Peak and Shale Gas

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FriscoMike's picture
FriscoMike
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Peak and Shale Gas

Hello Folks – I am trying to conduct some research on the relationship between Peak Oil and the recent discoveries and advanced technologies that Natural Gas bring to the table.

I understand the concept but anytime I discuss this with my gas buddies – they say not to worry – we have enough NG that will essentially mitigate or prolong the decline by at least 100 years.  His theory is that we will sit on this plateau using NG for homes and energy plants but still use gas for cars and transportation with the exception of mass transit systems converting to NG.

Bottom line – there appears to be a solution with NG but maybe not.  Supposedly the technologies are improving and are getting cheaper to extract the gas from the shale.

Any input as it rebates to PO and NG would be greatly appreciated. 

Cheers.

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Retha
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Peak NG

Hi FriscoMike...I can't offer you any kind of reasonable conversation on the topic, because I am still learning about all this! But, here are a few articles you might find interesting... 

http://www.peakoil.net/

http://www.energytribune.com/articles.cfm/3410/How-Long-Until-Peak-Natural-Gas

http://www.ogj.com/articles/2011/10/eia-shale-predictions-need-closer-scrutiny-peak-oil-group-says.html

Damnthematrix's picture
Damnthematrix
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Do the math

Plenty of Hydrocarbons

A decline in conventional oil production represents a liquid fuels problem. Crash programs in solar, wind, or nuclear infrastructure—besides suffering from the Energy Trap phenomenon—do not address the fundamental problem. Replacing a fleet of vehicles with electric cars or plug-in hybrids will take decades to accomplish, amidst decline and hardship. Biofuels that can scale to meet the demand gap and that do not compete directly with food supply have not been demonstrated. But wait! There are loads more hydrocarbons in the ground besides conventional oil.

This graphic, adapted from Brandt & Farrell, shows the estimated resources of all hydrocarbons, together with their production cost. Proven reserves are the dark bands to the left of each block, and increasingly uncertain potential resources stretch off to the right for each component. The graphic conveys that in order of increasing cost, enhanced oil recovery, tar sands and heavy oil, gas-to-liquids, coal-to-liquids, and oil shale add substantial stocks at production costs that are only 2–10 times that of conventional oil. Those who are primarily interested in climate change are not too happy with the implications, but this situation could alleviate concerns over oil decline.

I should point out that the production costs of the various hydrocarbons in the plot above are based on 2007 energy prices. Using the escalated energy prices brought on by a conventional oil decline pushes everything higher on the scale. So don’t take either axis of the graph literally.

I will admit that personally, this is the strongest evidence I have seen for why I should not worry about peak oil. I will completely understand if we part company here, and you conclude that post-peak conventional oil decline does not pose a significant threat to our way of life. At least I know that you are aware of the potential dangers, and that if things do go off the rails, peak oil will be in your vocabulary. I’m not interested in being right as much as I am interested in awareness so we can anticipate troubles and get busy with earnest mitigation/prevention. I just don’t want to get caught with our collective (size 40,000 km) pants down, and have to listen to “no one could have seen this coming” excuses like we did with the crash of the sub-prime housing bubble.

So how can I look at the total hydrocarbons figure and still have concerns? Most simply, peak oil is about rates, not amounts. It’s also about economics, the speed with which we could scale, energy returned on energy invested (EROEI), carbon caps, and other practical matters. The fact that oil prices recently rose by a factor of three while no relief arrived from other hydrocarbons can be taken as empirical evidence that the vast amount of hydrocarbons in the ground is not immediately useful in a pinch. The market did not cradle us and take care of business, as the perennial promise goes.

Also worth pointing out is that when U.S. oil production peaked in 1970 at 3.5 billion barrels per year, we had about 40 billion barrels in proven reserves and at least 60 billion barrels of additional resource yet to be discovered.  Neither the amount in the ground, nor the will to increase production held sway over the actual rate of extraction.

A 2005 report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy (called the Hirsch report: summary and full text) performed a detailed analysis of which technologies and strategies are in a ready-to-go state for scaling up crash programs to mitigate conventional oil decline. The conclusion can practically be read right off the graph above. Besides increased vehicular efficiency, the mitigation schemes involved enhanced oil recovery, tar sands, gas-to-liquids, and coal-to-liquids. Note the fossil fuel theme: we’re hooked!

The bottom line was that initiating all such crash programs in parallel 20 years ahead of the peak (or more to the point, 20 years before the start of decline) may be sufficient to avoid major hardships. Waiting until 10 years before the decline would result in major disruptions as the efforts struggled to establish a large enough foothold in time for the decline. Initiating the crash program at the moment the decline starts was characterized as having catastrophic repercussions. Not treated was the more politically realistic scenario of waiting until 5 years after the start of decline while we bicker about the fundamental cause of our woes and strategies for mitigation.

Why am I prone to heed the conclusions of this report? In large part, it is because of the scale of the problem. A 3% per year decline of conventional oil (considered mild in many models/scenarios), requires that we replace 2.5 Mbpd of capacity each year. Canadian tar sands, for instance, were at 1.2 Mbpd in 2008, and are projected to reach 3–4 Mbpd by 2020. This represents an impressive growth rate of 10% per year. But a 3% decline beginning in 2015 will need five times the marginal oil represented by the gain in this expanding front-runner. Other methods are less ready to scale than tar sands. In the U.S. alone, a 3% decline represents about 42 GW of yearly power loss, requiring the equivalent of about one nuclear plant per week in gas-to-liquid plants, coal-to-liquid plants, and other major infrastructure investment. Not to mention that coal mining and gas production must scale up for the challenge (can they?). When have you heard of workers moving to coal country for employment?

Because we will more likely wait until the pain of decline has made itself clear, we may find ourselves handicapped by recession and debt, hampering our ability to act boldly.

This is a short exerpt from a blog I have become an avid reader of....  Tom Murphy is every bit as good an educator as Chris.  Everyone on this site should read the entirety of his blog's content...

Mike

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Travlin
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Nice

DTM

Thanks for your post. You have done an exceptionally good job of laying out the situation and providing new information that adds to our perspective.

Travlin 

FriscoMike's picture
FriscoMike
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 Indeed - thanks!  Perfect

 Indeed - thanks!  Perfect info to chew on for a while.  

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logBurner
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nice post

 DTM As you mention flow rate is a problem, then there is true cost in dollars for energy from the likes of shale (add in environmental). I would still worry about peak oil if only wrt the cost of fertiliser, plastics, . . . and of course energy. Thorium is the only potential future energy source I've seen worth investment but here in UK gov seems hell bent on windfarms.

Damnthematrix's picture
Damnthematrix
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what about the energy trap?
logBurner wrote:

 DTM As you mention flow rate is a problem, then there is true cost in dollars for energy from the likes of shale (add in environmental). I would still worry about peak oil if only wrt the cost of fertiliser, plastics, . . . and of course energy. Thorium is the only potential future energy source I've seen worth investment but here in UK gov seems hell bent on windfarms.

I didn't write that BTW, Tom Murphy did..... http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/

You should read the "energy trap" entry in that blog......  I'll believe in Thorium when I can see one working.

Mike

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xraymike79
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The Natural Gas Scam

 

FriscoMike wrote:

...Bottom line – there appears to be a solution with NG but maybe not.  Supposedly the technologies are improving and are getting cheaper to extract the gas from the shale.

 

There's been a number of articles, news clippings and essays on the natural gas scam. Here are a few posts I have collected: #1002 , #1003, #1005, and #1338.

 

The bottom line is this:

Wind and solar are highly intermittent sources of power that simply cannot replace the supply offered by burning fossil fuels; there’s no known method of storing the energy to meet modern civilization’s 24/7 load. When fully present, the energy density of renewable energy sources, excluding hydro, which is pretty-well developed, is a fraction of fossil fuels. A good wind site produces no power for the equivalent of 270 days a year, since the windspeed is not within the linear design curve of the turbines. PV solar power output falls to 20% of nameplate at noon when a cloud passes over; CSP or concentrated solar power output falls to zero unless there is full, direct sunlight.

Frac gas production is far lower than stated (guessed) reserves – locally, we see an 80% decline in production the first year, 30% the second – total producible gas from shale is about 10% of claims made to investors.

The world was solar powered until 1750 (coal). Oil was commercially exploited in 1859. Life on solar/wind power never supported more than 1 billion people on the planet. The future will be solar powered again. Getting there is not going to involve T Boone’s huckstering his gas and wind interests, it’s going to involve living in 1850.

 

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