Energy – April 30

April 30, 2011

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage.

Deep Oil From Diamonds? Maybe, Says A New Report

Chris Rhodes, Energy Source (blog), Forbes
According to a new computer model, liquid methane in contact with a partially hydrogen-terminated diamond surface at extremely high pressures and temperatures spontaneously forms longer hydrocarbons, and hence the material of crude oil could be formed deep in the earth.

… The authors of the study do not claim to have proved a case for abiotic oil, but they note that hydrocarbons could be formed by purely mineral means in particular geological environments such as rifts and subduction zones where the temperatures and pressures are “right”, i.e. 1,500 K and 50,000 times the pressure at the surface of the Earth.

… Fascinating of course, and undoubtedly these results will be taken in some quarters to mean that we will never run out of oil, Peak Oil being bunkum. But even if there were proven to be vast underground lakes of hydrocarbons, if we cannot recover them fast enough to begin matching the current 30 billion barrels/year of contemporary use and rising, it makes no difference. We should not be thrown any red-herrings that we need not press-on toward a future that is far less dependent on oil, and indeed a better planned use of energy in all its forms.
(30 April 2011)
Good post from Forbes, proving once again that the best energy reporting is coming from the financial publications. -BA

Romney blames high prices on insufficient supply

Glen Johnson, Boston Globe
… The prospective Republican presidential contender said the Obama administration’s reliance on creating green technologies and renewable energy supplies is commendable, but it has also caused price increases because of the expectation that supply of existing fuels will not increase.

He called for more oil drilling and natural gas pipelines, as well as coal production.

“The reason you’re seeing these high prices is because of the extraordinary growth in demand globally and the inability of this nation to create sufficient supply,” Romney told reporters as he visited Hillsborough Gas & Repair before a GOP candidate forum in New Hampshire.

“It’s a supply-and-demand imbalance, and if we’re going to get prices down, we’re going to have to finally address our sources of energy,” he added. “Instead of trying to find a scapegoat, as I watched the president (say) the other day, ‘We’re gonna investigate and see who’s gouging,’ well, that’s always a good thing to do; there’s nothing wrong with finding out who the gougers are, but that’s not the reason for gasoline prices at the level we’re seeing. The reason for these prices is because we have not kept our supply in line with our demand.”
(29 April 2011)

Nuclear waste: Keep out – for 100,000 years

Steve Rose, Guardian
Few architects have to design anything to last more than 100 years, so how do you build a nuclear waste facility to last for millennia? And what sign do you put on the door?

… The legacy of Chernobyl will be remembered for much, much longer than anyone would wish. According to estimates, this area of northern Ukraine will be uninhabitable for decades, if not centuries.

We like to think of our architectural treasures as milestones of human progress. The Egyptian pyramids, say, or the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps we imagine a Planet of the Apes-like scenario where our ruined monuments will stand as testament to our civilisation long after we’re gone. But what will most probably outlive anything else we have ever built will be our nuclear legacy. Whatever its pros and cons as an energy source, one thing that’s non-negotiable about nuclear power is the construction it necessitates. Less than a century after we first split the atom, we’re now coming to appreciate the vast technological, engineering, financial and political resources nuclear technology demands. In terms of scale, complexity and longevity, much of this stuff makes Dubai’s Burj Khalifa look like a sandcastle.

… the industry has so far generated nearly 300,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste, and counting. To be safe, it must be isolated from all living organisms for at least 100,000 years.

Current opinion is that the best thing to do with nuclear waste is put it underground in what is known as a “deep geological repository”. At present, there are no such repositories in operation anywhere.

… This longevity poses Onkalo’s custodians, and others in their position, with another unprecedented design issue: what sign should you put on the door? As one expert says in Into Eternity, the message is simple: “This is not an important place; it is a place of danger. Stay away from the site. Do not disturb the site.” But how to communicate with people so far in the future? Put up a sign in a language they don’t understand and they are sure to open it just to see what’s inside.
(24 April 2011)
Humans are unable to think responsibly on such time scales. We are children playing with loaded guns. -BA

Former nuclear safety official says Swiss plant should be shut down
World Radio Switzerland (WCS)
Thousands of protesters in Switzerland and around the world marked the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl yesterday, demanding the shutdown of aging nuclear power plants. The website of the Swiss German weekly newspaper Wochenzeitung last week published a 47-page dossier sent by anti-nuclear groups questioning the safety of the Mühleberg nuclear plant, in the canton of Bern, and urging the government to close it. WRS’s Dave Goodman talks to Walter Wildi, former head of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Commission from 2002 to 2007, who also believes the plant should be shut down:
(27 April 2011)
Suggested by Larry Desmond of Switzerland and California. He writes: “Excellent interview with a Swiss scientist about when one particular nuclear plant in Bern should be shut down. But, his comments also apply to other plants around the world.” -BA

Tags: Energy Policy, Fossil Fuels, Methane Hydrates, Nuclear, Oil