With the death of the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the future production and exports of Venezuelan crude are gaining a little new attention. I had noted in the last post that there is a difference of around 400 kbd between the 2.379 mbd that outside observers report to OPEC that the country is producing, and the 2.768 mbd that Venezuela itself reported. The question now becomes one as to whether the new President will be able to resurrect an industry that has overseen a slow decline in overall production, with a more rapid decline in exports.
My short answer to that question is No! It is based on a number of reasons and may be swamped by the voices who note that the country has a vast remaining pool of oil in the Orinoco Basin, one that the USGS has estimated to be more than a trillion barrels in size, of which some 513 billion barrels are technically recoverable. But there have been a number of posts about those numbers and the more critical number, which is that of the rate of oil production.
Posted by Heading Out on March 7, 2013 - 5:41am
Tags: arctic, exxonmobil, gazprom, israel, kara sea, lukoil, opec oil production, rosneft, shell, shtokman, tamar, yamal [list all tags]
The Arctic is a less forgiving place than many folk care to recognize. Shell has just moved back the date on which they plan to restart drilling in the Chukchi Sea and won’t be going up there this year. At the same time, Gazprom announced last August that the development of the Shtokman gas field off the Russian coast and also in the Arctic had been put on an indefinite delay. Yet the region still shows considerable promise. ExxonMobil and Rosneft have agreed to exploration in the Chukchi, Laptev and Kara Seas, with the latter considered as possibly having the highest potential.
The blocks that will be explored are south of the island of Novaya Zemlya, in relatively shallow water. They lie north of the Yamal Peninsula, and the Shtokman field is on the other side of the island.
Rosneft estimates that the recoverable reserves are 6.2 billion tons of oil, and a total of 20.9 billion tons of oil equivalent when the natural gas content is included. The first wildcat well is scheduled to be drilled in 2015.
Posted by Rembrandt on March 1, 2013 - 6:07am
Tags: conference, economics, edinburgh, electricity, energy, fossil fuels, global energy systems, nuclear, renewable electricity, shale oil, unconventional, united kingdom [list all tags]
Our energy system is evolving due to depletion of cheap fossil fuels and the need for carbon emission constraints. Government and business are under pressure to tackle the energy challenges of rising energy costs, energy security, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We witness rapid changes across countries as this evolution takes place, steered both by markets (investment decisions) and government (policy decisions).
It is essential for energy professionals to stay well informed with the latest insights in this evolving world. For this reason, Euan Mearns of The Oil Drum, myself and several others, are organizing the first three-day Global Energy Systems conference, which will take place in Edinburgh, United Kingdom from June 26 - 28 2013. The conference is meant to deliver key updates on the most pressing energy issues and challenges facing our energy system, as well as providing a forum for exchange of substantially different viewpoints. It is supported by several universities and research institutes including University of Aberdeen, University of Edinburgh, Oxford Research Group, Chatham House and others.
The scope is deliberately very broad, covering most primary energy sources, so that a global view of the current energy system can be presented. Session topics include “the limits to easily accessible fossil fuels”, “frontier fossil fuel technologies and basins”, “the viability of nuclear power”, “the costs and benefits of fossil versus renewable electricity”, and “the economics and policy of energy systems”. A few of our confirmed speakers include Michael Kumhof (IMF), Sir David King (former Head Smith School Oxford University), Arthur Berman (The Oil Drum), Dr. William Blyth (Director Oxford Energy Associates) , Peter Jackson (IHS CERA), Lord Ron Oxburgh (House of Lords UK Parliament), Dr. Alexander Naumov (Group Economics BP), and Guy de Kort (Shell Vice President GTL).
Read below the fold for an overview of the conference programme and confirmed speakers to date.
Sailors assigned to Riverine Group 1 conduct maneuvers aboard Riverine Command Boat (Experimental) (RCB-X) at Naval Station Norfolk. The RCB-X is powered by an alternative fuel blend of 50 percent algae-based and 50 percent NATO F-76 fuels to support the secretary of the Navy’s efforts to reduce total energy consumption on naval ships. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gregory N. Juday).
In 2010 I conducted an interview with Tom Hicks, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary to the Navy (Energy). During the interview, Tom described the Navy’s efforts in pushing for widespread availability of biofuels for Naval operations. He stated that sourcing alternative energy is a top priority for the Navy, and would enhance its war-fighting capabilities. He said the Navy sees itself in a leadership role in driving a transition to “homegrown, secure, independent sources of fuel.”
The goal, as described by Tom, is for biofuels to make a major contribution toward the fuel needs of the Navy by 2020. The Navy has embarked upon an initiative called the “Great Green Fleet” in which they would deploy a strike group on all alternative fuels by 2016. By 2020, the goal is for 50% of all of the Navy’s energy consumption to come from alternative sources. In pursuit of this initiative, the Navy is doing research, and testing and certifying all of their engines on renewable fuels.
ReutersDiving into the numbers what one finds behind this policy U-turn is something entirely different.
Exclusive: Foreign investors set to sue Spain over energy reform
(Reuters) - Foreign investors in renewable energy projects in Spain have hired lawyers to prepare potential international legal action against the Spanish government over new rules they say break their contracts.
The Spanish Parliament approved a law on Thursday that cuts subsidies for alternative energy technologies, backtracking on its push for green power.
That measure, along with other recent laws including a tax on power generation that hit green energy investments especially hard, will virtually wipe out profits for photovoltaic, solar thermal and wind plants, sector lobbyists say.
Posted by Heading Out on February 24, 2013 - 9:12am
Tags: china, coal, europe, future power, india, nuclear power, ofgem, precautionary principle, scotland, solar power, wind power [list all tags]
I am sorry for the response your Grace’s proposals are meeting here today, so near the spot where your maternal grand-mother, by giving some forty-eight hours notice, marshaled 1,500 men to pick out the 800 she required. But there is a cause for it, and a genuine cause, and, as your Grace demands to know it, I must tell you, as I see that none else is inclined in the assembly to do so. These lands are now devoted to rear dumb animals which your parents considered of far more value than men . . . . your parents, yourself and your Commissioners have desolated the glens and the straths of Sutherland where you should find hundreds, yea thousands of men to meet and respond to your call cheerfully had your parents kept faith with them. How could your Grace expect to find men where they are not?The anecdote illustrates that there are long-term consequences to policy decisions, often not fully recognized when the original decisions are made. I was reminded of the Scottish situation as I contemplate the great race to renewable energy and natural gas, and the rapid replacement being urged for coal-fired power stations and nuclear power plants. And there are some grounds for seeing an analogy to that earlier situation.
Coal and uranium are found underground and while there is a large surface mining component to mining, as these reserves are exhausted, or embargoed for environmental or other political reasons, the need, over time will move increasingly to the development of the deeper reserves. Mines, however do not spring up overnight. Just as you cannot get a baby in a month by making nine women pregnant, so the process of discovery, raising capital, permitting and development can mean that over a decade can pass before coal is produced in commercial quantitites. And that assumes that the Administration is somewhat favorable to the idea. As a candidate, now President Obama said "If someone wants to build a new coal-fired power plant they can, but it will bankrupt them because they will be charged a huge sum for all the greenhouse gas that's being emitted."
As President he appointed Dr. Stephen Chu to head the Department of Energy, an individual who has said “Coal is my worst nightmare.”. And to follow on his statement as a candidate, the President appointed Lisa Jackson to the EPA who issued a finding that greenhouse gases constitute a threat to public health and welfare, with a series of actions to reduce carbon pollution. In such a political climate it is unlikely that applications for new mines and plants will receive an accelerated resolution. (Just consider the case of decision on the Keystone Pipeline, which continues to drag on.) If there is a sudden discovered need for new coal and nuclear power plants they will not (as with the Highlanders) be there to answer that call, and nor can they be for over a decade after the call is made.
We are used to expecting that more investment will yield more output, but in the real world, things don’t always work out that way.
In Figure 1, we see that for several groupings, the increase (or decrease) in oil consumption tends to correlate with the increase (or decrease) in GDP. The usual pattern is that GDP growth is a little greater than oil consumption growth. This happens because of changes of various sorts: (a) Increasing substitution of other energy sources for oil, (b) Increased efficiency in using oil, and (c) A changing GDP mix away from producing goods, and toward producing services, leading to a proportionately lower need for oil and other energy products.
The situation is strikingly different for Saudi Arabia, however. A huge increase in oil consumption (Figure 1), and in fact in total energy consumption (Figure 2, below), does not seem to result in a corresponding rise in GDP.
At least part of problem is that Saudi Arabia is reaching limits of various types. One of them is inadequate water for a rising population. Adding desalination plants adds huge costs and huge energy usage, but does not increase the standards of living of citizens. Instead, adding desalination plants simply allows the country to pump less water from its depleting aquifers.
To some extent, the same situation occurs in oil and gas fields. Expensive investment is required, but it is doubtful that there is an increase in capacity that is proportional to its cost. To a significant extent, new investment simply offsets a decline in production elsewhere, so maintains the status quo. It is expensive, but adds little to what gets measured as GDP.
The world outside of Saudi Arabia is now running into an investment sinkhole issue as well. This takes several forms: water limits that require deeper wells or desalination plants; oil and gas limits that require more expensive forms of extraction; and pollution limits requiring expensive adjustments to automobiles or to power plants.
These higher investment costs lead to higher end product costs of goods using these resources. These higher costs eventually transfer to other products that most of us consider essential: food because it uses much oil in growing and transport; electricity because it is associated with pollution controls; and metals for basic manufacturing, because they also use oil in extraction and transport.
Ultimately, these investment sinkholes seem likely to cause huge problems. In some sense, they mean the economy is becoming less efficient, rather than more efficient. From an investment point of view, they can expect to crowd out other types of investment. From a consumer’s point of view, they lead to a rising cost of essential products that can be expected to squeeze out other purchases.
Posted by Heading Out on February 19, 2013 - 5:54am
Tags: bp, chevron, coal gasification, gas shale, gazprom, nord stream, poland, russia, shell, turkey, turkmenistan, ukraine [list all tags]
You know it is winter when Russia and Ukraine publically row about supplies of natural gas. On Tuesday Ukraine completed the signing of an agreement with Turkmenistan for the supply of natural gas. In the past the purchases have been for up to 36 billion cu m per year, although this was historically through Russian intermediaries. That deal ended in 2006, and Turkmenistan has been able to find a customer in China that now provides an alternate sale that does not leave it dependent on whatever price Russia was willing to provide.
But this does not mean that Ukraine has been able to escape having to pay whatever price Russia wished to impose, since to get from Turkmenistan to Ukraine the natural gas still requires passage through a pipeline that runs through Kazakhstan and Russia. There is no prize for guessing that Gazprom owns those pipelines.
This continues to give Gazprom leverage over Ukraine, and with the North Stream pipeline now approaching its full potential after the second string was commissioned last October, Europe can receive up to 55 billion cu m per year without the gas having to pass through Ukraine.
The U.S. should take a cautious approach to exporting natural gas.
That’s the clear lesson of three decades of bad guesses by analysts about natural gas prices and supplies. If pro-export advocates are wrong this time, consumers and businesses will be the ones who suffer from higher domestic gas prices.
Several recent studies concluded that domestic price increases from exports would be small. This conclusion, however, is based on unrealistic assumptions about the size of U.S. gas supplies and the true cost of producing shale gas.
In fact, supplies are likely substantially smaller than predicted, while costs are higher.
History should provide ample reasons for the U.S. to look before it leaps into large-scale exports. Two cycles of investment fiasco involving natural gas imports to the U.S. have occurred in the past 30 years, first in the 1970s, and again just a few years ago, when more than 47 applications for natural gas import terminals were pending at one point.
Both of these were due to incorrect predictions about domestic supply. The supply models that past gas import decisions were based on had widespread support by experts. But they were wrong.
The lesson: gas supply estimates are much more uncertain than experts and conventional wisdom assumes.
Before there were refrigerators folks kept drinks cool by putting them into clay jars that had been soaked in water. The evaporation of the water from the clay cooled the container and its contents, which today includes wine bottles. On the other hand, for many years artisans have taken clay in a slightly different form, shaped it and baked it and provided the teacups which keep the liquid inside until we drink it.
Two different forms of the same basic geological material, with two different behaviors and uses. Why bring this up? Well, there is a growing series of articles which continue to laud the volumes of oil and natural gas that the world can expect from the artificial fracturing of the layers of shale in which these hydrocarbons have been trapped for the past few million years. It has been suggested that there is no difference between this “unconventional” oil and the “conventional” oil that has been produced over the past century to power the global economy. And yet, despite the scientific detail which some of these critics discuss other issues, they seem unable to grasp the relatively simple geologic and temporal facts that make the reserves in such locations as the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania and the Bakken of North Dakota both unconventional and temporally transient. Let me therefore try again to explain why, despite the fact that the oil itself may be relatively similar, the recovery and economics of that oil are quite different from those economics involved in extracting conventional deposits.
But before getting to that, let’s first look at the current situation in North Dakota, using the information from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). According to the January Director’s Cut the rig count in the state has varied from 188 in October, through 186 in November, and 184 in December, to 181 at the time of the report. Why is this number important? Well, as I will explain in more detail later, the decline rate of an individual well in the region is very high, and thus the industry has to continue to drill wells at a rapid rate, just to replace the decline. (This is the “Red Queen” scenario that Rune Likvern has explained so well.) The DMR recognize this by showing the effect of several different scenarios as the number of rigs changes.
For example, they project that 170 rigs will be able to drill around 2,000 wells a year. At that level, and with some assumptions about the productivity of individual wells that I am not going to address here, but which Rune discussed, I would suggest that it is irrational to expect that new wells will continue to sustain existing first year levels as the wells move away from formation sweet spots. Yet, accepting their assumptions for now, DMR project that the 170 rigs will generate the following production from the state: