We must either produce massive amounts of liquid fuel substitutes, or take a bolder step to kill the combustion engine.
Is the world ready to confront the real problem? The Combustion Engine
The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena should get bonus points for including an Energy 101 presenation at its recent 2009 Summit: Expanding the Vision of Sustainable Mobility. Most conferences about energy and the environment skip science altogether leaving their audiences without a firm grounding in energy science. Case in point? Oil does not come from dinosaurs. The 'fossil' in 'fossil fuels' refers to a geological period, not the ancient remains of mammals.
UC Davis Geology Professor Kenneth Verosub reminds us that oil (a 'hydrocarbon') is the result of bioenergy. Ancient diatoms (shelled algae) that used light to bind carbon and hydrogen that died and then with help of geological processes became a viable 'fuel' for humanity. [Video]
January 27 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2018 Rating: 2
Extracting energy from the tar sands is not a pretty equation.
It isn' cheap. It isn't energy efficient.
And it is becoming increasingly politically charged given its heavy carbon footprint.
But the tar sands remain a massive reserve that has the interest of very large, innovative energy development companies. And the dollars and desire to exploit these non-conventional hydrocarbon resources could grow exponentially in the years ahead as companies try to change the cost equation.
Can Bitumen derived syngas lower costs?
Some of the largest non-conventional energy reserves in the world are found in North America's tar sands and oil shales.
The problem is that we are a bit early. These reserves still need a few more million years of natural bio-geological processes to rearrange the chemical bonds to make extraction easier. But instead of waiting, energy companies are developing ways to lower the costs of processing this carbon heavy resource. One of the reasons for high cost is the demand for outside energy needed to reform the tar sands into a usable form of liquid oil.
The Al Fin Energy blog is reporting on a new technique for substituting high priced natural gas with synthetic gas (syngas) derived from waste bitumen which is currently a byproduct. The process, developed by Nexen Inc. and OPTI Canada at the Long Lake Project, could change the price equation of exploiting the tar sands.
Good, bad or ugly - the tar sands cannot be ignored in a future where issues of climate change, 'energy independence', and peak oil production converge. The conversation about the future of the tar sands is just getting started.
Related The Energy Roadmap.com