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The Peak Oil Crisis: E=mc2

Tom Whipple, Falls Church News-Press
There have been some interesting developments in the cold fusion, or the now-preferred name Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR), story in the last couple of weeks that are worth noting. For the last 20 years a small band of ill-funded scientists have been laboring away at combining either palladium or nickel with hydrogen in an effort to produce heat. After hundreds of experiments, each varying some parameter or other, a number of scientists say they can produce heat in reproducible experiments. Because of the bad name acquired 20 years ago after many labs were unable to reproduce the effects seen in the Utah “cold fusion” experiments, developments in the field have been slow and gone largely unreported except in highly technical circles.

At last count, however, there were approximately 200 technical papers either published or given at conferences reporting that anomalous amounts of heat were developed during efforts to fuse palladium or nickel with hydrogen or deuterium. The lack of publicity in recent years has been that while heat can now be reliably produced at will, no one has yet come up with an agreed-upon theory as to just what is happening at the atomic level. Without such a theory, mainstream science remains locked into the position that there is something wrong with the experiments. It is held that either the experimenters are not making their measurements of excess heat properly or the claims are fraudulent.
(7 December 2011)

The Estonian connection: Or how I started worrying about oil shale

Jonathan Thompson, High Country News
The last big oil shale* boom in the West busted on “Black Sunday” 1982. I was 11 years old, then, living in Western Colorado, and I can still remember my dad explaining the boom, the bust and the process necessary to get the “oil” out of the shale.

Here’s a primer: Underground room and pillar or strip mining is typically used to get the rock, which is then ground up, heated to extremely high temperatures, or retorted, to get the “oil” out of the kerogen, a waxy hydrocarbon. The oil then must be processed and refined in order to make them into a mid-grade fuel. It’s a water-intensive process. The leftover shale — laden with the same sort of nasty heavy metals and other substances as coal combustion waste — actually expands during the process, making disposal a bit of a challenge.

It sounded as crazy back then as it does now.

And it’s that very craziness that has largely kept oil shale off my radar as a journalist covering the big issues in the West. It’s simply too costly, too inefficient and too illogical for any profit-minded company to pour billions of dollars into trying to make it work. Why waste time, I thought, worrying about something that was nothing more than some western Colorado energy booster’s waxy hydrocarbon dream?

Then, this spring, Eesti Energia, the biggest energy company in the tiny country of Estonia, bought the Oil Shale Exploration Company and its oil shale land and research lease in Eastern Utah. My views on oil shale were tipped upside down.

… *Oil shale is not the same as what’s known as shale oil. I’m sure Goat readers know that. Unfortunately, a few energy journalists (i.e. Wall Street Journal reporters) don’t. Shale oil (a better term would be oil-bearing shale) is basically oil trapped in shale that can be released via hydraulic fracturing. Once free, the oil behaves pretty much like any other oil, complete with gushers and all. Oil shale (a better term would be kerogen-bearing rock) starts its long life in much the same way as conventional oil. But it never completely matures, getting stuck instead at a stage of hydrocarbon adolescence called kerogen. That leaves humans to finish the geological growing-up process. Shale oil drilling is a booming business in formations such as the Niobrara in Colorado and the Bakken in North Dakota. Commercial oil shale production in the U.S. remains elusive.

Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News and a 2011-2012 Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder.
(6 December 2011)

Experts see demand for oil and gas declining

Ross Jackson, Gulf Times
A number of experts at the World Petroleum Congress (WPC) yesterday said that peak oil production will not be reached any time in the near future, but demand for oil and gas must decline in the coming decades if energy prices and population sustainability are to remain stable.

… On the question of whether or not peak oil will arrive in the coming years, the response of Total CEO Christophe de Margerie was simple: “There will be sufficient oil and gas and energy as a whole to cover the demand. That’s all”

He said that what is important is how we view the future of the energy mix, including nuclear and renewable energy sources, as well as environmental conservation.

“Even using pessimistic assumptions, I cannot see how energy demand will grow less than 25% in twenty years time. Today we have roughly the oil equivalent of 260mn barrels per day (in total energy production), and our expectation for 2030 is 325mn bpd,” de Margerie said.

He estimates that fossil fuels will continue to make up 76% of the energy supply by 2050. “We have plenty of resources, the problem is how to extract the resources in an acceptable manner, being accepted by people, because today a lot of things are not acceptable.”

The challenge is to find a way that is acceptable rather than simply ruling it out, whether it is using nuclear technology or exploiting oil and gas resources in environmentally sensitive areas.
De Margerie said that if unconventional sources of oil, including heavy oil and oil shale, are exploited, there will be sufficient oil to meet today’s consumption for up to 100 years, and for gas the rough estimate is 135 years.
(8 December 2011)

La fin du pétrole, c’est pour quand ?

En 2000, on lui donnait une espérance de vie de 40 ans. Aujourd’hui, on parle de la fin des gisements de pétrole pour 2053. Mais la situation est plus complexe. Explications.

“Un jour, il n’y aura plus de pétrole”. Oui, mais pas tout de suite: les réserves mondiales d’or noir ont gonflé ces dernières années et la tendance devrait se poursuivre, selon les industriels, même si la production, elle, risque d’avoir du mal à suivre.

“Dire à quelqu’un qu’il va mourir n’est pas une prédiction, c’est une tautologie. Ce qu’il veut savoir, c’est quand, et comment”, résume Nasser Al Jaidah, le PDG de la compagnie Qatar Petroleum International, lors du Congrès pétrolier mondial de Doha qui s’est penché sur la question.

… A Doha, le PDG de Total Christophe de Margerie a expliqué que le groupe prévoyait que la production de pétrole brut plafonne à 95 millions de barils par jour (contre 82 millions l’an dernier) au cours de la décennie 2020-2030.

La suite, “c’est un point d’interrogation”, concède-t-il, tout en se disant optimiste. “Il y a beaucoup de ressources, le problème c’est d’extraire les ressources”, a résumé le patron français.

A chercher toujours plus profond, dans des zones toujours plus inhospitalières, avec des technologies toujours plus complexes, les coûts explosent. “C’est la fin du pétrole bon marché”, reconnaît M. de Margerie.

“Est-ce qu’à la place du peak oil, il ne faut pas parler plutôt de peak money (“pic d’argent”)”, s’interroge à Paris Claude Landil, ancien directeur de l’Agence internationale de l’énergie (AIE). “On a du pétrole, on a du gaz, mais on n’a plus l’argent pour aller le chercher”, souligne l’expert.
(7 December 2011)
Aussi – RTBF