14 October 2011

Unstoppable?

Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist, has posted up a forthcoming op-ed on UK energy policy.  It lays out the choices faced by UK policy makers in stark fashion.  In the piece, he quotes Jesse Ausubel:
Jesse Ausubel is a soft-spoken academic ecologist at Rockefeller University in New York, not given to hyperbole. So when I asked him about the future of gas, I was surprised by the strength of his reply. “It’s unstoppable,” he says simply. Gas, he says, will be the world’s dominant fuel for most of the next century. Coal and renewables will have to give way, while oil is used mainly for transport. Even nuclear may have to wait in the wings.

And he is not even talking mainly about shale gas. He reckons a still bigger story is waiting to be told about offshore gas from the so-called cold seeps around the continental margins. Israel has made a huge find and is planning a pipeline to Greece, to the irritation of the Turks. The Brazilians are striking rich. The Gulf of Guinea is hot. Even our own Rockall Bank looks promising. Ausubel thinks that much of this gas is not even “fossil” fuel, but ancient methane from the universe that was trapped deep in the earth’s rocks – like the methane that forms lakes on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.
Ausubel was profiled in the NYT earlier this year:
He was involved in planning the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meeting but has viewed the panel’s subsequent reports with reserve. Climate change went from being a small to a major issue. “And then the expected happened,” he said. “Opportunists flowed in. By 1992 I stopped wanting to go to climate meetings.”
Natural gas isn't the only thing Ausubel was 20 years ahead of his time on!

Are we now entering a natural gas renaissance? Many people I come across seem to think so and few are willing to make the case that we are not.  I don't think that the answer to this question will be resolved by debate, but by what happens in the marketplace.  And there we find strong indications as well.

UPDATE: Link to Mark Perry's (UMich) blog (h/t Les Johnson) and this image:

19 comments:

  1. “Opportunists flowed in. By 1992 I stopped wanting to go to climate meetings.”

    No kidding, flowed in, hopped on the Gravy & Fame Train and turned the original IPCC into a Green political operation.

    Donna Laframboise has documented the takeover of the IPCC . . . best $5 you'll spend today . ..

    http://nofrakkingconsensus.com/2011/10/13/a-book-is-born/

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  2. further on the LNG renaissance



    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/bcs-kitimat-lng-terminal-wins-export-licence/article2200412/

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  3. A nice article from Platts quoting a PhillipsConoco executive

    http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews/RSSFeed/NaturalGas/6576717
    This ongoing shift, which likely would not cause a drastic jump in gas prices up to $10/MMBtu, could produce a $2-$3 move in gas prices that would cause somewhat of a roller coaster effect, Duncan said.

    Gas is very competitive at $4/MMBtu...$6/MMBtu not so much.

    Of course the price US electric power companies pay for gas isn't the wellhead price of around $4/MMbtu..it was $5.26/MMbtu in 2010

    http://205.254.135.24/dnav/ng/hist/n3045us3A.htm

    *Why the EIA website with all the best data only has an IP address rather then a website address is beyond me.

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  4. "Ausubel thinks that much of this gas is not even “fossil” fuel, but ancient methane from the universe that was trapped deep in the earth’s rocks – like the methane that forms lakes on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons."

    I'll believe it's primordial methane when I see some isotope ratio data. Otherwise it's speculation without evidence.

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  5. Its pretty well unstoppable. It would take a Chernobyl or Fuushima sized disaster to reverse the trend, and the odds of that are low.

    Mark Perry has an intersting graph on NE US gas production, and on how it has pushed the US from 9th largest gas producer globally, to 1st.

    In only 3 years!

    http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2011/10/chart-of-day-shale-gas-revolution-in-pa.html

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  6. Can anyone reading this point me to an analysis/discussion of whether the output per wellhead is sufficient to warrant new pipeline feeder construction, or failing that, adequate for smaller package generation setup?

    My question supposes that many of the newly found reserves are not located within connection distance of existing pipelines and on a wellhead output basis may not be big enough support cost of new lines.

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  7. Harrywr2: "http://205.254.135.24/dnav/ng/hist/n3045us3A.htm
    *Why the EIA website with all the best data only has an IP address rather then a website address is beyond me."


    Well, here it is within a frame:
    http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n3045us3A.htm

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  8. It would take a Chernobyl or Fukushima sized disaster to reverse the trend, and the odds of that are low.

    Given that the Fukushima meltdowns killed no-one, that the Ufa train disaster resulting from a gas explosion killed 575 people (ten times the immediate death toll from Chernobyl), and that there have been many other deadly gas explosions in recent history, that seems a rather bizarre comment to make.

    I greatly prefer nuclear over fossil fuels (the main thing tha makes me a tad sceptical about AGW alarmism is the fact that the anti-nuclear movement hasn't been ruthlessly destroyed), but I'm still cautiously supportive of fracking in my own country (the UK).

    Anything that knocks Gazprom down a peg or two has got to be a good thing, and if we use nuclear power here at home we could always export the gas to Germany or other anti-nuclear countries. :)

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  9. I would add a note of caution: there are many reasons why a company would exaggerate the amount of recoverable reserves which might be available in any given find.

    Thus the gigantic numbers in question are highly dependent on unproven and untested models as to what percentage of overall hydrocarbons in a given area are recoverable.

    This article goes over many of the danger areas in the shale gas 'boom':

    http://www.declineoftheempire.com/2011/07/how-does-the-shale-gas-scam-work.html

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  10. It would take a Chernobyl or Fuushima sized disaster

    The death toll at Fukushima is, even taking incidental deaths, far less than ten.

    There have been many oil refinery fires more serious.

    We can be pretty much certain more people will die by using gas rather than nuclear, if we add domestic explosions to the industrial ones.

    What gas lacks is a "scare" factor of nuclear. Hence the urgent need for many Greens to find one - leading to the concerns about drinking water contamination (as if no other industrial process ever contaminated water).

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  11. Mark

    I suspect Fukushima will be seen as the OJ Simpson of catastrophes in 50 years. He never killed nobody. Sure thing, OJ.

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  12. If it wasn't for Enron realising they could make a fortune from James Hansen and his global warming ManBearPig nonsense, we would be looking at a very bright new future with cheap gas.


    Recommended reading (sorry for repeating this, but it was a long time ago).

    Book by non corporate British academic.

    GREEN CAPITALISM: Manufacturing Scarcity in an Age of Abundance by James Heartfield

    Manufactured Scarcity - The Profits of Deindustrialisation

    http://www.metamute.org/en/manufactured-scarcity-the-profits-of-deindustrialisation

    review -Putting the hippies on the payroll

    http://www.culturewars.org.uk/2008-03/heartfield.htm

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  13. The Japanese government and the company involved have legitimate reasons for the lies told about Fukushima. You cannot evacuate the 30 million people in Tokyo. They decided it was impossible.

    ***

    In an interview published on Tuesday, (Prime Minister) Kan said he feared Tokyo and its vicinities might have been rendered uninhabitable by the nuclear catastrophe, and that it would have been “impossible” to evacuate the 30-million population living in the area.

    “Deserted scenes of Tokyo without a single man around came across my mind,” he was quoted as saying in the interview published by Tokyo Shimbun newspaper. “It really was a spine-chilling thought”.

    http://www.tokyotimes.jp/post/en/2350/Kan+I+felt+the+spine-chilling+effect+of+nuke+crisis.html

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  14. The Japanese government and the company involved have legitimate reasons for the lies told about Fukushima. You cannot evacuate the 30 million people in Tokyo. They decided it was impossible.

    ***

    In an interview published on Tuesday, (Prime Minister) Kan said he feared Tokyo and its vicinities might have been rendered uninhabitable by the nuclear catastrophe, and that it would have been “impossible” to evacuate the 30-million population living in the area.

    “Deserted scenes of Tokyo without a single man around came across my mind,” he was quoted as saying in the interview published by Tokyo Shimbun newspaper. “It really was a spine-chilling thought”.

    http://www.tokyotimes.jp/post/en/2350/Kan+I+felt+the+spine-chilling+effect+of+nuke+crisis.html

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  15. @eric144

    Thanks for the links. I know a great deal about the Enron activities, but had not been aware that the preconditions for the situation leading into the PG & E/Enron fiasco were laid by Amory Lovins.

    I would just note that it isn't absolutely clear that the Lovins/PG & E/Enron situation was planned from the get-go; it is just as conceivable that an otherwise well meaning policy engendered unforeseen consequences which were later taken advantage of by Enron.

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  16. Roger, I believe it was you who mentioned Robert Bryce's book Power Hungry. (You were using it for a class?) Bryce made a nice argument in favor of natural gas with the metric of power density, which he probably got from Vaclav Smil. Bryce used the acronym N2N, natural gas to nuclear: natural gas now moving to nuclear in the future. Maybe he needs to remove the 2N, at least in the foreseeable future?

    I also read Bryce's previous book, Gusher of Lies (summary: energy independence is a fantasy). The natural gas boom hadn't occurred and he was talking about the US building terminals to import gas. The book was published around 2007. How fast things can change due to human ingenuity...

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  17. The big green groups are desperate to derail gas.
    The media, like they are doing with the OWS mob, are going to find a way to fabricate a credibility for the big greens.
    Political opportunists will flock into this.
    The combination of lefty groups, money and a veneer of science is a dangerous combination.

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  18. Khan

    Thanks for the kind reply.

    It is clear from the book that Heartfield views the Club of Rome as having a complementary agenda to Enron. Carbon trading is a classic 'financialisation' Enron scam.


    ****

    On Aug. 4, 1997, Lay and seven other energy executives met with Clinton, Gore, Rubin and other top officials at the White House to discuss the U.S. position at the upcoming conference on global warming in Kyoto, Japan. Lay, in a memo to Enron employees, said there was broad consensus in favor of an emissions-trading system.

    Enron officials later expressed elation at the results of the Kyoto conference. An internal memo said the Kyoto agreement, if implemented, would "do more to promote Enron's business than almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States."

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A37287-2002Jan12&notFound=true

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  19. Dr Pielke
    May I humbly suggest that you post updates at the head of the posting rather than at the foot (the end)? I almost missed the fascinating graphic from (and the link to) Mark Perry's (UMich) blog.

    ReplyDelete