(Hit the link for an interactive graphic, or head here for the PDF breakdown.)
As a nation we must find energy sources beyond petroleum. Chiefly because it’s a finite resource and will eventually — and that eventually may be a long ways off — run out. And it is the root of almost every vexing military and statecraft problem the United States faces. The problem is oil, gas and coal are so incredibly cheap and efficient compared to any feasible alternative.
Solar power has seen breakthrough after breakthrough (see the link in the sidebar under “interesting blog topics”) over the last several years, and many of these breakthroughs affect the current solar marketplace so it’s not all pie-in-the-sky activity. One way to ramp up improvements in solar efficiency and lower practical costs is to infuse the R&D process with enough money to not have to pick and choose among untested ideas. This investment from the government will allow Abengoa Solar and Abound Solar Manufacturing to implement large solar installations, create some jobs along the way, and, yes, continue to improve solar energy as a viable alternative to petroleum.
This is good news to blog about on Independence Day. Kudos to President Obama.
From the link:
US President Barack Obama announced on Saturday the awarding of nearly two billion dollars to two solar energy companies that have agreed to build new power plants in the United States, creating thousands of new jobs.
“We’re going to keep fighting to advance our recovery,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “And we’re going to keep competing aggressively to make sure the jobs and industries of the future are taking root right here in America.”
One of the companies, Abengoa Solar, has agreed to build one of the largest solar plants in the world in Arizona, which will create about 1,600 construction jobs. When completed, this plant will provide enough clean energy to power 70,000 homes.
The other company, Abound Solar Manufacturing, is building two new plants, one in Colorado and one in Indiana.
US President Barack Obama (R) tours a solar energy centre in Arcadia, Florida in 2009. Obama has announced the awarding of nearly $2 bln to two solar energy companies that have agreed to build new power plants in the US, creating thousands of new jobs
… in the mighty Mississip.
Gulf oil spill: Mississippi River hydrology may help reduce oil onshore
Scientists tracking wetland characteristics find potential good news
IMAGE: Mississippi River hydrology may hold a possible answer for protecting fragile Gulf wetlands.
The Gulf of Mexico: what role will the Mississippi River play in oil washing ashore and into delta wetlands?
One of the spill’s greatest environmental threats is to Louisiana’s wetlands, scientists believe.
But there may be good news ahead.
Scientists affiliated with the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics (NCED), a National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Technology Center headquartered at the University of Minnesota, are using long-term field plots in Louisiana’s Wax Lake Delta to measure the baseline conditions of, and track the effects of the oil spill on, coastal Louisiana wetlands.
Robert Twilley and Guerry Holm of Louisiana State University (LSU) are investigating the degree to which two delta wetland characteristics may help mitigate oil contamination.
Fresh water head, as it’s called, the slope of the water’s surface from a river delta to the sea, and residence time of river-mouth wetlands, the time it takes water to move through a wetland at a river’s mouth, are important to understanding how delta wetlands will respond to the oil spill, say the researchers.
IMAGE: Scientists Robert Twilley and Guerry Holm are studying wetlands in Louisiana’s Wax Lake Delta.
“Since the Mississippi River is currently at a relatively high stage, we expect the river’s high volume of freshwater to act as a hydrologic barrier, keeping oil from moving into the Wax Lake Delta from the sea,” says Twilley.
Twilley and Holm are performing baseline and damage assessments on the plants and soils of, and comparing oil degradation processes in, freshwater and saltwater Louisiana wetlands.
“The Mississippi River’s ‘plumbing’ provides a potential benefit to reducing the movement of oil onshore from shelf waters,” says Twilley.
The Mississippi’s flow has been altered for flood control to protect people and infrastructure in this working delta.
River diversion structures–concrete gates built within the levees of the river–may be operated, however, to allow water to flow to specific coastal basins and floodways, says Twilley, “as a way to provide controlled floods.”
IMAGE: Warm/cool colors show current high/low elevations, respectively, in the Wax Lake Delta.
The operational features of this system “downriver to the control structure near Venice, Louisiana,” he says, “may provide a second line of defense against oil washing in.”
But any strategy using Mississippi River hydrology must be one of clear options and tradeoffs, says H. Richard Lane, program director in NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences, which funds NCED.
“As the river stage falls and protection diminishes,” says Lane, “it becomes a question of how best to distribute this freshwater resource to defend the coast from the movement of oil onshore.”
The answer, Twilley says, lies in the delicate balance of river, coastal and Gulf of Mexico processes “that must work in concert to benefit the incredible ‘ecosystem services’ this region provides to the nation.”
Louisiana wetlands “play a vital role in protecting New Orleans from hurricane damage, providing habitat for wildlife, supporting economically important fisheries, and maintaining water quality,” says Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, director of NCED.
“We must look at all options for protecting them for the future.”
In addition to his NCED and LSU affiliations, Twilley is the recipient of an NSF rapid response oil spill grant.
Jumps up by a whole lot. This is truly a disaster of epic proportions, and it’s clear BP has been both hiding and outright lying about the truth on what’s happening to the Gulf of Mexico from day one. The company deserves to be bankrupted over this spill.
From the link:
A government panel raised its estimate of the flow rate from BP’s out-of-control well yet again on Tuesday, declaring that as much as 60,000 barrels a day could be flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. That is roughly 2.5 million gallons a day, and it means an amount equal to the Exxon Valdez spill could be gushing from the well about every four days.
The new estimate, that the flow rate ranges from 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day, is a sharp increase from one issued only last week, of 25,000 to 30,000 barrels a day. It continues a pattern in which every new estimate of the flow rate has been sharply higher than the one before. The current range is far above the figure of 5,000 barrels a day that the government clung to for weeks after the spill started after the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
The latest estimate is based on new information, including high-resolution video made after BP cut an underwater pipe called a riser on June 3 to install a new device to contain the oil. It is also based on pressure readings taken by a device that was inserted this week into the equipment at the sea floor. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, was personally involved in using those pressure readings to help make the latest estimate.
I’ll just let NASA’s image and caption do the work in illuminating BP’s ecological disaster:
NASA Visible Image of Gulf Oil Slick-June 10
Caption: NASA’s Aqua satellite flew over the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, June 10 at 19:05 UTC (3:05 p.m. EDT) and the satellite’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument captured an image of the thickest part of the oil slick. In the image, the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico is positioned in sunglint. In the sunglint region—where the mirror-like reflection of the Sun gets blurred into a wide, bright silvery-gray strip—differences in the texture of the water surface may be enhanced. In the thickest part of the slick, oil smooths the water, making it a better “mirror.” Areas where thick oil cover the water are nearly white in this image. Additional oil may also be present.
Credit: NASA MODIS Rapid Response Team/ Holli Riebeek
Usage Restrictions: None
Related news release: NASA’s Aqua Satellite Saw Oil Slick in Sunglint on June 10
British Petroleum is about to get nailed six ways to Monday by what is safe to assume to be a multi-agency federal offensive. BP is taking a well-deserved public relations hit, and the Obama administration is taking it on the chin as well, because fair, or not, that’s the way these things play out politically.
President Barack Obama said he wanted to know “whose ass to kick” over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, adding to the pressure on energy giant BP Plc as it sought to capture more of the leak from its gushing well.
In an interview with NBC News’ “Today” aired on Tuesday, Obama also said that if BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward worked for him, he would have fired him by now over his response to the 50-day-old spill, the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. It was triggered by an April 20 well blowout and rig explosion that killed 11 workers.
BP can’t say they aren’t being offered any solutions, but to be fair there’s no way to reasonably vet even a fraction of these 35,000-and-counting ideas for even a modicum of feasibility.
From the link in the previous graf:
BP has received almost 35,000 ideas in just over a month on how best to clean up the millions of gallons of oil from the biggest spill in U.S. history. So far, only four have made it into testing.
If the ideas—which range from soaking up oil with human hair to enlisting oil-eating microbes—are seen as practical and don’t overlap with proposals already being explored, they’re sent to smaller teams of engineers to see if they can be applied, MacEwen said. About 800 proposals have made it to this stage, with just one-half of 1 percent of those in testing, he said. Most are duplicative or infeasible, MacEwen said.
If you’re looking for information on what is an absolute Gulf of Mexico ecological disaster from BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore oil well, hit this link for very thorough coverage from a news source with something of a dog in this fight — the Houston Chronicle.
Doesn’t mitigate the extent of this disaster, but it is good to at least have an idea about what caused the blowout in the first place.
From the link:
The deadly blowout of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was triggered by a bubble of methane gas that escaped from the well and shot up the drill column, expanding quickly as it burst through several seals and barriers before exploding, according to interviews with rig workers conducted during BP’s internal investigation.
While the cause of the explosion is still under investigation, the sequence of events described in the interviews provides the most detailed account of the April 20 blast that killed 11 workers and touched off the underwater gusher that has poured more than 3 million gallons of crude into the Gulf.
Also from the link, sounds like a very frightening few moments on the rig:
As the bubble rose up the drill column from the high-pressure environs of the deep to the less pressurized shallows, it intensified and grew, breaking through various safety barriers, Bea said.
“A small bubble becomes a really big bubble,” Bea said. “So the expanding bubble becomes like a cannon shooting the gas into your face.”
Up on the rig, the first thing workers noticed was the sea water in the drill column suddenly shooting back at them, rocketing 240 feet in the air, he said. Then, gas surfaced. Then oil.
“What we had learned when I worked as a drill rig laborer was swoosh, boom, run,” Bea said. “The swoosh is the gas, boom is the explosion and run is what you better be doing.”
The gas flooded into an adjoining room with exposed ignition sources, he said.
“That’s where the first explosion happened,” said Bea, who worked for Shell Oil in the 1960s during the last big northern Gulf of Mexico oil well blowout. “The mud room was next to the quarters where the party was. Then there was a series of explosions that subsequently ignited the oil that was coming from below.
Not the blowout itself — those just happen to oil rigs and can’t be avoided — but the failure of the blowout preventer (BOP). BOPs are the primary, and clearly just about the only, defense the oil and gas industry has against blowouts in deepwater wells.
From the link:
While the Deepwater Horizon leaks’ depth is unprecedented, it was not unanticipated. A report by engineering consulting firm URS Corp. in 2002 concluded that “Technologies used in shallow waters are no longer adequate for water depths over 1,000 meters. As a result, the environmental consequences of some of the newer deepwater technologies are not well understood.”
In 2005 petroleum engineering researchers from Texas A&M University suggested that drilling in the “dangerous and unknown” ultra-deep environment required new blowout control measures: “While drilling as a whole may be advancing to keep up with these environments, some parts lag behind. An area that has seen this stagnation and resulting call for change has been blowout control.”
An analysis of incidents in the Gulf of Mexico by the Texas A&M researchers showed that offshore blowouts had continued at “a fairly stable rate” since 1960 despite the use of BOPs. Regulators require inspection of BOPs every 14 days. BP says it inspected the Deepwater Horizon’s 10 days before last month’s blowout.
Hit this link for satellite images of the slick from April 29, 2010.
Here is leaked oil heading toward the coastline of Louisiana:
A very necessary — and belated for the Obama administration — move to start to wean the U.S. off foreign petroleum-based energy.
From the link:
President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget could provide a significant boost to the U.S. nuclear power industry, which has been stalled for decades. If approved by Congress, the budget would provide $36 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear power plants, opening the way for around seven new nuclear power plants, depending on the final cost of each. The new guarantees are in addition to $18.5 billion in guarantees provided for in a 2005 energy bill.
The increased support for nuclear power marks a change for the Obama administration, which has opposed similar increases in the past. Some policy experts say it is part of a strategy to win Republican votes for a comprehensive climate and energy bill.
I’ve blogged about oil shale extraction in the US and how it can be something of game-changer in the petroleum world. The technology is going global and could very possibly cause a serious, and welcome, shakeup in the international geopolitics surrounding the oil and gas industry.
From the second link:
Italian and Norwegian oil engineers and geologists have arrived in Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania to learn how to extract gas from layers of a black rock called shale. Companies are leasing huge tracts of land across Europe for exploration. And oil executives are gathering rocks and scrutinizing Asian and North African geological maps in search of other fields.
The global drilling rush is still in its early stages. But energy analysts are already predicting that shale could reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas. They said they believed that gas reserves in many countries could increase over the next two decades, comparable with the 40 percent increase in the United States in recent years.
“It’s a breakout play that is going to identify gigantic resources around the world,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy expert at Rice University. “That will change the geopolitics of natural gas.”
This is just cool:
March 11, 2009
Maybe, maybe not. Oil was heading up, but took a hit today. I’m guessing OPEC has very little real teeth right now for whatever reason. If you believe some of the industry analysts, it looks like compliance within member nations of the cartel for the production cuts isn’t so great.
From the link:
One area of concern for OPEC, and of interest to petroleum sector analysts, is the level of compliance with the new, lower production quotas among OPEC nations. One analyst says, “OPEC is still having trouble meeting current quotas,” and that cheating remains a problem for OPEC. Qatar’s oil minister, Abdullah Bin Hamad al Attiyah, says he is satisfied with compliance describing the commitment among OPEC nations for the production cuts as, “very good.” This sentiment was echoed by Iran’s OPEC governor Mohammed Ali Khatibi who says, “Adherence is better than everybody expected, 80 percent, 90 percent.”
Khatibi adds, “Up to 2030, we have to build capacity for 45 million barrels a day, just for compensating the (natural) decline. In addition to that, we need to respond to future demand. The current price cannot encourage any investment, everybody expects a better price. The question is how we can achieve this.”
This confidence from OPEC members is not shared by petroleum industry analysts. One analyst says the rally in the price of oil and OPEC influence is “overdone.” The analyst continues, “OPEC is still having trouble meeting current quotas and cheating remains an issue.”
February 14, 2009
KBR, back when it was still part of Halliburton, bribed Nigerian officials during the construction of a natural gas plant. Halliburton recently settled with the U.S. government in the case to the tune of almost $560M. It still faces charged in the EU and Africa.
Here’s an EnerMax post of mine from this week on the settlement:
Oil and gas services company, Halliburton, settled charges that one of its divisions engaged in bribing Nigerian officials. The settlement came to a $559 million payout to the Justice Department and the SEC. This figure is the largest paid by any U.S. company facing bribery charges.
The charges stemmed from the construction of a gas plant in Nigeria. The investigation began back in 2003 and the matter is still being pursued in Europe and Nigeria so Halliburton still faces potential additional fines and possible sanctions.
From the Wall Street Journal:
The U.S. government’s case received a boost in September when former Halliburton executive Albert J. “Jack” Stanley agreed to plead guilty to orchestrating $180 million in bribes to senior Nigerian officials. Mr. Cheney promoted Mr. Stanley to run KBR in 1998.The charges against Mr. Stanley relate to work done by former Halliburton unit Kellogg, Brown & Root, which was spun off in 2007 into a separate company, KBR Inc. Halliburton agreed to pay penalties stemming from the case even after KBR was independent.
It is unclear whether the proposed settlement will affect KBR’s ability to land future government contracts. A KBR spokeswoman said it would discuss the impact of the proposed settlement in February, when it files its earnings.
News of the large settlement comes on the heels of Halliburton reporting a 43 percent drop in fourth-quarter earnings. The settlement includes a payment of $382 million on behalf of KBR to the U.S. Justice Department and $177 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The charges against KBR originated during the construction of a large liquefied natural gas plant near Port Harcourt on the Nigerian Coast. This project began in 1996 and ran through the mid-2000s. The gas plant was the largest industrial investment ever made in Africa at that time.
The previous U.S. record for a bribery investigation also involved the oil and gas industry. Oil-services firm Baker Hughes was fined $44 million in 2007 for improper payments in Kazakhstan.
February 11, 2009
This study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute sees problems with the idea of a windfall tax on the oil and gas industry. I’m all for seeking out and implementing alternative sources of energy.
I blog often on solar, wind and other alternative power breakthroughs, but at the same time I’m realistic. We need a strong domestic petroleum industry for many reasons. Not the least of which that is the way our nation is powered for the time being and no single alternative energy innovation, or wishful thinking, is going to change the fact.
Realistic thinking, many innovations and a nation running on all cylinders, so to speak, will make a difference in the long run. And like it or not, the oil and gas industry is integral to the effort.
From the link:
The imposition of new taxes on the oil and natural gas industry likely could kill hundreds of thousands of jobs, slow economic growth and make Americans more dependent on foreign sources of energy, according to a study released today.
The CRA International study, commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute, underscores how ill-advised tax policy would likely result in less domestic oil and natural gas production – which would likely undermine both the nation’s economic and energy security. While there is no specific windfall profits tax proposal being considered by the Congress, the CRA analysis focuses on the windfall profits tax to illustrate that a similar tax or combination of taxes could have negative consequences for the U.S. economy.
“U.S. dependence on foreign oil could be magnified over the next 20 years if the oil and gas companies face the prospect of higher taxes that reduce returns on new investments,” said W. David Montgomery, a vice president at CRA, who conducted the study. “Although this study has specifically assessed the impact of a proposed windfall profits tax, similar forms of increased taxation or other policies that reduce incentives for new investment would be expected to have similar negative consequences.”
The study also found that a windfall profits tax likely would:
- Cause a net loss of up to 490,000 U.S. jobs by 2030.
- Reduce U.S. gross domestic product by roughly 1 percent, or $240 billion by 2030.
- Increase U.S. imports of crude oil by up to 18 percent in 2030 and reduce U.S. domestic production of crude oil by up to 26 percent in the same year.
Update 2/17/09 — Here’s my EnerMax post on the study.