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Russia’s largest oil discovery in a decade found in the Caspian Sea

Douglas Low, Oil Depletion Analysis Center (ODAC)
Lukoil has discovered an oil and gas-condensate field, Filanovsky, in the Caspian Sea, calling it Russia’s largest discovery in a decade, reports the Oil and Gas Journal. The field, 220 km south-southwest of Astrakhan, is likely to contain probable and possible recoverable volumes of 600 million bbl of oil and 1.2 tcf of gas. If confirmed, Filanovsky would be the only field of over 500 million barrels of recoverable volume discovered anywhere in the world in 2005. Russia currently produces over 9 million barrels per day (mb/d) of oil. The report states “Early data indicate that the new field should produce 100,000 b/d”. In summary, the largest field found in 10 years will add about 1% to Russia’s daily production of oil.
(27 January 2006)

Exxon Mobil is coming to Antananarivo (Madagascar)

M.R., l’express
The American oil giant, Exxon Mobil, exploring for oil off Mahajanga, will soon open offices in Antananarivo, very precisely as from 27th of January. A ceremony will be organised at the Colbert Hotel for the occasion. Beyond the festive aspect, this occasion is of particular importance for the energy sector. Exxon Mobil begins this year to drill offshore Boina. The presence of Exxon Mobil is a strong indication as to the existence of oil in Madagascar.

“We are 60% confident as to the presence of oil in Madagascar” said the an Exxon Mobil director a few months ago whilst in the country. The arrival of heavy equipment, required for drilling has been announced by the director. It is a massive ship equiped with all the needed accessories to drill an oil well. “It is a floating platform” explained the technicians.

Drilling is the third stage when looking for oil. First comes aerial surveys and the use of satellite imagery. Next follows two and three dimensional seismic studies and last the drilling stage.

“This last stage costs nearly US$ 40 million. If a company decides to go for it, it is that she is quite sure that there is oil” says an insider close to oil companies.

For the time being it is not known whether the Director of Exxon Mobil will be back into the country for the event.

Translated from the French by Karim Jaufeerally from the Mauritian newspaper L’Express.
(19 January 2006)

Arctic defrost opens resources and divisions

Anthony Browne, The Australian
Davos, Switzerland – IT is covered by thick ice, plunged into darkness for much of the year, and blasted by freezing winds. But the Arctic Ocean is being transformed by global warming from a no-man’s-land into the front line of a scramble for resources.

The melting of the ice pack is opening up vast reserves of offshore oil and gas, new shipping routes and fishing grounds, according to experts at the World Economic Forum.

But the scramble for Arctic wealth is complicated by arguments over which countries have legal claim to the territory, plus border disputes, including those between Russia and the US.

Eight countries — the US, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland — have claims to the Arctic, while resource-hungry China has started showing interest.

Mounting tension over the opening up of the high north boiled over this week when Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper hit back at criticism from the US over his plans to spend $US5.3 billion ($7.07 billion) developing his country’s forbidding Arctic coast, increasing its military presence and buying three new icebreakers.

“I’ve been very clear that we have significant plans for national defence and for defence of our sovereignty, including Arctic sovereignty,” he said.

George Newton, chairman of the US Arctic Research Commission, told delegates at the conference of business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, that temperatures in the Arctic were expected to rise by 5.5C in the next 100 years, and that last year the Arctic ice sheet was smaller than ever.

“When we’ve been talking about climate change it’s with concern, but we’re talking about opportunity,” he said.

Helge Lund, president of Statoil, Norway’s state oil company, said a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves, estimated to be 375 billion barrels, or enough to fuel the world for about 12 years, lies under the Arctic Ocean. “It will never replace the Middle East but it has the potential to be a good supplement,” he said.
(30 January 2006)

Thailand: gasohol pumps may soon be running dry

Kamol Sukin, The Nation (Bangkok, Thailand)
29 Jan 2006 by . Archived on 30 Jan 2006.
Since last May, ethanol has been touted as an ingredient that saves the foreign exchange otherwise spent to import fuel additives.

The country has been running a trade deficit, partly due to the rising cost of oil, so the government wants to wean drivers off of premium petrol this year.

However, gasohol’s sudden popularity has resulted in demand outstripping domestic production capacity, forcing oil firms to go overseas to secure ever-growing quantities of ethanol.

“The situation is tough for the government. We’re facing complicated problems with regard to the supply of sugar-cane, molasses and cassava, which are domestic materials for ethanol,” said Chumnong Sorapipatana, energy chairman at the Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment at King Mong-kut’s University of Technology Thon Buri
(29 January 2006)

Energy research sputters

Kevin Bullis, Technology Review (MIT)
…”There clearly are serious issues about the balance of the [research] portfolio,” says Ernest Moniz, former undersecretary at the Department of Energy and now professor of physics at MIT, where he co-chairs the Energy Research Council, set up to spearhead energy research.

Moniz says there “is a huge amount” of money going into research on new technologies, especially for transportation, that use hydrogen for fuel. Yet such hydrogen technology “is a very long way into the future, if ever, whereas lots of other kinds of work that could have very profound impacts in the shorter term are not being funded.”

…According to Moniz, shorter-term technologies that deserve more funding include advanced internal combustion engines and new techniques for burning fossil fuels more cleanly in power plants. Advanced engines could improve fuel efficiency by 15-20%, he says, significantly easing the demand for oil, while simultaneously decreasing emissions.

…In spite of much rhetoric about the need for new energy solutions, overall energy-related research at the Department of Energy is actually less, in constant dollars, than it was in the late 1980s and early-to-mid-1990s, according to an analysis of this year’s budget by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Overall funding is more or less flat from 2005 to 2006, with 5.9 percent increase in fossil fuel research, but a 10.5 percent decrease in solar and renewables research. Also, conservation research was cut by 16.7 percent, according to the report.
(31 January 2006)

Ethanol and the environment

Michael O’Hare, The Reality-Based Community
I finally know more than Mark about a psychotropic drug! At least if you don’t drink it. Ethanol, the characteristic solvent for social distance and shellac, is also a motor fuel with attractive characteristics: it’s made of sunshine and exactly the CO2 we like to take out of the atmosphere, it increases gasoline octane as an additive, it’s environmentally quite benign in spills and such, and it’s not imported from places with fractious and prickly governments.

However, it doesn’t just dribble out of corn plants: to get ethanol requires growing plants (fertilizer, tractor fuel…), hauling corn to a distillery, smooshing it up with yeast and keeping it warm (more fuel), distilling the alcohol out of the mush (more fuel), and various other industrial operations all of which use energy. A debate has been burbling for several years about whether we really wind up ahead in various important ways by substituting ethanol for gasoline in cars, and the issue has been confused by the patchwork of subsidies and regulations that distort market prices for fuels of all kinds.

A gang at the Energy and Resources Group and the Goldman School at UC Berkeley, who invited me to play with them over the summer and fall while we did the project, have clarified things greatly. In my view our most important finding is that the “net energy” measure, which looks only at the fossil fuel energy consumed to make a unit of energy in the form of ethanol, asks the wrong question. For example, if ethanol provided a means to take 100 joules of energy from coal and obtain 50 joules worth of ethanol, it would not necessarily be a bad idea. Coal is abundant and cheap; the problem with it is that when burned, it releases the “greenhouse gas” CO2. So one would want to ask about the greenhouse gases released (and other costs, of course), not the net energy, and if the CO2 from burning the coal were captured and sequestered, this notional technology would be a prima facie policy winner, allowing us to run cars cleanly on domestic abundant coal rather than imported, scarce petroleum.
(27 January 2006)
And the ethanol debate goes on. Author Michael O’Hare, a professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy, was one of the researchers in the above-mentioned study.

Two questions… what if it is not possible to sequester CO2 from burning coal? There are many, scientists included, who are skeptical. If it is not possible, then O’Hare’s line of reasoning falls apart. Secondly, is the most important world problem that of allowing Americans to to drive cheaply? David Robertson on Gristmill muses why ethanol is sexy, but reducing demand isn’t:

energy supply issues get a lot of attention, because someone will always benefit from selling energy, but energy demand issues, which offer fewer chances for big moneymaking but arguably larger aggregate savings, get very little.


Bush speech to outline energy alternatives

Nedra Pickler, Associated Press via Yahoo!News
WASHINGTON – Trying to calm anxieties about soaring energy costs, President Bush is using his State of the Union address this week to focus on a package of energy proposals aimed at bringing fuel-saving technologies out of the lab and into use.

In Bush’s vision, drivers will stop at hydrogen stations and fill their fuel-cell cars with the pollution-free fuel. Or they would power their engines with ethanol made from trash or corn. More Americans would run their lights at home on solar power.

Bush has been talking about these ideas since his first year in office. Proposals aimed at spreading the use of ethanol, hydrogen and renewable fuels all were part of the energy bill that he signed into law in August, but that hasn’t eased Americans’ worries about high fuel prices.

… “I agree with Americans who understand being hooked on foreign oil as an economic problem and a national security problem,” Bush said in a recent interview with CB
(30 January 2006)