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Peak oil, uranium, phosphorus - Sept 29

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage.

N. American oil output could top 40-year-old peak

Tom Fowler, Houston Chronicle
North America appears headed for an oil renaissance, with crude production expected to hit an all-time high by 2016, given the current pace of drilling in the U.S. and Canada, according to a study released by an energy research firm this week.

U.S. oil production in areas including West Texas' Permian Basin, South Texas' Eagle Ford shale, and North Dakota's Bakken shale will record a rise of a little over 2 million barrels per day from 2010 to 2016, according to data compiled by Bentek Energy, a Colorado firm that tracks energy infrastructure and production projects.
(28 September 2011)

The End of Cheap Uranium
(PDF of slides for talk)
Michael Dittmar (ETH-Zürich), World Resource Forum 2011, Davos, Switzerland


• Regions and countries with terminated uranium mines demonstrate:
1) uranium is a finite resource (like fossil fuels)
2) on average only about 50-70% of the original resource can be extracted.

• Depletions of uranium deposits in Canada and Australia leads to a simple and accurate mining model:
A ``constant” annual production value is determined such that the best resource estimate allows a mine lifetime of 10 ± 2 year.

• Model prediction of ``maximal annual uranium extraction” up to 2030”:
58 ± 4 ktons around 2015, 56 ± 5 ktons (2020), 54 ± 5 ktons (2025) and 41 ± 5 ktons (2030)

• Supply gaps will develop within a few years and lead to ``The End of Cheap Uranium!” (even under a constant world nuclear capacity scenario of 370 GWe)

A supply crunch can only be avoided under -1%/year (or more) worldwide nuclear power phase out scenario.
(20 September 2011)
Also available:

The end of cheap uranium
Paper (long version) (PDF) submitted to the 2011 World Resource Forum in Davos (19-21 September 2011)

The future of nuclear energy: Facts and Fiction (PDF) - An update using the 2009 and (early) 2010 data.
Paper (21 January 2011)

Peak Phosphorus

"Catalyst", ABC (Australia)
It's exactly this capacity to combine with what plants need that makes it such a useful fertiliser.

In the natural world, phosphorus is safely locked away in phosphate rocks. They build up as sediments on the seafloor from river run-off, or from bird droppings on islands like Nauru.

Chemical processing unlocks the power of phosphorus from these ancient rocks to make the superphosphate fertilisers that maintain global agriculture.

Mark Horstman
Phosphate deposits take millions of years to form, but after less than a century of mining them for fertiliser there's serious concern that the available resources are running out.

Luc Maene
We know that without the products that we manufacture we would not be able to feed the seven billion people we have now and the nine billion we will have in the future.

Dr Dana Cordell
We have at least three meals a day, and without phosphorus, you can't have those three meals a day.

Having lunch with sustainability researcher Dr Dana Cordell gives me plenty of food for thought.

Dr Dana Cordell
The phosphorus that's sitting here in our food today might have started its life in a phosphate mine in Western Sahara, and then shipped to the US for processing into fertilisers, and then shipped to Australia for application on Australian soils.

Discovering how much is embodied in food has led Dana to a vegetarian diet.

Dr Dana Cordell
Our research is telling us that to support a meat-based diet like you've got will probably take about two to three times more phosphorus than for a vegetarian-based diet.

Meat is more phosphorus intensive because of the crops grown to feed the livestock.

Dr Dana Cordell
While Australia has naturally phosphorous-deficient soils, we have at the same time invested in phosphorous intensive export commodities, like live sheep, beef, and wheat, which require a lot of phosphorous input, a lot of fertiliser input, for the output that we get.

All this leaves our economy vulnerable to future shocks of phosphorus scarcity.

Dr Dana Cordell
We've really reached the situation where Australia is completely addicted to phosphate, and about half of that comes from imported sources.

Like peak oil, she warns that the world is fast reaching the time when global production of available phosphate supplies peak, and then start to decline.

Dr Dana Cordell
If farmers can't access phosphorous world-wide, we'll see a decline in global crop yields.

Mark Horstman
When's the crunch point?

Dr Dana Cordell
Well, our analysis is showing that we're likely to see a peak phosphorous event within the next few decades, by 2035.
(17 March 2011)
Nice 6 minute video at the original.

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