Thursday, April 30, 2009

The King of Peak Grows a 2nd Tongue

You can always count on Matthew Simmons for consistency like a Chinese toy factory. His product might be cheap, the electronics even cheaper, but like China itself, he's constipated with loads of cheap plastic and labor: you can always count on him to crap out predictions comprised of toxicity.

Simmons' mouth has been blazin' the bandwidth with this latest gem:

"We are three, six, maybe nine months away from a price shock. We are not talking about three to five years away -- it will be much sooner."

He also adds "the underlying rate of decline of the world's aging oilfields is as much as 20 percent a year and only high levels of investment can reduce that to single digits." Twenty-percent!? Whooaa. I said it in previous post: peakers have a serious obsession with seeing oil drop to 60 mbpd by 2015; since the 2005 peak hasn't panned out, they've upped their annual decline-rate from 6.5% to ensure prophecy.

All of this coming from a sage who said last December that "we don't have any evidences of a glut," along with, "no way did demand plunge." Say, Mr. Simmons, what happened to the $120-$190 a barrel of oil you predicted for 2005? What ever materialized of the natural gas crisis you and Mike Ruppert envisioned would excoriate America by 2005? Were we experiencing 9% gas growth at one point last year? Mr. Simmons... you've been awfully quiet on the gas situation. Why?

Anyway, the "King of Peak" was recently welcomed as the herald keynote speaker at the Alliance Expo & Annual Meeting. Oil and gas employees welcomed the messiah, his valued forecast of oil wells spitting out volcanic gushes of liquid gold profits, his welcomed narration of enslaved masses hauling wheel barrels full of fortunes to the pump - both of these likely to return soon. This was his gleeful forecast according to the article:

The keynote speaker at the Alliance Expo & Annual Meeting offered a sobering revelation to the oil and gas industry employees seated in front of him: the boom of summer 2008 that sent oil and gas prices skyrocketing was the only truly great situation the industry ever had, and it’s not likely to return any time soon.

#%$!?!? Not any time soon!?!? Mr. Simmons, that's heart-breaking! That's a huge disappointment coming from such a seasoned sage as yourself. You cried last fall that last year's oil decline was a total fake-out; you warned us that oil's death grasp is only taking a breather and will return soon; you've been telling us armageddon is only 6 to 9 months away. Now you're telling the oil and gas industry its 2008 glory days are not coming back anytime soon? Mr. Simmons, you're not just a doomer - you're a two-tongue doomer! Shame on you. Your mind has become as shoddily configured as Wacko Jacko's face-plate.

As fair warning, Mr. Simmons, peak oil prophecy requires a sharp mind, something that gets badly diluted in old age; Ken Deffeyes recently tallied on his 9th failed peak oil prophecy. When the fleets of nanobots are running amok through our air, weaving carbon into who knows what, I imagine you'll be crappin' your depends in the old folks' home, giving ominous warnings about "peak carbon."

- Brewskie

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"ET's" Efforts to Cheaply Unlock Canadian Tar Gunk

Canadian tar crap is bad, but we'll likely be using the sludge for a long time... regrettably. Hurry up, eggheads - 100% solar efficiency NOW!!

The good news is a lot of research is being conducted to make tar sand extraction and processing, cheaper, more environmentally friendly, less energy-intensive and more efficient. I've done posts on this before (here, here and here); now I have some information on ET Energy's Electro-Thermal Dynamic Stripping Process (ET-DSP), a new and innovative process that could conjure far more tar sands, do so more cheaply, and do it all with lower energy and environmental price tags.

Here's the article. It's long, so I blockquoted the best parts. The rest of the article really isn't worth reading. You can also go the company's website and learn more about ET-DSP here.

Ever since oil began its long dive last summer, a torrent of callers has been ringing Bruce McGee's phone. Every time he answers, he tells investors, energy companies and whoever else who will listen this story: He believes his company, E-T Energy Ltd., can produce oil at a profit with prices at $26 a barrel.

Mr. McGee, who is president, believes that changes everything. By his calculation, E-T's technology can be used to pump out 600 billion barrels of oil sands bitumen. That's more than triple the Alberta government's best guess at what's currently recoverable from the oil sands, and enough to satisfy total global demand for two years.


"If the price of oil stays at $40 a barrel, it will replace mining," predicts Craig McDonald, E-T's vice-president of operations. In coming weeks, the company will hit the road to raise $150-million to commercialize its technology.

That technology isn't much to look at — just a few well heads and large tanks sitting on a windswept field south of Fort McMurray. A series of electrodes dangle in each well. When they are turned on, they pass a current through the earth — like electricity through a stove element — and heat it up. The result: The bitumen, which is normally locked in sand as hard as rock, begins to flow — like molasses in a microwave. No huge mines needed, no greenhouse gas-spewing steam projects required.

In a place accustomed to prying bitumen from the earth using monstrous shovels and vast quantities of steam, this pilot project is a bold attempt to reshape the environmental and financial costs of the oil sands.

- Brewskie

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cells Learn Ninjitsu to Fight Cancer

TR has several interesting pieces about recently developed materials. The one I found interesting is a new implant that signals cancer-immune cells to escalate into gang warfare against the "black death" in mice...

Cell ProgrammerA polymer implant signals cells to combat cancer.

Source: "Infection-Mimicking Materials to Program Dendritic Cells In Situ"David Mooney et al.Nature Materials 8: 151-158

Results: A new implant attracts immune cells and exposes them to molecules that stimulate them to attack cancerous tumors. When tested in mice that normally die of cancer within 25 days, the implants allowed 90 percent of the mice to survive. Similar experimental therapies based on transplanting immune cells are only about 60 percent effective.

Why it matters: The implants could eventually be used to treat human cancers that don't respond to other therapies, and they could also be used to treat immune disorders such as type 1 diabetes and arthritis. Other approaches that involve stimulating immune cells haven't proved successful in clinical trials. Those techniques require the cells to be removed from the body and then reimplanted; many are damaged in the process and die, while survivors often fail to trigger attacks on cancerous tumors. The new implant stimulates cells inside the body, without subjecting them to stressful procedures.

Methods: The spongelike implant is made of a biodegradable polymer that releases chemical signals called cytokines. In mice with melanoma, these signals attract immune cells called dendritic cells to the nooks and crannies of the implant. There the cells are exposed to a cancer antigen that stimulates them to attack tumors. When tissues from the mice were analyzed, the researchers found that dendritic cells had migrated to the lymph nodes and activated other immune cells, and the animals' tumors had shrunk.

- Brewskie

General Synfuels to Take a Bit of Shale Oil

General Synfuels believes it can tackle shale oil:

General Synfuels International (GSI) - a wholly-owned subsidiary of Earth Search Sciences, Inc., (OTC Bulletin Board: ESSE) - today announced the company has secured an exploration agreement for lands in Wyoming and rights to a separate oil shale resource opportunity in Colorado. Collectively, the agreements will allow the company to test and develop the company's patented technology to recover hydrocarbons from oil shale, oil sands and heavy oil using its patented process that prioritizes environmental sensitivity.

The exploration agreement with a subsidiary of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation in Wyoming covers approximately 160 acres near Rock Springs on a Union Pacific Railroad section upon which GSI plans to carry out its proof-of-concept test under stringent environmental guidelines. The Colorado opportunity provides GSI access to approximately 500 acres of private, oil-shale-rich land in the Piceance Basin, with the potential - based upon core analysis and geologic data - to recover approximately 700 million barrels of oil, or oil equivalents, in the near term. GSI believes results should be known within the next 24 months. The company is also evaluating an additional 2,500 acres of oil shale mineral rights in the same area of Colorado and is in the process of investigating how many barrels of oil are in place.

"With oil prices at the levels we see today - between $40 and $50 per barrel - our expected production costs will be highly competitive and should result in substantial returns to our investors and shareholders, and result in a economically-viable source of domestic oil," said Luis Lugo, CEO of Earth Search Sciences, Inc.

The breakthrough technology - an environmentally low-impact and energy-self-sustainable gasification process - has the potential to drastically reduce production costs for oil production compared to conventional development methods and to greatly decrease the nation's dependency on foreign oil.
- Brewskie

Natural Gas Futures Fall to Six-Year Low

Gas supplies are still bloated...

Natural gas futures reached a fresh six and a half year low Monday as ample gas supplies and weaker demand resulting from the economic downturn weighed on prices.

Natural gas for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange recently traded 8.9 cents, or 2.70%, lower at $3.208 a million British thermal units. The contract fell as low as $3.155/MMBtu - the lowest since September 2002 - after opening floor trade at $3.188/MMBtu. Nymex options on May natural gas futures also expire on Monday.

Natural gas prices were under pressure from robust levels of natural gas storage and domestic production, which has remained strong despite the decline in the number of rigs drilling for natural gas.

"People keep looking for sings that production is starting to be shuttered. But we really haven't seen it yet," Gene McGillian, an analyst with Tradition Energy in Stamford, Conn., said.

Natural gas prices have have lost more than 75% of their since last July, when prices peaked at $13.694/MMBtu.

In response to that decline, natural gas producers have pulled back on drilling activity to stem the flow of natural gas into a market the oversupplied gas market.

The number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the U.S. has fallen by more than half from a peak last September of 1,606 rigs, according to oilfield services company Baker Hughes.

Natural gas storage levels have also swelled as demand for the fuel among industrial users of gas began tapering off.

Natural gas in U.S. storage stands at 1.741 trillion cubic feet - 35.8% higher than last year and 22.7% above the five-year average.

- Brewskie

Offshore Oil Rigs in Short Supply

Finding offshore oil isn't a problem, but finding offshore oil rigs seems to be...

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, may be hurt by a rig shortage as it begins development of the Tupi field, the largest discovery in the Americas since 1976, according to Jefferies & Co. Inc.

The company expects to almost double the numbers of rigs operating in deepwater offshore Brazil to 68 by 2012, from 38 today, according to Jefferies analyst Jud Bailey.

It’s “questionable” whether six of these rigs can even be built because the contractors are “small marginal´´ players, Bailey said April 24 in an interview from Houston. Others rigs may be delivered as much as a year late, he said.


A drop in oil prices has made it difficult for small rig builders to complete orders as margins narrow, Bailey said. Brazil’s government has also required Petrobras to hire local builders, who are not necessarily capable of building the rigs or don’t have the money to do it, he said. Petrobras would have to step in and “backstop” some of these companies financially to allow them to produce the equipment in time, he said.

“The down side for Petrobras is that the world capital crunch will make it hard for many companies to finance new ships and drill rigs,” Peter Ping Ho, an oil and gas analyst with Planner Corretora De Valores in Sao Paulo, said April 24.

Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras, whose Tupi field is the largest discovery since Mexico’s Cantarell, is tapping overseas partners to help fund a $174.4 billion five-year investment plan. Chief Financial Officer Almir Barbassa was last week touring Asia to persuade equipment manufacturers and shipbuilders to expand their operations in Brazil.

“The Brazilian government is pushing them to build the rigs in Brazil,” Bailey said. “If they do that there will definitely be delays.”

- Brewskie

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Black Gold! It's Weekly Updates for 4/26/09

What's in store for energy? What will power our world? Read a few pieces and take a guess.

Be good. Over and out.

- Brewskie

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Let Texas Secede!

A funny video mocking the pseudo-secession movement currently in Texas. Again,'s bugs won't let me post the video on the page, only the link. I previously had problems with blockquote for the longest time. Does anyone have answers to this?

- Brewskie

EnCana to U.S.: "Shale Gas for Hosers?"

EnCana, Canada's largest independent natural gas producer, looks to siphon some sweet shale gas from the U.S., and learn a thing or two about fracing (pronounced "fracking"). In fact, she looks to be producing half her natural gas in the near future... from the U.S.

Perhaps you think of this as benign. "Big flippin' doo-doo," you say, "why's this so important?"

Because the yanks are innovators of shale gas extraction: others in the West are looking to us for help. Europe is in study mode to gauge its shale gas potential; Canada, too. As I mentioned before, shale gas is expected to meet half of N. America's natural gas needs by 2020. Big things are expected from this, and developed nations want our know-how.


Canada's largest independent natural gas producer, which released strong first quarter results Wednesday, said this year it will redirect $290 million US from other areas toward its promising Haynesville leases on the Texas- Louisiana border.

The addition will bring EnCana's investment in the play up to $580 million, about 13 per cent of the company's $4.6-billion capital budget dedicated to oil and gas programs in Canada and the United States.

Technology broke open opportunities to produce shale gas, once notorious for being a difficult resources to make economical, EnCana president Randy Eresman said.


Tough times, but EnCana is well braced...

Calgary-based EnCana holds about 435,000 net acres in the Haynesville shale play, as well as one of the largest land positions in northeastern British Columbia's Horn River play - about 260,000 net acres.

The company has committed to reducing costs across the board by 10 per cent this year, and part of the savings will be reallocated to programs like the Louisiana resource, where labour and service costs are cheaper and the infrastructure to carry the fuel to market is extensive, he said.

The company reported earnings of $962 million US, up from $93 million a year prior.



Eresman warned EnCana could cut its $6.1-billion capital budget later this
year if natural gas prices remain in a trough.

If demand doesn't drain current high storage inventories, or there are no supply disruptions from hurricanes, natural gas prices could drop below $3.50, forcing more wells to be shut in, analysts say.

- Brewskie

Smart Grid Comin' to Miami

The effort to bring da grid to da beach (hat tip: Peak Energy)...

Over the next two years, the City of Miami and some heavy-hitting business partners are going to overhaul the city's electrical grid.

Mayor Manny Diaz today unveiled an ambitious, $200 million "Energy Smart Miami" smart grid project developed in partnership with General Electric, Cisco Systems, Florida Power & Light and Silver Spring Networks to deploy smart meters on every home and most businesses in Miami-Dade County.

"This begins the transformation of Miami into the first truly smart-grid system in the nation," Diaz said during a press conference announcing the launch. "It is a model that supports and embodies the goals of the stimulus bill.

"The project, which aims to land stimulus bill funding for as much as half the project, will create as many as 1,000 new jobs as it brings next-generation technology to homes and businesses. In addition to smart meters, the project aims to install solar power systems on several schools and universities, add 300 plug-in hybrid vehicles to the city's fleet, and bring a series of new technologies like home energy use dashboards, smart appliances and smart-meter thermostats to pilot programs in 1,000 city homes.


Energy Smart Miami piggybacks on a series of already planned upgrades to the Miami area electric grid that has been in the works from FPL and California-based Silver Spring Networks. In the new project, GE will provide one million smart meters to the project, with the potential to upgrade to 4.5 million, enough to cover FPL's entire customer base in Miami-Dade. Silver Spring Networks will provide the technology to link those smart meters, and Cisco is spearheading the in-home smart devices and home dashboards in 1,000 residences.

- Brewskie

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Super Energy-Efficient 167-Processor Chip

UC Davis recently announced a 167-processor chip, dubbed the "AsAP." The chip, designed for digital signal processing - not a traditional chip found in desktops - is geared towards devices such as cell phones, MP3 players, MRI imaging machines, etc. According to the press release, "twelve chips working together could perform more than half-a-trillion operations per second (.52 Tera-ops/sec) while using less power than a 7-watt light bulb."

And more below (link):

Maximum clock speed for the 167-processor AsAP is 1.2 gigahertz (GHz), but at slower speeds its energy efficiency soars. Twelve chips working together could perform more than half-a-trillion operations per second (.52 Tera-ops/sec) while using less power than a 7-watt light bulb.

“A battery powering this chip will typically last from several times to 75 times longer than it would under the same workload when powering some of the common commercially available digital signal processing chips,” said Bevan Baas, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and leader of the design team. “At the same time, with our targeted applications, we’re getting several times to 10 times better speed than what is currently available — all with a much smaller chip. To the best of our knowledge, this is the highest clock-rate processor chip designed at any university.”

Built with industry-standard fabrication technology and design tools, the chip embodies a number of novel architectural and circuit features, Baas explained. Throughout the design process, his group took energy efficiency and high speed into consideration. “These were two of our main objectives, which we never gave up on during the planning stages. And all those choices added up,” he said.

Baas’ group has written a number of software applications for the chip, which has been fabricated by the international electronics company STMicrotronics. It took one student just three months to write “a fully compliant Wi-Fi transmitter,” Baas said. They have also written a Wi-Fi receiver and several complex components of an H.264 video encoder. After testing the chip extensively, it has worked without a glitch, Baas added.

- Brewskie

China's Rapacious Drive to Electric Cars

More on China's drive to turn the "lights" on for electric cars:

China is the only major car market still growing in the world, and it could mean the difference between life or death for some of these companies.

There's also been a lot of buzz that China is the place where electric cars will take off. Nick Reilly, the head of GM in Asia, said there was a "clear need" in Chinese cities for a small electrified car and that if the government handed out enough subsidies, "there could be very rapid sales growth".


Mr Reilly said that a closer look at the range and recharging abilities of the Chinese cars showed they weren't very different from technology elsewhere.

What will make China the leader in electric cars, however, is the infrastructure. Again according to GM, China is already able to absorb the impact of a huge switchover to electric vehicles without much new investment.

Kevin Wale, the former head of Vauxhall who now heads GM in China, said: "We are talking to the power grid, as are all car manufacturers who are interested in electric cars, and we don't think infrastructure us a major issue. The widespread distribution of electric cars can be more than covered by the existing power grid."

On top of that, China is pouring money into new nuclear power stations, wind farms and hydroelectric dams to increase the share of electricity it produces cleanly. As Greenpeace says, an electric car is only as green as the electricity it runs on.

One former car industry executive told me that China's strategy is straightforward. First, it builds the infrastructure. Then it waits for foreign brands to unveil their electric car technology. Then the technology gets "adapted".

- Brewskie

FERC: U.S. Many Never Need More Coal, Nuclear Plants

This is surprising and time will be the ultimate arbitrator, but still (link)...

The U.S. may never need to build new nuclear or coal-fired power plants because renewable energy and improved efficiency can meet future power demand, the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said.

“They’re too expensive,” Jon Wellinghoff told reporters today at a press conference in Washington hosted by the U.S. Energy Association. “The last price I saw for a nuke was north of $7,000 a kilowatt. That’s more expensive than a solar system.”

Wellinghoff, a Democrat, was appointed chairman by President Barack Obama last month. He has served on the commission since 2006.


“There’s 500 to 700 gigawatts of developable wind throughout the Midwest,” he said, and “enough solar in the southwest, as we all know, to power the entire country. It’s a matter of being able to move it to loads.”

Demand reductions and electricity storage could offset the intermittent nature of wind and solar, he said. The U.S. currently has generating capacity of about 800 gigawatts, Wellinghoff said. There is also “at least 100 gigawatts” of hydropower, not including offshore projects that use wave and tides to generate electricity, said Wellinghoff.

Natural gas power plants will continue to be needed to help bridge the transition to renewable power, he said.

I'm open to thoughts on this one.

- Brewskie

The Good Nazis Need Your Support

The Oil Drum has launched its fund drive; it needs your zealotry, your unquestioning patriotism, your punch drunk love of Jim Jones' Kool-aid, and most of all - your Schatzanweisung des Deutschen Reichs.

The Drum would love your support more than ever in these tough times; they need your support so they can stifle dissenters, knock off the scarlet letters with the dishonorable "Drum boot."

Remember - if King Hubbert couldn't nail global peak, the Wikipedia-sourcing stooges won't either.

- Brewskie

Toothepaste Compound Brings Big Hydrogen Solar Breakthrough

Titania, titanium dioxide, titanium white, or CI 77891. Mythic stuff. It's used everywhere: semiconductors, oxygen sensors, protein cleaver... food coloring, sun tan lotion, kitty litter! When you see fake snow in a movie... that's pigment white 6!

The egg-heads of Northeastern University, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), have gone further to display the potential, demonstrate its value, why it's paramount to fulfilling the 35-year dream of hydrogen fuel cells inspired by Akira Fujishima (link):

Increasing the available surface area is one way to boost a catalyst's performance, so a team at Northeastern has been studying techniques to build tightly packed arrays of titania nanotubes, which have a very high surface to volume ratio. They also were interested in how best to incorporate carbon into the nanotubes, because carbon helps titania absorb light in the visible spectrum. (Pure titania absorbs in the ultraviolet region, and much of the ultraviolet is filtered by the atmosphere.)

This brought them to the NIST X-ray spectroscopy beamline at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS)**. The NIST facility uses X-rays that can be precisely tuned to measure chemical bonds of specific elements, and is at least
10 times more sensitive than commonly available laboratory instruments, allowing researchers to detect elements at extremely low concentrations. While making
measurements of the carbon atoms, the team noticed spectroscopic data indicating
that the titania nanotubes had small amounts of potassium ions strongly bound to the surface, evidently left by the fabrication process, which used potassium
salts. This was the first time the potassium has ever been observed on titania nanotubes; previous measurements were not sensitive enough to detect it.

The result was mildly interesting, but became much more so when the research team compared the performance of the potassium-bearing nanotubes to similar arrays deliberately prepared without potassium. The former required only about one-third the electrical energy to produce the same amount of hydrogen as an equivalent array of potassium-free nanotubes. "The result was so exciting," recalls Northeastern physicist Latika Menon, "that we got sidetracked from the carbon research." Because it has such a strong effect at nearly undetectable concentrations, Menon says, potassium probably has played an unrecognized role in many experimental water-splitting cells that use titania nanotubes, because potassium hydroxide is commonly used in the cells. By controlling it, she says, hydrogen solar cell designers could use it to optimize performance.

- Brewskie

California Proposes to Trash Energy-Sucking TVs

The man stoppin' ya from keeping up wit' da Kardashians? Good riddance! I've rarely watched television since high school, and it's been a most proper developmental stimulus since. I still own the same 13" set my parents gave to me in 8th grade - it came without a remote, it's not even cable-ready! I'd flunk operating TiVo, I'll upgrade to Blue Ray when my nephew's going digital download=)
Anywho, the strong arm of the law in California legislature is looking to toss out those high-sippin', energy-intensive clunkers (from stores, that is, not the family bear cave), and step-up requirements for models sold to be 50% more efficient:
The state is proposing rules that would require all television sets sold in California to use 50 percent less energy by 2013. If approved, they would start regulating TVs in January, 2011.

The Commission is facing strong opposition from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which is afraid of the dent the regulations might put in plasma TV sales. Plasma displays can use up to 30 percent more energy per square inch than liquid crystal displays. Fortunately, plasma sets are a dying breed -- their dwindling numbers only account today for 10 percent of the market versus 77 percent for LCD sets. CRT sets are generally less efficient than LCD models as well.
The new regulations will also call for more power efficient digital video recorders, DVD players, and cable boxes. The Commission says that by 2013, enough power could be saved by the regulations to power 864,000 homes for a year.
California law-makers plan to catch Chef Ramsey beller-hollirin' first before voting on the legislature by summer's end.
- Brewskie

Florida House Goes Petrobras

(Note: some may disagree with this and that's fine. The purpose of the post is mearly to report the news.)

The Florida House gave approval Tuesday to a bill that may allow offshore drillers to drill off of Florida's coastal areas - right within sight of Florida's Gulf of Mexico beaches.

A surprise indeed. Dean Cannon, R- Winter Park, slated to be House leader next year and the man who introduced the legislation, calls for:

lifting the state's decades-old ban on rigs and giving the governor and Cabinet authority over proposals for drilling between 3 to 10 miles from shore.

And Rigzone adds more...

Industry boosters and legislators praised the concept in a meeting of the House Policy Council, calling it potentially lucrative for an economically depressed state and a needed step toward energy independence.

Environmentalists were outraged at the prospect of drilling so close to Florida's popular and environmentally sensitive coast and at Cannon's unexpected attempt to undo the state's drilling law during the chaotic last days of a session focused on a budget crisis.

"This bill represents pure insanity," said Frank Jackalone, staff director for Sierra Club in Florida.

The session is set to close next week, leaving little time for debate among House members and for the Senate to craft a companion bill. Though not backing off from fighting the proposal, environmentalists predicted Gov. Charlie Crist would veto the legislation.

Federal rules restrict drilling to 125 miles off Florida's coast, south of Pensacola.

- Brewskie

Barnett Shale Measure Clear Texas Senate

Two bills aimed at drilling the Barnett Shale passed the Texas Senate Tuesday...

The bills, now headed to the House, are among a spate of legislation introduced this session to regulate various aspects of the industry, which channeled about $11 billion into the local economy last year, according to a recent report.

Activity in the massive underground gas field known as the Barnett Shale has slowed significantly because of the recession. But the hope among many is that lawmakers will put new rules in place this session ahead of any recovery.


With a record number of bills introduced this session – and a majority expected to die – some North Texas lawmakers said legislation affecting the Barnett Shale region is a high priority. The Barnett Shale spans 18 counties, including Tarrant, Denton and parts of Dallas.

One of the bills clearing the Senate would allow pipelines in Texas Department of Transportation rights-of-way. That means they could bypass some residential neighborhoods and possibly reduce the number of eminent-domain cases.

The other bill that passed, also introduced by Davis, would restrict the placement of injection wells that dispose of drilling wastewater from certain geological formations.

Conflicts between the needs of industry and the rights of property owners increased as mineral rights leasing and gas well drilling hit a feverish level last summer.

- Brewskie

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oil's Got a While in the Infirmary

Regardless of the low oil price environment, it's still fun and reassuring to know that, oil will likely be sitting in the outhouse for the rest of the year, with nothing - not even mosquitoes - giving a notice or care of which dank hole it's lost in. I planted an earlier post on why the oil bulls may be gone for a while - and I have this rationale: crapping demand, excess capacity (OPEC production is down from record production of 32.82 mbpd last year to 28 mbpd last March; remember, Saudi Arabia will add surplus capacity this year, and has more on the way), plus the eradication of speculative rats.

Here's an interesting bit I discovered: while OPEC is trying to reinvigorate $80 per barrel dreams - like the federal government is trying prop Wall Street Banks from the reeking dead - Russia are Brazil are contrarian players of infuriation. Read below:

Well, part of the plan is successful. U.S. imports from OPEC fell 818,000 barrels per day or 14% to 5.02 million barrels per day in January from a year earlier. But if you remember the old adage, "While the cat is away, the mice will play," OPEC's plan is not holding up too well. When OPEC cut production, Russia and Brazil jumped in and did the opposite, namely increase exports to the U.S.

Brazil more than doubled its exports to 397,000 barrels per day, while Russia increased its to 157,000 barrels per day. Russia even lowered its export duty to $15.00 per barrel from $15.70 per barrel. Russia has been trying to get a foot hold in the U.S. market for years, while Petrobras is very aggressive in its marketing policies and plans to spend $174.4 billion through 2013 on increasing production and exports.

So where are we now? Well, inventories have climbed to 1.65 million barrels in the week ending April 3, the highest level since July 1993. Supplies are 12% above the five-year average and the equivalent of 25.4 days consumption.

Check this out - America's driven miles continues to decline:

Now, to further affirm my promulgation, I will post this recent Seeking Alpha post of some recent OxAn rationle:

Producers argue that oil prices need to remain high to fund the investment necessary to meet future oil demand, an important part of which is replacing production lost to depletion, OxAn says in Outlook for oil prices looks weak. They say that at current price levels investment will be insufficient. Once oil demand growth resumes, OPEC’s production cuts will be quickly eroded as will the level of surplus capacity. The attraction of this argument is that it justifies high oil prices no matter how bad or deep the current crisis because it is future shortages that are the imperative rather than the present.

“However, with supply relatively abundant and OPEC finding each incremental reduction towards its output goal of 24.845 million b/d harder, how demand evolves is critical to the price outlook. It is far from certain that a return to the pre-credit crisis ‘peak oil’ paradigm of ever-rising commodity prices will be quick, or will
happen at all.”

It adds,

Consumer wealth. Part of the ability to absorb rising oil prices without impacting demand was that oil had become relatively cheaper in terms of the proportion of consumers’ disposable income that it absorbed.

However, with rising unemployment, economic contraction and falling wage inflation, oil continues to be perceived as expensive, despite having lost two-thirds of its value since its peak.


There is a tendency to assume that under ‘normal’ economic conditions, oil demand will always rise everywhere, and for developing economies it will trend towards per capita levels seen in the OECD. However, both Japanese and European oil demand was falling or static before the financial crisis, while neither have nor are likely to see the same level of car ownership as the United States.”

So there you have it. Not only are the herd of oil bulls not stampeding, it's time for the bulls to take a one-way trip to the Smithfield morgue.

- Brewskie

"Klusterfuck" Kunstler Backpedals on High-Speed Rail

(Note to AndrewRyan: This is not the piece on James Kunstler I was referring to; I had another one in mind. It'll be up this week.)
Old man Kunstler woke up yesterday to howl at the world about the appendix-bursting pain that's stabbing his heart: he took a swipe at Obama's proposed high-speed rail system! This is what he had to say:
One very plain and straightforward example at hand is the announcement last week of a plan to build a high speed rail network. To be blunt about it, this is perfectly f*****g stupid. It will require a whole new track network, because high speed trains can't run on the old rights of way with their less forgiving curve ratios and grades. We would be so much better off simply fixing up and reactivating the normal-speed track system that is sitting out there rusting in the rain -- and save our more grandiose visions for a later time.

Nevermind rebuilding a passenger-rail system has long been a center-piece to Kunstler's 19th century utopia; nevermind that, last year, he bombastically praised a loyal reader's comment on building a high-speed rail network...
A reader from Ohio reminds us of a very important point: "$700 billion could completely rebuild the US passenger system! All the way to complete electrification and to the same standards the French enjoy with their TGVs."Its enough money to bring service to every town of 5000 and up."

Oh Mr. Clusterfuck, your problem is you're a miserable old man who's faced disappointment throughout your life: aside from the '90s, when you wrote several decent books criticizing suburban living, you we're a so-so novelist in the '80s, you banked your credibility with Y2K, and you practically banked the farm betting on oil's peak. You've had nothing but a "lost decade;" you've attempted, fatuously, to prop up this "Frankenstein peak" as if you we're a Fed worker trying - in rhapsodic fashion - to plug the holes in AIG. If you haven't found happiness throughout your life, it's doubtful you'll find it in your utopian 19th century lifestyle.

See you for the Memorial Day weekend blowout, James (more on this later).

- Brewskie

Embryonic Stem Cells Hands Victory to Bald Mice

Embryonic stem cells were recently used to rejuvenate mouse fur. Victory for bald mice? Yes! Bald fogies(?) - never:(

A university lecturer has succeeded in regenerating hair on mice using embryonic stem cells, an achievement that could pave the way for the development of treatments for conditions including hair loss, it has been learned.

Details of the breakthrough, by Mariko Yamaki of Matsumoto Dental University, will be published in the May edition of The Japanese Society for Regenerative Medicine magazine. The work involved taking skin cells and combining them with mesenchymal stem cells--multipotent stem cells that develop into various organs of the body--to regenerate hair. Yamaki said it would be difficult to regenerate hair using only embryonic stem cells.

Yamaki extracted mesenchymal stem cells taken from the teeth of mice embryos and mixed them with mice embryonic stem cells, which form the basis of skin cells. The clumps resulting from the mix were then nurtured.

It was later found that about 40 percent of the 48 clumps had one or two hairs growing from them. When protein, which quickens growth, is added, the hair growth rate increased to about 60 percent, Yamaki said.

Hair growth was observed on all 12 mice that had the clumps implanted on their back muscles.

- Brewskie

U.S. Offered to Suspend Iran Oil, Gas Sanctions in 2008

Woh... surprising news from the era of Cheney's hanging despotism....

The administration of former US president George W. Bush offered to dropoil and gas sanctions against Iran in the summer of 2008 in return for asix-week suspension of uranium enrichment, an offer that Tehran rejected, American-Iranian council president Hooshang Amirahmadi said Tuesday.

Amirahmadi, speaking at the Middle East Petroleum and Gas conference inDubai, said he was involved in the exchanges between Washington and Tehran. "The bottom line is that the US offered to suspend sanctions on oil andgas in return for Iran freezing uranium enrichment for six weeks," he said.

The offer was rejected by Tehran and the response to the US request for a"wish list" from the Iranian leadership was: "Leave us alone." Amirahmadi said when asked what type of sanctions the US was offering tosuspend that it applied to executive orders dating back to the Clinton era,which imposed a trade ban against Iran, including trade in oil and gas, andprohibiting US investment in Iran's energy

"No war. No peace."

- Brewskie

Monday, April 20, 2009

Robots in the Bacteria Herd

ETH Zurich researchers have built micro-robots the size of bacteria:

They look like spirals with tiny heads, and screw through the liquid like miniature corkscrews. When moving, they resemble rather ungainly bacteria with long whip-like tails. They can only be observed under a microscope because, at a total length of 25 to 60 µm, they are almost as small as natural flagellated bacteria. Most are between 5 and 15 µm long, a few are more than 20 µm.

The tiny spiral-shaped, nature-mimicking lookalikes of E. coli and similar bacteria. are called “Artificial Bacterial Flagella” (ABFs), the “flagella” referring to their whip-like tails. They were invented, manufactured and enabled to swim in a controllable way by researchers in the group led by Bradley Nelson, Professor at the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at ETH Zurich. In contrast to their natural role model, some of which cause diseases, the ABFs are intended to help cure diseases in the future.

The practical realization of these artificial bacteria, the smallest yet created, with a rigid flagellum and external actuation, was made possible mainly by the self-scrolling technique from which the spiral-shaped ABFs are constructed. ABFs are fabricated by vapor-depositing several ultra-thin layers of the elements indium, gallium, arsenic and chromium onto a substrate in a particular sequence. They are then patterned from it by means of lithography and etching. This forms super-thin, very long narrow ribbons that curl themselves into a spiral shape as soon as they are detached from the substrate, because of the unequal molecular lattice structures of the various layers. Depending on the deposited layer thickness and composition, a spiral is formed with different sizes which can be precisely defined by the researchers. Nelson says, “We can specify not only how small the spiral is, but even the scrolling direction of the ribbon that forms the spiral .”

Even before releasing the ribbon that will afterwards form the artificial flagellum, a kind of head for the mini-robot is attached to one of its ends. It consists of a chromium-nickel-gold tri-layer film, also vapor-deposited. Nickel is soft-magnetic, in contrast to the other materials used, which are non-magnetic. Nelson explains that, “This tiny magnetic head enables the ABF to move in a specific way in a magnetic field.” The spiral-shaped ABF swim through the liquid and its movements can be observed and recorded under a microscope.


The ABFs have been designed for biomedical applications. For example, they could carry medicines to predetermined targets in the body, remove plaque deposits in the arteries or help biologists to modify cellular structures that are too small for direct manipulation by researchers. In initial experiments, the ETH Zurich researchers have already made the ABFs carry around polystyrene micro-spheres.

- Brewskie

Iraq wants U.S. Military Out - and Shell

Quagmire-infected Iraq doesn't just want U.S. soldiers out - it wants Western oil out, too.

Read below or go here:

EXPECTATIONS that foreign companies can cash in on Iraq's oil riches are in doubt after a key parliamentary body in Baghdad pledged to "push Shell out" and halt a forthcoming licensing round.

The warning from the secretary of the Iraqi parliament's oil and gas committee, Jabir Khalifa Jabir, was seen by financial analysts yesterday as a serious threat to Western investment opportunities in a country that holds the second-largest oil reserves in the world.

Shell has been considered a front runner in the race to seize control of the Iraqi energy sector after signing a $US4 billion ($5.5 billion) deal to process and market gas from the south and ship it, possibly to Britain, as liquefied natural gas.

But the preliminary agreement - and a subsequent deal with China National Petroleum Corporation - were unconstitutional and detrimental to Iraq's economic interests, said Mr Jabir, who worked for more than 15 years at Iraq's state-run Southern Gas Company.


The Oil Ministry has said it does not need parliament's approval to sign new deals but Mr Jabir argued that Iraqi law 97 clearly states all arrangements of this nature must be passed by parliament.

The committee had studied the preliminary Shell deal for the past six months and all members have concluded that it is illegal, he said.

The deal with Shell and the wider oil licensing round have been controversial because many critics believed they were unduly influenced by the United States and Britain, who occupied the country after toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003. Critics saw the invasion as a "war for oil" and believed it would open the way for US and British oil companies to regain assets seized from them decades earlier through nationalisation.

- Brewskie

60 Minutes Looks at Cold Fusion

Hey-hey, we're back in the saddle!

60 Minutes recently did a piece on cold fusion. You can watch the video here ( has some bugs in it, and for some reason, it's being obstinate towards letting me post videos on the page).

- Brewskie

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Back from Vancouver, BC

This is a notification that I'm back in the States from Vancouver (what was I doing up there during this time of the year, you ask). Hopefully the kids didn't have too much fun in my absence: the landlord is back, and he plans to clean house.

- Brewskie

Friday, April 10, 2009

Interesting Russian Oil Exec. Wisdom

Rigzone has a posting of Rosneft head Sergey Bogdanchikov predicting investment shortfalls for Russia's oil industry. That's not the reason I'm posting this, rather it's his insight of what sets the price of oil:

Bogdanchikov also said that at present 93 percent of the new oil deposit development projects are unprofitable due to fiscal burden and high tariffs for natural monopolies. In his words, "fiscal burden and income tariffs constitute around 70 percent of the price of oil". Thus, he said, "an oil company manages only 7 percent of the price of oil; everything else is taken away".

On revising Russia's tax system:

In a time of global financial crisis, the head of Rosneft thinks, "the oil sector needs a completely new tax system." He said that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had instructed ministries and agencies to draw up a new tax system under which profit, not earnings, will be taxed, as is the case in other countries. "If this is done quickly we will have investment resources for the development of the sector," he said.

- Brewskie

The Healing Catalyst

Imagine a car that repairs scratches or dents by itself automatically; imagine a ship or a bridge that continuously heals itself," thus never rusts. This could all be possible some day. Chemists have recently designed a catalyst that initiates self-repair or becomes stronger under mechanical stress. Check it out here or catch the excerpts below:

For the first time, chemists have designed catalysts that are activated by mechanical stress. Embedded in self-healing coatings, such catalysts might initiate repair reactions when scratched or stressed. The mechanically triggered catalysts could also find applications in industry to improve yields of plastics, drugs, and other substances.

The mechanically activated catalysts were designed by Rint Sijbesma, a professor of chemistry at Eindhoven University of Technology, in the Netherlands, and are described today in the journal Nature Chemistry. Some existing catalysts can be activated by heat or light pulses, allowing chemists greater control over the progress of chemical reactions. But the new catalysts are the first example of catalysts activated by mechanical stresses.

Sijbesma's catalysts take advantage of a property of polymers that chemists have known about for many years. When polymers are exposed to great enough force, they are pulled taut, and the stress causes chemical bonds to break. Where the bond breaks, however, is difficult to control. Sijbesma designed carbon-based polymers containing two catalysts bridged by a metal atom. In this state, the catalysts are inactive. The carbon-metal bond is the polymer's weakest, and under stress, it's the one that breaks, leaving behind active catalytic sites.

"The coupling between mechanical energy and chemistry remains less well developed than, say, photo, thermal, or electrical energy," says Jeffrey Moore, a professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. In 2007, Moore was the first to demonstrate a reaction designed to be initiated by mechanical stresses. But this reaction didn't involve a catalyst and can only happen once. Once Sijbesma's catalyst is activated, it can make reactions happen again and again. "It is rare that new chemical concepts of such a fundamental nature are uncovered and demonstrated," says Moore.


Sijbesma says that the catalysts' earliest uses are likely to be in self-healing materials and stress sensors. "The presence of a lot of stress in a material indicates that it is about to fail," he says. "Our stress-sensitive catalysts may react to this signal by starting a polymerization reaction that reinforces the material precisely at the place and the time it is needed." Self-healing coatings would prevent cars, ships, and bridges from rusting without the need for frequent reapplications.

- Brewskie

Shale Gas Predicted to Meet Half of N. America's Supply by 2020

The Calgary-based Ziff Energy Group predicts shale and other unconventional sources of natural gas will supply half of North America's market by 2020:

Despite a far-reaching industry downturn, a new report says unconventional natural gas from shale is expected to account for more than half of North America's gas supply by 2020.

According to Calgary-based Ziff Energy Group, unconventional gas production from shale, coal beds and "tight" sandstones will more than double to 46 billion cubic feet (bcf) per day from 21 bcf per day in 2000.

About 16 bcf per day -- more than Alberta's current gas output from all sources--will come from shales in Canada and the United States, where prolific deposits such as the Horn River in northeastern British Columbia are thought to contain trillions of cubic feet of potential resources.


In its report, Ziff notes that shales in the U. S. currently produce about five billion cubic feet a day, with three-quarters of that originating in the Barnett deposits near Dallas.

- Brewskie

China's Hungry Ambition to Become the Electric Car Capitol

Napoleon may have been a sage when he said, "Let China sleep, for when she awakes, she will shake the world (article link here)."

Senior Chinese officials on Friday outlined how they aimed to turn their country into the world’s largest producer of electric cars, including a focus on consumer choice rather than corporate subsidies.

Speaking at a conference at the government’s prestigious Diaoyutai guesthouse here, the officials acknowledged that their efforts faced challenges in terms of the cost and safety of electric cars. They promised a nationwide effort by manufacturers, universities, research institutes and government agencies to overcome these obstacles.

We need to be sustainable in different sectors, particularly in the auto sector,” he said.

Zhang Shaochun, a vice minister of finance, said that the government wanted to let the market determine which electric vehicle models would become popular. So while the government is providing some research subsidies, the main step will be to provide very large subsidies for buyers of electric cars — already up to 60,000 yuan, or $8,800, for purchases by taxi fleets and local government agencies.

"The fiscal subsidy gives voting rights to the consumer,” he said.

China also has a 10 billion yuan ($1.46 billion) program to help the industry with automotive innovation.

In the United States, the government is providing $25 billion to help cover Detroit’s research costs in the coming years.


Electric car makers may find it easier to gain a following in the Chinese market than in other countries. First-time buyers in China are less accustomed to the power of gasoline-powered cars; most commutes are short and slow because of traffic jams; and Chinese law makes it hard for consumers to sue automakers for safety problems.

- Brewskie

Thursday, April 9, 2009

2008 Oil Demand Graphs

Displayed below are 2008 oil demand graphs. They are from the January issue of Oilwatch Monthly. Dr. Clifford Wirth's folly is the gift that keeps on giving.

As you can see, OECD demand dropped 4 mbpd between 2005-2008.

The U.S. has put up a modest effort, shedding 1.5 mbpd...

The EU-27...

The "techno-twins," Japan and South Korea, have put up a stalwart effort.

And China and India.
- Brewskie

New, Cheaper Method for Shale Oil

A Technology Review article on a new method to draw oil out of shale:

A new ceramic-composite material that can withstand high temperatures and
constant exposure to moisture could provide an economical way to unlock
America's vast oil-shale deposits.

U.S. oil-shale resources hold three times as much crude oil as the whole of Saudi Arabia. But unlike with the gushing fields of the Middle East, extracting oil from shale is like trying to squeeze juice out of frozen lemons. Traditionally, the shale has been surface mined like coal and heated until an oil-like substance called kerogen turns to liquid and oozes out. But this is an expensive, energy-hungry, and carbon-intensive approach that, like much of the extraction happening in Canada's controversial oil sands, is also devastating to the local environment. More recently, companies such as Royal Dutch Shell have developed ways to tap the oil in situ, by drilling boreholes that are thousands of feet deep and feeding into them inch-thick cables that are heated using electrical resistance and that literally cook the surrounding rock. The
kerogen liquefies and gradually pools around an extraction well, where the oil-like fluid can easily be pumped to the surface.

The process involves no mining, uses less water than other approaches, and doesn't leave behind man-made mountains of kerogen-sapped shale. And according to a Rand Corporation study, it can also be done at a third of the cost of mining and surface processing. One technical hitch, however, lies with the heater cable employed. The most common cables used today are insulated with a layer of magnesium oxide, which can deform, degrade, and ultimately short out over time under intense heat, constant exposure to moisture, and the occasional shifting of rock at great depths. Replacement and maintenance can be costly.

- Brewskie

Hybrid Nanogenerator Collects Sunlight, Mechanical Energy

A recent post by Technology Review on a new type of nanogenerator:

Nanoscale generators can turn ambient mechanical energy--vibrations, fluid flow, and even biological movement--into a power source. Now researchers have
combined a nanogenerator with a solar cell to create an integrated mechanical- and solar-energy-harvesting device. This hybrid generator is the first of its kind and might be used, for instance, to power airplane sensors by capturing sunlight as well as engine vibrations.

Nanogenerators typically use piezoelectric nanowires--hairlike zinc oxide structures that generate an electrical potential when mechanically stressed--to produce small amounts of power. The first such devices were made by Zhong Lin Wang, a professor at Georgia Tech and director of the institute's Center for Nanostructure Characterization. Wang hopes that nanogenerators will one day eliminate the need for batteries in implantable medical sensors, and will eventually generate enough power to charge up larger personal electronics.


It combines two previously developed technologies, both of which rely on zinc oxide nanowires, in a layered silicon substrate. The top layer consists of a thin-film solar cell embedded with dye-coated zinc oxide nanowires. The large surface area of the nanowires boosts the device's light absorption, a design based on work by Peidong Yang, a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. The bottom layer contains Wang's nanogenerator. On the underside of the silicon is a jagged array of polymer-coated zinc oxide nanowires in a toothlike arrangement. When the device is exposed to vibrations, these "teeth" scrape against an underlying array of vertically aligned zinc oxide nanowires, creating an electrical potential.

The solar cell and the nanogenerator are electrically connected by the silicon substrate itself, which acts as both the anode of the solar cell and the cathode of the nanogenerator. It is possible to string together large groups of solar cells and nanogenerators, but having them integrated in a single system takes up less space and is also more energy efficient. The prototype device can generate 0.6 volts of solar power and 10 millivolts of piezoelectric power. While the prototype device had only one nanogenerator, Wang expects to increase the power output by creating devices with multiple layers of nanogenerators. He says that a likely first application of these devices might be in sensor-laden military aircraft. The U.S. Air Force recently issued a call for research funding proposals related to hybrid energy-scavenging devices.

- Brewskie

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

So-called "Great Depression II" Fizzling?

I follow Mark Perry's popular blog, Capre Diem. I consider myself fairly liberal, and don't always agree with everything he posts. However, Mark covers a lot of ground and he makes some interesting points. I highly regard his opinion that, while the current recession is bad, the idea we're in America's second Great Depression are greatly exaggerated. A recent post postulates our housing slump may have bottomed; you can find the post here and read an argument here.

Doom boyz, you're running out of options.

- Brewskie

Japan Throws Chavez a Socialist Golden Parachute

It's all about oil and natural gas today, folks; Japan throw Venezuela a $33.5 billion bone...

Japan will invest $33.5 billion in Venezuela, mostly in oil, natural-gas and chemical projects, President Hugo Chavez said at the end of a state visit.

Investments from the Asian nation include $10 billion within five years in liquefied natural gas, $8 billion in petrochemicals, $1.5 billion in refining and $4 billion in a joint-project finance fund, Chavez said, according to an e- mailed statement sent by his press office. Chavez didn’t specify where the remaining $10 billion would be invested, according to the statement.

Chavez is on a tour to secure energy investments after declining oil prices forced him to cut government spending in March. He met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week and will travel to China after concluding a two-day visit to Japan today, where he met with Prime Minster Taro Aso.

Venezuela secured $8 billion of investment in its Orinoco oil belt over five years from Japanese companies, Chavez told reporters in Tokyo today. South America’s biggest oil exporter wants to sell more to Japan and China and diversify away from its biggest overseas market, the U.S., he said.

Hugo has better opinion of Barrack...

Chavez, a long-time critic of former U.S. President George W. Bush, praised president Barack Obama’s desire to end global conflicts and said it may be possible to work together with his administration. Chavez, who last month called Obama an “ignoramus,” today said the first African-American U.S. president was “blacker” than former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

- Brewskie

Iran: Oil, Oil, Oil...

After experiencing a dry spell in oil and gas news the past several weeks, suddenly, I've hit the blowout jackpot. Here's Iran's new mega-finds:

Iran is reporting huge new discoveries of oil that contain "billions" of barrels of reserves, state radio quoted the managing director of the country's National Oil Co. as saying today.

Seyfollah Jashnsaz said Iran has discovered seven new oil fields in unspecified locations around the country.

"Billions of barrels of oil will be added to the country's existing oil reserves," he said in comments broadcast on state radio.

According to Jashnsaz, just one of these oil fields has 9 billion barrels of oil.

"Even if we make calculations based on the minimum 12% recovery rate," he said, "it means that 1 billion barrels of oil can be recovered from this field alone."

He added that further details of the find will be announced by the country's minister of oil in coming days.

Iran already has the world's third-largest oil reserves, behind first-place Saudi Arabia and Canada. It recently added that its reserves had grown to 138 billion barrels from 90 billion barrels, thanks to reserves discovered over the last three years.

Ghawar Guzzler comment: Let's not forget that if Iraq can hold its shit together, this will add huge pools of black goo to the world market; it will likely find new, impressive discoveries once it (hopefully) gets its feet on the ground.

Message for idiots: this blog has made it quite clear that the world is not running out of oil or natural gas, and fantastic developments in alternative/renewable energy are being witnessed. Please stop telling us the world is going to hell.

- Brewskie

Anadarko Hard at Work

This is just a recent article about an indpedenant oil company most people have never heard (at least those not in the oil industry). I call them a "mini-Petrobras."

In the hunt for black gold, one of the most intriguing and prospective regions these days is is offshore Ghana. A series of recent discoveries looks likely to turn the west African nation’s biggest export into crude oil, elbowing aside Freddy Adu.

It’s the type of high-risk, deep-water exploration play that once favored oil majors with their deep pockets and deep benches of managers and experienced engineers. But the companies hitting gushers there are mid-caps such as Tullow Oil PLC and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. They are partners in the Jubilee field, one of the most eye-popping new discoveries of recent years.

A similar situation is unfolding in Brazil’s Santos Basin, home to Tupi, one of the biggest oil finds in a generation. You won’t find BP PLC or Royal Dutch Shell PLC there – although Exxon Mobil Corp. is drilling a highly anticipated prospect. For the most part, the work is by national company Petroleo Brasileiro SA and a clutch of smallish players like Repsol-YPF SA, Hess Corp. and the microscopic Portuguese firm Galp Energia SGPS SA.


For Anadarko, Jubilee is just the start. “It’s established a potential trend for us, a resource play we can pursue in other countries,” says CEO Jim Hackett in an interview. The company has already hit pay dirt in the area just outside Jubilee, acquired exploration acreage in Liberia and is testing waters off the coast of Sierra Leone this year.

Fields like Jubilee have helped Anadarko become one of the fastest-growing independents. Between 2005 and last year it doubled its resource base, adding 1 billion barrels last year alone. This year it’s focusing on three mega oil projects that will eat up 20% of its capex of about $4.5 billion – a field in Algeria, one in the Gulf of Mexico, and Jubilee.

- Brewskie

Not Bad for an Ametuer in Brazil's Waters

Spanish oil company hits 550 million barrel find; euro slacker!

Shares in Spanish oil company Repsol YPF SA (REP) outperformed the Madrid market early Tuesday after the announcement of commercial viability and the existence of 550 million barrels of oil equivalent, or BOE, in oil and gas reserves at Brazil's Piracuca field.

Repsol rose 2.4% to EUR14.21 at 0748 GMT, while the IBEX-35 index rose
1.5%. Repsol (REP) holds 37% in the BM-S-7 block off the coast of Sao Paulo that contains Piracuca. Brazil's government-controlled energy giant Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PBR), which holds a 63% operating stake, had made the announcement Monday night.

Recoverable reserves at the field pale when compared to other recent Brazilian discoveries such as Tupi in the Santos Basin, which is estimated to hold up to 8 billion barrels of oil equivalent. But Piracuca is nevertheless a valuable mid-sized find, BPI analyst Pablo Pena-Rich said. "It's quite positive for Repsol, especially as the find is above the salt layer, which makes production cheaper," he said.

The find could add an upside of 4.5% to Repsol shares, Pena-Rich said. BPI has a EUR16.55 target and a hold recommendation for Repsol.

Piracuca lies at a water depth of only 200 meters, compared to about 2,000 meters for most sub-salt layer deposits, which also lie several thousand meters deeper below the sea bottom.


Piracuca lies about 200 kilometers off the city of Santos in Sao Paulo state.

- Brewskie

Monday, April 6, 2009

Like Total Recall

It never ceases to amaze how often science fiction is a prelude to scientific reality; Brooklyn researchers are opening the door to the editing of memory...

Suppose scientists could erase certain memories by tinkering with a single substance in the brain. Could make you forget a chronic fear, a traumatic loss, even a bad habit.

Researchers in Brooklyn have recently accomplished comparable feats, with a single dose of an experimental drug delivered to areas of the brain critical for holding specific types of memory, like emotional associations, spatial knowledge or motor skills.

The drug blocks the activity of a substance that the brain apparently needs to retain much of its learned information. And if enhanced, the substance could help ward off dementias and other memory problems.

So far, the research has been done only on animals. But scientists say this memory system is likely to work almost identically in people.

The discovery of such an apparently critical memory molecule, and its many potential uses, are part of the buzz surrounding a field that, in just the past few years, has made the seemingly impossible suddenly probable: neuroscience, the study of the brain.


Now neuroscience, a field that barely existed a generation ago, is racing ahead, attracting billions of dollars in new financing and throngs of researchers. The National Institutes of Health last year spent $5.2 billion, nearly 20 percent of its total budget, on brain-related projects, according to the Society for Neuroscience.


Dr. Fenton had already devised a clever way to teach animals strong memories for where things are located. He teaches them to move around a small chamber to avoid a mild electric shock to their feet. Once the animals learn, they do not forget. Placed back in the chamber a day later, even a month later, they quickly remember how to avoid the shock and do so.

But when injected — directly into their brain — with a drug called ZIP that interferes with PKMzeta, they are back to square one, almost immediately. “When we first saw this happen, I had grad students throwing their hands up in the air, yelling,” Dr. Fenton said. “Well, we needed a lot more than that” one study.

They now have it. Dr. Fenton’s lab repeated the experiment, in various ways; so has a consortium of memory researchers, each using a different method. Researchers led by Yadin Dudai at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel found that one dose of ZIP even made rats forget a strong disgust they had developed for a taste that had made them sick — three months earlier.

- Brewskie

100W DC Motor Achieves Near 100% Efficiency

A piece of work unveiled by Tokai University:

Researchers at Tokai University developed a brushless DC motor that coverts electric power to motor output at a conversion efficiency of more than 96%.

The announcement was made at the 56th Spring Meeting of the Japan Society of Applied Physics, which took place from March 30 to April 2, 2009, at the University of Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan.


The DC motor features a "rated output of about 100W" and uses iron-based
amorphous metal for the motor core (See related article). The conversion efficiency is as high as 96.5% when the output is around 100W.

This time, the high efficiency motor was realized by tracking down the
causes of energy loss and making some improvements to reduce the loss. Specifically, motor energy loss is attributable to (1) power consumption of the control circuit (controller loss), (2) loss from the coil winding (copper loss), (3) loss due to current surge in the core (iron loss) and (4) loss from rotation axis friction and air resistance (mechanical loss, windage loss).

The high efficiency of more than 96% was achieved mainly by improving (1) and (2). Specifically, a microcomputer featuring a low power consumption of 156mW was employed to reduce the controller loss. In addition, an inverter composed of nMOSFETs alone was used. This is because the on-state resistance of nMOSFET is lower than that of pMOSFET, Kimura said.

In respect to the copper loss, it was reduced by optimizing the thickness of the coil winding and the winding number. Copper loss generally increases as the current supplied to the motor becomes larger. Therefore, the reduction significantly contributes to the improvement, he said. The iron loss was reduced by using iron-based amorphous metal as the core material. This is because amorphous metal has low electron mobility, resulting in less current surge, Kimura said. However, the same material was used in the motor developed in 2003.

- Brewskie

Genius Viruses Make Battery

You never know what those dandruff-laden nerds at MIT are up to:

In the future, your car could be built with viruses.

Scientists at MIT have concocted a lithium-ion battery in which the cathode and the anode, the positive and negative electrodes that swap charges, were partly put together by genetically modified viruses. It works as follows. The viruses are genetically engineered to secrete specific proteins. In turn, these proteins react to other chemicals in their environment to form structures.

For the cathode, the viruses were able to first attract and bind iron phosphate and then carbon nanotubes to create a network of conductive material. For the anode, the viruses attracted cobalt oxide and then gold particles to form a nanowire. The anode was developed three years ago, but the cathode and whole battery is new. Building the cathode was more difficult because cathodes need to conduct electricity rapidly. The carbon nanotubes, which conduct electricity faster than metals, help in this regard.

The prototype battery is a coin battery, but conceivably cell and larger batteries for powering cars could be made from this process. Right now, it can go at least 100 charges before performance tapers off, but that number will increase.


Various green companies are tinkering with ways to use bugs on the factory floor as a way to replace energy-intensive processes (like cooking chemicals at high temperatures to produce other compounds) or noxious, fossil fuel based
substances. Genomatica, for instance, has devised organisms that can produce chemicals like methyl ethyl ketone (see Genomatica: Microbe-Made Chemicals Could
Save Empty Ethanol Plants). Several companies want to make ethanol or synthetic petroleum from bugs. More often than not, these researchers use genetically modified forms of e coli because its genome and ways to modify it are well understood. Many call it the workhorse of biotech.

The leader on the project is Angela Belcher, the Germeshausen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biological Engineering. Belcher has been one of the leading scientists in exploring ways to exploit microbes and been the recipient of several awards. Some of her work has included devising organisms that secrete chemicals that can help bind insulating layers inside semiconductors or organisms that can detect weak points and stress lines in things like airplane wings. Cambrios Technologies was spun out a few years ago to commercialize some of her inventions. (She got into the field by wondering why abalones can produce hard shells out of what is essentially chalk.)

- Brewskie

Fort Worth to Decide on Nat. Gas Play

The City of Fort Worth will vote Tuesday Chesapeake Energy's drilling plan:

The City Council will vote Tuesday on a natural gas drilling plan for 7,000 acres in south Fort Worth.

The city sits over about 6 percent of the Barnett Shale gas field and already has more than 1,000 wells. Chesapeake Operating, which proposed the plan, says it's the first large-scale master drilling plan in the city.


The meeting will start with an informal workshop at 3 p.m., followed by the voting session at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1000 Throckmorton St.

- Brewskie

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Updates for 4/5/09

Another clogged up week! Here's some more food to chew on:

  • Oil and gas industry takes a leave of absence: the news with both have been slow, so that's why I haven't posted much on either lately.

- Brewskie

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mining the Deep Oceans

"'Ders plenty more in dem thar ocean floor 'sides oil." Gold, diamonds, iron ore, copper - who needs to worry about running out of resources (at least for the immediate future, until technological enlightenment kicks in some # of decades down the road)? Like deep and ultra-deep oil drilling, underwater mining technology is coming along, too, though its years away from large-scale operations. Sounds crazy? Drilling in the North Sea was crazy three decades, consisting of high expense, and a fair sum of worker casualties under the wrath of the North Sea's cold, storm-tossed water; but now it's achieved without batting an eye, and it looks like a community college science project compared to what Petrobras, and others are doing presently.

Read here or scope out the link:
There's gold in that thar sea floor. Silver, copper, zinc and lead, too. The problem is, it's a mile or two underwater and encased in massive mineral deposits that layer a dark, mysterious world. But new technology and worldwide demand have combined to make mining for these metals economically feasible for the first time.

A breakthrough project is moving forward in New Guinea, and new rules to govern deep ocean mining will be set by an international authority this spring.

On Thursday, scientists, businessmen and policymakers from 20 countries meet on Cape Cod for a public forum on how to best extract these riches while protecting hidden worlds in the earth's oceans. Strange animals, from six-foot tubeworms to "blind" shrimp, thrive in water as acidic as battery acid, near "hydrothermal vents" that spew out mineral-laden liquid as hot as 750 degrees.
Scientists have long known about remarkably pure concentrations of metals found near some of the hydrothermal vents, nicknamed "black smokers" because they resemble underwater chimneys.

The vents sprout in areas with heavy seismic activity, including the mid-Atlantic ocean ridge and the Pacific's volcanic "Ring of Fire," which stretches along the west coast of the Americas, to Asia and down near New Zealand. There, the earth's spreading plates allow sea water to seep into the earth's crust, where it becomes heated, leaching precious minerals from the surrounding rock. Eventually, the water is hot enough to become buoyant and bursts toward the surface, similar to when cold milk is poured into a cup of coffee, gets heated and rises to the top. The minerals cool in the frigid sea water and solidify into the deposits.

About 200 active vents have been found, though only 10 nearby deposits are considered prolific enough to mine, according to a report by the International Seabed Authority. Dormant vents are much tougher to locate, but the deposits around them may also be fruitful.

The ISA report indicates a single deposit could weigh 100 million tons.
The first full-scale deep ocean mining project is being run by Canada-based Nautilus Minerals Inc., which is negotiating to mine an area about 1,600 meters (5,249 feet) deep off Papua, New Guinea, and hopes to be operating by 2011 or 2012. The project is piggybacking on technology developed by oil companies for deep water drilling, said Scott Trebilcock, Nautilus's vice president of business development.

Deposits would be extracted by 180-ton, remotely operated machines that oil companies developed to dig trenches for pipelines. The material is pumped in a mix of sea water to a ship on the surface, then pumped down so that the highly acidic water doesn't kill surface level sea life. The Nautilus project is planned within New Guinea's territorial water, a 200-mile zone from every country's coastline where it has exclusive ocean floor mining rights. But Trebilcock said the rules set by the ISA at its annual session, beginning in late May, will likely set precedents for all projects.

Most of the earth's known hydrothermal vents are outside the 200-mile zones, in open ocean that is under the jurisdiction of ISA, which was established in 1982 by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The United States still has not signed onto the Law of the Sea treaty, which has been stalled for decades by Senate opponents who say it requires the country to surrender important sovereignty rights.
- Brewskie

"Smooth" Carbon Nanotube Breakthrough

Some of the latest nanotechnology happenings at UConn:

Imagine you are looking through a very high-powered microscope at the smallest tube in the world – a single-walled carbon nanotube so tiny that a million can fit on the head of a pin.

Imagine too that the exterior of the tube is covered in small irregular bumps caused by oxygen molecules that cling to the outside like barnacles on a pier. Now imagine trying to slide something – a slightly larger tube perhaps – over the bumpy tube to smooth out the surface.


But now, chemistry professor Fotios Papadimitrakopoulos and a team of researchers in the Nanomaterials Optoelectronics Laboratory at the Institute of Materials Science have found a way to smooth the surface of nanotubes, in what
Papadimitrakopoulos describes as a major nanotechnology breakthrough that could have significant applications in medical imaging and other areas.

By developing a process in which a chemical ‘sleeve’ tightly wraps itself around the nanotube, Papadimitrakopoulos managed to not only create a smooth new surface on the nanotube but also to ‘clean’ its underlying exterior of defects in a way that has never been accomplished before.

Carbon nanotubes have traditionally been very poor emitters of light because of their bumpy exterior defects and have therefore been limited in some of their echnological and medical applications.

As a result of the newly discovered wrapping process, Papadimitrakopoulos managed to increase the luminescence efficiency – the light emitting capability – of the nanotube 40-fold.


Increasing the luminescence efficiency of carbon nanotubes may someday make it possible for doctors to inject patients with microscopic nanotubes to detect tumors, arterial blockages, and other internal problems.


Their luminescence also allows them to readily integrate with silicon-based
technology. This provides an enormous repertoire for nanotube use in advanced fiber optics components, infrared light modulators, and biological sensors.

The key to the discovery was a flavin-based (Vitamin B2) helical wrapping that formed an especially tight and seamless barrier around the nanotube.

A computer animation of the carbon nanotube wrapping process can be found here.

- Brewskie