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Oil Sands’ Natural Gas Demand Expected to Triple

Reuters, Planet Ark
A massive rise in crude production from Canada’s oil sands region over the next decade will nearly triple the area’s call on strained natural gas supplies, Canada’s national energy regulator said Thursday.

Production from the oil sands of northern Alberta is expected to rise to more than 3 million barrels a day by 2015, according to a study by the National Energy Board, triple last year’s output.

However that increase will demand massive amounts of new natural gas for the oil sands projects that are increasingly prevalent around Fort McMurray, Alberta, even as Canadian supplies wane.

Natural gas is a key power source for oil sands projects. It is used as fuel to heat the steam used to liquefy the tar-like bitumen for thermal, well-based projects. It’s also a source of heat and hydrogen in mining and upgrading projects, which turn bitumen into synthetic crude.

According to the NEB’s 2006 oil sands Energy Market Assessment, the amount of gas used in oil sands production will rise to 2.1 billion cubic feet a day in 2015 from about 700 million cubic feet last year.

If the board’s forecast, which hinges on nearly C$100 billion (US$90.2 billion) worth of new projects being constructed by 2015, the area will use 13.2 percent of Canada’s current daily gas output of about 17 billion cubic feet a day at the end of 2004.

Canadian gas production peaked at 17.4 billion cubic feet a day in 2001 and 2002, according to figures from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and large new discoveries of natural gas have become rare.

However while gas production is waning, new supplies are expected to reach the oil sands region from the planned Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline, which will bring the fuel down from Canada’s Arctic, as well as from imports of liquefied natural gas and perhaps gas from Alaska.
(2 Jun 2006)

Are Gasoline Alternatives Fuel for a Revolution?

Tomoeh Murakami Tse, Washington Post
…Analysts say these are among indicators of an increase in local activity around alternative fuels and are part of a nationwide trend of more interest in different energy sources than at any other time in the past two decades.

But those who study the quest for alternative fuels are split over whether this recent spate of activity will lead to a focused and sustained effort to find new energy sources. They wonder if the forces at play are the start of an alternative-fuel revolution that will ultimately result in lower prices, fewer emissions and less dependence on foreign oil, or just a spasm of interest that will recede once gas prices fall.

“If you can put your finger on the one item that has prevented the alternative-fuel system from becoming really large in the United States, it’s cheap gasoline,” said Phillip J. Lampert, executive director of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.

Since the oil crisis of the 1970s, the movement to find alternative energy sources has endured false starts, largely unable to maintain bursts of momentum from periods of public outrage about energy prices. Nevertheless, some experts and those who advocate alternative fuels are hopeful that as gasoline prices cross the $3-a-gallon threshold, a truly coordinated effort for new energy can seriously begin.

“We think there’s real momentum behind it,” said George Douglas, a spokesman for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, created in 1974 after the oil crisis. “First of all, we don’t expect oil prices to drop in the near future, and second of all, some of the technologies are very close to being cost-effective.”
(3 June 2006)
Sadly, reporter Tse has completely missed the basic criticisms of ethanol that have appeared in articles at Energy Bulletin and elsewhere:

  • It has a low Energy Return on Energy Invest (EROEI) – especially corn
  • Much of the political impetus for it comes not from objective considerations of the national good, but from Big Agriculture
  • It will take farmland out of food production and raise prices for food
  • Continuous farming of fuel crops would be tragic for the health of the soil

. Related: One Farm Town’s Drive for Energy Independence (NY Times)

EU countries seek to annex lucrative tract of Atlantic seabed

Owen Bowcott, The Guardian
A vast tract of the Atlantic seabed more than 200 miles off shore is being claimed by a coalition of four European countries eager to expand their oil and gas prospecting rights.

The joint submission to the United Nations by France, Ireland, Spain and the UK is based on a novel legal approach that is transforming the international politics of underwater prospecting. Environmentalists have condemned the procedure as legitimising “land grabs”.

The diamond-shaped zone straddles the outer edge of the continental shelf under the Celtic sea and the Bay of Biscay. It covers 31,000 square miles, an area the size of Ireland, at a point where the seabed plunges down to what is known as the Porcupine Abyssal Plain.

…Explaining the move, the [Irish] republic’s foreign minister, Dermot Ahern, said: “We probably don’t have either the technologies or the economics of scale to work in such waters [now]. But as energy prices continue to soar and our ability to tap resources is realised, our exploration rights to such a vast expanse of ocean will pay dividends for generations to come.

“We are effectively locking up control of thousands of square kilometres of unexplored seabed deep into the Atlantic for our children and their children.”

But Greenpeace’s policy director in the UK, Simon Reddy, branded the process as unfair. “This is becoming a bone of contention,” he told the Guardian. “Once a few states try this then everyone will have a go. It’s basically a land grab.

“Countries are trying to seize international areas for their oil and gas resources. Only really wealthy countries [can afford] access to this legal framework. Developing countries will be at a disadvantage.”
(6 June 2006)

Oil price surge may delay airline recovery

Soaring fuel prices could delay a return to profit for the world’s airline industry, its main global body warned Monday, as cost-cutting efforts fail to keep pace.

The International Air Transport Association, hosting airline executives at its annual meeting, raised its 2006 net loss forecast to $3 billion from $2.2 billion.

Unless the price of oil stops rising, IATA chief Giovanni Bisignani said, the sector is unlikely to meet its goal of averting a seventh straight year of net losses since the Sept. 11 attacks by breaking even next year.
(5 Jun 2006)

Can oil companies handle more storms?

Kris Axtman, Christian Science Monitor
While the US Army Corps of Engineers scrambles to defend the Gulf Coast against hurricanes on land, oil companies are preparing to avoid the havoc that last year’s big storms wreaked offshore.

They are fortifying mobile platforms and drilling rigs, putting backup communications systems in place, and working out advance contracts with tug and helicopter services.

But a manpower shortage is hampering these efforts. The shortage is so acute that many companies are still working on last year’s equipment failures. Nine months after hurricanes Katrina and Rita moved through, 21 percent of the Gulf’s oil production and 13 percent of its natural-gas production remain offline.

Even more disconcerting to consumers is that oil and natural gas prices could rise even higher if another strong storm hits the Gulf.
(6 Jun 2006)

Saudi oil production for April dropped to 9.1 million b/d

AFX, Forbes
Saudi Arabia’s oil minister confirmed that his country’s massive crude-oil output has declined in recent months, but attributed the trend to a drop in demand and denied it aims to limit supply, the Wall Street Jouranal Europe reported.

The Saudi minister said the kingdom’s oil output fell to 9.1 mln bbls/day in April, the most recent figures available. Saudi output averaged nearly 9.5 mln bbls/day in the first quarter, according to data compiled by the International Energy Agency.
(5 Jun 2006)