Peak Oil: Say Hello Again to $100 Oil

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Darth_Yuthura, Dec 1, 2009.

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  1. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Give Obama credit for at least knowing that the U.S. has to begin building new nuclear plants into its energy mix:

    US energy chief: don't delay new nuclear plants

    Regulators should press ahead with approving construction licenses for new nuclear power plants despite Japan's nuclear crisis, President Barack Obama's top energy official said Tuesday.

    Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a House panel that "the American people should have full confidence that the United States has rigorous safety regulations in place to ensure that our nuclear power is generated safely and responsibly." But he said that the administration "is committed to learning from Japan's experience."

    Chu told reporters on Capitol Hill that he thought construction license applications pending at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission could proceed.


    Meanwhile in the nuclear calamity of the day, BBC is reporting AFP/AP/Reuters reporting a new fire at reactor 4:
    #
    2157: Tepco says efforts are underway to tackle the fire inside the building which houses the number four reactor, Reuters reports.

    #
    2153: Flames are rising from the reactor, AP reports.

    #
    2152: AFP is reporting a new fire at the number four reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.



  2. Neo-Paladin Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2004
    star 4
    Well, there has been some good news. The radiation levels are decreasing, so small favors and all that. They are maintaining cooling levels in units 1, 2, and 3 (4, 5, and 6 are not fueled). Containment integrity in unit 2 is suspected to be compromised, last I heard. The earlier fire at unit 4 didn't involve the spent fuel rods, but rather a pump developed an oil leak and the oil caught fire. I haven't heard anything definitive about the second fire, but I get the indication it was simular to the earlier fire.

    At the end of the day the nuclear renaissance has always been at the mercy of the economics. A large expensive plants were probably never going successfully drive the renaissance. However, despite this accident, if Terrapower (or the like) can put together a small reactor that is affordable to build and site, it will be a go. If it's a heatpipe cooled reactor (completely passive cooling) it could be very popular.

    Not that I mean to blow sunshine up anyone's skirt. The small modular reactor concept could end up on the same trajectory as fusion: promising and heartbreakingly close, but never quite here.
  3. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    So here's today's near-lethal dose of bad news from Japan:

    NRC: No Water In Spent Fuel Pool Of Japan Plant
    The chief of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Wednesday that all the water is gone from one of the spent fuel pools at Japan's most troubled nuclear plant, but Japanese officials denied it.

    If NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko is correct, this would mean there's nothing to stop the fuel rods from getting hotter and ultimately melting down. The outer shell of the rods could also ignite with enough force to propel the radioactive fuel inside over a wide area.

    Jaczko did not say Wednesday how the information was obtained, but the NRC and U.S. Department of Energy both have experts on site at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex of six reactors. He said the spent fuel pool of the complex's Unit 4 reactor has lost water.


    True or not, I had no idea there were Americans on site. Lucky fellows (or women)! Also reported today was the U.S. military sending in a Global Hawk to image (visible/infra-red) the site. Wonder what they found out, although reactor 4 still has its roof, right, so there's no directly looking down at the cooling pool from above, at least with visible light.

    But it's unsettling to learn that the story coming from the utility and the Japanese government doesn't necessarily match up with the story coming from independent experts on the scene.
  4. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    To think that, in the beginning of February, I was going to stop following the news for a while because it was all just tripe anyway. But then something started happening in Egypt...

    Those were the days.


  5. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    $5/gallon gas in parts of the U.S. looks like a distinct possibility for the summer. WTI is above $110 and Brent Crude passed $125. The spread between WTI and Brent remains an interesting phenomenon. The rapid ramp up of Bakken oil production in North Dakota accounts for some of this spread, I believe.
  6. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    I wonder at what point the Strategic Oil Reserve gets cracked open.

    It won't affect US supply much, but the psychological effect of such a maneuver may help put a damper in oil price speculation.

    Peace,

    V-03
  7. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    I'm curious as to what exactly the Strategic Oil Reserve is. What I do know is that it's several proven oil caches within US boarders left untapped for emergencies, but I'm unsure as to how and when they decide to open the reserve for extraction.

    Are there pumps in place to extract this oil at a moment's notice, or are these reserves simply located in unfavorable locations? I recall that a wildlife refuge in Alaska was a prime target for oil exploration, but that the damage caused on the landscape didn't justify what could be extracted. Are strategic reserves simply unfavorable locations that haven't yet been tapped, or could they get access to this energy at a moment's notice?
  8. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    The official site for the SPR is here. The salt dome storage caverns are pretty amazing. They dissolved the salt with water, pumped out the brine, then pumped oil into the cavity to the tune of 10 million barrels a hole.

    [image=http://media.stratfor.com/files/mmf/5/a/5a652514effa2ca90f73a4da22e6b4fb0df44b4e.jpg]
  9. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Appreciate the link. I had trouble finding the answers to my questions because I had no idea that these were actually underground storage units for oil that had already been drilled and extracted.

    I was about to suggest that the US consider tapping deposits which currently aren't open for consideration, but that they limit the extent to which they drill and extract oil. It's pretty clear that we're eventually going to put oil before wilderness refuges and nature preserves, so why not at least get a head start on constructing the infrastructure to make untapped sources available for extraction? If you were to open a new field today, it would take years before the field has meaningful impact on oil supplies; but if some of the infrastructure were in place ahead of time, it might be reduced to a matter of months.

    I'm not an expert on the subject of oil drilling, and probably am looking over a lot of upkeep costs, so feel free to reject this idea.
  10. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    Interesting article on natural gas here by T. Boone Pickens.

    I am beginning to think that natural gas may be a short-term ticket for the next several decades...what do people think?

    It sounds good on paper, and the sector could potentially explode with capital investment if Congress throws bipartisan support behind it.

    Peace,

    V-03
  11. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Honda considers it viable enough that they're taking the CNG version of the Civic to dealerships in all fifty states next year. It doesn't get particularly better mileage than gasoline, but it 1) burns clean and 2) if you invest in a PHILL refueling station at home, you'll be spending something like 1.50-2.00 a gallon.
  12. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I know India has been converting many vehicles, mainly buses, to CNG in their largest cities to great success. I think Obama mentioned nnatural gas in his plan last month too. It's only ahort-term solution, but it seems clear we won't have a breakthrough anytime soon.
  13. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Hopes of Iraq quickly ramping up oil production to Saudi Arabian levels may need to be scaled back.

    IRAQ is preparing to halve its official oil production target, forcing companies including BP and Shell to renegotiate their contracts.
    The country's Oil Ministry, with backing from the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, will set a new target to produce between 6.5 million and 7 million barrels per day by 2017, down from original plans to pump 12 million barrels, according to industry insiders.

    Iraq, which is a member of the OPEC cartel that pumps 40 per cent of the world's oil, produces about 2.68 million barrels a day, barely higher than under Saddam Hussein.


    Iraq remains the world's best hope for significant increases in oil supply. Personally, I will be somewhat surprised if Iraq ever produces more than 5 million/bpd. I'm optimistic about 3 million, skeptical about anything above 4 although 5 or 6 seem within the realm of the possible.


  14. Obi-Zahn Kenobi Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 23, 1999
    star 7
    I have a suggestion or two.

    So, obviously, I'm not the King of America, but what do you guys think of the feasibility of these suggestions working (let alone getting them legislated):

    All speed limits dropped to 55 mph to reduce fuel consumption.
    Commissioning of many, many new nuclear power plants.
    Construction of high speed electric rail for transport of freight between major cities.
    Banning the use of semi-trailers on highways for which use of said high speed electric rail is possible.
    Reopening offshore drilling and opening new, currently protected American oil fields.
    Further development of methane farming techniques including redirecting the focus of landfills to methane farming.


    Then on to fantasy!

    Development of a method of octane synthesis from atmospheric carbon dioxide and ocean water desalinated with nuclear power.
  15. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    All would be worthwhile suggestions, but most won't happen because it would interfere too much with our 'way of life.'

    That would add time to commutes which some people aren't willing to make. They'd rather sacrifice that additional ~20% fuel efficiency to save that extra time on the road.

    The US must first get its spent fuel rod situation in order. Until Yucca Mountain is reopened and completed, or an alternate plan instituted, nuclear energy will continue to be stagnant.

    And while I approve of electric rail, I'm not confident it will come into fruition. We probably should start building diesel engines which could also draw energy from overhead wires (electro-diesel) so that we can maintain our current rail network while electrifying lines running through major cities. The problem here isn't cost, but distance. You can only really afford to operate electric trains within a few dozen miles of any power source.

    Not likely to happen. Already they have diesel trains able to haul one ton of freight an average of 200 miles per gallon of fuel, whereas freight trucks make about 59 miles per gallon. They do favor rail over trucks whenever possible, and banning use of trucks would be disruptive and inconvenient to those who depend on them.

    Way too expensive and more a green project than an actual economic opportunity.

    While these would certainly save energy and money in the long run, they all come with some kind of catch.
  16. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    High diesel prices and a lack of demand to support transport price increases is already driving long haul trucks off the road. I expect this trend to continue.

    The simple fact is, regardless of global oil supplies, the U.S. is already living in a post peak oil world. The amount of oil available in global export markets is in decline year on year, and U.S. oil demand is into is third straight year of decline. Our economy continues to stagnate because our new role in the world order is to downsize our lifestyles to free up energy and other commodity resources so that China can continue to grow. We are in classical relative decline with the added challenges of absolute constraints on resources worldwide.

    The next stage in this process will arrive when China can no longer sustain it's growth even after the U.S. And western Europe have trimmed all the fat from our economies.
  17. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    I've been saying this for awhile; China is basically a bacterial colony, which grows in four stages:

    1) Lag-nutrients are widely available, and the bugs are getting ready to explode. This represents "potential"; China was an emerging market before it became an economic powerhouse.

    2) Log-exponential growth, which is what we are seeing in China. Consumption of resources in this phase is also exponential, but it can't be sustained for any length of time, which leads to....

    3)Plateau-just what it sounds like. Consumption equals waste production; input equals output. China isn't there yet, but it will get there.

    4) Decline-also self-explanatory. For bacteria, this is when they drown in waste products. For China, it will be not only pollution, but also when the rest of the world decides that they are tired of their standard of living declining just to fuel China's growth.

    I wouldn't be surprised if eventually, wars result over diminishing resources. There is only so much decline America and Europe will be willing to accept before standing and fighting for their piece of the shrinking pie. Of course, this leaves out several wild cards, such as growth in India, border conflicts with Russia (who has their own ambitions), and the possibility of global disease or some other route of mass disruption; on the flip side, there is always the possibility of a major breakthrough in energy technology, such as hydrogen, solar, fusion, fuel-cell, etc, that would revolutionize the way we produce and use energy. Such a breakthrough would obviously most benefit the nation which developed and perfected it first.

    I personally that this is the only real route for America back to dominance: a breakthrough in the energy sector. Even then, resources are still dwindling; it will take feasible commercial space travel, and the ability to mine the asteroid belt (and bring those materials back to Earth) to really allow a sustained, global raise in the standard of living, and even then, we run into the problems of land, water, and food.

    Best thing, honestly, is population control. A 30% reduction in the number of humans on this planet, secondary to disease, would solve all of those problems nicely. A pretty gruesome solution, though.

    Peace,

    V-03
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