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Fossil fuels - August 19

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Oman turns to coal for power

Reuters via TraderArabia
Oman plans to build coal-fired power plants to beat a shortage of gas to fuel future projects for economic diversification, an Oil and Gas Ministry official said on Monday.

The Gulf is the world's biggest oil exporting region, but has been slow to develop massive gas reserves. Rapid economic growth has absorbed fuel supplies and left all the countries in the region except Qatar short of gas.

"It makes a lot of sense to build coal-fired power plants as an alternative to gas since we don't have enough gas to fuel all of our future projects," Zaid Al Siyabi, director general of exploration at the ministry, told Reuters.
(18 August 2008)



Carbon sequestration frustration

Patrick Barry, ScienceNews
Burying carbon dioxide from coal-fired plants could increase other pollutants

As pollution bad guys go, carbon dioxide may be the media darling, but trying to capture it and lock it away could allow other repeat offenders to go free.

Power plant emissions that cause acid rain, water pollution and destruction of the ozone layer may actually be made worse by capturing the CO2 and pumping it deep underground, a new study reported online and in an upcoming International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control suggests.

This increase of other emissions is largely because collecting and burying CO2 - a process called carbon sequestration - requires additional energy, new equipment and new chemical reactions at the plants. And using current technology, meeting all of these requirements releases extra pollutants.
(13 August 2008)




Oil shale stuck between rock and wild place

Michael Riley, Denver Post
GARFIELD COUNTY - The ramshackle collection of wellheads and electric cables hidden in a pine-covered draw west of Rifle doesn't look like much now, but until three years ago it was the home of the oil industry's equivalent of the Manhattan Project.

Over five years here, Shell Oil conducted a series of secretive experiments that have the potential to blow open the status quo of North American oil production, unlocking the vast reserves of oil shale that underlie Colorado's Western Slope.

Early attempts failed miserably. But beginning in 2002, Shell drilled a honeycombed series of wells, then lowered in giant heating elements, raising the temperature of the shale to 650 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 months. Out flowed an abundance of high-quality shale oil.

"It was our 'eureka' moment," said Tracy Boyd, a spokesman for Shell, smiling as he showed off the historic spot. "Now we know we have a technology that works."

Now that and similar technologies have become fodder in the increasingly contentious energy debate, holding out the possibility that, in an era of $4-a-gallon gasoline, America might just be sitting on oil reserves equal to a 100-year supply of the country's imports.

... On one hand, there is little doubt among experts that Shell's technology represents a breakthrough. It's a fundamentally different approach from the one that guided the failed efforts of Exxon here in the 1980s, producing an unconventional hydrocarbon - technically a form of synthetic oil - that is higher in quality and concentration even than conventional oil. (Consider the fact that the recovery rate in Shell's experiment was 62 percent, compared with 25 percent for the average conventional oil field.)

On the other hand, the technology is in such early development that there is no realistic chance it will impact oil supplies (and thus prices) for at least 15 years, according to oil-company officials and analysts, putting it on the far side of other options such as offshore drilling and plug-in hybrid cars.

It's also possible the technology simply won't pan out.
(17 August 2008)

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