Posts Tagged ‘oil shale’

As with peak gas, peak oil and rampant pessimism need to be postponed

July 9, 2012

Recovery of gas and oil from shale is more than just a game changer – it is a mind-changer. The recoverability of oil and gas from shale postpones “peak oil” and “peak gas” indefinitely. For 3 decades we have suffered from the rampant pessimism of the alarmists and the coercive politics of fear. A change of mind-set from pessimistic environmentalism and backward-looking conservationism is called for. A shift of attitude from the joyless “glass half-empty and we are doomed” to the entrepreneurial “glass half-full but can be filled”  is over-due.

Resource depletion with usage is a trivial truth  – though matter at the elemental level is never destroyed by human use. However utilisation of resources does alter the composition and concentration of materials remaining available. But every alarmist and doom-sayer who has ever lived and has forecast impending catastrophe has been proven spectacularly wrong. Human ingenuity has faced every challenge and trumped the doom-sayers – every time.

The pictures say it all:

The scope of the US oil shale resource

The scope of the US oil shale resource

Related: “Peak Oil” hypothesis is following “Peak Gas” into oblivion

Moving peaks

“Peak Oil” hypothesis is following “Peak Gas” into oblivion

February 20, 2012

Oil production from oil shales in North Dakota is increasing rapidly and the much-heralded “peak” of oil production may have to be postponed. Alarmists will not be pleased.

“Peak Oil” and “Peak Gas” are the points in time where the production of oil and gas respectively reach a peak and then decline to zero. The concept is based on the normal production cycle of an individual well extrapolated to all the oil and gas existing. The fundamental flaw in these hypotheses when trying to apply them to “finite” and exhaustible resources of any product is of course that:

  • new sources of the product are discovered
  • new extraction technologies enhance what can be recovered from existing sources,
  • new technologies make non-viable sources viable
  • new technologies allow the synthesis or alternative production of the product (price driven)
  • consumption is modified by pricing

Moving peaks

In recent times the development of fracking technology and the discovery of huge deposits of gas-bearing shales together with the discovery of new deep-sea sources of natural gas have pushed the “peak” for gas production beyond the visible horizon and into the distant future (a few hundred years). When – rather than if – methane hydrates become available for gas production, the “peak” will shift further into the future.

In the case of oil there are already many feasible alternatives which are technically feasible but where commercial production by these methods can only be triggered by the sustainable price being higher than the production cost. For example bio-diesel costs are commercial with oil prices above about $70 per barrel but there is a hidden cost in decreased or disrupted food production. Coal liquefaction would need oil prices above $120 per barrel while oil extraction from oil shales and oil sands become commercial at about $90 and $100 respectively. Deep sea wells (new exploration) are increasingly commercial as the price increases.

The alternatives are now coming into play:


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