[Video] Oil 101: Geology Professor Reminds Us That Oil Does NOT Come From Dinosaurs But From Ancient Microbes

May 19 2009 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 3

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] 

future of oil 101

 

 

 

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$40 Trillion Industry for Reduction of Carbon Emissions?

April 21 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Economics   Year: General   Rating: 2 Hot

Futurist Patrick Dixon predicts that widespread emotional pressure will fuel a $40 trillion industry dedicated to the reduction of carbon emissions.

“We will see a 10x or even a 100x increase in the emotional pressure on governments to take action on every aspect of global warming,” says Dixon, “It will affect the decisions consumers make. It will affect the opinions that they hold. It will affect the image of multi-nationals, and I’m not just talking about oil companies – I’m talking about banks … shipping companies … airlines. Every company in the world will be called on to justify its carbon footprint.”

If the near-term future validates Dixon’s opinions then we’re bound to witness great economic disruption that sucks a great deal of market cap from established companies and infuses it into the entities that can provide the most cost-effective solutions. Depending on the timing and pacing of such a shift, and the efficacy of the new technologies and methods that hit the market, it seems we could experience anything ranging from a depression to a boom.

Maybe it’s time to start hording those precious solar cells, bury your money in a pit, or just live it up!

Why natural gas will never bring 'energy independence' to the US and European Union

November 19 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: Beyond   Rating: 2

It is impossible to talk about the future of energy without giving serious consideration to the role of natural gas as a 21st century resource. And it should not be a surprise! The case made by energy historians is that human civilization has been gradually moving away from dirty carbon rich fuels like wood and coal towards cleaner hydrogen rich fossil fuels of petroleum and natural gas. The next step for civilization is to grow our own energy supplies and reduce reliance on extracting reserves. (But we’re not there yet!!)

Even as leaders from the US and the European Union boldly focus on efforts to get off their ‘oil dependency’ their domestic utility providers, energy giants and chemical companies are opening the spigot for natural gas supplies that often come from the same oil rich regions. Natural gas is arguably the most complicated and overlooked piece of our future energy puzzle.

What happened?
We now have an updated picture of what is happening inside the United States. The Energy Information Administration has posted a web based presentation looking at expansions to the country’s natural gas pipeline network over the last decade [Link launches web based PPT].

The presentation looks at the last ten years of laying more than 20,000 miles of new transmission pipeline (97 billion cubic ft/day capacity) that has opened up access to new new supplies from Canada and the Gulf Region that feed natural-gas-fired electric power plants, factories and homes. [We will feature Europe’s pipeline in another post.]

Why is this important to the future of energy?
The world’s largest natural gas reserves are of course located within today’s oil-rich nations like Russia, Iran, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabi, Nigeria, and Venezuela.

While The Pickens Plan paints a picture of vast US supplies, they are tiny relative to global production capacities outside US borders. And Europe is already committed to connecting its power plants to resources from neighboring regions.

Coal might be challenged by carbon policies, oil is likely to hit a production plateau—but natural gas might just be getting started as a global industry.

What to Watch: The Petro Product poker hand

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Shocking interview with IEA Chief Economist, Peak Oil Production Plateau possible by 2020

December 15 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2020   Rating: 2

Fatih Birol

In 1972 a team of futurists published the book Limits to Growth which explored long-term forecast models based on rapidly expanding global economic and population growth against finite natural resources. 

While most people assumed that growth could continue unabated, Limits to Growth offered a shocking alternative scenario - overshoot and collapse. Their future? The modern industrial economy would expand beyond the legacy resource capacity of the planet as supplies plateaued and depleted faster than expected.  The 'Overshoot and Collapse' future scenario was mostly ridiculed by mainstraem economists and political leaders.

Now the world's leading oil forecasting agency is hinting that this future is closer than expected with regard to our conventional oil supplies.  They are calling for an 'energy revolution'.

A Video Interview for the Ages
The UK's Guardian's George Monbiot has posted this fantastic, hard edged video interview with the International Energy Agency Chief Economist Dr Fatih Birol. (Link to video)

For those who have followed the 'peak oil' conversation evolve, this is the most shocking admission on record from a leading global oil analyst.  Birol acknowledges that the major differences between the IEA's World Energy Outlook report from 2007 were based on the 'wrong assumptions' of oil field decline rates.   He admits that, until 2008, no organization has ever done a comprehensive global oil field decline rate survey.  

Monbiot's annoynance with the IEA's failure to back their forecasts with actual data is priceless, and scary given the implications of IEA's role in providing governments with accurate oil forecasts. In 2007 the IEA said the decline rate asumption was 3%, now in 2008 they say data support 6-7%.  At that rate, the world's conventional oil production plateau could happen between 2020-2030.

Birol says that the current path is "not (economically) sustainable" and the IEA is now calling for 'an energy revolution'. We think this should certainly start with global leaders pushing to Kill the Combustion Engine and taking away the liquid fuel fed energy device that makes us so dependent on oil.

What to watch:
Peak Oil is about to go Mainstream
The broad implications of peak production in conventional oil resources?

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New syngas method could lower costs to process Canadian Tar Sands

January 27 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2018   Rating: 2

Tar Sands Suncor

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

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[Video] Why Peak Oil Production might be the paramount energy issue of our time

January 28 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Environment   Year: 2020   Rating: 2

Beyond the occassional post (or two), I have avoided 'Peak Oil' production issues because of its association with those who must always (and only) describe the future in apocalyptic terms.

But based on the IEA World Energy Outlook 2008 report, it has become clear that energy leaders have been using poor data of oil field decline rates (based on a lack of transparency) to support inaccurate forecasts. 

Whether peak production has already happened, or will happen in 15 years is irrelevant since we are not prepared for either transition. So it is time to explore implications regarding the world's use of coal, nuclear energy, tar sands, and oil shale.  (For those focused on Climate Change, the replacements for oil are not good news for carbon emissions.)

I do not believe that Peak Oil will destroy our civilization, but it certainly has the potential to make us humble, and to serve as 'the' catalyst for evolving our policies from a resource extraction to resource creation paradigm.

The following 40 minute interview is dated (January 2008) but gives a solid overview of peak oil's core issues: field decline rates, discovery rates, production time and costs and lack of real liquid fuel alternatives. [A more current hard edged interview by George Monbiot w/ Dr Fatih Birol: Link to video]

Continue with remaining four (10 minute) videos

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Suncor-Petro Merger Signal of Canada’s Expanding Global Role And Plans For Tar Sands

March 26 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 2

Suncor Tar Sands

Canada is starting to flex its muscle as a major player in the world of energy around non-conventional hydrocarbon resources.

This week, Suncor, the number two producer of tar sands, will merge with Petro-Canada. The new energy giant Canadian company could become an expert in developing less environmentally damaging methods for utilizing non-conventional resources in North America and around the world.  

The combined company will have ‘approximately 7.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) of proved (developed and undeveloped) and probable reserves, on top of an estimated contingent resource base of approximately 19 billion boe.   It will also have significant refining capacity of 433,000 barrels per day (b/d) and a strong Canadian retail brand in Suncor.'

Preempting the Inevitable Contraction of the Hydrocarbon Sector
Energy analysts expect a wave of mergers as companies find it difficult to grow reserve assets through traditional exploration and development.  Cash rich companies might find it easier to expand reserve totals by acquisition.

Future sucess might also be based on an ability to develop non-conventional resources like carbon-heavy 'tar sands' and deep water reserves. So for Canada's leading energy companies it was important to merge before being acquired.

According to Suncor CEO Rick George "The combined portfolio boasts the largest oil sands resource position, a strong Canadian downstream brand, solid conventional exploration and production assets, and low-cost production from Canada's east coast and internationally."

Canada's Vision as a Resource Giant

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Ground breaking 'Dry water' method developed to store natural gas in a powder

December 08 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2020   Rating: 1

methaneHave you ever held natural gas in your hand?

“It ('dry water') looks like a powder, but if you wipe it on your skin, it smears and feels cold” says Andrew Cooper University of Liverpool, UK 

What happened?
Chemists at the University of Liverpool have developed a reliable way of converting methane gas into a powder form in order to make it more transportable.

The researchers use a white powder material made of a mixture of silica and water to soak up large quantities of methane molecules.

Liverpool researchers believe that instead of shipping methane as a 'gas' or 'liquid' (LNG) we can transport it as a powder.  It is also possible to use solid natural gas storage being used for electric vehicles that use fuel cells that convert natural gas (on board) into electricity.

Easier method to make store methane in a powder

It does not make sense to store all natural gas as a solid, but the market opportunities are sdry waterignificant.  The challenge of methane gas hydrate has been that it is formed at a very slow rate when methane reacts with water under pressure.  "To counteract these difficulties we used a method to break water up into tiny droplets to increase the surface area in contact with the gas. We did this by mixing water with a special form of silica – a similar material to sand – which stops the water droplets from coalescing.

This 'dry water' powder soaks up large quantities of methane quite rapidly at around water's normal freezing point."The team also found that 'dry water' could be more economical than other potential products because it is made from cheap raw materials.

Why is this important to the future?
Storing gas as a solid?

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