Posts Tagged ‘Fossil fuels’

Time to invest in fossil fuels as China discovers vast new reserves

April 21, 2015

There is a campaign in the western “do-gooding” and deluded “green” community (exemplified by The Guardian) to pressurise investors to disinvest from fossil fuels. Fortunately there is no shortage of investors in Asia who would be only too happy to see the European financial institutions and pension funds selling off their shares in oil, shale and coal producing and using companies. There are few better investments than snapping up artificially depressed energy shares. I am watching closely to pick up any bargains that might appear if this campaign has any impact. So far it has had little effect.

In the 1970s and 1980s the alarmist view was that coal, oil and gas would run out catastrophically. Now that peak-oil and peak-gas have been pushed out into the indeterminate future and further new shale reserves are found, the alarmism has shifted to the use of these resources being catastrophic! The campaign itself is rather idiotic (“leave it in the ground”) and counter-productive, since any success can only shift ownership of energy companies eastwards. Supposedly – but misguidedly – it is about climate but the campaign has no measurable or relevant objectives. (Note that no “climate policy”  ever has a climate parameter as an objective and which can be measured.) It will certainly not reduce the consumption of fossil fuels at all – which will instead continue to grow as developing countries develop. In fact the competitiveness of the fossil fuel using countries will be further emphasised as the “do-gooding” countries entrap themselves into a very high-cost electricity production regime based on intermittent solar and wind energy. (It is worth noting that Germany which has installed more renewable energy than any other European country now has an electricity cost which is the highest in Europe and more than twice that of the US. And yet Germany burned more coal last year than they have ever done! The German Energiwende has been a fiasco for all other than those who have milked the subsidies available)

There is – again fortunately – no prospect of India, China and other developing countries in Asia and Africa reducing their use of all the fossil fuels they have available. If I could I would be investing directly in coal and oil and natural gas and shale gas in India and China and Indonesia. At present I must satisfy myself with some indirect investment.

History will be contemptuous of the irrational demonisation of fossil fuels by the alarmists and the “do-gooders” during the late 20th and early 21st century.

Xinhua reports:

China continued to be increasingly successful at discovering crude oil and natural gas reserves last year, new data from the Ministry of Land and Resources indicated on Thursday.

The country discovered nearly 1.06 billion tonnes of new crude oil deposits in 2014, up from 1.1 billion tonnes the previous year, marking a stable increase and the eighth consecutive year in which the amount discovered surpassed 1 billion tonnes. More than 1.1 trillion cubic meters of new natural gas reserves were also discovered in 2014, a record high.

Of the new discoveries, 187 million tonnes of oil and 474.9 billion cubic meters of natural gas can be exploited with current technology, according to the ministry.

New shale gas reserves discovered amount to 106.75 billion cubic meters, with 26.69 billion exploitable.

This is the first time that proven reserves of shale gas have been publicized since the Chinese government approved the listing of shale gas as an independent mineral resource in 2011.

Discoveries of coal-bed methane, an unconventional gas, amounted to 60.2 billion cubic meters, up 155.3 percent year on year.

shale basins China (The Diplomat)

shale basins China (The Diplomat)

The Indian sub-continent too has large shale reserves waiting to be exploited. The shale basins extend into Pakistan and Bangladesh and offers Pakistan the possibility of actually becoming self-sufficient for energy.

shale gas basins India

shale gas basins India

Fossil Fuels Will Save the World (Really)

March 17, 2015

Matt Ridley has an opinion piece in the WSJ which says many things far better than I can.

The environmental movement has advanced three arguments in recent years for giving up fossil fuels: (1) that we will soon run out of them anyway; (2) that alternative sources of energy will price them out of the marketplace; and (3) that we cannot afford the climate consequences of burning them.

These days, not one of the three arguments is looking very healthy. In fact, a more realistic assessment of our energy and environmental situation suggests that, for decades to come, we will continue to rely overwhelmingly on the fossil fuels that have contributed so dramatically to the world’s prosperity and progress. …….

The article is well worth reading. Fossil Fuels Will Save the World Ridley WSJ

Ground zero is that fossil fuels will eventually be replaced only when a cheaper, more reliable source of energy (electricity production) is found. There is no foreseeable “peak” for fossil fuels and availability is not a constraint. Solar and wind technologies have small, clear niches which they can well fill but practical and affordable energy storage is needed before they can be any significant source of our energy consumption. And Li-ion batteries will not cut it. As Ridley points out they provide about 1% of our energy consumption today while fossil fuels still reign supreme at about 87%. Nuclear power could make a severe dent in fossil fuel consumption, but only if the costs and the construction time due to the regulatory process can be drastically reduced – and that does not seem likely as long as alarmists and doom-sayers hold sway. (I estimate that around 30% of the capital cost of nuclear plants is unnecessary and due to CYA regulations which are driven by fear). Small, safe, pre-approved, modular, fifth-generation nuclear power plants could take-off but that requires many alarmists to give up their faith.

(As an aside, I observe that climate and energy politics have become the politics of fear, but I am an optimist and I expect the pendulum will swing to return to energy politics based on courage. It is a form of cowardice which drives energy politics today where I take cowardice to be actions subordinated to fear and courage to be fears subordinated to purposeful actions).

Perhaps fusion (probably hot rather than cold) will come – but a breakthrough is not in sight (though by definition breakthroughs are never generally in sight). We can fantasise that we will someday be able to tap into the gravitational energy of the solar system (which would be solar energy in another form). I don’t doubt that some new, cheap, energy source or energy conversion technique will appear – but until then fossil fuels will provide the basis for human development. And if we are on our way into a new ice age it is fossil fuel which will ensure our survival.

I dismiss the hypothesis – and it is still only a hypothesis – that man-made emissions of carbon dioxide are of any significance for “global temperature”. In fact the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere (and man-made emissions are a tiny contributor to that) has a very small effect on “global temperature”. Instead it is “global temperature” which has a very large effect on carbon dioxide concentration through the balance of absorption and emission from the oceans and from the biosphere. Carbon dioxide concentration lags rather than leads “global temperature”. The sun and clouds and ocean currents and winds (also driven by the sun) dwarf any effects of carbon dioxide. The hypothesis looks broken considering that over the last 18 years man-made carbon dioxide emissions have increased sharply but “global temperature” has been static. Even the assumed “global warming” that is supposed to have taken place over the last 100 years are to a significant extent “manufactured” by “adjusting” temperature data and choosing weighting and averaging algorithms which are biased to show a pre-determined result. There is a shortage of “science” and far too much confirmation bias in what passes for “climate science” these days.

Fossil fuel use still growing and will provide over 80% of global energy in 2035

February 20, 2015

The BP Energy Outlook for 2035 is out.

  • In absolute terms total energy usage will grow 37%.
  • Two-thirds of the increase in demand is met by fossil fuels. Roughly one-third of the increase in energy demand is provided by gas, another third by oil and coal together, and the final third by non-fossil fuels.
  • In 2035 fossil fuels will still provide 81% of the world’s energy (down from 86% in 2013).

It is fortunate that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are of little significance for global warming since man-made carbon dioxide emissions will increase by over 50% in the next 20 years. But it is unfortunate that the global warming/extreme climate lobby will continue to waste precious resources in attacking something quite irrelevant. So far a massive increase in emissions has caused no global warming for over 18 years. perhaps the fanaticism will decline after another 20 years (probably when the current crop of “climate scientists” have retired).

BP Energy Outlook 2035

BP Energy Outlook 2035

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, 


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.

Adapting to climate change requires the further development and use of fossil fuels

July 31, 2014

The single thing that differentiates the human species from every other known species on earth has been the control and use of fire.The step change then from primitive to modern humans has been due not least to the control and development of the combustion process and the utilisation of fossil fuels. This in turn has multiplied many times the intensity of energy available to be harnessed by man. I would suggest that the human capability of handling change is largely a function of the power intensity available.

power intensity

power intensity

Fossil fuels have been demonised (by association with carbon dioxide emissions) for the last 30 years. In spite of that most  of the growth in the developing world has been – and continues to be – powered by fossil fuels. Fortunately the lack of evidence of any significant linkage between man-made carbon dioxide and global warming  (which is still the politically correct ideology) is beginning to be realised. The unnecessary, misplaced and ineffective increase of electricity prices in countries which have curtailed their use of fossil fuels has prolonged the recession and has cost many millions of jobs.

We have now had almost 20 years with the highest level ever of fossil fuel utilisation but “global temperature” has remained stubbornly static. In the last decade global temperatures have declined slightly. The hypothesised link between man-made carbon dioxide (which constitutes only about 3% of carbon dioxide emissions) and global temperature is well and truly broken. All the various climate computer models – which build on this link being amplified – have failed miserably.

The indicators of a global cooling cycle having started are piling up.

  1. There is more ice in the antarctic than has ever been measured
  2. There is more ice in the arctic than about a decade ago
  3. Total ice cover is higher now than has ever been measured
  4. Ice cover on the Great Lakes reached levels not seen for over 50 years and has persisted into the spring (even summer) later than has been observed for at least 40 years.
  5. The expected super El Nino forecast for this year has been dampened by a cooling Pacific and only a mild El Nino event – if at all – is now to be expected
  6. Sea level rises are no different to the long term average for sea level recovery since the last glacial minimum and may even have slowed.
  7. The deep oceans are cooling and are no repository of “hidden heat”
  8. The net cooling effect of clouds has been underestimated in nearly all models and cloud cover over the world is increasing (slightly).
  9. Man made water vapour is of greater significance than man made carbon dioxide for climate effects. But man made water vapour is almost insignificant compared to the water vapour flux due to evaporation and respiration.
  10. Solar effects are virtually ignored by all climate models but the sun does not much care for models and is reaching a low level of activity comparable to the Dalton or Maunder Minima.

Crying wolf about global warming has been the politically correct thing to do for 3 decades. Before that it was politically correct to be alarmist about the coming ice age. No doubt all the old fears about an ice age can be dusted off and recycled.

Climate change has been the most powerful force which has shaped human evolution and expansion. Sea level changes and patterns of precipitation and desertification have driven both evolution and migrations. Sea level during an ice age is about 120 m lower than it is today. More land is exposed in equatorial and tropical regions during a glacial period while land is rendered uninhabitable by the ice sheets of the north. But even primitive humanity survived during the glacials.

It is the global cooling cycles and not global warming cycles which will place the greatest demands on farming and energy. The greatest sea level change that humanity has had to – and will have to – adapt to  is the 120 m difference between glacial and interglacial conditions. During an ice age precipitation will drop sharply and river water flows will decline. Hydro power will all but dry up. It is the inevitable coming of the next ice age that will pose the real challenge – not the 1 m sea level rise that may come with another warming cycle. And when the ice age comes again it will be fossil fuels which will keep the home fires burning. It is the further exploitation of nuclear energy and fossil fuels in all its forms – coal, oil, natural gas, shale gas, gas from methane hydrates – that will be needed. It is the availability of power at the intensities provided by nuclear power and fossil fuel combustion which is what will provide humans with the wherewithal to cope with climate change, whether warming or cooling, but especially when the next ice age begins.

Whatever the alarmists would have us do in the short term, reality will eventually bite. The use of fossil fuels will – thankfully – continue as will the exploration for new sources of gas. The next generation of nuclear power plant will be developed – even though nuclear alarmism has led to a dearth of nuclear engineers. No doubt some market niches will be filled by wind and solar power but that will not be very significant in the large picture.


Fossil fuel combustion at an all time high (but global warming is absent)

June 18, 2014

The BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014 is now out and the consumption of all fossil fuels has never been higher. Coal and gas consumption are particularly strong. And – even though many are in a state of denial about it – global warming has come to a stop over the last 18 years. In the last 10 years global temperatures show a slight downward trend.

There seems to be no purpose to the demonisation of fossil fuels other than for pandering to the religion of global warming. Consider the last 25 years. (I use 1988 as a reference point not only because 25 years should be enough to see some trends but also because the BP data is readily available from that date). During this 25 year period gas consumption has increased by over 80%, coal consumption by 0ver 70% and oil consumption by over 30%. The increased global coal burn since about 1999 is particularly striking. In the same 25 year period the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has increased from about 355 ppm(v/v) to about 395 ppm(v/v) – a rise of about 11%. And global temperatures have not increased at all for almost 2 decades.

Climate policy is policy without any objectives and without any means of checking any achievements. What exactly could we achieve by not using fossil fuels?

There is not a single climate policy proposed by the IPCC or by any government in the world  which has a definable and measurable climate benefit.

25 years of fossil fuel consumption

25 years of fossil fuel consumption

The global warming hiatus now extends to at least 18 years.

Global warming has gone missing

  • The RSS satellite dataset shows no global warming at all for 213 months from August 1996 to April 2014. That is more than half the entire 423-month satellite record.
  • The fastest centennial warming rate was in Central England from 1663-1762, at 0.9 Cº per century – before the industrial revolution began. It cannot have been our fault.
  • The global warming trend since 1900 is equivalent to 0.8 Cº per century. This is well within natural variability and may not have much to do with us.

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