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Former oil expert from the IEA: decline of ‘all liquids’ soon after 2015
(in French)
Matthieu Auzanneau, Oil Man (blog), Le Monde
Le pétrole déclinera peu après 2015, selon un ancien expert de l’Agence internationale de l’énergie

Olivier Rech a élaboré les scénarios pétroliers de l’Agence internationale de l’énergie (AIE) durant trois ans, jusqu’en 2009. Il conseille désormais d’importants fonds d’investissements pour le compte de La Française AM, un gestionnaire d’actifs parisien.

Ses pronostics sur l’avenir de la production de pétrole sont aujourd’hui beaucoup plus pessimistes que ceux publiés par l’AIE…

… Q: Alors le pic et le déclin de la production mondiale de pétrole, c’est pour quand, selon vous ?

A: Il est toujours délicat d’avancer une date précise. Les taux de récupération des champs existants augmentent. Aux Etats-Unis, la production à terre décline très lentement (il faut dire qu’ils forent comme des fous là-bas). C’est une erreur de sous-estimer le savoir-faire des ingénieurs spécialistes du forage.

… Q: Donc, vous êtes nettement plus alarmiste que l’AIE et que Total, le plus pessimiste des groupes pétroliers, qui évoque la possibilité de maintenir la production sur un plateau situé aux alentours de 95 Mb/j jusqu’en 2030.

A: C’est exact. La production de l’ensemble des pétroles se trouve déjà sur un plateau depuis 2005, autour de 82 Mb/j. [NDLR : avec les biocarburants et la transformation du charbon en carburant liquide, on arrive à 88 Mb/j]. Il me paraît impossible d’aller beaucoup plus loin. Puisque la demande, elle, devrait continuer à augmenter (sauf, peut-être, si la crise gagne les économies émergentes), je m’attends à voir les premières tensions d’ici 2013-2015.

Q: Et ensuite ?

A: Ensuite, d’après moi, ce sera un déclin de la production sur la période 2015 à 2020. Un déclin pas forcement rapide d’ailleurs, mais un déclin, ça semble clair.
(20 December 2011)
Suggested by the author Matthieu Auzanneau, who writes: “It’s the first time that we have an ex full time expert from the IEA talking to the press and moreover giving such a pessimistic diagnosis.”

Matthieu Auzanneau is a long-time EB contributor. He writes: “Je suis journaliste indépendant, spécialiste d’économie et d’écologie (mais c’est la même chose, non ?)”

If you are interested in translating this piece, contact Matthieu via his website. -BA

Nigeria on alert as Shell announces worst oil spill in a decade

John Vidal, Guardian
Nigerian coastal and fishing communities were on Thursday put on alert after Shell admitted to an oil spill that is likely to be the worst in the area for a decade, according to government officials..

The company said up to 40,000 barrels of crude oil was spilled on Wednesday while it was transferred from a floating oil platform to a tanker 75 miles off the coast of the Niger delta.

All production from the Bonga field, which produces around 200,000 barrels a day, was last night suspended. “Early indications show that less than 40,000 barrels of oil have leaked in total. Spill response procedures have been initiated and emergency control and spill risk procedures are up and running,” said Tony Okonedo, a Shell Nigeria spokesman.

Satellite pictures obtained by independent monitors Skytruth suggested that the spill was 70km-long and was spread over 923 square kilometers (356 sq miles).

But a leading Nigerian human rights group said Shell’s figures about the quantity of oil spilled or the clean-up could not be relied on.
(22 December 2011)

Shelling out the Oil in Waters off Nigeria: Radar Satellite Image December 21, 2011

John Amos, SkyTruth
Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian drilling operations in the highly productive Bonga Field were officially brought to a halt yesterday after “less than 40,000 barrels of oil” (1.7 million gallons) were reportedly leaked during a transfer of crude to a tanker. We’ve just processed a radar satellite image taken this morning (December 21, 2011) of the field, with the spill clearly visible.  Here it is showing the slick outlined in yellow; it is about 70 km (45 miles) long, 17 km (10 miles) wide at it’s widest, and covers 923 square kilometers (356 square miles) of ocean: 
Envisat ASAR satellite radar image showing large slick (outlined in yellow) from major oil spill off Niger Delta.  Image courtesy European Space Agency.Envisat ASAR satellite radar image showing large slick (outlined in yellow) from major oil spill off Niger Delta.  Image courtesy European Space Agency.

Another, much smaller oil slick appears at lower right; this looks like a bilge dump from a passing vessel, not related to the Shell spill.

Located 120 km off the the Nigerian coast, the Bonga Field is the first deepwater oil exploration and production project for the country since Shell began offshore drilling there in 2005. Shell’s onshore operations in the Delta have a long history of spills.

Map showing location of Bonga Field off Nigeria. Courtesy Marcel De Jong, Shell Deepwater Services Regional Study Team.Map showing location of Bonga Field off Nigeria. Courtesy Marcel De Jong, Shell Deepwater Services Regional Study Team.
(21 December 2011)
Suggested by MJ Marcus of TPA who writes:

Early this morning I learned of a devastating oil spill off the Nigerian coast (40,000 barrels Shell says) from their deepwater well, and I feel so grateful Transition and so many are working to eliminate our dependence on oil. This is one of the first times, we are getting independent satellite footage of the spill:

“The spill is happening 75 miles off the coast so it’s hard to verify what’s happening, but I really feel for our oceans and the people of Nigeria.

More about the spill from SkyTruth:
Shell Oil Spill off Nigeria – Questions….
Another Satellite Image of Shell Oil Spill in Nigeria
Shell Oil Spill, Nigeria: FPSOs Coming to the US

About Sky Truth:
“SkyTruth promotes environmental awareness and protection with remote sensing and digital mapping technology. We provide stunning images backed by scientifically robust information about our changing environment to stimulate changes in habitat protection, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable resource management … “


Oil Workers Rise Up in Kazakhstan, Face Brutal Crackdown

Michelle Chen, In These Times
Every protest movement has its slogan: Tax the rich, we are the 99%. The striking oil workers in Kazakhstan, though, put it a bit more bluntly: “Don’t Shoot the People.”

The statement of stark desperation and defiance was displayed by protesters in the western Kazakh city of Aktau on Monday. Hundreds of them gathered to defend their labor rights and confronted a hail of bullets.

[A general view of riot police after at least 14 people were killed in violent clashes in Zhanaozen, in this still image taken from a video acquired on December 17, 2011. ] A general view of riot police after at least 14 people were killed in violent clashes in Zhanaozen, in this still image taken from a video acquired on December 17, 2011. The New York Times reported, “The authorities have put the death toll from those clashes at 14, though witnesses and human rights workers have said the number of dead could be many times higher. Scores more have reportedly been injured.”

The scene was replayed elsewhere in the region.
(22 December 2011)

The Chinese Solar Machine

Kevin Bullis, Technology Review (MIT)
Chinese manufacturers have ­dominated the international ­market for conventional solar ­panels by ­building bigger ­factories faster. Now they will need to ­innovate to maintain their lead.

Ten years ago, solar panels were made mostly in the United States, Germany, and Japan. Chinese manufacturers made almost none. But by 2006, the Chinese company Suntech Power had the capacity to make over a million silicon-based solar panels a year and was already the world’s third-largest producer. Today Chinese manufacturers make about 50 million solar panels a year—over half the world’s supply in 2010—and include four of the world’s top five solar-panel manufacturers. What makes this particularly impressive is that the industry elsewhere has been doubling in size every two years, and Chinese manufacturers have done even better, doubling their production roughly every year.

This dominance isn’t due to cheap labor in Chinese factories: making solar cells requires such expensive equipment and materials that labor contributes just a small fraction of the overall cost. Nor is it because the Chinese companies have introduced cells that last longer or produce more power: by and large, they make the same type of silicon-based solar panels as many of their competitors around the world, using the same equipment. They have succeeded in large part because it’s faster and cheaper for them to build factories, thanks to inexpensive, efficient construction crews and China’s streamlined permitting process. The new factories have the latest, most efficient equipment, which helps cut costs. So do the efficiencies that come with size. As a result, Chinese manufacturers have been able to undercut other makers of silicon solar panels and dash the hopes of many upstarts hoping to introduce novel technology.

But the solar market is rapidly evolving, and technological innovations are becoming increasingly essential. Though demand for solar power continues to grow around the world, the market is flooded with photovoltaic panels: worldwide production capacity more than doubled from 2009 to 2010 and continued to increase in 2011. The overcapacity was so great that last fall, Chinese manufacturers had trouble selling solar panels for more than it cost to make them. In such a market, the way to differentiate your product—and charge enough to stay afloat—is to make it better than your competitors’.

For solar manufacturers today, that means inventing cells that are more efficient at converting light to electricity. As the price of solar panels has fallen, installation costs have come to account for a greater percentage of solar power’s cost.
(January/February 2012 issue)
Suggested by Daniel Lerch of Post Carbon Institute, who writes: “Author Steve Bullis is increasingly posting about sustainability-oriented trends.” -BA