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Hurricane Ike and Oil Refineries/Infrastructure Thread #2

The Oil Drum
Hurricane Ike’s current track predicts landfall between Corpus Christi and Galveston, but has been moving northwards. Within the current NHC storm path lies about 5 million bpd of US petroleum refining capacity. (Perspective: 5 MMBBL is about 30% of US capacity (about 15 MMBBL), and a bit less than 6% of global capacity (~85 MMBBL).

New updates (16:30 EDT) and graphs below the fold:
(10 September 2008)
Latest coverage from TOD.

An urban legend to comfort America: oil is oil, even if it is not oil

Fabius Maximus
This is the fourth post in a series examining “urban legends” about energy that comfort Americans.

… (4) Oil is Oil, even if it is not oil

A common reply to warnings about peak oil is that we have vast reserves of oil. True, but misleading and of limited significance over short- and medium-term horizons.

When the world relied mostly on oil from the wonderful super-giant fields, the distinction between different types of oil was trivial except to those in the oil business. Sweet, sour, deep — these were technical terms. Now that these conventional sources are peaking, we must turn to unconventional sources. Calling unconventional sources ”oil” leads to serious confusion.

More accurately seen, there is a spectrum of petroleum resources beyond conventionals. Peak oil is a transitional period during which we move…

* from reliance on relatively scarce, cheap, and easily tapped conventional oil
* to more abundant, expensive, and difficult to exploit unconventional sources (and alternative energy).

Another way to see this: extraction of conventionals are constrained by their limited abundance. Unconventionals are constrained by our ability to produce them, due to their greater operational complexity and lower energy-return-on-investment (EROI). The result: the price of the oil products increases over time. No matter how frequently said, the development of unconventionals probably will not lower the price of oil. I believe that technological breakthoughs eventually will produce new energy sources — a faith-based statement — but that might be years or even generations in the future.

The difference in EROI is esp important and often ignored.
(10 September 2008)

Energy Vision 2050 – part I

Sterling Smith, The Oil Drum: Europe
While many people who are just beginning to learn about peak oil do not yet grasp how serious it will be for society, many of those who do understand the threat are perhaps overly pessimistic of the world’s chances for shifting to a new energy base and even of maintaining civilization. Much of this debate revolves around the desirability of trying to preserve modern civilization and its apparent reliance on physical growth, but many also doubt that there are any energy alternatives to oil and the other fossil fuels that could possibly ramp up to address the looming need. I think we need to decouple these two issues and debate them separately. This article does not attempt to answer the question of whether civilization is worth saving. I think we need to answer that question “can we preserve modern civilization” before we try to take on the question of “should we do so”?

… My reading of the evidence convinces me that the world possesses adequate energy resource to power a civilization like ours into the indefinite future. However, for this to happen, we will have to transition to a radically different energy infrastructure in the years to 2050. Can the world survive this transition? My faith in the ingenuity, persistence and will to survive of mankind says yes but I am not prepared to defend that at this time.

… The Solution

This article assumes that the world has sources of energy in nuclear, wind and solar that are not supply limited and it has the will and the means to transition to a new energy base after fossil fuels are no longer available. In my view, the only credible way to do this is with a large nuclear, wind and solar buildup. In my model nuclear increases 19 fold and wind and solar increase 158 fold.
(9 September 2008)

Full transcript of interview with Zac Goldsmith

Zac Goldsmith, UK Times
Zac Goldsmith, former editor of The Ecologist and Conservative candidate for Richmond Park

… I think we’re going to see localisation of the economy in any case as a direct consequence of rising oil prices, as the cost of transporting stuff around the world increases, it’s going to make more and more sense to grow stuff, or to reduce the distance between producers and consumers, so I think that’s going to happen in any case. But obviously there are some things which are always going to be global and other things, which will move much more towards the local, to the human scale.

I don’t know whether the issue of peak oil has been taken out of context or whether it’s been blown out of proportion, but the truth is every one of our economic models, every one of our projections, all our assumptions are based on the availability of affordable oil. And, if peak oil theory is correct, and there are lots of people in the oil industry who say that it is, then we ought to know that, and I’d like to see a process where there is an audit of world oil supplies so we can start factoring the reality into our projections. Because if peak oil is true, if it’s around the corner, or if we’ve already hit it, then the impact on our lives will be far greater in the short term than the consequences of climate change. It’s a massive, potentially a massive issue. It may be nothing, it may be massive, but we ought to know the truth.

I don’t know how high up on the radar peak oil is as an issue, but you can be sure that if peak oil becomes a reality, if it starts kicking in, if we start realising that actually the peak oil theorists are correct, every one of us will feel the implications. Food prices will increase dramatically, the cost of living will increase dramatically, way more than anything we’ve seen at the moment. So, if it isn’t a big issue now, and if it is the case that peak oil is a reality, it’s going to be the biggest political issue of all.
(10 September 2008)

We have learned to live with $100, and cheap oil is not in our interest

Hamish McRae, UK Independent
Might the present oil shock dissipate as it did in the 1970s and we head back to cheap oil again? The working assumption of most people is that it won’t and that the age of cheap oil will never return – not just in our lifetimes but never, ever. But the oil price has dipped below $100 a barrel and the fact that Opec plans production cuts does suggest that some producers at least feel that cheaper, if not cheap oil, is on the cards.

What is expensive and what is cheap? It is a measure of the battering that oil-users have taken that oil at $100 should be a relief. Go back 18 months and such a price would have been almost unthinkable and the consequences horrendous. As it has turned out the prices have been higher, yet the consequences less grave.

… So the world has learnt to live with oil at $100, or so it seems. How it has done so matters a lot because it goes some way to explaining how future growth might be sustained in the face of undoubtedly tight oil supplies and the inescapable truth that oil supplies are finite.

The explanation is partly one of substitution and partly one of efficiency.
(11 September 2008)

NASA study illustrates how global peak oil could impact climate

Goddard Space Flight Center via Physorg
The burning of fossil fuels — notably coal, oil and gas — has accounted for about 80 percent of the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide since the pre-industrial era. Now, NASA researchers have identified feasible emission scenarios that could keep carbon dioxide below levels that some scientists have called dangerous for climate.

When and how global oil production will peak has been debated, making it difficult to anticipate emissions from the burning of fuel and to precisely estimate its impact on climate. To better understand how emissions might change in the future, Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York considered a wide range of fossil fuel consumption scenarios. The research, published Aug. 5 in the American Geophysical Union’s Global Biogeochemical Cycles, shows that the rise in carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels can be kept below harmful levels as long as emissions from coal are phased out globally within the next few decades.

“This is the first paper in the scientific literature that explicitly melds the two vital issues of global peak oil production and human-induced climate change,” Kharecha said. “We’re illustrating the types of action needed to get to target carbon dioxide levels.”
(10 September 2008)

‘Smart Water’ May Help Boost Production From Oil Wells By 60 Percent

Researchers in Norway report that injecting a special type of seawater called “smart water” into certain low-yield oil wells may help boost oil extraction by as much as 60 percent. The study could help meet rising energy demands and provide consumers with some financial relief at the gas pump in the future, the scientists suggest.

In the new study, Tor Austad and colleagues note that more than 50 percent of the world’s oil reserves — billions of gallons of oil — are trapped in oil reservoirs composed of calcium carbonate, rocks that include chalk and limestone.

Scientists now inject seawater into chalk-based oil wells to boost oil extraction, but researchers do not know if the method will work for oil wells composed of limestone, a tough material known for its low oil-recovery rates — usually less than 30 percent, but in some cases less than 5 percent.

To find out, the scientists collected core samples from Middle East oil reservoirs composed of limestone and soaked them in crude oil for several weeks. They then prepared batches of so-called “smart water,” seawater formulated with sulfate and other substances to improve seawater’s ability to penetrate limestone. In laboratory studies, they showed that irrigating the limestone samples with “smart water” led to the same fundamental chemical reactions that occur in chalk. Upcoming experiments will verify if the efficiency in oil recovery is comparable to the observations in chalk, the scientists note.
(9 September 2008)
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