Friday, July 31, 2009

Towering Statement: 32-Story Condo, One Tenant

Lol! Send this guy a neighbor.

- Brewskie

Cash-for-Clunkers' Impact

Here's some info. of CARS' recent impact:

--Roughly two thirds of deals have resulted in consumers receiving $4500 credit, which applied to only the most fuel efficient trades.

--During the week that the 'Cash for Clunkers' program was launched, GM's small car sales increased 54.8 percent over the preceding week.

--Toyota moved 78 percent of their Cash for Clunkers volume on vehicles that together average 30 mpg, and 39 percent of volume on the Corolla and Prius, which together average 39.5 mpg.

--Ford has seen an average of 7 mpg improvement on Clunkers trades, which represents an estimated annual fuel savings of 228 gallons per customer. The 28 mpg (EPA) Ford Focus is nearly 30 percent of all Ford's Clunker sales.

--Mazda, as of yesterday, saw 57 percent of transactions reported by dealers to be for the purchase of the MAZDA3, the brand's most fuel efficient model at 27 mpg (EPA).

- Brewskie

Media Matters to Run Anti-Lou Dobbs Ads on CNN

Lou Dobbs is cankerous, he is old. He is a true idiot. His true political affiliations long guessed, at best, uncertain - he goes up and down the dial to suit his purposes, his ratings - Lou has made a true fool of himself by becoming the bull horn for the birthers movement.
Now there's plenty of people who dislike Obama, but even some of his most ardent critics, Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly, have denounced the birthers movement, bringing into question the rationality of their paranoid thesis.

Media Matters is plenty pissed about this; in fact, they recently bought air time for anti-Lou Dobbs adds... on CNN!

A Media Matters spokesman tells me the group has bought a week of ad time on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News in D.C., New York, and Atlanta, beginning Tuesday. The catch: Media Matters has specifically purchased time to air the ad during Dobbs' show -- putting CNN in the position of either running the spot or nixing it and making this a bigger story.

And Lou's recent rants haven't been good for ratings, either:

Yesterday we noted that CNN host Lou Dobbs' "birther" obsession -- the right-wing theory Dobbs has been trumpeting that President Obama has no U.S. birth certificate, is an "undocumented" alien, and his presidency is "illegal" -- has been good for creating controversy and hot feelings but bad for CNN's ratings. In short, since Dobbs began talking Obama birth certificate conspiracy theories on his radio show, his audience on CNN has decreased by 15 percent.

Interesting - did you know Lou Dobbs graduated from Harvard? Finally, someone who makes the peakers look scholarly. There's certainly a fair amount of Obama I don't like, but this reeks of racism. Please... can anyone envision a white American woman flying to Africa, getting knocked by a tribesman, and trusting primitive 1960s tribal health care over America's?

BTW - in case any birther idiots are reading this, here's Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate. Move on, losers.

- Brewskie

Fusion on the "Cheap"

Vancouver-based startup General Fusion says it can build fusion power plant on the "cheap:" $1 billion; and its says it can do it in a decade.

Read below or click here for the full breath:

Unlike the $14 billion ITER project under way in France, General Fusion's approach doesn't rely on expensive superconducting magnets--called tokamaks--to contain the superheated plasma necessary to achieve and sustain a fusion reaction. Nor does the company require powerful lasers, such as those within the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, to confine a plasma target and compress it to extreme temperatures until fusion occurs.

Instead, General Fusion says it can achieve "net gain"--that is, create a fusion reaction that gives off more energy than is needed to trigger it--using relatively low-tech, mechanical brute force and advanced digital control technologies that scientists could only dream of 30 years ago.

It may seem implausible, but some top U.S. fusion experts say General Fusion's approach, which is a variation on what the industry calls magnetized target fusion, is scientifically sound and could actually work. It's a long shot, they say, but well worth a try.


The prototype reactor will be composed of a metal sphere about three meters in diameter containing a liquid mixture of lithium and lead. The liquid is spun to create a vortex inside the sphere that forms a vertical cavity in the middle. At this point, two donut-shaped plasma rings held together by self-generated magnetic fields, called spheromaks, are injected into the cavity from the top and bottom of the sphere and come together to create a target in the center. "Think about it as blowing smoke rings at each other," says Doug Richardson, chief executive of General Fusion.

On the outside of the metal sphere are 220 pneumatically controlled pistons, each programmed to simultaneously ram the surface of the sphere at 100 meters a second. The force of the pistons sends an acoustic wave through the lead-lithium mixture, and that accelerates into a shock wave as it reaches the plasma, which is made of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium.

If everything works as planned, the plasma will compress instantly and the isotopes will fuse into helium, releasing a burst of energy-packed neutrons that are captured by the lead-lithium liquid. The rapid heat buildup in the liquid will be extracted through a heat exchanger, with half used to create steam that spins a turbine for power generation, and the rest used to recharge the pistons for the next "shot."

The ultimate goal is to inject a new plasma target and fire the pistons every second, creating pulses of fusion reactions as part of a self-sustaining process. This contrasts with ITER, which aims to create a single fusion reaction that can sustain itself. "One of the big risks to the project is nobody has compressed spheromaks to fusion-relevant conditions before," says Richardson. "There's no reason why it won't work, but nobody has ever proven it."


General Fusion's basic approach isn't entirely new. It builds on work done during the 1980s by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, based on a concept called Linus. The problem was that scientists couldn't figure out a fast-enough way to compress the plasma before it lost its donut-shaped magnetic confinement, a window of opportunity measured in milliseconds. Just like smoke rings, the plasma rings maintain their shape only momentarily before dispersing.

Nuclear-research giant General Atomics later came up with the idea of rapidly compressing the plasma using a mechanical ramming process that creates acoustic waves. But the company never followed through--likely because the technology to precisely control the speed and simultaneous triggering of the compressed-air pistons simply didn't exist two decades ago.

Richardson says that high-speed digital processing is readily available today, and General Fusion's mission over the next two to four years is to prove it can do the job. Before building a fully functional reactor with 220 pistons on a metal sphere, the company will first verify that smaller rings of 24 pistons can be synchronized to strike an outer metal shell.

Good luck!

- Brewskie

House Approves Additional $2 Billion for Clunkers

Due to popular demand, the US House of Representatives approved legislation to give an additional $2 billion to CARS.
The US House of Representatives passed legislation Friday that willcontinue a program designed to trade in inefficient cars for new ones, justone day after the week-old $1 billion effort exhausted its funds due tocustomers rapidly trading in their old vehicles.

The "Cash-for-Clunkers" legislation gives $2 billion to the Department ofTransportation out of the Obama administration's $787 billion economicstimulus
bill. The lopsided 316-109 vote showed huge support for a program,which is supported by auto manufacturers, unions, and dealers.

DOT launched the program last week after the legislation became law this summer.It originally included $1 billion to get 250,000 cars traded in fornew ones, but DOT and the White House informed Congress Thursday the money wasexhausted.

"This is an unprecedented success," said Representative Betty Sutton, an Ohio Democrat who introduced the original legislation creating the program.

Consumers could get $3,500 or $4,500 rebates to hand in their old car.The size of the rebate depends upon the fuel economy of the original vehicleand of the new vehicle, with more money going toward a greater difference inthe two.

The money to keep the program alive will be taken out of the $6 billionrenewable energy loan guarantee program run by the Department of Energy. The$2 billion taken out of the renewables program was intended to be spent nextyear but Democratic leadership determined that it could be better spent now oncash-for-clunkers.
- Brewskie

Oil's Artieries Getting Clogged

(Big warning: Wheeww... this went far further than originally envisioned, but it's worth it. Grab some potent caffeine or relax with some fine wine, sit back and learn.)

Demand is down, supplies are bloated but price seems to defy conventional wisdom. This blog has been adamant of an inevitable price drop. Perhaps some think Brewskie's a crazy fool: "That coot has no idea what he's talking about!" Be as it may, the law of ECON 101 is this: an entity or entities - be it government authority or manipulative market speculators - can defy "supply and demand" fundementals for a while, but in the end, fundementals always comes back to bit you.

Here's several articles predicting a looming drop.

OPEC is beginning to think the supply waves are making the rats sea sick:

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is bracing for a sharp drop in crude prices in coming weeks, as huge reserves of oil-based fuels continue to pile up and the space to store them runs out.

Stockpiles of fuels such as diesel and heating oil are at a 24-year high in the U.S. because of tepid demand from industries and consumers hammered by the global economic downturn. Conditions in the futures market have also made it very profitable for traders to store these fuels, known as distillates.

So far OPEC has been able to head off a sustained collapse in oil prices through big production cuts, and U.S. oil prices have shrugged off the excess supply, taking their cue from rising stock markets and investors' expectations of an economic recovery.

But if the anticipated economic turnaround doesn't materialize to soak up the growing distillate glut, as some OPEC officials fear, supplies will grow even larger, dragging down oil prices despite the cartel's efforts.


This concern is prompting some at OPEC, whose 12 members pump about four of every 10 barrels of oil consumed around the world every day, to consider further output reductions. The OPEC official wouldn't rule out an agreement to cut production at the group's next policy meeting Sept. 9.

But any further announced cuts may not have much market credibility. Some OPEC members, including Angola, Iran and Venezuela, are already selling more barrels than they agreed to in order to capture more revenue. Some members, like Saudi Arabia, may have no appetite for more reductions when other OPEC nations are shirking their commitments.


Although refiners have been running their plants well below last year's levels for some time, the cuts haven't been enough to offset dismal demand for diesel and other fuels. Last week, distillate demand dropped 15% from the same period in 2008.

Futures prices have also contributed to the build-up in U.S. fuel supplies. Prices for heating-oil deliveries farther out into the future have been sharply higher than prices for near-term contracts. The wide difference in prices, plus low interest rates, has encouraged traders to buy distillates, store them and enter into contracts to sell them in the future for a higher price.

"They've got huge forward premiums," said Jim Ritterbusch, who runs an oil-trading advisory firm in Galena, Ill.

As a result, distillate stocks surged to 160.5 million barrels last week, 25% higher than during the same period last year and the highest level since 1985.

Here's another blip of OPEC getting jittery:

Well, OPEC is not relaxing. This summer, the oil cartel is concerned about a substantial drop in the price of oil in the weeks ahead. That's correct: OPEC is concerned about prices plummeting.

The price of oil has risen 20 percent in two weeks to over $68 per barrel. It shows no sign of a sustained easing, despite the global recession, and yet producers of 40 percent of the world's oil are fearing a price collapse. Is OPEC disconnected from reality or are they on to something?

U.S. inventories of key fuels such as diesel and heating oil are at 24-year highs, according to data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Meanwhile gasoline demand remains flat to barely rising, on a year-over-year basis. Demand for all of the above has been hurt by the recession, and OPEC fears if demand soon doesn't materialize to use the record-high stored oil, a major price break to the downside will ensue.

OPEC is predicting it will be at least four years before oil demand recovers to 2008 levels:

OPEC says that demand for its crude has fallen so sharply because of the
world recession that it will take another four years to recover to 2008 levels.

The forecast is one of several in OPEC annual report on oil supply and demand outlook to 2030 that reflects how the global recession has crimped the world's appetite for energy.

The report says the world will need 87.9 million barrels of crude a day by 2013 — nearly 6 million barrels less than previously expected. OPEC would need to produce 31 million barrels a day for its share compared to a daily 31.2 million barrels last year.

Let's not forget University of Calgary professor Phillip Verleger's latest bet that oil is set to crater:

A crude surplus of 100 million barrels will accumulate by the end of the year, training global storage capacity and sending prices to a seven-year low, said Verleger, who correctly predicted in 2007 that prices were set to exceed $100. Supply is outpacing demand by about 1 million barrels a day, he said.

“The economic situation is not getting better,” Verleger, 64, a professor at the niversity of Calgary and head of consultant PKVerleger LLC, said in a telephone nterview yesterday. “Global refinery runs are going to be much lower in the fall. If the recession continues and it’s a warm winter, it’s going to be devastating.”

Getting sick of dirty speculation? So is Washington:

Federal regulators moved closer on Tuesday to issuing new rules to limit oil speculation, addressing concerns that Wall Street firms may have manipulated
the price of oil through financial trading.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission held the first of three hearings to explore ways to keep financial firms from amassing such large positions in energy markets that they have outsized power to affect prices.


Concerns that speculators were influencing oil prices bubbled up last summer when the price of a barrel of oil spiked to an all-time high. At the time, the CFTC leadership was not interested in pursuing new regulations to limit speculation. And the agency issued a controversial report suggesting that the rising oil prices were the result of natural factors of supply and demand.

Gensler, who became chairman in May, has said he thinks speculators
have helped to boost the price of oil. In the interview, he said he hopes that his agency could officially propose new rules in the fall to govern energy speculation. The price of oil has increased by about 50 percent this year.

One factor that may play into the debate is a report the CFTC is scheduled to release next month about the types of firms, such as banks and hedge funds, that hold big positions in energy investments. CFTC officials said the report, which will be updated periodically, is not expected to cast judgment on whether speculation is influencing oil prices. If, however, it shows that few players dominate the market, the information could be used by those who support curbs on oil speculation.


Testifying at Tuesday's CFTC hearing were several key market participants,
including the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, which represents companies that buy fuel. The association endorsed new limits.

"It is abundantly clear that large-scale, institutional investors speculating in the energy markets continue to act as the driving force behind energy prices," said Sean Cota, treasurer of the association.

Just how big of finks are the rats?

This time, Wall Street speculators — some of them recipients of billions of dollars in taxpayers' bailout money — may be to blame.

Big Wall Street banks such as Goldman Sachs & Co., Morgan Stanley and others are able to sidestep the regulations that limit investments in commodities such as oil, and they're investing on behalf of pension funds, endowments, hedge funds and other big institutional investors, in part as a hedge against rising inflation.

These investors now far outnumber big fuel consumers such as airlines and trucking companies, which try to protect themselves against price swings, and they're betting that the economy eventually will rebound, that the Obama administration's spending policies and Federal Reserve actions will trigger inflation — or both — and that oil prices will rise.

I posted this 60 Minutes clip about last year's speculative-fueled oil price climb several times; here's some noteworthy words...

"Approximately 60 to 70 percent of the oil contracts in the futures markets are now held by speculative entities. Not by companies that need oil, not by the airlines, not by the oil companies. But by investors that are looking to make money from their speculative positions," Gilligan explained.

Gilligan said these investors don't actually take delivery of the oil. "All they do is buy the paper, and hope that they can sell it for more than they paid for it. Before they have to take delivery."

"They're trying to make money on the market for oil?" Kroft asked."Absolutely," Gilligan replied. "On the volatility that exists in the market. They make it going up and down."

Here's an article from last year that describes how active Morgan Stanley is in oil speculation ALONE:

Morgan Stanley is now a major provider to wholesalers of heating oil in the Northeastern U.S. It has custody of a quarter of America's strategic reserve of
home heating oil. And it is the second-most-active U.S. seller of electric power, ahead of scores of utilities, according to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rankings.

Here's an article I found off of Peak Oil Debunked. Isn't this a coincidence? Major Wall Street banks started getting into the oil game around 2004!

A LARGE WAREHOUSE in Amsterdam may seem an unusual place to attract the City’s top traders and hedge funds. But, in the past few months, Morgan Stanley has been accumulating warehouse space in the Netherlands to store its hottest new property — oil.


Morgan Stanley may be among the most advanced of the new breed of oil speculators, but, over the past year, many banks and hedge funds have joined the
“black gold rush”. With the stock market proving lacklustre, the oil market has been a godsend for the banks, which describe it as the “new Nasdaq”.

Speculators have helped to drive oil prices to near record levels — peaking at almost $50 a barrel last month. Oil is the talk of the City with many millions of pounds being made every day, and oil traders are among the most sought-after employees.


However, this traditional equilibrium has been rocked by short-term speculators dipping in and out of the futures market. This has led to sharp rises in the price and far more volatility. Meanwhile, banks such as Morgan Stanley are also beginning to move into the physical market to buy oil — or even entire oilfields.

Morgan Stanley recently won the contract to supply fuel to United Airlines, and Goldman Sachs recently bought 10m barrels of oil.

A senior oil company executive said: “Even within this firm, the mechanics of the market are not widely understood. When oil prices go up, everyone talks about fundamentals and geopolitics, but the role of speculators and banks is now very significant.”

Brewskie thought: Again, it will be made very clear that oil's recent price climb has had nadda bearing on my life. In fact, as I've posted in the past, the $100+ bs of last year was something barely noticed in my budget, so I could care less if oil sits in the $60-$70 price-range; it can sit here permanently for all I care. In fact, if you look on the bright side, higher energy prices increase people's interest and motivation in energy, in alternative energy. Let's not forget what happened last fall when oil dropped below $100 per barrel: people thought it was a bargain. So is $60-$70 oil expensive? Hardly, please.

In the end, I'm simply making a logical argument that, oil's recent price has been tied to manipulative market speculation, not true supply and demand fundamentals; thus, it's in my strongest belief oil's price will inevitably drop.

Thanks for your distracted attention!

- Brewskie

Chesapeake's Gas Production Growth Continues Unabated

So much for cheap gas and oversupply: Chesepeake Energy Energy Corp., America's largest independent gas producer, saw production grow 5% in the second-quarter compared to a year ago:

Production grew 4% from the first quarter of the year, and proved reserves grew 5.7% from a year ago.

The increase signals that Chesapeake is apparently abandoning the strategy it adopted earlier this spring of turning off some of its wells due to low prices. Prices haven't improved much since April, when the company said it was shutting down about 13% of its production, but the company has nonetheless turned those wells back on.


Chesapeake warned, however, that the industry may be forced to shut off some wells later this year as storage facilities and pipelines fill up, leaving no room for more gas. Earlier on Thursday, the Energy Information Administration reported that the amount of gas in storage had risen 71 billion cubic feet in the past week to more than 3 trillion cubic feet, 19% above normal.

Storage levels are rising because U.S. companies are continuing to produce more natural gas even as the recession has driven down demand for the fuel, which heats more than half of American homes and generates roughly a quarter of the nation's electricity. The glut of gas has driven the price down to under $4 per million British thermal units, from a high of more than $13 per million BTUs last year.

But in recent days, companies that have reported big production gains have seen their share prices rise, despite fears that increased supplies could keep prices low. Newfield Exploration Co., for example, saw its stock jump 11% Thursday after it reported unexpectedly large production growth.


Chesapeake saw some of its biggest production gains in the Haynesville Shale, a massive natural-gas field in northern Louisiana and East Texas that the company discovered last year. Chesapeake's production there grew 85% in the second quarter from the first quarter.

- Brewskie

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Planck's Law Breaks at the Nanoscale

Planck's Law has long been the final word on the transfer of heat between two objects. Physicists, however, have long predicted this law breaks down when objects are very close. Now amidst the heavenly glow of Next Big Future, researchers have found heat transfers can be 1,000 times greater than Planck's Law allows:

The new findings could lead to significant new applications, including better design of the recording heads of the hard disks used for computer data storage, and new kinds of devices for harvesting energy from heat that would otherwise be wasted. By using the glass (silica) beads, they were able to get separations as small as 10 nanometers (10 billionths of a meter, or one-hundredth the distance achieved before), and are now working on getting even closer spacings.

The new findings could also help in the development of new photovoltaic energy conversion devices to harness photons emitted by a heat source, called thermophovoltaic, Chen says. "The high photon flux can potentially enable higher efficiency and energy density thermophovoltaic energy converters, and new energy
conversion devices," he says.

Next Big Future had a post on micron gap thermal photovoltaics, an obvious beneficiary of this discovery, posted earlier.

Thermal photovoltaics use solar cells to convert the light that radiates from a hot surface into electricity. The first applications will be generating electricity from waste heat, eventually the technology could be used to generate electricity from sunlight far more efficiently than solar panels do. In such a system, sunlight is concentrated on a material to heat it up, and the light it emits is then converted into electricity by a solar cell.

In a thermal photovoltaic system, light is concentrated onto a material to heat it up. The material is selected so that when it gets hot, it emits light at wavelengths that a solar cell can convert efficiently. As a result, the theoretical maximum efficiency of a thermal photovoltaic system is 85 percent.

In practice, engineering challenges will make this hard to attain, but DiMatteo says that the company's computer models suggest that efficiencies over 50 percent should be possible. The prototypes aren't this efficient: they convert about 10 to 15 percent of the heat that they absorb from the glass-factory exhaust into electricity, which DiMatteo says is enough to make the devices economical.

- Brewskie

FedEx to Convert "Beater" Delivery Trucks into Hybrids

FedEx plans to convert older delivery trucks into hybrids.

The company chose 92 of its 2000 and 2001 model trucks with 300,000 - 500,000 miles on them to be fitted with new hybrid drivetrains. So, not only does this approach have the benefit of reduced fuel consumption and emissions from those
92 trucks, but it also prevents 92 trucks from ending up in a trash heap.

FedEx says the upgraded trucks will have a 44 percent increase in fuel economy, a 96 percent decrease in particulate matter and a 75 percent decrease in smog-causing emissions like NOx. The trucks will be used on routes in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

- Brewskie

Energy Recovery Thirsty for New Desalination Markets

The desalination guru company, Energy Recovery, has a parched throat for other things...

The Norwegian-American-Kuwaiti company – which held one of the few IPOs in greentech last year – today unfurls the PX-300, a larger, fine-tuned version of its energy capture devices for desalination plants. The PX-300 can process 300 gallons per minute, or more than its earlier versions.

The new device will likely be deployed in arrays in the large seawater desalination plants being currently constructed or planned in Australia, the Middle East and China where the flow can reach tens of thousands of gallons per minute. Energy Recovery commands approximately 70 percent of the market for its component, said Richard Stover, the company's CTO.

Resorts on the Red Sea and Baja are big purchasers of the systems. "In some of these places, there is no infrastructure," said Stover, adding that the company is also examining new markets.

Energy Recovery wants to start making equipment for brackish water desalination plants, which are more common in the U.S., as well as the emerging forward osmosis systems championed by, among others, Yale spin-out Oasys.

It is also working with Starkraft Energi in Norway to generate power through osmosis. Starkraft, optimistically, believes it could generate most of Norway's power through osmotic pressure gradients created where Norway's many streams and rivers meet the sea. The initial stage of a pilot will begin later this year.


Energy Resources in a lot of ways can be considered the weirdo of desalination. Reverse osmosis desalination is effectively an energy-intensive pressure play: Water gets forced through a fine membrane that removes seawater. Energy Recovery's machines do not remove salt. Instead, they harness the pressure in the wastewater stream that flows from reverse osmosis systems and then feed it to the pressurizing machines at the front of the process, thereby lowering the total energy required.

Exploiting this pressure drastically reduces the amount of energy required to purify water, which in turn lowers the cost. Energy costs have been the Achilles' heel of desalination.It took around 20 kilowatt hours per cubic meter to desalinate water with traditional multi-stage systems, he said. Reverse osmosis membranes dropped that to 8 kilowatts to 10 kilowatt hours per cubic meter.

Putting a turbine in the waste stream and turning the pressure into waste stream drops it to 5 kilowatts to 6 kilowatts per cubic meter.

Energy Research's pressure harvesting technique drops it to 2 kilowatts per cubic meter. The system is also 97 percent efficient on average, which in turn makes the reverse osmosis process 60 percent efficient. Turbine systems – which convert hydraulic power to mechanical power and then to electricity – can't match that, he argued.

- Brewskie

EPA's CNG Conversion Fees are a Ripoff

I noticed this little bit in a forum today. One reader commented the high cost of converting a car to CNG (an explanation of why this is is posted here) and linked a report (it's in German, sorry)about European CNG conversion which can be done for 2,000-3,000 Euros. If the federal government wants to get on the global energy playing field, plus get serious about CNG, it needs to seriously scale back those ridiculous certification fees ($100,000 per engine type; do you wonder why CNG conversion is expensive?) and encourage additional mechanics to become certified.

- Brewskie

Gas Reserves Continue to Grow

Pass the Beeno; US natural gas reserves continue to grow:

The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that natural gas inventories held in underground storage in the lower 48 states grew by 71 billion cubic feet to about 3.023 trillion cubic feet for the week ended July 24.

Analysts had expected an injection of between 70 billion and 74 billion cubic feet, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

The inventory level was 18.8 percent above the five-year average of about 2.545 trillion cubic feet, and 23.3 percent above last year's storage level of about 2.452 trillion cubic feet, according to the government data.

- Brewskie

Venezuelan Block May Hold 6 Billion Barrels

A Venezuelan oil block, Junin 7, is being studied for resource potential; it may hold 6 billion barrels of recoverable reserves.

A Venezuelan oil block being studied by Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PdVSA, and Spain's Repsol YPF SA has up to 6 billion barrels of recoverable reserves, and production at the site could begin by 2012, Venezuelan officials said Wednesday.


The so-called Junin 7 block, Chavez said, will be developed by a joint Venezuelan-Spanish company, and it will produce up to 200,000 barrels of crude a day. It will require upgrading facilities to improve the tar-like crude, he added.

PdVSA and Repsol agreed to start working together on Junin 7, located in the Orinoco oil belt in eastern Venezuela, in 2005. The Orinoco area is considered to be one of the main reserves of heavy and extra heavy crude in the world.

Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said the studies on Junin 7 could be finished this year. Once the joint-venture company is approved sometime next year, production could begin two years after that, he said.

Brewskie comment: Great, Hugo, your country found more oil. Now why don't your let your oil companies fill their vital posts with skilled oil personnel, rather than your sycophantic thugs. Oil is the lifeblood of your economy, you don't have a supply problem, or any difficulty finding oil. Have you figured out why production is around 2 mbpd, down from 3.5 mbpd before you entered power?

- Brewskie

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cranking Out Technology for More Oil

Contrary to public perception, abandoned oil wells and fields still have plenty of oil in them - the problem is its heavier stuff with a thicker viscosity, making it more difficult to extract, more difficult to refine. The truth is roughly a 1/3rd of all the oil in a field is ever extracted with today's technology. Oil companies have dreamed for decades that - if the remaining 2/3rds, or even partial fraction could be extracted - it would be an industry boon that would last for decades. Here's an article that describes just such attempts:

One of the latest attempts to learn where the oil is hiding would involve injecting hundreds of millions of tiny carbon clusters deep into natural underground reservoirs, where changes to their chemical makeup would signal whether they've come across oil, water or other substances.

The clusters, referred to as "nanoreporters" and roughly 30,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, also can tell the temperature, pressure and other factors that can help a company zero in on more oil.

Major oil companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips and Marathon, are funding the research at Rice University. Scientists at Rice say they hope to begin field tests in the next year.


If oil companies could recover 50 percent of the crude in their fields instead of 35 percent, it would double the world's proven reserves of about 1.2 trillion barrels, the IEA says.

Though it could take a couple of decades to reach 50 percent, even a modest increase in the amount of oil recovered in coming years will alter the debate about peak oil — the point at which half the world's reserves have been depleted.

The debate pits those who say there's enough oil to last a hundred years or more against those who see a looming scramble for a shrinking supply. The latter group foresees supply shortages and price spikes that could cripple the global economy (pfffft... whatever).

Nansen Saleri, the former head of reservoir management for Aramco, Saudi Arabia's national oil company, said improving worldwide recovery rates by 10 to 15 percent could provide an additional 50-year supply of oil at current consumption rates.

"I'd say 15 to 20 percent (recovery) is doable, especially if you assume we're going to be in a robust price environment," said Saleri, whose Houston-based consulting business, Quantum Reservoir Impact, helps producers improve recoveries.


As they're [nanoreporters] pumped with water through a reservoir's nooks
and crannies, the molecular makeup of the Rice University nanoreporters is designed to change depending on what they encounter — petroleum, hydrogen sulfide, other substances.

The nanoreporters have tags similar to bar codes on retail packages that will tell scientists how long they've been underground — three months, six months, nine months, longer. Companies can then pinpoint where oil might be trapped. For example, if a large number of nine-month nanoreporters come across oil while three-month nanoreporters don't, scientists can assume the crude is deeper in the reservoir.


BP says advancements in technology — including gas injection — will likely allow it to recover 60 percent of the oil at its massive Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska. The original estimate three decades ago was 40 percent.

- Brewskie

Saudi Armaco Getting Smarter with Water

Water injection, or waterflooding, is standard operating procedure with oil extraction: it's a way to sweep out oil in reservoirs and to maintain pressure. Don't let Matthew Simmons's freak attack of "Saudi Arabia is injecting millions of gallons of water into Ghawar" scare you; oil fields typically don't deplete until water cuts (the percentage of water the oozzes out of an oil well) crosses the 50% threshold; Ghawar's is roughly 28%.

Saudi Aramco is betting on new research to eviscerate (such a harsh, unusual term for this matter) more oil out of reservoirs. Armaco's new mojo - "Smart Water." It is indeed smart: the thought is by manipulating particular water properties - say, salinity and ionic content; the need of foreign fluids and chemicals are minimal for this - waterflooding can be enhanced by "coercing" the stubborn, rather difficult oil that prefers to stay in place by coming out, rather than staying put like a fat welfare queen stuck to a fat welfare magnet (her couch).

Read below or catch the whiff here.

Oil reservoirs are made of porous rocks, and from their microscopic pores, oil is extracted. Injecting conventional seawater displaces significant amounts of the oil from the pores. But some immovable oil remains, clinging to the rock.

Tuning water properties such as salinity and ion composition can change the tendency of remaining oil to cling to reservoir rocks, leading to additional oil recovery. That is one of the potential mechanisms that could explain the substantial increase observed in recent research.

- Brewskie

Marcellus Balloons

The Marcellus Shale got a super size upgrade: 500 tcf.

New calculations show the Appalachian Basin's Marcellus Shale formation could yield enough natural gas to supply all U.S. needs for nearly two decades -- dramatically more than previous estimates.

Penn State University geosciences professor Terry Engelder projects nearly 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could be produced from the entire formation, which is found in portions of five states, including most of Pennsylvania. Engelder published his latest estimate in the August issue of Fort Worth Oil and Gas Basin magazine.

"If the natural gas from the Marcellus could be extracted on demand, the Marcellus alone would last the U.S.A. more than 19 years, producing 489 trillion cubic feet of gas," Engelder said Monday. It was Engelder and Gary Nash, a professor at State University of New York at Fredonia, who stirred interest in the natural gas industry early in 2008 when they projected that production in the Marcellus Shale formation could bring massive expansion of the industry.

Late last year, Engelder made news with an estimate that 392 trillion cubic feet could be produced -- 13 times the amount the nation uses on an annual basis. Western Pennsylvania's average natural gas consumer uses about 98,000 cubic feet annually.

Brewskie thought: more upgrades are likely on the way.

- Brewskie

IFC to Drill More $$$ into African Oil

The IFC plans to increase investment in sub-Saharan African oil and gas; it sees "'significant' opportunity in Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania."

"Africa is a focus region for us,” Kamal Dorabawila, the IFC head of oil and gas in Africa, said in an interview from Cape Town today.

The lending arm has invested in $400 million to Africa, about 19 percent of its global oil and gas total, he said.

Ghana expects to pump 500,000 barrels of oil a day by 2014 as it seeks to boost supplies to the domestic market and become Africa’s newest crude exporter. Tullow Oil Plc. has drilled 25 wells in the Lake Albert Rift Basin in Uganda since January 2006, of which 24 found oil and gas.

IFC, Standard Chartered Bank Plc, BNP Paribas SA, Societe Generale SA, Absa Group Ltd. and Calyon are among financial institutions that helped Kosmos Energy LLC get a $750 million loan to fund Ghana’s Jubilee Field phase one development.

Jubilee “is a world class oil discovery” and Ghana’s offshore is a highly prospective area, Dorabawila said.

- Brewskie

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Shanghai Says to Couples, "Relax and Get Busy."

Shanghai is relaxing China's One Child Policy and is encouraging couples to go for doubles.
Fears that an ageing population could be left unable to support itself mean that China's biggest city and financial centre, Shanghai, is overhauling the decades-old One Child Policy and encouraging couples to have a second baby.

Many couples will be excluded from the new diktat, but if both parents were an only child, like most newly-weds in the city, they will be encouraged to conceive again, in an effort to ensure that the city's workforce is not outnumbered by its pensioners.

The rules are already in place, but so far not enough families have taken advantage of the exception. As a result, family planning authorities are going on the offensive, putting flyers under doors and making home visits to make the case for a second baby.
- Brewskie

OriginOil's Algae Biofuel Breakthrough

Yup, yup... I'm 100% cocksure that breakthroughs will make algae biofuel viable on a cost-competitive scale. It may be a few years away, perhaps as far as 10, but some herd of eggheads is going to nail this. I'm putting my ego's stock in this like I pumped it into shale gas: betting it would be abundant, it would become cheaper to produce, that it would be a viable energy source far past our lifetimes (and look what happened). So, without further ado, let's check into OriginOil's latest proclamation:

OriginOil, based in Los Angeles, just announced another potential breakthrough in getting oil from pond scum. One big difference from the spate of recent announcements in the algae-sphere: Origin’s new technology promises a better way to “milk” algae to extract their natural oils.

The upshot is that Origin uses electrical pulses to get at the oil inside algae without killing them, leaving them alive to produce more oil. Other processes rely on “harvesting” the algae, extracting the oil, then waiting for a fresh batch of algae to grow. Origin plans to merge the two methods—culling part of the algae and milking part of it.

The company says it is a low-tech and thus lower cost solution than other ideas that have been making the rounds. Most of those rely on genetically-engineering algae to excrete hydrocarbon-like liquids. And cost is still a huge issue for algae-to-oil operations, even if the cavalry is coming in the form of more government goodies.

- Brewskie

Solar Prices Shine in the Solar Glut

Solar's taken a beating this year, but there's one bright spot: cheap polysilicon, thus cheap solar products. Go shoppin', frugal "stingies..."

Prices for polysilicon, the raw material used in photovoltaic solar cells, keep plunging thanks to abundant supply and weak demand. It’s not just spot prices that are falling, but renegotiated contract prices also, says New Energy Finance, London-based clean-energy analysts.

“The new contract price of silicon for delivery in 2009 is down some 50% on that contracted for a year ago and now close to the spot price of $67/kg, equivalent to $0.50 per watt,” wrote NEF in a note today. The old contract prices averaged $150 per kilogram, while spot prices had jumped to $300 per

That may be bad news for the companies that process silicon—they’ve been squeezed by falling prices for their product since the credit crunch and a collapse in key solar markets. But it could be good news for the sector as a whole, notes NEF:

These prices suggest that leading manufacturers of crystalline silicon PV modules can afford to sell below $2/watt and still make a small profit. This is half the price of modules in 2008, making PV much more competitive with fossil fuel-generated electricity and much more attractive under subsidy regimes designed for 2008 prices.

- Brewskie

N Dakota May Have Another Bakken

Oil industry workers now speculate N Dakota may have another Bakken-like formation within her arms, the Three-Forks Spanish Formation:

The Three Forks-Sanish formation is made up of sand and porous rock directly below the Bakken shale. But geologists don't know whether the Three Forks-Sanish is a separate oil-producing formation or if it catches oil that flows from the Bakken shale above.

Fort Worth, Texas-based XTO Energy Inc. has reported to the state that one of its Three Forks wells pulled more than 2,100 barrels a day. An ETO Energy spokeswoman said the company does not comment on its operations publicly.

State and industry officials are conducting a study to determine whether the Three Forks is a unique reservoir. The plan is to compare results from closely spaced wells, one aiming for the Three Forks, and the other at the Bakken. Researchers will look at pressure changes in the formations to determine if they are connected.

Results from the study could be ready later this year, officials say. It already is spurring some speculation that the state has billions of barrels more in oil reserves.

"Eventually it could equal the Bakken, which is remarkable, and that's an understatement," Helms said.

"Is it the same or is it a separate formation? I think everybody is hoping for the latter," Harms said. "That could literally double the potential we have — a Bakken 2, if you will."

Kelso, of Whiting Petroleum, said his company's drilling activity shows that Three Forks likely is a separate formation. He said core samples taken from the Bakken and Three Forks show more hydrocarbons in the latter.

"From the core samples, Three Forks looks better for us than the Bakken," he said.

Promising production results from the Three Forks could mean that companies that come up empty in the Bakken could use existing leases to drill in the same area for Three Forks oil.

In regards to the Bakken, the latest production statistics I've crawled upon were posted in an article by Platts, stating production was at 202,000 bpd in June, thus making N Dakota the nation's fifth-largest oil producer. For a little memory recap, let's consider an assessment performed by the Oil Drum last year:

If total production amounts to only 500 million barrels, as I have suggested, this would equate to about 23 days worth of United States oil usage, spread over many, many years.

Looking at future production another way, the recent peak in production has been 75,000 barrels of oil per day (discussed in more detail below). Even if operators are able to triple this amount, the resulting production of 225,000 barrels a day (which would be a considerable challenge), will amount to only about 1.1% of US oil consumption, assuming the US uses about 20.7 barrels of oil a day, based on EIA data.

If we can reach 225,000 barrels of oil per day, the history of Bakken suggest this level would be short-lived - the peak production will probably last for a year or less - because as we shall see below, total Bakken production can be expected to decline to 50% or less of its peak rate within a few years, because of the steep decline rate of individual wells.

The 202,000 bpd production is N Dakota's share alone; the Bakken Formation stretches into Montana and Saskatchewan. Although production statistics of the two territories have not been found, it seems safe to assert 24,000 bpd has been squeezed between the two, and the Drum's bumbling forecast has turned out naught. Even if Bakken's ultimate production turns out modest - say, 400,00 bpd - this will still incinerate the Drum's seasoned forecasters; and now, it seems, Bakken has a big sibling.

- Brewskie

Monday, July 27, 2009

Turning Crusty Mines into Geothermal Powerhouses

Research suggests one way to help former mining towns, economically depressed from a mine's closure, is to turn the once sure-fire cash source into a geothermal power source.
"One way of making use of low-intensity geothermal energy is to convert mine shafts into geothermal boilers, which could provide heating and hot water for people living nearby", Rafael Rodríguez, from the Oviedo Higher Technical School of Mining Engineering, tells SINC. This type of energy, which is hardly used in Spain, is obtained from the internal heat of the Earth.

The engineer and his colleague María Belarmina Díaz have developed a "semi-empirical" method (part mathematical and part experimental) to calculate the amount of heat that could be produced by a mine tunnel that is due to be abandoned, based on studies carried out while it is still in use.
The study looks into geothermal exploitation of a two-kilometre-long mine shaft, in which the temperature of the rocks 500m below the surface is around 30º C. This is typical of many of the mining areas in Asturias, although it could also be applied to other parts of the world. Water could be forced in through tubes at 7º C and return at 12º C, a big enough heat gain to be of benefit to towns located above the mines.

Rodríguez and Díaz highlight the benefits of building geothermal boilers in mine shafts in that, aside from their predictable energy production levels, they also function practically as an open tube system "but without any risk of heat
contamination of aquifers".
- Brewskie

Can Hydrocarbons Form Deep in the Earth Without Organisms?

Weird science now suggests the possibility that ethane and heavier hydrocarbons do synthesize in the upper mantle:

The research was conducted by scientists at the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory, with colleagues from Russia and Sweden, and is published in the July 26, advanced online issue of Nature Geoscience.

Methane (CH4) is the main constituent of natural gas, while ethane (C2H6) is used as a petrochemical feedstock. Both of these hydrocarbons, and others associated with fuel, are called saturated hydrocarbons because they have simple, single bonds and are saturated with hydrogen. Using a diamond anvil cell and a laser heat source, the scientists first subjected methane to pressures exceeding 20 thousand times the atmospheric pressure at sea level and temperatures ranging from 1,300 F° to over 2,240 F°. These conditions mimic those found 40 to 95 miles deep inside the Earth. The methane reacted and formed ethane, propane, butane, molecular hydrogen, and graphite. The scientists then subjected ethane to the same conditions and it produced methane. The transformations suggest heavier hydrocarbons could exist deep down. The reversibility implies that the synthesis of saturated hydrocarbons is thermodynamically controlled and does not require organic matter.


The hydrocarbon products did not change for many hours, but the tell-tale chemical signatures began to fade after a few days.

Professor Kutcherov, a coauthor, put the finding into context: "The notion that hydrocarbons generated in the mantle migrate into the Earth's crust and contribute to oil-and-gas reservoirs was promoted in Russia and Ukraine many years ago. The synthesis and stability of the compounds studied here as well as heavier hydrocarbons over the full range of conditions within the Earth's mantle now need to be explored. In addition, the extent to which this 'reduced' carbon survives migration into the crust needs to be established (e.g., without being oxidized to CO2). These and related questions demonstrate the need for a new experimental and theoretical program to study the fate of carbon in the deep Earth."

- Brewskie

Holy Fast Fracin'

"Faster-cheaper, faster-cheaper." It sounds like a train going over railroad tracks. That's the new-borne and permanent fate of shale gas. ExxonMobil is brandishing a shale gas fracing technique, one that significantly cuts shale gas drilling costs, and cuts fracing time from weeks down to mere days (link):
In the 1980s, frac jobs could take months. Now a complicated frac typically takes a couple of weeks. Exxon's Tolman developed a method to fracture a Piceance Basin well in three days, and he thinks he can compress it to 24 hours.

The key is to conduct every activity simultaneously. Everybody thought that was impossible until Tolman persuaded his colleagues to experiment.

While working on a natural gas well in La Barge, Wyo., in the 1980s, Tolman noticed something strange. Natural gas was flowing out of the well without pushing out or damaging the wire that operators had dropped into the well.

Years later, while descending an elevator at Exxon's corporate building in Houston, Tolman had an idea. Why not use this phenomenon to perform simultaneous functions on a well? That's exactly what he is doing at the site in Colorado.

Plenty of other natural gas producers operate wells in the Piceance Basin, but Exxon controls the sweet spot on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management.

The company has been producing small amounts of natural gas in the basin since the 1950s, with interests on 300,000 acres, holding enough gas to heat 50 million homes for a decade.

Exxon began a significant expansion here in 2007, after scientists developed drilling and fracing methods that could make the operations profitable. Exxon now operates seven rigs in the Piceance Basin and produces 100 million cubic feet a day. Project executive Branch said the company could eventually increase to 1 billion cubic feet a day.
- Brewskie

The Biofuel Breakthrough to End All Biofuel Breakthroughs?

I'm called a cornucopian in the subject of our planet's energy matters; however, Joule Biotechnologies, you guys take the cake. These guys could be geniuses or fools... a process, apparently, that can make 20,000 gallons of biofuel per acre, per year, and is supposedly cost-competitive with $50 oil. Is this too good to be true?

Read below or assimilate the full info. here.

Joule Biotechnologies grows genetically engineered microorganisms in specially designed photobioreactors. The microorganisms use energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into ethanol or hydrocarbon fuels (such as diesel or components of gasoline). The organisms excrete the fuel, which can then be collected using conventional chemical-separation technologies.

If the new process, which has been demonstrated in the laboratory, works as well on a large scale as Joule Biotechnologies expects, it would be a marked change for the biofuel industry. Conventional, corn-grain-based biofuels can supply only a small fraction of the United States' fuel because of the amount of land, water, and energy needed to grow the grain. But the new process, because of its high yields, could supply all of the country's transportation fuel from an area the size of the Texas panhandle. "We think this is the first company that's had a real solution to the concept of energy independence," says Bill Sims, CEO and president of Joule Biotechnologies. "And it's ready comparatively soon."

The company plans to build a pilot-scale plant in the southwestern U.S. early next year, and it expects to produce ethanol on a commercial scale by the end of 2010. Large-scale demonstration of hydrocarbon-fuels production would follow in 2011.


The new approach would also be a big improvement over cellulose-based biofuels. Cellulosic materials, such as grass and wood chips, could yield far more fuel per acre than corn, and recent studies suggest these fuel sources could replace about one-third of the fossil fuels currently used for transportation in the United States. But replacing all fossil fuels with cellulose-based biofuels
could be a stretch, requiring improved growing practices and a vast improvement
in fuel economy.

Algae-based biofuels come closest to Joule's technology, with potential yields of 2,000 to 6,000 gallons per acre; yet even so, the new process would represent an order of magnitude improvement. What's more, for the best current algae fuels technologies to be competitive with fossil fuels, crude oil would have to cost over $800 a barrel says Philip Pienkos, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO. Joule claims that its process will be competitive with crude oil at $50 a barrel. In recent weeks, oil has sold for $60 to $70 a barrel.

Joule's process seems very similar to approaches that make biofuels using algae, although the company says it is not using algae. The company's microorganisms can be grown inside transparent reactors, where they're circulated to ensure that they all get exposed to sunlight, and they are fed concentrated carbon dioxide--which can come from a power plant, for example--and other nutrients. (The company's mioreactor is a flat panel with an area about the size of a sheet of plywood.) While algae typically produce oils that have to be refined into fuels, Joule's microorganisms produce fuel directly--either ethanol or hydrocarbons. And while oil is harvested from algae by collecting and processing the organisms, Joule's organisms excrete the fuel continuously, which could make harvesting the fuel cheaper.

David Berry, one of the company's founders and a board member, says the organism they use was selected and modified to work well in a bioreactor, and the bioreactor was designed with the specific organism in mind. He adds that the company carefully considered issues such as the organism's response to heat, and the reactor was built to keep the heat within bearable limits. Overheating has been a problem with
bioreactors in the past.

This is an entertaining read; however, until fate is fully able to judge the merits accordingly, I'm choosing to default to the skeptic's chair. This is way too pollyanish. Regardless, let's hope fate
reflects your proclamation. If so, you'll put me out of business far earlier than expected...

- Brewskie

Friday, July 24, 2009

Halliburton Goes Gangbusters in Chicontepec

(Blogger's note: It will be made very clear that Halliburton - a virus of a company that nefariously piggy-backs Uncle Sam's dime in the Iraqi War, and under some operations, actually costs the taxpayer more money (than if than if the matter was conducted by the military itself) - is a company not endorsed by the blog. Again, while it shall be stated that Ghawar Guzzler is not a political blog, the blogger never endorsed the Iraqi War, nor the war-profiteers who've gained from it)

Halliburton plans to drill 170 wells in Chicontepec:

Petroleos Mexicanos has awarded Halliburton Co. a $159 million contract to drill 170 wells in Mexico's Chicontepec region, marking the Houston-based company's debut in an area where its main competitors have an established presence.

Pemex, as Mexico's state oil company is known, said the contract will last three years and involve four drilling rigs. Mexico is ramping up activity at Chicontepec to compensate for declining production at the country's traditional oil fields.

Pemex expects Chicontepec to pump 40,000 barrels a day in August and 60,000 barrels a day by the end of the year. At the start of 2009 the company had higher expectations of 70,000 barrels a day on average; it expects over 700,000 bpd by 2017.

- Brewskie

14 Trillion Cubic Feet: Namibia's Blue Gold Strike

I won't have much news today, but here's a gold strike: Russian oil and gas exploration company Sintezneftegaz discovered what could be a 14 trillion cubic feet gas reservoir off the western coast of Namibia.

Russian oil and gas exploration company Sintezneftegaz (also rendered as Sintezneftgaz in western script) has discovered what could be a major natural gas reservoir off the coast of Namibia. According to Namibian Ministry of Mines and Energy Petroleum Commissioner Immanuel Mulunga the find could be a “gas resource of up to 14-trillion cubic feet”.

Quoted by, he added that it “was not possible to fully evaluate the hydrocarbon potential of the penetrated sections due to operational problems during testing.

The reservoir quality of the tested zones was not very good, perhaps due to nearby igneous activity.”If the estimated size of the new discovery proves to be accurate, it will be some ten times larger than Namibia’s Kudu gas field, which has reserves of some 1,3-trillion cubic feet. Kudu is expected to come into production in 2013.

The strike was made by the Kunene-1 well in offshore exploration Block 1711 in the Kunene Prospect region of the Namibian Basin. This lies on the northern part of Namibia’s continental shelf and forms part of the Kwanza-Cameroon oil and gas-bearing province.

- Brewskie

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Recharge Your Nissan EV Via Wireless Recharger

Nissan wants to leapfrog its competitors and gun for EVs that can be recharged without a cord. Good, bad?
Nissan wants to follow the route of the electric toothbrush – that is, invent a way for us to charge EVs (or their EVs, at least), using a wireless charger. Electric toothbrush batteries are refueled by inducing a charge without actually making contact between battery and electricity source.

So, too, Nissan hopes that one day we can park electric cars over a scaled-up version of the same charger, and refuel them without lifting a finger.However, there’s a reason that we only use induction chargers for the occasional piece of technology such as the toothbrush, and don’t use them for most mobile electronic devices (ok, with the exception of the Palm Pre): they take longer to charge, and they are more expensive and complex than a simple wire plug.

Obviously, though, Nissan’s engineers know all that. And Nissan is certainly going to be sticking to conventional plugs for now – they are unveiling their 2012 model EV on August 2, and although they claim that it was designed to be compatible with future induction technology, it will be charged by a regular plug. And Nissan’s partner Renault is busy designing cars to work with Better Place’s system, which most certainly involves a physical cord.
In fact, Nissan’s vision goes beyond just parking spots. Nissan sees an even wider system of wireless charging, built into the very roads that we drive on, so that we can refuel as we drive. Sound farfetched and inefficient? Perhaps, but what if you got stuck in a traffic jam, and your battery began to dwindle? Would you pay a little extra to be able to charge on the go in those situations?
- Brewskie

Columbia Announces Largest Oil Field in its History

It's oil, oil, oil today; burning petroleum is blazing up the bandwidth. Columbia announced an upward reserve projection of an oil field: 500 million barrels, up from 100 million (link).
A Colombian oil field, operated by state petroleum company Ecopetrol ECO.CN and Canada's Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp, is estimated by the government to have 500 million barrels in reserves.

If the estimate is correct, it would make the field, located in the southern province of Meta, the biggest in Colombia. The Andean country is in a race against time to discover reserves in order to avoid becoming a net petroleum importer.

"Rubiales' reserves, which were initially estimated at 100 million barrels, today are estimated at 500 million barrels," Energy Minister Hernan Martinez said late Wednesday.
- Brewskie

46 Fields: Iran's Caspian Sea Blowout

Despite its reputation as an oil development headache, Iran has recently reported the discovery of 46 oil fields within the Caspian Sea:
Iran's Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said that his country located 46 oil fields in the Caspian Sea, the satellite Press TV reported on Thursday.

"Eight of the fields (out of 46) are presently ready for exploitation," Nozari was quoted as saying.

On Thursday, Iran launched its domestically-built semi-submersible drilling rig in the Caspian Sea for the exploration of oil and gas reserves.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad participated in the inaugural ceremony of the semi-submersible rig called Iran-Alborz, the largest in the Middle East, according to another report by Press TV.

Reportedly, the semi-floating rig weighs 14,000 tons and will facilitate oil exploration in the southern part of the Caspian Sea. It can operate at water depths up to 1,030 meters and can drill down to 6,000 meters under the seabed.

After winning the international tender offered by the National Iranian Oil Company for the construction of the Iran-Alborz platform in 2002, the (Iranian) Sadra Group, with a 95 percent of share, kicked off the project in a joint venture with the Swedish company GVA, which held another 5 percent of share, Press TV said.

Iran also plans to build a new oil pipeline linking the northern port of Neka in the Caspian Sea to the southern port of Jask in the Sea of Oman, Press TV quoted Nozari as saying.

According to the report, Iran's Deputy Oil Minister Noureddin Shahnazizadeh had said earlier that initial studies for the 2-billion-U.S.-dollar pipeline had been concluded and that the ministry would move to sign a contract soon.
Earlier in the year, Iran reported whopper-sized mega-finds, and years prior, made headlines with the discovery of the Ferdows and Mound/Zageh Fields.
- Brewskie

Single Atom Substitution in Water Purfication Process Gives Purified Water Long Shelf Life

Amazing what a persnickety touch to the science of the minute yields:

By substituting a single atom in a molecule widely used to purify water, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have created a far more effective decontaminant with a shelf life superior to products currently on the market.

The water-treatment reagent, known as a coagulant, is made by substituting an atom of gallium in the center of an aluminum oxide cluster — itself a commonly used coagulant in water purification, says Nyman.

The substitution isn’t performed atom by atom using nanoscopic tweezers but rather uses a simple chemical process of dissolving aluminum salts in water, gallium salts into a sodium hydroxide solution and then slowly adding the sodium hydroxide solution to the aluminum solution while heating.

“The substitution of a single gallium atom in that compound makes a big difference,” said Nyman. “It greatly improves the stability and effectiveness of the reagent. We’ve done side-by-side tests with a variety of commercially available products. For almost every case, ours performs best under a wide range of conditions.”


The Sandia coagulant attracts and binds contaminants so well because it maintains its electrostatic charge more reliably than conventional coagulants made without gallium, itself a harmless addition.

The new material also resists converting to larger, less-reactive aggregates before it is used. This means it maintains a longer shelf life, avoiding the problem faced by related commercially available products that aggregate over time.

“The chemical substitution [of a gallium atom for an aluminum atom] has been studied by Sandia’s collaborators at the University of California at Davis, but nobody has ever put this knowledge to use in an application such as removing water contaminants like microorganisms,” said Nyman.

- Brewskie

Gas Glut Can't Stop Gas Development

The WSJ has a post on the gas glut. It lists three impressive gas developments in process:

» If the emergence of big new gas fields such as the Haynesville, Barnett and Horn River weren’t enough, now comes the Granite Wash. It’s not a newfangled nconventional gas field, but its yielding some big wells. Newfield Exploration said on Wednesday night that its first seven horizontal wells in the Granite Wash play that straddles the Texas/Oklahoma border had average initial production rates of 22 million cubic feet a day. Those are big, big wells.

» Add another growing gas field that you probably never heard of: the Eagle Ford. Down in South Texas, near Laredo, companies are beginning to drill horizontal wells into the shale formation with encouraging results. A couple weeks ago, St. Mary Land & Exploration said one well was flowing at the oil and gas equivalent of 5.6 million cubic feet a day. More news should be coming when Petrohawk, an Eagle Ford participant reports its earning in the next few weeks.

» Range Resources recently said that its development of the Marcellus Shale, a big wedge of gas-bearing rock that covers much of Pennsylvania and bits of adjacent states, was going very well. The company is producing the oil and gas equivalent of 50 million cubic feet a day from the Marcellus – and expects to nearly double that by year-end 2009 and double it again by year end 2010.

- Brewskie

Occidental Nails California's Largest Discoveries in Decades

Okay, before we get ahead of ourselves, let's first clarify this is not Prudhoe Bay, the East Texas Oil Field, Wilmington or even Thuderhorse. But it's a respectable find, particularly for a state long past its oil glory: 150 million to 250 million barrels of oil equivalent reserves, the bulk of it in natural gas. Located in Kern County, it's the state's largest find in over 35 years.
Occidental reported earlier they were bucking conventional wisdom, looking for California crude where others saw dirt. That was July 25; who would have guessed they would strike this lucky, this quickly? And good timing, too: their second-quarter profit slumped 70%.
California-based Occidental Petroleum Corp. announced a significant discovery in the south of the state that it says is among the largest finds in 35 years.

Occidental said it made new discoveries in Kern County, Calif. The U.S. energy giant said it believes there are between 150 million and 250 million barrels of oil equivalent reserves in the discovery area.

Ray Irani, chairman and chief executive officer at Occidental, said it is "probable" there are additional resources in place outside the delineated area, which it plans to explore within the next five years.

The bulk of the reserves in the discovery zone are in natural gas. Irani lauded the discovery as one of the biggest finds in decades.

"We believe this to be the largest new oil and gas discovery made in California in more than 35 years," he said.
- Brewskie

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

DNA-derived LEDs

You first heard of the florscent green monkey; now we have this - light bulbs made from DNA.

By adding fluorescent dyes to DNA and then spinning the DNA strands into nanofibers, researchers at the University of Connecticut have made a new material that emits bright white light. The material absorbs energy from ultraviolet light and gives off different colors of light--from blue to orange to white--depending on the proportions of dye it contains.

The researchers, led by chemistry professor Gregory Sotzing, create white-light-emitting devices by coating ultraviolet (UV) light-emitting diodes (LEDs) with the material. They are even able to fine-tune the white color tone to make it warm or cold, as they report in a paper published online in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

The new material could be used to make a novel type of organic light bulb. The light emitters should also be longer-lasting because DNA is a very strong polymer, Sotzing says. "It's well beyond other polymers [in strength]," he notes, adding that it lasts 50 times longer than acrylic.

The color-tunable DNA material relies on an energy-transfer mechanism between two different fluorescent dyes. The key is to keep the dye molecules separated at a distance of 2 to 10 nanometers from each other. When UV light is shined on the material, one dye absorbs the energy and produces blue light. If the other dye molecule is at the right distance, it will absorb part of that blue-light energy and emit orange light.

- Brewskie

America's "Phantom Oil"

Robert Rapier is an all-star today... two posts from the venerable energy guru. This goes way back to 2006, and you have to give kudos for this: Robert Rapier's accidental extra credit homework deserves a gold-plated grade "A."

Skeptics a plenty have long not trusted Saudi Arabia - or other OPEC members, for that matter - for their subterfuge data, that is, not openly revealing hard data to back reserve claims. "If Saudi Arabia really has 262 bb of oil," they say, "why are they so ambiguous about revealing their data; why don't they cough up proof if they really have oceans of black goo?"

While surreptitious statistics are fair to question, America's own production statistics, Rapier indicates, haven't exactly mirrored its reserve estimates. Robert goes into detail,

In 1982, U.S. reserves were 27.858 billion barrels. In 2005, U.S. reserves were 21.757 billion barrels. So we drew down our reserves by 6 billion barrels. Imagine my shock to discover our production over that time period. What would you guess? Six billion barrels? Ten? In fact, oil production from these reserves since 1982 totals 56.9 billion barrels! Amazingly, in the past 24 years we have produced 57 billion barrels of oil and pulled our reserves down by only 6 billion barrels. That seems incredible, but it appears that this is what has happened.

Amazing, isn't it? From 1982 to 2005, the US managed to produce 56.9 billion barrels of oil, despite only "using" 6 billion barrels of official reserves. We had over 50 bb sitting under our dirt we didn't know about.

Considering Saudi Arabia has additional fields in development, more offshore fields in its grasp (including Safaniya, the world's largest), and considering America's own "oil miracle" derived from 27.8 bb of official reserves, the concept of Saudi (and OPEC in general) still loaded with plenty of oil doesn't seem so far fetch. While it's possible Saudi Arabia doesn't possess 262 bb, my wager says its reserves are a lot higher than Jeffrey Brown's guesstimate of 70 bb.

- Brewskie

House Okays $150 Million CNG Program; Why CNG Conversion is Expensive

Several bits on natural gas. First, the US House of Representatives passed a $150 million for a five-year program aimed at CNGV research:

By a vote of 393-35, the House passed the bill that authorizes the Energy department to conduct a five-year program of natural gas vehicle research, development and demonstration, authorizing $30 million annually starting in the
2010 budget year.

The research program is to aid "the continued improvement and development of new, cleaner, more efficient light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty natural gas vehicle engines."

The bill also seeks to improve the reliability and efficiency of natural gas fueling station infrastructure and boost the use of natural gas engines in hybrid vehicles.
The bill was written by Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla.

Secondly, Robert Rapier recently posted an email from Marc J. Rauch, Executive Vice President of the Auto Channel, explaining why CNGV conversion is so costly:

One thing that I would like to add (assuming that you didn't already know this or learn it since posting your piece), is that the cost of CNG conversions for existing vehicles is as high as it is because of EPA licensing requirements. For an individual (or shop) to be licensed to do a conversion, the person must pay $10,000 per year, per engine type, per year of manufacture. So that if a conversion shop wanted to do conversions in 2009 for Camrys for the years 1995 to 2005, the shop owner would have to pay the government $100,000 in licensing fees. Then, if he wanted to do conversions on the same models in 2010, he would have to pay the $100,000 again, even though they are the exact same models and engines that he has been licensed on already. And if there is more than one engine involved, i.e., a 6-cylinder and 8-cylinder, the cost would double.

Therefore, if a shop owner wanted to do 10 model years of Camrys and Corollas and Celicas, and well as Honda Accords and Civics, unless there were common engines being used in these five models the licensing cost (for just one engine per) would be a half million dollars, which would have to be paid again in 2010. These fees are, needless to say, ridiculous and are only there to ensure that many don't get done (thanks to the gasoline lobby). The cost of the conversion kits are actually relatively inexpensive. If there was a sensible licensing fee (or no fee) the cost for the work could be just a few hundred dollars.

Marc also goes further saying there is a relative shortage of trained CNGV mechanics, though there's no shortage of mechanics willing to learn, and academic programs are in already in place, or are coming in place.

Several readers of this blog are adamant of integrating additional CNGVs, and CNG fueling stations. This is of the blogger's opinion, but if the federal government wants to get real about instituting CNGvs, it should greatly relax the EPA's stringent licensing fees to further encourage additional shops to become CNGV certified (though tax credits for fueling stations should be wholesomely welcomed). Otherwise, CNGV certified shops will likely gear themselves to the conversion of fleet vehicles, where money can be made, and be slow to warm to commuter vehicle conversion. This, rather than the research program, will likely spurn better health into the CNGV market.

- Brewskie

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Reva, the $12,000 Electric Car

Yup, this car too is manufactured in the land of Tata Motors, the maker of the Nano - India (link).

Family-owned Reva Electric Car is building a new factory 25 miles (40 km) south of its Bangalore headquarters to mass-produce the Reva hatchback, a two-passenger city car priced at little over $12,000 that the company has been selling in India and Europe since 2001. When production begins next January, the new factory will be the world's largest for low-cost electric cars; annual capacity is expected to hit 30,000 cars within three years. "The opportunity today is very high," says Chetan Maini, Reva's vice chairman and chief
technology officer.


The Indian company, however, aims to leverage low production costs to build simple, cheap vehicles and sell them in India, Europe and, within five years, the U.S. The Reva, branded the G-Wiz in Europe, costs about $12,200 there and about $7,000 in India. The pint-size commuter vehicles are powered by lead-acid batteries, which provide about 50 miles (80 km) of driving per charge. Top speed is about 50 m.p.h.

The cars haven't exactly taken the world by storm. Reva — which has received venture capital from Draper Fisher Jurveston, the Global Environment Fund and Mellon HBV Master Global Event Drive Fund — has sold only 3,000 cars over the past eight years. Half of those have been exported to Europe, mainly to London.

But Reva officials say they are improving their cars and plan to sell 8,000 vehicles next year after the new factory opens. In May, the company began equipping Revas with more-powerful lithium-ion batteries that increase range to 75 miles (120 km). A new model with sportier looks and upgraded electronics is expected to be launched by 2010.

- Brewskie

BP Burns the Jatropha Mirage

I may be eventually proven wrong, but I've never had any faith that jatropha would prove itself as a viable biofuel crop. Kids can grow on a marginal diet; that doesn't mean they thrive (link).

BP has indeed given up on jatropha, the shrub once touted as the great hope for biofuels, and walked away from its jatropha joint venture for less than $1 million.

Speculation abounded this summer that BP was ready to jettison its participation in the project with British partner partner D1 Oils. The original plan called for the investment of $160 million to turn the jatropha tree into feedstock to make transportation fuel. Now, BP will turn its alternative-fuel efforts toward ethanol in Brazil and the U.S., as well as biobutanol.

The not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper end to BP’s jatropha adventure underscores a couple of key points. First, the inedible but hardy plant that just a few years ago seemed like it could revolutionize biofuels has turned into a bust. The initial attraction was that it grows on marginal land, so it wouldn’t compete with food crops. But marginal land means marginal yields. And jatropha turned out to be a water hog as well, further darkening its environmental credentials.

Second, for all the ink spilt over jatropha—and Big Oil’s interest in biofuels in general—the value of some of those investments really is miniscule. D1 Oils will buy out BP’s half of the venture for 500,000 pounds—less than the price of a nice apartment in London—even though the joint venture is apparently worth more than 7 million pounds.

And this wasn’t a piddling venture, as far as jatropha experiments go: Reuters notes that BP and D1 Oils planted more than 200,000 hectares of the stuff—25% of the worldwide jatropha planting.

Twenty-five percent? That's a lot.

- Brewskie

Europe Goes Unconventional

The Nubucco Pipeline, the Middle East, N Africa and now shale gas. Russia, Yugoslavia - you guys better work out your differences, or Europe is going to leave you out in the cold (link).

Exxon Mobil Corp. is now exporting expertise and technology it developed in North America to gas markets in Europe. In Germany, for example, drilling and testing activity on licenses covering 1.3 million acres of the Lower Saxony Basin started in 2008.

The company also has a joint exploration program with MOL Hungarian Oil & Gas PLC in the Mako Trough in southeast Hungary. It will evaluate its findings for two to three years before deciding whether production would be commercially viable, the company said.

Meanwhile, the U.K.'s biggest gas supplier, Centrica PLC is moving beyond its traditional emphasis on searching for gas under the sea by looking to former mines to tap coal-bed methane.

It plans to drill two exploration wells in 2010, rising to eight by 2014. It has three onshore U.K. licenses in South Wales. Centrica cautions there is still a long lead period before coal bed methane, or CBM, can be produced on any commercial scale.


The volume of unconventional gas isn't yet significant on a U.K.-wide scale, supplying enough electricity for only 1,200 homes, but the potential is there, analysts say. Some forecasts suggest unconventional gas could make up 10% of U.K. supplies by 2020.

A recent report by energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie said production of CBM in the U.K. is commercially feasible at the current gas price as well as under longer-term projections. The report estimated there could be as much as four trillion cubic feet of gas available in the Cheshire Basin, at the heart of the U.K. gas market.

Another independent, 3Legs Resources from the Isle of Man, has licenses covering more than a million acres in the Baltic Basin region of Poland, where it is targeting shale gas. Company Director Kamlesh Parmar said that 3Legs has started field work to obtain seismic data in the region and plans to drill its first exploration well in early 2010.

Despite uncertainty over the scope of European resources, Wood Mackenzie's manager of unconventional gas research, Rhodri Thomas, said "there could be a material impact on European markets in 10 years plus if unconventional gases do take off."

- Brewskie

Monday, July 20, 2009

OPEC: World Will Need Less of Our Oil

OPEC believes the world will be less reliant on the group's crude oil for a while...

OPEC says the world will need less crude oil from the group in 2013 than it did last year as the lingering impact of recession crimps demand and rising biofuels supply makes up for shrinking production elsewhere.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, whose members supply about 40 percent of the world’s oil, slashed its forecast for global oil consumption in 2013 by 5.7 million barrels to 87.9 million barrels a day. OPEC will have to produce 31 million barrels of crude daily in 2013 to satisfy demand, compared with 31.2 million barrels last year, it predicted in an annual report today.

“There is a growing perception that the economic slowdown will be U-shaped,
that is the recovery will gather momentum only gradually,” the group’s Vienna-based secretariat said in its World Oil Outlook published today. OPEC sees demand for its crude “rising slowly over the medium term, returning back to 2008 levels by around 2013.”

- Brewskie

Super-Sipping Data Centers

Data centers are known for their energy hog reputations. Doomers' Armageddon energy-depletion scenarios envision data centers, known for their finicky dependence on generous air-conditioning, sparking out because a lack of power, or the grid giving out, thus cutting off air-conditioning and fizzling out the Internet like a B&W TV shutting off. A Saratoga-based startup has developed a splendid memory chip, which they claim can replace data centers' hard drives, and use only 5% of the power of the drives. If true, you won't believe the electric bill savings (link).

And not any kind of flash memory. Sandforce's chip is particularly designed to allow multi-level cell (MLC) flash to take on corporate jobs. MLC flash can hold two or more bits in a memory cell and is the cheapest kind on the market. It's the stuff you find in cameras and MP3 players.

"Storage will be free if they [corporate owners] take the total cost of ownership into account," said CEO Alex Navqi. "Over five years, they amount of power saved will pay for itself in five years."

A traditional datacenter with 240 high-end drives holding approximately 73 gigabytes each could be replaced by one with 9 Sandforce-enabled drives, he said. The energy cost for storage in the traditional datacenter would cost $50,000 over five years. The Sandforce-enabled one would have a cumulative energy bill of $250.

Put another way, total storage costs per gigabyte, including energy, would come to $3.16 for hard drives and $1.43 per gigabyte. The math assumes fewer flash drives would be needed because of better input/output, he argued. On a straight comparison, a high-end 73-gigabyte hard disk would need $211 in power-including air conditioning power-over five years. A 73-gigabyte flash drive would get by on $52 of power.


The key to Sandforce's processors is that they effectively mask the technological shortcomings of MLC. Like all flash memory, MLC essentially stores data by brute force. A flash memory cell consists of a sealed silicon dioxide, or glass, tube, similar to the flask inside of a thermos. To write data to a flash cell, an electrical charge is applied that leaves a set number of electrons inside the sealed tube. To erase data, another charge is applied. Flash engineers describe the process as violent.

The problem is that the tube is getting thinner and smaller with each turn of the Moore's Law crank. Flash chips made on the 20 nanometer process, coming in a few years, may only accommodate about 20 electrons, said Navqi. Escaping electrons in turn leads to errors and data corruption.

"Every time you hit the oxide, you damage it," he said. As a result, a conventional flash drive (without the company's chips) would have to be replaced every 30 days because of the number of data rewrites.

The company's DuraClass technology gets around the problem by only rewriting the cells that require an update. An entry in a Social Security file, hypothetically, might contain 100,000 bytes. An update to the data might only affect 100 bytes. Traditional flash drives would rewrite the whole entry. DuraClass organizes the data and functionality of the chip so that only 100 bytes get impacted. In all, a DuraClass-enabled drive could last over five years with equal or better performance when it comes to data reliability under ordinary corporate pounding.

- Brewskie