Global warming scuppers Blair’s nuclear power plans

Rob Edwards, Sunday Herald
Prime Minister Tony Blair’s plans to build new nuclear power stations were thrown into doubt last night after a government agency warned that the preferred sites would be flooded or eroded by global warming.

This week, Blair will announce an energy review, which is expected to back up to 10 nuclear stations at existing sites around the UK coast, but a study by nuclear waste agency Nirex reveals that most of them are threatened by climate change.

If those sites are ruled out, reactors will have to be built inland on new, greenfield sites – some in Scotland – which will provoke a furious outcry.
(27 November 2005)
‘Oh what a tangled web…’ comments Brent! -AF

Oil Shale Technology – Old & New

Byron King, The Daily Reckoning
Extracting oil from the shale is no simple task. The earliest attempts to extract the oil utilized an environmentally unfriendly process known as “retorting.” Stated simply, retorting required mining the shale, hauling it to a processing facility that crushed the rock into small chunks, then extracted a petroleum substance called kerogen, then upgraded the kerogen through a process of hydrogenation (which requires lots of water) and refined it into gasoline or jet fuel.

But the difficulties of retorting do not end there, as my colleague, Byron King explains:

“After you retort the rock to derive the kerogen (not oil), the heating process has desiccated the shale (OK, that means that it is dried out). Sad to say, the volume of desiccated shale that you have to dispose of is now greater than that of the hole from which you dug and mined it in the first place. Any takers for trainloads of dried, dusty, gunky shale residue, rife with low levels of heavy metal residue and other toxic, but now chemically-activated crap? (Well, it makes for enough crap that when it rains, the toxic stuff will leach out and contaminate all of the water supplies to which gravity can reach, which is essentially all of ’em. Yeah, right. I sure want that stuff blowin’ in my wind.) Add up all of the capital investment to build the retorting mechanisms, cost of energy required, cost of water, costs of transport, costs of environmental compliance, costs of refining, and you have some relatively costly end-product.”

B.King is always good value, discusses the In-situ Conversion Process and reports on a recent visit to Colorado. -LJ
(30 November 2005)

Saudi Plans Refinery Expansions to Meet Fuel Demand

Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company by output, plans to expand refineries in the U.S., South Korea and the Philippines to meet rising demand for fuel.

The company’s Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, a venture with Royal Dutch Shell Plc, may add 320,000 barrels a day of capacity, Khalid al-Buainain, vice president for refining said at a conference in Manila. Saudi Aramco’s S-Oil Corp. division in South Korea will double capacity and its Philippine venture Petron Corp. plans a $250 million expansion, he said.
(30 November 2005)
See also:

Saudi eyes $3.5bn clean fuel plant in S Korea

Saudi Arabia may invest up to $3.5 billion to build a plant in South Korea to process more profitable clean fuels, Seoul’s energy ministry said.

In an effort to meet tightening fuel standards throughout Asia, refiners in the region are pouring billions of dollars into upgrading their refineries.
(30 November 2005)
These big investments in refining capacity look at first glance to be evidence that Saudia Aramco is confident that they can increase output significantly over the following years, surely a counter argument to the imminent Peak Oil hypothesis. Note however that the Port Arthur refinery specialises in processing heavy, sour crude. The South Korean investment is for a cracking plant for ‘Bunker-C’ fuel oil. Bunker-C fuel oil designates the most thick and sticky of the residual fuels. So actually Saudi Aramco are expecting the trend of excess heavy oil production to continue, and are looking to make up for the current shortage of refining capacity for heavy oil. -AF

Kentucky faces big backlog of abandoned oil, gas wells

James Bruggers, The Courier-Journal
Kentucky officials have identified 8,000 abandoned oil wells that may need to be plugged, and they acknowledge that there may be many more.

After two recent days of grimy, repetitive work by Lexington-based contractors, at a cost of $5,100 to the state, the well has been plugged and capped with concrete. Now, fresh water below the surface and the creek that runs through scattered sycamore trees above are protected, officials said.

“When we get through, we clean it up, and pretty soon there are rabbits running on it,” said Doug Hamilton, the Kentucky Division of Oil and Gas inspector who watched the remedial work recently to ensure it was done correctly.

Kentucky oil and gas regulators have identified 8,000 abandoned wells that may need similar plugging and reclamation, and they acknowledge there may be many more, given that tens of thousands of wells were drilled before any records were kept. Some of those surely were abandoned, or perhaps plugged only with stones and stumps.
(27 November 2005)
Something to figure into the energy-returned-on-energy-invested calculations -AF

Calpine runs out of gas
San Jose power company ousts its 2 top executives

Bernadette Tansey, SF Chronicle
Back in 2001, at the height of California’s energy crisis, Calpine Corp. was seen as a savior, accelerating new power plant construction to help stave off blackouts. With its shares peaking at $58 that May, Calpine invested heavily in plants run on natural gas and talked of building its own pipelines to bring supplies of the cleaner-burning fuel to California.

But the financial collapse of the Houston energy giant Enron tightened credit for the industry, and power prices also dropped as the energy crisis eased. Calpine’s plans for pipelines, or a port to receive liquefied natural gas, never materialized. And now the company is facing mounting prices for the fuel.

That collision of circumstances created a downward spiral that brought the company to another dismal milestone Tuesday.

…If Calpine declares bankruptcy, it would be the eighth-largest entity to file in U.S. history, Bloomberg News reported. The firm reported $27 billion in assets at the end of 2004.
(30 November 2005)
Another company whipsawed by energy prices and supplies. Peakoil-dot-com has commentary.