Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

Bats attracted to wind turbines because they think they are tall trees?

October 26, 2014

A new study published in PNAS has used thermal imaging to test the the hypotheses that wind speed and blade rotation speed influenced the way that bats interacted with turbines.  They found that the air currents around slow speed turbines could be fooling the bats into thinking they were the air currents associated with tall trees. It is suggested that around trees the air currents led to the bats searching for roosts and nocturnal insect prey that could accumulate in such air flows. Thus bat behaviour which had evolved as being advantageous around tall trees might now be the reason why many bats die at wind turbines.

“Fatalities of tree bats at turbines may be the consequence of behaviors that evolved to provide selective advantages when elicited by tall trees, but are now maladaptive when elicited by wind turbines”.

Paul Cryan et al, Behavior of bats at wind turbines, PNAS, Vol. 111 no. 42,  15126–15131, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1406672111

Significance

Bats are dying in unprecedented numbers at wind turbines, but causes of their susceptibility are unknown. Fatalities peak during low-wind conditions in late summer and autumn and primarily involve species that evolved to roost in trees. Common behaviors of “tree bats” might put them at risk, yet the difficulty of observing high-flying nocturnal animals has limited our understanding of their behaviors around tall structures. We used thermal surveillance cameras for, to our knowledge, the first time to observe behaviors of bats at experimentally manipulated wind turbines over several months. We discovered previously undescribed patterns in the ways bats approach and interact with turbines, suggesting behaviors that evolved at tall trees might be the reason why many bats die at wind turbines.

Fig. 1.

Fig. 1 Still images of night-flying bats (green arrows) at wind turbines that were detected in thermal-infrared video footage. Cameras were positioned 12 m from the base of the turbine, looking up the 80-m monopole toward the nacelle (rectangular machinery enclosure) and rotor, to which three 40-m blades attach. Red circles represent the object identified as a bat by the automated software used for finding their presence in nightly (∼10 h) video recordings. A variety of detection conditions are illustrated, including a bat approaching fast-rotating (14 rpm) …

Abstract

Wind turbines are causing unprecedented numbers of bat fatalities. Many fatalities involve tree-roosting bats, but reasons for this higher susceptibility remain unknown. To better understand behaviors associated with risk, we monitored bats at three experimentally manipulated wind turbines in Indiana, United States, from July 29 to October 1, 2012, using thermal cameras and other methods. We observed bats on 993 occasions and saw many behaviors, including close approaches, flight loops and dives, hovering, and chases. Most bats altered course toward turbines during observation. Based on these new observations, we tested the hypotheses that wind speed and blade rotation speed influenced the way that bats interacted with turbines. We found that bats were detected more frequently at lower wind speeds and typically approached turbines on the leeward (downwind) side. The proportion of leeward approaches increased with wind speed when blades were prevented from turning, yet decreased when blades could turn. Bats were observed more frequently at turbines on moonlit nights. Taken together, these observations suggest that bats may orient toward turbines by sensing air currents and using vision, and that air turbulence caused by fast-moving blades creates conditions that are less attractive to bats passing in close proximity. Tree bats may respond to streams of air flowing downwind from trees at night while searching for roosts, conspecifics, and nocturnal insect prey that could accumulate in such flows. Fatalities of tree bats at turbines may be the consequence of behaviors that evolved to provide selective advantages when elicited by tall trees, but are now maladaptive when elicited by wind turbines.

 

Shale gas in Europe worries Putin

October 25, 2014

It might seem counter-intuitive for Russia to be against the advent and development of shale gas in Europe since they themselves have huge quantities of oil and gas bearing shale in SiberiaBut Russia has a very large investment in conventional natural gas production and pipelines (through Gazprom) which must be protected and nurtured. Putin needs to ensure revenues and that exports of conventional natural gas gives them a reasonable return on the investment before moving onto shale gas. About 30% of Europe’s gas comes from Russia. Russia needs Europe to go slow with its own shale gas production and to continue buying Russian gas at reasonably high prices for as long as possible. So much so that Russia has even been supporting anti-fracking groups in Europe. (It is a little ironic when the European anti-fracking alarmists take well disguised Russian funds and play into Russian hands).

The MotleyFoolNow there are accusations that Russia is working hard to keep Europe dependent on its gas supplies. According to Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Russia is doing this by funding anti-fracking groups. That’s something that some of the larger groups deny, but it would be hard to suss out where all of their donations come from in the anti-fracking movement.

There are good reasons for Russia to undertake such a covert operation. For starters, Gazprom would suffer greatly if its European business started to slip away. Second, by keeping Europe hooked on Gazprom gas, Russia maintains a strong bargaining position in world politics.

That, however, just gives the United States more reason to come to the aid of its European allies. Right now, the export of U.S. natural gas is severely limited. With the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the U.S., however, the flow of gas has outstripped demand and pushed U.S. domestic gas prices to record low levels.

While being able to sell natural gas to Europe would be a huge win for Europe politically and U.S. gas drillers financially, it would also be a big win for pipeline operators like Kinder Morgan (NYSE: KMI  ) . Moving natural gas from where it’s drilled to where it’s used made up roughly 50% of Kinder Morgan’s business last year. The business isn’t about natural gas prices, either; it’s about providing a service. CEO Richard Kinder describes it this way: “We operate like a giant toll road.” So, if natural gas starts going overseas, Kinder Morgan will be involved in the process and make money doing it.

The possibility of surplus shale gas from the US entering Europe and depressing sales of Russian natural gas is a nightmare economic scenario for Vladimir Putin. Even the recent drop in oil prices has seriously unbalanced the Russian budget which needs an oil price of over $100 to be in balance.

Putin takes part in final session of 11th Valdai International Discussion Club meeting

Putin at the 11th Valdai International Discussion Club meeting in Sochi

Putin is clearly worried. Russian President Vladimir Putin took part at the plenary session of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi. He talked up the risks with US shale gas to Europe and talking up the benefits of Russian gas.

TassPutin: Europe’s transition to American shale gas will be suicidal for EU economies

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that transition to shale gas will be suicidal for the EU economies. In his speech at the Valdai discussion club on Friday, Putin said that Russia’s trade turnover with the European Union stood at 260 billion dollars in the first half of 2014 even despite sanctions. He assumed, however, that the trade volumes could fall if Russia stopped all gas and oil supplies to Europe.

“We assume that it can happen at the will of our partners in Europe. But it’s hard to imagine,” Putin said, explaining that alternatives to Russian gas and oil supplies were worse.

It is either the crisis-hit Middle East where the “Islamic State” militants have stepped their operations or deliveries of shale gas and shale oil from the United States.

“We can imagine that /deliveries/ of shale oil and shale gas from the United States are possible. But how much it will cost?” Putin asked.

“This is going to be a direct way to reducing their own competitive ability because it is going to be more expensive than our pipe gas or oil delivered from deposits in Russia,” the Russian president went on to say.

“They are simply going to kill their competitive ability. What kind of a colony Europe should be to agree to this option. But I believe that common sense will prevail. The same is true of Asia,” Putin said in conclusion.

For very many reasons the very best thing that Europe (and Asia) could do would be to expedite the production of their own shale gas. It would bring down energy prices, stimulate growth, increase jobs, increase independence from Russia, increase exports, increase competitiveness against the US and consolidate energy intensive industries which are moving out. But this would have to overcome the opposition of the alarmist, European green parties who have a remarkable facility for being counter-productive.

Opposing the development of shale gas in Europe gives Russia the edge on the geopolitical playing field.

Germany needs to dump the profligate Energiewende

October 22, 2014

The German economy is export driven.

As long as Greece and Spain and the weaker Euro zone countries were holding back the value of the Euro, German exports and its economy boomed. Unemployment reached extremely low levels. There was a shortage of qualified labour. But now the German economy is stagnating and the high cost for energy, resulting from the misguided, self-mutilating Energiewende, is one of the chief contributors. The total cost to German consumers and German industry is comparable to the bailouts of the weak Eurozone countries. For no benefit.

Der Spiegel (2013): German consumers already pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. But because the government is failing to get the costs of its new energy policy under control, rising prices are already on the horizon. Electricity is becoming a luxury good in Germany, and one of the country’s most important future-oriented projects is acutely at risk. …..

….. For society as a whole, the costs have reached levels comparable only to the euro-zone bailouts. This year, German consumers will be forced to pay €20 billion ($26 billion) for electricity from solar, wind and biogas plants — electricity with a market price of just over €3 billion. Even the figure of €20 billion is disputable if you include all the unintended costs and collateral damage associated with the project. Solar panels and wind turbines at times generate huge amounts of electricity, and sometimes none at all. Depending on the weather and the time of day, the country can face absurd states of energy surplus or deficit.

How the Energiewende has increased German electricity price graphic notrickszone

These are unsustainable costs. Industries dependent on high electricity consumption have found it increasingly difficult to compete against the lower electricity costs especially in the US. Investment and jobs have started shifting to areas with lower operating costs.

WSJ (sep 2014):

The project is the linchpin of Germany’s Energiewende, or energy revolution, a mammoth, trillion-euro plan to wean the country off nuclear and fossil fuels by midcentury and the top domestic priority of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But many companies, economists and even Germany’s neighbors worry that the enormous cost to replace a currently working system will undermine the country’s industrial base and weigh on the entire European economy. Germany’s second-quarter GDP decline of 0.6%, reported earlier this month, put a damper on overall euro-zone growth, leaving it flat for the quarter.

Average electricity prices for companies have jumped 60% over the past five years because of costs passed along as part of government subsidies of renewable energy producers. Prices are now more than double those in the U.S.

Now the business climate is sharply down, orders are falling and costs are still increasing.

Graphic: German Economy Weakens.

Der Spiegel (Oct 2014)The problem, though, is that Europe’s motor is losing steam, with a slew of bad news about the German economy in recent weeks. The latest business climate index published by the respected Munich economic think tank Ifo, which is considered to be a reliable early indicator, fell for the fifth straight month in September to its lowest level in almost a year and a half. Furthermore, German factory orders are down and exports are collapsing. And last week, the country’s leading economic research institutes issued downward revisions of their economic forecasts for this year and next.

Merkel’s new government have been on a give-away spree and that has not helped. Now finding funds to spur investment is becoming increasingly difficult. Meanwhile the ludicrous subsidies for renewable energy continue to drain the economy. The Energiewende is profligate, has no measurable benefits and has only led to more coal being burnt.

At the very beginning of its term, Merkel’s current government approved an expensive package of what amounted to pension gifts for women and older workers that is now consuming up to €9 billion a year in public finances. In their autumn economic forecast released last week, the country’s leading economic think tanks warned that the German government has “already given away a substantial amount of its room for maneuver.”

Compounding the problem is that measures taken by the government — a coalition of Merkel’s CDU and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) — are contributing to weak growth. The think tanks predict that projects undertaken by the coalition, including allowing people to retire at the age of 63 and the introduction of Germany’s first-ever national minimum wage, will cause around 300,000 jobs a year to disappear. The CDU and SPD haven’t done much to fuel investments to counter that trend either. Interest rates in Germany may be lower than they’ve ever been before, but few companies have plans to build new factories or buy additional heavy machinery, they warn. The report states that while the many international crises do play a role — from the Middle East to Ukraine — homegrown factors do as well, especially the hostile environment created by (the government’s) economic policies.”

In Poland a different kind of energy revolution is taking place. Two new nuclear plants are being planned. Shale gas development is inevitable but is being hampered by the environmentalists. So more coal is being burned as in Germany.

The world has more to gain from a Germany with a strong economy exporting its excellent products. The pointless and profligate Energiewende needs to be dumped. Germans and Germany and the world are paying the price of pointless political correctness.

Lockheed-Martin and compact fusion – a long way away but more credible than the E-Cat cold-fusion hype

October 21, 2014

Andrea Rossi and his E-Cat cold fusion claims still smell like a fraud. It has been hyped for over 4 years now with little to show. I am somewhat surprised that there are still a few gullible academics and journalists around who keep the circus going.

The Lockheed-Martin development of a compact fusion reactor has a long way to go but I find it much more credible. I could consider betting some money on the compact fusion reactor but would not touch the E-Cat with a very, very, long barge pole.

Th availability of a fusion reactor of any kind would revolutionise the availability of electrical energy but always subject to cost. Mere availability would not be enough to cause a paradigm shift. The availability of gas (natural gas, shale gas and gas from methane hydrates) now extends to about 1,000 years. The use of gas turbine combined-cycle power plants, which have a 2 year construction period, will provide the cost benchmark for electricity production. Where fusion might place in the power generation mix will depend on its operating cost but the level to which it may penetrate will depend on the capital cost and the construction time.

A compact reactor as envisaged by Lockheed- Martin however would be a game changer not only for electricity generation but also for desalination, electrical vehicles and even space travel. The beauty of “compact” if achieved is that it “automatically” leads to low-cost and modular construction.

The probablity of success in the time-frame envisagesd is still low. It is a high risk development and it will not be cheap. But the potential reward is immense.

Some of the characteristics of their high-beta, compact reactor are:

  • The device is cylindrical and 2×2×4 meters in size.
  • The magnetic field increases the farther out that the plasma goes, which pushes the plasma back in.
  • It also has very few open field lines (very few paths for the plasma to leak out; uses a cylinder, not a Tokamak ring).
  • Very good arch curvature of the field lines.
  • The system has a beta of about 1.
  • This system uses deuterium and tritium.
  • The system heats the plasma using radio waves.

L-M Press Release: 

PALMDALE, Calif., Oct. 15, 2014 – The Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] Skunk Works® team is working on a new compact fusion reactor (CFR) that can be developed and deployed in as little as ten years. Currently, there are several patents pending that cover their approach.

While fusion itself is not new, the Skunk Works has built on more than 60 years of fusion research and investment to develop an approach that offers a significant reduction in size compared to mainstream efforts.

“Our compact fusion concept combines several alternative magnetic confinement approaches, taking the best parts of each, and offers a 90 percent size reduction over previous concepts,” said Tom McGuire, compact fusion lead for the Skunk Works’ Revolutionary Technology Programs. “The smaller size will allow us to design, build and test the CFR in less than a year.”

After completing several of these design-build-test cycles, the team anticipates being able to produce a prototype in five years. As they gain confidence and progress technically with each experiment, they will also be searching for partners to help further the technology.

 

US shale oil boom visible from space

October 21, 2014

The drop in oil prices continues though somewhat slowed down by Chinese import demand:

WSJU.S. and global crude benchmarks ended lower Monday amid choppy trading and concerns that member nations of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will maintain high production levels in a bid to compete for market share despite growing global crude supplies.

The current drop in oil prices is put down to a glut on the market caused by the boom in shale oil production in the US and the slow-down in the global economy.

The boom in shale oil production is even visible from space.

Satellite Images Reveal How the U.S. Oil Boom Is Creating New Cities

bakken shale field shows up from space Image NASA/io9

io9This image from NASA reveals a massive cluster of lights in what was — until recently — desolate prairie. This is the Bakken Shale, an oil-rich rock formation stretching across parts of North Dakota, Montana and Canada. The lights are from the illuminated derricks, local boomtowns and gas flares of the oil fields.

Misguided alarmists who have demonised fossil fuels don’t like this. But I find the picture and the visibility of the shale production greatly encouraging. Carbon dioxide has no significant deleterious impact on climate and the availability of fossil energy is what will ensure continued human development.

The Bakken Shale field is a vast resource across Montana, North Dakota, Sasketchewan and Manitoba and a significant contributor to the game changing advent of shale oil and shale gas.

The Bakken Shale ranks as one of the largest oil developments in the U.S. in the past 40 years. The play has single-handedly driven North Dakota’s oil production to levels four times higher than previous peaks in the 1980s. As of 2012, ND is second to Texas in terms of oil production and boasts the lowest unemployment rate in the country at ~3%.

The Bakken Shale Play is located in Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota, as well as parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the Williston Basin. Oil was initially discovered in the Bakken play in 1951, but was not commercial on a large scale until the past ten years.

… The Bakken is estimated to hold as much as 400 billion barrels of oil equivalent in place.

US shale fields map EIA

 

Can consumer countries fuel global growth with sharply reduced oil prices?

October 20, 2014

Oil prices have “crashed”.

Currently prices are at less than $80 per barrel compared to over $110 in June and the peak of $147 just before the financial bubble burst in 2008. It seems that it is due to the oil glut brought about by the shale oil revolution in the US together with a downturn in global growth. The $147 peak was, I think, more of a trial balloon by the oil producers to test where the resistance lay and the producers concluded that a level of a little over $100 would maximise profits and was sustainable. But I suspect that this $100 level itself has contributed to delaying and prolonging the recovery. Not only because of the increased direct costs to the oil consumer but also due to its knock-on effects which have unnecessarily raised the cost to all electricity consumers. The prolongation of the path to recovery in Europe is certainly – if only partly – due to the very high energy prices that prevail. But right now it is the abundance of shale oil and gas which seems dominant.

BloombergBut the bigger factor appears to be surging global oil production, which outpaced demand last year and is shaping up to do so again in 2014. To try to keep prices high, Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest petroleum exporter, has reduced its oil production from 10 million barrels a day—a record high—in September 2013 to 9.6 million as of Sept. 30. That hasn’t done much to raise prices, mostly because other OPEC countries are pumping more crude as the Saudis try to slow down. Sharply higher production increases from Libya and Angola, along with surprisingly steady flows out of war-torn Iraq, have pushed OPEC’s total output to almost 31 million barrels a day, its highest level this year and 352,000 barrels a day higher than last September. Combined with the continued increase in U.S. oil production, the world has more than enough oil to satisfy current demand.

crude oil price history 2000-2014

crude oil price history 2000-2014

But this crash in oil prices is probably a “good thing”.

The additional revenues from increasing oil price to the few in the oil producing countries have not been sufficient to counter the hit to the many in the consuming countries. Much of the additional revenue has gone not to fuelling growth but in blowing up new real-estate bubbles.

The additional spending power in consumer countries with reducing oil price is spread among the many (at the lower end of the wealth scale) whereas the reduction in producer oil revenues is generally spread among an affluent few. My contention is that the additional revenues with high oil price in – for example –  the Middle East does not need to be spent on real things which could fuel growth. Revenues in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and other countries have fuelled bubbles and jihad instead of just growth. A great deal went instead into very high margin, weapons systems and to the imaginary values of real estate. In Russia the oil revenue did contribute to some growth but there was still a large proportion spent on imaginary values of various bubbles (which by definition cannot contribute to growth). My simple calculation tells me that 1000 people buying washing machines in China contribute more to global growth than one person spending the same amount on an apartment (his second or third home) in London. A $10 drop in oil price is said to shift 0.5% GDP growth from producer countries to consumer countries. But the pattern of consumption where the “few” fuel the bubbles of imaginary value while the “many” consume mundane goods and services means that the real effect on growth is greater than a net zero. It is shifting an ineffective 0.5% to a more efficient consumption for growth. The net effect is probably a growth in global GDP of 0.2 – 0.3%. Similarly the purchase of large-volume, low-margin goods and services provides more growth and jobs than spending the same amount on low-volume, high margin goods and services. Spending $1000 on an 80% margin Gucci handbag provides less direct growth and fewer direct jobs than buying ten $100, 10% margin travel bags.

Historically – though it is a relatively crude generalisation – low oil price has usually given – or coincided with – consumer-led growth and stability.

crude oil price history 1970-2014

crude oil price history 1970-2014

Some oil producers are more vulnerable than others to the fall in expected revenues. Russia’s budget needs an oil price of over $100 to be balanced. Venezuela spends nearly all of its revenues as it is generated and has nothing put by. The war-torn areas of the Middle East also have nothing put by. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have put by vast reserves though some of it is in “bubble” values. A pricking of some of the bubbles they have inflated is probably no bad thing. It is also no bad thing if they have to fall back on reserves and have less excess cash to fund jihadists from Afghanistan to Libya.

Most Asian countries are oil importers and gain from a low oil price.

Clarion Ledger: The picture is reversed in Asia, where most countries are major importers and some subsidize the price of fuels.

China is the second-largest oil consumer and on track to become the largest net importer of oil. Falling prices will provide China’s economy some relief, according to Huang Bingjie, professor from the School of Economics and Management at China University of Petroleum. But lower oil prices won’t fully offset the far wider effects of a slowing economy.

India imports three-quarters of its oil and analysts say falling oil prices will ease the country’s chronic current account deficit. Samiran Chakraborty, head of research in India for Standard Chartered Bank, also says the cost of India’s fuel subsidies would fall by $2.5 billion during its current fiscal year if oil prices stay low.

Japan imports nearly all of the oil it uses. Following the accident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in 2011, Japan has turned more to oil and natural gas, which is priced based on oil, to generate electric power.

The picture is a little more mixed in the Americas and Europe:

Low prices could eventually threaten the boom in oil production in such countries as the U.S., Canada, and Brazil because that oil is expensive to produce. Investors have dumped shares of energy companies in recent weeks, helping to drag global stock markets lower.

For now, lower crude oil and fuel prices are a boon for consumers. In the U.S., still the world’s biggest oil user, consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the U.S. economy, and lower energy prices give consumers more money to spend on things other than fuel.

The same is true in Europe. Christian Schulz, senior economist at Berenberg Bank, says that a 10 percent fall in oil prices would lead to a 0.1 percent increase in economic output. That’s meaningful because the 18-country currency union didn’t grow at all in the second quarter.

There could be another market crash coming though it is not likely to be as deep as the 2008 crash. But to get back onto a solid, sustainable growth path again it does need the oil consumer countries to grow. And that probably needs a steady oil price at less than $70 per barrel. The oil producer countries will have to revamp their economies to live with the loss of their monopoly as the production of oil from shale spreads.

Gas from methane hydrates within a decade?

October 3, 2014

Gas production from the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of shale is already well established (even booming) in the US. Huge amounts of gas and oil bearing shale (as much as all known reserves of natural gas) around the rest of the world are yet to be exploited. But the methane hydrates on the sea beds dwarf all the known fossil fuel reserves put together.

The sheer abundance of methane hydrates around the globe and the thought that much of this gas could soon be economically extractable is almost intoxicating for those involved.

“The worldwide amounts of carbon bound in gas hydrates is conservatively estimated to total twice the amount of carbon to be found in all known fossil fuels on Earth”.

 

Methane Hydrate Resources per Der-Spiegel

Methane Hydrate Resources per Der-Spiegel

Methane hydrate deposits are so widespread around the world’s coastlines that cartel formation will be almost impossible. The technology for extraction however could become a very hot property. The Japanese – who don’t have any shale but do have access to methane hydrate deposits – have been leading the charge for extraction of gas from methane hydrates and tests have been promising. The US and India and China are also active but the Japanese are probably closest to commercial production. Now 11 Japanese companies have formed a consortium to exploit the resource and conduct larger production tests following the successful extraction test carried out by the Japanese government in 2012. Japan could have commercial quantities of methane hydrate gas flowing within a decade.

Natural Gas Daily:

A group of 11 Japanese companies have formed a joint venture to conduct production tests of offshore methane hydrates – an unconventional resource seen as a potential game changer for the world’s largest LNG importer. 

Led by Japan Petroleum Exploration (Japex) and starting with a capital contribution of ¥300 million ($2.8 million), Japan Methane Hydrate Operating Co. (JMH) will provide contractor services and carry out field operations during the medium- and long-term production tests sponsored by the government. 

The JV partners will each share their expertise and technology to support the exploration and testing, JMH said in its first press release on Wednesday. 

“A substantial quantity of methane hydrate is estimated to be in the offshore areas around Japan. Serving as a new domestic energy source, with the potential to make a major contribution to a stable national energy supply for Japan, technological development is necessary for its commercialisation, including the establishment of production technologies,” the company said.

The Japanese government successfully produced the world’s first methane hydrates in March 2012, after drilling an experimental well in the offshore Nankai Trough and carrying out a production test that exceeded expectations (see Japan flows hydrates in landmark offshore test, 12 March 2013). 

That was followed two months later by a steady flow of gas from methane hydrates in Alaska’s North Slope, which a partnership between the United States Department of Energy (DOE), ConocoPhillips and Japan’s state-run JOGMEC called a “successful, unprecedented test of technology”.  ……. 

The government has said it expects to develop the technology needed to produce gas from methane hydrates by about 2018, although it remains to be proven whether the resource will be commercial (see Methane hydrates seen as the next big unconventional gas, 22 April 2013). 

Methane hydrates appear in Arctic sediments and below continental shelves as far apart as India and New Zealand. Worldwide deposits are estimated at up to 20,000 trillion cubic metres of gas – compared with 185.7 tcm of proven gas reserves in the world at the end of 2013, according to BP statistics. …… 

The JMH JV includes Japex (operator, 33%), Japan Drilling Co. (18%), Inpex (13%), Idemitsu Oil & Gas (5%), JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration (5%), Nippon Steel & Sumikin Engineering Co. (5%), Chiyoda Corp. (5%), Toyo Engineering Corp. (5%), JGC Corp. (5%), Mitsui Oil Exploration (5%) and Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co. (1%). 

With new natural gas reserves being found in the Arctic and with all the shale gas yet to be extracted and, now, with the vast amount of methane hydrates available, “peak gas” is at least 1,000 years away.

Oil reserves to rival Saudi Arabia’s found in the Russian Arctic

September 28, 2014
Kara Sea - Arctic  Google maps

Kara Sea – Arctic Google maps

So much for peak oil!

And that’s even without taking shale oil and shale gasand methane hydrates into account.

World BulletinA joint venture between Rosneft and ExxonMobil has discovered a huge amount of oil under the Arctic. The state-run Russian oil company announced on Saturday that the University-1 well struck oil in the Kara Sea.

Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft, said the “oil trap” has 338 billion cubic meters of gas and more than 100 million tonnes (733 million barrels) of oil. The total resources in the area are estimated at 13 billion tonnes (87 billion barrels) of oil equivalent, according to the Rosneft statement. According to experts, the amount of oil and gas is comparable to the resource base of Saudi Arabia.

Rosneft and ExxonMobil started drilling the University-1 well, the world’s northernmost well, in August. The field will be named Pobeda, which means “victory” in Russian

Sanctions against Russia could deprive ExxonMobil of some of the benefits due to them. Even if sanctions are relatively short-lived the Russians will surely extract their pound of flesh while they can.

ExxonMobil announced last Friday that the U.S. Treasury Department has granted it a licence to “wind down” operations at the well, in response to U.S. and EU sanctions imposed on Russia over the unrest in Ukraine.

However the Russians are still dependent on technology from the large oil companies for drilling and exploitation in these frigid conditions. They also have vast quantities of oil and gas shale in Siberia the value of which needs to be protected. The timing for the development of Arctic reserves then becomes a geopolitical and economic strategy call. It makes most sense for Russia not to flood the market and to keep gas prices to Europe high and growing. But the potential availability of this Arctic reserve – even if production is at least a decade away – adds another arrow in the Russian quiver.

But the doomsday scenarios of “peak oil” or catastrophic depletion of gas and oil reserves have vanished over the horizon – at least for the foreseeable future,

 

Swedish investment in wind power collapses while waiting for new subsidies

September 22, 2014

The simple fact is that wind power investment depends upon subsidies. The greater the subsidy offered the greater the investment. The higher the electricity price the greater the value of any subsidies and the greater the investment.

Subsidies just don’t work.

And in the meantime the world has begun to cool.

From Swedish Radio:

During the second quarter of this year, decisions were made to invest in future wind power totaling 37 megawatts, down 83 percent compared with the same period last year according to statistics from the Swedish Federation of Wind Energy.

One reason for the decline is the low price of electricity, another is that the industry is waiting for next year’s so-called checkpoint in parliament on changes to the certificate system, a decision which, according to Annika Helker Lundström, CEO of Swedish Wind Energy, will be of great importance for Swedish wind power company.

……

The certificate system was introduced in 2003 and means that the government supp…orts producers of renewable electricity by handing out certificates worth one megawatt per piece which can then be sold to electricity suppliers. Electricity suppliers are in turn obliged to buy a certain amount of renewable electricity.

The current system is certified to award equivalent to 25 terawatt-hours by 2020, and already has a certificate for over 20 terra watt hours distributed. The Agency has proposed to the government that more certificates to be awarded and the dividend period is extended to 2030.

This should increase the willingness to invest in the electricity generators.

Drinking water contamination caused by weak water wells and not by fracking

September 16, 2014

It is fashionable for environmentalists to blame fracking for all manner of evils as a matter of faith. They have proclaimed that fracking causes earthquakes, water table contamination, emission of dangerous gases, damage to house price levels and even damage to crops. Such claims are usually based on no evidence whatsoever but presented as gospel.

A new paper published in PNAS reports on real experimental measurements (not just a computer model) using noble gases to trace methane leakage into drinking water in 130 water wells in Pennsylvania and Texas. They find that drinking water contamination was caused by weak walls and well construction faults and not by fracking.

TH Darrah et al, Noble gases identify the mechanisms of fugitive gas contamination in drinking-water wells overlying the Marcellus and Barnett Shales, 

Significance

Hydrocarbon production from unconventional sources is growing rapidly, accompanied by concerns about drinking-water contamination and other environmental risks. Using noble gas and hydrocarbon tracers, we distinguish natural sources of methane from anthropogenic contamination and evaluate the mechanisms that cause elevated hydrocarbon concentrations in drinking water near natural-gas wells. We document fugitive gases in eight clusters of domestic water wells overlying the Marcellus and Barnett Shales, including declining water quality through time over the Barnett. Gas geochemistry data implicate leaks through annulus cement (four cases), production casings (three cases), and underground well failure (one case) rather than gas migration induced by hydraulic fracturing deep underground. Determining the mechanisms of contamination will improve the safety and economics of shale-gas extraction.

A key source of groundwater contamination (labeled 5, center right) caused by faulty well casings. Credit: Image courtesy of Thomas Darrah, The Ohio State University

Press Release:

….  neither horizontal drilling nor hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits seems to have caused any of the natural gas contamination.

“There is no question that in many instances elevated levels of natural gas are naturally occurring, but in a subset of cases, there is also clear evidence that there were human causes for the contamination,” said study leader Thomas Darrah, assistant professor of earth sciences at Ohio State. “However our data suggests that where contamination occurs, it was caused by poor casing and cementing in the wells,” Darrah said.

In hydraulic fracturing, water is pumped underground to break up shale at a depth far below the water table, he explained. The long vertical pipes that carry the resulting gas upward are encircled in cement to keep the natural gas from leaking out along the well. The study suggests that natural gas that has leaked into aquifers is the result of failures in the cement used in the well.


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