Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Laser Gun Show Coming to a Battlefield Near You

(Note: Ghawar Guzzler does not endorse war itself, the lives it sacrifices, the current Iraqi War, nor the monumental sums of money invested by the United States to maintain its "military-industrial complex." A lot of time, money, resources, man power and stupidity gets invested in the preparation and fighting of wars; it seems humankind could do much better investing the same money, energy and resources into more constructive things... like energy! Could anyone imagine how Europe would have turned out, if its countless alliances hadn't churned out WWI?)

Northrop Grumman efforts to bring Star Wars to the slaughtered masses:
In tests, it fired a 105-kilowatt beam - enough to destroy rockets, mortars and artillery shells - at a stationary target for 5 minutes. Unlike weapons such as Boeing's huge Airborne Laser, which burns chemical fuel, the solid-state laser consists of semiconductors that emit light when a voltage is applied. This makes them much smaller, allowing them to fit on the back of a "ruggedised" truck. They can also run on electricity from a diesel generator.

The laser weapon will ultimately pinpoint, track and destroy a rocket up to a couple of kilometres away, claims Northrop Grumman.
- Brewskie

Oil Bear to Eat $28 Oil This Spring?

While Ghawar Guzzler has been cocksure about America's abundant natural gas situation, it's been somewhat less forth-coming about oil's price and supply - though its been adamant that low prices and good supply should continue for some time. The recent run-up in price over $50 (no biggie; we thought $80 per barrel last fall was cheap - remember?) seemed to be caused more by the shitty dollar, as opposed to "supply and demand" fundamentals; especially in the face of declining demand, ongoing gluts (think ocean tankers and Cushings, OK), and no sign of normal appetite for at least the rest of the year.

One great dame, Stephanie Aymes, is growling like a bear. She sees $28 a barrel by the second-quarter, and possibly $16 or lower after that. Time will tell if she's correct (she's forecasting $71 a barrel next month), but I thought I'd post this anyway (link):

Crude oil is set to drop to $28 a barrel in New York in the second quarter, according to technical analysis by Societe Generale SA.

Prices may rally until meeting resistance at $71 a barrel and then plunge to their lowest since 2003, Societe Generale analyst Stephanie Aymes said, using charts that make use of Elliott Wave theory.

“The market can continue to bounce, but in the next month the bear-trend will resume,” Aymes said in a telephone interview from London yesterday. Her prediction that oil will fall to $28 was made in the Paris-based bank’s technical analysis for commodities in the second quarter.

Aymes’s analysis using the Elliott Wave indicates that prices will rise, a rally bound by the $71 a barrel level last traded in November, and then drop to $33.20, a support shown by a trend-line of low points reached in the past 10 years. A drop below $33.20 opens the way for a further decline to a range between $28 and $25, her charts show. After that, support comes at $16.50 and $10 a barrel.

- Brewskie

Petrobras Wants You in the Rig Army

"Captain Exxon" may be gearing up to plunder the Gulf of Mexico, but she's a small fishing fleet compared to the "drilling armada" Petrobras is forging. Look at the chart above: the sea monkeys deep below must be popping their eye balls out like bubbles, terrified of the monstrous, mechanical leviathans above; they must be freezing in the deep of petrified fear, watching long mechanical straws seep oil from its safe bastion. What's next? Hydrocarbons from Saturn's moon, Titan? Lol - hopefully, we'll have moved our collective common sense far beyond goo by then, and up to more enlightened forms of energy; for we deserve peak's retribution if we don't (of course peak will never occur if morons keep forecasting it:)).

Below is an excerpt of Brazil's master plan for crude dominance. Be in awe, or live in fear:

Accomplishing this rise partly through increased exploration, appraisal and development drilling, Petrobras has a massive amount of deepwater and
ultra-deepwater rigs contracted and working for the company now through 2013.

Starting from April 2009 and looking forward through 2013, Petrobras has contracted no less than 34 semisubs and drillships. In fact, the yearly averages of floaters contracted by Petrobras range from 39 rigs in 2009 to 47 rigs in 2010, 48 rigs in 2011, 53 rigs in 2012, and 52 rigs in 2013. The future rig counts portray the biggest increases in number of rigs between 2009 and 2010 with a 20% rise in average rigs contracted, followed by an increase of 11% in average rigs contracted between 2011 and 2012. Petrobras has the most floaters under contract in July and August of 2012, with 58 deepwater and ultra-deepwater rigs.

This commitment to drilling in the next five years is in stark contrast to super-majors BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell. While Petrobras is beefing up its rig count over the coming years, each of these companies has contracted substantially fewer floaters.

Over the same time period, BP contracted the most deepwater and ultra-deepwater rigs in 2009, with an average of 11 floaters contracted to work for the British company for the remainder of 2009. The number of rigs contracted by BP drops dramatically through the next five years, with a low of five rigs contracted for the majority of 2013. Furthermore, Chevron has more rigs working for the remainder of 2009, but that number drops, as well. Although the remainder of 2009 averages 11 rigs, Chevron drops to a low of four rigs in 2014. ExxonMobil is similar with an average of 5 rigs contracted for the remainder of 2009 and those contracts dropping off to a low of one rig in 2013. Shell starts off the strongest of the bunch with an average of 15 floaters through the remainder of 2009, but its numbers also dwindle to a low of two rigs by the end of 2013.

Additionally, Petrobras has contracted the most newbuild rigs of any operator. Out of the 88 deepwater and ultra-deepwater floaters that are currently being built or are slated to be built, 59 have contracts executed on them -- and Petrobras holds the contracts on 29* of those newbuilds, representing nearly 50%.

You won't have to sacfice your first-born to get Brazilian oil...

Solidifying the company's practiced theory of rising to the top through investments during economic downturns, the CEO of Petrobras, Jose Sergio Gabrielli confirmed that the company believes drilling in its sub-salt basins is a low risk.

Speaking at a Brazilian congressional public hearing on March 25, 2009, Gabrielli claimed that sub-salt exploration and production was commercially viable for Petrobras even with crude prices ranging between $40 and $50 a barrel. "We've found oil in 16 of the 16 wells we've drilled," Gabrielli simply stated.

You guys are role-models.

- Brewskie

Monday, March 30, 2009

Exxon to Boost Gulf of Mexico Exploration

America's biggest buccaneer is gearing up its motley crew to plunder the Gulf of Mexico:

The Irving, Texas, oil giant said in a financial and operating review released Monday that in 2008 it obtained 142 leases to explore for oil and gas in the offshore Gulf - up from five tracts a year before and seven in 2006. This level of interest is a sign that the area, once considered a wild frontier, has reached maturity in the eyes of the largest oil company in the U.S.

"There's more oil to be found than they thought before," said Jason Gammel, a New York-based analyst with Macquarie.

Exxon has lagged behind rivals Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA), BP PLC (BP) and Chevron Corp. (CVX) in extracting oil and gas from the Gulf of Mexico's rich deep water subsoil, although the company has accumulated significant offshore acreage and invested in major projects such as the BP-operated Thunder Horse platform, the second-largest oilfield in the U.S.

Now Exxon seems eager to catch up - or at least willing to gear up for a major wave of exploration. The firm is being especially aggressive in the western part of the Gulf, where it was the top bidder at a lease sale last August, winning 128 tracts. Exxon was also among the top 10 bidders at a Central U.S. Gulf of Mexico lease sale held in New Orleans earlier this month, with 15 high bids.


Macquarie's Gammel said that the cost of operating in the deepwater Gulf has come down because a decade of aggressive investment by other oil firms has created a critical mass of infrastructure.

In addition, the risk of not finding enough oil and gas to make a big investment profitable has decreased in the wake of recent, rich hydrocarbon discoveries in the lower Tertiary area of the Gulf. These new conditions have created an environment that famously disciplined Exxon is comfortable with. "This is a very return-driven company," Gammel said.


Exxon highlighted in its report that it added 2.2 billion oil-equivalent barrels to its resource base due to significant contributions from drilling programs in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, western Canada, the onshore U.S. and West Africa.

- Brewskie

Huge Chinese Solar Subidies

Asia's mighty and emerging tiger, China, is dead serious about meeting future energy needs, present and future. Here's a look at a recently announced government subsidy program:

The Chinese government on Thursday announced what some industry analysts called the most aggressive and generous solar power subsidy in the world, giving Chinese solar companies a big market boost amid a generally gloomy outlook for short-term growth.

China's solar subsidy plan would offer 20 yuan (about $2.94) per watt for solar photovoltaic installations greater than 50 kilowatts. That would essentially cover half the cost of entire installations at today's low solar panel prices, according to an RBC Capital Markets analyst note.


Likewise, RBC Capital Markets analysts Stuart Bush and Sandeep Ayyappan noted Friday that the Chinese subsidy plan, while "an unexpected boost to global demand," didn't provide many details on when it would be implemented and how it would be structured.

Still, the Chinese subsidy announcement – combined with European nations' existing feed-in tariffs and other supports for solar power, as well as new and more generous U.S. solar incentives (see Obama Signs Stimulus Package) – gave the analysts hope that prices would stabilize from their downward march, helping to stem the build-up of inventory throughout the silicon solar panel supply chain.


Of course, China – along with much of Asia – holds the advantage of lower labor costs compared to production facilities in the U.S. and Europe. Asia could produce 82 percent of the world's crystalline silicon solar cells by 2012, up from 71 percent in 2008, according to a new GTM Research report, "PV Technology, Production and Cost, 2009 Forecast: The Anatomy of a Shakeout." (see Go East, Solar Companies).

- Brewskie

Sunday, March 29, 2009

No Updates for 3/29/09

Due to another commitment, there will be no updates for this week. Look forward to having them posted next week.

- Brewskie

Friday, March 27, 2009

Major Breakthrough for Algae Growth to Benefit Biofuels

Bionavitas recently announced a new technology, Light Immersion Technology (LIT), that ignites Algae into rampant growth. Algae is the warlord biofuel and it's easy to grow; a major hurdle is getting it to grow in meaningful quantities, because as it grows, it becomes denser and blocks out needed sunlight to aid scalable growth.

Bionvavitas' new Light Immersion Technology is geared to solving just this. Read below:

Algae, shown to have the potential for solving the reliance on fossil fuels for energy production, are widely recognized as an important source for biodiesel production. Harnessing the power of the sun or an artificial light source by immersing it in the culture, Light Immersion Technology effectively produces an order of magnitude more algae biomass than existing growth methods, thereby increasing yields and reducing the cost to make algae-based biofuels price competitive with petroleum products.

Algae are the ultimate feedstock for biofuel production, promising yields that are hundreds of times greater than those of traditional land-based oil crops such as soy beans or rapeseed (canola oil). The dramatic yields depend upon the efficient use of solar energy not possible using previously existing technologies. Before Bionavitas made its Light Immersion Technology available to the public, nearly every large scale approach to algae growth has been challenged by a simple fact of nature: as algae grow, they become so dense they block the light needed for continued growth.

This “self-shading” phenomenon results in a layer that limits the amount of algae per acre that can be grown and harvested. The Light Immersion Technology developed by Bionavitas fundamentally changes this equation by enabling the algae growth layer in open ponds to be up to a meter deep. This represents a 10 to 12 time increase in yield over previous methods that produced only 3-5 centimeters of growth.

Bringing light to algae...

At the core of Light Immersion Technology is an innovative approach at bringing light to the algae culture in both open ponds and closed bioreactors through a system of light rods which extend deep into the algae culture. By distributing light below the surface “shade” layer and releasing the light in controlled locations, algae cultures can grow denser. In external canal systems, the rods distribute light from the sun into the culture. This abundant and free energy source is ideal for generating large amounts of algae for use as biofuels.

In closed bioreactors, the rods evenly distribute more readily absorbed red and blue spectrum light from high efficiency LEDs. While the LEDs increase the cost of production, algae grown in these systems are used for higher value markets such as nutraceuticals.

- Brewskie

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The World's Biggest "Death Star" Wannabe

This will be the world's biggest laser, a composition of 192 lasers meant to create nuclear fusion - an emulation of the sun - ... and it's running. It's all going down at the National Ignition Facility (NIF). If all goes according to plan - within two, maybe three years - mean streamin' beams will give birth to fusion reactions, that... churn out more energy than is required to create them. A dream of humankind.

Check into it (source):

The National Ignition Facility (NIF), at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), comprises 192 lasers that fire imultaneously at precisely the same point in space: a sphere of fuel two millimeters in diameter. They are designed to deliver 1.8 megajoules of energy in a few billionths of a second. That's enough to compress the fuel to a speck 50 micrometers across and heat it up to three million degrees Celsius. The lasers, which were fired together for the first time last month, have so far produced pulses of 1.1 megajoules. "Depending on how you count it, it's between 60 and 100 times more energetic than any laser system that's ever been built," says Edward Moses, the principle associate director for NIF and Photon Science at LLNL. Eventually, the fusion reactions produced by each pulse are expected to generate at least 10 times the energy delivered by the lasers, a
significant net gain that could be useful for generating power.

The $3.5 billion facility, which has been in development for 15 years, was funded primarily as a way to better understand nuclear weapons, after a ban on testing in the 1990s. NIF will produce tiny thermonuclear explosions that give scientists insight into what happens when a nuclear bomb goes off. That data can, in turn, be used to verify computer simulations that help determine whether the United States' nuclear stockpile will continue to work as the weapons age. The data could also provide insight into the processes that power the sun and other stars, and answer other scientific questions. Finally, NIF could serve as a proof-of-concept design for a fusion power plant.

To generate fusion, 192 laser beams are generated, amplified, converted from infrared to ultraviolet light, and then aimed at a small gold canister the size of a pencil eraser. Inside that canister is a sphere containing the fuel: two isotopes of hydrogen called deuterium and tritium. The lasers are positioned all around the sphere to create the temperatures and pressures needed to ignite a fusion reaction. If all goes as planned, some of the hydrogen atoms should fuse, producing helium and releasing energy. This should, in turn, cause more fusion reactions until the fuel runs out. The whole process will take just a few billionths of a second.


The current facility isn't built to generate electricity. But Moses says that with the right funding, a power plant using fusion from a system like the one at NIF could be running in a decade. In contrast, power plants based on the Z machine at Sandia or the ITER system in France are decades away.

Other experts, however, are more skeptical. "If NIF is successfully, they'll still be a very long way from turning this into a practical energy source," says Ian Hutchinson, professor and head of nuclear science and engineering at MIT. For example, he says, a power plant would require the lasers to fire much more frequently than the NIF lasers--5 to 10 times a second, rather than once every couple of days, as is possible now. (Each burst would release energy equivalent to about five kilowatt-hours of electricity: by comparison, an average nuclear power plant generates 12.4 billion kilowatt hours a year, while an average house requires about 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month.)

In contrast, ITER will use magnetic confinement of hot plasma to produce fusion, a system that produces a continuous stream of energy that could be more suited to generating electricity than the very short bursts of energy produced by NIF, he says.


- Brewskie

Trash to Gas, Corn to Ammonia

Two topics in one post. Both can be found here.

First, Chinook Energy, based in Cranford, NJ, announced plans to build the first plant to take shredded car residue, turn it all into gas, and burn it for electricity. Greentech Media says:

It's far from the first to try this (see The Iron Man of Greentech Gets $20M and Biofuels and Electricity Take Out the Trash). But Chinook Energy President William
Gleason thinks its new joint venture with European Metal Recycling Ltd. to build the
first car waste-to-energy plant will succeed by simultaneously solving energy and recycling challenges.

Gleason said Chinook has secured financing for the plant, which will take in about 120,000 tons of auto shredder residue a year and churn out about 30 megawatts of power. He wouldnt disclose the cost of the plant, but said that projects of its size and scope are typically in the $100 million range.

But selling electricity will only make up about 60 percent of the plant's revenues, Gleason said. About 20 percent will come from the "tipping fees" the plant will collect for taking the car waste it will use – a key part of the business plans of many companies seeking to convert trash to energy.

And another 20 percent of the plant's revenues will come from the metals that can be recovered through Chinook's "active pyrolysis" gasification system, he said.

The process involves carefully managing the well-known process of exposing material to heat in the absence of oxygen – thus preventing combustion – to gasify the plastics and other energy-rich trash while leaving the metals intact, he said.

Wanna fly out to Iowa?

Anybody who's been victimized into taking torterous long drives through Illinois, Iowa or Nebraska commonly know one thing: all three states are comprised of a desolate, "Twighlight Zone" landscape, where time slows down to no meaning, and your short- and long-term memory are tortured in competitive fashion... where all you can see, think or feel is endless fields of corn. Bill Murray should have shot "Ground Hog Day 2" in one of these states. Well, the liberal do-gooders of San Francisco hatched up a feel good, psychedelic hope-dream plan when lost in one of the corn mazes.

Read below:

Meanwhile, out in Iowa, a San Francisco-based startup is seeking to turn corncobs into a key ingredient for fertilizer that's now almost exclusively made from natural gas – anhydrous ammonia.

SynGest Inc. announced Wednesday that it plans an $80 million plant capable of turning 150,000 tons of corn cobs into 50,000 tons of "bio-ammonia" per year once it's built.That's enough ammonia to fertilize about 500,000 acres of Iowa farmland – but it's a tiny fraction of the 18 million tons that U.S. agriculture consumes each year, half of it imported.

Other companies are seeking to turn corncobs and other agricultural waste into biofuel (see Poet to Produce Cellulosic Ethanol This Year and Ag Giants to Bring Cellulose Feedstock to Biorefinery Doors).

But as far as SynGest CEO Jack Oswald is concerned, "The most valuable thing we can make from crop waste in the Midwest is fertilizer." One big reason is that the feedstocks, and the end markets, are within 30 miles of the plant's proposed location, cutting back on transportation costs, he said.


Right now natural gas is relatively cheap, but ammonia is still selling for about $600 to $800 a ton across various U.S. agricultural regions, Oswald said. SynGest's process can undercut those prices "quite substantially, if we want to," he said.

The technology for turning plant waste into ammonia was developed over the past two decades or so by a group of scientists involved in Unitel Technologies, including SynGest CTO Ravi Randhava, Oswald said. The Iowa plant could be up and running in two years if all goes to plan, he said.

Another byproduct of the process is bio-char, a charcoal that can be used as a soil additive to hold moisture and help reduce nitrogen leaching, he said. Environmentalists have criticized the U.S. corn-growing industry for its heavy use of fertilizers containing nitrogen. That's because it can be carried by rain runoff into watersheds and thus into oceans, where it has caused a massive "dead zone" in Gulf of Mexico waters near the mouth of the Mississippi River.


But it's possible that SynGest's ammonia could serve as a fuel as well, if ammonia-based fuel cells come into fashion (see Uncle Sam Wants Portable Fuel Cells). After all, Oswald said, "Ammonia is a better hydrogen carrier than hydrogen," which as a pure gas is explosive and hard to transport.

Ammonia can even be used to make plastics (see this Green Light post).

Maintain the hope.

- Brewskie

Sorry Doomers, You're Going to Have to Wait Until 2012

Next Big Future had this interesting rationale why doomers will need to wait just a little bit longer before paradise hell commences, when all infidels are be forced to scribe planting instructions on mountains of potatoes for their bourgeois masters.

Read this or follow the link:

One thing of note is that most people usually think that Hitler and Stalin were bad guys for killing or causing the death of about 100 million people. Most of the civilization die off scenarios are that level of death each and every year for 70 years. 1000 times the number of deaths in the holocaust. Why is there the belief that significant mitigation efforts would not be made?

Why it Won't Happen

1. Efficiency, conservation and an energy plans can be enhanced beyond current levels with minimal strain. There has been partially voluntary reductions in energy demand during the credit crisis. 10% reductions with minimal effort and 20% reductions with more austerity.

2. Rationing of food, fuel and clothes was successfully maintained in many countries during World War 2. Any resource decline or environmental situation can have governments use rationing to buy time for a transition. The UK had stricter rationing than the USA during and after the war.Thus it shows that oil and food supplies can be greatly reduced while maintaining a war-level mobilization.90% reductions can be handled in this way and possibly more.

3. Some simple and rapid transitions are possible. Ban or confiscate large
gas guzzling vehicles and only allow light weight all electric or super-efficient vehicles other than freight trucks and heavy delivery trucks. In less than one year a mobilized effort with shifts in the weight of vehicles permitted and loosened safety and bureaucratic regulations to speed the changes.

4. Rapid switchover for the electricity generation infrastructure. A war-time level mobilized switchover for electricity generation could be achieved quickly. Lift regulatory restrictions on nuclear power. Weld together containment domes to get around production limitations on large forgings. Use the staff of coal plants for the
new nuclear plants. The staff of early nuclear plants did come from the coal plants. Nuclear staffing levels were 200 or less originally.

5. In regards to global warming and environmental concerns:* a rapid switchover to totally clean power would stop the air pollution of coal and most oil and would greatly reduce any additional CO2* geoengineering can be used to reduce global temperatures if necessary* if the beliefs of climate change being from man-made sources are right then we are already geoengineering by accident as a side effect of our industry. It will be cheaper and easier to geoengineer to cancel those accidental side effects with intentional reversal efforts

6. A real space age can be started right away with technology that we already have.

7. If there was a global war over resources. There would be clear winners. In all out war there would be clear losers. The US would not lose.

8. There is plenty of technology now and a lot more that will be available soon to innovate away doomer scenarios.* biofuels and synthetic fuels are already at about 10% of total fuel levels. If there was a need to replace all oil tomorrow a combination of world war 2 level rationing and biofuels and synthetics would be sufficient (Germany invented to coal to liquid fuel technology back in World War 2.)* There are significant levels of hydroelectric, wind, and nuclear power* If any of the
challenges can be staved off for ten years or so there will be significant transitions to new technology (electric and hybrid vehicles) and the availability of more new technology

9. Financial doom scenarios* Mandated resets of debt forgiveness, re-issuing script etc... can be used to reboot a country or a financial system* People and systems for production would still exist even if there was 1000 trillion in debt

10. All out nuclear war would kill less than 50% of the population. Current nuclear arsenals are reduced by ten times from the peak.There are valid extinction risks and scenarios with several listed and discussed at the Lifeboat Foundation.

The irony is the blog had an advertisement from Weiss Research, a firm founded by Martin Weiss, a perennial bear who's forecasting "Great Depression II;" in other words, the Matt Savinar of finance. Weiss Research has vigorusly been posting advertisements all over the net, often with apocalyptic images like atom bomb mushroom clouds, or desolate soup kitchen photos of the Depression era. 'Nuf said.

- Brewskie

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

EPA Strips Mountaintop Removal Mining Permits

The EPA has ground to a halt hundreds of mountaintop mining permits to better access its impact on land and streams.

Between 150 and 200 applications for new or expanded surface coal mines, many mountaintop removal operations, are pending before the federal government. EPA spokeswoman Adora Andy said the agency does not expect problems with the overwhelming majority of permits.

The permits are issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, an agency that has been criticized by environmental groups and has been sued for failing to thoroughly evaluate the environmental impact of mountaintop removal.

Under the Clean Water Act, companies cannot discharge rock, dirt and other debris into streams unless they can show that it will not cause permanent damage to waterways or the fish and other wildlife that live in them.

Last month, a three-judge appeals panel in Richmond, Va., overturned a lower court's ruling that would have required the Corps to conduct more extensive reviews. The appeals court decision cleared the way for a backlog of permits that had been delayed until the lawsuit was resolved.

The EPA's action on Tuesday could leave those permit requests in limbo a little


The EPA said in a statement that it would be actively involved in the review of the long list of permits awaiting approval by the Corps, a signal that the agency under the Obama administration will exercise its oversight.

The EPA has the authority to review and veto any permit issued by the Corps under the Clean Water Act, but under the Bush administration it did that rarely.


Mountaintop mines in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee produce nearly 130 million tons of coal annually _ about 14 percent of the nation's power-producing coal _ which in turn generates electricity for 24.7 million U.S. customers, according to industry estimates.

- Brewskie

For Crack Addiction, Parkinson's Disease or Depression, Take Nanoparticles

From Nanotechnology Now:

Scientists in UB's Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics and UB's Department of Medicine have developed a stable nanoparticle that delivers short RNA molecules in the brain to "silence" or turn off a gene that plays a critical role in many kinds of drug addiction.


The new approach developed by the UB researchers also may be applicable to treating Parkinson's disease, cancer and a range of other neurologic and
psychiatric disorders, which require certain drugs to be delivered to the brain.

At the same time, the study's co-authors in the UB Department of Medicine say this highly translational research strongly suggests that the nanoparticles
would be applicable to other diseases. They will soon begin to study their use
in treating AIDS dementia, prostate cancer and asthma.

Cleaning the impurities...

The PNAS paper describes the development of an innovative way to silence
DARPP-32, a brain protein, understood to be a central "trigger" for the cascade
of signals that occurs in drug addiction.

DARPP-32 is a protein in the brain that facilitates addictive behaviors. Silencing of the DARPP-32 gene with certain kinds of ribonucleic acid (RNA),
called short interfering RNA (siRNA), can inhibit production of this protein and
thus, could help prevent drug addiction.


The UB researchers were successful when they combined the siRNA molecules
with gold nanoparticles shaped like rods, called nanorods. This may be the first time that siRNA molecules have been used with gold nanorods.

"What is unique here is that we have applied nanotechnology to therapeutic concepts directed at silencing a gene in the brain, using RNA techniques," said
Supriya D. Mahajan, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the UB Department of
Medicine in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

In addition to their biocompatibility, the gold nanorods developed by the UB researchers are advantageous because they are rod-shaped rather than spherical, thus allowing for more siRNA molecules to be loaded on to their surface. This further increases their stability and allows for better penetration into cells.

"We have demonstrated that we can use these gold nanorods to stabilize the siRNA molecules, take them across the blood-brain barrier and silence the gene," said Indrajit Roy, Ph.D., deputy director for biophotonics at the institute. "The nanorods nicely address all three of these requirements."

The nanorods delivered 40 percent of the silencing RNA molecules across the blood-brain barrier model, significantly higher than the amounts that have previously been achieved in other experiments.

- Brewskie

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Magnetization Coerces Nanoparticles to Self-assemble into Structures

Researchers at Duke University and the University of Massachusetts have successfully engaged nanoparticles to self-assemble into shapes and structures. Squint below:

By manipulating the magnetization of a liquid solution, the researchers have for the first time coaxed magnetic and non-magnetic materials to form intricate nano-structures. The resulting structures can be "fixed," meaning they can be permanently linked together. This raises the possibility of using these
structures as basic building blocks for such diverse applications as advanced optics, cloaking devices, data storage and bioengineering.

Changing the levels of magnetization of the fluid controls how the particles are attracted to or repelled by each other. By appropriately tuning these interactions, the magnetic and non-magnetic particles form around each other much like a snowflake forms around a microscopic dust particle.


The nano-structures are formed inside a liquid known as a ferrofluid, which is a solution consisting of suspensions of nanoparticles composed of iron-containing compounds. One of the unique properties of these fluids is that they become highly magnetized in the presence of external magnetic fields. The unique ferrofluids used in these experiments were developed with colleagues Bappaditya Samanta and Vincent Rotello at the University of Massachusetts.

"The key to the assembly of these nano-structures is to fine-tune the interactions between positively and negatively magnetized particles," Erb said. "This is achieved through varying the concentration of ferrofluid particles in the solution. The Saturn and flower shapes are just the first published examples of a range of potential structures that can be formed using this technique."

According to Yellen, researchers have long been able to create tiny structures made up of a single particle type, but the demonstration of sophisticated structures assembling in solutions containing multiple types of particles has never before been achieved. The complexity of these nano-structures determines how they can ultimately be used.


Yellen foresees the use of these nano-structures in advanced optical devices, such as sensors, where different nano-structures could be designed to possess custom-made optical properties. Yellen also envisions that rings composed of metal particles could be used for antenna designs, and perhaps as one of the key components in the construction of materials that display artificial "optical magnetism" and negative magnetic permeability.

In the Duke experiments, the nano-structures were created by applying a uniform magnetic field to a liquid containing various types of magnetic and non-magnetic colloidal particles contained between transparent glass slides to enable real-time microscopic observations of the assembly process. Because of the unique nature of this "bulk" assembly technique, Yellen believes that the process could easily be scaled up to create large quantities of custom-designed nano-structures in high-volume reaction vessels. However, the trick is to also be able to glue the structures together, because they will fall apart when the external field is turned off, he said.

- Brewskie

Is Cold Fusion a Go?

This is big news today and a lot of people are posting this. Therefore, I'll spare the details, save for this bromidic promise (the article can be read here):
If room temperature fusion reactions could be realized commercially, as leishchmann and Pons claimed to have achieved inside an electrolytic cell, it promised to produce abundant nuclear energy from deuterium--heavy hydrogen--extracted from seawater.
Hope it's the real deal. BTW - the above Time Magazine cover is from 1989.
- Brewskie

The Transmisonless Hybrid Bus

The Transmissionless bus? Why is this significant? The mechanical transmission adds to the internal combustion engine's inefficiency - it's necessary with most vehicles, but grinds away fuel efficiency. Research is being conducted where vehicles do away with the mechanical transmission, replacing it with four electric motors, "in-wheel motors," one on each wheel. One example is the Volvo ReCharge concept car. The trick is to develop all four in-wheel motors so one doesn't run faster than the others, particularly when turning.

Below is a bit on e-Traction, a Netherlands-based company, with a new hybrid bus based on this concept. Potential fuel savings is 50%.

A company based in the Netherlands called e-Traction has developed a new kind of hybrid bus that uses in-wheel electric motors to improve efficiency and a GPS system to reduce pollution in congested areas of a city. The bus is a series hybrid: a diesel generator charges a battery, which in turn supplies electricity for two motors, one in each rear wheel. Thanks largely to its in-wheel motors, the bus can travel twice as far as a conventional bus on a liter of diesel, says Arend Heinen, who is both an engineer and spokesperson for the company. That translates into a reduction in fuel consumption of 50 percent. The company has been awarded contracts to retrofit seven commercial buses with its technology, with the first to be completed next month.

In-wheel motors have been around for some time: they have been used in several concept cars and experimental, low-production vehicles. But with the exception of electric bicycles, the idea has never found its way into a mass-production vehicle, says John Boesel, the president and CEO of Calstart, a nonprofit based in Pasedena, CA. The use of e-Traction's system in commercial buses would be a step toward more widespread use.

As with other hybrid buses, thousands of which are already in use in the United States, e-Traction's design saves fuel by capturing energy from braking, using it to generate electricity that can later be employed for acceleration. The in-wheel motors confer additional savings by eliminating the need for a transmission, differential, and related mechanical parts. That reduces both the overall weight of the bus and energy losses due to friction. Hybrid buses typically see fuel-cosumption reductions of about 25 to 30 percent compared with conventional buses, but e-Traction's design offers 50 percent reduction. In certain conditions--at low speeds in frequent stop-and-go traffic--some other hybrid buses have seen similar fuel-economy improvements. The in-wheel motors can also improve traction by allowing precise control over each wheel, and they allow for greater flexibility in vehicle design since there is no need to
mechanically link the wheels to an engine.


In-wheel motors have met with limited success in the past. In part, that's because it's been difficult to coordinate motors that have no mechanical connection to each other, a problem that the company says it's solved by developing a proprietary electronic control system. But there could be remaining issues. Putting the motors in the wheels places larger demands on the suspension (it has to be stronger to hold on to the much heavier wheels) and can make the motor and electronics more vulnerable to damage, both of which can reduce reliability. "There's little between the wheel and potholes," says Bill Van Amburg, senior vice president at Calstart. Dan Pederson, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, says that the large in-wheel motor is likely very expensive, which could make the system hard to justify without
government subsidies.

Also: The battery alone stores enough power to run the bus 1 hour with the generator off.

- Brewskie

"Just Add Hydrogen" for Organic Computing

There has been talk of organic computing, or computers made from DNA. Here's a recent breakthrough:

Computer processors may soon have one fundamental aspect in common with their owners – a structure composed largely of carbon, rather than silicon.

Graphene, carbon arranged in atom-thick sheets, is already known to be an excellent conductor, but electronics requires the ability to insulate too, as well as electrical properties in between those two extremes.

Now research has shown that the material can be easily modified to act as an insulator, paving the way for efficient all-carbon electronics (see our feature What happens when silicon can shrink no more?).

The semiconductor industry exploits the "whole periodic table" to manufacture its components, says Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester, UK. "But what if a single material is modified so that it covers the entire spectrum needed for electronics?" Graphene could be that material, he says.


Discovered in 2004, graphene is made from sheets of carbon atoms in a hexagonal "chicken wire" arrangement. The material is an ideal conductor –
electrons whiz through the layers at near the speed of light.

Novoselov and colleagues have shown the material can be easily modified to act as an insulator by adding hydrogen atoms to its surface. The new material – called graphane – is made by exposing a graphene sheet to ionised hydrogen gas for two hours.

The carbon-hydrogen bonds created lock away electrons that in graphene are free to move as current.

- Brewskie

More Canadian Tar Goo Research

(Hat tip: Next Big Future)

This piece is about Excelsior's Energy Limited experimental situ combustion bitumen-recovery process called, "Combustion Overhead Gravity Drainage."

Excelsior has developed the COGD process in cooperation with Hot-Tec Energy Inc., a private company affiliated with members of the In-situ Combustion Research Group from the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary. The In-situ Combustion Research Group is a global leader in the application of in situ combustion recovery processes.

The company said it expects that the application of the COGD recovery process could result in significantly improved bitumen economics through both enhanced recovery gains and substantial reductions in the amount of required water, fuel gas and diluent.

As a result, the company will be focussing its resources towards an experimental in situ COGD pilot project. A project application will be submitted in the second quarter of 2009 with anticipated regulatory approval in approximately one year for the subsequent implementation and commissioning of the pilot in the first quarter of 2011.


The COGD process is expected to bring a significant reduction in water usage for steam generation by up to 80% compared to a similar sized SAGD process. It is expected to yield a significant reduction in fuel gas consumption for steam generation by up to 80% compared to a similar sized SAGD process, as COGD uses the in situ energy of the bitumen which would otherwise be unrecoverable.

It also involves a reduction in diluent demand as a result of potential in situ bitumen upgrading and a reduced environmental impact through decreased water draw and water recycling, decreased fuel gas and diluent demand.

All of these should significantly improve project economics as COGD recoveries are estimated to be as much as 50% greater than SAGD recoveries, and capital and operating costs are estimated to be considerably lower than comparable SAGD projects.

COGD employs an array of vertical air injector ignition wells above a horizontal production well located at the base of the bitumen pay zone. A short initial period of steaming prepares the cold bitumen for ignition and develops enhanced bitumen mobility in the reservoir. Upon ignition a combustion chamber develops above and along the length of the horizontal well with combustion gases segregated in the upper part of the reservoir and hot bitumen flowing by gravity into the horizontal production well.

- Brewskie

InterOil's Giant Gas Blowout

Another natural gas post. Read this... it's a whopper...

InterOil (IOC) is a Canadian integrated (exploration assets, refinery, near distribution monopoly) located in Papua New Guinea [PNG]. After having struck two earlier profusely flowing natural gas and liquids wells (flowing at 102 and 105MMcf/d respectively), they hit an absolute killer with Antelope1, which
flowed at a whopping 382MMcf/d.

According to Seeking Alpha,

  • 382MMcf/d with the pipe only 30% open for safety reasons, and the log indicated that the permeability at the top did not allow the lower section of the reservoir to contribute to the flow test. That is, all the gas just came from the top 12% of the reservoir.

  • 5000bb/d in condensates.

  • 792 meters (2300ft) of net pay zone, which is more than three times the size of the biggest American well (650ft), and the gas / water contact has not even been determined yet.

  • The largest calculated absolute open flow [CAOF] at 17.7 Billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

  • 8.4% average porosity.

  • From the seismics, the Antelope field is 14 x 7 kilometres.

That's BIG. She continues...

Just three wells flow 600MMcf/d, more than enough to supply the daily needs of an LNG facility. This is roughly equivalent to the daily productivity of Southwestern Energy (SWN), enterprise value of 10.5 billion. It is larger than the daily production of Ultra Petroleum (UPL), enterprise value of roughly $6 billion. The record-breaking well by itself has larger daily production than the entire corporation of Range Resources, enterprise value $7.3 billion.

And all that with just three wells, with seismics indicating plenty of potential left for more. This leads to another important point, how InterOil’s location and quality of its resource provides it with a large cost advantage over most competitors for the most lucrative LNG market in the world, Asia Pacific.

Reserve Reports

These might not provide much ‘wow’ factor either, as these reports tend to concentrate on what can be proven now, not on how much more there might very well be (according to seismics), so they have a conservative bias and are
unlikely to come close to the numbers going around on the boards (6-12Tcf) or InterOil (11Tcf).


Raymond James in a recent research report used two valuation methods, a net asset valuation [NAV], and comparing it with similar deals.

For the NAV exercise, they used the following assumptions: 6.9Tcf of gas , 60% working interest, 50% risk factor, $0.75/Mcf multiple, very conservative in the light of “Asia’s premium priced (typically $10+/Mcf) LNG market and valuations in the depressed U.S. gas market (typically $1.50 to $2/Mcf) and 69MMBbls of condensates at $10 per barrel and risked the same way.

They arrive at a NAV of $55.52 per share, roughly 2.5 times current prices, with substantial upside to both the amount of gas, its valuation, and reducing the risk factor (with independent reserve reports).

Perhaps even more interesting was Raymond James comparing a possible InterOil deal with Nippon Oil buying AGL’s 3.6% stake in the PNG exploration interest and LNG facility planned by OilSearch and Exxon, for $800 million last December.

Arguing InterOil’s assets are comparable to those for sale in the above transaction, a 25% stake would fetch $5+ billion and put the enterprise value at a whopping $22 billion. All this suggests that, longer-term, this stock can only move in one way, and that is up.

- Brewskie

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Flying Car

This isn't envisioned as a good alternative vehicle, or as a means to bust foreign oil dependency... it does make for an eye-catching story, though. Read below or click the link.

Terrafugia's Transition is part-car, part-airplane and as of this month, a flight-worthy creation. The vehicle successfully completed its first test flight earlier this month, the company announced on Wednesday.

The flight was short -- just 37 seconds -- and right over the runway, but as Anna Mracek Dietrich, a Terrafugia co-founder and its chief operating officer, pointed out, flying wasn't the key goal.


Transition's aerial debut followed six months of road tests and years of design. The goal is to create an airplane that can be driven to and from a runway and parked in the family garage at night.

Transition runs on regular unleaded gasoline and can travel up to 500 miles on a single tank of gas. It takes less than 30 seconds for the vehicle's wings to fold up or extend to transform from plane to car or vice-versa.


Information from the test flight will be used to tweak the Transition's design for a second prototype. The company plans to begin selling the vehicles, which cost $194,000, in 2010, said Richard Gersh, Terrafugia's vice president of business development.

The company has taken deposits for 40 vehicles already, Deitrich said.

It will be a toy for the rich. Just remember, though, a century ago, the automobile was a lazy pleasure for the idle rich, or twenty-three years ago, only the affluent could afford cinder block cell phones.

- Brewskie

CERA's Review on Natural Gas

I didn't want to do two posts on natural gas today, but I noticed this piece from CERA. Read some of it below; it's titled "Technology Drives North American Gas Renaissance: New CERA Analysis"

North American natural gas is entering a new era in which supply is no longer constrained, according to a new Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) multiclient study, Rising to the Challenge: A Study of North American Gas Supply to 2018. A revolution in technology has unlocked “unconventional” gas resources, dramatically changing the prospects for the market. Demand, rather than supply, will be the challenge for the market going forward, accentuated currently by the economic crisis.

In Rising to the Challenge, CERA, an IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS) company, has developed its supply outlook based upon detailed analysis of gas fields and then tested it using its North American gas market modeling capabilities to provide a supply analysis at the play level that is integrated with CERA’s market outlook. The study concludes that the North American natural gas market can now be largely supplied by North American gas production.

The main driver of supply growth in the years ahead will undoubtedly be unconventional gas production, which has benefited disproportionately from technology. Domestic gas producers explored a variety of technologies to exploit the known unconventional resource base. The success of these efforts became evident in 2007-2008 when production in the lower 48 United States grew rapidly - from a 2007 low of 49.8 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in February to 56.7 Bcf/d in July 2008, an increase of 6.9 Bcf/d and almost 14 percent in just 17 months.


Given the increased productivity of unconventional wells, the study concludes that it is not necessary to increase drilling activity to maintain – or increase – production. After years of developing unconventional gas with its long-lived production, in the aggregate, the average decline rate will fall. This means, the study says, that a smaller quantity of new production is required to offset natural production declines. CERA does expect production to increase, with dry gas productive capacity growing from an average of 53.5 Bcf/d in 2009 to 60.6 Bcf/d in 2018 in the lower 48 United States, and from 15.8 Bcf/d in 2009 to 19.6 Bcf/d in 2018 in Canada.

- Brewskie

Oklahoma Pushing for CNG Use, Fueling Stations

Oklahoma is a cultural backwater - even Texans diss it. But there's no dissing Oklahoma's recent push for CNG vehicles, and refueling stations. Read from Forbes about this red neck state's progressive effort:

Republican leaders of the Oklahoma House are pushing an ambitious program to use taxpayer dollars to encourage motorists to fuel their cars and trucks with compressed natural gas, a plentiful fuel that is more economical and produces less emissions than traditional motor fuels.

The idea has received bipartisan support in the House, which has overwhelmingly approved several energy-related measures and sent them to the Senate for consideration. But some lawmakers question whether state government should be meddling in the CNG business and believe the investment may actually discourage private operators.


The alternative fuel plan was developed by House Speaker Chris Benge and would appear to be a role reversal for the Tulsa Republican who is best known for promoting tax cuts and less government spending. But Benge defended the program as a way to wean the state and nation from dependence on foreign oil and position the state as a leader in alternative fuels.


The bill would authorize the Department of Central Services to build alternative fuel stations for state agencies and the vehicle fleets of schools and county and city governments.The fueling stations would also have public access to CNG in underserved areas unless a private provider locates within five miles of the facility.

The State Fleet Management Fund would be amended to allow money to be used to build alternative fuel stations or buy alternative fuel vehicles for state agencies or to lease to cities and counties.

The maximum amount of a loan for a fueling station will increase to $300,000. The cap on an existing 50 percent tax credit on the cost of converting vehicles to CNG will remain at $10,000, the average cost of a conversion.

At least nine other states offer some form of tax credit for building alternative fuel stations or vehicle conversions including Utah, which provides an income tax credit for 50 percent of the incremental cost of a clean-fuel vehicle, up to $3,000, and a 50 percent income tax credit for the cost of converting a vehicle, up to $2,500.

Oklahoma currently has 28 alternative fuel stations, more than Utah and all but two other states - California and New York. A total of 27 of Oklahoma's alternative fuel stations are owned by Oklahoma Natural Gas Co., which estimates there are between 1,200 and 1,500 CNG-powered vehicles in the state.


Gasoline is currently selling for about $1.80 a gallon while a one gallon equivalent of CNG sells for about $1.03, according to Brad Ballard, manager of business development for ONG.

- Brewskie

The Better Biofuel Bug

A look at Zymetis' little pet:

A tiny microbe found in the Chesapeake Bay is the focus of intense study for a biotech startup in College Park, MD. Zymetis has genetically modified a rare, cellulose-eating bacterium to break down and convert cellulose into sugars necessary to make ethanol, and it recently completed its first commercial-scale trial. Earlier this year, the company ran the modified microbe through a series of tests in large fermenters and found that it was able to convert one ton of cellulosic plant fiber into sugar in 72 hours. The trial, researchers say, illustrates the organism's potential in helping to produce ethanol cheaply and efficiently at industrial scales. Zymetis is now raising the first round of venture capital to bring the technology to commercial applications.

Scott Laughlin, CEO of Zymetis, says that for the past two years the company's scientists have worked to retool and pump up the tiny organism. The microbe's main advantage is its ability to naturally combine two major steps in the ethanol process, which the company says could considerably slash the high costs of producing ethanol from cellulosic biomass like switchgrass, wood chips, and paper pulp. The company is running the organism through a series of trials to study how the system could be applied at an industrial scale.

Ethanol production from cellulosic sources is an expensive multistage process. The cellulosic feedstock is first pretreated with heat and chemicals to break down the material's tough cell walls. Expensive manufactured enzymes are then added to the mix to convert purified cellulose into glucose, which is then treated with yeast that turns the sugars into ethanol. As a result, scientists and several startup companies are developing improved microbes that could accomplish several of these steps, thus making the resulting biofuels more competitive with fossil fuels.

Toward that goal, Laughlin says that the company has developed an ethanol-producing system that revolves around a microbe that quickly and efficiently combines the first two steps of the conventional ethanol process. "It has the ability to break down whole plant material, and it excretes enzymes that break down cellulose, [which works] very well in solution," says Laughlin.

The microbe that the company is banking on is Saccharophagus degradans, a bacterium found in the marshes of the Chesapeake Bay that eats away at dead plant material and solid waste, breaking them down into glucose. In 2003, Steve Hutcheson, a professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland, combed through the organism's genome and discovered that it possessed a combination of enzymes that broke down the tough cell walls in dead plants and converted remaining cellulose into sugars--two valuable properties in producing cellulosic ethanol. In 2006, Hutcheson founded Zymetis in order to pump up the microbe's performance to a commercial scale.

Since then, the company has been working with strains of S. degradans, identifying sets of enzymes responsible for breaking down a variety of material, from newspapers to dead plants to solid waste. Hutcheson and his colleagues switched on certain genes to increase the activity of these enzymes, and turned off other genes that controlled inhibitory behaviors of the microbe, such as those that tell it to stop feeding. As a result, the genetically modified organism pumps out significantly more enzymes than it normally would.

Laughlin and his colleagues recently ran the organism through a trial and found that the organism chewed through one ton of cellulosic plant fiber, converting the pulp into sugar within 72 hours--a process that normally takes years in the wild. "Right now, we're working on a 24-to-72-hour timescale," says Laughlin. "It's more an economic question to make it faster, but at what cost? So we're working on a whole host of protocols of processing across different timescales to figure out an optimum run."

The company is pairing the microbe with a yeast strain that converts sugar into ethanol as the microbe breaks down cellulose. Zymetis's goal is to develop manufacturing units able to produce around 10 million gallons of ethanol
a year--a relatively modest output. But Laughlin says that thinking smaller could lead to more efficient, local production of ethanol, and he envisions partnering with paper mills and solid-waste facilities to produce ethanol on-site.

- Brewskie

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Weekly Blowout: Updates for 3/22/09

The offerings from this week's buffet:

- Brewskie

The Oil Drum: Four Years in the Desert

Today marks the 4th birthday of the Oil Drum. From Prof. Goose:

Dear readers, today marks the 4th full of year of the existence of The Oil 'Drum.
Our durability is because of you, the readers. We wouldn't—couldn't’t—do this if we didn't think people were listening, helping us spread the word, and participating in and advancing the conversation. So, I offer you, our readers, a sincere thank you from all of our staff.

Their durability is because an army of morons are IV'd to the Drum for daily tasting, laconically nodding their space-monkey minds like Limbaugh dittoheads.

Prof. Goose acknowledges a recent peak-and-decline:

In our fourth year, we’ve almost doubled our historical number of visits from 9.7M to 17.1M and historical unique views from 23.6M to 39.6M. While the traffic to TOD has waned a bit of late with the decline in the price of oil, the upward traffic trendline still holds.

Typical Orwellian-doublespeak from the Drum troglodytes. Always report rosy forecasts though numbers are down; periodically change peak dates, but never admit to the Nazi-zombie masses your previous blowups. Your word is golden; it feel like soothing god-breeze from Hitler's mouth.

I should remake Ghawar Guzzler into a James Bondesque site, a blog devoted to spying on the Oil Drum. I'll call it, "You Can Never be Wrong Twice."

Lookin' forward to being a pain in the ass, peaktards.

- Brewskie

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spain: Wild Wind Rockstar

This from Ecogeek on Spain going "Gone with the Wind..."

Last week, during a spell of particularly strong wind gusts, Spain set a world record by having 40 percent of their energy requirement generated by wind power. The high winds in the northwest of the country generated a whopping 11,180 MW during the strongest gust.

Spain's Wind Energy Association said that the turbines were working at 69 percent of their potential during the strong winds, which means even fiercer winds could crush this record.

While the U.S. is still number one in wind power, we only get 1 percent of our energy from the resource. Spain, ranked third in the world, has been incredibly ambitious in their wind plans. They hope to be generating 20,000 MW from wind by 2010 up from the 16,000 MW they're currently producing. Beyond just wind, Spain hopes to have renewable energy sources making up 30 percent of their energy demand within the next year.

- Brewskie

Do You Smell Dimethyl Sulfide?

The New York Times was a little slow being the "liberal media" during the lead up to the Iraqi War; it's been a slow smelling the upcoming American gas glut, so I took the responsibility and reported it last February. The New York Times, however, recently caught whiff of the global gas glut, and reported this:

The decline in crude oil prices gets all the headlines, but the first globalized natural gas glut in history is driving an even more drastic collapse in the cost of gas that cooks food, heats homes and runs factories in the United States and many other countries.

Six giant plants capable of cooling and liquefying gas (Ghawar Guzzler: My post reported seven... whatever) for export are due to come on line this year just as the economies of the Asian and European countries that import the most gas to run their industries are slowing.

Energy experts and company executives say that means loads of gas from Qatar, Egypt, Nigeria and Algeria that otherwise would be going to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Spain are beginning to arrive in supertankers in the United States, even though there is a gas glut here, too.

According to a previous post, Platts mentioned natural gas averaging $3.50/MMBtu, with a possibility it may drop to $2.00/MMBtu. The New York Times takes a contrarian view to the $2.00 possibility; however...

With industrial and utility use of natural gas declining, gas prices in the United States have already declined by two-thirds since the summer. Prices are not likely to go down much more, experts say, but an increase in imports is likely to keep them low until the global economy recovers and drives demand back up.

Imports may hurt domestic producers:

That is good news for American consumers and many businesses, since gas provides about a fifth of the power generated by electric utilities and is a vital component for fertilizers, plastics and other industrial products. But it is bad news for proponents of energy independence, who cheered the boom in domestic gas drilling and production over the last four years.

Gas industry executives expect that liquefied gas imports into the United States will at least triple in the second half of this year. That comes as domestic producers have lowered their rig count in natural gas fields around the country by 50 percent in the last several months because of the fall in prices, leading to an expected drop in production by the end of the year.

Back to good news...

Natural gas is becoming a world commodity like oil. It is still loosely connected to world oil benchmark prices and its price, usually set by longer-term contracts everywhere except for the United States and Britain, can diverge widely from one continent to another. Until the last few years, liquefied natural gas was a high-priced necessity for countries that did not produce their own gas supplies or have access to piped reserves; but it now has become a cheap economic driver for countries like Japan with few energy resources.

But as more terminals have been built, the amount of gas that is shipped from one continent to another in giant tankers has climbed. And now the emergence of the global market in gas is about to take a giant leap.

The global capacity for liquefied natural gas exports of 200 million tons a year will increase by 25 percent with the completion of six new plants in Qatar, Russia, Indonesia and Yemen, totaling $48 billion in investments, and the upgrading of a seventh plant in Malaysia. National energy companies in those countries, assisted by ExxonMobil, Total, BP and Shell, rushed construction of those projects in recent years to satisfy the mushrooming appetite for energy around the world. More large plants are due on line in 2010 and 2011.

- Brewskie

Artificial Muscle Made From Carbon Nanotubes

Another glimpse into nanotechnology getting stranger, and how it will serve us (link):

Carbon-nanotube ribbons developed by researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas are stronger than steel, as stretchy as rubber, and as light as air. The ribbons, which are made of long, entangled 11-nanometer-thick nanotubes, can stretch to more than three times their normal width but are stiffer and stronger than steel or Mylar lengthways. They can expand and contract thousands of times and withstand temperatures ranging from -190 to over 1,600 °C. What's more, they are almost as light as air, and are transparent, conductive, and flexible.

The material, presented in the journal Science this week, was developed by Ray Baughman, director of the Nanotech Institute at UT Dallas, who is developing various kinds of carbon-nanotube-based "artificial muscles" for prosthetics and robotics. These materials change shape and size in response to electrical or chemical signals; some expand by up to 1 percent and exert 100 times more force than natural human muscle over the same area.

The new actuators, on the other hand, expand by up to 200 percent but generate small forces per unit area, making them less than ideal for many applications, including robotics. However, their novel properties, especially their temperature range, could open up exciting new applications. "No other actuator technology can provide actuation at these extreme temperatures," Baughman says. "And these actuation rates are giant."

Qibing Pei, a materials-science and engineering professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, believes that the material could be a good candidate for shape-changing aircraft wings. Pei has developed polymer actuators that expand by up to 400 percent and work between -40 and 200 °C.


But for now, Baughman and his colleagues are focusing on optical applications for the material. Because carbon nanotubes are highly conductive, the flexible sheets could perhaps be used to make electrodes for solar cells and organic light-emitting diodes with controllable transparency and conductivity. "For that application, you want to tune the density of carbon nanotubes per unit area," Baughman says. "That determines how much transparency the sheet has." In the Science paper, the researchers show that the ribbons can be deposited on a silicon substrate in their expanded, more transparent state. The ribbons also diffract light so that they could perhaps prove useful in optical communications. Changing their dimensions sends different wavelengths of light in different directions.

- Brewskie

The Landlord is Back

I'm back!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Offline Notification

Hi everybody,

This is a notification that Ghawar Guzzler's big boss will be offline for the rest of today, and will not return until Friday evening. My recent scathing assault on the Oil Drum will be the only post today. I look forward to returning and replying to any of your comments.

- Brewskie

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Oil Drum Shoots Blanks Again

The mentally challenged peak oil community has been a little obdurate at grasping basic facts. This is what happens when, as a subspecies of homo sapiens, one refuses to evolve his/her bumble bee attention span like the rest of the race. However, a few of the brighter bulbs are starting to dimly flicker to a basic concept: oil did not peak in 2005. Their new hypothesis? 2008 is the new 2005. This has been recently proposed by Dr. Clifford Wirth (who I burned last week), and another Drum dead beat of the Peak Royal Guard, Ace, who - along with his compadre, Gale "the Actuary" - comprise an ugly two-headed mutt I neutered several weeks ago.

Let's get to the rematch. Ace had an earlier proposition that Saudi Arabia peaked in 2005. Never mind that Saudi hit record production last summer of 9.7 mbpd. Ace didn't notice that when he was burning books; he also doesn't mention his porous Saudi production numbers that would flunk a kid in special ed. In his recent post, he also mentioned Saudi Arabia as "having peaked," but with "a sustainable surplus of 1 mbpd." Uh... no, Ace. Since Saudi Arabia produced 9.7 mbpd last summer, since it has reduced production to just under 8 mbpd, and since the oil kingdom still maintains low production costs ($2-3 per barrel), this is indicative that Saudi has more than 1 mbpd of surplus production; plus they're adding to their surplus (here, here and here)!

With Ace trying to keep cool with the latest peak oil trend, by proclaiming that 2008 is the year peak landed, he recently fired his battle shot to shake the peak world. Here's some rambling from his paranoid thesis:

World oil production peaked in 2008 at 81.73 million barrels/day (mbd) shown in the chart below. This oil definition includes crude oil, lease condensate, oil sands and natural gas plant liquids. If natural gas plant liquids are excluded, then the production peak remains in 2008 but at 73.79 mbd. However, if oil sands are also excluded then crude oil and lease condensate production peaked in 2005 at 72.75 mbd.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the International Energy agency (IEA) should make official statements about declining world oil production to renew the focus on oil conservation and alternative energy sources.

What toilet paper is your MBA made out of, Ace - Afghan Afghani? The IEA has news for you: Record production for 2008. There's a big difference in production, too. Notice the first graph below:

And the second, which excludes biofuels and includes EIA production info.:

Notice the big difference in production stats. between my graphs and Ace's; notice, too, where our sources of information come from - I got mine from the EIA and IEA. If you look in the left-hand corner of his graphs, you'll see he got his info. from... Wikipedia...??

Now just to be fair, I recently posted a link about electric freight trains from Wikipedia last week when I roasted Dr. Wirth - but this was a safe bet. Anybody who's been to Europe or other developed parts of the world knows electric freight trains exist - something Dr. Wirth's Ph.D. didn't tell him; but to rely on Wikipedia for scientific information, particularly on matters of oil production and peak oil, is a ludicrous and stupid bet at best, and a humilating one at worst. No respectable journalist refers to Wikipedia anymore; they did in 2004, but Wikipedia's reputation has rotted since.

Anyways, Ace, it's not fair using the recent declines in production as proof of global decline. That's been the result of repeated cuts by OPEC (scroll down for info.) in effort to stave off cheap oil; and as I stated in my assault on Dr. Clifford, (a) the world was in the midst of an oil glut last summer and (b), the glut could have been much bigger and thus more harmful on OPEC and Russia's fiances.

Your 0-for-2 now, Ace. You and your failed statistics are nothing more than rotted cabbage in the peak oil land fill. You're a footnote in a long history of failed peak oil and its prophecies, a cult that dates much of the oil industry's history, a cult that - like Dubya - refuses to learn from one thing - personal mistakes. One of your high peak priests, Ken Deffeyes, recently celebrated his ninth failed peak oil prediction (via Peak Oil Debunked). "The King of Peak," Mathew Simmons, bluntly stated at the beginning of last year's oil flop, there's "no roof on oil prices at this point." Ooopppss.

Your referral to Wikipedia is bleeding red rosacea to you and your peak oil community. It's this and your bottomless pit of failed predictions that are proof nobody can take you seriously. Oil will inevitably peak someday - nobody, with at least a fair double-digit I.Q., will dispute this; but when the day inevitably comes, the BBC and other outlets of respectable journalism will turn to others for referral. They'll turn to OPEC, Exxon Mobil, the IEA and EIA, CERA and others with access to the industry. Nobody, but lowly peak bloggers, will to turn to the Oil Drum. You'll have your celebrations in your peak oil "victory gardens," but no one will come. Stay there.

Hand over your blanks before you shoot yourself in the ass again, Ace.

- Brewskie

Air-Hybrid: Internal Combustion to Air Engine

There's a global war among scientists and researchers to develop the air engine. I recently had a posting about some work being done by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. (This is an older post, one where Blogger's blockquote feature was having problems. Excerpts are in italics).

This is a masterpiece being conducted by British researchers. Here, they managed to convert a plain-jane internal combustion engine into an engine that runs on compressed air, aka, the "air-hybrid engine." In theory, this will achieve the same fuel economy as gas-electric hybrid, but with substantially lower costs. Read below:

A car that runs on air is being developed by engineers at a top British university.
The team have achieved what could be a major breakthrough in the battle to create greener and cheaper motoring.

They have found a way to adapt a normal petrol combustion engine to run on compressed air - generated within the vehicle - to give an extra boost to power the motor and considerably reduce the cost of running a car.

The result is a new low-cost 'air hybrid' engine which significantly cuts emissions of carbon dioxide - the so-called greenhouse gas blamed for global warming - cuts fuel consumption by around 30 per cent and offers the driver of a family car fuel economy of around 65mpg.

Existing 'green' hybrid cars - such as the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight - use a petrol engine and braking energy to generate on-board electricity to give supplementary power to the vehicle.

The new Brunel engine uses the same principle. But in this case, the engine and the braking generates its own compressed air to provide the added boost to the car.

The work by Brunel University’s School of Engineering and Design in west London could lead to an engine which would be considerably cheaper and cleaner to run.

A spokeswoman for the Brunel team said: 'The idea is that using the engine's compression to brake the vehicle not only could slow the vehicle down, but also the pistons could compress air and drive it into a compressed air tank.


Existing 'green' hybrid cars - such as the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight - use a petrol engine and braking energy to generate on-board electricity to give supplementary power to the vehicle.

The new Brunel engine uses the same principle. But in this case, the engine and the braking generates its own compressed air to provide the added boost to the car.

The work by Brunel University’s School of Engineering and Design in west London could lead to an engine which would be considerably cheaper and cleaner to run.

A spokeswoman for the Brunel team said: 'The idea is that using the engine's compression to brake the vehicle not only could slow the vehicle down, but also the pistons could compress air and drive it into a compressed air tank.

- Brewskie

Second-Generation Insight Hits Showrooms March 24

The second-generation Honda Insight, the first sub-$20,000 hybrid, goes on sale March 24 with a sticker price starting at $19,800. It's estimated fuel economy will be 40 mpg in the city, and 43 on the highway. While respectable, it's two less highway mpg than the Civic hybrid, eight fewer highway miles than the current-generation Prius (the next-generation Prius is suppose to achieve 49 city, 50 highway), and one city mile less than the upcoming Ford Fusion hybrid - a medium sized car (starting at $27,000).

Undoubtedly, the relatively low sticker price is sparking interest in the car, as evidenced by Honda's recent announcement that they'll increase hybrid production.

- Brewskie

U.S. Lags in Solar PV

Gotta do some bad news occasionally to "keep it real." While America has been kicking ass and taking names as the world's new "wind king," sadly, it can't say the same for solar. Here's some sobering statistics from Ecogeek:

  • The world’s demand for PV power grew about 110% last year. The world now demands just under 6 GW of PV power. Spain’s share of that 6 GW is 2.46 GW. Our share? A measly 0.36 GW.

  • In the last year, China and Taiwan’s market share of solar cell production has risen from 35% to 44%. Meanwhile, our own market share – which was about 45%
    in the mid-90’s – has dropped to about 10%.

  • Of the top ten largest PV production plants in the world, guess how many are in the US? Zero, that’s how many.

And eyeball down to the chart and you'll see where where America at. The good news is it's ahead of other industrial powers, Japan and South Korea, but getting lambasted by Germany and Spain - plus, Taiwan and China are burying its star-spangled ass in the PV production department. America is the country that invented PV, for Pete's sake!!

Some other bits from Ecogeek:

So why are we lagging behind? Some might claim that sunny countries like Spain have an easier time capitalizing on sunlight. I would have a hard time believing that Spain has that much more sunlight than the entire Southwest, though.

Others would point out that PV just isn’t our weapon of choice when it comes to utility-scale solar electricity production, compared to solar thermal technologies. As long as you have ample land resources and workable land usage laws, solar thermal can deliver lower cost per watt. So maybe we’re just more of a solar thermal country than a solar PV country.

Really, though, it boils down to policy. European countries like Spain, Germany and Italy are no sunnier than the US, but their policies are. They have been pouring funds into subsidies for renewable power generation – that’s why so many GW were installed. And you know what? Now that the fixed costs are taken care of, these countries have energy-producing assets that run on free fuel. What could be a sounder investment in today’s economic climate?

Ecogeek does make a point on America's embracement of solar thermal. A deal for 1.3 gigawatts of solar thermal projects was recently inked for California. Also, it wasn't that long ago when America lagged in the wind department; now we're the king in wind-produced energy (though Germany still leads in wind energy generated per capita). Like wind, the U.S. has splendid solar potential. Let's get crackin'.

- Brewskie

A Prelude: Could Angola Become the Next Brazil?

A fair warning: first, exploration of Angola's subsalt regions is still a little ways down the road - three or four years away - and oil has yet to be struck. Still, there's striking similarities between Brazil and Angola's subsalt regions - something that has drawn the attention of Petrobras. Read below or click here for the article...

Geological similarities between Angola's and Brazil's subsalt areas suggest that future exploratory drilling on Angola's continental shelf may one day find oil reserves similar to Brazil's recent large discoveries, a Sonangol scientist said Wednesday.

Sonangol, Angola's state oil firm, has started preliminary studies into Angola's subsalt region over the last several months. The company is now preparing for seismic and other geological studies -- expected to cost hundreds of million of dollars -- to assess the size of reserves in the country's subsalt region, said Luman Sebastiao, a geoscientist for Angola state oil firm Sonangol's exploration unit.


The Angolan and the Brazilian continental shelves have various similarities as they have been joined for a certain geological period," Sebastiao said.

Brazilian state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA in the past two years has announced several massive oil finds in the subsalt area off Brazil's coast that together contain dozens of billions of barrels in reserves.

Oil found in the area is usually at water depths of around 2,000 meters, and several thousand meters further below layers of sand, rocks and salt -- making exploration and production challenging and expensive.


The subsalt is Angola's next exploration front, after deep and ultra-deep exploration, Sebastiao said, adding that unlike in Brazil, Angola's subsalt region is found both onshore and offshore.

Angola's onshore subsalt region lies about 4,000 meters below the ground, while the offshore subsalt region lies even deeper, Sebastiao said.

Brazil's Petrobras has been helping Sonangol in starting to study its subsalt region, and many Sonangol technicians have been trained in the area in Brazil, Sebastiao said.


Angola's studies into its subsalt area at first are concentrating on the Kwanza onshore and offshore basin, and the Congo basin. At a later stage, Angola will study more southern regions.

Ghawar Guzzler Comment: True, oil has yet to be found in Angola's subsalt region and exploratory drilling is a few years away. It may very well all be for naught - busts are apart of life in the oil and gas industry. But if Angola strikes it rich, you'll be way ahead of the curve of knowing of its development. I'll keep you posted if I learn of any positive developments. Petrobras is banking on Angola, and their track record speaks for itself.

- Brewskie