New Oil and Gas Technology Open Thread

It gets depressing hearing about our financial problems every day. I am sure a lot of people would rather talk about oil and natural gas, and about better prospects for the future. Improved technology is one factor that might make future production better than the bleak future that most of us are foreseeing today. It might even reduce costs, so that more oil and gas can be produced at the lower prices we are seeing today.

What kinds of technology advances are you hearing about? Which ones really have promise? Which ones will not be hurt too badly by the financial crisis, and in fact, may help production in spite of the crisis?

To get people started, below the fold I quote paragraphs about technologies I have read about, mostly from articles in the Next Generation Oil & Gas Journal.

One area ripe for improvement is the poor success rate in drilling new oil wells--generally 25% or less. One newer technology trying to improve success rates is Deep Electromagnetic Imaging.

Whatever your criterion, deep electromagnetic (EM) imaging, which uses EM energy to find hydrocarbons without drilling wells, has clearly become a major industry in its own right. Its much older sister industry, seismic surveying, has been the cornerstone for exploration decisions since modern-day oil exploration began. However, seismic techniques have limited ability to successfully predict the location of hydrocarbons when used in isolation, which is one reason why offshore exploration drilling hit rates are less than one in four.

The traditional exploration workflow relies on indirect evidence to locate hydrocarbons, and seismic methods are mainly sensitive to rock structures and not to the fluids within them. In contrast, EM methods are very sensitive to reservoir fluids and can indicate hydrocarbons directly. Naturally, the first popular use of EM imaging in the oil industry was to test, before drilling, whether the potential reservoir structures (prospects) identified from seismic data actually contained oil. This significantly reduced exploration drilling risks and avoided many costly dry wells.

More recently, new applications of EM imaging have extended its use to act like a divining rod to search for direct evidence of hydrocarbons before performing extensive seismic surveys or bidding for new acreage in licensing rounds. This is particularly valuable in frontier regions because it enables costly exploration resources to be targeted on the most promising areas, and it accelerates the delivery of higher-grade prospects and, ultimately, more discoveries. Applications beyond exploration are also being pursued. Scientists and engineers are developing methods and technology to use EM imaging for field appraisal, advancing field development plans and even reservoir monitoring on mature assets to help optimise production and recovery.

Fewer than 10 years have passed since the idea behind the technology was conceived, and it is only five years since the first commercial survey was performed, and yet the usually conservative exploration community has embraced EM imaging. During the latter half of 2007, interest in EM technology has intensified and has culminated in a frenzy of merger and acquisition activities, as smaller EM companies and the big-three seismic players have scrambled to catch up with the market leader and pioneer of the technique, Electromagnetic Geoservices (EMGS).

TOD reader geolog (Andrey Berg) writes to me that he has recently patented an imaging system which works better at greater depths, which he calls the Binary Seismo-Electromagnetic (BSE) method. This is a link to a write-up about that method.

Another area for innovation is the Digital Oilfield. (The responses to O&G questions are from Ross Philo from Cisco Systems.)

O&G. What does the digital oilfield entail and why is it so important nowadays?

RP. The digital oilfield provides the ability to instrument and link all aspects of down-hole and up-hole operations at remote sites with regional offices and headquarters in order to drive efficiency and bring new levels of collaboration to the oilfields. This is especially valuable at a time when the industry is experiencing a growing shortage of expertise as the older and experienced workforce retires. Using the network as a platform will allow experienced staff to provide assistance to less experienced workers at the wellsite from any point in the world.

O&G. What are the critical elements to creating a successful digital oilfield?

RP. The necessary technologies already exist, but realization of the digital oilfield is dependent on a shared consensus and leadership of companies to take the first step towards a shared network. There has also been a concern on the part of operating companies to converge process control networks onto an IP backbone. However, process control technology is shifting to an IP-based approach, and network convergence can be implemented in a highly secure and very effective manner to address these concerns by using a properly architected solution. By taking a lead, Cisco is hoping to demonstrate that the digital oilfield can deliver the long awaited benefits of improved productivity, reduced costs and increased reliability, safety and employee satisfaction.

Another innovation I read about is Through Tubing Rotary Drilling. According to O&G:

TTRD is a technique where new/stranded pockets of oil are accessed by drilling through an existing well bore. The main benefit of this technique is that the functionality of existing wells remains undisturbed hence dramatically reducing the associated well construction costs in some cases by as much as 50 percent. In many cases, this technique is the only economical way of accessing these stranded reserves.

A number of special tools have been developed to make this process work. The process has only been deployed in Norway to date.

Regarding improvements in technology in Canada's oil sands, O&G reports that gasification of byproducts is now providing significant benefits:

In recent years, advancements in gasification make it possible to use process byproducts to replace costly natural gas. “Gasification will be used because natural gas is so valuable,” Heusinkveld said. “The gasification process takes coker and hydrocracker residue produced from upgrading and converts it into a syngas that has a variety of potential uses. Syngas can be used as a boiler fuel in place of natural gas to raise the steam required for in-situ production; it can be used to fuel large gas turbine generators to make the operations self-sufficient in power; it can be used to produce the hydrogen needed for the hydrotreating and hydrocracking of the bitumen (replacing the natural gas fueled steam methane reforming process); and it can be used as a feedstock for various fertilizer and primary petrochemical production processes.

Residue gasification will dramatically reduce operating costs in these projects. The coke is a waste product, and none of the operating companies has a license to store it indefinitely. Something has to be done with it. So the gasification process solves two problems. It addresses the issue of disposing of the coke, and it alleviates the need for additional natural gas which is becoming increasingly more expensive.”

An additional advantage of the gasification process is that it produces a great deal of excess heat, which can be used to produce steam. This provides upgraders with an accessible supply of cheap steam to run steam turbines as equipment drivers or to produce electric power.

On the pipeline end of things, I read about innovations in pigging pipelines (for cleaning the pipelines):

Being asked to clean pipe work whilst still in operation, i.e. online, completely floors many traditional pigging contractors yet this requirement is becoming more and more common and rightly so. With the immense raft of technology currently available why should operators have to shut down the plant or even take individual portions of a plant offline in order to get their pipelines cleaned? Yes there are CIP, cleaning in place, systems primarily used for pharmaceutical and food industries, but for online cleaning of larger, more industrial pipeline applications pigging contractors and of course pipeline operators need to know where to turn.

Tube Tech International were asked by a global oil giant in Asia if we could “pig” the blockages inside their furnace tubes which had formed along 2 x 100mm diameter 100m long serpentine, coiled furnace tubes. The client had told us that other pigging contractors had conceded that pigging was not the way to go and could only recommend high pressure jetting companies, who in turn suggested the only solution was to shut down and cut off all the bends. We didn’t think so.

As one of four high pressure jetting contractors approached we believed it was possible not only to unblock both lines without cutting off bends and re-welding but to up the stakes by “unblocking and pigging” the unit whilst online and operating at 430 degrees centigrade! In order to prove our theory we fabricated the scale size furnace in our yard and demonstrated the new procedure to the client and successfully unblocked the furnace, blocked with concrete as a simulation, at 430 deg C much to the astonishment of the client. Actual site conditions were slightly less at 150 degrees due to other critical site requirements but the point was still proven thanks to innovation and exhaustive trials.

Something else I ran across in Drumbeat that sounds interesting involves producing electricity from the hot water co-produced in an operating oil field:

Geothermal Energy Improves U.S. Oil Recovery

Ormat Technologies, Inc. announces the successful co-production of geothermal power at a producing oil well. This project marks the first of its kind by providing onsite fuel free power that will increase the productivity and possibly extend the longevity of existing U.S. oil fields. . .

The oil fields in the United States could provide an additional 5,000 MW of electricity for the United States through this technology, according to United States Senator Mike Enzi (R - Wyoming).

What have you run across that might be of interest to other readers? Are some especially worthwhile in practice?

Boone Pickens will be on CBS 60 Minutes tomorrow night explaining how windmills and natural gas will be a bridge to the future. He may imply that this future will bring better alternative energy sources. I am not an expert but am skeptical. How abundant is natural gas? Should it be used to preserve our automobile culture and to supplant foreign oil or conserved for other uses.

When I looked at Gail's headline, I immediately thought of stranded wind as a source for oil and gas. Others on the list have emphasized the possiblities of ammonia production using up stranded wind power and even becoming an energy storage solution. But, I think that there is so much in the way of oil and gas pipelines around that we may well look at the Sabatier and Fischer-Tropsch reactions as good ways to use extra wind power. Wind gets us hydrogen very efficiently and at a much lower cost than the nuclear power considered in the H2CAR proposal. Using carbon capture from existing fossil fuel plants or the bio-source carbon suggested in H2CAR means that we can avoid big mistakes like tarsands or CTL as we transition.

Gas reserves are growing (6% in the last year in the US but I don't think we have to rely on them all that much longer into the future.


When I looked at Gail's first paragraph, I thought of a South African farmer calling her pet Ostriches home.

"It gets depressing hearing about our financial problems every day. I am sure a lot of people would rather talk about oil and natural gas, and about better prospects for the future. Improved technology is one factor that might make future production better than the bleak future that most of us are foreseeing today. It might even reduce costs, so that more oil and gas can be produced at the lower prices we are seeing today."

Just to be clear, producing more oil & gas at current lower prices
is anathema to the paramount requirement of discouraging fossil fuel dependence.

To put this in context, global food security is threatened by climate destabilization in a way that PO cannot achieve ;
it threatens the viability even of basic crops even by traditional subsistence farming methods -
without a stable climate, those methods do not function year-on-year.

How much of this Ostrich-tendency to actively ignore the potent climate threat
is actually based on the expectation that it's only the usual black African children who will suffer
(i.e. die slowly of starvation or of the ailments of impoverishment)
is very hard to fathom.

Suffice to say, if the expectation were of white American children dying slowly of starvation
as an exponentially destabilizing climate causes successive global crop failures,
or if the expectation were of the US facing national crop failures after such impoverishment that it can no longer fund food imports,
if either of those was the underlying expectation,
then I rather doubt that comments here would refer so easily to the prospects for advancing fossil fuels' production,
when what is needed, in the name of simple humanity, is their very rapid disavowal.

So is it now time that TOD's contributors sort out just which children we are going to care about, and how much ?


[farmer, forester & observer]

Just a note here, and not to dispute anything you're saying, but as an intentionally-child-free person, the whole "think of the children" argument totally turns me off in the biggest way possible.

I already did my part ... and more: My tax dollars support the breeders' offspring and I didn't get any of the procreative fun. How unfair is that?

Frankly, I couldn't give a cough about anyone's kids, African or N. American. Other people's kids cost me enough already, and I'm certainly not taking on any concern about how to increase my outlay. It's not like there's a worldwide shortage of ankle-biters.

The evaluation of T. Boone Pickens plan depends first on whether someone takes the climate crisis seriously, which is to say, on whether you look beyond a ten year horizon on water.

The T. Boone Pickens plan is to pump water from the Oglalla reservoir to Texas, use the same corridor to "unstrand" the wind resource in that area into the Texas, in the context of a broader plan to expand wind power substantially to free up NG for use by motor vehicles.

There's little to recommend the overall plan if the climate crisis is taken seriously. The first priority is to get coal-fired power taken offline, and for that we a combined program of more carbon-free or carbon-neutral power generation and substantial increases in energy efficiency.

Shifting the existing motor vehicle fleet to natural gas does nothing to shift the transport system to a more energy efficient mix of transport modes.

And if the wind power is offsetting natural gas, its not offsetting coal.

T. Boone Pickens' plan is easiest to understand if you view the most pressing problem raised by Peak Oil in terms of how to line T. Boone Pickens' pockets as opportunities in the oil industry decline with the decline in untapped oil reserves.

Developing the largest non-polluting, renewable energy source of electricity in the U.S. is a bad thing?

The problem with the Ogallala aquifer depletion would remain without the Pickens Plan. You only have to look to the Colorado river to see the future of the Ogallala.

If you have cable TV, please try to watch the episode of "Dirty Jobs" where they service a wind turbine. I never knew that a wind turbine is so delicate and complicated. The inside of a turbine leaks oil prodigiously. Many parts become clogged with bugs and dust. Without constant maintenance, lubrication, and replacement of spare parts, a wind turbine becomes permanently useless.

As a system it seems about as complex as military technology from fifty years ago.

Confining the possibilities to those large enough to make a really substantial difference to energy projections, I come out with two fossil fuel technologies:
Underground coal gassification, and the use of methane hydrates.
For coal gassification potential reserves are vast:

This summer, students from Norwegian University of Science and Technology analyzed data from 600 wells drilled on the Norwegian Shelf of the North Sea. They calculated that there are 3000 billion tons of coal off the Norwegian coast. Most of the reserves are located at Haltenbanken. This compares to today's proven and recoverable world reserves of 900 billion tons of coal.

Some feel that they could be developed in fairly short order:

"I think this is a wonderful springboard to a renewable future. Now we have cleaner ways of using fossil fuels to get there.
"By drilling boreholes, no-one has to go underground. It's a much cleaner and safer opportunity for the people involved.
"In the North East we're not scared of novel industries. There's still an appetite for engineering in the North East. I think it will be very popular in the region."
He said he would like to see the process up-and-running in the region within five years.

As for methane hydrates, on land at least it seems that they may be able to be exploited:

Scott Dallimore, with Natural Resources Canada and chief Canadian scientist for the program, said the results of the Mallik tests were promising.

"A sustained flow (of methane) was observed," he said.

Since this is only a research project, and not a commercial venture, most of the methane was brought to the surface and burned off. There was no attempt to capture the methane.

The Japanese are interested in tapping undersea gas hydrate reserves off their coast, but they must first find out if it is economically feasible. The Mallik site is of interest to them because it is easier and cheaper to research the gas hydrates from the surface.

Possible impacts on the climate, of course, are another issue, but very large resources seem to be available.

A report in the local paper this week stated that they won't allow exploration licenses for offshore underground coal gassification because there are still abundant supplies on land and the environmental issues.

New technologies are increasing at a rapid rate. We may see the doubling of our knowledge of oil and gas in very short time frames. How does the oil and gas producer and market keep up with this intense development of the underlying sciences?

Certainly not through the bureaucracy. What the current financial meltdown is telling us is the bureaucracies are too slow to keep up with the demands of the energy consumer. We need to first and foremost commit to changes in the manner that the industry organizes itself.

Most people will understand the statement "SAP is the bureaucracy". SAP defines and supports these bureaucracies in ways that are not amenable to change. If we want or need to change the organization, we need to build the software for the innovative oil and gas producer.

Using the Joint Operating Committee provides the industry with the ability to keep up with the science. It also provides a workable and superior solution to the current difficulties experienced from the separation between management and ownership. If the oil and gas investor is the participant in the technologically enabled Joint Operating Committee. Their ability to make the decisions are within a time frame that can make a difference.

I have started the development of this ERP system and defined the "Draft Specification" consisting of 11 modules. Modules like the Petroleum Lease Marketplace, Partnership Accounting and Research & Capabilities. I am actively recruiting people to fully define the scope of the application and its functionality. These can be reviewed on my blog at ( ).

Adam Smith proved many hundreds of years ago that the division of labor and specialization were the tools to increase productivity and growth. We now live in a globalized economy where the ultimate division of labor will not happen by itself. We need to define these aspects in the software so that the organizations can indeed achieve the division of labor we need. We need these because the current organizations have failed, and we have nothing to replace it with other then manual systems. I would encourage your readers to join me in building this system.

Hello Paul,
You are absolutely right. Our enemies ia conservatism and bureaucracy.
I have a long time experience with it.
Below my opinion about situation.

…The impending oil crisis…. Peak oil…?
Everything isn't so bad.

Indeed, depletion discovered global resources, including oil and natural gas, push world economic to depression.
However most forecasts and estimations the situation proceed from conventional level of exploration technology and discovered volume of reserves. I believe it is wrong.

Firstly, undiscovered world hydrocarbon reserves are too far from ending. For example, the world’s second largest discovery in the past 20 years occurred at Brazil's Tupi field, in November, 2007. Estimated recoverable reserves could reach eight billion barrels. Some early was discovered Sugar Loaf field (25-40 billion barrels).
Swiss-based Manas Petroleum stated that a resource evaluation in north-western Albania had assigned 2.987 billion barrels of oil with 3.014 trillion cubic feet of associated gas.
Oil contents of the US Outer Continental Shelf estimates as about 19 billion barrels and so on.
There are many large undiscovered oil fields (perhaps about 40-50%).

Secondly, the leaders of the oil industry see the only way out of the current situation in the increase of the extent of drilling (the number of exploration wells). However, if one takes into account that at the current exploration success rate only one quarter of the drilled wells is successful, the active drill-ships drill and will drill mostly (three out of four) dry wells, which will be permanently plugged and abandoned after the drilling. Drilling costs for some of the newest deep-water ships in the Gulf of Mexico, for example, have reached about $600,000 a day ($150,000 a day in 2002) and such drilling is carried out mostly (75%) for nothing due to conventional methods of drill site predictions.
“With exploration wells in the Gulf of Mexico costing up to $100 m and a deepwater exploration success rate of 11 percent in 2006, minimization of exploration risk is critical”, writes Philip Christie, Vice President of the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE), New Generation Oil&Gas, issue 3, 2007.
Now a success rate increased insignificantly, compared with 2006.

Dry wells are a fee society has to pay for conservatism of the oil industry leaders and government energy agencies because exists an exploration technology already for more than 20 years with success rate 75%, in other words three success wells and one dry. It has been successfully tested in the Barents and Black seas, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico. It employs a new physical mechanism to initiate a response from hydrocarbon deposits, explained in US patents №№ 7,330,790, February 2008; 7,042,601, May 2006 and 7,245,560 July 2007. It is called Binary Seismo-Electromagnetic (BSE) technology/method, and is, according to the definition of, a disruptive technology.
Implementation of the technology will be important step to world energy security and economic prosperity.

Thank you for attention.

Brazil (best of my knowledge) does not export oil. they keep it all to themselves. so those 25 to 40 billion barrels of oil are effectively off the market.

Deep electromagnetic (EM) imaging, which uses Passive EM energy to find hydrocarbons without drilling wells from airborne platforms, is becoming a reality. My company, eField Exploration, LLP, is commercializing a $15 million investment over the last 10 years to map hydrocarbons from the air using technologies that have long proven their effectiveness in the mineral exploration industry yet have not been developed for Oil & Gas. The full story can be found at

Our aircraft measure magnetics to map structure to the geological basement and natural electrical fields which are sensitive to fluids unlike seismic. These natural electric fields also known as telluric fields (magnetotellurics or MT) have been used for many years to map deep structure and applications have also been developed by the French, Russians and now the Chinese to explore for Oil & Gas from ground based stations.

There are about 200 Airborne Geophysical Survey Aircraft in the world all effectively designed for mineral and geo-technically surveying - none specifically designed to look deep for Oil & Gas. We have completed over 5,000 miles of survey and have case histories showing that we can now fly at over 100 mph and at 1000 feet mapping hydrocarbons at depths of up to 20,000 feet. The savings in cost as well as the elimination of environmental damage will move the Oil and Gas industry into a new phase of exploration that has so far been cost and time prohibitive.

I just wanted to mention another useful technology that might be applied to the OIl and Gas industry. That is "Wet Combustion". It is a technology that has been around in one form of another for 60 years or so (one high performance WW2 fighter used water injection to cool their engines during climbs, the pilots found that it increased the power). The B-52 bomber uses wet combustion to increase their power during take-off. Of course, aircraft cannot carry a lot of water to use this technology extensively. Above-ground extraction of oil (tertiary extraction) is another matter. Many of the new resources that are being exploited (oil sands, heavy oil, "old oil") need heat to mobilize the heavy hydrocarbons. That is where wet combustion comes in.

Wet combustion, when done gradually (after flame ignition with small amounts of water being injected over the whole volume of the flame) can reach water to fuel ratios of over 10:1. Now why would anyone want to use water for this purpose? Well it is steam that mobilizes bitumen (water and and heat force movement of even the heaviest hydrocarbons) which allows them to be pumped out relatively easily. When high water to fuel ratios are used the nature of combustion changes. First off, the temperature gradients within the flame decline dramatically. A typically "Dry combustion" gas turbine (very high temperature combustion) can easily have 600 deg. C temperature differential between the wall of the combustor and the center line. Using high water to fuel ratios can decrease those differentials to as low as 50 degrees. High temperature differential mean that NOx formation is likely at the high temperature zone and incomplete combustion ("Coking") is likely in the low temperature zone. High water ratios avoid that. Also, since there is a maximum temperature that combustion can be conducted at (material failure limits) and it is the MAX temperature (at any time) that determines the maximum combustion density, dry combustion is very limited in its maximum temperature. A wet combustion flame can often to run at 200 deg C hotter (more efficient combustion) AVERAGE temperature.

Another very important factor about wet combustion is that the energy density of the combustor can be as much as 20X greater. This means that a combustor that is 20X smaller can deliver the same amount of heat. This means low capital cost, portable combustors become practical. Also, enhanced oxygen combustion can deliver very high combustion efficiencies.

The key advantage though, is that wet combustion gases can be injected DIRECTLY into a well (the standard today is to use a separate boiler to inject high pressure steam). This has MANY advantages. First, it is more thermally efficient (less loss of heat up the smoke stack). SEcond, the combustion gases include Carbon Dioxide. Carbon dioxide is an excellent solvent for hydrocarbons. It is known to enhance extraction efficiencies. SO, instead of venting heat and water and CO2 up the smoke-stack, the gases can be used directly as an injection into a hydrocarbon formation. It is more efficient for many reasons including:

1) CO2 enhances extraction
2) Very little heat loss (no exhaust)
3) Water from burning fuels is trapped in the target formation further enhancing efficiency and saving water

Simulations have shown increases as much as 30-50% in the amount of hydrocarbon extraction for a given amount of fuel being burned. There is ANOTHER very substantial advantage. Water breaks down into hydrogen and hydroxyl radical when exposed to high temperature combustion. Hydroxyl radicals are MUCH better at destroying large hydrocarbon molecules than molecular oxygen. That means that very poor fuels (high molecular weight) can be burned effectively because of the presence of these hydroxyls.

So the bottom line is that this technology would increase extraction of existing fields and allow extraction of resources that would otherwise not be economical (with a very low capital cost for the combustion units ===> much smaller for the same heat output). The bad news is that this technology would require significant development costs and those are just not likely in the current financial environment. So a promising technology will probably not be exploited because the companies are risk adverse to begin with and now they are all scared by the financial crisis.

Of such disappointment is life made.


Sometimes it seems like we are running out of time to develop and introduce new technologies.

I believe the average length of time between initial use and widespread adoption of a new technology is 17 years. When you add time for development, it is really a log lag.

Gail, you hit the nail on the head. there is a technical paper on adoption of new technologies for O & Gas sector. The article is titled:
"Do Nothing": Technology's
Toughest Competitor in the Upstream Oil and Gas
Industry" by Ali Daneshy

Basically there is the old boys club (procrastinators), then there is the new highly educated Eng. who wants to make a name of himself, (early adopters)

Dr Daneshy was the director of the Society of Petroleum Eng.

I have been involved(minor) with introducing new tech to the oil fields, especially the Canadian Tar sands. The process steps are:

1 enquire about it at tech shows/ seminars and produce a SPE paper.
2 at meetings discuss all other competitors
3 possible referral or phone enquiry directly to new tech company
4 arrange for bench testing in one or two quarters
5 additional bench test but also including evaluations for on site mock-up test
6 prepare for on site test with customer.
7 on site field test.

time span= 18 months, then if all goes well a larger scaled size test. It usually takes a new company 5yrs or so to have a fully commissioned full sized product running. But then the customer now evaluates the long term operational expenses, Capex vs Opex. If all goes well its a sale, if a top oil producer agrees, they all line up. The second path is to do all the above mentioned but with an oil service company such as SLB/ Weatherford/ Hal etc., but the object of this game is to build up the reputation of the new company name. If you are going global, expect 10 to 14yrs before sector wide acceptance. This is the short form. Its not easy breaking into the oil & Gas industry plain and simple.
Regards Oilcan

First full disclosure: I am an active shareholder of this company and I am not promoting it!

Prosep has been providing solutions to the oil and gas industry for production separation for nearly 10yrs. Removing the produced water content in oil down to 60ppm is fairly easy with tertiary recovery systems, however they can remove in one step (ie one piece of equipment) down to <7pmm. That is weight savings and acreage on offshore platforms. Matt Simmons has said in one of his video interviews several years ago that the Middle East is the world’s largest water treatment facility. According to the produced water society- In 1993, 1.09 trillion gallons of produced water were generated - enough water to flow over Niagara Falls for 9 days.

Water too is a vital tool for onshore and offshore O&G production as well as a very limited finite resource. I read an article somewhere that if the US where to open up all the shutin wells and start recovery with modern technology we could over night become energy independent from the middle east. Yet if strategically placed, this piece of equipment does not used energy to operate. Its stokes law with a dash of Bernoulli's principle- physics. Thanks to the Oil Drum and myself they are well aware of Peak oil now.
regards oilcanboyd

An alternative natural gas source, coal bed methane, generates huge quantities of slightly saline waste water. This issue looks like it is ready to become a rate limiting problem . Dispoal by deep well injection either costs a fortune or is not always possible. Dumping it, while never good PR, is increasingly not an option due to environmental/regulatory/political factors. However, the industry wants only off the shelf solutions. Adequate off the shelf solutions are lacking or poorly suited to treat this water, especially at the high water recoveries needed. Meanwhile, promising new technologies exist and are not diligently pursued. Perhaps people can help do the math here.


I should point out that syngas gets its heating value from hydrogen and carbon monoxide, often with unhelpful amounts of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Both petroleum coke and underground coal can be used as the basis for syngas. The fire retardant fractions and engine damaging tar may need to be removed. To make a gas compatible with natural gas or biomethane the cleaned gas should undergo a catalytic methanation step which lowers the EROEI even further. However if you use biowaste or garbage you have a huge resource. If the process could be scaled down it could turn farms and garbage dumps into producers of electricity, charcoal and fuel gas. Like other elusive breakthroughs it may never happen though.

If US oil wells ever produce 5000 MW of geothermal electrical power I'll believe in the Easter Bunny.

Is there really any hope of avoiding peak energy?

Even if our species grows monotonically to be multi-galactic in scope, eventually all resources will be leveraged and a peak must come. So of course there is no hope. There is a small hope of avoiding it this decade, but really that just postpones the reckoning day.

Not really, but it doesn't matter. Like population in the majority of the world (that is, almost everywhere except Africa and the ME), US car sales, and many other examples, energy markets (at least renewable ones, like those for wind and solar electricity - so no, I'm not talking about oil) will naturally mature and flatten out long before we reach theoretical limits.

For far too long we've been talking about a false dichotomy between "infinite exponential growth" and collapse. In fact, with a little luck, growth in resource consumption will gradually come to a stop, while humanity switches it's desire for improvement to what are generally known as "services": health, education, art, etc.

Gail, I appreciate your posts and your thought-provoking analysis. However, I believe that the financial crisis and peak oil are predicaments we must endure, rather than problems to be solved. As a result of abundant and cheap energy our society has produced an economic system which concentrates power and wealth in the hands of a very small minority which uses its clout to enrich itself at an ever-increasing rate. It does so at the expense of all other "resources" such as natural ecosystems, nonrenewable resources, and the vast majority of the world's population who are not rich, and who are assimilated into the system as its slaves. I tend to agree very much with Jason Bradford's recent post where he compared the global "official" economy to the Borg of Star Trek.

Now our present system is breaking, and though I know the breakage will be painful, in the back of my mind I see this as a good thing, since it will give the poor of the world an opportunity to develop a safety net of alternative systems before the "official" system ruins everything. This may sound strange to some, but I hope "we" don't develop practical nuclear fusion or mini-nukes or large-scale wind power or wave power or cellulosic ethanol. I think that whatever humans come up with in the form of future energy sources would work best if it was extremely limited in scope and scale, to prevent us from wiping ourselves out.

I think a major part of the wipe-out will be the localizing process you describe. How can there be a soft landing when a rocket motor fails at 20,000 feet and Mach 3? There is never time to hand-knit a parachute on the way down.

It gets depressing hearing about our financial problems every day. I am sure a lot of people would rather talk about oil and natural gas,...(Gail)

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't! (Miranda)


Nothing concrete below, mostly musings, read at risk of own time:

I have given a lot of thought to stranded wind and stranded natural gas:

Stranded wind, and even exploitable wind, may best be used for reverse osmosis desalination. Simply put, when the wind blows water gets desalinated and pumped to a storage facility. Large above ground reservoirs can be built to accommodate the water and to buffer differences between production and consumption, essentially acting as a big cheap battery for wind power. Note that when I use the battery analogy I do not mean to say that the water will be used to produce energy but instead the water is the embodiment of a commodity that required energy to produce. This approach appears to be particularly attractive to Florida which is starting to see saline intrusion into the Floridian. I would imagine that one could become quite creative with siting with this approach.

Stranded wind could also be used for vertical lift assistance in existing oil wells in Texas/Oklahoma and the Illinois basin.

I ran across this article on Technology Review a while back:
The firm claims to be able to produce a barrel of (gasoline?) for $25. Not bad! Why flare when you can produce highly pure gasoline at substantially below market prices?

The most promising technology I've seen to enhance current oil production
These guys are exceptionally adept at splicing DNA and getting microbes to do unusual things. Everyone is probably well aware of the project that they have underway to produce diesel from sugar cane in Brazil. The technology works (so far).

I'm an ES student with a big imagination and, through fortunate circumstances, happen to know a lot of people in the VC community. A friend of mine runs his own VC outfit and he gave me a prospectus from Amyris and asked me to come up with "blue sky" ideas for the technology. My best idea was in-situ refining of crude oil. My friend passed the idea on to Amyris and he confirmed that they are conducting research into the idea.

The concept of biologically assisted recovery isn't novel and has been put forth by many. In this case, however, microbes actually break down the crude into a refined product in-situ, totally bypassing the refinery and harvesting low grade geothermal heat to do so. The lighter product (gasoline, diesel, essentially whatever you want to make) would flow better (higher production rates, porosity less of an issue, brings production of dolomite formations closer to reality) and would congregate between the oil and the gas cap in a well engineered reservior allowing for efficient production. Gasoline, Diesel, and kerosene are the products that are truly essential to are current transit infrastructure. Those three use what, 2/3 of every barrel that comes into the refinery? If the refinery is in the oil well, you only have to flow 2/3 the current liquids which would effectively reduce current production/demand from 86mbpd to 57.3mbpd.

That could buy us some time on the ride down the other side of peak oil while we build a vehicle fleet that can use more diverse sources of energy (read: electricity).

Hm... There are already bacteria living in oil fields that break oil down into natural gas.

So in-field bacterial refining is trying to invent something that:

1) Already exists, in one version
2) Works very slowly (or else we'd have no oil left in fields with those bacteria)
3) Produces a different end product - implying that producing gasoline is harder or less energy-efficient than producing CH4 - and raising the possibility that your bacteria may mutate into CH4-producers that out-compete the originals.

Although I don't usually buy arguments of "You can't do better than evolution, so don't try," in this case the argument may be valid. Engineered machines can easily outperform biology in narrow areas, but you're trying to solve a very tough (constrained) problem with the same tools evolution has already been working with.

I wish TOD made it easy to send email to users. You can contact me at cphoenix at gmail dot com. I also wish TOD made it easy to get follow-up comments emailed to me - please email me with follow-ups.


This is a summary from Irving Shames “Mechanics of Fluids” second addition A-28. The available power from a windmill is 59.3% at most. If tip losses and friction are included, the power will reduce the available power by 70 – 80%. So the power generated would be about 41%.

A generator is about 80% efficient. So power at the terminals is about 33%. I’m not sure but this will probably be sent over the wires at somewhat less than the 4160v and this will add to the losses.

Also, the maximum power occurs at 1 / 3 velocity ratio between the downstream and upstream velocities which in the real world will probably only occasionally occur.

If I knew how much power one of these monsters produced, I could find out how many windmills we need to station around to generate the power needed for this country.

I'm sure that people at the DOE and NREL have done such calculations with full knowledge of efficiencies and losses.

The link below will take you to the GE website on their wind turbines. They run round 1.5 MW for the large on-shore variety and 3.6 MW for the large off-shore ones.

In 2007, the total generation was around 4,000,000,000 Megawatt Hrs

I'm assuming that if a turbine from GE is rated at 1.5 MW, then that's its actual output, and not 1/3 due to losses. The paper below discusses the simulation of a wind farm in Quebec with historical data, that shows it would run at about 30% of total capacity.

So, their are 8,760 hrs/year and 30% of that is 2,628 hrs. Multiplying that by 1.5 MW gives 3,982 MW hrs/year per turbine. Dividing the total US prduction of 4x10^9 MWhrs/3,982 shows you would need 1,014,713 1.5 MW turbines to replace all U.S. generation with wind. If you use GE's 3.6 MW turbines, then the number drops to 422,780.

At a cost of 1 million/MW this comes to around $450 billion. We are currently spending about 100 billion per year in Iraq, so if we decided to stop providing the 4,000 street fighters and the few hundred actual al-Qaeda personnel with a $10 billion/month training facility and instead spent it on wind power, we could completely replace all electric generation in the US with wind power in around 8 years. I've doubled the cost & time to take into account the additional storage facilities, supporting infrastructure and maintenance capacity that would be needed.

I should note that this back of the envelope calculation does not take into account EROEI, weather factors, and load conditions which would one would need to consider to decide if building wind turbines was the best policy to follow.

It should be noted that your efficeincy calculation for a wind turbine is relative to bringing the wind to a full stop. It does not matter all that much since we are only sampling the stream in any case. Also, generators tend to have better efficiency than 80%.


One thing post peak technology does is wreck the customary coupling of oil and gas pricing where we apply a multiplier to gas to get where oil should be. NG and oil are decoupling and it's because the post peak gas technology has opened up a big lead on its oil counterpart. If we were still totally dependent on conventional gas recovery, we'd be hurting and the Pickens Plan would send NG too high to work.