Welcome to the ODAC Newsletter, a weekly roundup from the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, the UK registered charity dedicated to raising awareness of peak oil.

Oil set a series of new highs this week, and closed at just under $117 as ODAC went to print. And for once this week’s coverage focused less on market minutiae and more on the fundamental supply constraints.

True, there was some big talk from the head of Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency, who claimed the country harbours a monster discovery offshore of some 33 billion barrels. But the Agency quickly distanced itself from these remarks. In the first of four guest commentaries this week Dr. Michael Smith puts the find into perspective.

Even if true, the Brazilian claims were eclipsed in significance by two major stories in the FT this week. One revealed that a report by advisors to the Nigerian government had concluded the country’s “total oil and gas production will decline by 30 per cent from its current level by 2015” even if current levels of E&P funding are maintained. The other reported remarks by Lukoil VP Leonid Fedun that Russian oil output has peaked. In our second guest commentary, we bring you a real insider’s view of this profoundly important news, from Ray Leonard, the former head of exploration at Yukos.

The other important news story this week is that a Japanese company has succeeded in producing industrial quantities of methane hydrates from more than a kilometer down for six days in a row, a development that potentially heralds the unleashing of vast quantities of this non-conventional gas. To explain what this means for the climate, our third guest commentary comes from Pushker Karecha, a Climate Scientist with the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and co-author of an important paper on peak oil and climate change with GISS director Jim Hansen.

This week also saw the opening of Britain’s first hydrogen fuel station at Birmingham University, but as usual nobody is asking where the hydrogen will come from in the long term. According to the Times, “the car industry has seen the fuel cell as the holy grail that will help to relieve it of its dependence on oil”, but our fourth guest commentary, from David Strahan, ODAC trustee and author of The Last Oil Shock, shows that to be delusional.

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Lukoil VP says Russian oil output peaked in 2007
Russia braces for oil output decline
Guest Commentary: Ray Leonard, Vice President Kuwait Energy, April 16, 2008
Nigeria’s oil output ‘could fall by a third’
New find sparks Brazil’s latest burst of oil fever
Guest Commentary: Dr. Michael R. Smithwww.energyfiles.com
What lies beneath
Iraq opens door to foreign contracts at major oil fields
Venezuela raises foreign oil tax
Chinese fund builds up £1bn stake in BP
Supply-side squeeze explains spike in oil
IEA cuts world oil demand growth by most in 7 years
Oil surges as investors hunt an ‘anti-dollar’

Japan’s Arctic methane hydrate haul raises environment fears
Guest Commentary: Pushker Kharecha, Climate Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies/Columbia University Earth Institute, Apr. 16, 2008
Gazprom signs fuel supply deal with Libya
Tehran delivers gas ultimatum
EU manoeuvring for non-Russian gas supplies

Big oil to big wind: Texas veteran sets up $10bn clean energy project

Petrol must now include biofuels
Biofuel: the burning question
Biofuels: a blueprint for the future?
Poor go hungry while rich fill their tanks

Rice traders hit by panic as prices surge
World leaders urge action on food prices
Manila calls for Asian summit over food crisis
Global food system ‘must change’
Change in farming can feed world – report

Bush climate strategy falls flat
Stern takes bleaker view on warming

Energy firms to raise fuel poverty spending
Japan shuns UK power investment

Hydrogen fuel stations for cars land in Britain

Guest Commentary: David Strahan is a trustee of ODAC, and the author of The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man
The debate about hydrogen normally focuses on short term obstacles such as the cost of fuel cells or the lack of a fuel distribution infrastructure. But the real issue is how to produce enough of the fuel itself.

Most hydrogen today is stripped out of natural gas, a process which emits carbon dioxide – rather defeating the climate claims of the proponents of the so-called hydrogen economy. To produce the gas cleanly and in bulk you must electrolyze water, which requires huge amounts of power. (To give an idea of scale, two chlorine plants operated in Cheshire by Ineos Chlor, which produce the chemical by electrolyzing salt water, consume more electricity than the entire city of Liverpool).

Then, to reduce the hydrogen gas to a manageable volume, it must either be chilled to -160C to become liquid, or must be compressed, both of which processes require more energy.
Because of all this, to run Britain’s road transport on cleanly generated hydrogen would require a massive expansion of electricity generating capacity: 42 Sizewell B nuclear power stations (we currently have the equivalent of 10); solar panels covering every inch of Lincolnshire; or a wind farm covering the either northwest region of England. You would be much better off developing electric vehicles, where the energy losses between wind turbine and tarmac are massively smaller. It is mystifying therefore that so many apparently intelligent people remain transfixed by the hydrogen mirage.

David Strahan is a trustee of ODAC, and the author of ‘The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man’, John Murray, 2007

800,000 eco-cars by 2015 – Volkswagen likely to make units locally
Record fuel costs hit US airlines’ profits
Eurostar sees 21% increase in passengers