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The Next Secretary of Energy: Will He Flinch & Cave to the Fossil Fuel Culture?

The following guest submission is from a poster who wishes to be identified as ‘Silverthorne-Cebes’, and describes himself as: “Economist, retired; passionate about; ocean energy, development of eco-batteries for transportation, global debt repudiation, and research on oil culture created environmental disasters.”

The bulk of this essay was initially posted as a comment following one of my essays, but I felt that it was extensive enough that it warranted a stand alone post. There are some very controverserial and debatable points in the essay, so let the debate begin. Actually, I will let the rest of you begin the debate, because if all goes according to plan I should be somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean – heading West – when this posts.

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The Next Secretary of Energy: Will He Flinch & Cave to the Fossil Fuel Culture?

Robert, I share most of your views regarding Obama’s Energy Plan, there is, in my view however, a glaring absence of any sense of National urgency. This planet faces a critical need to implement alternatives that force the shutdown of technologies that produce CO2 emissions, period!

The objective to achieve energy efficiency is clear, given what is known about global warming and its negative impact on everything. There are alternatives to cheap oil, coal and natural gas as well as nuclear. The 65 year old constraint on fixing the energy system has been the suppression of information by the fossil fuel, nuclear industries and the government it controls. It has been and continues to be the Federal government’s refusal to fund demonstration and deployment programs for ocean kinetics/hydrology (not dams) which are the more efficient energy producing alternatives, because they pose serious threats to fossil fuel and nuclear profits.

You stated in your blog, “Thus I believe a sound energy policy should focus on: 1). Minimizing per capita energy usage; 2). Finding sustainable, affordable alternatives; 3). Managing the down side of the production peak such that severe shortages are avoided. 4). Communicating to the public the nature of the problem, and explaining why sacrifice is needed.”

These are all on the mark. I would only add, 5). A Presidential mandate which requires the allocation of resources to the most efficient technologies, i.e. those that eliminate CO2 emissions the most per dollar of public funding.

Absent that mandate, politicians will have free reign to support their special interests. Moreover, if there is no statement of “urgency” based upon irrefutable scientific evidence, there will only emerge a continuation of the “Oil Cultures” —- “In Due Time” approach to energy efficiency.

What drives the emergency/urgency to eliminate CO2 emissions is the following:

1. Oil drilling and Enhanced Oil Recovery EOR reduces water available for agriculture and household use. When we ask, where did all the water go, it’s mostly in the wells, polluted and acidic eating away the sandstone and any basalt.

2. Increases the instability of geologic formations due to the “soup” injected into wells. Look at what’s happening in the Maldives, and the explosions in the Arctic.

3. Spurs the formation of “Mud Volcanoes” which when destabilized explode, destroying vast areas of the ocean’s floor.

4. Increases atmospheric methane which contributes to global warming because it is 20 times more dense than CO2 and holds more heat.

The oil and gas industry have been drilling for oil using fresh water, carbonated, fresh water- to pressurize their wells, since the mid 1800’s; they also use phosphoric acid, the ingredient needed for RNA and DNA formation. They only use fresh water. Salt water will not do; if you see it mentioned it is the rare case of desalinization.

As a consequence, they have used up as much fresh water from our planet as they have produced oil (approx. barrel for barrel) since the beginning, which is now a little over 150 years ago. Unlike other industrial use of H2O, the depth they put the water means it is never coming back to the water table, and it is polluted, because the acid brew has been dissolving the crust of the earth slowly -but surely, chewing up metals dissolving them into their sulfides and even forming methane gas, a simple chemical reaction when you have CO2 and H2O way down there in the earth where there is a lot of fully decayed carbon. We are a closed system. We are not making any new water at this point in our planet’s history. What they are making is volatile methane hydrate.

Methane gas likes water; with fresh water, and fresh water only, it can form its hydrate. It does this by compressing itself about 170 times into an ice lattice. Methane in all but one case on Earth needs low temperature and high pressure to form as it does deep in the earth where the industry finds oil and gas.

The one exception to the rule is the Arctic; it is the only place that methane can form its hydrate at atmospheric pressure, because it gets cold enough to put it in the hydrate stability zone without high pressure. In fact, that is where methane hydrates were first discovered on modern day Earth, in the late 1930’s, and they were discovered by the oil and gas industry forming in their pipe line, which was only buried a few feet deep in the Arctic permafrost, and which the industry had built from Norman Wells in Canada’s North West Territories to Alaska’s Pacific coat to serve the needs of World War II for the allies.

Now you would think that it would have made the cover of Time magazine, something new- never seen on earth before, and you would think that the oil and gas industry might have figured out, or at least had a passing thought that what they were doing in the Arctic, draining all the summer permafrost lakes, ponds and puddles and the Mackenzie river to use for oil well pressurization, had something to do with this new “thing.”

You will see online when you research the Canol pipeline (at least the last time I looked), that they say they had to shut the pipe line down, because it had problems, but they do not say what the problems were. The oil and gas industry grabbed Groucho Marx’s flying duck, and had it fly away with this new secret phrase, “methane hydrate.”

You may have seen the duck recently, without fanfare, dropping in and quickly out again with this now decades old cloistered phrase; most recently on the top left hand corner of page three in big newspapers in a story about this thing called gas hydrate. The duck uses the Associated Press for its delivery, and the duck is fibbing. It says that there may be some new technology that will allow the hydrates on the North Slope of Alaska to be harvested; the duck then tells us that the oil companies are skeptical. Of course the duck really knows just what the oil men know: You cannot harvest an explosion. So this story is really a prelude to either the implosion or the explosion of Alaska’s North Slope because:

Methane gas likes its hydrate bride better than anything else and when it gets threatened by something say like the Arctic summer heat and thinks it is going to have to return to its gaseous form( destabilize), it counters this with a cleaver little attribute; It takes up heat into its methane molecule, a lot of heat, a very lot of heat; it can hold up to 400 degree F- in every molecule of methane – without – and I repeat – without melting the ice that encircles it. Pretty nifty, huh?

Well alas at some point in time it cannot hold on to its water bride any longer, and it destabilizes, first fizzling and then exploding, and it releases the gas and the heat. That is why for the first time, in 1941, after two years of geared up production for the war you had a 101 degree F day in the Sub Arctic. All winds originate from the Arctic. You cannot normally get Palm Springs weather in the Sub Arctic, without an artificial stimulus, and the coldest places on earth cannot warm faster than the hottest places – without a outside stimulus also.

So you see the reason the Arctic ice is melting faster than everyone thought is because it is warm enough now to start chain reactions every summer and leak tons of released hydrate (gas), into the atmosphere and the Beaufort Sea, and it is chock full of heat, tremendous heat from up to 85 Arctic summers.

Smoke and Mirrors

Irrespective of what the oil companies would love to have everyone believe, [that carbon sequestration is the best way to remove billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere], sequestration promotes the production of more CO2 by giving coal, oil and ethanol producers an excuse to produce dirty energy. The first drilling of these wells extracts ten percent of the oil.

The second infusion/extraction involves high pressurization with water and CO2 and recovers 2/3 of the remainder. The third infusion/extraction with H2O, phosphoric acid and CO2 and/or carbonated water flushes the last of the oil residing in deep pockets, etc. However the H2O remains in the well. There is no profit in retrieving polluted water. Oil industry efforts to use Enhanced Oil Recovery methods like these only exacerbates Global Warming.

There is nothing wrong in drilling for methane; it is when they use EOR and actually make methane gas which forms hydrate with the fresh water in the deep Earth- that we get a disaster scenario. Methane gas holds up the earth until, it destabilizes. You cannot harvest an explosion, and why they (DOE) took five years to figure out that logic, I do not know.

What the fossil fuel industry is trying to do is retain the very lucrative refueling option at the expense of true progress toward reducing carbon which would stop more hydrates from forming. The industry is so confident in its power that it makes remarks like saying to the DOE when they wanted them to pay for studies on how to harvest hydrates,… “…that there were now, more methane in hydrates than all the methane that had ever existed on earth . . .” a big clue to the fact they knew they had made them.

The thing that does us in, is human nature- when it comes to money and power. I am sure the oil and gas industry did not intend to destroy Earth, but they have managed to do so in a very short time, 160 years, and I assure you they have destroyed it, it is just playing out- like our depression. They did not know the full extent of methane gas’s characteristics in hydrate form until 2006, although they knew enough to have been a lot more cautious. I think they are thinking that global cooling from the hydrates in the permafrost is going to save us. But you are talking about global cooling in the northern half of earth to the point that we will be in the same category as Mars- to cold to sustain life.

Hydrate can suck up to 400 degrees F into every molecule to maintain its stability once it gets going without melting the ice around it and I do not think we have 50 years before it happens and meanwhile in non polar regions it is getting hotter and hotter in the summer as hydrates dump heat in the poles and CO2 makes it warmer everywhere else and that breaks hydrates which break mostly in the water and are making it very acidic because it ultimately degrades to CO2, killing sea life that the Dinoflagellates do not eat.

Urgent National Priority

FDR told the auto industry, “…look you are going to produce tanks and other military transport, not cars.” He told the scientific community to build the atomic bomb, not play with theories of their choice.

I continue to believe that a Manhattan type project for distributive renewable energy based on ocean energy, solar and wind, not oil, coal, and nuclear, can be placed on a “War Time” footing, along with the emergency production and deployment of, turbines to capture wind and water energy, solar cells, and biofuels not ethanol in three years or less. We need as you say to eliminate coal as a source of energy. It would take enormous political awareness and will power to achieve, but so did the war effort when it was clear that money could be made to lift us out of the depression. We are on our way there now. Deja vue all over again.

A powerful and persuasive argument needs to be presented by the President with priority emphasis on the exploitation of tidal, wave and ocean currents rather than passing through the ocean’s energy to retrieve oil and gas. There’s something terribly stupid about the latter process.

The Technology Exists and is Proven

We have the technology but not the wisdom or fortitude to employ it. Alexander Gorlov’s technology Gorlov Helical Turbine, along with Verdant’s rotors and government financed tidal barges in five or six locations around the East and West coast could create the spark for a serious effort to reduce coal fired plants in the East and Pacific Northwest. These technologies could be in place by the middle of 2010. Experts have calculated that 1% of the energy from the oceans can power the entire planet. And, 1% of the energy from the Gulf Stream can power the Northern Hemisphere.

There is no doubt that CO2 is the enemy, we need to find solutions that will not take five to ten years to implement. Nor can we afford a shotgun approach in the allocation of resources in an effort to please all of the energy alternatives.

Knowing the dangers of methane hydrate disassociation, and an overly acidic ocean is critical to initiating immediate actions designed to stem and reverse the chemical dissolution of the planet.

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December 19, 2008 - Posted by | global warming, reader submission

42 Comments

  1. Did April Fools day come a bit early this year?

    Comment by KingofKaty | December 19, 2008

  2. Did April Fools day come a bit early this year?

    Comment by KingofKaty | December 19, 2008

  3. For once I am in complete agreement with King.

    Comment by benny "MOAG" cole | December 19, 2008

  4. For once I am in complete agreement with King.

    Comment by benny "MOAG" cole | December 19, 2008

  5. Oh Crud!
    Economist discovers the field of science – sets out to educate the world!

    Come on, RR! You can’t encourage this kind of tripe!

    Afterall, how is it that Big Brother Big Oil has not shut down this site?

    Comment by Optimist | December 19, 2008

  6. Oh Crud!Economist discovers the field of science – sets out to educate the world!Come on, RR! You can’t encourage this kind of tripe!Afterall, how is it that Big Brother Big Oil has not shut down this site?

    Comment by Optimist | December 19, 2008

  7. There is so much that is wrong in this post it is hard to know where to start.

    One of the points is that oil and gas production is destroying fresh water supplies. Let’s start with that one and the rest of the post pretty much falls apart.

    So how much oil have we produced over the last 150 years? I’ve seen a couple of estimates but most people say we’ve used 1.1 trillion barrels of oil . There are 10,511 barrels of oil in an acre-foot by volume. The acre-foot is the typical unit for measuring fresh water sources. Dividing 1.1 trillion (that is 1.1 x 10^12) by 10,511 you get 104,600,000 acre feet.

    Now let’s find a comparable body of fresh water. I’ve done this excercise before, so I’ll just skip to the answer. Lake Tahoe has 122,160,180 acre-feet of water. So if you filled up Lake Tahoe with all the crude ever produced, you would only fill it 85% full.

    Now, imagine a map of the United States. Lake Tahoe is just a spec, if it shows up at all, on the map. Compared to the fresh water in all the lakes, rivers, streams, snow, underground aquifers, glaciers, clouds and other sources of water. Lake Tahoe is insignificant. It is like a teaspoon in an olympic swimming pool. But the 1.1 trillion barrels is all the oil produced in the world in FOREVER. Even if you needed 10 barrels of water for every barrel of crude produced, ten times nothing is still NOTHING.

    But wait, it gets better. What is crude oil? It is a mixture of hydrocarbons. The energy by oxidizing the crude and its products. The hydrogen in the crude combine with oxygen to produce – water. And where did that hydrogen come from in the first place? Well, it came from water that was locked up in the decaying plants and animals that became fossil fuels millions of years ago.

    So, producing crude isn’t destroying our water supplies, no more than locking up the water in Lake Tahoe would run us short!

    Comment by KingofKaty | December 19, 2008

  8. There is so much that is wrong in this post it is hard to know where to start. One of the points is that oil and gas production is destroying fresh water supplies. Let’s start with that one and the rest of the post pretty much falls apart. So how much oil have we produced over the last 150 years? I’ve seen a couple of estimates but most people say we’ve used 1.1 trillion barrels of oil . There are 10,511 barrels of oil in an acre-foot by volume. The acre-foot is the typical unit for measuring fresh water sources. Dividing 1.1 trillion (that is 1.1 x 10^12) by 10,511 you get 104,600,000 acre feet. Now let’s find a comparable body of fresh water. I’ve done this excercise before, so I’ll just skip to the answer. Lake Tahoe has 122,160,180 acre-feet of water. So if you filled up Lake Tahoe with all the crude ever produced, you would only fill it 85% full. Now, imagine a map of the United States. Lake Tahoe is just a spec, if it shows up at all, on the map. Compared to the fresh water in all the lakes, rivers, streams, snow, underground aquifers, glaciers, clouds and other sources of water. Lake Tahoe is insignificant. It is like a teaspoon in an olympic swimming pool. But the 1.1 trillion barrels is all the oil produced in the world in FOREVER. Even if you needed 10 barrels of water for every barrel of crude produced, ten times nothing is still NOTHING. But wait, it gets better. What is crude oil? It is a mixture of hydrocarbons. The energy by oxidizing the crude and its products. The hydrogen in the crude combine with oxygen to produce – water. And where did that hydrogen come from in the first place? Well, it came from water that was locked up in the decaying plants and animals that became fossil fuels millions of years ago. So, producing crude isn’t destroying our water supplies, no more than locking up the water in Lake Tahoe would run us short!

    Comment by KingofKaty | December 19, 2008

  9. I am sorry, but this is beyond ridiculous. Uninformed, unintelligible. I don’t know, maybe its a joke. Why else would you want to encourage people to debate inane ramblings? Maybe the hydrates were made by aliens…

    Comment by Anonymous | December 19, 2008

  10. I am sorry, but this is beyond ridiculous. Uninformed, unintelligible. I don’t know, maybe its a joke. Why else would you want to encourage people to debate inane ramblings? Maybe the hydrates were made by aliens…

    Comment by Anonymous | December 19, 2008

  11. For once I am in complete agreement with King.

    Fellows, many of the views expressed are held by a large number of people. I bet if you asked 20 people on the street, 19 of them tell you that oil companies are polluting fresh water. I get into this with ethanol users all the time when I point out how much water it takes to make ethanol. “Yeah, but what about oil production and refining.”

    My preference is that if you see a point worth debating, you do as King did and post some evidence.

    And if you don’t think it’s worth debating, I have something else that I am working on. Also a guest post, but lots of calculations around solar thermal that are pretty interesting. The conclusion from the poster is that solar thermal can’t make a dent in even our growth in energy consumption. So for those who like numbers (especially fans of solar power) I think this one will be worth a read.

    Cheers, RR (back in Texas)

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 19, 2008

  12. For once I am in complete agreement with King.Fellows, many of the views expressed are held by a large number of people. I bet if you asked 20 people on the street, 19 of them tell you that oil companies are polluting fresh water. I get into this with ethanol users all the time when I point out how much water it takes to make ethanol. “Yeah, but what about oil production and refining.”My preference is that if you see a point worth debating, you do as King did and post some evidence.And if you don’t think it’s worth debating, I have something else that I am working on. Also a guest post, but lots of calculations around solar thermal that are pretty interesting. The conclusion from the poster is that solar thermal can’t make a dent in even our growth in energy consumption. So for those who like numbers (especially fans of solar power) I think this one will be worth a read.Cheers, RR (back in Texas)

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 19, 2008

  13. the author may be correct or maybe not. the only way the advocates of persons supporting his positions and urgency is to get attention. WHICH THEY OBVIOUSLY HAVE NOT DONE.

    i suggest active protest of adherents to the point that they shut down the nations vital functions. let ALL scientsts and business owners[eg., the “google twins”, A. Gore,et al], and other “significant” contributors show the strength of conviction by just “striking” in the good old union way. get their associates “worldwide” to do same. this action of “self pain” might get noticed and provide the necessary forum/debate that is sought/proposed.

    lesser action/rhetoric will be mixed with the “hot air and expelled CO2” of the political and “money” classes they claim to be the obstacles to progress.

    ENOUGH WORDS! S— OR GET OFF THE POT.

    fran

    Comment by Anonymous | December 19, 2008

  14. the author may be correct or maybe not. the only way the advocates of persons supporting his positions and urgency is to get attention. WHICH THEY OBVIOUSLY HAVE NOT DONE.i suggest active protest of adherents to the point that they shut down the nations vital functions. let ALL scientsts and business owners[eg., the “google twins”, A. Gore,et al], and other “significant” contributors show the strength of conviction by just “striking” in the good old union way. get their associates “worldwide” to do same. this action of “self pain” might get noticed and provide the necessary forum/debate that is sought/proposed.lesser action/rhetoric will be mixed with the “hot air and expelled CO2” of the political and “money” classes they claim to be the obstacles to progress.ENOUGH WORDS! S— OR GET OFF THE POT.fran

    Comment by Anonymous | December 19, 2008

  15. Now I’ll take on this idea that oil and gas production is chewing up the earth.

    The poster seems to think that somehow downhole fluids are eating up the crust of the earth. Nonsense. As I showed earlier, even if that were true, the sheer insignificant volume of oil produced (compare Lake Tahoe to the size of the earth) to date means that us puny humans would hardly notice the difference.

    It is true that in some cases oil producers inject acid or other fluids into the oil producing zones. This is called hydraulic or acid fracturing. The idea is to create additional pathways for the oil to flow back towards the wellbore, therby increasing production.

    I don’t know where he gets the idea we use phosphoric acid, way too expensive. The most common acid used is hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid. The process really only works in carbonate formations (CaCO3, also called calcite, being the primary chemical forming the carbonate rock). The acid reacts with the carbonates to form hydrogen carbonate and calcium chloride. Once the acid reaction takes place, any “destruction” of the rock formation stops. Acids just don’t keep “chewing up” the earth.

    It is true that in some oil and gas formations the rock formations are pretty soft and that oil and gas production has led to localized subsidence, but this usually happens only where there are chalk formations, which isn’t everywhere. In most places the rocks are pretty hard. I have several rock cores in my office.

    Besides, if as the poster believes, that we use up water to produce oil 1 for 1, then there shouldn’t be any subsidence at all. (some oil fields work like this, some have gas drive where internal gas pressures push the fluids out.) Liquids (both oil and water) are incompressible fluids. That is, increasing the pressure results in little or no change in the volume of the fluid. So if I pump a barrel of water in and get a barrel of oil out, then the internal pressures in the rock should stay more or less the same.

    Comment by KingofKaty | December 19, 2008

  16. Now I’ll take on this idea that oil and gas production is chewing up the earth. The poster seems to think that somehow downhole fluids are eating up the crust of the earth. Nonsense. As I showed earlier, even if that were true, the sheer insignificant volume of oil produced (compare Lake Tahoe to the size of the earth) to date means that us puny humans would hardly notice the difference. It is true that in some cases oil producers inject acid or other fluids into the oil producing zones. This is called hydraulic or acid fracturing. The idea is to create additional pathways for the oil to flow back towards the wellbore, therby increasing production. I don’t know where he gets the idea we use phosphoric acid, way too expensive. The most common acid used is hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid. The process really only works in carbonate formations (CaCO3, also called calcite, being the primary chemical forming the carbonate rock). The acid reacts with the carbonates to form hydrogen carbonate and calcium chloride. Once the acid reaction takes place, any “destruction” of the rock formation stops. Acids just don’t keep “chewing up” the earth. It is true that in some oil and gas formations the rock formations are pretty soft and that oil and gas production has led to localized subsidence, but this usually happens only where there are chalk formations, which isn’t everywhere. In most places the rocks are pretty hard. I have several rock cores in my office. Besides, if as the poster believes, that we use up water to produce oil 1 for 1, then there shouldn’t be any subsidence at all. (some oil fields work like this, some have gas drive where internal gas pressures push the fluids out.) Liquids (both oil and water) are incompressible fluids. That is, increasing the pressure results in little or no change in the volume of the fluid. So if I pump a barrel of water in and get a barrel of oil out, then the internal pressures in the rock should stay more or less the same.

    Comment by KingofKaty | December 19, 2008

  17. Well argued, King. As RR said, put up some evidence if you don’t like his conclusions. I couldn’t offer anything more than King has, but I would like to make a philosophical/political argument against this: “A Presidential mandate which requires the allocation of resources to the most efficient technologies, i.e. those that eliminate CO2 emissions the most per dollar of public funding.”

    In my opinion, (and perhaps I share it with some here) the government is by far the worst allocator of scarce resources. As RR said in his latest, you cannot mandate technology. Silverthorne-Cebes cannot believe that the best way to find new and better sources of energy is for the government to force dollars into technologies the government thinks is best. How is that different from the massive failure of ethanol? How can we trust the government to pick the winner? It has to play out differently; the market has to reward the most efficient companies and punish those that cannot adapt. Government interference, in any form (mandates, subsidies, etc) will do nothing but slow down any real and substantial shift towards efficiency.

    Comment by Joshua | December 19, 2008

  18. Well argued, King. As RR said, put up some evidence if you don’t like his conclusions. I couldn’t offer anything more than King has, but I would like to make a philosophical/political argument against this: “A Presidential mandate which requires the allocation of resources to the most efficient technologies, i.e. those that eliminate CO2 emissions the most per dollar of public funding.” In my opinion, (and perhaps I share it with some here) the government is by far the worst allocator of scarce resources. As RR said in his latest, you cannot mandate technology. Silverthorne-Cebes cannot believe that the best way to find new and better sources of energy is for the government to force dollars into technologies the government thinks is best. How is that different from the massive failure of ethanol? How can we trust the government to pick the winner? It has to play out differently; the market has to reward the most efficient companies and punish those that cannot adapt. Government interference, in any form (mandates, subsidies, etc) will do nothing but slow down any real and substantial shift towards efficiency.

    Comment by Joshua | December 19, 2008

  19. I too was disappointed that RR would post this nonsense. Commenters have dealt reasonable well with his water issue. But what about the methanol hydrates he is so concerned about. Does he have a point there. I think he is correct that they are created during arctic oil production. Are they a significant or potentially significant problem.

    Comment by steve rose | December 19, 2008

  20. I too was disappointed that RR would post this nonsense. Commenters have dealt reasonable well with his water issue. But what about the methanol hydrates he is so concerned about. Does he have a point there. I think he is correct that they are created during arctic oil production. Are they a significant or potentially significant problem.

    Comment by steve rose | December 19, 2008

  21. This seems like a post strictly meant to drum up controversey (and makes me slightly ashamed to be an economist as well).

    Joshua- I think when he said “Presidential mandate which requires the allocation of resources to the most efficient technologies, i.e. those that eliminate CO2 emissions the most per dollar of public funding.” – he meant the govt money goes towards that whatever is most energy efficient (which we can measure) not seneator’s pet projects. Its no free market but better than what we do now.

    Also at the end when he was talking about using ocean power- does anyone know if there is anything to that? Or was he talking out of his @$$? I don’t know anything about that.

    Comment by mafiosa | December 19, 2008

  22. This seems like a post strictly meant to drum up controversey (and makes me slightly ashamed to be an economist as well).Joshua- I think when he said “Presidential mandate which requires the allocation of resources to the most efficient technologies, i.e. those that eliminate CO2 emissions the most per dollar of public funding.” – he meant the govt money goes towards that whatever is most energy efficient (which we can measure) not seneator’s pet projects. Its no free market but better than what we do now.Also at the end when he was talking about using ocean power- does anyone know if there is anything to that? Or was he talking out of his @$$? I don’t know anything about that.

    Comment by mafiosa | December 19, 2008

  23. Steve Rose,

    I’ll quote from the USGS below:
    ———————————-
    “Methane trapped in marine sediments as a hydrate represents such an immense carbon reservoir that it must be considered a dominant factor in estimating unconventional energy resources; the role of methane as a ‘greenhouse’ gas also must be carefully assessed.”

    Dr. William Dillon,
    U.S. Geological Survey

    Hydrates store immense amounts of methane, with major implications for energy resources and climate, but the natural controls on hydrates and their impacts on the environment are very poorly understood.

    Gas hydrates occur abundantly in nature, both in Arctic regions and in marine sediments. Gas hydrate is a crystalline solid consisting of gas molecules, usually methane, each surrounded by a cage of water molecules. It looks very much like water ice. Methane hydrate is stable in ocean floor sediments at water depths greater than 300 meters, and where it occurs, it is known to cement loose sediments in a surface layer several hundred meters thick.
    ——————-

    Good responses by King. Where this one for one water-oil figure came from is anyone’s guess. Think of a typical 7000 ft wellbore let’s say 7 inches in diameter (neglect waterflood). That’s an awesome 270 cubic feet of water. If that’s what an operator could expect i cumulative oil production… well…. we wouldn’t be seeing any oil wells being drilled.

    I’ve been to the North Slope several times.I haven’t noted any drastic changes in surface waters. I didn’t note any missing lakes. Weird.

    Comment by armchair261 | December 19, 2008

  24. Steve Rose,I’ll quote from the USGS below:———————————-“Methane trapped in marine sediments as a hydrate represents such an immense carbon reservoir that it must be considered a dominant factor in estimating unconventional energy resources; the role of methane as a ‘greenhouse’ gas also must be carefully assessed.”Dr. William Dillon,U.S. Geological SurveyHydrates store immense amounts of methane, with major implications for energy resources and climate, but the natural controls on hydrates and their impacts on the environment are very poorly understood.Gas hydrates occur abundantly in nature, both in Arctic regions and in marine sediments. Gas hydrate is a crystalline solid consisting of gas molecules, usually methane, each surrounded by a cage of water molecules. It looks very much like water ice. Methane hydrate is stable in ocean floor sediments at water depths greater than 300 meters, and where it occurs, it is known to cement loose sediments in a surface layer several hundred meters thick.——————-Good responses by King. Where this one for one water-oil figure came from is anyone’s guess. Think of a typical 7000 ft wellbore let’s say 7 inches in diameter (neglect waterflood). That’s an awesome 270 cubic feet of water. If that’s what an operator could expect i cumulative oil production… well…. we wouldn’t be seeing any oil wells being drilled.I’ve been to the North Slope several times.I haven’t noted any drastic changes in surface waters. I didn’t note any missing lakes. Weird.

    Comment by armchair261 | December 19, 2008

  25. Hey King, I’d like to ask you about something offline. Can you send me an e-mail at doggydogworld.temp at yahoo dot com?

    Comment by doggydogworld | December 19, 2008

  26. Hey King, I’d like to ask you about something offline. Can you send me an e-mail at doggydogworld.temp at yahoo dot com?

    Comment by doggydogworld | December 19, 2008

  27. I’m with the first few commenters on this. I feel like this person is from some bizarro parallel universe. But perhaps I’m horribly uninformed about some things. What is this thing that’s happening in the Maldives that I should look at, and what does it have to do with oil wells? The CIA World Factbook tells me the Maldives produces no oil or natural gas. I have not heard news of explosions in the Arctic. Please point me towards some relevant articles.

    Something about the language made my eyes glazed over much of the middle section of the guest post. It may be as Optimist says.. Economist discovers the field of science. I think sentences like this one “Hydrate can suck up to 400 degrees F into every molecule to maintain its stability once it gets going without melting the ice around it”” makes my mind want to reject even taking the words in, for fear of insidious contamination.

    But I picked up again towards the end. Verdant Power is suggested as a technology that exists and is proven? When I first read about Verdant Power in 2004, I got all excited. They said they were going to put 6 tidal turbines in NYC’s East River in a couple of months. Every time I checked back for years, to see if they were in, Verdant’s website kept on claiming they’d install the turbines during the next-quarter. I think they’d been claiming imminent installation for years before I first became aware of them. I was excited again years later in December 2006 when they finally put two of the six turbines, and was sorely disappointed when one of the two promptly broke. They tried again briefly in 2007.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/13/nyregion/13power.html
    To keep them from coming apart, all six of the 20-foot-tall mechanisms, which resemble ship propellers on masts, have been shut down for repairs“. The third try in as many years, they installed a revised design of the 40KW turbines in September 2008. I hardly consider two or six prototype turbines working for three months (assuming they are still working) as proven technology.

    Comment by Clee | December 19, 2008

  28. I’m with the first few commenters on this. I feel like this person is from some bizarro parallel universe. But perhaps I’m horribly uninformed about some things. What is this thing that’s happening in the Maldives that I should look at, and what does it have to do with oil wells? The CIA World Factbook tells me the Maldives produces no oil or natural gas. I have not heard news of explosions in the Arctic. Please point me towards some relevant articles. Something about the language made my eyes glazed over much of the middle section of the guest post. It may be as Optimist says.. Economist discovers the field of science. I think sentences like this one “Hydrate can suck up to 400 degrees F into every molecule to maintain its stability once it gets going without melting the ice around it”” makes my mind want to reject even taking the words in, for fear of insidious contamination.But I picked up again towards the end. Verdant Power is suggested as a technology that exists and is proven? When I first read about Verdant Power in 2004, I got all excited. They said they were going to put 6 tidal turbines in NYC’s East River in a couple of months. Every time I checked back for years, to see if they were in, Verdant’s website kept on claiming they’d install the turbines during the next-quarter. I think they’d been claiming imminent installation for years before I first became aware of them. I was excited again years later in December 2006 when they finally put two of the six turbines, and was sorely disappointed when one of the two promptly broke. They tried again briefly in 2007.http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/13/nyregion/13power.html“To keep them from coming apart, all six of the 20-foot-tall mechanisms, which resemble ship propellers on masts, have been shut down for repairs”. The third try in as many years, they installed a revised design of the 40KW turbines in September 2008. I hardly consider two or six prototype turbines working for three months (assuming they are still working) as proven technology.

    Comment by Clee | December 19, 2008

  29. I was going to take up the methane hydrate question, but ran out of time today. I might be the only poster here who has practical experience with methane hydrates. My first job as a young process engineer I was assigned to a cryogenic gas plant. We collected field gas from oil wells and gas wells in the area. We removed separated the methane from the heavier components. On the panel in the control room was a scrap of paper just above the pressure and temperature gauges on the natural gas line. It was a temperature pressure graph with a region that said “Don’t operate here”. The paper had been there since the mid 1960s when the gas plant was built. Turns out it defined the conditions where methane hydrates can form.

    Nobody really knows for sure why there are huge deposits of methane hydrates in the oceans, and yes, you can use seawater to make hydrates. You just need a source of methane and the write temperature and pressure.

    Comment by KingofKaty | December 20, 2008

  30. I was going to take up the methane hydrate question, but ran out of time today. I might be the only poster here who has practical experience with methane hydrates. My first job as a young process engineer I was assigned to a cryogenic gas plant. We collected field gas from oil wells and gas wells in the area. We removed separated the methane from the heavier components. On the panel in the control room was a scrap of paper just above the pressure and temperature gauges on the natural gas line. It was a temperature pressure graph with a region that said “Don’t operate here”. The paper had been there since the mid 1960s when the gas plant was built. Turns out it defined the conditions where methane hydrates can form. Nobody really knows for sure why there are huge deposits of methane hydrates in the oceans, and yes, you can use seawater to make hydrates. You just need a source of methane and the write temperature and pressure.

    Comment by KingofKaty | December 20, 2008

  31. More goofiness (sorry I can’t resist):

    “When we ask, where did all the water go, it’s mostly in the wells, polluted and acidic eating away the sandstone and any basalt.”

    1) How much acid do you think is pumped down a wellbore?

    2) What percentage of well completions do you think use acid? (Hint, it’s nowhere near 100%)

    3) I’d like to find this acid that dissolves quartz. Can you give me some references?

    4) So sandstone and basalt are the only two types of rock a wellbore is likely to encounter? You won’t see all that many wells drilling through basalt.

    “Increases the instability of geologic formations due to the “soup” injected into wells.”

    Hardly. Rocks in the subsurface are matrix supported. Any fluids injected into the pore space do not really impact the rigidity of the formation, unless that’s the intent f the driller, as in hydraulic fracturing. But even in this case the damage is confined to relatively small “wing” typically a few hundred feet high and deep. It has no impact on rocks above or below that.

    “Spurs the formation of “Mud Volcanoes” which when destabilized explode, destroying vast areas of the ocean’s floor.”

    Cool. Let’s hear a good paper on this. As a petroleum geologist with 30 years experience. I guess someone has been hiding this cause and effect relationship from me. In fact, I confess to not even knowing that vast areas of the ocean floor have exploded.

    And my favorite comment, on drilling fluids. “They only use fresh water.”

    Oil based drilling muds are very commonly used.

    Now all of this may seem a little pedantic and petty, but I love the way people who fancy themselves as industry experts tip their hand once they start trying to get technical. As if reading an article somewhere qualifies them to make judgements on drilling technology and subsurface geology.

    OK, enough, dead horse thoroughly beaten.

    Comment by armchair261 | December 20, 2008

  32. More goofiness (sorry I can’t resist):”When we ask, where did all the water go, it’s mostly in the wells, polluted and acidic eating away the sandstone and any basalt.”1) How much acid do you think is pumped down a wellbore?2) What percentage of well completions do you think use acid? (Hint, it’s nowhere near 100%)3) I’d like to find this acid that dissolves quartz. Can you give me some references?4) So sandstone and basalt are the only two types of rock a wellbore is likely to encounter? You won’t see all that many wells drilling through basalt.”Increases the instability of geologic formations due to the “soup” injected into wells.”Hardly. Rocks in the subsurface are matrix supported. Any fluids injected into the pore space do not really impact the rigidity of the formation, unless that’s the intent f the driller, as in hydraulic fracturing. But even in this case the damage is confined to relatively small “wing” typically a few hundred feet high and deep. It has no impact on rocks above or below that.”Spurs the formation of “Mud Volcanoes” which when destabilized explode, destroying vast areas of the ocean’s floor.”Cool. Let’s hear a good paper on this. As a petroleum geologist with 30 years experience. I guess someone has been hiding this cause and effect relationship from me. In fact, I confess to not even knowing that vast areas of the ocean floor have exploded.And my favorite comment, on drilling fluids. “They only use fresh water.” Oil based drilling muds are very commonly used. Now all of this may seem a little pedantic and petty, but I love the way people who fancy themselves as industry experts tip their hand once they start trying to get technical. As if reading an article somewhere qualifies them to make judgements on drilling technology and subsurface geology.OK, enough, dead horse thoroughly beaten.

    Comment by armchair261 | December 20, 2008

  33. Seems we're all agreed that most of this is "so bad it's not even wrong" – but there are a few more nuggets of disinformation that need to be nailed, in case the credibility of being on the R-Squared blog gives them some credibility.

    – water injection for EOR certainly can use saline water. Offshore platforms inject vast volumes and you don't see freshwater tankers heading out to resupply them.

    – methane is a green house gas because it absorbs the infrared that the earth radiates, while letting visible light from the sun pass though – not because it is heavier than CO2 or has higher specific heat. Anyone with chemistry 101 knows that density goes with molar mass so 16kg of methane takes up the same volume (22.4m^3) as 44kg of CO2.

    – the oil and gas industry has no interest in suppressing progress in ocean energy, which generally delivers electric power. If oil and gas wanted to suppress anything, it would be coal, which competes with gas and emits far more SOx, CO2, mercury and particulates. An easy target but the infinitely powerful oil business still has not shut it down.

    – Ocean energy technology is not simple to implement at the costs that we want. In the UK, progress was stymied in the 1970's by some nuclear oriented R&D managers who thought all the funding should be theirs. But it is a tough problem, now being pushed hard by (particularly) the UK government. The fundamental issue is that ocean power comes from massive forces going slowly (power = force x velocity or torque x angular velocy). If you want a MW from a wave power device doing 6 cycles per minute, the torqe / load is 300x larger than that in a turbine doing 1800 cycles per minute. Torque / force costs money to resist, speed does not. Similarly, mooring and foundation loads for marine current turbines will increase with 1/current velocity for a given power level. None of the engineering problems is impossible but it needs time, expertise and money to get right

    Fairy stories about wicked governments suppressing the technologies which would otherwise allow us to live happily ever after on the sunlit uplands (blah, blah) are comforting but unfortunately just as true as all the other fairy stories you have read. Reality is rather more Grimm.

    Comment by EricJ | December 20, 2008

  34. Seems we're all agreed that most of this is "so bad it's not even wrong" – but there are a few more nuggets of disinformation that need to be nailed, in case the credibility of being on the R-Squared blog gives them some credibility. – water injection for EOR certainly can use saline water. Offshore platforms inject vast volumes and you don't see freshwater tankers heading out to resupply them. – methane is a green house gas because it absorbs the infrared that the earth radiates, while letting visible light from the sun pass though – not because it is heavier than CO2 or has higher specific heat. Anyone with chemistry 101 knows that density goes with molar mass so 16kg of methane takes up the same volume (22.4m^3) as 44kg of CO2. – the oil and gas industry has no interest in suppressing progress in ocean energy, which generally delivers electric power. If oil and gas wanted to suppress anything, it would be coal, which competes with gas and emits far more SOx, CO2, mercury and particulates. An easy target but the infinitely powerful oil business still has not shut it down. – Ocean energy technology is not simple to implement at the costs that we want. In the UK, progress was stymied in the 1970's by some nuclear oriented R&D managers who thought all the funding should be theirs. But it is a tough problem, now being pushed hard by (particularly) the UK government. The fundamental issue is that ocean power comes from massive forces going slowly (power = force x velocity or torque x angular velocy). If you want a MW from a wave power device doing 6 cycles per minute, the torqe / load is 300x larger than that in a turbine doing 1800 cycles per minute. Torque / force costs money to resist, speed does not. Similarly, mooring and foundation loads for marine current turbines will increase with 1/current velocity for a given power level. None of the engineering problems is impossible but it needs time, expertise and money to get rightFairy stories about wicked governments suppressing the technologies which would otherwise allow us to live happily ever after on the sunlit uplands (blah, blah) are comforting but unfortunately just as true as all the other fairy stories you have read. Reality is rather more Grimm.

    Comment by EricJ | December 20, 2008

  35. This guy just beat Van Mitchell (someday I hope I will be able to spell his name properly, with a capital E) for the silliest post ever on R-Squared.

    Comment by dennis moore | December 20, 2008

  36. This guy just beat Van Mitchell (someday I hope I will be able to spell his name properly, with a capital E) for the silliest post ever on R-Squared.

    Comment by dennis moore | December 20, 2008

  37. This is off the chart nonsense, but I have to ask, why is the author not here defending his most unusual science?

    This post reminds me of Sir Bedemir in Monty Pythons Holy Grail

    BEDEMIR: And that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana-shaped.
    ARTHUR: This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedemir. Explain again how sheeps’ bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.

    Comment by Dennis Moore | December 20, 2008

  38. This is off the chart nonsense, but I have to ask, why is the author not here defending his most unusual science?This post reminds me of Sir Bedemir in Monty Pythons Holy GrailBEDEMIR: And that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana-shaped.ARTHUR: This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedemir. Explain again how sheeps’ bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.

    Comment by Dennis Moore | December 20, 2008

  39. “The oil and gas industry have been drilling for oil using fresh water, carbonated, fresh water- to pressurize their wells, since the mid 1800’s; they also use phosphoric acid, the ingredient needed for RNA and DNA formation. They only use fresh water. Salt water will not do; if you see it mentioned it is the rare case of desalinization.”

    Really?

    Usually when a well is drilled onshore, fresh water is used when the pits are filled, and some maybe as makeup. A few hundred to a few thousand barrels, usually. That only because fresh water is needed to drill through shallow aquifers where we get our drinking water to avoid contaminating them with salt water. Once surface casing is set to isolate shallow drinkwater, drilling fluid usually becomes salty anyway due to evaporite dissolution, and formation water from nearby producers could be used instead of fresh water.

    That’s it.

    Waterflooding and CO2 EOR, the respectively most common secondary and tertiary recovery methods, often reinject produced water, which is salty but free, rather than purchase expensive fresh water. This is the case both onshore and offshore. No desalination, just the operator using the cheapest available water. “Salt water will not do” is nonsense.

    I’m new to this blog but this kind of risible crap certainly lowers its cred.

    Comment by Anonymous | January 1, 2009

  40. “The oil and gas industry have been drilling for oil using fresh water, carbonated, fresh water- to pressurize their wells, since the mid 1800’s; they also use phosphoric acid, the ingredient needed for RNA and DNA formation. They only use fresh water. Salt water will not do; if you see it mentioned it is the rare case of desalinization.”Really? Usually when a well is drilled onshore, fresh water is used when the pits are filled, and some maybe as makeup. A few hundred to a few thousand barrels, usually. That only because fresh water is needed to drill through shallow aquifers where we get our drinking water to avoid contaminating them with salt water. Once surface casing is set to isolate shallow drinkwater, drilling fluid usually becomes salty anyway due to evaporite dissolution, and formation water from nearby producers could be used instead of fresh water.That’s it.Waterflooding and CO2 EOR, the respectively most common secondary and tertiary recovery methods, often reinject produced water, which is salty but free, rather than purchase expensive fresh water. This is the case both onshore and offshore. No desalination, just the operator using the cheapest available water. “Salt water will not do” is nonsense.I’m new to this blog but this kind of risible crap certainly lowers its cred.

    Comment by Anonymous | January 1, 2009

  41. 3) I’d like to find this acid that dissolves quartz. Can you give me some references?

    See it on Wikipedia!

    To wit: “Diluted hydrofluoric acid (1 to 3 %wt.) is used in the petroleum industry in a mixture with other acids (HCl or organic acids) in order to stimulate the production of water, oil and gas wells.

    Of course it’s Wikipedia, so Silverthorne-Cebes might have put that in himself to bolster his case.

    Comment by djd | March 2, 2009

  42. “3) I’d like to find this acid that dissolves quartz. Can you give me some references?”See it on Wikipedia!To wit: “Diluted hydrofluoric acid (1 to 3 %wt.) is used in the petroleum industry in a mixture with other acids (HCl or organic acids) in order to stimulate the production of water, oil and gas wells.”Of course it’s Wikipedia, so Silverthorne-Cebes might have put that in himself to bolster his case.

    Comment by djd | March 2, 2009


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