On Energy, Sustainability, and EVs
When you go hunting or fishing, you look for signs such as deer tracks, minnows jumping out of the water, sea gulls diving, etc. When you go to assess crude oil production, you go read the papers published by respected, peer-reviewed scientists and those who have done their "homework". You tend to stay away from people who use a lot of adjectives or the ones whose numbers are misleading. You crank the numbers in a meaningful way and ask what is the truth behind what opposing people are saying.
The following is a set of "signs" with respect to Peak Oil, a phenomena in which either supply cannot meet demand on a permanent basis or there is an actual peaking of production where production reaches an absolute maximum and begins to decline permanently.
How do we know there will be a peak?
History repeats itself. Colonel Drake's well in Titusville, Pennsylvania is no longer producing oil. The same can be said for other non-renewables. This includes gold, copper, oil, gas, etc. Sutter's Mill is no longer producing gold. The Klondike has played out. All non-renewable resources deplete as the resources are extracted from their respective natural ores and reserves.
The following slide, produced by Simmons and Company International, Investors to the Energy Sector, depicts the rise and fall of four famous oil fields.
Many of the fields in the Middle East began production in the middle part of the last century and many are beginning to decline. Here is a write up on Abqaig, a Saudi Arabian field that is in decline: (Reference: http://www.theoildrum.com/classic/2005/06/picture-of-depletion.html)
"For most people there was some one thing that brought the reality of Peak Oil home to them. For me it was this picture [ed. below], from a paper by Dogru, Hamoud and Barlow in JPT in February 2004. The reference, to the paper "Multiphase Pump Recovers More Oil in a Mature Carbonate Reservoir" can be found here [ed. link 404'ed]. It shows a vertical slice taken through the Abqaiq oilfield in Saudi Arabia, using an instrument that measures the relative fluid densities at different levels in the field.
The shape is that of the carbonate rock which is the oil reservoir, although the vertical scale has been exaggerated considerably to show the current contents of the field. By using different colors the authors have shown the different fluid densities, and these can simply be translated into four zones. Over time the field has been injected with water (the blue zone) and this has pushed up the oil (the green zone) into the wells. The red is the overlying gas cap. When the reservoir was untapped it was likely all red and green. After all these years of pumping you can see how little of the green - the oil - remains. The field is about 800 ft thick from top to bottom and about 1.5 miles below the surface. If there is a picture that speaks to depletion this to me, is it." -- Heading Out
Even Natural Gas depletes. Ex-Chief Executive of Exxon-Mobile, Lee Raymond told reporters at the Reuters Energy Summit: "Gas production has peaked in North America," Asked whether production would continue to decline even if two huge arctic pipeline projects were built, Raymond said, "I think that's a fair statement, unless there's some huge find that nobody has any idea where it would be." Below is a graph that supports Mr. Raymond's assertion. (Reference: http://www.thewatt.com/article387.html).
This is going to affect the Canadian Tar Sands and the Colorado Oil Shale projects. Natural Gas is used to heat the tar in the cold Canadian Winters and it is then used in converting the tar to an oil that can be piped to a refinery.
With respect to the Colorado Oil Shale, massive amounts of heat are required to get the waxy kerotin [ed. the "oil" in the Oil Shale] to melt. The shale also has to be cracked so that there are ways of letting the kerotin flow through the rock to a pipe for recovery. In the 30 years of trying, no one has come up with an economically sound method of liquifying the kerotin and cracking the shale.
Natural Gas is used to produce about 17% of the US's electricity and to heat more than half of US homes including some 70% of new homes. It is also used to produce photovolatic cells and the glass coverings for solar heaters, fertilizers, medicines, and a host of other products that we rely upon and often take for granted. This means importing massive amounts of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) form the Middle East.
As a rule of thumb, world peak production of Natural Gas is thought to occur about 10 years after Peak Oil.
In the late 40's and early 50', a Shell Research Geologist by the name of M. King Hubbert studied depletion in the oil fields. He wrote a peer-reviewed scientific paper in which he noted that the time from peak discovery to peak oil production for a field ranged from 20 to approximately 40 years. He also noted that when about half of the recoverable oil was produced, the field was essentially at the peak of production. A peak in production of any resource is generally referred to as "Hubbert's Peak". The graph below shows that there was a peak in world discoveries in 1965, some 42 years ago.
Recent discoveries by the Chinese of 3 billion barrels of oil and "Jack2" in the Gulf of Mexico at 15 Billion Barrels are "small" compared to the 1965 discovery figure. Also "Jack2" is spread out as a number of smaller fields in the Deep Waters of the Gulf of Mexico and there are questions about the its ability for it to be fully produced. For comparison, look at the Prudhoe Bay figure above and it's 1.5 million barrel a day figure and compare that to the 20+ million barrels of oil the US uses a day. Prudhoe Bay's reserve is approximately 13 billion barrels.
Exxon has recently announced that their company's reserves have fallen and their prospects of finding replacement reserves is not good.
No amount of money is going to produce oil that is not there. In the future, it is going to take more and more money per barrel of oil to find lesser and lesser amounts in harder to get to regions of the world.
In the mid-1980's, OPEC members decided to set their production quotas based on their "official proved reserves" with the assumption that "future technology" would allow them to extract "normally trapped" amounts of crude from their reservoirs. Proved Reserves are those quantities of petroleum which, by analysis of geological and engineering data, can be estimated with a high degree of confidence [ed. 95%] to be commercially recoverable from a given date forward, from known reservoirs and under current economic conditions.
Note in the figure below that the Saudi Arabian reserves jumped to 261 billion barrels and the Kuwaiti reserves jumped to 99 billion barrels from approximately 160 and 60 billion barrels, respectively.
Even the National Geographic Society magazine used these "official" numbers in the figure below. Also note that the size of the squares depict "when their gas tanks were full" and not their currently depleted state.
Note the units are in millions of barrels. So for Saudi Arabia, the figure 261,000 million barrels is the same as 261 billion barrels.
(Source: National Geographic, "The End of Cheap Oil", June 2004, pages 91-92.)
Overestimating reserves can lead to nasty surprises:
How many planning bodies are using these official reserve figures?
When we will reach Peak Oil is not easily concluded. Professional opinions are between now and around 2030. Many National Oil Companies do not release their numbers.
However, even with crude oil prices nearing an all time high, we have reached an apparent plateau in production without any sufficient discoveries to drive down the price of crude oil.
As reserves diminish, the rest of the world is waking up to realize just how precious a resource oil and gas are. This realization and growing populations are causing world exporters to export less and even more so in the future. In the figure below, even though production held steady, exports declined.
Where do we go from here?
Almost all of our imported crude oil goes into the transportation sector.
Our main goal is to ween ourselves from oil and gas as fast as we can and not pay lip service to it. If we don't, fossil fuel induced inflation will raise food, transportation, medical and other costs to the point we may not be able to cope. We are seeing some of that now.
As depicted in the following figure, as demand out paces supply, a gap develops as depicted by the yellow shading. This area must be made up of alternatives net of fossil fuel usage. Otherwise, there will be upward pressure on fuel costs which will be added to the cost of basic commodities.
In anticipation of the yellow area expanding, we have to bring into existence those alternatives ahead of time so the demand line will follow the supply line. It would be best if the demand line were lower than the supply line.
Electric Vehicles are an alternative especially if they can be directly or indirectly refueled from wind and/or solar sources. The heart of an EV is its battery pack. Progress has been accelerating in battery development. Here are batteries capabilities and benefits:
Rapid recharge: A 100 mile pack of Altair Nanotechnology Nanosafe batteries has been recharged in 10 minutes. This was verified by AeroEnvironment. (Source: http://www.forbes.com/businesswire/feeds/businesswire/2007/05/30/businesswire20070530005396r1.html)
Elimination of internal resistance: A pack of 990 A123 Lithium Ion batteries was used to propel an electric motorcycle from 0 to over 155 mph in the quarter mile. (Source: http:www.killacycle.com with video)
Thousands of cycles: Over 7,000 charge/discharge cycles are possible. A 100 mile pack times 7,000 cycles is 700,000 miles. See the following figure:
Note: A battery is considered "dead" when it reaches a recharged capacity that is near 80% of its initial capacity. The brown line above intercepts the 80% line after 7,000 cycles. This is the battery company General Motors has selected for producing the battery packs for their Plugin Hybrid, the Volt.
Recyclable: There are businesses that recycle Lithium Ion based batteries. (Ref: http://www.toxco.com/aboutrecycle.html)
Calendar Life: Lithium Ion batteries are living longer. The warranty on the Phoenix Motorcar's SUT is 250,000 miles/12+ years. This is due to using a different chemical formulation than found in "laptop" batteries. (Source: http://www.phoenixmotorcars.com/)
Also, the Toyota Rav4 Electrics, leased by Southern California Edison, have over 200,000 miles on the original Nickel Metal Hydride battery packs from the mid-90's.
Extreme temperature operation: The Mars Rovers are using Lithium Ion based batteries for propulsion in -100 degree Fahrenheit conditions. The pack is insulated and heated using pack energy.
Low fuel cost: The EPA rating for the Toyota RAV 4 Electric is 0.301 kWh/mile at 50 mph. Electric rates are roughly $0.09/ kWh or about $0.03/mile. It costs about a $1.00 to go 30 miles.
Economical packs: The GM 40-mile Volt pack is estimated to cost about $10,000 (and rumored to be leased). At 7,000 cycles, that is 280,000 miles or about $0.04/mile. Automobile maintenance is approximately $0.03/mile (oil, timing belt, pumps, and fluid changes). Add the penny difference between the cost of the pack on a per mile basis and the cost of car maintenance for 30 miles and the total cost to go 30 miles in an EV is approximately $1.30.
Safe/Safer: New chemical formulations reduce or eliminate combustion.
Toward Sustainability: Conserve, conserve, conserve. North Carolina is blessed with abundant sunshine and moderate temperatures. Why not heat with solar instead of electricity and put your electrical usage into an EV at night when many utility plants idle their boilers?
"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that." Thomas Edison, 1931
In the above quote, the "we" is you and I.
In Summary, natural resources such as oil, gas and coal deplete. Without them, the products, services, foods, transportation and other amenities that have we have taken for granted will disappear unless we realize this and start to embrace conservation, and develop and use renewable alternatives. The sooner we start, the "better off we will be." /s Peter Eckhoff, September 10, 2007
M. King Hubbert, a Research Geologist for Shell Oil Company, published a scientific paper entitled: "Nuclear Energy and Fossil Fuel" (Ref: http://www.hubbertpeak.com/hubbert/1956/1956.pdf). This paper was the culmination of Hubbert's studies on depletion in oil fields and with other non renewable resources. This led him to a simple hypothesis that basically said: "When a field is half empty of its proven reserves, the field is at peak production." This is know as Hubbert's Peak and also referred to as Peak Oil [production]. Peak Oil is that point at which a country, region, or the World reaches peak oil production and will **never** see such high a levels of production ever again. It is sometimes referred to as the point where demand can no longer be satisfied by supply which may occur before the peak.
As one of the first signs, Dr. Hubbert predicted in 1956 that The United States would peak in production in the early 1970's. We did in December of 1970. This displays a graph of Hubbert's Peak for the United States:
The Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) reserves are estimated to be about 33% of the Prudhoe Bay reserves. From the above graph, those reserves will add some to our reserves but they are no panacea. GOM stands for Gulf of Mexico. NGL stands for Natural Gas Liquids.
A good complimentary book is Hubbert's Peak by Ken Deffeyes. It's a folksy walk through the oil patches of Deffeyes' life with reflections that help explain Hubbert's Peak to the non technical reader. For a semi-technical book, it's not dry.
Matthew Simmons is a multi-billion dollar Investment Banker to the Energy Industry. To his credit, he studied the Society of Petroleum Engineers technical papers on the Saudi Arabian oil fields and wrote what he found in a book called "Twilight in the Desert". It's an excellent read. His presentations can be found here:
Hubbert's claim to fame is that he predicted in 1956, that the US would reach peak production in the early 1970's. We did in December of 1970. Even with the 13 billion barrel potential of Prudhoe Bay oil coming through the Alaskan Pipeline a couple of years later, that oil was **not** enough to create a second peak. With the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) proven reserves estimated to be about 1/3 that of the Prudhoe Bay find, we could expect less volume and/or maximum duration to be less.
Hubbert also predicted that the world would reach peak production in the early 2000's. The Arab Oil Embargo and the Iranian Revolution Containment caused us to conserve -- for awhile. This would push the peaking date to about now. Recent graphs show that world oil production is plateauing. Is this just another plateau or is this the time window in which we will see World Peak Oil Production?
Here are two more slides showing natural gas discovery and production from already peaked North American natural gas reserves (graphic-slide11, graphic2).
What do we have available as alternatives? Dr Nate Lewis of CalTech, using the amount of prime energy of Oil, Gas, and Coal we consume, ran the numbers to see how alternative fuels stacked up as replacements. He goes strictly by these numbers. His Presentation is "The Future of Power and Energy" and is about an hour long.
Here is a link to signs of Peak Oil from an economic perspective:
Dr. Alber Bartlett talks about the growth and relates it to oil production and consumption. This is an easy to understand talk but it gives great insight into what is happening.
The other good news is that there has been good progress in solar cell development. Here is an article that describes some of that progress: http://www.trnmag.com/Stories/2004/051904/Solar_crystals_get_2-for-1_051904.html. While I wouldn't want lead-selenium cells on my roof in case of fire, I would gladly place them in my yard. Also, progress is being made with CIGS solar cells. Efficiencies in the 40 to 50% range are expected in the near future. We have heard a lot of promises before but CIGS are going into production.
Where can photovoltaic and wind electrical output be stored? In batteries. Traditionally this has been done using lead acid deep cycle batteries but the Lithium batteries are becoming much better cost wise. Firefly energy has developed a lead acid battery made up of a lead mesh coverd in foam. This battery does not have the discharge/cycle life problems of normal lead acid batteries.
Lithium Ion batteries are becoming a viable choice as a PV storage medium. There are Lithium Ion battery types that are like "fiery steeds" and others that are more like Shetland Ponies in behavior. With 20,000 useful cycles acheived in the laboratory, a pack of Altair Nanosafe batteries could conceivably be used for 70 years in a PV storage system (21,000 cycle/300cycles/year = ~70 years provided there are no calendar life or scaling up in size issues. Note: This calculation assumes less use in the Spring and Fall.). The Nanosafe batteries do not catch fire and they do not explode.
Electric Vehicles have a well to wheel equivalent efficiency of about 50 miles per gallon while a hydrogen powered fuel cell car, when the hydorgen is made in an environmentally friendly way (electrolysis) has a well to wheel equivalent efficiency to about 12 miles per gallon.
Here are some graphs that help explain the high price of oil:
Where is the price of oil today? Where are we to get "our" oil from tomorrow? The World Petroleum Concil has a session where they brainstorm on where the next "big" finds might be and what it would take to bring those finds to market. Their last session was about drilling in the Artic, Antartic, and UltraDeep parts of the Oceans. One area is northeast of Greenland with spring icebergs and 120 foot seas in winter. If we do get oil and/or gas from that area, it will be very expensive. We have or can develope the technology to work in those environs. The session was dissolved permanently because there are no more areas to contemplate.