Aleklett: Australia highly vulnerable to oil shortages

ASPO International president, Professor Kjell Aleklett of the Global Energy Systems group at Uppsala University has been in Australia over the past week, presenting lectures in Adelaide and Sydney on peak oil.

ASPO Australia has copies of 2 presentations done in Adelaide - "Energy: The Challenge To Sustainability" (ppt) and "Peak oil, peak gas and peak coal: Setting the scene for future supply problems" (ppt).

The Sydney Morning Herald has a report on the visit - Highly vulnerable to oil shortages.

ONE of the world's leading energy experts has warned that Australia will be one of the first countries hit hard by oil shortages as oil production peaks within the next three years.

Kjell Aleklett, a physicist from Uppsala University in Sweden, says Australia's relatively underdeveloped public transport system leaves the country more vulnerable to a downturn in energy production. "Australia is very sensitive to such developments," Professor Aleklett told the Herald. "Much of your industry and transit is dependent on oil, and supplies will decline."

Professor Aleklett addressed the NSW electric car task force and the Federal Government's Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics yesterday. He had earlier warned a Senate committee that the International Energy Agency had wildly overestimated oil production, lulling nations such as Australia into a false sense of security. Rather than oil production rising by 20 per cent to 101.5 million barrels a day in 2030, he says production is likely to fall 11 per cent, to just 76 million barrels a day.

Last week the chairman of Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, Eric Streitberg, predicted peak oil - the maximum rate of global oil extraction before decline - was just three years away, and forecast prices of up to $200 a barrel.

Professor Aleklett said the global financial crisis had reduced opportunities for new oil exploration, meaning that the world was missing out on an extra two to three million barrels. Australia needed more investment in public transport to reduce its dependency on oil, with up to 20 per cent of all journeys, not merely commuting to and from work, occurring by bus and train.

He also said Sweden and other European countries were developing a network of recharging stations to handle the growth of electric cars, although Australia, with its vast distances, posed a greater challenge for electric vehicle manufacturers.

I think the Professor's TV appearances (first name pronounced 'shell') could be a tipping point in public awareness. Only a month ago I heard somebody say 'oil will never run out in my lifetime'. This week everybody seems to acknowledge PO. Even the petroleum exploration association says it is close; they recently gave an award to a Murdoch newspaper for a series of articles denying climate change.

I think Aleklett is right that battery cars won't suit much of Australia. As pointed out in earlier TOD articles Australia has huge energy resources in almost everything except oil. Relative to other countries that should lessen the impact.

"This week everybody seems to acknowledge PO. Even the petroleum exploration association.."

Unfortunately yet again Tony Hayward (CEO of BP) repeats the mantra that "where markets are allowed to work, they do generate the investment required". In other words don't put any restrictions or taxes on us.

He says "Proved reserves for oil are sufficient to meet current production for 42 years." As we know most of these reserves have not been independently audited and are state secrets in several countries, e.g. Saudi. The key point (as we and he know) is not the size of the reserves but the flow rate and he carefully avoids this.

We urgently need to reduce our CO2 emissions, see a great new video at

As pointed out in earlier TOD articles Australia has huge energy resources in almost everything except oil. Relative to other countries that should lessen the impact.

Not really. Peak oil is a liquids crisis. And our cities are much more vulnerable than European cities, for example. Together with the need to reduce CO2 emissions, however, it will quickly turn into a clean primary energy crisis. So we cannot return to coal as an energy source for electric cars. Compressed natural gas is a solution but it is not pro-actively being implemented BECAUSE OF THE VERY PEAK OIL DENIAL MODE OF THE STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS.

Priority will be to convert buses and trucks to CNG, especially for food transport. In any case we don't even have enough licensed gas mechanics to do CNG conversions for millions of cars in a couple of years.

Bio-diesel must be used in agriculture itself, if energy efficiency is high enough.

I have mentioned this here several times because the simultaneous arrival of climate change events make peak oil so much more challenging:

The Arctic summer sea ice extent curve is just going along the 2007 minimum curve

Tipping elements in the Earth's climate system
"We conclude that the greatest (and clearest) threat is to the Arctic with summer sea-ice loss likely to occur long before (and potentially contribute to) GIS [Greenland Ice Sheet] melt. Tipping elements in the tropics, the boreal zone, and West Antarctica are surrounded by large uncertainty and, given their potential sensitivity, constitute candidates for surprising society"

Dr. Wieslaw Maslowki predicted the Arctic to be ice free in summer 2013, at which point the whole weather on the Northern hemisphere will change

State of the Arctic sea ice

This may coincide with some serious trouble in the Middle East.

These are the plans of the Federal Governmentand: (I have at the same time inserted some serious questions about this very doubtful strategy)

Coal-to-liquids demonstration plant opens
Media Statement - 22nd April 2009

" Linc Energy's demonstration plant near Chinchilla in Queensland is producing clean synthetic diesel and jet fuel from gas sourced from deep underground coal reserves. First production was achieved on 14 October 2008."

Question 1: How much diesel and jet fuel was produced (in barrels/day) since October last year and what were the test results when using these fuels? What were the costs in $/ltr? Did the Federal Government subsidise the demonstration plant?

Minister Ferguson said: " Australia is coal and gas rich, with hundreds of years of reserves. Technologies that convert coal and gas to ultra-clean diesel and jet fuel have the potential to replace Australia's declining oil reserves and make us self-sufficient in liquid transport fuels once again."

Question 2: How can this demo plant be scaled up? Which capacities are planned in which projects, where and by which companies? Who will finance such projects? What is the rate of decline in Australian oil fields per annum and how many CTL plants have to be built in which timeframe in order to support the Minister's statement? In which year will such self-suffiency be achieved? Suppose there were diesel shortages in 2-3 years, would there be a CTL plant ready to fill the gap?

Minister Ferguson said: "This technology unlocks energy from Australia's significant stranded and uneconomic coal reserves and has the potential to dramatically reduce Australia's dependence upon imported oil and refined products."

Question 3: How many CTL plants at which capacity have to be built to replace oil imports?

"Not only could this technology increase Australia's energy security, it produces environmentally friendly fuels containing almost zero sulphur and no aromatics and has a carbon footprint comparable with the production of conventional fuels."

Question 4: Burning synthetic fuels will release the same amount of CO2 as fuels refined from conventional oil. So if all oil is replaced by synthetic fuels as claimed above, emissions will not go down and the fuel is actually not clean from the point of view of carbon emissions, even if all CO2 from the UCG process is captured and sequestered.

"Similarly, gas-to-liquids could open up new opportunities for development of Australia's vast northwest gas resources and east coast coal seam methane resources, complementing the potential of Australia's well-established LNG industry."

Question: Why is the coal seam gas not used directly as transport fuel (compressed natural gas) instead of exporting it as LNG?

I think Aleklett is right that battery cars won't suit much of Australia.

They won't suit long-haul trips, but since the vast majority of Australians live in the major cities and towns, and have a daily round-trip of about 60km, EVs are actually well-suited. Even then, the vast majority of actual trips (not distance) is for trips of 5km or less, which suits bicycles (elec. assisted or not) perfectly.

For long-haul trips, maybe we'll just have to get the train (a far more civilised way to travel than air, fwthiw), or go without.

Since Australia is one of the most urbanized countries in the world, electric vehicles should be very realistic alternatives to ICE vehicles.
Moving from 10% of passenger miles by public transport to 20% is not going to solve the problem, it's the other 80% that have to reduce oil consumption.

Aleklett seems to be projecting that wind and solar energy will only double from 0.6Mboe/day to 1.2Mboe/day by 2020, a 7% growth rate seems a bit low, perhaps he is using the EIA figures.

I'll need to study Aleklett's supposed statements on electric vehicles a bit more closely. I agree with the notion of electric behicles being very useful in our urbanised communities. The problem however is that there's no way our largely import-dependent small car market could be supplied (on current trends) with appropriate vehicles to satisfy such a potential need, especially given the short time lines we are all concerned with. It took nearly 2 decades to swap Australia's car fleet over to unleaded fuel, even with the incentive of a UL discount etc. I reckon this gives us a fair idea of the scope involved in even swapping over to something like 25-50% electric vehicle use. EVs will necessarily be a bit smaller and/or less powerful (so may not suit some people or purposes) and going on current trends, may well be more expensive (in a time when household incomes will be buying less). Perhaps it's this conundrum that Aleklett is referring to. Perhaps it's time for a radical, State-sponsored retooling programme at the now-defunct Mitsubishi premises and maybe at Holden's as well? I'm aware the UniSA has a great electric commuter car all ready to go and just looking for a production line somewhere...
More PT is a good thing of course. But it's clear from contemporary experience that at the first big jump in fuel prices or at the first fuel shortage, any spare or increased capacity in PT will immediately (instantly) be absorbed. Remember PT 'spare capacity' is only useful at commuter 'rush' hour when the vast majority of PT users want to travel. It matters not a jot that buses and trains might be half empty the day before! Australia does need vastly increased PT facilities, but it also needs to pursue other measures that barely make it on to the agenda but are just as (if not more) important - 'bicycle highways' across all major urban areas, urban consolidation and Transport Oriented Developments on a grand scale and much, much, much(!!!) more focussed industrial and similarly travel-dependent planning to minimise workplace and occupational travel. Adelaide (for instance) is 50% the size of Los Angeles, the USA's 5th largest city (but with less than 10% of LA's revenue base). Planning a viable transport future for the city presents a particular challenge to the Peak Oil-aware planner and politician that I'm sure is also felt in other Australian cities. And we're only talking about direct transport services - there's the health system, agricultural, industrial and supply-chain systems and the whole Government and non-Gov. service sector to consider as well. Maybe it's too late - who knows...

Electric vehicles are not just for small cars a number of SUV were manufactured as EV versions. The savings will be greater with vehicles like the Commodore coming out as PHEV's, both saving when in ICE mode as well as EV mode.
I think you are right about the problems of PT expansion, none the less there are logical extensions to rail lines in most cities that would make a contribution to reducing oil use. Short term CNG conversions would be a fast response just as Iran did a few years ago, surely we are capable of converting more than the 400,000 vehicles per year.

It may not come to an emergency, just a continued relentless increase in oil costs, that will drive a rapid conversion from ICE to PHEV and EV. Seems logical for mining vehicles and heavy construction vehicles to convert from diesel to CNG.

I beleive that Mitsubishi have put a $60K price tag in the iMiev for sale in Japan. I'm sure they'll just fly out the door at that rate!

Putting my consumer hat on for a moment, if I am in the market for a car formy family and the choice is an iMiev at $60K and annual running costs of say $3K or a Ford Territory for $40K and annual costs of $10K, I'd have togowith the SUV for sheer utility. It might cost more to run but I can do so much more with it. I imagine that an equivalent E-SUV would have to be priced in the $200K area which is just so far out of reach of the masses which is why nobody is building one. EV's will only be good for small scale lightweight personal transporters. Bikes and Trikes or tiny micro cars like the iMiev. (all of which I am for)

Once you get past a certain power to weight ratio the best place for the electric source is external to the vehicle - eg a power station run by your fuel of choice and delivered to the motor via rails or overhead cables.

Neither the micro-EV or the on-rail PT sytems even working together is going to replace the flexibility and personal freedom that ICE cars provide today. Wemay all still be ableto get around and do our daily business, but we will all ahve to useamny diofferetn modes of transport and pick the appropriate one for the job we have to do. i.e. need milk from the shop - walk. Need to go to your CBD job - get the train. Taking the family to see grandma two suburbs over - bike. Grocery shopping - (E)bike and trailer. Building contractor, plumbers, electricians, glaziers (maybe ICE on CNG or expensive SynFuel or petroleum).

The point is lots of us have just one ICE car size vehicle which can perform all these functions and do it very cheaply. Building an EV which replicates the same personal freedom and low running cost seems to be proving technically very challenging. I keep looking for the balck swan technical breakthroughs which seem to come in many other areas but are proving elusive in EV battery tech.

When oil goes over $200 a barrel "ICE vehicles will no longer perform all these functions and do it cheaply" but a PHEV will. PHEV platforms are not limited to a small car, it can power a 10 tone truck.

Hi Neil,

$200 oil might mean $2.50AUD a litre at the pump. If it happens within the next twelve months, people will scream long and hard but they will still fill their tanks. They may reduce driving, car pool, not go on long driving holidays etc but they will still have the sunk cost of the cars in their garages. In the overall scheme of things ICE cars would still very be cheap, versatile transport. Australians have plenty of fat to cut before they will get rid of their attachment to cars.

Exactly how many PHEV models are available in the showrooms today or planned to roll out in the next year or two? Last year when petrol got into $1.70s, the arse fell out of the motor car car market and hasn't recovered. I can't really see how even higher oil prices are going to motivate millions of people to junk their ICE investments and fork out even bigger money for PHEVS. Besides, who's gonna finance it all?

I think you're right Termoil, I can't see that electric vehicles are going to make a major impact soon in Australia or here in the UK. At a time that the country is in a recession and they are talking about reducing public expenditure - who is going to pay for the infrastructure to make them practical/usable apart from in city centres?

Here in UK we've been paying around £1 (A$ 2) a litre petrol/£1.05 (A$ 2.10)diesel for a couple of years now with a spike last year when world oil was at $140+ a barrel of £1.32 (A$2.65) for diesel. There was a bit of a reduction in miles driven at the peak and a lot of public outcry but it quickly went back 'to normal' as prices dropped. I'm personally still driving 20,000 miles a year (two thirds/12k miles is just getting to work). So 'slow/steady' rises do seem to be absorbed. If oil goes to $200 a barrel then by looking at past ratios I estimate that our prices will go up to around £1.80-£1.90 level (A$3.60-A$3.80). If this happens in the near future/quickly (18mths) it is going to be a major headache as our society isn't ready but I'm sure we will cope as a lot of people can reduce their mileage dramatically and relatively easily without reducing their quality of life (flexible working from home, working the week over 4 days rather than 5, lift sharing, public transport, reducing travel speed, getting a more efficient car (my present one only does 45mpg)). I know I can, and am working on my lifestyle/behaviour now to try an stay ahead of the price rises.

"who is going to pay for the infrastructure to make them practical/usable apart from in city centres?
What infrastructure? all you need is an outdoor 220 or 240 V outlet(110V in US). Most car ports and garages already have them, if not easy to install.

Your 20km drive to work( 40km round trip) can be handled by all EV's, and most PHEV can at least do the one-way trip in electric mode. Sounds like you could be saving a lot using an electric vehicle if petrol goes to higher than $3/L. In the meantime you can do what I did in the US in the 1070's car pool with 2 or 3 others, until your back-ordered EV arrives, car pooling is the fastest conservation measure if mass transit is not available.

The other change we need to put in place is timed metering. The system would struggle to handle the load peak at 6.00pm if we had a significant proportion of EVs.

Ideally recharging would occur during the day where it could be matched by solar generation, but the infrastructure associated with both the demand and supply would take many years to put in place. The immediate solution is timed metering to houses and payment of off peak rates for charging at night. This is relatively simple to impliment and could be rolled out progressively with the uptake of EVs.

PHEV platforms are not limited to a small car, it can power a 10 tone truck.

They can also do large trucks:

I beleive that Mitsubishi have put a $60K price tag in the iMiev for sale in Japan. I'm sure they'll just fly out the door at that rate!

That's interesting - Meridian Energy (one of the electricity companies in NZ) have run a promo with an iMiev prototype. Their PR blurb is very shy of mentioning any price
"The i MiEV will be available in New Zealand in 2010, but no pricing is available yet. To get a glimpse of how exciting the future of transport is set to be, visit"

Even worse, this is the type of use they are promoting ...
"The great thing is that you wouldn’t mind popping out. Normally, we wouldn’t make that extra trip to the shop because it’s going to cost and add more carbon dioxide into the air"

I.e. a trip to the shop that makes sense on a bike (or heaven forbid by walking) can now be done guilt free in a car. Anything to keep our happy motoring lifestyle going.

I believe that CNG could provide the immediate fix for the longer distance road travel requirements. We have ample gas supply (provided we see sense and don't contract it all out to LNG export) and the convesion of portions of the existing vehicle fleet is quite straight forward. A couple of things are required of government:
- Push for expansion of the current coverage of the east coast gas pipeline network.
- Subsidy program for CNG conversion of vehicles similar to the LPG program that has been in place for years.

and the convesion of portions of the existing vehicle fleet is quite straight forward

No, it is not. Not even all of our buses run on CNG. If everyone starts refilling their cars at night with gas, the gas pressure would go down and you would not be able to complete the filling in 8-10 hrs.

There would have to be a lot of new infrastructure for CNG. As mentioned above, we don't even have enough licensed gas mechanics. NOTHING is being prepared.

This contribution shows that the public is living on UNTESTED ASSUMPTIONS.

Prof. Aleklett mentioned several times that there will be food shortages because at present it takes 7 calories of energy of oil to produce 1 calorie of food.

So can readers of this debate please get away from their car dreams and focus on essentail things.

Only 1% of the oil use is for food production, the 7calories energy/1food calorie is irrelevant, it would matter if it was 700 energy calories/1 food calorie. We have examples of Iran and Pakistan using CNG vehicles, I think we could also manage to do the same.

I think your are kidding yourself.

Read this:

Why Our Food is So Dependent on Oil

If we have diesel shortages, we'll immediately have food shortages in the cities.

Growing food uses only 2% of daily energy use, transportation (in US ) 1.3%; most energy is used for processing and cooking at home( not using much oil is used for either). Calories are very misleading, each person uses 10 times more energy at home than are in food calories( 1000 calories is about 1.2kWh)

Agreed - it isn't that hard to imagine Australia relying on its own production in a crisis, enhancing it by building (or un-mothballing) biofuel plants and converting a lot of heavy and critical transport to CNG (while encouraging people to start building and buying electric cars for personal use).

it isn't that hard to imagine Australia relying on its own production in a crisis

My imagination leads to a severe curtailment of private use of petroleum in a crisis. The Federal government already have given themselves the power with the Liquid Fuel Emergency Act 1984 being updated by the Howard government in 2007. How long it takes to roll out the mass conversion to CNG and electric cars you suggest will be the question everyone will want to know, the day after the crisis is declared. 5-10 years would be my most optimistic guess. What will people do in the interim? A large chunk of them won't be doing their regular jobs due to the crisis I suspect.

Sure - individuals will find they have to reduce their fuel consumption by 50% or more. That would bring our per capita consumption back to where many other countries are right now.

This doesn't mean everything or everyone stops working, just that people will find car-pooling, telecommuting, public transport, cycling, walking, moving closer to work, getting an electric car or hybrid etc etc much more enticing. It won't be the end of the world and will prompt us all to do what we need to to reduce our dependence on oil (which won't happen until then, more than likely).

It will mean a lot of people will stop working if fuel supplies were cut 50% in a short space of time. Over the longer timeframe we are going to have to adjust to that anyway, but if a black swan takes flight and cuts Australia's imports drastically, then drastic decisons about who gets fuel and who doesn't are going to have to be made. I can say without doubt that I would no longer have a job in my current profession and most of the small business people I know would also be in serious trouble. There are very few absolutley essential services or industries but I would suggest that food, drinking water, sewerage and electricity and possible gas are going to get priority. We are talking crisis situation in this thread not the structural adjustments that will happen over time after the crisis situation becomes the norm.

No one living within a few kms of 100 neighbors has a valid excuse to not go to work within the city limits if petrol for private use was reduced to just 20% of normal consumption. Why because less than 50 % is used for work commuting, those who cannot travel on or squeeze into mass transit, can car-pool, one of your 100 closest neighbors is going to be traveling within a few kms of your work location or a work-mate is going to live within a few kms of your home.

It can be done, some people car pool now, its the norm in many countries, it requires no extra infrastructure, it costs less.
Essential services can still function until we go down to 5-10% present oil use, but by then we should have CNG conversions, EV conversions, cars running on wood gas( as was done in WWII) or gas bags on the roof.

The people who will suffer are those that need to move around the city or country on a non-regular schedule, such as trades people, they should have the best connections to get CNG conversions ahead or the rest of us, or some priority for rationed fuel.

It's not going to be a disaster, is going to be an inconvenient reality.

Circa 2000 I lived near a town on the Hume Highway linking Sydney and Melbourne. They were going to build a CNG truck filling station next to the petrol/diesel station since a major gas pipeline was nearby. Instead they built a MacDonalds and a KFC.

It seems to me a car like the Opel Zafira Turbo CNG would suit Australia. It has adequate power, range and room and runs on both petrol and CNG. Both Holden and Opel were part of the GM stable though with fewer financial problems. If 2012 is crunch time for liquid fuels as some suggest maybe a CNG/petrol van is the way to go. I run my car on biodiesel but I can see that is a very limited option long term.

When the crunch time comes, that bio-diesel will be requisitioned by government for use in the agricultural sector itself or for transport of food. You have no idea what means physical oil shortages and how the liquid fuels emergency legislation will have to be applied. Private motorists will be at the very end of the priority list, I can assure you. I went through these procedures myself during the 2nd oil crisis.


I met Kjell on at a BBQ last Saturday and took him back to his hotel in my EV. He was fascinated by the idea of people converting ICE cars to EVs and is considering converting his old Volvo that he uses to commute to the University in Uppsala.

His position on EVs was similar to mine - EVs are not a panacea. We won't be swapping entire fleets to electric in the timescales and economic constraints that we will have available in a few years. However we will still need cars. EVs can help deliver a modest amount of oil-free driving. EV conversions of ICE cars offer a relatively low cost way of obtaining a modest EV fleet in the short term even under the economic constraints imposed by Peak Oil. Given the main stream car companies like Mitsubishi have lost the plot with their $60,000 EV pricing, EV conversion (at $5-10k) may be the only viable alternative left.

You won't be driving interstate in an EV, but you just might make it into work in one.

If a sufficient number of EVs is being recharged with the local grid hanging on a suburban transformer, it'll blow in a hot night when all aircons are on.

Again, it is the same as with natural gas and CNG. These grids are not designed to cope with very energy hungry cars and a new infrastructure has to be built up.

In Australia, 85% of electricity is from coal fired power plants. By changing IC cars to EVs we change the fossil fuel dependency of the car fleet from oil to coal. That is not a sustainable strategy. It will kill our climate. In any event, just like peak oil has imposed itself on us, nature will soon force us to abandon coal much earlier than naively thought.

Sweden is in a better position as they have nuclear power.

If Australia decides not to turn its sugar crop into ethanol, then one way to make fuel for cars from coal is by Coskata's process that turns synthesis gas(carbon monoxide) into ethanol. It's not carbon neutral but it could suppliment biomass with landfill waste, old tires and even raw coal.

They say it is net positive with syngas from biomass feedstock.
Wouldn't it be net positive energy with syngas from coal?

The difference between coal and biomass as a feedstock is that in one case the carbon is underground and in the other case it is in the loop of the biosphere. We don't want to convert old underground C to new atmospheric CO2. Sustainable use of biomass should ensure no long run net additions to atmospheric carbon. Coal is prehistoric CO2 that has already been sequestered and should stay that way.

I'm not sure of the EROEI of the Coskata process but soon we'll need every fuel that burns cleanly. In Brazil I understand there are cars than run on combinations of ethanol, petrol and gas.

Yes, using coal to make ethanol will increase greenhouse gases but for coal rich Australia it would eliminate the threat of peak oil for a lifetime if bio-ethanol resources are too small, which is Aleklett's contention.

Well - we can just switch to CNG if we (Australia) want to avoid the threat of peak oil - we've got enough gas to last over 50 years, even if we ramp up domestic consumption and exports dramatically...

"Just switch"

See my comment above.

"technically thinkable" doesn't mean it can be quickly or even easily done. The quoted link is only about the gas resource, but not how to bring the gas to the motorist and convert vehicles. The best would be if you listed here all the projects needed to do that. How long will that take? How many vehicles of which type can be converted on an annual basis? What are the investment sums involved? Who will be the part suppliers? How will it be taxed? Is it economic while oil prices are volatile? Sydney still bought diesel buses recently. The CNG conversion is just not happening because of the peak oil denial mode. I do not see any smooth transition. The water must first come up to the neck and then you will see how many CNG development bottlenecks there are. There might be diesel shortages which will delay construction of gas pipelines, for example.

There are countries which can do quick decisions because their governments have more powers. Here, in a democracy, our Parliaments have turned into a debating club competition. As many heads as many opinions.

I can also say, in Europe they build new tram lines so we can just switch to trams here, too.

Solid Pink = existing gas pipes.

sourced from

If Iran can convert 400,000 vehicles to CNG in 2 years surely we can do the same, that's 1.2 million who can car pool to work without using petrol. Restoring trams is a good idea.

The peak electricity demand in summer is late afternoon and early evening, there is always a large surplus capacity at night. Our local suburban transformer is 400KVA, enough to charge two cars per household but as you pointed out we are a long way from having 100% of vehicles PHEV or EV.
Converting all cars to CNG would be problematic until new pipelines are built from CSM to major NG infrastructure, but again we could probably only convert 1million vehicles per year so would have 15 years, by which time a lot of new cars would be EV or PHEV.
The present NG infrastructure is adequate to start with 1million vehicles using a combination of home slow filling and service station rapid filling.

In Australia 78% of electricity is from coal, but renewables are increasing rapidly, so that by 2020 we could be getting >25%electricity from non FF sources(primarily from wind) and beyond that also some from nuclear, and a lot more from solar.

CNG while not ideal can help deal with a rapid decline in oil, as can petrol and diesel rationing, giving us time to replace ICE vehicles with EV and PHEV's.

The peak electricity demand in summer is late afternoon and early evening, there is always a large surplus capacity at night.

That is the theory. In practice, many will re-charge during the day (fearing they don't have enough power to get home), increasing the demand for electricity and very soon you will hear cries from the government we'll need another coal fired power plant.

It is a very bad idea to swap oil dependencies of the car fleet with coal dependencies.

In Australia 78% of electricity is from coal, but renewables are increasing rapidly, so that by 2020 we could be getting >25%electricity from non FF sources(primarily from wind) and beyond that also some from nuclear, and a lot more from solar.

Renewables increasing rapidly? Is there political support for nuclear? That would require the government telling the electorate the whole truth about our energy situation. The target is that by 2030 all current coal fired power plants have to be decommissioned or equipped with geo-sequestration. Only when that job is done can you start dreaming about electric cars.

Peak oil also means that the financial crisis will be permanent. So don't expect car loans by the millions to buy new EVs or PHEVs.

And by the way, don't get confused with those percentages. If we just ADD renewable energies to the existing coal fired power plants so that the "energy mix" is better, that doesn't help. The TOTAL emissions must go down.

The Howard government proposed 25 nuclear power plants, but NOT to replace coal fired power plants (which would be phased out only when they have reached the end of their lives) but by stacking them on top of coal. That exercise was useless.

Prof. Aleklett said in his lecture that - since Australia has no local industry supporting GW sized nuclear power plants - it will take 10 years until there are enough local skills to do the job. We have educated too many economists and lawyers and not engineers.

I think you are addicted to your car. Peak oil is the end of our car culture. You will have to learn it the hard way. I recommend you get emotionally detached from your car.

It is a very bad idea to swap oil dependencies of the car fleet with coal dependencies.

I agree, but I can see it happening - the public will demand it. We have already seen the governments carbon reduction targets watered down in the face of the GFC. No way we are going to be mothballing coal fired power stations or supporting a green agenda in the face on an oil-driven economic crisis.

Natural gas and CTL are both stop gaps based on fossil fuels, however I can't see any way to stop them.

Just to put some real world numbers on EVs - I use an average of 6 kWh/day to travel 30km. My 2kW PV array generates an average of 8 kWh/day. An EV conversion and PV array to charge it costs less than a new, medium size car. Many Australian homes could reduce their electricity consumption by 6kWh/day with some simple measures (we reduced ours by 15 kW/day).

If Peak Oil bites hard people won't be demanding they run their air con and charge their car. One of them will be switched off or rationed. Actually another low cost transport technology that is very efficient on power and can be ramped up quickly is electric bikes.

Even if we use brown coal for electricity it's Australian brown coal. A major problem with Peak Oil is energy security. The city of Adelaide is supplied by 1 oil tanker every 10 days from Singapoore. One day that tanker won't come, or might be a few days late. Imagine the economic and social effects of any city running low on petrol for a few days. Imagine the demand for EVs shortly after a supply interruption!

It won't be a 100% conversion to EVs. It won't be BAU but in electric cars. Most ICE cars will be junked.

You have done a great job using today's(or last years) technology, but I am not sure why you say it won't be BAU with electric cars?
It's pretty normal for old technology to be junked as it wears out, not too many Cobb&Co coaches still running. Many places have run low on petrol for a few days or weeks or months, it's a nuisance, not the end of the world. Now totally running out for ever is a different matter but that seems unlikely in the next 20 years.

Hi Neil1947,

Actually I'm using 20 year old technology....DC motor EVs use pretty simple hardware (which could and should be much cheaper).

I should point out that my idea of Peak Oil is a rapid rise in fossil fuel prices over a short period in time, (like a sustained version of the oil prices we had in 2008), leading to economic chaos.

Re BAU with EVs, a couple of reasons:

1/ As PO hits and fuel plus the cost of living rises many people won't have the money required to convert to EV technology. Imagine the effect of even $2/litre fuel for 12 months on the poorer families here with long commutes. Governments will have all sorts of problems to fight and won't be much help with infrastructure. So I don't think we will have the opportunity for a leisurely conversion to eletric, say like we did from leaded to unleaded (which was a very minor change).

2/ EV technology can't compete head on with ICE. You just don't get the range, power, recharge time that you get with fossil fuels. So the family car holiday is out, and even long distance, high speed commutes are problematic. Commutes we take for granted today are out. Concepts like project Better Place while great from a technical perspective will require vast investments and lots of time.

So my best guess for the future just after the effects of PO really hit is a proportion of EVs (along with traditional petrol, nat gas, LPG) cars, but overall lower car ownership and usage than today. Cars being used mainly for essential purposes.

Re the benign effects of petrol running low, could you give me some examples? Some third world countries I have visited would be OK for a while, but not sure about the first world.

I often look at the traffic and wonder would happen if Adelaide ran dry for a few days. For example would the semis carrying food from interstate still come if they couldn't refuel for the return trip? I understand fuel shipments would eventually arrive from states with refineries (assuming they had fuel), but in the mean time I think it would be quite a shock. This would be less of a problem in 3rd world countries, as they don't use just-in-time methods to stock essential supply chains.

- David

Hi David,
I worked in SA DEpt Agriculture so am aware that SA produces lots of meats, fruits, flour and pasta, potatoes and vegetables within a 100 km drive(or rail) of Adelaide and also sea foods, beer and wine. No one would go hungry!

What would disappear would be highly processed foods, and a lot of manufactured items if they could not be transported by rail. Rail uses so little diesel I don't think a WWII type rationing of fuel ( for example as occurred in Switzerland, Sweden) would prevent essential supplies arriving.
The big loss would be private transport using ICE vehicles. If this occurs over 20-30 years normal replacement will allow a smooth BAU transition to EV and PHEV's(which can compete with ICE vehicles). If rapid ( as you are assuming )then we would need to do what Iran did a few years ago when they started to run low on petrol, they converted 400,000 vehicles to CNG.

I think you are over-estimating the damage that $140 oil did to the Australian economy, fuel went up to $1,80/L, an had very little effect on household consumption compared with mortgage rates of 9-10%. These fuel prices were not high enough to force many off the roads onto mass transit, I think we will need $3-5/L to start people moving to mass transit( where they can) or car pooling.Lots of vehicles get 6-7L/100k so for these owners perhaps 30L/week(extra $60-120/week) comparable to a 1-2% interest rate change on an average 300,000 mortgage. Car pooling would halve this cost, mass transit one quarter the cost.

We need to remember that almost no one in Australia uses oil for heat or electricity, really essential in colder climates. I lived in US in late 1970's when NG was rationed, very little available for heating or hot water when it was 5-10 degrees below zero, could only heat one room(fireplace), cooked on green wood, had to leave taps dripping to stop freezing pipes, but everyone kept functioning. In Australia we do produce some oil locally, only a days sailing time from Adelaide, and I am sure we could manage with only 50% present consumption with minor inconvenience(rationing).

Thanks Neil! That is some interesting and somewhat comforting information. Your ideas of WW2 type rationing, and food from local source within 100km are pretty much how I see it playing out. I agree that if we are well organised no one will starve, and a return to rail would be very welcome (once the many old country rail lines are re-opened). As me wife says, society could actually be improved by less cars. So it's not all bad.

I can also see a crash course in various types of conversions happening if the short term scenario plays out. It's one reason I am working hard to promote EVs, and especially local EV businesses.

Good point re $ spend on fuel re mortgages. However I feel that $ spent directly on fuel prices is the tip of the iceberg. For instance I know that truck mechanics saw a big fall of in scheduled maintenance last Winter (truckies couldn't afford servicing any more). Food prices will also go up due to shipping and fertilizers - hurting already marginalised farmers. Airlines were (and many still are) teetering on the brink, and with them tourism. Much of our trade depends on cheap air freight. Look at the health of our car industry after just a short spell of expensive oil and the GFC. I agree people will adapt as fuel prices rise, but I maintain that the economic damage will pile up. Our current cities are designed for cheap oil, and despite the respite with low interest rates many people are delicately balanced financially. Oil prices are a rising tax on virtually everything we do.

Airline travel uses about 4L/100km, the Melbourne to Sydney connection ( the 5th highest volume in the world) would use 20L of fuel, so even at $5/L that's only $80, extra. We will see a lot of non-commuting traffic drop away, people shopping less often but buying for a week or two it may be possible to find a parking place at some of the malls again.

We have lots of rail lines into all the cities and major towns its only minor lines that have been shut, could re-lay tracks quickly.

I think a lot of people have more money now than a year ago, certainly more in cash accounts even if super is down, its coming back quickly. I just retired so I can walk or travel anywhere for $2.50 a day. I think a lot of retired people have cut back the expensive trips overseas until they know how long their super is going to last, but are not starving, the coffee shops and restaurants are still crowded during the work-days.

the coffee shops and restaurants are still crowded during the work-days

You know my wife and I often see similar affluence ask the question "What GFC". The media and government comparing our current situation to the Great Depression (where food and even basic medical were a problem for some) seems a very big stretch in a society as rich as ours. The worst I can see is mortgage stress (people in over their heads with big loans on the expectation that property prices always rise).

Re the airlines (along with many other industries) fuel is a huge chunk of their expenditure so their business is very sensitive to fuel prices. It's not as simple as adding the fuel prices to the fare and BAU. A great deal of their volume depends on a customer base that wasn't there when it cost $400 for a MEL-SYD return flight. They (like most national economies) also depend on year-year growth to cover investments and interest.

Actually in general a huge chunk of our economy is service based and based on discretionary spending.

However I look the way you put numbers on these issues - you have given me good food for thought.

.....but that seems unlikely in the next 20 years.

Untested assumption. Wait until we get another oil war in the Middle East

I meant its unlikely that the NW shelf and Bass strait will run out in 20 years, wasn't figuring on the middle east at all.

Would our generating capacity would be improved by a high capacity transmission line from WA to the eastern states? NG powered peak load generating capacity from over there could be supplemented by a string of solar thermal, hot rock and wind power generators providing base load along the way across the GAFA. Would transmission losses be too great? Would we be better off to pipe or ship the gas to the eastern states? (I was away the day we did electrical engineering!)

It depends what you mean by "generating capacity", but yes - expanding the grid to be continent wide would make it more resilient and enable much greater utilisation of renewable energy sources (with solar, wind and maybe wave power being the best options from the bight and outback WA - the best geothermal prospects are quite close to the existing eastern states "National Electricity Market" grid).

NG peaking plants might not be necessary, as WA solar thermal output would match the eastern states summer peak (early evening) very well.

Neil has done a post on expanding the grid previously (just the existing NEM region however) :

Oh - regarding piping gas from WA east, it doesn't make any sense to do this - the eastern states have a lot of coal seam gas - there isn't any need to try and pipe the stuff from north west WA (or from PNG, which is closer and was the previous option under consideration before the coal seam gas boom).


Your comment regarding electric conversions might eventually turn out to be on the money.

Like most farmers I do a good bit of mechanical work,and I have looked into the conversion kits available.

The biggest problem is that like any jury rigged system performance suffers.This is not a killer because many people can live with a very shortrange car. Large numbers of people here in the US could use a limited range electric as either a first or second car.The average Yank will give up the ability to fly down the interstate to the beach or Grandma's house when they pry his cold dead fingers off his steering wheel,but he might buy his wife an electric for nieghborhood use.My guess is that the average Australian feels the same way.

(I will hazard a guess that professional urban women will drive the ev market as a social statement and practical matter for the first few years of ev sales..Such women are known to harbor a righteous suspicion of dealer service departments and garages.Nurses who work in fertility clinics have even been heard to remark that they offer a second alternative sort of "peter treatment" at such businesses.)

If gasoline goes high enough,and the electric car itself is cheap enough,I believe most of us would buy an electric for use as either our first or second car for commuting and running local errands.
The problem is that the numbers don't add up-yet.

Gasoline cost are not unreasonable compared to an electric conversion even at five bucks per gallon, if the daily round trip is say forty to fifty miles or less and you drive a car that gets good mileage.Forty miles appears to be the practical upper limit on a conversion.

My older Ford Escort has ps,pb,and ac. Driven very gently it gets close to 30 mpg average.It can cruise all day at speeds in excess of 80 mph.(I don't know what the mileage would be at such a high speed,but at a steady 60 on the interstate it gets 37 plus.)Keep in mind that this car will comfortably haul four Yank sized adults and a considerable trunk(boot)of goodies.There are lots of smaller cars that will do much better.

Given the fixed costs of owning and operating any car,the electric just cannot compete on the basis of fuel cost savings alone when one can drive round trip forty miles for less than six bucks for gasoline.The choice,practically speaking, is not between a 10 -12 mpg FWD pickup and a limited range electric but rather between the electric and a comparably sized gasoline powered car.

Insurance,property taxes, licence fees,routine maintainence,and depreciaton make up the larger part of costs even when driving an older(1999) car like mine for most people,and the less you drive,the higher the proportion of these costs.Excluding depreciation,I estimate my cost of driving 300 miles a week at about thirty bucks for gasoline(current local prices)fifteen dollars for maintainence and ten fixed costs.This works out to about 20(rough estimates) cents yank per mile.

If I drive the old trap only ten miles next week,the fixed costs alone are a dollar a mile for the week.There are a lot more weeks that I drive it ten miles than 300.

If you stop to consider the depreciation costs of a new vehicle,which can run anywhere from forty dollars(roughly) per week for a cheap car on up a couple of hundred of dollars per week for the more expensive cars,it's easy to see why the prudent consumer drives his older car into the dirt before he trades.Lots of country folk who need a truck get by with a pickup truck that serves all purposes to avoid the depreciation and fixed costs of ownership of a small car,which would save a lot of gas.

Perhaps now that there has been a regime change in Washington,some regulations designed to ease the cost of ownership of a second car,if it is an electric commuter, might possibly be considered at least at a brainstorming session among junior staffers.

Most of the time when a change of any sort is advocated,the advocate of change paints the brightest possible picture of the new and the dingiest(muddy,dirty,stained)possible of the old.Even Exxon and El Rushbo are entitled to thier say,so lets hear the case for putting off your first ev a few years.

Electric vehicles are touted as being much more reliable and simpler than ice cars.Simplicity will theoritically lower repair and maintainence costs dramatically.Such will undoubtedly prove to be the case-eventually.In the short term,however,it may be a mistake to buy an electric for this reason.

A new alternator for my Ford costs three times as much at the local Ford dealer as it costs at the auto parts store right down the street-and the auto parts store warrants free exchange as long as
I own the car.The independent garages around here generally charge only about one half the dealer prices for routine repairs,and frankly speaking,knowledgeable locals are prone to trade (quietly)if they find out they MUST take thier older car to a dealer for a major repair. That new electric is going to the dealer for almost anything that can go wrong under the hood(bonnet)for a good long while- until there are enough of them around for the independent parts suppliers and mechanics to get into the game.

Other facts often(conveniently) ovrlooked in the discussion of repair costs is that other parts of the car such as the lights brakes,suspension,air conditioning,and so forth will still break down as often as ever.The simplified drive train will undoubtedly be much cheaper to maintain once the bugs are worked out,but if you do have a major out of warranty problem,all bets are off for the near term.

Then the fact that newer cars quite often last without drive train failures well past 200,000 miles must also be considered.The politically correct wine cheese and ecology set have been known in the past to throw parties when the odometers of thier Volvos passed the 300,000 mile mark,but this is such a common occurence with well maintained Toyotas and Hondas that it is no longer even a source of bragging rights among gearheads.Most of them nowadays feel cheated unless thier car passes the 250,000 mark without without serious repairs.Now if you stop to think about a new 3,000 bucks plus battery at 150,000 miles or so.......

Cars can get pretty ratted out in 300,000 miles if hard used,and lots of folks trade up not for reliability but appearances.

Any mechanic will tell you that the vast majority of repairs become necessary as a result of poor maintainence practices,abuse,or shortcuts on the drawing boards or the assembly line.A car that is actually WORN OUT in the sense that a farm tractor or over the road truck is worn out is an extreme rarity.Planned obsolesence ala GM might have sold tens of millions of cars in the past,but the coming of real competition finished that scam-and GM to boot.

(This is not to say that the planned obsolesence strategy might not make a comeback.)

A couple of examples might clarify this might clarify this statement;there is very little demand for the 4 liter ford v6 used in pickups in the early nineties because they don't wear out or suffer catastrophic breakdowns as a rule until well after 250,000 miles.The 4.3 liter chevy engine used in thier pickups in those years is a brisk seller because most of these engines as a rule last less than 250,000 miles.The automatic transmission failure rates are reversed,although neither the ford nor the gm automatics of the era were very good.Sales of the stick shift transmissions for both makes are mostly limited to buyers converting from automatics.A relative small investment in improving the most troublesome components of these trucks would have easily added another 100,000 miles or more to thier life expectancy.The manager of the biggest local auto wrecking yard confirms these statements.In the interests of full disclosure,I hereby declare that I am known there as an occasional customer.

Now let's get back to the electric conversion.At eight or ten grand Joe SixPack won't buy until gas goes up one hell of a lot.The cash strapped carbon conscious sorts who can't afford new evs and gearheads at the cutting edge will buy a few.My pov,speaking as a sometime gearhead, is that if you are technically adept,go for it diy(do it yourself).If you pay somebody you don't know personally,the odds are too high that you will find thier shop closed and parts and service unavailable to take a chance on the 8,000 plus bucks.

(Fwiw,here's another bit of wisdom for those new to self sufficiency.For many years if you could buy any kind of industrial parts or machinery cheap because it had found it's way outside the normal channels of commerce,you could well afford to take a chance on it,as it was probably excellent quality English,American,Japanese,or German made.Globalization has flooded the market with junk of every description including electric motors,gearboxes,etc,as well as throwaway toasters and toys.Buyer beware.)

I strongly suspect that the kits are so expensive at present because the volumes are so low that very few economies of scale can be realized.The conversion costs will probably come down substantially as volumes rise-unless ev coversions become such a hot sellers market that prices actually rise as costs fall.That seems to have been the case with pv at least at retail for a long time.


A few thoughts:

1/ Sure, any ICE car beats an EV in many areas due to the availability of cheap, energy dense, non-renewable fuel. If that fuel becomes hard or very expensive then an EV that can be charged from local energy sources suddenly wins hands down. Any EV is better than an ICE car that is out of gas.

2/ Many people confuse needs and wants with cars. Our 2 seater, 40km range EV handles 90% of our driving (we live in a city of 1M people). We use the ICE for long trips or when we need to cart the whole family (2 adults, 3 kids) together. I think I put fuel in the ICE last month but I can't remember for sure. It often sits for 3 weeks unused, and unloved. People think they need an EV with a 200kW motor, 400km range, that seats 5, and can be charged in 10 minutes. Then they get in their car and drive 20 minutes to work. Marketing is a big problem with EVs at present - they would actually be useful to many people today.

BTW the conversion prices I quoted were AUD$ in Qty 1. Can be much cheaper in the US, or in volume.

- David

I prety much am in agreemant with you.I merely intended to point out the facts(as I see them) regarding the costs differentials that make e cars such a hard sell right now.

Its hard to find this kind of information in any one place,its so often one side or the others pov only.I mostly try to tell both sides of the story,except when I'm in a bad mood.

I fully expect the e car in some form to become very popular in the near future.If I had enough money to open a conversion shop,and weren't so old,such a shop would be high on my list of possible future opportunities.

Never the less I would not buy an e car ,even if I could afford any new car within the next two or three years, because I would expect to get a cheaper price on a better car later that will more than compensate me for the wait.I have put off buying pv for the same reason.I just hope I don't get caught with my pants down -maybe the grid will last a little longer.ditto the local service station.We heat with wood,drive very little except as necessary to run the farm,raise most of our food.We are "withit" for both ecological and economical reasons.


Yes you are spot on with the price arguments against EVs. I often find myself slipping into economic debates with people when comparing EVs to similar sized ICE vehicles. EVs are a hard sell right on the basis of $ right now. The latest pricing on factory EVs hasn't helped, either.

It's an unfortunate rut we are in - only something like an oil shock will bounce us out of it. The problem then of course is that it may be too late to ramp up any sort of EV industry. That's why I am focusing on low cost EV conversions right now. They make economic sense at todays oil prices (comparable or cheaper than ICE) on a cost/km basis. That means they have a chance of helping build some sort of EV industry now, to help us prepare for the next few years.

I think you pretty much nailed it when it comes to describing what an EV can be and what we should not try to make them. The most common form of EV on the road today is the electric bicycle and this alone could cover many of the trips we currently do in cars. Now bicycles are great for certain areas and climates but they have their limitations. I suspect that what we will end up seeing is micro-EV cars that are jsut as you described. Two seats (could be pillion style like a motorbike, low power commuter vehicle that get you from A to B with maybe some hand luggage thrown in. I imagine a motortrike with an enclosed lightweight shell for weather protection might be achiveable and marketable. Chevy Volt - not so much.

Any views on Better Place's foray into Oz (partnering with AGL, Macquarie Bank (and Renault/Nissan))?

Technically it's a fine idea. The aims of this project are EVs replace ICE and it's BAU. Using battery swaps we get EVs that look and feel just like ICE and we go on with the current car culture (albeit inside a interesting new business model where battery packs are rented).

Realistically I don't think we have the resources/capital/time for this project to get up on a large scale before Peak Oil bites. It's a better fit to the "EVs replace ICE over the next 20 years to curb greenhouse" model that is currently popular in the main stream media.

From the SMH article above:

......... as oil production peaks within the next three years.

Next 3 years? This is a typical example how the public is being mis-informed by the media. The graph - which is from Kjell's slide show - clearly shows THAT OIL PRODUCTION HAS ALREADY PEAKED.

This is a typical example how the public is being mis-informed by the media.

And you're not going to get much better from the Australian Media. :(

I wouldn't worry about driving around I would worry about eating...
I just blew thru 8,000 liters of diesel plus the embedded fuel in the MAP and herbicide/insecticide this planting season and i am only a small operator. Finding the $2.50 for a liter of fuel will be a lot harder if your sandwich costs you $50.00.

I posted here years ago peak oil = peak food.

australia will return to the hellhole it once was
a desert furnace inhabited by a few indians

in the transition will be a mad-max scenario
it will be entertaining to watch
from a suitable distance

people just want to be happy
but i am here to tell them that they aren’t going to be happy
i am here to tell them that the world’s gonna be a shithole real soon

they will be homeless, jobless, busted, in jail or dead soon
90% of the world’s fish are extinct
the planet is almost dead already
humans will soon be killing each other over the last scraps of food

there will be no rescue
there will be no divine fucking intervention
there will not be a ‘better day’
better days already passed long ago

there will be ‘worse days’, and ‘worser days’ after them
there will be killing, murder, [Gav: most offensive section deleted]
there will be acts committed that we don’t even have words for yet
and that will be just the beginning

just the beginning of a new deathlife for the survivors
their own private horrorshow filled with coming attractions

What a Gyp!

You just cut and pasted the same rant you posted over on Big Gav's site not a half hour ago!

What's happened to the pride in the doomer corps!?

Ok, ISO is probably not a doomer.. but a cornucopian having a bit of 'doomer-taunting-fun' .. but at least keep your material fresh!

be happy
all that was once impure will become pure once again
by the divine light of total retribution
your souls will be freed to wander the endless abyss
free from the constraints of this ugly existence

soon the sun will become red giant
and swallow this measly planet along with others
there is no need to struggle
there is no way to change fate

I don't plan to be around in 1Billion years, but it sounds like you think you will. Keep thinking optimistic thoughts, have a nice day ( I meant 365Billion days).

The ideation that Australia could be fast approaching its' own "Peak Oil" scenario over the next few years could be correct if we discount the new emerging technologies for liquid fuel production. At the moment Australia has three companies well advanced along the pathway of producing liquids from coal. Linc Energy has successfully trialed the combination of Underground Coal Gasification and the conversion of the resultant Syngas to ultra-clean diesel (gas to liquids). This combination is deemed as UCG-GTL. Carbon Energy in conjunction with the CSIRO are also moving steadily towards production and Cougar Energy are also moving along nicely.

Linc's technique has been shown to produce between 1 - 2 barrels of oil per ton of coal burned underground. Linc recently took over Sapex and consequently has several billion tons of coal that is deemed to be suitable for their UCG-GTL program. They are currently building a 20,000 bopd demonstration facility.

Of note and widely missed by the investing community is the 1 - 1.5 trillion tons of coal discovered over the last few months by CTP in the Perdika Basin. CTP has according to independant reports good prospects for their UCG program as their coal is at the right depth, grade and importantly has thick seams up to 40m in diameter. Another plus is that they almost straddle the Darwin to Adelaide railway and consequently will have little difficulty in transporting their diesel and other fuels eg Kerosine to either Australian or Asian markets.

Our Australian Labor govt. is well aware and supportive of this emerging industry

You can read about these companies, their technologies and issues at

Australia is on the verge of another great leap forward.

Owing to Australia's almost unique geology we have vast stores of energy in our Hot Rocks. Hot Rock Energy - Geothermal energy is going to play a very large part in our future emmission free electricity production. Once again our Govt. is onside and is actively supporting this emerging technology. The amounts of energy is almost unbelievable but even our Federal Govt. is quoting figures that seem absurd until you take a close look.

""if a low estimate of 1% were taken, Australian geothermal sources could provide 26,000 years of energy supply."... Geoscience Australia

You can read about

Note that Hot Rock Energy/Geothermal is amongst the first to come on stream and is perhaps the only one capable of providing emmission free base load power.

So in summary:

Australia could face an oil supply crunch... but new emerging technologies that are currently recieving Govt recognition and support will come online and address the problem making Australia the very lucky energy country.

Try to be considerate of those with low-bandwidth connections and not post such large images.

The likely problem with CTL and that particular coal field is availability of water.

Both CTL and geothermal in Australia have been covered here previously - I'm enthusiastic about geothermal power and accept that CTL is a (environmentally harmful) backup options of sorts to "mitigate" peak oil.

Normally I wouldn't engage but:

The 6 images add up to 300KB... which for 6 images is really quite small!

That UCG-GTL is "harmful" hasn't been determined. The advantages of having very low particulate diesel are fairly obvious.

The Monash model is perhaps a "dirty" method of Coal to liquids vis a vis UCG-GTL.

I gather that you are referring to CTP's Perdika coal with your comment re water. The recent suitability report didn't mention anything about a lack of water... the Martin Place Securities report Mon, 8th/June/09 mentions a high liklihood of CTP also being able to extract water from their CSM wells.... but if you have a link to "that particular coal field is availability of water" it would be useful to post it.

Further if someone says that Australia is going to endure "peak oil" then even if the solutions have been covered earlier it is hard to see why it isn't valid to highlight the solutions. And finally as a newcomer to the site how was I to know that the subjects had been covered earlier and I also note that those threads are now closed to further comment.... Did I stand on your toe?

For those that think that electric vehicles are going to be the answer it might be useful to check out the situation in regards to Rare Earths and Lithium supplies.

Sites spruking mining stocks are not very reliable, Neodymium is as abundant as Copper and Zinc but in less concentrated ores that require high labor to extract and purify, Li availability has been discussed at length it's fairly abundant, enough for a billion vehicles at today's prices. As David has shown we can manage with Lead/acid or various Nickel batteries.

Tesla Motors, as one example, use neither of these, so I'm not sure what the relevance is...

1. "Normally you wouldn't engage" ? With the author of the post ? Well - feel free not to - no skin off my nose - you've made an annoying start here.

2. 300 Kb is a lot on a dial up, especially when people go back to the thread repeatedly over a few days.

3. I would have thought the environmental damage caused by UCG-GTL style CTL is obvious - carbon emissions for starters.

4. What CSM wells are being produced in northern SA producing excess water suitable for use in a CTL process ?

5. I was simply making all readers aware that there is a lot of material available on geothermal and CTL here already (otherwise we tend to go over a lot of the same ground) - not sure why you are so defensive about it - you should be happy we've already covered something you are apparently enthusiastic about.

Well Gav,
I am very pleased that you have had discussions before about rare earths, lithium, geothermal and UCG_GTL technologies. I come to these subjects from an investment point of view and find them to be both interesting and exciting. Somehow I got an email from your site to come and have a look. I'm pleased I did so.

By engaging I meant becoming involved in argy - bargy.

I would be grateful to the link about: "The likely problem with CTL and that particular coal field is availability of water"

I did speak with the CEO of the company in question at length the other day and I think that I did ask him about water. I will ring and ask him.

I don't have a link handy, but traditional CTL is water hungry (which has caused the Chinese problems in their CTL project in inner-Mongolia).

The situation for UCG is less clear cut - the process used historically in the Soviet Union and here at Chinchilla uses water as one of the inputs. However there is another process which seems to just use oxygen, in which case water is presumably not a limiting factor.

Well Gav if we are to trust Boof's input the coals in the Perdika are waterlogged.

I know that most CSM projects require dewatering and CTP are drilling multiple exploration CSM wells. But I won't push the point until I have rung CTP and asked the question directly.

I think that most of the water required is in the GTL Syngas to Liquids phase and depending on the syngas makeup that this can vary from 1 to 7 barrels of water using the older processes. CTP have a great advantage here in that they have coal seams from 80m down to well past 1000m. This will allow for them to fine tune their inputs and also to produce different qualities of syngas acording to the output desired.

OK - if Boof is right and there is plenty of water down below you could have a mix of CSG and UCG projects going, with waste water from the CSG projects being used as a feedstock for the UCG projects.

Presumably the water will need to be purified (most CSG waste water has a lot of impurities and I imagine these might not be helpful in the UCG-GTL processes) - so there might be a niche for solar-thermal desalination here too...

That was the scenario that was recently put to me. We were discussing the use of CSM and then converting the remaining coal via UCG.

The water storage could present a challenge but with such a lot of coal it should be possible to have a CSM extraction system that integrates with a UCG system. It makes sense as only a small amount of the available energy is extracted via CSM leaving the UCG process that is able to extract in the vicinity of 90% of energy. Some studies suggest that the two processess need to be only 500m apart.

Fair enough - that sounds like it could be feasible.

Whatever else I've said it would be worthwhile to read this article by Martin Place Securities.

On UCG, you could work on the list of questions in my comments above:

One of the environmental problems are carcinogenic condensates which come out during the syngas production. How will that stuff be disposed off? This is totally missing from the above graph "UCG Product"

It will also be tricky to maintain the underground combustion in a continuous way with a homegenous gas output. Mind you, our coal addicted governments think they can burn all the good coal in coal fired power plants forever and will therefore use UCG only in coal deposits which are otherwise uneconomic and therefore of lower quality.

And let's do some basic numbers. Assume 1 t of coal => 1 barrel of liquids. So 100 mt of coal would be 100/365 = 274 kb/d. Australia consumes 900 kb/d of oil. That says it all.


Basic numbers:
I trillion tons of coal if converted via a UCG_GTL process will produce 1.5 - 2 Trillion barrels of oil at a cost of around $28 per barrel if Linc's process is used. Transport will add another $4 - $6 to get the liquids to Darwin.

Central Petroleum has a market cap of $30m, substantial cash, several JVs with major companies and a huge amount of prospective ground that they are currently proving up. Put another way CTP holders have around a ton of coal for about 0.00003 cents. CTP also probably has CSM , Oil and Helium in commercially attractive amounts.

The struggle to survive and not be swallowed is shared by CTP across the broad spectrum of Australian junior resource and alternative energy companies. If Australia is to become energy independant then Australia and its' investors need to become pro-active. I personally believe that Australia will soon become one of the world's most energy rich countries, probably powered by Hot Rock Energy, Gas and synthetic oils. Allowing us to establish a "cradle to grave" uranium export industry for those less fortunate countries that do not have our energy wealth.

By way of explanation much of northern South Australia is Precambrian granite overlain by Permian to Cretaceous sediments. The granite contains mineable uranium in places like Olympic Dam and the sedimentary cap has trapped heat from radioactive decay at geothermal sites like the one favoured by Geodynamics. What you call the Pedirka Basin I believe includes the more familiar Arckaringa Basin. It is thought that sandstone layers in the coal may contain uranium suggesting some will go up the chimneystacks when the coal is burned. It would be totally bizarre if coal was loaded on the same railroad that carries yellowcake (ammonium diuranate) from Olympic Dam.

In my opinion the hype on both Linc in Queensland and Geodynamics in South Australia is way overblown. I believe the Feds have helped substantially with both companies costs. I suspect neither company will be able to survive without ongoing subsidies. Linc must build their 20,000 bpd plant and sell the liquid after heavy buying of CO2 permits under the ETS. Geodynamics will have to build a transmission line to a major customer if they can get their operation to work.

This is not an energy revolution but a couple of experiments that could easily go nowhere.

Hi Boof,

I've never seen a reference to an assay showing that the Perdika coals are uranium contaminated. I'd be pleased to see a reference.

I disagree with you about the future of Hot Rock Energy and UCG-GTL and the really great thing is that time will tell.

A paper on uranium associated with coal is here. It's not that uncommon world wide and explains how coal burning releases a lot of radioactivity.

I note the PIRSA web page on uranium is now password protected. However their section on coal suggests those outback deposits are too deep, thin layered or waterlogged. Leave them be I suggest.

Yes sandstones in widespread parts of the world and Australia frequently have low levels of uranium. From what I understand uranium is nearly everywhere including sea water etc.

But that is a long way from making the case that the Perdika coals have uranium contamination sufficient to present problems with UCG. So "Perdika coals are uranium contaminated" remains the question to be answered. You also need to be aware that burning coal in a furnace connected to a chimney is a very different process to burning coal underground in a sealed system.

OK I guess uranium could be scrubbed mainly as dust coming up the UCG pipe. The analogous problem with granite geothermal is that the steam/froth contains radon gas and should not be vented.

A huge problem with both UCG and granite geothermal is lack of control over the underground plumbing. Then there is the above ground shenanigans; for Linc that is nitrogen, pre and post production CO2, dust and water contamination of the feedstock. For Geodynamics it is low ΔT, local rock cooling and remoteness from the grid . If both companies can solve these problems without permanent subsidies then great.

The leading hot rock energy players PTR, GDY etc are going to use closed loop systems so the radon will not be vented and the water will be re-used. As you say GDY are a long way from the grid... but Petratherm: ASX Code PTR has a local customer that should see them bring in enough $s to close the gap to the grid. Also PTR overseas plays are attractive. Companies like Kuth Energy ASX Code: KEN who are directly under high voltage lines won't face that particular problem. The other 8 asx listed companies and the 50 or so private companies involved all have varying models but as Geoscience Australia says: "if a low estimate of 1% were taken, Australian geothermal sources could provide 26,000 years of energy supply." so it seems unlikely that "local cooling" will be insurmountable. (The local rock cooling will be relatively easily mitigated for companies with a HEWI type model)

Both Linc and Carbon Energy have successfully trialed their UCG processes and have demonstrated very reduced environmental impacts when compared with traditional energy extraction from coal. There were two widely criticised USA trials of UCG that reulted in ground water contamination.. up to 500m from the site. Poor site selection and a bias to failure have been cited. But it doesn't really suprise me that Australia is smarter than the USA in developing technologies that offend big oil.

Now regarding subsidies: As start ups these companies deserve R&D funding! And those of us that are willing to invest in these new technologies deserve to have a Flow Through Share Relief scheme similar to the Canadians. If we don't go down this path we will see more and more foreign ownership and thus deny our future generations their place in the economic sunshine. We have already lost our chance to be the world's Rare Earth Elements swing producer and have in my opinion carelessly ceded long term dominance to China.

Fly ash contains concentrated amounts of uranium and thorium. The amount of radiation absorbed by people living near coal fired power plants is several times greater than that absorbed by those living near nuclear power facilities. The total amount is still low and low risk but not many people know about it.

Fly ash contains concentrated amounts of uranium and thorium. The amount of radiation absorbed by people living near coal fired power plants is several times greater than that of those living near nuclear power facilities. the total amount is still low and low risk but not many people know about it.

1 - 1.5 trillion tons of coal discovered

Ugh. I can't think of anything worse. Apart from digging it up and burning it the old-fashioned way, of course.

A comment above referred to CTL using Pedirka coal, and there's been discussion about the feasibility of CTL.

What about the coal? Just a day or two ago there was a post suggesting that Australian coal would run out in a few decades. OTOH, here's a report of about 2T tons of coal!

"The findings are a solid outcome and whilst there has not yet been sufficient drilling to arrive at a JORC resource estimate, the report has defined a coal Exploration Target potential of between 0.6-1.3 trillion tonnes above 1,000 m with a total tonnage inclusive of deeper coal sections of between 1.5 to 2.1 trillion tonnes in CTP's combination of Mining and Petroleum Act permits and applications that covers most of the same ground," Central Petroleum's Managing Director, John Heugh, said.

"This is a significant conclusion, as the estimate is based on a realistic contribution of several factors, including a fresh interpretation of the geometry of the Basin, three dimensional data from seismic surveys, 2008 drillholes including cumulative coal intercepts of much greater than 100 m, and supporting geophysical downhole logging data. We were already aware from previous modelling that the Basin's coal footprint extends over more than 9,000 km2 of the Purni Formation alone in EP 93, just one of the company's Pedirka Basin tenements, so this is a further step along the confidence path to vindicate substantive coal focused drilling throughout the Basin."

What does this say about coal supplies??