Drumbeat: March 15, 2013

Obama to announce plans to fund alternative fuel research

WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to announce Friday that he will ask Congress to create an energy security trust to fund research into alternatives to gasoline, according to senior White House officials.

The $2-billion fund to be disbursed over 10 years would come from increased revenue the administration expects from streamlining the permitting process for drilling, and from higher oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, the officials said.

The role of the trust, which will be in the president's budget proposal, would be to support cutting-edge research into fuels that would eventually replace gasoline, a prospect that the officials conceded was years away. They added that no new territory would be added to federal lands already set aside for energy development. Revenue channeled to the trust would be on top of revenue already expected from federal lands, and would not take money out of other government coffers to put to this project, they said.

Obama turns focus to research in first energy speech of second term

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will try to turn the page on bitterly partisan fights over energy policy on Friday, focusing his first energy speech of his second term on proposing a modest new fund to support research.

Obama will tour the Argonne National Laboratory outside of Chicago known for its groundbreaking research into advanced batteries used in electric cars, and will talk about the need to find more ways to wean cars and trucks off oil, White House officials said.

Obama Seeks $2 Billion in Research on Cleaner Fuels

WASHINGTON — With few options available for financing his clean-energy ambitions, President Obama on Friday will propose diverting $2 billion in revenue from federal oil and gas leases over the next decade to pay for research on advanced vehicles, White House officials said.

WTI Heads for Weekly Gain to Narrow Discount Versus Brent

West Texas Intermediate crude was poised for a second weekly decline, while Brent headed for a loss, narrowing the discount between the two benchmarks.

The spread between WTI and Brent is set for the biggest weekly drop in 11 months, as the U.S. benchmark advanced 1.4 percent this week and Brent lost 1.1 percent. Prices were supported as the dollar weakened for a second day against the euro. OPEC will boost daily crude exports by 300,000 barrels to 23.75 million in the four weeks to March 30 as refineries return from maintenance, according to Oil Movements.

Natural Gas Advances After U.S. Inventories Fall to Two-Year Low

Natural gas rose from the highest settlement in more than three months in New York after a government report showed U.S. stockpiles last week fell to the lowest level in almost two years.

Futures advanced as much as 0.9 percent, gaining for a third day. Prices surged 3.6 percent yesterday, the biggest increase since Feb. 25, after the Energy Information Administration said inventories dropped 145 billion cubic feet last week to 1.938 trillion, the least since May 13, 2011. Analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg showed an expected decline of 137 billion.

Angola Minister Says Oil Will Stay Higher Than $100 This Year

The price of oil will remain more than $100 a barrel for the rest of 2013, Angolan Petroleum Minister Jose Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos said.

“For this year, yes, everything indicates that the price will be maintained, although there are many variables in the market,” Vasconcelos said yesterday in an interview in Luanda, the capital. “The most important thing is that the price is over $100 a barrel.”

Shale gas revolution drains Taqa profits

Profits at Abu Dhabi National Energy Company fell last year as North American gas prices and disrupted oil production in the United Kingdom contrasted with solid results by the company's power and water business.

Net profit dropped 13 per cent to Dh648 million (US$176.4m), while revenue increased 15 per cent to Dh27.8 billion.

Cradle of Mankind Offers Kenyans Three Centuries of Oil

“There was a giant under-explored hole on the map,” Africa Oil Chief Executive Officer Keith Hill said in an interview in Nairobi. “Now the world has woken up to East Africa. I’ve never seen a basin of this magnitude.”

Canada Wonders Why Crude Oil Is Coming From Texas

Western Canada is producing more crude oil than it knows what to do with. So guess where Eastern Canada is going to get crude oil from this summer? By ship from Texas.

Thomas Mulcair, the leader of Canada’s official opposition, brought up the coals-to-Newcastle story in a visit to Bloomberg on Thursday. He blamed the government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper for botching efforts to bring oil across Canada to where it’s needed.

Fujairah established as fuel storage fulcrum

China Petroleum & Chemical is leading fuel producers and traders borrowing more than US$500 million (Dh1.83 billion) to build storage at the biggest oil port in the Arabian Gulf region outside the Strait of Hormuz.

Greece Counts on Gas, Gambling to Revive Asset Sales Tied to Aid

Greece is banking on its gas and gambling companies to revive a state-asset sales plan that underpins 240 billion euros ($310 billion) of foreign aid.

Energy Derivatives Overhaul Spurs Nasdaq’s Germany Expansion

The biggest-ever overhaul of European energy derivatives rules is poised to pit Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. against the European Energy Exchange AG in Germany as the share of power handled by bourses increases.

UK Forties Pipeline System to shut for 5 days in August

LONDON (Reuters) - The North Sea's Forties Pipeline System is expected to shut for five days from Aug. 1, rather than a full two weeks as originally planned, BP said.

In an update to the FPS maintenance table on its website, BP said it was planning a potential full system shutdown for Cruden Bay integrity pipework repairs for five days, although added that this was still to be confirmed.

CNPC to Buy Stake in Eni Mozambique Assets for $4.2 Billion

China National Petroleum Corp., the country’s largest oil producer, will spend $4.2 billion for a stake in Eni SpA (ENI)’s African natural-gas assets as China looks to feed energy demand while reducing its reliance on coal.

CNPC will buy a 20 percent stake in Mozambique’s Area 4 where 75 trillion cubic feet of gas, or more than Norway’s existing reserves, has been found, state-controlled CNPC said in a statement on its website yesterday.

Iran Drops Four Places Among Indian Oil Suppliers Amid Sanctions

Iran slid four places to become India’s seventh-largest crude supplier from April to December, as the South Asian nation reduced imports from the Persian Gulf state because of global sanctions.

The Middle East producer exported 9.7 million metric tons of crude to India, Asia’s second-biggest energy consumer, in the fiscal year that started in April, according to data given to parliament by P. Lakshmi, the Indian junior oil minister. Iran sold 7.2 percent of the Asian nation’s imports in that period, down from 10.5 percent in the prior 12 months, the data show.

India’s Rice Exports to Iran Rise

India has been one of Iran’s biggest rice suppliers for many years. But business grew after New Delhi began to pay Tehran for oil partly in its local currency. These rupee resources, which are piling up in an Indian bank, are being used to fund Indian exports to Tehran.

Rice traders say the arrangement has ended the uncertainty over payments that arose due to Western sanctions on Iran.

US criticizes Nigeria's pardon of corrupt official

In messages Friday on Twitter, the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria said it was "deeply disappointed" over the pardon issued this week of former Bayelsa state Gov. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was impeached and later convicted in Nigeria. Investigators said he likely stole millions of dollars while in office.

UAE's new oil minister brings youthful zeal together with worldly view

Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, the newly named UAE oil minister, will be the youngest among his Opec colleagues - junior by a dozen years to his Qatari colleague and by half a century to his Saudi counterpart.

His youth is just one of the elements that make him an unusual choice for energy ministers in the UAE's short history - a choice that symbolises the new direction Abu Dhabi wants to take in fuelling growth.

Prospects for Russia-China gas deal dim during Xi visit

(Reuters) - Prospects are dim for a Russia-China pipeline gas deal next week during a visit to Moscow by China's new president, Xi Jinping, as each side remains unmoved by the other's demand for price concessions, gas industry sources said.

"We expect that our positions will converge on the contract terms," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told Reuters. "We are not preparing to sign anything."

Norway to probe project costs

Norway’s oil minister has ordered a probe into major Norwegian field projects currently under development to assess cost and other parameters to avoid a repeat of the Yme debacle.

Arctic-Specific Rules Required After Shell’s 2012 Mishaps

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) was blasted by the U.S. government for the series of mishaps that dogged its attempts to explore for oil in the Arctic, and ordered to file detailed plans before it can resume those efforts.

An Interior Department review of Shell’s exploration off the north coast of Alaska in 2012, which was released yesterday, found shortcomings in oversight of its various contractors and said the company started its work “not fully prepared” for the challenges it faced.

Chesapeake Loses Bid for Preliminary Injunction

Chesapeake Energy Corp. was denied a request for an emergency court ruling allowing it to start redeeming $1.3 billion in notes early without automatically incurring the risk of paying about $400 million in interest sought by Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

Enbridge ordered to complete cleanup of massive Michigan oil spill

CALGARY, Alta. -- A Canadian energy giant is being ordered by U.S. authorities to do more to clean up a big oil spill that happened in southwest Michigan more than two and-a-half years ago.

About three million litres of oil leaked from an Enbridge pipeline that ruptured in July, 2010 near Kalamazoo.

Japan’s Energy Board Meets After Dropping Anti-Nuclear Members

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has removed most anti-nuclear researchers from a revamped post-Fukushima energy policy advisory board to the government that resumes discussions today.

After a landslide victory in a December election, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the previous administration’s policy to abandon atomic power needs to be reviewed to help revive the world’s third-biggest economy.

US military member to sue over Japan nuke disaster

WASHINGTON: US service members are suing the Tokyo Electric Power Co. for more than $2 billion on grounds the utility lied about the dangers of helping clean up the nuclear disaster that struck two years ago, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

The case was first filed by nine plaintiffs in December but has now expanded to 26, and another 100 are in the process of joining the suit, said Stars and Stripes newspaper.

Flammable ice: last hope or gravest threat?

(Reuters) - There is enough gas locked in ice-like crystals buried beneath the permafrost and trapped under the oceans to guarantee the world will not run out of fossil energy for centuries.

This potential energy source will be irrelevant, however, to almost everyone for many decades to come, except perhaps Japan.

Cities Weigh Taking Over From Private Utilities

Across the country, cities are showing a renewed interest in taking over the electricity business from private utilities, reflecting intensifying concerns about climate change, responses to power disruptions and a desire to pump more renewable energy into the grid.

Hoping to Save Bees, Europe to Vote on Pesticide Ban

In a case closely watched on both sides of the Atlantic, European officials plan to vote Friday on a proposal to sharply restrict the use of pesticides that had been implicated in the decline of global bee populations.

The vote in Brussels, by officials from all 27 European Union member states, follows a January report from the European Food Safety Authority recommending that none of the chemicals of a class known as neonicotinoids should be used on crops that are attractive to honeybees, because of the risk the insects would be poisoned.

Spring Rain, Then Foul Algae in Ailing Lake Erie

“We’ve seen this lake go from the poster child for pollution problems to the best example in the world of ecosystem recovery. Now it’s headed back again,” said Jeffrey M. Reutter, who directs the Sea Grant College Program at Ohio State University.

The algae problem is hardly isolated. Similar blooms are strangling other lakes in North America and elsewhere, including Lake Winnipeg, one of Canada’s largest, and some bays in Lake Huron.

The algae are fed by phosphorus, the same chemical that American and Canadian authorities spent billions to reduce — for good, they believed — in the 1970s and ‘80s. This time, new farming techniques, climate change and even a change in Lake Erie’s ecosystem make phosphorus pollution more intractable.

Human-induced climate change played big role in Somalia’s 2011 famine, new study finds

NAIROBI, Kenya — Human-induced climate change contributed to low rain levels in East Africa in 2011, making global warming one of the causes of Somalia’s famine and the tens of thousands of deaths that followed, a new study has found.

It is the first time climate change was proven to be partially to blame for such a large humanitarian disaster, an aid group said Friday.

Fracking: the monster we greens must embrace

The thing is, fossil fuels differ. Coal is uniquely nasty. But burning natural gas produces only half as much carbon dioxide as burning coal. So shale gas could be part of the solution to climate change, rather than part of the problem.

Take the US. From a standing start a decade ago, it now gets more than a quarter of its natural gas from shale. Production is so cheap there that shale gas is replacing coal in power stations; and as a result its carbon dioxide emissions are the lowest since 1992. Low energy prices are even encouraging the manufacturing of some goods to return from China, where they were mostly made using coal-fired energy. What's not to like?

Nobel Prize winners urge Obama to back carbon pricing

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A group of leading economists, including eight Nobel Prize winners, has written to U.S. President Barack Obama urging him to support a carbon price on aviation.

An EU law requiring all aircraft using EU airports to pay for emissions via the bloc's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) last year stirred international outcry and threats of a trade war.

Obama Will Use Nixon-Era Law to Fight Climate Change

President Barack Obama is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they have to consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects, from pipelines to highways.

The result could be significant delays for natural gas- export facilities, ports for coal sales to Asia, and even new forest roads, industry lobbyists warn.

Rebuild vs. retreat: Christie and Cuomo offer contrasting plans in wake of Sandy

In New Jersey, owners of damaged coastal homes would get cash to stay put and rebuild. In New York, those on the water’s edge would get generous incentives to walk away.

It’s a difference that could mean divergent futures for both states’ shorelines. And the calculus that goes into the two approaches — by Governor Christie in New Jersey and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York — has set off a complex debate among environmentalists, planners, economists and government officials about which is a bigger threat: rising sea levels that could pose a future risk to rebuilt communities, or the economic and emotional impact of peeling back development from the coast.

U.S. carbon emissions to fall significantly by 2040, Exxon Mobil report says

Carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. will fall by 2040 to levels last seen in the 1970s as the use of natural gas and renewables increases and efficiency measures cut demand, Exxon Mobil Corp. says in a new energy outlook report.

Energy-related emissions will fall 25 percent in part because of a "pronounced shift away from coal in favor of less carbon-intensive fuels such as natural gas," the Irving, Texas- based company said in the report, issued Wednesday.

U.S. coal consumption will plummet more than 65 percent by 2040 and a 5 percent reduction in energy demand will also help cut emissions, the report predicted.

Huge hit in the Bakken in January. Barrels per day fell from 705,426 to 673,015 a drop of 32,411 barrels per day. Barrels per day per well fell from 140 to 130. (It was 144 in June and 143 in October.) There were only 113 new wells. They need somewhere around 130 every month to stay in the same place. That is providing the sweet spots hold up. If new well production drops however they will need more than that.

ND Monthly Bakken* Oil Production Statistics (Bakken Only)

More on this later.

Ron P.

Interesting, Ron

Increasing the rig count by over 2% did not stop a drop in production of over 7%.

It would also be interesting to know why there were not more wells drilled. Is this a seasonal phenomenon? ROI issues?

Well they had only 122 new wells in November and they blamed it on a snowstorm. Bad weather storms does slow them down but just cold weather don't seem to affect them much. Anyway there will be reports in the MSM soon I am sure explaining it all.

Last year New Wells	This Year    New Wells
Nov-11     142		Nov-12	     122
Dec-11     151		Dec-12	     132
Jan-12     115		Jan-13	     113

Last January they had only 115 new wells but they still increased production by 11,554 barrels per day that month. Then in November they had only 122 new wells and production fell by 13,000 bp/d. It all depends on the average production from new wells. James Hamilton, last December, said the mean production from new wells was 400 bp/d. If that figure starts to drop because they are moving further and further from the sweet spots, it may be all over.

Ron P.

tstreet, my opinion is that they will need to sell things off, assets like pipelines and their grannies paisley shawl (to look like going concerns in order to attract new investors). Is there any real ROI, or is it just new investors money funding another ponzi?

I am kind of wondering if this isn't the peak for the Bakken. I was horrified when I saw the decline rates for wells in the Bakken - 70% in the first year and 40% in the second year.

I am more used to Canada's giant but tight Pembina oil field where, although all the wells needed to be frac'd, they showed a nice leisurely decline of about 10% a year, and when production got too low we'd refrac them and production would shoot up again. This produced kind of a "sawtooth" decline curve.

In the Bakken it looks like they are not just in a foot race with the Red Queen, it is more of a short-distance sprint. This could be a bad experience for the cornucopians who thought all of the US oil supply problems were solved.

I can explain it to you as a diffusional limited flow. No need to be horrified as this steep drop followed by a slower tail is characteristic of that kind of flow.

One can explain say, Ebola, and know every detail in how it works - yet still be horrified by it. It's the implications of the flow that concern him, not why the flow is that way.

Yes, I know how decline curves work. I just don't like them to be as steep as this one is likely to be.

Back in January, the ND Dept of Mineral Resources made a presentation (PDF) to the state legislature's House Appropriations Committee. I believe that presentation was mentioned in a Drumbeat somewhere along the way. The report to the Committee had a "most likely" scenario with production peaking at 850,000 bbl/day in 2015 or so, and not falling below 700,000 bbl/day until about 2040. If figures in the report you cite really mark the peak of ND production, the peak will have been substantially lower than the DMR's lowest-case projection.

That'd be a pretty spectacular failure. If it holds up and is not anomaly this could be the bubble popper.

No, don't look for this to be the peak. They will likely increase wells-per-month substantially in the future, probably to 140 to 150 per month. This will keep production rising. As for the final peak, I expect it somewhere between 2015 and 2017.

I don't think what you were looking at in the presentation was their prediction of a peak. They were saying that was what was being produced with existing wells. However their decline rate shown is totally unrealistic.

Slide 4 is a prediction of what they say is possible. That is 1.6 mb/d peaking around 2018. That is equally unrealistic in my opinion. But all we can do is wait. But expectations, in my opinion, will be dialed back considerably in the coming months.

Ron P.

It's a terrible set of slides, unclear and hard to understand exactly what's being shown. Bad enough if such were done in the private sector where they were private; done by a state agency, knowing that they're going to be available to one and all without the accompanying audio, it's unforgivable. I was on the permanent staff for the Colorado legislature's Joint Budget Committee for three years, and I would have been embarrassed to use a slide deck this unclear.

So knowing that different interpretations are likely, I read the charts on pages 6 and 7 of the document as showing the "expected" forecast -- ie, most likely to happen. 170 rigs drilling 2,000 new wells per year, with an upper limit of 40,000 or so additional wells. A simple depletion model with a steep exponential decline for individual wells, and roughly those assumptions (plus slowly declining initial well quality) produces a curve that looks very much like the one in the graph from about 2010. The 1.6M bbl/day graph appears again later (pages 24 and 25), with assumptions of 225 rigs drilling 2,700 new wells per year up to 45,000 wells total. Again, a simple depletion model will match that reasonably well.

What isn't shown in any of the figures is that drilling ends out around 2030-2040, depending on the drilling rate -- they simply run out of places to drill. The same depletion model that matches the curves shown has the usual "falling off a cliff" behavior when the drilling stops. It's politically very difficult to put that in a public presentation, even if you know it's true. I give the DMR credit just for showing the peak in the next few years.

You do realise the point much of the time is to be unclear?

It's a core competency of those in public service; presenting the facts but hiding the truth. Its an art.

What isn't shown in any of the figures is that drilling ends out around 2030-2040, depending on the drilling rate -- they simply run out of places to drill.

No, they will run out of places to drill long before 2030. In fact they will run out of places to drill in two or three years. Yes, the Bakken is very large but most of it is not all that productive. The good deposits are concentrated in "sweet spots". And the further you get from those sweet spots the less oil you get per well. Chesapeake has already learned that lesson. They tried to find the southern edge of the Bakken and found that the Bakken was not nearly as large as they thought it was. They drilled 8 wells, only 3 produced oil -- but at minimal amounts. All have now been shut down.

Watch the short video at this link. It is very good.

Ron P.

The rundown of the shale plays starting on slide 29 is a good background
(though these come from the oil&gas financial journal).
The prices per well are eye-opening...
The drilling time/truckloads on slide 42 is neat too - from ND Dept. of Transportation.

Slide 29 repeats the shibboleth that "(new) technology came along to make it economic to develop."
(notice, in true cornucopian fashion, new technology just auto-magically comes along).
This is especially interesting in that slide 3 (repeated liberally) has a dark cloud of:
"[world] economies continue to struggle. If China [goes down] oil price could fall enough to make most areas uneconomic."

Question for you oil field hands:
slide 40 shows 6 wells on a single pad - with pumpjacks!
Do they run the pump and sucker rods past the curve where they went horizontal,
or does the oil rise up enough to make it to the vertical part of the well?

sunnnv = Oil Well Pumping 101 – Rarely is the pump set close to the depth of the producing zone. The reservoir pressure is typically high enough to flow upwards thousands of feet and sometimes to the wellhead. But the weight of the column of oil in the production tubing creates a backpressure on the flow and thus reduces the rate and can completely stop the flow. But the pressure will lift it up some distance called the “fluid level”.

The downhole pump is set below the fluid level. In the case of a horizontal well the beginning of the build angle may be at 6,000’ while the fluid level is at 3,000’ in the vertical section of the well. So the pump is set at 4,000’. As the rods drive the pump the oil is lifted to the surface. This also decreases the hydrostatic head of the oil column and allows the reservoir to more easily flow.

In cases when the fluid level is so deep that it’s in an angled portion of the well other lift systems are available. You can run an ESP - electrical submersible pump. As simple as it sounds. You can also use “gas lift”: NG is pumped down the “backside”…the area between the casing and the production tubing. Below the fluid level there are valves in the tubing that allow the NG to be injected into the oil column. The mixture reduces the head and allows the oil to flow to the surface.

For those interested...in traditional gas lift, you inject at least enough gas into the well to carry the liquid up the tubing, if it no longer free-flows sufficiently to clear itself. Above "critical rate" the liquid entrains in the gas flow as either droplets or mist.

Depending on the nature of the well, you need flow to be modestly to moderately aboe critical rate, so as to prevent liquid from collecting on the walls of the tubing and trickling down. Sometime you have trouble with paraffin coating and such as pressures drop and temps decrease nearer the top of the well.

For many shale wells there is a mix of fluids -- gas, water, NGLs, and oil -- that must be evacuated. Over the life of the well a variety of methods may be employed, as Rockman states. Onshore and offshore wells each have preferred approaches for their fields, and some varies based on operating company preference as well.

Controlling these wells is something my current company does well at, and optimizing control algorithms to minimize down-hole pressure is a key goal for such automation.

Gas lift is nice and simple, as you often need valving only at the surface, and of course a source of compresses NG. It's not quite as simple as it seems, though, as the diameter of the tubing or casing affects the velocity given a stated gas flow -- a smaller tube must flow faster (and thus carry more liquids) than a larger one, for the same mass flow rate.

Choice of lift method depends on many things. Entrained debris (sand and such), depth, flow rate, GOR (gas-oil ratio), and other factors contribute.

A 6 well pad is not terribly large. Most are 4-6 today, but I've equipped megapads with over 30 wells. I've heard one is being prepped to have 100 wells.

Design of the laterals is a subject of discussion as well. Flat, sloping down, sloping up -- all have adherents. As RM points out, you don't have to get the pump to the bottom - just far enough for the natural pressure and flow to clear the remaining head. I've seen wells with a plunger (a shaped steel cylinder that travels the bore pushed by gas) for only part of the travel range, to scrape the paraffin and carry liquids the rest of the way up.

Here is what they say was the cause:

Winter weather causes 4.2 percent drop in January oil production

BISMARCK – A winter storm and subzero temperatures contributed to a 4.2 percent drop in North Dakota’s oil production in January, the Department of Mineral Resources said Friday...

“That is a very significant drop in production,” said Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources.

Helms said he anticipates that the state’s monthly oil production numbers will continue to go up and down through May. February was a strong month, but recent winter storms will likely mean a drop in March production, Helms said.

	  All ND	Bakken Only
December  770,111	705,426
January	  738,022	673,015
Decline	  -32,089	-32,411
% Decline  -4.17%        -4.59%

Ron P.

Here's the real question. How much would Bakken Oil Production decline in one month if there were ZERO NEW WELLS?

I would imagine it would be 2-3 times that amount

Re: Obama to announce plans to fund alternative fuel research and other stories

Scientific research is a wonderful way to expand mankind's knowledge. However, what the country really needs (IMHO) is the motivation to make use of what we already know how to do. It's another example of that old saying:

The perfect is the enemy of the good

E. Swanson

It is not either/or. We need both. However, "research" is often just an excuse to put off the hard decisions and hope that "research" will yield solutions so magical that we can solve all our problems painlessly.

Obama is grasping at straws, of course, because he knows that he cannot get congress to do anything which would actually make a nickel's worth of difference. Even this modest proposal will be resisted loudly and long as his opponents are against anything which inhibits the maximum production and consumption of fossil fuels.

As far as his idea of environmental impact statements showing carbon impacts, too bad that is not retroactive on the entire industrial revolution. Or too bad it is not retroactive on all the coal leases he approved. The list goes on and on.

Closing gate when horse out of barn as usual.

Ts – The cynic in me has to agree with you. Given how long we’ve been faced with high oil/fuel prices is there much doubt the auto industry isn’t doing research as fast as possible. They should know they are a dying breed just like the oil patch.

As far as environmental impact assessment you know how to interpret verbiage as well as anyone: taking into account environmental impact doesn’t mean not approving any project that has a negative impact because every project has some. So what will be an acceptable level? Keep it simple and say it’s adding X tons of CO2. What will be X? And how will X be balanced against the gain?

As usual all politicians can sound good when they describe the big picture of the change they have in mind. Details…a lot more difficult to beat out of them.

Precisely Black_Dog!

Once again it is all about maintaining what Kunstler called "Happy Motoring" by any means possible including mythical magic. How about getting people OUT of cars and trucks and onto Green Transit Rail, LightRail, shuttles, bikes and walkable communities?
That $3.5 Billion wasted on "Cash for Clunkers" which turned out to probably INCREASE Greenhouse emissions vs normal junkyard recycling of clunkers could have restored the Green Transit already operating in over 150 US cities cut after 2008 and save a lot more oil, greenhouse emissions and lives.

As Lester Brown put it several years ago in "Plan B" - we already KNOW what to do and have known since the 70's - increase Green Transit, renewable energy, Energy savings like LEDs, insulation, energy efficient windows. It is question of political WILL to do it as the US did during WW II when it cut car production to 300 cars per year and increased intercity train, bus and local transit ridership by 4 times in just 3 years!

Although it is hard to believe the elites including alleged "progressives" like Obama must know about Peak Oil and the urgent need to stop Auto Addiction to sustain mobility in the future, somehow they must be deluding themselves that there is some technofix "magic" that will allow us to sustain Auto Addiction forever.

What is truly baffling is that Green Transit actually has major advantages in terms of stress, personal costs, health and social interaction. I finally talked 2 coworkers into taking the train after guiding them how to do it. Now they nap during parts of their once stressful commute. I have made many friends on the train and shuttle while solo driving I would have been in isolation.

70% of Americans from both Rural and Urban areas, and across all parties WANT alternatives to Auto Addiction, walkable communities and Green Transit. Yet the PTB seem unwilling to provide it.

Yeah trains would be a great alternative to our automobile addiction. Too bad things don't work that way. My sister, who still lives in Atlanta, wanted to visit an old buddy in Raleigh, NC. Looking at AMTRAK's schedule, there's only one train a day out of Atlanta. It stops in Charlotte, where one must wait 6 1/2 hours for another train which goes to Raleigh. Total time, 14 hours. Unless you want to go all the way to DC on the first leg, then hop down to Raleigh on a different train. One might might take advantage of the 5 hour layover in DC to lobby one's congress critter for more rational thinking regarding transportation...

E. Swanson

I'm not sure Obama or any other elites "know" about peak oil. The current thinking seems to be that the US might have up to 4,000 TCF of nat gas and our good neighbors to the north will be willing to sell us some of Rocky's 300 Bbls of Oil Sands oil at a reasonable price so with a little tweaking BAU can continue for quite some time.

Obama's main concern seems to be the continuation of the current economic system which requires continual economic expansion. This means expand the population to increase the size of the economy. While the efforts to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy use are probably genuine, it won't be considered a disaster if total energy use increases as long as the economy is expanding.

Culture shift needed. Not sure it'll happen, but it might.

I've always loved trains. Even when I lived in Los Angeles I took public transit. NOBODY in L.A. takes public transit, or at least they didn't back then. I caught the Blue Line (electric light rail) from Long Beach to a connection near the 605 Fwy, then an RTD/MTA bus over to work in Hawthorne. Did that for years. My work subsidized public transit. Total travel costs for a month: $21.

In Chicago I take Metra from the northern burbs into the city. At the point where the line comes close to one of the expressways I can look out over the suckers gridlocked in their cars and smile. Well, smile and shake my head, anyway.

There are still many thousands of miles of rail right-of-way, abandoned in the 50s and 60s, just waiting to be rehabilitated and returned to their Interurban roots. Many are bike paths now. The Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee right-of-way looks to be about 80% intact from what I can see.

Same goes for the old Pacific Electric lines in Los Angeles.

There may yet come a time...

I truly wish it were different orbit7er - I try to bus in to my job several times per month and all those benefits you list truly do exist (stress reduction, health, etc.). However, despite being a big fan of it, I also have to admit that it is a major pain in the a$$... It adds hours (no exaggeration) to the day - frees up some time to do what I want rather than stressing out during the commute - but overall it is a very early start and very late end to the day.

And the most discouraging part of the whole thing is that this is in the Hudson Valley of New York - going to and from Albany - the STATE CAPITAL fer cryin' out loud ! Along one of THE major roads in the nation (New York State Thruway) - there's but one or two non-ridiculous times for each that won't end up getting you fired for arriving an hour or more too late...

So now I find myself in quite a quandary - stuck in a location that used to be much closer to work (before I got transferred to another office), lousy public transport options, a corporate atmosphere that in general is hostile to telecommuting. Little choice but to drive most of the time - a situation I suspect many others find themselves in...

If it's this difficult here I have little hope for all but a few other places in the country...


The mistake you make in your understanding is a common one. That is, to assume that elites at the national level in the United States care what happens to the country.

They don't. At all! They only care about the big banks and corporations, as they are on the payroll.

Once you understand this, you will know that any solutions in the United States will have to come at the local or state level.

Just who are these "elites"? Why are US elites different from European elites? And why do they all think alike? That is why do they all only care about big banks and corporations?

But I think you are mistaken on one point. "Solutions" will not come from the local or state level. They won't come at all.

Ron P.

The chief cause of problems is solutions. Eric Sevareid

So what does anyone here see as the most fruitful approach for alternative fuels for automobiles? Better batteries?

Here are some possibilities:

Batteries are not a power source. Why does it always have to be about cars?

They aren't an energy source, but they do allow many different inputs including wind, solar, hydro, coal, natural gas, and unicorn farts*!

It doesn't always have to be about cars:

Proterra Ecoliner Bus

Ultracapacitor busses in China "Capabus": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capa_vehicle

*In theory

Bicycles, trains, buses, anything but cars.

"The Nation" built out its economy on sub $5 a barrel oil. The "desire" is to return to that kind of cost structure with the new energy infrastructures. Anything not hitting $5 for a barrel kind of pricing will be considered a failure.

eric, even $25 per barrel would not be considered a failure. There would be all kinds of buyers.

You're both right - $25 oil in today's dollars would be akin to the $5 oil on which the US economy was built.

But as we know, that's not in the cards. It tracks back to the issue of net energy. I pointed out here years ago that the US infrastructure was built on 100:1 oil, which is like getting a return of 10,000% on your investment. No wonder the livin' was easy, and interstates and skyscrapers and everything else exploded. Since around 1980, we've been maintaining that infrastructure on perhaps 25:1 oil. Still, a 2500% return, pretty damn good, but also explains why the wind came out of those industrial growth sails. Now, we're working on 10:1, a 1000% return, which sounds great, but is an order of magnitude below what was required to build it all out, so no wonder it's falling apart. And we're also turning to the single digit to one sources like ethanol and oil sands. No, $(2)5 oil isn't coming back to 'save us'. But all the carbon will be hanging around to kick our butts, so think of that as an 'old friend' when the next Katrina/Sandy/drought/heat wave comes a callin'...

But all the carbon will be hanging around to kick our butts, so think of that as an 'old friend' when the next Katrina/Sandy/drought/heat wave comes a callin'...

Heh! More like huge amounts of child support and alimony for a drunken one night stand and a quick drive through marriage in Vegas... Old friends indeed!

Can't disagree about the carbon, but the net energy is unrealistic: 100:1 ROI is only very slightly better than 25:1: 99% net energy vs 96% net energy.

When you get down below 5:1, you start having problems. Fortunately, wind is around 50:1, and solar's not bad either.

And I don't disagree with your figures. But this is why I couch it in terms of return on an investment, the way we're used to thinking of $$ invested ('though don't get confused that $$ has anything to do with this as others have, 'cause it doesn't).

Let's start with a unit of energy - doesn't matter what it is, a barrel of oil or a quintillion BTU's. We have to invest that unit to make more units available to us for other purposes. At 100:1, we put our one unit in, we get back 100 to do with what we please, or a net of 99. At 25:1, we put our one in, we get back 25 to do with what we please, or a net of 24, which is going to be a lot less pleasure than when we got back 100 units.

It's like with increasing or declining by a percent, it depends which way you do the calculation. 3 is 50% more than 2, but 2 is only 33% less than 3. Perhaps WebHT or some other math whiz can explain it better than I can. But I stand by what I say in my previous paragraph, and my initial comment, and it matters hugely to what's going on in the world.

(and Fred, I also like your re-characterization of my 'old friends' remark - it's the perfect analogy, in fact, for what I was implying)

hhmm. The financial ROI approach is very misleading, but it's not easy to explain. Really, there's very, very little practical difference between 100:1 and 25:1.

Ok, how's this: what's the difference between 100:1 and 1000:1? It might reduce costs by 20 to 80 cents per barrel. With oil at $100, would any oil driller care about the difference?

It's similar to MPG - the upside down ratio is very misleading. Which is better: moving from 10MPG to 20MPG, or from 50MPG to 100MPG? Well, the first goes from .10 gallons per mile to .05 gallons per mile, while the 2nd moves from .02 gallons to .01 gallons. So, the first alternative saves 5x as much fuel!

Consider: you have a choice between picking up 100 gallons of fuel at two locations. The first location allows train travel which consumes 2 gallon of fuel, but 20 hours of travel. The other requires car travel that consumes 4 gallons of fuel, but takes only 4 hours. You save 16 hours of travel time by consuming two more gallons of fuel - when fuel costs $3/hour the choice is obvious, right? You take the car, despite moving from an E-ROI of 50:1 to "only" 25:1.

I agree completely with your MPG upside down analysis. I point that out regularly myself.

No, as Rockman points out here regularly, drillers care not one whit about EROEI at any pt. They only care about $ROI. (And moving further out the EROEI curve to an imaginary 1000:1 doesn't help.)

You lost me when you introduced time into this equation. The simple fact remains that an EROEI of 25:1 returns only 1/4 the energy as an EROEI of 100:1. I could put an exclamation mark like you did for saving 5x as much fuel. 100:1 nets 4x as much energy as 25:1!

And I agree with what you said above that it REALLY comes to matter down below 10:1 (you said 5:1). And we are headed there, PV and wind notwithstanding. We are not building those out fast enough on the available net energy we have now. Instead we continue to chase our tails down the ratholes of tar sands, shale oil, polar and other low EROEI energy sources.

This will not end well. Hey, I'm converting my Prius to a plug-in, but I'm under no illusions that technology or marginal efficiency improvements will 'save us'.

You lost me when you introduced time into this equation.

The point is that the fuel inputs are not the only thing, or even the most important thing. Labor, time, other materials are all very important.

we are headed there, PV and wind notwithstanding. We are not building those out fast enough on the available net energy we have now.

Sadly, we have way too much fossil fuel (oil, coal, etc). PO is easy: we could reduce our oil consumption faster than depletion, relatively easily, while still maintaining "BAU". Heck, you've noticed that you can personally greatly reduce your oil consumption. That can be done generally.

Our problem is not running out, it's using too much and emitting too much CO2.

BTW, whose system are you using for your Prius upgrade??

Obama: "will talk about the need to find more ways to wean cars and trucks off oil"

#1 Soultion: CARPOOL!!

Given: vehicle gets 20 miles per, gasoline cost: $4.00 per gallon
1 person in the vehicle = 20 passenger miles per gallon ($0.20/pass mile)
2 people in the vehicle = 40 passenger miles per gallon ($0.10/pass mile)
4 people in the vehicle = 80 passenger miles per gallon ($0.05/pass mile)
Check out the 2005 Hirsch Report:
Page 64:
3. "Oil Peaking Presents a Unique Challenge"
"THE WORLD HAS NEVER FACED A PROBLEM LIKE THIS." "Without massive mitigation more than a decade before the fact, the problem will be pervasive and will not be temporary. Previous energy transitions (wood to coal and coal to oil) were gradual and evolutionary; oil peaking will be abrupt and revolutionary."

You notice he didn't say that we need to figure out a way to wean people out of their cars and trucks. Which, by the way, is an extremely apt metaphor. Sucking the oil out of the Earth's breast.

In my youth we used to have hitchhiking.

It was a wonderful and adventurous way to travel for almost no money back in the days
before cars per capita doubled. Then it was drummed out of existence by scare tactics and paranoid propaganda while car deaths are 30,000 per year.

I had one interesting experience when a trucker picked me up cuz I had my guitar and said I should go play at this Diner where a waitress would be singing and I could accompany her. The place was covered with signed pictures of Country Music Stars and they gave me a free dinner for playing. A man asked to borrow my guitar and played and sang really really well a song he wrote.

Serendipitously on the radio on my ride the next morning was that song as a Country hit!

At the end of each semester right after the war- late 40's- , long lines of students would stand along the highway outside the university, and in maybe 10 minutes get their ride- usually a trucker or farmer, sometimes a rich guy in a buick or caddy.

I did it many times, never got any trouble except for boring preachers trying to save my soul and too talkative old women telling me all about their relatives. Never any sexual advances- either way. cheap, fast, convenient. Mighty good public transport. Never heard of anybody getting killed- except in crashes, of course.

I pranged my motorcycle and did some hitching for a while. Got picked up by the owner of the company that made the helmet that saved me from scrambled brains. Got to thank him in person.


Consumer prices soar, but inflation is in check

U.S. consumer prices recorded their largest increase in nearly four years in February as the cost of gasoline surged, but details of the report on Friday showed no sign of a pickup in inflation to trouble the Federal Reserve.

The Labor Department said its consumer price index, increased 0.7 percent last month, the largest gain since June 2009, after being flat in January. Gasoline accounted for about three quarters of the spike in consumer inflation.

I think that is newspeak. It must be!

Of course we all know that inflation is not the same thing as "inflation." One is how much costs rise, and the other a wildly distorted figure quoted by government and BAU high muckey-mucks to calm the proles.


Yeah. To be fair, though, inflation is whatever the government defines it to be. Ideally, one has an honest government.

This is a key point that must be stressed. People start with the assumption that the United States government is honest. It is not! Remember that.

From the beginning until the early 80s or so, the U.S. government was mostly honest. Not perfect, but mostly. It never really "fudged" anything.

Starting in the early 80s, fudging became part of the American way. We still continue to do it, and the strength of the country as a whole has been diminished. We are living on the strength of the past.

Illegal immigration is another example. Yes you can debate immigration and levels of immigration, etc. But why would any country tolerate illegal immigration? And then give all of those people a path to become citizens?

It doesn't make any sense whatsoever, until you admit that America is not very honest anymore.

Why does sudden interest to fudge the numbers, then, and did this tendency seem to spontaneously arise all over the Western world, not only in the US? I would think that if the "honest business" of the good ol' days was at all a realistic alternative, they would have kept doing it.

I don't think it's quite as bad as energyblues claims, however...in 1975, the U.S. enacted "COLA" - cost of living adjustments to social security. A reaction to the inflation problem of the '70s.

That created an incentive to report lower inflation numbers. The method of calculating inflation in the U.S. has changed a great deal since then, perhaps coincidentally lowering the reported rate (compared to how it would have been under the old system).

COLA certainly is a big factor, but it seems to me the overarching desire for underreporting inflation is/was to reduce projected federal budget deficits, which is greatly assisted by the resulting bogus growth in GDP.

[Edit] See how figure 1.4, the US "Real GDP" looks so much better than that of Europe or the UK

In fact I should not be surprised if obscured inflation was an anticipated favorable result of quantitative easing...

Consumer prices soar, but inflation is in check

Leanan, I shake my head when I read headlines like that. People are affected by the actual inflation, not just the core inflation that the economists and the Fed seem to focus on.

Higher gasoline prices and other cost of fuel make GDP rise. I wonder why they don't talk about core GDP rise, backing out the increase in energy-related costs? I don't think that is something they would like to talk about.

Higher gasoline prices and other cost of fuel make GDP rise.

No, they really don't. That's in increase in inflation, not GDP.

Once you start down that road, there are hundreds of ridiculous things that make GDP rise. Natural disasters, of course make GDP rise. Crime makes GDP rise. And then, eventually it would have to be admitted that we rely too much on GDP as a proxy for well being.

Also, breaking windows make GDP rise. There even is a Wikipedia article about it. GDP as a metric has its inherent problems, like all others.

But I agree with Gail, keeping oil price rises out of the official inflation metric, but inside the GDP metric sure looks deceptive to me.

But, but, but...they don't keep it inside the GDP metric.

Rising oil prices don't make GDP rise.

For what it is worth, first chart below is the annualized month-over-month change in CPI going back to the start of 2003, also the same CPI numbers plotted as month-over-year-ago month changes. (Note that the annualized month-over-month change for Feb. was 10%)
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Chart below shows just the month-over-year-ago-month changes in CPI. Inflation has basically been in decline over the last 12 years.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Next chart shows both month-over-year-ago-month CPI changes and month-over-year-ago-month changes in Brent-WTI (average of Brent and WTI) prices. Percentage increases in oil prices have also steadily declined over the last 12 years
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Finally, a plot of month-over-year-ago-month changes in CPI (Y-axis) vs. month-over-year-ago-month changes in Brent-WTI prices (X-axis). What is rather amazing is how much oil prices have to increase in order to increase inflation. Basically, the plot suggests that a 100% increase in oil prices would (so far) only increase inflation by 5%.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

As someone who has always expected that the inflation caused by increasing oil prices would be the thing that would do the economy in, I have to say that that scenario sure doesn't look probable from these charts.

The effect on inflation will depend on the effect on the dollar. If larger trade deficits lead to a weaker dollar then the resulting inflation could be much greater than a doubling of 5% of the economy would suggest.

Inflation always looks great if you don't count those little things that no one uses, like food, energy and housing.

simkin, I agree.

Also, my understanding is the government substitutes cheaper products for other products when they go up in price too much. I wonder what the inflation would be if these substitutions were not done.

A .7% seasonally adjusted monthly increase in CPI-U is an annual inflation rate of 8.4% seasonally adjusted. The not seasonally adjusted rate is .8% in February or 9.6% annually. Taking a look at the actual data at Bureau of Labor Statistics: Consumer Price Index: Table Containing History of CPI-U U.S. All Items Indexes and Annual Percent Changes From 1913 to Present, I see that CPI-U increased from 230.280 in January 2013, to 232.166 in February 2013, which is a not seasonally adjusted, annual increase of 9.83%.

Re Lake Erie uptop:

It's sad to see the lake is having problems again. Years ago we had a house on the lake west of Cleveland (Bay Village if anyone cares) and we got unending pleasure watching the lake's various moods, seeing it freeze and eating on the beach.

Later we bought a house in a yacht basin also west of Cleveland where we could dock our boat in the "front yard" so we spent endless hours out on the water including catching perch. It was also a marvelous time. We also got a kick out of our street - South Island Drive - and that our house had been formerly owned by a Cleveland TV personality (Big Wilson). People would come by in their boats and wave thinking I was him. Naturally, I'd wave back :-).


That article is a depressing example of how the solution can turn out to be a problem.

Climate change is one reason for the algae problems; heavier rains wash more fertilizer into the watershed. But another reason is no-till farming, which is supposed to reduce soil erosion. It does, but it increases fertilizer runoff, because the fertilizer sits on top of the ground instead of sinking into plowed fields.

And it's not an easily solved problem, because the farmers are already very efficient in their fertilizer use. Only 2% ends up in the watershed, meaning it will be very hard to cut it further.

I also wonder what they do about the toxins algae produces. The article mentions that algal toxins tainted the water supply of millions, but it doesn't say what, if anything, was done about it.

The zebra mussels are also having effects. Filter feeders, they clarify the water, allowing more sunlight to penetrated to bottom structures, promoting large algae blooms.


There is a way to effectively catch those 2%. Build artificial wet lands. We do it successfully in Sweden all the time. I'd give you a google-map link to some spots if I just knew how to make links to GPS coordinates.

Plant bio fuel crops around farm fields, they catch the runoff and are fertilized.

Once you have Google Maps showing the view you want, click on the link button (Looks like some links of chain, to the right of the print button on the left side of the page.) and it will give you a link that you can copy and paste for anybody to go to the same view that you are looking at. The link button only seems to work when you have the map view showing, but you can switch to the Satellite view after going to the map view from the link.


Google map references are a simple 3-step process. In pictures:

Should give you the same view as above.

It was easy.

This is a nutrient catchment pond system built by the city shortly by the north about 15 years ago. Besides clearing the water of excess nutrients, it also provides a habitat for ducks and insects etc,increasing local biodiversity.


This by the way is the town where I live.

It's sad to see the lake is having problems again.

Todd, could you point me to a single ecosystem, anywhere on the planet, that isn´t currently having problems? Because I can´t think of any...

Methane hydrates: a sense of scale.

Probably many years from the first pilot project to test the commerciality of NG recovery from the hydrates. But I now have a handle of how big such a project might be. From above:

"The cage structure of the hydrate molecule concentrates the component gas so that a single cubic meter of gas hydrate will yield approximately 160 cubic meters of gas and 0.8 cubic meters of water," if it is brought to atmospheric pressure and room temperature (20 degrees Centigrade).

The math: That’s 5.7 mcf per cubic meter of hydrate. I doubt it would be the case but let’s assume 100% recovery by whatever method they develop. Based on current LNG Asia spot price ($17/mbtu) one cubic m of hydrate will produce $96 worth of NG. Assuming a project of sufficient scale would cost a minimum of $1 billion it would require converting 10 million cubic m of hydrates to recover the capex. The $1 billion might sound high but consider the op will be done on the open ocean at rather deep water depths. And we have no idea of what the drilling will cost except it will be expensive. And I’ll assume the process will require a floating LNG train since laying a pipeline in such waters would likely be out of the question. Realisticly such an operation may require 10X that amount of capex. Thus a minimum of 100 million cubic m will have to be converted. That’s going to be a lot of volume of the earth removed several hundred m below the seafloor.

Might want to hold off considering the hydrates as resources let along reserves

Sounds like the natural gas equivalent of the Green River oil "shale."

Is anyone really up on this stuff? I seem to recall that trying to recover hydrates involves some danger of disturbing the entire "bed", and thus creating a huge bloom of methane! As in once you remove some of the cover, the whole remaining bed could suddenly erupt (IIRC they spoke of it 'turning over.').

OTOH, I may be conflating science based articles with similar discussions by Clive Cussler in one of his novels. Which is why I ask.


zap - The problem is we don't have an idea as to how they plan to mine the hydrates. Given they'll have to remove such a large volume mine would seem to be the correct term. The hydrates aren't a reservoir such as a shale or sandstone. When you produce oil/NG you only remove a small volume of the reservoir which is either replaced by water or, if pressure depleted, the rock matrix will maintain structural integrity. I imagine they’ll have to mine the hydrates in a similar manner to coal: leave a certain amount of structural support lest they collapse the seafloor above the deposits. Maybe drill long horizontal wells.

The problem is we don't have an idea as to how they plan to mine the hydrates

I have a feeling, Rocky, that "they" have no plan at this point as to how to mine them. And, the danger, it seems to me, is that at this point in time, we cannot say what, precisely, might be the adverse consequences... some of which could be life changing/ending in scope.

Think about a BP type careless endeavor, and your underwater robot suddenly saying, "Danger, Will Robinson. Danger! Danger!"


Hydrates may be 'self correcting'. One parks the mining ship over the deposit, the deposit shakes loose and rises to the top of the water. At it hits the bottom of the boat the density of material supporting the boat changes and thus the boat goes lower in the hydrate/water mix.

Soon the boat and the hydrates become one at the bottom once more.

Love it! The image is incredible!!!

You get 10+ for that.


Rockman - Natural gas-hydrates — A potential energy source for the 21st Century describes drilling in a Siberian and an east coast US hydrate formation.

Natural gas-hydrates are an unconventional source of energy. Potential reserves of hydrated gas are over 1.5×1016 m3 and are distributed all over the earth both on the land and offshore. Presently, in many countries national programs exist for the research and production of natural gas from gas-hydrate deposits. As a result over 220 gas hydrate deposits have been discovered, more than a hundred wells drilled, and kilometers of hydrated cores studied. Properties of the hydrated cores have been investigated, effective tools for the recovery of gas from the hydrate deposits prepared and new technology for the exploration of gas-hydrate fields developed. The commercial production of natural gas from gas-hydrates exist for many years now with good results. Still, many complex problems have to be studied. More high-level studies on the properties of the gas-hydrates are needed and new technology for the production of natural gas from gas-hydrates has to be developed. Note, it is not the amount of potential reserves of hydrated gas that is important, but the volume of gas that can be commercially produced (17–20% from potential).

It also says:

Rock formations with pressures and temperatures favorable for the formation of gas-hydrates are abundant. However, in most of the rock, the saturation of gashydrate will be too low to be commercially developed. For example, on Messoyakha only 40 m of hydrate has been identified in the HFZ layers that are 600 m thick. This corresponds to 6.6% of the thickness of the HFZ. In the Nankai Trough offshore Japan, thermodynamic conditions corresponding to formation and stable existence GHD appear in 505 m of overall thickness of the sedimentary rocks. However, only 17 m contains gashydrates at reasonable saturations, which is only 3.4% of the total thickness.

It appears that the hydrate is not solid ice, but is trapped in porous rock. Therefore, rock men will be needed to figure out how to extract it.

Merrill – No…it was never going to be 100% hydrate. I should have pointed that out. The NG migrates into the rocks and forms as it hits the lower temps found nearer the seafloor. I could get you link to work other than the abstract. I don’t think the Big E gives anything away for free. LOL. This link has some interesting info on the earlier efforts.


I did find the production method used by the Japanese: depressurizing the hydrates by lowering the hydrostatic head in the well bore. In theory by keeping the head low enough the depressurized zone would spread out laterally. The big question at this point would deal with the structural stability of the rock layer containing the hydrates as they are removed. We occasionally have the same problem producing conventional reservoirs: point loading. As the stress cage around the casing changes it can localize enough to crush the strongest casing made and you lose the well. Just had that happen 6 months ago to one of our onshore wells. Spent $1.7 million trying to salvage that zone but failed. Mother Earth is very unforgiving when you violate her physical laws. LOL

The Japanese are as technically savvy as anyone on the planet and they are obviously very motivated to make it work. But even with their LNG cost 4X what our domestic NG does I have serious doubts the hydrates will become a serious factor for many decades. And, my WAG, probably never. And the numbers you gave for the hydrate thickness makes my WAY on cost very underestimated. The resource may be huge but between what will have to be a very expensive operation and a question of physical recover efficiency I would wipe the hydrate of my list of potential resources (let alone reserves) until someone flares a significant volume of NG for an extended period of time. I seriously doubt any TODster over 40 yo will ever see that day. And by the time that days arrives I suspect the POD will have taken a serious chink out of mankind’s hide. Someone joked about the hydrates being the Green River Shale of NG. That may be closer to the truth then the Japanese are hoping.

Rockman -- Thanks for the link. The most favorable circumstance appears to be when the hydrate is directly above a rock layer containing gas. As the gas is produced, the hydrate is depressurized from below and gas is produced to refill the reservoir. From the Texas A & M paper:

On 1 January 2005, the gas production from the Messoyakha was 12.6×109 m3, of which 6.9×109 m3 was produced as a result of dissociation of hydrates with a decrease in reservoir pressure. The reservoir pressure in 35 yr of development was reduced from 78 bar to 60 bar. In the absence of hydrates, according to reservoir calculations, the reservoir pressure should have been 36 bar. In the first years of development, with the high rates of gas production, the reservoir pressure was lowered to 50 bar, which was below equilibrium on by 16 bar. In this case the active process of decomposition of hydrates began and continued for many years. The decomposition of the hydrate layer reduced the decrease in the reservoir pressure. After the field had been shut in for an extended period (1979–1982) the reservoir pressure increased back to 60 bar, or about equilibrium.

Currently, gas production does not exceed 400 million m3/yr, and the reservoir pressure has remained about constant. The volumes of the gas produced from the deposit approximately corresponded to the volumes of gas of hydrate entering due to dissociation. Interestingly, the position of the gas/water contact (GWC) did not move as gas was produced.

There is a way easier way of doing this. Construct a giant funnel, place it up and down and let the methane bubble up. AGW will take care of the rest.

I thought the same. As the methane bubbles up the funnel it expands and entrains sea water. The water gushes out the top of the pipe and can be used to drive a water wheel to power the process.

One thing I have difficulty visualising is what, physically, hydrates look like.

If you put dry ice and clay into a blender and whizzed them around, would you end up with something resembling a hydrate-rich sediment?

I ask because it seems that hydrate mining is going to stir up tons of sediment which will settle for miles around the well site and be an ecological disaster.

You'll have to provide continuous heating for the rising bubble stream, else the flow will freeze with some mix of methane and water ice. Easy enough to burn some gas to heat methanol to pump down as an antifreeze (you just have to separate it again at the top for reuse).

Won't be easy, but likely that part isn't hard to solve.

Rockman, how much of a cubic meter is dirt? It seems from reading this that is is mostly frozen gas and water. Since 1 cubic meter contains 0.8 cubic meters of water the maximum amount of dirt is 0.2 cubic meter no taking any account of the frozen gas.

It seems like a tube with pressurized air pumped into the bottom to float up the frozen hydrates would do it.

For those of us not in the oil and gas industry mcf is 1000cf.

Choosing Oil Free Transportation in France

In January, 2013 vs. January, 2012, French gasoline demand fell -7.7% and diesel -2.1%
In February, 2013 vs. February, 2012, French gasoline demand fell -8.7% and diesel -2.7%

Overall French fuel consumption was down -3.5% for the first two months of 2013 vs. 2012.

Note that many private cars in France burn diesel.


Some of this is probably macro-economic, but major investments to provide substitutes also played a significant role.

Earlier this week, Paris announced the go ahead to double their Metro (+200 km (+125 miles), 2 million pax/day)

The price tag has grown to 26.5 billion euros and the dates stretched out from 2013 to 2030.

In addition to this program, they will invest 2 billion euros in extending a commuter rail line in an 8 km long tunnel with several new subway stations.


I have just compiled a table of ridership for new French tram lines.


Take a minute and look at the populations of these towns & cities and the daily ridership #s.
The total is 2.16 million riders/day. Add to this the TOD effect.

Best Hopes for Those that Prepare :-)


Hi Alan, I take it they will be running those trains using Nuclear? If so, good for them!

Try electric trains here and it is coal and black lung for the miners. A rise in CO2 levels to keep us warm and soon corn ethanol grown in the new Appalachian plains. lol

France is installing wind (planned 10 GW, installed 7,196 MW on 12/31/12, #8 by nation) to supplement their nuclear power and replace the coal & NG they burn in the winter to generate electricity.

The USA installed 3,313 MW of solar PV and 13,088 MW of wind last year. This, plus a switch to natural gas, is significantly reducing US coal consumption.

Urban rail is *SO* efficient that we could run it easily off conservation (plus electrified railroads).

Just install these

France's carbon footprint/capita is significantly below other good examples, such as Germany & Denmark. And dramatically lower than the USA.


So they have implemented a permanent solution to deal with the waste, and can afford to abandon large portions if their land area if something goes wrong?

The French are successfully reprocessing a fraction of their waste/used nuclear fuel. The only nation to do so successfully on a large scale.

Newly mined uranium is still cheaper than reprocessed fuel, so not all waste/used fuel is reprocessed.


A. What is the fraction?

B. What happens to it after it is reprocessed? Is it harmless after that?

As you pointed out, these two issues (nuclear vs. coal power and electric rail) are not related, as we can power electric rail in other ways. The power system for rail does not even need to be connected to the "grid", and indeed it often is not.


While I like the idea of wind and not real crazy in love with nuclear, at 6 or even 12 GW increase it pales in comparison to to putting a third reactor at Millstone in operation.:

Millstone Plant in CT has two active reactors (out of 3)
In 2007, Unit 2 generated 7,686 GWh and Unit 3 generated 8,699 GWh. Three Mile Island in PA generated 6,645 GWh last year

Wind power US total

"In addition to the large onshore wind resources, the U.S. has large offshore wind power potential,[39] with another NREL report released in September 2010 showing that the U.S. has 4,150 GW of potential offshore wind power nameplate capacity, an amount 4 times that of the country's 2008 installed capacity from all sources, of 1,010 GW."


Makes me feel that wind power is only practical if, as well, we return to an age of human muscle power. Very efficient the human machine, a teaspoon of olive oil and a bike and go figure the mileage one would get. I get a kick out of all the energy used in construction with backhoes tearing up great long pits to instal a Big-O pipe where a simple hand dug trench would serve as well.

Where does theo nuclear waste go? I bet if we put as much effort into solving that problem that we do in complaining about it, it might get solved. Should be much easier than trying to clean up the CO2 from coal plants. Or the coal used to make the steel for wind towers. Incidentally how much steel and concrete would it take to produce the power of one millstone reactor? You might compare that with cost of construction of that Millstone plant? I have no idea how they compare:-)

Not trying to be argumentative, you are welcome to disagree with my opinions but even more welcome to present better facts.

Last year, wind generated 3.5% of US electricity, and with the massive installation late last year. the number should be above 4% this year.

You confused GWh with GW. US wind has about a 25% capacity factor, so roughly 60 GW x24 x365 /4 should be 2013 wind generation (not including new wind installed in 2013).

None-the-less, nuclear will be needed in some areas with only solar renewables, such as Florida, if we are to get off fossil fuels.

Best Hopes for renewables & energy efficiency,


Ah, Thanks Alan for straightening that out. Gotta go cycle now and clear my head, I will just swallow a teaspoon of olive oil and see where I get to.

Best wishes on electric trains and such. When they switched in Vancouver B.C. from electric trams to gas and Diesel, as a young child, I used to get quite ill and the change in noise level and vibration was a shocker.

Florida has a pretty good off-shore wind resource.

Not to mention that there's no mandate from god that Florida can't import power from places with better wind resources...

Florida's wind potential is actually pretty lousy.


Just a little sea-breeze effect on the coasts. The nearest place with good potential has to first get past Atlanta.

I think that's oriented towards onshore, and out of date.

Jacobson at Stanford did a recent analysis of East Coast offshore wind resource - there was quite a lot.

Occasional Cat 4 & 5 hurricanes make off-shore wind off Florida quite questionable.

New designs, likely at significantly higher cost, would be required for Florida.


IIRC, there are current designs that can handle Gulf storms, including cat 5.

Besides, who said thy cant import power? How much coal ,gas and oil does FL produce?

There was a study done last year that recommended against a proposed wind farm in the Galveston area, because of hurricanes. It found there was a 1 in 10 chance of the entire wind farm being destroyed within 20 years. Not just losing blades, which are easily replaced, but the entire turbine buckling.

Is it possible to design them to withstand hurricanes? Maybe, but it might be easier to put the wind farms in safer places.

Apparently, existing turbines are designed to withstand conditions in the North Sea and Northern Europe The Gulf is far worse, as far as storms go.

If you read carefully, you see that 5 of the 14 Atlantic states have not been hit since 1856.

It is possible to make turbines hurricane resilient. Atlantic states are easy:

"If the turbines in Atlantic and Dukes Counties can yaw, there is little chance that even a single turbine would be destroyed in the 20 year period."

Gulf states can also work:

"Giving turbines the ability to yaw significantly decreases the probability of buckling. The chances of a single turbine buckling in Galveston and Dare Counties drop to 25 percent and 15 percent, and the probabilities of more than half the farm being destroyed drop to 10 percent and less than one percent, respectively."

And the cost of making turbines resilient is low:

"Adding battery backups for yaw motors could add up to $40,000 to the turbine cost"

I think Alan is partly referring to the lack of storage capacity. At least I hope so; Florida has a LOT of sun and plenty of land (for now at least, haha). But it's flat as a table, so pumped storage just isn't going to happen.

My favored solution, batteries in houses, seems to never be suggested despite off-grid homes already using this solution. If houses have hot water heaters, I don't see why they can't have batteries. Industrial and commercial use may need other solutions.

In any case, full solar for Florida would present real challenges. The storage issue either needs to be solved or we need to learn how to do without if we are going to go all-renewable, which I HOPE is the eventual intent. Nuclear is still dirty and disaster prone.

Here's an interesting article for you...


With a healthy mix of solar, wind, hydro and the ability to move it long distance the actual size of storage required should diminish from what he calculated (it's never still and cloudy everywhere).

Sadly, Tom Murphy may be well intentioned, but his posts in general, and this one in particular, are exercises in tearing apart straw men.

In this case, he's applying a high-cost solution intended for 100's or thousands of charge-discharge cycles to a situation where you might have one ore two cycles per year.

For that, no utility engineer would ever consider a battery. Instead, one might use "wind-gas", as discussed below.

First, let's not get confused by the GWhs produced in a year by nukes in your second paragraph with potential GW of wind in your wiki quote. For instance, the cited 4150 GW of potential off shore wind capacity, producing just 20% of it's rated output for a year: 4150 GW x 8760 hrs/year x .2 = 7,270,800 GWh/yr. Maybe I missed something.

Thanks Ghung, Alan caught me on that one already, but better you add and make it apparent in case Alans' correction is missed.

You present multiple false choices and illogic.

Where does the nuclear waste go? I bet if we put as much effort into solving that problem that we do in complaining about it, it might get solved.

A total leap of faith and then I am asked to present better facts. I bet not, and my bet is supported by the historical record.

OK - fact: Through the peak of prosperity we have never designed nor implemented any system to contain/clean up/store the incredibly toxic waste product from nuclear power, to keep the volume we have generated sequestered for the length of time required. We didn't do it, there is no program to do it now nor is it becoming more likely that we will do so as our economy tanks. Your faith-based belief stated above has no basis in fact.

Comparing two ways of generating power, each with uniquely horrible consequences, you somehow select one of them as incrementally better and become a fanboy for it. This is a twisted logic I cannot follow.

Using drastically less energy would create enormous hardship for almost everyone, but would still be far better than the consequences of continuing to use coal or nuclear. That is the real choice available to us, not coal vs. nuclear.


Through the peak of prosperity we have never designed nor implemented any system to contain/clean up/store the incredibly toxic waste product from nuclear power,...

Except for what is being done in France you are right http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meuse Haute_Marne_Underground_Research_Laboratory

Nuclear power is the primary source of electric power in France. In 2004, 425.8 TWh out of the country's total production of 540.6 TWh of electricity was from nuclear power (78.8%), the highest percentage in the world.[1]

I guess we were too busy driving our cars to the market to buy cheezies and using 2% of world energy running the internet. http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/onepercent/2011/10/307-gw-the-maximum-...

Would we ever go to the length of spending that sort of money in dealing with nuclear waste? Not likely,eh?

BTW, twilight, do you have any information on how much energy goes into the production of steel concrete, etc. to build a windmill and what the source of that energy is?

"Comparing two ways of generating power, each with uniquely horrible consequences, you somehow select one of them as incrementally better and become a fanboy for it. This is a twisted logic I cannot follow. "

What?!, Human muscle has uniquely horrible consequences" maybe so, but I do think human muscle power is worth being, as you put it, a 'fanboy' for! Just got back from cycling to the market to find that stocks are low in what I was looking for and so then went to Value Village bought a nice shirt cheap.

The idiots in power in my town were trying to get rid of a dam that could be used for power generation and so I cycled up there to see if there had been anything happening. Then home for lunch.This afternoon I will be putting in more of this years vegetable garden. Peas are coming up and will freeze some for next winter along with the canning of tomatoes. Did enough squash last year to give me a couple years in cans so likely will go easy there. All this you understand is done without nuke, coal, wind, or solar-electric. Just good old sunshine, rain and muscle power. (oh just to be honest I use maybe 2 gallons of gasoline a year to power my weedeater/rototiller combination). Have not been able to find an electric substitute for that.

Thanks for the critique, twilight, keeps the brain from becoming too muscle bound, gotta keep it light and airy and not too seriously bent.lol

"I use maybe 2 gallons of gasoline a year to power my weedeater/rototiller combination). Have not been able to find an electric substitute for that."

Actually I think you will find a significant number of TOD members had a lot of experience when they were young with human-powered substitutes for that (and for some of us not among our fondest childhood memories).

Heh! No kidding, same for me too!

But then I was young and callow and more interested in a gallon of wine on a Saturday than a gallon of gasoline. Unless of course I were to be putting it into my cars gas tank.


Now I get my kicks by cycling and guessing the ages of people in supermarket lineups.

I have not mentioned wind, not even once. Your arguments have been about the relative merits of nuclear vs. coal - those are the two bad choices I was discussing. You've clearly been acting as an advocate of nuclear power, including in this thread where you were the first response to Alan with:

Hi Alan, I take it they will be running those trains using Nuclear? If so, good for them!

I don't know why you would find this to be good.

Second, you seem to think France is adequately dealing with its waste. France is reprocessing a fraction of their waste - what are they doing with the rest? They have a lot.

And a potato fork will substitute for your rototiller.


It seems to me that electric rail is perfectly suited for renewables. The loads are predictable in magnitude and time, as well as controllable. It is easy to have a grid connection as a back up, and you can even have some diesel locomotives as a tertiary backup if needed. There is almost no risk.


"I have not mentioned wind, not even once."

Okay so what are you on about. I am afraid that it is coal that will be producing the electricity for trains and trams unless whatever you conceive as renewables can do it. Incidentally what are those renewables you speak of? Apparently not wind.

Sorry to hear that you have Yankee nuclear waste so close to where you live, do they do that sort of thing in France, leave people living on nuclear open pit waste?. What are you doing about that waste? Doesn't do much to complain here, maybe you should take this issue up with someone from that department and if that doesn't work maybe you should move.

I am not a booster for nuclear,I am concerned with the amount of CO2 that is being pumped into the air and so by necessity I go to Nuclear. Actually first on my list is 'collapse' that is about the only thing that might preserve the planet. I understand living so close to a waste pit gives you the heebie jeebies but right now there are hydrates being released in the North that give me the heebie Jeebies and while you might suffer the effects of living where you do. CO2 and methane is warming everything everywhere. It is rather parochial to not see that, merely because you are blinded by your local radiation pit.

"And a potato fork will substitute for your rototiller. "

Good lets talk about gardening, If you use this potato fork, you mention, are you using it to turn over the earth, or like I am with my rototiller attachment, just cutting off the weeds in the top inch and a half? I really think it is a poor practice to turn over the soil and expose those layers to the air, kills all the microbes and really messes things up generally.

Have you ever talked to Jim Kunstler? I think he would be quite delighted to talk to you about electric trains and trams. He does a recordable chat (podcast) as well as his Monday morning comment.



Jim and I get along quite well. He likes my work and we exchange occasional eMails.

Best Hopes for Common Causes,


How many times must I say the same thing? You have consistently compared nuclear favorably to coal. My reading of your your commenting history shows your clear nuclear support, using the old canard that since coal is bad nuclear must be good. You were happy to think France was running their trains with Nuclear.

You are doing it again here, assuming my concerns about nuclear waste somehow implies I am unconcerned, and perhaps even unaware, of what is happening to the climate as a result of burning coal (and oil).

Despite your protestations your nuclear boosterism is obvious. No matter how much the climate is changed, the seas rise, droughts and floods and crop failures and ecosystems and species destroyed because of coal - it does not make poisoning our world with nuclear waste OK.

"I use maybe 2 gallons of gasoline a year to power my weedeater/rototiller combination). Have not been able to find an electric substitute for that."

Gas Tiller with dead engine + 1.5HP electric motor found on the side of the road =

Used this a couple days ago breaking new ground for 4 new 4' x 50' garden beds. More to come. Powered by Solar Charged GE Elec-Trak with 3600 watt inverter.

Nice job, augjohnson, I want one!

I bet it is quiet too and starts at the flick of a switch rather than a dislocated shoulder. I have an old echo tiller that doesn't start and you give me ideas of what to do with it.


... how much energy goes into the production of steel concrete, etc. to build a windmill

Most EROEI analysis show that the "energy in" to a wind turbine is matched by the "energy out" in about a year, give or take, depending on assumptions and model.


Very efficient the human machine, a teaspoon of olive oil and a bike and go figure the mileage one would get.

No, the human machine isn't efficient.

The human body is around 20-25% efficient at converting food energy into mechanical energy. Diesel Engines are 40% efficient and can burn your proposed oil directly.

In making the plant oil the driving energy is the photon.

Photon -> PV -> electrical input into a motor for motion.

VS Photosynthesis (conducted by algae) turns roughly 3 percent of incoming sunlight into organic compounds, including yet more plant cells, annually.

Your proposal sure seems like Photon -> motion is less than 1% efficient. If I want to move a bike as "efficient" as possible then I'll pitch one should just buy PV panels and electrify the bike.

Offset by the supreme efficiency of the bicycle. The non-"payload" faction of total weight is quite low (say <25% in most cases) and the very low rolling resistance make up for the "low efficiency".

Since humans need a fairly high minimum of exercise for optimum health, that "required" exercise can be gotten from biking to work, to shop and to play at "zero cost" (better than driving to a gym to jog on a treadmill).

Best Hopes for Efficient Transportation,


I agree that bicycles don't weigh alot and a minimum of exercise is needed but that is not the original point which was made.

The claim is the human machine is very efficient and that is just not true.

Sadly, that's offset by bikes' brick-like aerodynamics.

Bicycling at 40 kph (25 MPH) takes about 300W, rather more than the average EV (at the same speed). And, of course, EVs can have multiple passengers...

I follow you and agree with what you are saying but:

A 2012 volswagon Passat will get 31 mpg on a gallon of diesel at 35000 cal in the city

Now, give me a gallon of olive oil at 30400 Cal how many miles will I be able go on my bike in the city? An easy 150 to 170 calories per 20 minutes is about what I do so that would be 450 to 510 calories per hour or about 15 to 20 miles divide that 451 into 30400 for the olive oil and I get 59 hours divided by 4 to give me that 25% efficiency rating of yours and that means that I get about 14 to 15 hours of traveling time or 15 to 20 times that and 225 to 280 miles plus per gallon. Not too shabby for an old guy, right? and that Passat is only 1 year old and likely not paid for yet. And there still is the fuel the driver uses to steer the thing not accounted for.

An extensive discussion is here

Bicycle pedaling requires a food input of around 25 kcal per mile, close to your numbers. But if that food takes 250 kcal of fossil fuel energy to produce the overall mileage is worse than the hybrid. Other factors enter, EROEI of the diesel, how many passengers, speed, etc.

Electric bicycles are a bit heavier but even accounting for battery loss they need less than 25 kcal/mile from a wall socket (typically half that) and the fossil fuel multiplier is smaller, 3x if the battery is charged using electricity from a coal plant. If the embodied energy of the battery is considered, pedaling and electric currently seem to use about the same amount of fossil fuel when the EROEI of the food is around 1:5

Since humans need a fairly high minimum of exercise for optimum health, that "required" exercise can be gotten from biking to work, to shop and to play at "zero cost" (better than driving to a gym to jog on a treadmill).


Bicycle pedaling requires a food input of around 25 kcal per mile, close to your numbers. But if that food takes 250 kcal of fossil fuel energy to produce the overall mileage is worse than the hybrid.

So I guess you are saying that drivers of hybrids don´t need to eat...

But how does the above support your claim of the VERY EFFICIENT Human machine?

A 2012 volswagon Passat will get 31 mpg on a gallon of diesel at 35000 cal in the city Now, give me a gallon of olive oil at 30400 Cal how many miles will I be able go on my bike in the city?

You wish to compare moving a 300 VS 3000 lbs mass and then tell us all little energy it takes to move a 300 lbs object VS the 3000 lbs object? How does this support your position that Humans are very efficient machines?

At least I tried to normalise the units so like could be compared to like.

Your example has not only weight but time differences and the base 31 mpg figure also includes air resistance at the higher speeds.

Well for transport, I still recall the (I believe 1973) SciAm article on bicycles being tied with the C5 plane for efficiency. A bit dated, but bicycles have improved since then.

France reprocesses 400 metric tons of waste/used fuel/year. I do not know what fraction that is of the total, but I vaguely remember 20%. As noted, newly mined uranium is cheaper, and the French see this reprocessing plant as "proof of concept". At a later date (with expensive uranium), they plan to reprocess 100+% of their waste fuel plus other nations waste fuel.

The reprocessed fuel is used as MOX fuel in reactors. This accounts for the plutonium and other trans-uranic elements - the "bad waste". And that will be reprocessed and reused once again. The "end of the cycle" would be either a hypothetical reactor that burns waste or mixing thorium in.

The atoms that were actually split are not that bad and are generally a couple percent of weight. A random assortment of isotopes that need only wait a century of two (with a few exceptions) to let the isotopes decay. I assume that in a century, these will be reprocessed to pull out the platinum group elements, gold, silver, etc and the very long lived isotopes. The long lived fission isotopes (perhaps >0.1% of the fuel) will be segregated and stored in geological formations.

The efficiency gains from rail are so great, that the power use is minimal.

In Switzerland, SBB (Swiss Rail) uses 3% of the transportation energy (90% from their own hydroelectric plants at 16.7 Hz) and provides 1/6th of the passenger-km and 1/3rd the freight tonne-km. Add to this the passenger-km from the dozen Swiss tram cities & towns.


Alan, too many will be's and assumptions that are not supported by the 40 year history of nuclear power.

There are big pools of the stuff sitting 12mi from my home. The evidence says that it will continue to sit there until something fails and it is released into the environment. There is no plan to do anything with it other than that.

France, Sweden and Finland are the only nations that appear to have semi-realistic plans to deal with nuclear waste.

Sweden & Finland have well advanced plans to bury it. France will reprocess their waste, and have been operating a commercial scale plant for decades now.

Given their plans to prepare for the future (see my original post), they stand a decent chance of dealing with their nuclear waste (In the end, I think the French will bury most of it). Their society appears less likely to crumble when stressed than ours.

Best Hopes for the Prepared,


Here is a report on French reprocessing that gives a somewhat less sanguine view. It is dated 2007 so maybe some positive stuff has happened since then. As I recall from reading this paper a while ago, they have two reactors capable of burning MOX.

pdf alert


Twilight, I think Alan has presented how a reasonable set of nations are dealing with their nuclear waste stream. I think our primary problem here is we are just not being terribly reasonable about it. Even assuming we don't generate additional power from nuclear, we should at least be cleaning up the existing waste using at least the technologies France has. We don't, not because we can't technically, but because we can't politically. Everyone plays a CYA act every time the issues comes up.

The British built a fuel reprocessing plant and managed to screw it up royally. Perhaps they have it back on-line (at one time they planned to mothball it)..

I question whether we are closer to British or French engineering expertise.


Perfectly legitimate question. Not sure myself. There's a real dilemma in nuclear that makes it a particularly tricky Catch 22. If you develop the industry, you create the waste. If you abandon the industry, you abandon all hopes of processing the waste. So abandoning the industry might seem to my progressive friends like the right thing to do, when in fact you've doomed yourself to pools of waste lying around. Keep the industry going, as my conservative friends (and I myself lean), and you deal with all the fun that goes with a short-term, profit-driven, corner-cutting industry. Catch 22.

The loss of expertise is a tough one. Gail's last post had some commenters going into Thorium a bit. Another technology where we lost the expertise.

I'm not sure we could, or would want, to get the expertise back. As I've mentioned in the past, I lean towards trying to get it back. But so far as the waste clean up goes, it seems important enough to me that, if we can't do it, let's hire the French to.

That oughtta get the pols in DC talkin'....

Maybe the French reprocessing program isn't all it's cracked up to be?

Recycling Atomic Waste: Nuclear Materials Stored In Siberian Parking Lots

We can get rid of the waste and create energy with Fast Breeders, it has been done and proven, but we continue to do it the same wasteful old way from 60 years ago.

IMO, fast breeders are too dangerous to operate. A number of prototypes in a number of nations - none even marginally successful. One of which almost took out Detroit.

Best Hopes for Better Solutions,


The Russians have been running a BN600 fast breeder since 1980 with no major incidents. Not all designs are the same nor managed the same.


Cooled with sodium - which reacts violently with water. A "no go" just on that basis alone.

The somewhat more safety conscious Japanese also had a sodium cooled breeder reactor - Monju - and are about to give up on it.

On December 8, 1995, the reactor suffered a serious accident. Intense vibration caused a thermowell inside a pipe carrying sodium coolant to break, possibly at a defective weld point, allowing several hundred kilograms of sodium to leak out onto the floor below the pipe. Upon contact with air, the liquid sodium reacted with oxygen and moisture in the air, filling the room with caustic fumes and producing temperatures of several hundred degrees Celsius. The heat was so intense that it warped several steel structures in the room.


From what I understand, Monju was a terrific mess. All sorts of things went wrong, even having a crane fall into the reactor. It's a poster child for how nuclear is complex, difficult, and expensive.

It has to do with designs and management, some designs should never be built and some people should never manage them. Sodium cooling has worked for the BN600 for more than 30 years with no major accidents.

Ask yourself how many serious nuclear situations have occurred in the U.S., then look at how many have died or been injured with other power plants. Third generation reactors are much safer, fast breeders are safe designs.

Then ask yourself if you want 200 tons of plutonium stored in Nevada for 240,000 years, or use it for fuel producing fission products that are harmless in 240 years.

Plutonium exists and can be used as fuel producing less harmful fission products or we can go bury the plutonium in the ground hoping it is safe and the environment is safe for almost a quarter of a million years.

Once we use up the plutonium, we can make sure that we do not create nor stockpile much more of it. Breeders use transuranics as fuel, so plutonium doesn't stay around for hundreds of thousands of years.

None of what you say changes the fact that nuclear is complex, difficult, and expensive. Nor does it change the fact that it is dirty and dangerous - claiming a reactor design is safe based on one reactor is questionable at best. Just because you get less waste (if a more noxious type) than fossil fuels does not mean it is clean. Claims that breeders can make it all harmless are questionable at best, partly because we obviously don't build them, and when we do they turn out to be a mess. As in, Monju.

We can argue all day, but the facts are plain enough. A solar panel is basically simple, produces no waste, and requires little technical expertise to operate. A nuclear plant is extremely complex and produces waste. Solar is a mature technology that is available today. Gen IV reactors don't even exist yet.

As it is, I think it's moot, because it's all going to be piled on top of everything. Nuclear or renewables won't replace coal, gas and oil because the nature of industrial society is to use more and more. The main reason the developed world is cutting back is because the developed economies are being out-competed for resources by the developing countries. China is not going to stop building coal, nuclear, or solar, it will pile them all up on top of each other in a bid to become the biggest, baddest industrial power in the world, just like the US piled coal, nuclear, and hydro on top of each other massively during it's day in the sun (and still does).

Well, it's comforting to hear that they're actually, truly, safe. Wouldn't want anything bad to happen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s79_V4NXiUg

It's a poster child for how nuclear is complex, difficult, and expensive

Not to mention, inherently unsafe, when operated by crews of bumbling Homo sapiens. As they say, if you try to make something idiot proof, someone is bound to come along and make a better idiot >;-)


When I worked on a fast breeder design team in the early 1970s we classified reactor accidents in terms of equivalent tons of TNT. Things can happen very fast in a "fast breeder reactor".

Reading carefully, the Russians sent spent fuel to France - France separated it - and returned what the Russians sent them.

The Russians are apparently doing a poor job of handling the different components.

The fission products should stay "hot" for over a century for example.

And in Russia, I could see the Mafia grabbing "ore" that is 1% platinum group & gold, and "recycling" it early.


Hi Alan

I understand from BBC Radio 4 two weeks ago, that the UK plant is closed and will not re-open. We now have enough plutonium to make lots of bombs as we have no reactors licenced to burn MOX. The plant cost rather a lot of money and is a bit of an embarrassment

They said the French are building a plant for you in the US, which is currently over budget and running into some construction problems, and that we may get the French to build us a new one too

Nuclear power seems to be an area that you have to decide to do properly or not to do and not have some half cocked attempt at. We are 'undecided' it seems and oscillating

Our new (Japanese Hitachi) trains, will have to run on Coal or French nuclear by extension flex


Even when you decide to do nuclear properly, the risks are still enormous. Just one accident has the potential to take a country down.

Potential Cost Of A Nuclear Accident? So High It’s A Secret!

But now the report was leaked to the French magazine, Le Journal de Dimanche. Turns out, the upper end of the cost spectrum of an accident at a single reactor at the plant chosen for the study, the plant at Dampierre in the Department of Loiret in north-central France, would amount to over three times the country’s GDP. Financially, France would cease to exist as we know it.

Let's say the worst case loss in the U.S. would be $500 billion dollars. After 50 years of reactor operation we have had nothing even anywhere close to that figure.

Look at the losses for hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy have cost more than $100 billion combined in only 7 years, now project that out over 50 years.

The same can be said for air travel, it is the safest form of travel per passenger mile. We would not even think of not flying commercial airliners ever again. The benefits outweigh the risks.

Reactor designs are getting better with each generation, we need to build and use those designs. Could you imagine never improving an aircraft design because what we have has worked for 50 years?

Safe ?

I can well remember reactors going off like popcorn, one after another, at Fukishima. GE designs, just like several operating in the USA.

*IF* the wind had been blowing south, instead of out to sea during the worst days, the metropolis of Tokyo would have become an exclusion zone !

Pure, dumb luck that it was not.

I have nuanced position on nukes (they are better than coal), but how ANYONE can claim that "nukes are safe" after Fukishima is beyond me.

PS: They are also apparently not economic either. Look at cost over-runs and delays on new ones.


I believe that the whole region is massively contaminated, including Tokyo. I have come to the conclusion that the reason that it did not become an exclusion zone is simply that they incapable of doing it, so they didn't. The coming years will show what happens.

I generally stay away from debates about nuclear because they tend to be wash, rinse, and repeat kinds of affairs with the usual stalemate. But. Although they are probably better than coal considering the entire fuel cycle, impacts, risks, etc., it would appear that neither coal nor nuclear is necessary. So get rid of them both and the debate becomes mute. Germany, in very difficult solar conditions, is performing a grand experiment. In they are successful, then it will seem like smooth sailing for a lot of other countries, and especially the United States.

And yes. We need more sailing and less power boats.

My position is that:

- New nukes are more expensive per MWh than wind in windy areas today and solar in a few more years (if not today)

- Nuke plants have a VERY roughly 1 in 400 chance of creating a several county exclusion zone over their 60 or so year operating life
However, this rick is not addictive (4 nukes together do not have a 1 in 100 chance).

Example: After Fukishima, the US NRC ordered a seismic risk re-evaluation of all US nuke sites. The report came out and listed North Anna as having the lowest seismic risk.
About 30 days later, a previously unknown fault created a quake that was twice the design force for North Anna. Fortunately, the design was over designed well enough to survive without damage. But so much for modern risk assessment.

- We have finite natural gas, and Climate Chaos is going to stress both nature and our civilization.

- Chemical storage appears unlikely on a large scale.

- So, in some cases (Florida for example), some nukes are needed in the long term.

I could see Florida with 10 GW of HV DC connecting to pumped storage @ Chattanooga and wind in Texas & Oklahoma. Florida population increases by 25%, electrical demand drops by half. Florida wind supplies 4% of demand. On most days, but not all days, Florida exports solar PV to pumped storage (or Texas). But at dusk it is drawing on pumper storage and/or wind. Still, major gaps develop (cloudy days in winter). *IF* Florida has enough nukes to supply 150% of demand at 3 AM, it can export power to pumped storage then and just 10 GW of HV DC will be enough. And fossil fuels will still be needed several times each year "to keep the lights on".

The current two AP-1000s under construction are in a lightly populated area with mediocre soil fertility. The locals accept the risk - and Georgia Power is retiring almost exactly as much coal as they are building new nukes. Despite the cost over runs & risks, I think they are a slight net positive.


The GE PRISM Integral Fast Reactor is modular, it can be built in factories and brought to the locations, reducing costs. We have 700,000 tons of depleted uranium from 50+ years of enrichment, with fast reactors that is enough to power the U.S. for more than 500 years without mining ANY new uranium while using the waste as fuel.

The Japanese built FOUR reactors on the coast where they get earthquakes and tsunamis, without a sea wall high enough to prevent disaster. They had no cooling water backup on higher ground, battery backup was inadequate and the diesel generators flooded. If you are not going to take precautions to make it safe, then it may not be as safe as it could be.

Modern risk assessment (see North Anna) is very imperfect. Where is a PERFECTLY safe place to build your perfect nukes ?

WHY were you not calling for shutting down Fukishima before hand - along with dozens of other faulty sited nukes ?

BTW, four nukes exploded, but there were several more at the site (luckily cold at the time) plus a waste fuel holding building that they ALMOST lost.

Fast breeders are just TOO DANGEROUS to operate (except perhaps in remote Siberia). Modular built or not.


Fraction ? My dear friend " A small hole can sink a big ship " . Why not try a parachute with a fraction of a hole of the total volume .How about say 10 % ? Want to try 5% ? There are issues were it is 100% or nothing . Something like a condom :-).

Alan, Waste is only one aspect. You need the resources too. The uranium. Where does it come from. O ... I see. That's the reason why you are intervening in Mali, protecting Areva's interests, no?

It comes from Kazakhstan.

You forgot to mention Best Hopes for French Bureaucrats. One of the topics in the CPAC conference is how Europe is out to take over the U.S. If only.


If Only !


BTW: Perhaps "Prepared" = "French Bureaucrats" ?

I wish more of the comments had focused on the transition to efficient oil free transportation in France.


A fair point, and project I completely support.

Sorry about that Alan. I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect. You did, however, raise the dreaded N word. You know what that does around these here parts ;-)

I commented upthread on my own transit adventures.

Here's to hoping we can transition to efficient, oil-free transportation too.

Actually Alan did not bring that up - it was rather opportunistically injected into the conversation.

Ah, I stand corrected. Sorry 'bout that!

The USA has @ 4.75x the population of the Republic of France.

The US would need to invest about $25 billion/year to equal the French effort.

Our mix of Metro, Light Rail & Streetcar would be different. But if can build with the speed, efficiency and determination of French bureaucrats, in 20 years we would have something like

1,000 miles of Metro
8,000 miles of Light Rail
4,000 miles of streetcar

enough to build TOD around for 30% of the population.

Best Hopes,


PS: I will recheck my calcs in a few hours.

For scale, the USA's GDP is presently around $17,000 billion. $25 billion is 0.15% of that: unnoticeable.

The Grand Paris Express, as finalized, added 5.5 billion euros and 5 years to the earlier plans. So the "per year" investment dropped. The US equivalent would be @ $19 billion/year - and longer to get the good results.


A note to my mentor, Ed Tennyson, about the 2 billion euro expansion of Paris RER Line E (2013-2020) another major project separate from the Le Grand Express.

RER Line A is the busiest urban rail line in the world outside of East Asia (Japan, China, Korea). Average weekday ridership is between 900,000 & 1 million.

Six bi-level cars with headways as short as 90 seconds (for limited times). Line A as two spurs (a "Y") on the West and 3 spurs (a "Y" with an extra spur) on the East.

RER Lines A, B, C & D have lines that go from one suburb through the Core to suburbs on the other side. Line E goes from the suburbs to the Core and stops.

The Line E expansion will add an 8 km (5 mile) tunnel with three new subway stations - one a transfer station interchanging with Line A, another with Line C, both stations with Metro Line 1. It will then surface for less than 2 km and join with one of the eastern spurs for Line A. It will end up with two of the three Line A spurs in the East, I am unclear if it will replace Line A service, or interline with Line A.

Note the high ridership #s expected from Line E (89,000 per hour @ Peak, 620,000/day). Congestion has likely been suppressing ridership.


And a link to the current RER map. Line A is red, Line E is light purple, Line C is yellow.


Best Hopes,


Certain cities, Grenoble, for example have very high rates of ridership as a proportion of population. Do you know why? The first thought I had was that the trams must be more convenient than average, perhaps more convenient than driving.

... than driving AND PARKING :-)

It costs an average of almost $9,000/year/car to drive one legally in the USA, and a minimum of about $4,000.

A family that can go from two cars to one, or none, is well ahead financially.

Best Hopes,


It costs me less than $1,000 / year to own and operate my vehicle.

France 2012: 102 people/km2

Replacement (or depreciation) cost ? Including insurance & repairs ? I am down to $1,500/year, but I planned for that.



I know you're rail-oriented, but have you considered doing(or have done?) a study on the potential for a "simple" replacement of city diesel buses with battery electric buses? It seems like even 5+ years ago this might not have actually been possible because of the batteries available - but with the Proterra, in particular, showing the capability of rapid-charge enabled buses this seems like a real option now. One of the loudest things in the city here are the buses. Loud on the street, loud inside...but the Proterra apart from the air brake hiss are silent. No need to wait to build the rail and no right-of-way issues - the roads are already there.

Charge structure: http://youtu.be/zKM8v0Vdasc
So quiet: http://youtu.be/lIqNHmIiyZY

from a Munich transit planner -

The result is, that cities with a tram system have in average 50% more passengers in the total system (tram and bus) than cities with a bus only system.

Inn addition, buses habe lower first costs, but higehr life cycle costs - not even counting the reduced passenger #s.

Best Hopes for Buses feeding Trams,


New Zealand parched as worst drought in 30 years takes toll

Authorities in Wellington, New Zealand, have issued an outright ban on outdoor water use as a worsening drought has siphoned the available supply to less than half of normal level and prompted the government to declare the worst water shortage in 30 years.

New Zealand's capital, home to more than 200,000 people, has just 19 days' supply of water left in its reservoirs, the APNZ news service reported.

Somehow I always thought of NZ as beautifully green and lush - even before it became The Shire.

Wow. Sounds like an article about West Texas.

I read articles about the extreme changes to weather and climate being experienced all over the world on an almost daily basis. Then I look around at my fellow citizens to see if they are as rattled about it as I am - nope. It is surreal.

Today on the hourly radio news. "Today is a beautiful day and we will be setting record high temperatures". This summer should be even more beautiful. We have grasshoppers for weather casters.

Then I look around at my fellow citizens to see if they are as rattled about it as I am - nope. It is surreal.

Well, at least that makes two of us.

I sometimes wonder if our fellow citizens ever actually get away from their TVs and go out into the world getting to see reality first hand anymore? I myself do actually get to see some of what is happening first hand and I turned off my TV back in 2005 and never looked back. Perhaps my perspective has been adversely affected.

Maybe I´m not getting the soothing message that everything is just fine and dandy... Should I start watching TV again and then I´ll feel all better too?

Maybe I´m not getting the soothing message that everything is just fine and dandy... Should I start watching TV again and then I´ll feel all better too?

Well, it seemed to work for the people in Fahrenheit 451, that is the conformists not trying to read books or question authority. They just watched their big screen tv's with reality tv shows and took prescription medications. Hey, wait a minute, that sounds an awful lot like the good ol' US of A, being lulled into a sense of complacency to accept less while the authority figures along with their corporate sponsors get more of the pie.

"Wait a minute, what's on this week? Oh it's Project Runway, Faceoff, Gas Monkey and Robot Combat League. Now where's my Xanax?"

I think getting rid of the TV has a lot to do with it my fiend - we still have one but I have not watched it in years.

Still, I think most simply cannot see the world in front of them. Their heads are filled with virtual reality, going through the daily grind - there are always distractions and busy things to do and think about, there is never time to look and listen and be in the moment. To exist.

And then they do not expect to think critically, to learn, to understand - it is not required of them.

Introducing my wife to 'To Kill a Mockingbird' with our AV junk tonight.

I find a good many folks around me now, including other TV pro's don't have Cable or TV anymore. (But you might not hear about this on TV, if you're looking for it..)

TV was in the rear view mirror 35 years ago.
The more you watch, the less you know.

LOL - you may indeed be a fiend, but that was not the word I was looking for! It seems like only yesterday when I could actually see the words on the screen.......

LOL - you may indeed be a fiend, but that was not the word I was looking for!

No worries! I noticed the typo right away and just decided to take it as a high compliment >;-)

"Fiendish Fred from Fortaleza"... I like it!

Heh, sounds like the title to a Dr Seuss book. Though funny you should mention Fortaleza, I may indeed be heading to the North East of Brazil in the near future.


Still, I think most simply cannot see the world in front of them. Their heads are filled with virtual reality, going through the daily grind - there are always distractions and busy things to do and think about, there is never time to look and listen and be in the moment. To exist.

That's what my wife and I have been noticing and it's downright scary to think of all the problems the world faces, in light of such a distracted populace. We were discussing a news article that came out about her and all the mistakes, in spite of her repeated attempts prior to its publication to correct them via emails. They even changed her name to a man's name and repeated it 3 times. We talked about how there use to be such a determined effort to get every detail right, and if any were wrong it was cause for embarassment, but not anymore. Anything goes, forget the details and who cares?

While everbody is so distracted, the Arctic ice volume is declining and methane releases are increasing. Peak oil is here with its economic implications. Climate change is causing fires for more of the year. Drought, extinctions, crop failures, desertification, acidification while mega ghost cities are being built in china, and QE's hold it all together with bailing wire.

The last moment of zipping from one distraction to another in a frenetic prescription induced daze, will be when the boob-toob goes blank and the ultimate reality experience of survival of the fittest race to get through the bottle-neck begins.

You start to wonder whether anybody knows anything. My local radio station kept reporting that Francis was "the first non-Italian pope in a thousand years".

I ditched the TV 2006. Never regretted it. But now my girlfriend is nagging me about getting one. I followed the "opposites attract each other" routine when I met her.

Thats actually our second major drought in 5 years. The one in 2007/8 (predominantly in the North island) tipped us into recession before the GFC had really begun. This one will take at least 1% off GDP. As primary industries are so important to us (particularly dairying) our economy does get slammed by such events. The present centre right government has done as much as possible to row back from climate change commitments, and ironically many of our farmers (particularly dairy) tend to be in the denialist/do nothing camp. They often overstock and often depend on the government to subsidise irrigation schemes (which deplete rivers and acquifers). However just like the Australian denialist camp it seems the climate is in the process of teaching them a harsh lesson this year (mind you the rest of us, the NZ taxpayer will pick up the bill). I suspect it will take a few more years of this for the message to sink in. We are forecast rain this weekend, but it may well not break the drought in the North.

I'm across the Tasman Sea from New Zealand and for the first time my 30,000 litre home rainwater tank may run dry. I just checked my petrol powered water pump and I've joined a couple of hundred metres of polythene pipe to 'borrow' some water from a neighbour. I changed my fixed shower nozzle to a hand held to save water. The earthen dam that supplies water to the garden has turned to a mudhole.

Today the region was supposed to get rain but so far zilch. The weird thing is it rained for an hour or more a day most of last year. I'm in the brown zone in this link

Louis R. Chênevert, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of United Technologies Corporation, said on Bloomberg TV this morning that 85% of the global population has never flown. The implication was that there is a huge untapped market.

The Green Nut in me is coming out. About 10% of the worlds population lacks access to clean drinking water and 40% to safe sanitaton.


I propose as soon as we get these down to under 1%, then we can start working on that big problem of 85% never having flown.

We'll get some of those newly rated Cat 6 tornadoes, and then maybe a few of them will have flown.


It´s raining cats and dogs people?

Actually for tornadoes, the scale is F (Fujita). It currently runs 1 to 5 (maybe 0 for really really weak ones).

I think he meant a 6 in the Spinal Tap sense.

I've been thinking about seasonal electrical storage in the form of "wind-gas":

Here's a reasonably straightforward, simple quantitative analysis, with cost estimates for large-scale electrolysis units, including capital cost and conversion efficiency.

Brief summary of H2 cost from electrolysis (2004); they came up with $1.32/kg capex, $.37/kg for opex, plus electricity ($/kWh x 40kWh/kilo of H2). Assumes 97% utilization, 40 year life for most of system. Target electrolytic efficiency is 78%.

Capital costs costs *highly* dependent on size of unit.


summary for: http://www.nrel.gov/hydrogen/pdfs/36734.pdf

Has anybody seen anything with more recent information on capital costs and efficiency?

Nothing more recent, sorry. Just observing that hydrogen is not an energy source, but rather a storage vehicle, like a battery. It is fine when there is excess unuseable wind/solar power that would otherwise be wasted, and a source (water) that is sustainable.

And then there are the storage problems. And transporation problems.

Again... if understood for what it is, I have no real objection.


Audi is making methane using biogass CO2 and hydrogen from wind energy to run a new A3 model. This does something with the excess wind power.


If there's quite a lot of surplus windpower, it might make sense to synthesize hydrocarbons for niche applications like long-distance transportation. I suspect that's far in the future - for quite some time we'll have enough liquid fuel, as an extended-range electric like the Ampera/Volt reduces the onboard hydrocarbon by 90%.

Yeah, this is just a sensible storage option for seasonal wind/solar lulls.

People get hung up on the capex of batteries and pumped storage, but using those for seasonal storage is like driving a M1 tank to work - they only make sense for diurnal storage where the capex is amortized over thousands of cycles.

Overbuild wind/solar production by, say, 25% above the average demand, and use the excess to electrolize seawater and store the hydrogen underground.


That makes the storage incredibly cheap, and the conversion efficiency is relatively unimportant because you'll only need to draw about 5% of consumption from storage.

or use the hydrogen plus captured CO2 to make something easier to store.


There are ways to do it that make sense if you have surplus energy anyway. Having less useable energy come out than went in is not an issue if the product (storable hydrocarbons, currently $3.64/gallon) is more valuable than the input (stranded excess wind power, value zero.)

This is a theoretical exercise. It will be tough to synthesize hydrocarbons more cheaply than finding them in the ground, and it will be a while before we completely eliminate fossil fuels for that last 5% of generation.

Why are synthetic liquid fuels expensive?

You'd have to build so much wind that there's a lot of excess production with zero value. And, there are other costs besides energy:

The NREL study finds a capital cost of $1.32 per kilo of H2, which is about equivalent to a gallon of diesel. That's at 97% utilization: if you're using stranded wind then utilization will depend on the percentage of the year that prices are rock bottom low. It will take a while for that percentage to rise to 20%, and even then synthetic fuel would cost 5x$1.32, or $6.60 (before taxes).

This subject needs a separate thread to crowd test the assumptions. A difficult situation could be powering a sprawling city on a calm frosty night years after natural gas is depleted and the gas grid torn up. That particular night the sun set early and the wind is still but people want electric heating, TV, EV charging etc. At the very least several gigawatt-hours of stored energy will be needed. Forget combined heat from fuel cells those who need it most are way out in the frosty suburbs.

Is this affordable? Where will the H2 or CH4 be stored? How many power plants? I suspect it will work out cheaper to generate the electricity on-demand from nuclear. Maybe the US DoE could fund a trial.

Oh, heck, that scenario is just daily (diurnal) variation. That could be handled with DSM, pumped storage, long distance transmission, V2G, etc.

I'm talking about the hard stuff: weeks long lulls in renewable generation. And, yes, it's affordable. The H2 would be stored underground, very cheaply. The power plants would be cheap single cycle turbines.

I think more in a production/storage utility that consists of following components:

1) Large scale electrolysis

2) Large scale liquefaction of air

3) power to gas unit

4) turbine powered by liquid nitogen

5) gas turbin powered by reaction of methane and pure oxygen.

1+2) convert excess electrity, 3) store it as methane, 4+5) provide electricity.


I have two questions:

1st, why not stop with hydrogen? It stores nicely underground, I believe it burns nicely in turbines, and it can be injected into the methane/NG system up to roughly a 5-10% concentration.

2nd, do we have numbers for those components? Costs, efficiencies, etc?

The technical limitations: Most burner, installations like pipelines etc. can only handle 5% hydrogen I was told by engineers.
So for a transition phase 5% H2 added to NG is ok for me. If we want to replace imported NG in large scale the methane route sound for me more attractive, here the upgrade of biogas makes sense (CO2 -> methane).

The nitrogen turbines are at the moment at 15%-20%, in principle waste heat of NG turbines would increase efficiency; NG turbines are around 30%. To my best of knowledge a combination of wind and (liquid) nitrogen turbine is under construction. Could waste cold from the nitrogen turbine increase efficiency of the NG turbine or the isolation of CO2 ftom its exhaust?

Ah, so Germany is thinking of this as a way to replace NG used in homes?

I still don't see why methane would be better than hydrogen for central electrical generation. The extra step of conversion from H2 th CH4 seems unnecessary. What is the efficiency of that conversion?

What is the efficiency and cost of liquefaction of air?

I do not think we will replace NG at homes, it is planned to substite as much burner as possible with heatpumps. The P2G is one version of long term storage. Only in the last Fraunhofer study they assumed that many NG heatpumps are fueled with wind gas. Usually the methane is used to fuel NG plants with quite low FLH, 25 days = 500 h.

Most engineers do not assume that hydrogen works in the current infrastructure, so the question is do we change the infrastructure or do we feed the current infrastructure with methane. (Efficiency ~70%)

I would think that we'd do both: feed hydrogen into the methane system up to the 5% limit; convert some hydrogen to methane to feed the current infrastructure; and as new infrastructure is needed we'd build a hydrogen based system.

That way we would minimize the need to build new generation infrastructure prematurely, but we'd minimize the inefficiency of methane conversion in the long run.

Other than near Earth's poles, where is there weeks long lulls in just two renewable sources, wind and solar? Calm and cloudy conditions should persist for less than a week as worst case. 3 or 4 days would be more likely. If the duration is worse than this, then they are probably bad sites for wind or solar.

China 2012: 140 people/km2
India 2012: 405 people/km2

Here in northern France, in winter, we can go weeks without the least glimmer of sunshine. Normally it's fairly breezy here but this winter seems to have been unusually calm - if we had been off-grid we would have been struggling. Luckily it's a region with lots of forests, so no shortage of firewood.

Long time lurker here. Worked as a mudlogger in the 70's and 80's in the Williston Basin, Wyoming and the North Slope. Prudhoe Bay, now that's an oilfield. Live in Montana now and I keep telling people the oil boom is not really happening in this state. Check out this article in the Billings Gazette:


Welcome aboard....

My favorite bit:

“The last wells are coming in at 15 or 20 barrels a day. At $4 million to $6 million a well, that doesn’t cost out,” said independent oil man Tom Hauptman of Billings.

Production of shale wells decline rapidly after a year or two. So the Heath wells would have to produce 30 times what they are now to be economical, Hauptman said.

Two years ago, the petroleum industry veteran was touting the Heath as a potential mini-Bakken.

So much for the foresight of industry veterans.

Tell me muddy, back in the day were they fracking and using horizontal drilling in the Williston? Did people recognize the potential that would come to be exploited today?

kingfish - Horizontal drilling of the Bakken began 26 years ago.


The technology to horizontally drill and frac any reservoir was developed many years ago. What has changed in the Bakken and all the other unconventional reservoirs is $100 oil. It hasn’t been the “discovery” of new reserves or technology.

So, why was this increase in Bakken production unexpected??

Nick – Simple answer: if you didn’t expect $100 oil you wouldn’t anticipate it. You ask any geologist in the last 20 years what would happen if the price rose that high he would have predicted a great surge in drilling in many plays. Conversely present the other side of the coin: if oil prices returned to levels seen in the late 90’s how much drilling in the Bakken, Eagle Ford et al would one expect?

Same thing could be asked about the dry gas shales: do you expect 1,600+ rigs drilling for NG in the future? Answer: No…not at $3.50/mcf. Yes…at $12/mcf. There's nothing very difficult about predicting future drilling activity once you set the price platform.

Accurate predicting the price of oil/NG years down the road? That's a very different matter.

So, you'd say that no one anywhere anticipated production like this from tight oil/shales because no one thought prices would stay this high, so it kind've wasn't worth thinking about?

Really, did anyone anticipate production like this? Can we honestly say that's because no one anywhere thought prices would stay high?


For the year, the current account deficit widened to $475 billion, a 1.9 percent increase from 2011. It was the largest annual imbalance since 2008.

In a dying thread there was someone that mentioned the US deficit...I remember seeing it flash on the TV and there was something about the number that struck me...


In 2012, the United States spent $433 billion on imported foreign oil.

That $433 billion dollar figure is not accurate. It is based on multiplying all imports in 2012 by the Brent crude price.
90% of the oil imported into the US in 2012 was heavier than Brent. Heavier oil is typically priced at a discount to the benchmark. http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_ipct_k_m.htm

Over 1/3 of imported oil was imported from Canada. That oil is not priced relative to Brent. It is priced lower than WTI. http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_neti_a_ep00_IMN_mbblpd_a.htm

P.S. We should probably use net imports rather than total imports too. In 2012 the US exported about 1/3 of the oil volume that they imported. The exported oil was mostly refined products (diesel being the largest one) many of which were sold at rates well above the price of Brent crude.

The true cost of imported oil to the US economy in 2012 was probably around 1/2 that $433 billion dollar figure. Still a very big number but.....

Good points and quite interesting (low, considering $15T GDP). I'd considered that we export a good bit of diesel, primarily to Europe IIRC, but forgot about the discount on Canadian "oil."

Just because I've been on a kick lately...

$200 Billion
Would buy 200,000 Proterra Electric buses at $1 million/each (or subsidize to diesel cost about 400,000). New York City at #1 has about 5,000 buses and L.A. at #2 has about 2,600.


It would buy 20,000,000 rapid-charge EV stations at $10,000/each. Or 40,000,000 L2 at $5,000/each. Considering Tesla plans to cover most of the nation with 100 locations with what appears to be about 5 stations each (500 stations-ish) - 20 million stations wouldn't be a bad start :)

It would buy 20,000,000 rapid-charge EV stations at $10,000/each. Or 40,000,000 L2 at $5,000/each. Considering Tesla plans to cover most of the nation with 100 locations with what appears to be about 5 stations each (500 stations-ish) - 20 million stations wouldn't be a bad start :)

Now imagine if instead of Teslas we were planning on charging electric assist velomobiles?

Those could be fully charged with a microwave pulse as they drive by at 30 mph :)

Synthetic fuels could eliminate entire U.S. need for crude oil, create 'new economy'


Well, CTL and GTl are very feasible, though high CO2.

Biomass, not so much.

GTL is possibly the best compromise, but we don't want to rely on it. PHEVs and EREVs are really the best primary strategy.

Non food biomass crops could replace 10% of our imported oil, GTL another 10% and CTL another 10%. We could eliminate OPEC oil imports completely with increased production, synthetic fuels and hybrids.

Synthetic fuel the answer to U.S. oil dependence


That link is old. It was posted here in November when it was news, and it was discussed then (and I know you saw it, because you were one of the ones who commented on it). Why post it again now?