Wednesday, December 28, 2011

OGPSS - Some thoughts at the end of the year

For most of this past year these posts have reviewed, and then discussed data on the state of different reservoirs of oil and gas that ultimately provide the power that we need and use every day. However, as we come to the end of 2011, it seems as though there is a gloss, or spin, being applied to stories about the state of global energy supply, which implies that concerns about future energy supply are overstated. Instead the impression is left that there will be, in the immediately foreseeable future, no return to shortages. So this post will be a more general view of the topic, less concerned with absolute numbers and references but rather seeking to suggest that these perceived words of wisdom are, like the promises of a return to $30 oil that we heard only three or so years ago, likely to fade into oblivion once they have served their immediate purpose.

It should be noted up front that there are considerable differences between the supplies of natural gas that are becoming available, and those of crude oil. Natural gas reserves are still increasing, I wrote just recently of the realization that exists in Azerbaijan that the gas being produced from the Shah Deniz field will have a hard time competing in the global market-place in three years, because of the arrival of natural gas from the Levant Basin. The relatively low prices for natural gas in the United States brought about by the development of wells in the gas shales, such as the Barnett, Haynesville and Marcellus and their initial high productivity will continue to make it difficult to see much increase in price. Yet this is at a time when the price that the natural gas is being sold for in America is around $3.50 per thousand cubic feet (kcf) ($124 per thousand cubic meters (kcm)). That price is often insufficient to totally cover the costs of its production and return a profit to all the investors, with some indications that such a price would need to be closer to $6.00 per kcf. The low price of natural gas however, relative to world prices, means that it helps to keep American industry competitive, since fuel costs are usually significantly lower here than elsewhere.

China continues to show foresight in acquiring fuel, since their agreement with and the creation of the pipeline from Turkmenistan now gives them natural gas at a competitive price ($280 per kcm - $7.93 per kcf) relative to the $400+ per kcm that Russia is charging Western Europe, though that price too will be vulnerable to supplies made available as the Mediterranean fields come on line.

The bent of the stories that have recently appeared seem to imply that the United States is moving toward significantly greater crude oil production, and thus a greater independence from foreign suppliers than will actually be the case. Folks such as Dr Yergin are projecting production of oil from the shales around the country as rising to some 2.9 mbd by 2020 and being sustained through time – neither of which is likely since the Bakken in North Dakota may well start declining and be significantly below 600 kbd within four years, and the likelihood of new developments bringing in more than this on a sustained basis are not great.

The emphasis on such a possibility, however, removes some of the pressure and concern in the short term over the health of the global supply situation, and the concurrent dependence of the United States on foreign fields and suppliers. One need not be (as perhaps the argument goes) so worried about the time to bring Libyan production back to 1.6 mbd. Optimistic reports talk of Libya reaching 1 mbd, yet still leave a concern that without a stable government and infrastructure that it will be a little difficult to reach those earlier production levels. And the promises that Iraqi production will rise to levels far above 3 mbd may be more dependant on political stability in a country that at the moment isn’t showing much. Any thought that the Arab Spring would bring swift changes in the governance of the countries involved, and leave oil exports to the world sustained at previous levels appear also to be less than realistic as countries such as Egypt begin to head into the second cycle of that revolution. The Syrian government is currently blocked from exporting (and thus producing) a third of their normal levels, which has taken 100 kbd or so from the market, and the situation with Iran continues to fluctuate.

Now there are some political benefits to being able to project that the world is going to have more than sufficient oil for the next few years, among them it distracts from the less than totally healthy state of the alternate fuels and energy industry. Exxon noted in their recent annual report that they see little significant impact from solar and wind energy on the overall global supply of power over the next forty years. Were the nation still fixated on where we were going to get our power over the next decade, then the collapse of Solyndra due to poor market support, and the bankruptcy of Range Fuels, because they could not produce cellulosic ethanol at the scale needed to have any impact at all, would raise worrying questions as to how we are planning to cope with shortage. The current optimistic state of mind, of course, also makes it less of an imperative to approve the Keystone pipeline, which may now not be approved.

Because of this lack of concern we see the Administration moving ahead to restrict further the use of coal fired power stations, through EPA enforcement of tougher emissions standards, the corn ethanol subsidies appear to be very rapidly on the way out, which may impact the volumes of ethanol (now over 900 kbd) that comes to the market in the future. But if the United States has become a net exporter of fuel, though mainly diesel, why should we worry? Perhaps it might be because that is such a small fraction of the overall total that it is really insignificant, even though it makes a nice headline.

The overall picture of crude oil supply to the United States, in reality, has hardly changed at all. Yes, demand for gasoline is down as cars are being driven less these days, and fuel economy changes have some small effect, but the economy is not robust (nor is that of Western Europe) and sustained high fuel prices are not going to help with recovery. At the same time demand in Asia continues to increase, and more nations in the Middle East and elsewhere are shipping oil to China in agreements that will still be in place were the United States to continue to recover and suddenly need additional oil to sustain that recovery of growth.

Current complacency and spin will not make those agreements go away, nor – by magic –will additional oil appear to assuage American demand. The only question that I have is whether the current spin can be maintained through 2012. It is certainly unsustainable through to 2014, and what impact the realization of reality might have, were it to become obvious by say September of this year, as the election enters its final phase is an ongoing puzzle.

We live in interesting times indeed, and I hope that you all have a Prosperous and Happy Year, as we sail into that future, and I look forward to commenting on some of these issues as we move through those times.

Read more!

Monday, December 26, 2011

On giving to the charities Heifer International and Smile Train

This post is a little outside the usual frame, but arises from that little bump of curiosity that keeps me writing these posts.

Background - For Christmas this year the Advocate had asked that we donate to a couple of charities that he supports: the Heifer International operation and Smile Train. Both of these are nationally advertised operations that function at above the $120 million per year range, and have received considerable positive publicity. Since I found more answers to questions I hadn’t initially thought to ask in a brief look at both operations, I thought I would pass on what I found. It may bear a little on your choice of giving.

Heifer International provides a catalog from which you can select animals, from camels to fish fingerlings, that the organization will provide to individuals in poor areas of the world, providing them not only with additional nutrition but also a way of starting a small business, as an aid to breaking their cycle of poverty.

My curiosity arose initially because I wanted to find out if there was any particular piece of livestock that would give a higher rate of return on the investment than others. My thinking was, illustratively, that perhaps it would be better to donate to buy a water buffalo, rather than a heifer, because of the additional work that the animal would be able to carry out, as well as providing milk, manure, and ultimately dinner. I had some fun for about an hour trying to tease out different rates of return, a heifer in Malawi could generate up to $130/month in milk revenues - helping to feed the family, while selling some milk, generated $60 a month in Uganda. On the other hand water buffalo in the Philippines would quadruple farm production, but still only up to $42 a month. Pigs could generate $45 a month (but how many?) and two alpaca will create 4 lb of wool a year at maybe $6 a lb, or just $2 a month – they must have other benefits. While the actual benefits weren’t always clear, as I poked through, my original choice of livestock didn’t look too bad until I came to a disconcerting post which pointed out that my research had actually been time wasted.

For the post pointed out that, had I bothered to read it, that this is what it said, at the bottom of the donation page.
To help the most number of families move toward self-reliance, Heifer does not use its limited resources to track gift animals from donation to distribution. Gifts made through this catalog represent a gift to the entire mission. We use your gifts where they can do the most good by pooling them with the gifts of others to help transform entire communities.
I must confess that, when making the donation I did not bother to read that small print at the bottom of the page, which may have now been changed to
The prices in this catalog represent the complete livestock gift of a quality animal, technical assistance and training. Each purchase is symbolic and represents a contribution to the entire mission of Heifer International. Donations will be used where needed most to help struggling people.

Now it is understandable that tracking individual gifts may be difficult and expensive, and I really did not expect that I would hear that a particular family had received the buffalo (see this video of what might be done), but I had hoped that someone (and in my imagination it was in Nepal) would get a buffalo, and now I was left wondering about the funding and where it actually might be going. There are, it turns out, other beneficial things that are being done with the money apart from the mission that is most heavily advertised. They help start farmer organizations and work with the International Red Cross in bringing war widows and Untouchables into the Nepalese community.

I also found a note which describes the policy in more detail.
Heifer provides community groups with livestock if and only if they request it after training in community values and studying the available resources. If they submit a strategic plan showing how they will care for the animals, how having livestock will substantially increase their livelihoods, then and only then does Heifer provide support. And then we ask that they source animals locally and “pass on the gift” of offspring AND TRAINING to others. The farmers use manure as organic fertilizer to increase crop production, plant trees to preserve the environment, raise honeybees and worms for composting, and on and on.
The Charity raised some $133 million in contributions in the year ending June 30, 2008, with the outgoing CEO getting some $288,912 in compensation. The overall organization had a paid staff of some 332 at the time, and fund raising used about 14% of contributions. Apparently the charity has also built a “Global Village” down in Arkansas, that has received some criticism since it detracts from the overall mission. (I suspect we will be travelling to Arkansas in the none-too distant future.) It appears that the charity had some 928 active projects, in 54 countries in 2009. It was sufficiently worthy that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave it $42.5 million (and they are reputed to do a fairly thorough review before they give the money). In the current annual report support is stated as being given to 1,000 families, with typical project support lasting over five years. And in the latest report it also gives some of the information that I started out looking for:

The average income gain from the project is $3,808 in Albania (equal to the average per capita income). In Nepal it is $572 (against income of $427) and in Uganda it is $1,456 (against an average income of $490).

Looking at the relative return on investment for donors - in Albania the ROI (annual dollar income per dollar for livestock) is 9.46 for cows; 7.51 for goats and 10.6 for bees. In Nepal it is 3.7 for cows, 2.87 for buffalo, 1.79 for goats and 0.8 for pigs. In Uganda it is 2.6 for cows and bulls, 5.72 for dairy goats but 9.75 for meat goats, while pigs bring in 8.32 and fish return 11.22.

However as Heifer notes the income is not the only benefit. Firstly the recipient has to pass on one offspring to another recipient in order to sustain the program, but then the recipient also has a steady long-term increase in assets that come from the additional offspring that the original gift produces. Thus, in Malawi, 90 initial beneficiaries are expected to grow to 130 families by the end of 2012. And in Uganda 118 original gifts of heifers produced offspring that were handed on to a second wave of recipients, so that, to date, some 223 families have been assisted.

This does, however, resurrect the question over how many different gifts of livestock are made each year. Typical projects are of about five year duration, with the first year being one of instructing the recipient on how to care for the gift, and in preparing the “compound” (livestock must not be allowed to roam and graze, but are fed within this enclosure which helps with collection of manure for fertilizer). The second year is where the recipient receives the gift, and, depending on species, at the end of that year or during the next, the first recipient will initially raise and then pass on an offspring to a second beneficiary. (It is not clear if the process continues thereafter with that second recipient also having to pass the “first child” on in turn, so geometrically multiplying the benefits over time). There are two more years of monitoring to ensure that the health of the gift and the economic welfare of the recipient, and to integrate the individual into a community to better market the product. The initial recipient also keeps (or sells) any additional offspring. For example one of the success stories told in the 2006 report was of a disabled Chinese farmer who received an initial gift of 12 goats in 2002. By the time of the 2006 report the family had increased the herd size to 230 goats (as well as passing on the 12 gift goats to other farmers). It is this kind of growth, that leaves the farmer independent and successful, that is a major goal of the program.

Perhaps I can express my concern, however, better with another example. From 2005 to 2009 the Moutori Livestock Development Project in Burkina Faso provided 400 chickens and 80 roosters to 120 original families. If we take the donation cost of the chicks, say 120 times $20, then the livestock cost is $240. The overall project cost was, however, $148,644 (project 21-1203-70).

Put another way, the goal in 2005 was to give livestock to 1 million families over 10 years. That is some 100,000 a year, but since this includes pass-ons from the original recipients. Heifer International only supplies livestock to 50,000 families a year. If each donation is the equivalent of a heifer (though it may be three or four goats, or perhaps two water buffalo) then the initial livestock cost (as defined in the catalog, and that seems about right) is $500 per family. 50,000 times $500 is $25 million. (And that is making a generous assumption, since as shown with the chicken example, livestock costs may be a lot less). With the charity taking in more than $133 million a year, it does point out that the animal supply part of the program, the donations for which provide the vast majority of the income for the charity, sees less than 18% of the income. Now that is not to say that the rest of the activities of the charity are not worthwhile and necessary, but it is not quite the way I had thought my donation would go. Putting it in perspective, while I thought we were contributing a water buffalo, the actual livestock part of our donation was more likely to have been one of those chickens. Ah well, as was said about the Harding and Coolidge Administrations who had put a “chicken in every pot,” that is a step toward prosperity, but it is not "one giant leap for mankind."

Which brings me to the Smile Train. It is important here to distinguish this charity from Operation Smile which has basically the same goal of treating impoverished children born with cleft lips and palates, and has been around a little longer. The founder of Smile Train was apparently once involved with Operation Smile, and started this similar charity in 1999, though with a different approach to the problem. In contrast with Operation Smile which sends American surgeons abroad to carry out the surgery, a practice for which it has been criticized, Smile Train relies on training and funding local surgeons in best practices.

Number of surgeries performed with Smile Train Support (Smile Train Annual Report )

They report helping 100,000 children a year, working with local doctors to carry out the surgeries and providing information to them on up-to-date techniques to improve the procedure. They also report having distributed software to more than 38,800 medical professionals, and run conferences and encourage methods of communication that keep these individuals up to date on their subject.

In 2010 their income (including contributions in kind) was some $162,296,235. They spent some $110 million on program services and education, and around $22.5 million on fundraising, claiming only $1,187,089 for management and general costs. There should be a little caveat here. (One of the two niggles that I have with this charity). The co-founder and President, Brian Mullaney, was compensated to the tune of $678,058 in 2009. And the books showed that the assets of the charity increased by $28.5 million, to $135 million. It claims to be one of the fastest growing charities in America, and apart from the President’s pay, the size and rate of growth of these assets is the second item that is a bit of a concern. The reason goes back to a remark that the President, Brian Mullaney, made in 2008.
Mullaney estimates that Smile Train is close to reaching a historic break-even point: it will perform more operations each year than the number of children born each year in developing countries with cleft deformities. This means Smile Train may be well on its way to putting itself out of business. “That,” Mullaney says, “would be a dream.”
Unfortunately before one reaches that laudable point, the charity will reach another, when it “runs out” of doctors to train and reaches the capacity of the system to handle patients in a given year. At that point the charity may take in more money than it can effectively spend.

That is not to say that the charity is yet at that point, it has been noted that there is still a significant problem in India, for example, where over a million children need treatment, with 32,000 new cases a year. But it may be running out of “room to grow.” It has also been criticized in that the cost of the surgeries is often higher than the $250 which is used in the advertising . If the number of operations per year, for example, is 100,000 and the program services (treatment and training) cost is $85 million, then the cost per surgery is perhaps $850, doing simple division.

And yet nevertheless this seems a very worthwhile activity to support, though maybe it is getting a little too successful at fund-raising, which might cause it to add other programs and thus dilute its effectiveness on the original task in the years to come.

And so, a couple of closing thoughts.

First I am not, in itself, against programs that send American physicians abroad to help with medical problems in disadvantaged countries. My optometrist, Bud Falkenhein, has won national recognition for his work in this field, where he annually has led a group of optometrists to different parts of the world to help with eye problems. But that is slightly different from bringing in teams of surgeons that do operations under time pressure and then leave before any development problems have been dealt with.

Second, I am still glad that I honored the Advocate’s request and made the donations to two charities that seem to be a cut above the general mix; it is merely that I thought that the funds that I sent would have been more productive than they will likely turn out to be. There is, after all, somewhat of a difference between a chicken and a water buffalo, and between one operation and two. (And yes - because my great grandfather was a village plowman, a position of respect in the Scottish villages a century ago - I am just a bit disappointed that I could not help another individual gain that "step up" with the donation that we made).

P.S. I also recognize that there are other charities who allow one to donate animals. For example Episcopal Relief and Development has a "Gift for Life" program, where for just a little more money I could donate a plow with the ox to pull it. Perhaps I will look into that in a little more detail, and perhaps add another comment on a charity that I have, in the past, looked favorably on, but whose website is not available tonight.

Read more!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Compliments of the Season to all

Gentle Readers:
Family affairs have intervened in the past few days to delay some of the new posts that I had planned, and with the Christmas and then New Year celebrations coming up posting will be quite sparse for another week.

May I therefore take the opportunity of thanking you for visiting here, and wishing you all the Compliments of the Season, and that you each find Happiness and Prosperity as we move into the New Year.

Read more!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The 2012 Exxon Mobil view of the future

Each year the major oil companies publish their projections on fossil fuel supplies as they foresee them developing over future decades. Last year I reviewed those for BP; Exxon Mobil; and the projections from Shell. Exxon Mobil (EM) has just released their new set of projections. With this publication they have also stepped a little further into the future, looking to an end point in 2040, rather than the shorter 2030 time frame of last year’s report.

One of the immediately striking effects of the change in end date is the highlight on the growth of the global population. In last year’s document the global population was expected to reach 7.9 billion by 2030, now the projection is for the population to increase to nearly nine billion by 2040. We are at roughly 7 billion today, and the acceleration in the future growth rate of the population will make it more difficult to improve the average global lifestyle. This is particularly true when the locus of that growth is defined as coming largely from India and Africa.

Anticipated growth in population in various parts of the world (EM Outlook for Energy 2012)

More tellingly EM anticipates that the number of households will increase by 50% over the next 30 years, and with that growth comes the demand for electrical power. EM looks at both industrial and domestic energy demand growth, tying it in with this population growth, and expects that, while OECD GDP will more than double, it will do so with only a small amount of growth in energy demand, with the somewhat smaller growth in GDP in the rest of the world using a considerable amount more of the growth in energy demand that EM foresees. In countries such as China the increased demand for space and energy come as, with greater affluence, families will no longer remain crowded into multi-generational dwellings but will move more to single family occupancy.
(As an update and an illustration how two different folk can view the same document, you might find Gregor's post on the same topic of some interest).

Where the growth in demand will come from (EM Outlook for Energy 2012)

With the rising affluence of the developing countries, EM still continues to see continued improvements in energy efficiency lowering the overall average household demand for energy through the next three decades. It is an argument that I believe requires more justification than they provide. It is interesting, apropos my recent interest in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, that EM do not see much change in the fortunes of those who like around the Caspian Sea. It is perhaps a cynical, but realistic view of where that energy wealth will end up.

Change in domicile, and the energy demand for the average home (EM Outlook for Energy 2012)

The most important part of the Review however, since it deals with energy, is how EM decides where this future energy will come from. They see a large movement towards diesel in the transportation industry as hybrids and electric vehicles reduce gasoline demand, and increased fuel efficiency with lighter vehicles combine to stabilize the overall levels of gasoline required.

Change in the fuel mix needed for transportation.

Overall the amount of oil needed for transportation will continue to increase, overall by about 80%, and when this is combined with other needs, EM sees that global demand for oil will increase, by 2040 to around 110 mbd at a steady rate of increase overall from today, although the way in which the mix is put together is anticipated to change considerably. (And as an aside this projects less than a 1 mbd per year increase in demand, which falls below the levels which others, such as OPEC, foresee. OPEC anticipate a growth in demand of 1.1 mbd in 2012, according to the December MOMR).

Anticipated sources for oil through 2040 (EM Outlook for Energy 2012)

There are many features of interest in this summary chart. Given the decline rates that are now evident in conventional wells around the world, I do not see the discoveries being made that will justify the production levels that EM are predicting. The plot which is included, showing the production history from discoveries of different ages, is telling in this regard.

Production for well discoveries of a certain time (EM Outlook for Energy 2012)

EM notes that modern wells are more likely to be drilled with long laterals, rather than the simple vertical or slightly deviated wells of little more than a decade ago. But these new wells carry with them a much higher decline rate at the end of their lives than do the conventional wells (often more than double). Thus, as production declines from the older wells, so reliance must pass to new-found deposits, and that particular reserve is, as the above graph shows, somewhat thinner than volumes from the past, which are now starting to decline.

The savior of the next decades is foreseen to be the offshore Deepwater deposits, and certainly as one looks along the shores of Africa, South America and the Gulf of Mexico, to name but three, there is a considerable potential for some gain. Whether it will provide the sustained volumes needed to balance other declines and also produce enough to match increased demand is going to be a continuing question. With that in mind it is worth revisiting last year’s review to see where EM expect this Deepwater oil to come from.

Deepwater oil production (EM Outlook for Energy 2011)

As befitting an oil and gas company, perhaps, EM expects that oil production will remain a major part of the energy mix through 2040, with natural gas rising to carry an increasing burden of the overall picture at the expense of coal, and biomass whose shares of the global market are expected to decline starting somewhere about now.

Change in natural gas demand over the next 30 years. (EM Outlook for Energy 2012)

Composition of the fuel mix according to EM over the decades

Even though they project that coal will still be the cheapest fuel to buy and while solar will remain a luxury item, nevertheless EM anticipate that coal’s share of the electricity generating market will fall to less than 30% by 2040, and to less than 20% of the overall energy supply. This remains consistent with their opinions from last year. However they are now projecting a larger role for oil than they expected last year (when it was around 26% of total supply by 2030 and falling).

Read more!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

OGPSS - Looking at Azerbaijan future fuel production

The President of SOCAR, the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, is touring the United States at the moment. His goal is, in part, to gain support for the Baku Higher Petroleum School, a place to generate the indigenous engineers that his firm needs for future resource development. (About 75% of the labor force is currently Azeri, but at lower levels of management). The school is expected to open its doors next September. While this is, perhaps a little late to the game, it underscores the global need to find those individuals who can be technically trained and who are then willing to spend weeks of their lives, at a time, in increasingly remote parts of the world, often in inclement conditions, just so that the rest of us can have an easy commute to work in the mornings. (Folks were even talking about the opportunities in the wilds of North Dakota at our Rotary meeting this week).

The effort by SOCAR also underscores the point that there remains a future for the petroleum industry in Azerbaijan, despite the long history of oil recovery that the nation has already seen, with the depletion of many of the old reservoirs. There are new fields in which oil and natural gas are being developed, though as Darwinian pointed out, the rapid build-up in production to which I referred last time, has, more recently, begun tailing off. He referred to the Joint Organizations Data Initiative – Oil (JODI) which shows the decline from 1.05 mbd in July 2010 to 920 kbd this September. That peak was down from the peak of almost 1.1 mbd in early 2008. This year the decline has reached around 11% pa and while SOCAR explains that this is the result of introducing additional safety measures following the Deepwater Horizon event, and for scheduled maintenance, the number seems a little large for such a cause.

Further if one looks at the drilling record for the country, SOCAR reports that while drilling was down last month (and likely will also be this month) overall they anticipate exceeding the 2010 figures, with roughly 90% of the work going for development and about 10% for exploration. The development drilling is down from the 2010 figure, which was itself lower than that in 2009, which was below that of 2008. But some of this may have been market driven, one can certainly see that in the natural gas numbers that I discuss below.

I had missed, when I wrote the post last week, that Jerome had previously written on the topic in 2008, my apologies to him and you for that omission. His post gave more detail of the fields off the peninsula than I had provided, so I am reproducing a figure from the post here:

Oil and gas fields off Azerbaijan (Jerome at TOD)

The recent decline in overall oil production impacts flow through the pipeline from Baku to Ceyhan (the BTC pipeline) which had a targeted flow of over 1 mbd, and much of this comes from the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashi fields (there is some crude also from Turkmenistan, and condensate from Shah Deniz). IHS list it as currently the third largest oil field (behind Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar and Kuwait’s Burgan). Recent production from the complex can be obtained from the BP site:
During the first three quarters of 2011, ACG produced on average 757,500 barrels per day (b/d) (206.8 million barrels or 27.9 million tonnes in total) from the Chirag, Central Azeri, West Azeri, East Azeri and Deepwater Gunashli platforms.

At the end of the third quarter of 2011, a total of 57 oil wells were producing, while 27 wells were used for injection in the ACG field, as follows:

Chirag had 12 wells (8 oil producers and 4 water injectors), producing on average of 73,300 b/d.

Central Azeri (CA) had 19 wells (13 oil producers, 5 gas injectors and one water injector), producing on average 209,200 b/d.

West Azeri (WA) had 19 wells (13 oil producers and 6 water injectors), producing on average 213,800 b/d.

East Azeri (EA) had 14 wells (11 oil producers and 3 water injectors), producing on average 134,300 b/d.

Deep Water Gunashli (DWG) had 21 wells (12 oil producers and 9 water injectors), producing on average 126,900 b/d of oil.

Development of Chirag (EPC Engineer )

A new platform is in construction for Chirag, aimed at adding 185 kbd to current production in 2013, which with increased drilling at the other platforms (averaging about 20 wells a year) may, in the short term, bring the production back toward the 1 mbd target production. The total estimated recoverable reserve is estimated at 5.4 billion barrels of oil, of which around 1.8 billion is estimated to have been produced to date. The partnership is currently extended until 2024.

The natural gas picture is a little more complicated. Although the ACG complex produces more gas than Shah Deniz roughly 75% of it is re-injected to maintain reservoir pressure. Discounting the production from Shah Deniz, SOCAR is still producing natural gas for export to Europe, for which it is still being paid on average $191 per 1,000 cu m (kcm) ($5.40 per 1,000 cu.ft or million Btu approx) this year (though down to $151 in October). These prices are significantly higher than the $61 per kcm it received last year, and are also ahead of the $186 price in 2009, though just under the 2008 average.

They are undercutting the price of Russian gas, which they report as being some $446 per kcm this year, though it is anticipated to fall to $415 next year. (In perspective Ukraine is currently paying $400 per kcm, ($11.33 per kcf) for Russian gas, but hoping to get that price lowered).

SOCAR is anticipating that this market may dry up in three years when the gas fields off Cyprus are brought into production. This will be gas from the Aphrodite gas field, which holds some 3.3 Tcm of natural gas – about three times the reserves for Shah Deniz. That area of the Mediterranean is, however, quite politically sensitive.
Together with other fields (Leviathan and Tamar), this area of the Mediterranean is estimated to have 10 trillion cu m of gas. In connection with the worsening political and military situation fields Leviathan, Tamar and Block 12 have been patrolled by Israeli drones. Russia sends its only aircraft carrier to this area, while fleets of other countries claiming to develop these fields are drawing as well.

These new fields lie in the Levant Basin Province, and, given this location and the neighborhood, who will end up producing what is going to be an interesting development to watch. Given the size of the deposits, their development could also change the economics of natural gas distribution for some time.

Location of the Levant Basin Natural Gas Province (Fast Company )

SOCAR is hoping that, as this transpires, it may get additional supplies from Turkmenistan through a trans-Caspian pipeline that could be completed by 2015. Concurrently Shah Deniz II, slated to produce some 100 kbd of oil and 16 bcm of natural gas, is being prepared for production to start in 2017.

In short, in the short term production of oil from Azerbaijan will continue at roughly current levels, but the volumes of gas that will be available on the global market may exceed demand within the near future unless, as now, they significantly discount the price.

Read more!

Monday, December 12, 2011

AMO, NAO and predicting Atlantic Coast temperatures

Several months ago, after finishing the individual state temperature evaluations, I started putting the state data together in regional groups, starting with the Atlantic States. What motivated that start was the discovery that, along the East Coast, the individual states all displayed a drop in temperature, over the period from about 1950 to 1965 on the order of 4 degrees F. This was a surprisingly large number, in terms of the consistency over both space and time, with which the fall in temperature occurred. But there was some physical evidence of the impact of these changes since, following a piece on bird populations, it was possible to tie the fall in temperture to the migration of the Black Capped Chickadee, as an example, which moved south as the temperature fell, appearing for the first time in North Carolina at the height of the cold spell. When the average plot for all the states (excluding Florida) was derived the average fall was reduced to about 3 degrees F, with the drop in temperature reducing for states further South.

Averaged Time of Observation corrected (TOBS) temperatures for the Atlantic states, with state averages weighted by area in the overall average of the data.

Today’s post shows how this can now be explained, and how it might, from existing data, be possible to predict the future shape of this plot.

Looking at the range of states over which this fall occurred it was clear that it while the temperature drop made it across the Adirondacks into the Midwest it got no further and the Midwest had some differences in the pattern of temperature recovery. The weather normally travels from West to East, and so the logical cause seemed to be to look first at what happened in the Pacific, to see if US temperature variations could be explained.

Over the last couple of weeks this has taken the course of looking at the impact of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) with its roughly 5-year cycle, first on regional temperatures and then on that of the individual states. While changes in the ENSO impacts moisture and drought patterns in the states, it did not, comparing temperatures, seem to have as great an impact on the temperatures along the West Coast, where the current flows impact. And further it was restricted to coastal states, in what correlation was immediately visible.

Coming back to the Atlantic Coast there is a similar oscillation in the sea surface temperatures (SST) called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). Looking at a plot of this average over time, it is immediately clear that there is a concurrent drop in these temperatures, in around the same time period, that might answer the question at to what had caused the temperature drop along the East Coast.

Sea Surface Temperatures in the Atlantic showing the AMO (NOAA )

One can then, in the same way as for the Pacific Coast States, overlay this curve on the average of the Atlantic States variation (with the Midwest added to show the limit of range) to validate the above statement. However in the first step the overlay was kept at the same vertical scale, so that the size of the anomaly in SST’s that forms the oscillation, could be compared with the size of the temperature changes on land.

Comparison of the fluctuation in AMO anomaly with the temperatures on the Atlantic and Midwest regions. Note that the AMO plot has been scaled and randomly placed vertically to allow distinction from the two other curves.

The immediate first observation is that the land temperatures have fluctuated over twice the scale (roughly) of the SST values, though it should be remembered that the latter are averaged over a much greater area.

Looking over the entire history of the temperature record, which for now is taken as post 1895, the plot for AMO values is doubled, to make it easier to see how the peaks and troughs may coincide, and then 52 deg F as added to the anomaly values to set them below the Atlantic States, and the values are averaged for each year.

Comparison of the form of the AMO (which has been doubled in size) with the changes in the average temperatures of the Atlantic States over the past 112 years.

So now the question comes as to the cause of the changes in the AMO, and one finds that this is currently a work in progress. The AMO itself was only described in 1994, and work on what is the cause, and what it correlates to is ongoing. But there are are several different other cycles in the Atlantic, and it is interesting to see what folk have already found by way of correlation.

One of these other cycles is the drift of the InterTropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ. Back when I was reading “Stories for Boys” about sailing ships in the Atlantic the ITCZ was called the “Doldrums.”

Location and characteristics of the ITCZ (Da Silva 1994 ).

The Doldrums drift North in the summer. However the movement and nature of the ITCZ behavior has been suggested to be dependent on the AMO, rather than the cause (see for example Knight, Folland and Scaife)

What is actually more interesting, particularly from the “climate prophet” point of view is a suggested correlation with another Atlantic Cycle, that of the North Atlantic Oscillation.
North Atlantic Oscillation – NAO is defined as the fluctuation in the difference of atmospheric pressure at the sea level between two specific locations: Ponta Delgada, Azores and Stykkisholmur/Reykjavik.
Although the NAO is now undergoing a name change to the Northern Annular Mode, the relevant changes in atmospheric pressure (which are shown in color and globally at the Climate Prediction Center can be illustrated, to allow easier layman comprehension with this picture from JISAO).

Pressure patterns in the North Atlantic showing the pressure difference that builds up to value the NOA. (JISAO via Gosselin)

Comes now this new paper from Vukcevic which suggests that there is a correlation between the AMO and the NAO, but that the correlation becomes much better if the values for the NAO are delayed by eleven years. Further that the correlation becomes better when only the fluctuations in the pressures at Reykjavik are considered.

Correlation between an eleven year lagged Icelandic pressure and the 3 year moving average SSTs in the Atlantic – the AMO. (Vukcevic )

What is riveting about this is the current correlation not only the AMO and NAO, but that it is time lagged. And as Vukcevic notes, there is an eleven year time lag between the behavior of parts of the NAO and the consequent change in the AMO. Which means, if this is correct, then we know what the future behavior of the AMO is going to be, since the end of the red line above indicates the SST trends over the next eleven years. That in turn, as was shown earlier, means that the temperature trends for the Atlantic Coast can also be surmised for the next eleven years, and as has been noted elsewhere this holds true not only for the United States but also Europe in that the NAO also has been shown to influence the Central English Temperature (CET).

This is obviously quite intriguing and will no doubt be the object of some discussion over the next few months, particularly since a second paper is promised. It is unlikely that it is the drop in pressure itself that is the cause, but it is conceivable that this is an indicator (dare one say proxy) for some other event and as such it is indicating how this other forcing event is behaving, and through that route becomes a marker itself for the temperature changes that are coming. But then that raises the question as to what it is a proxy for?

Read more!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

ONI and individual state temperatures

The influence that sea surface temperatures have on land temperatures and climate is an ongoing debate, and I mentioned this somewhat in my last post on this topic. However, in looking back over that post it was perhaps too general an approach to look at the impact of the El Niño events over the large scale of the West Coast, and thereon East. Given that effects were, as I showed, more regionalized and remembering that we are in a La Nina winter, I’ll just repeat the anticipated effect plot from Kumar, et al.

Impacts of a La Nina winter (after Kumar et al).

The disadvantage of using the regional average can be seen just in the US West Coast. At the upper end the season is cooler and wetter, while down in the south it is drier and warmer – the average might well be “no change.” So since we have the individual state temperatures for the period I looked at last time, I thought it might be interesting, before looking at other Oscillations, to just check how this event correlated on a more localized basis.

The ONI plot from 1950 (GGWeather )

It is logical to start on the West Coast, and given that the predicted impact this winter will be on the upper Northwest, the first comparison is with Washington State. For now I am going to use the homogenized data set, rather than the TOBS data, though I may come back later to look at how that changes things. (This is the fun of doing this without an agenda, we don’t need to have the data fit any pattern, so it is more informative to look at options).

The ONI plot overlain on a plot of Washington state temperatures.

It can be seen that while there was some correlation, in places, overall the agreement is not very good.

The other states that seem to be most impacted are the southern tier, that would include California, Arizona, and possibly New Mexico and Texas . From the regional comparison the Pacific SST effects seem to weaken somewhat once one gets over the Rockies, hence the caution as to how far we might expect the impact along the South Coast – so we shall see.

Turning first to California, recognize in the beginning that with the state being as long as it is, there are internal temperature variations along the state, Overlaying the ONI plot on the relevant part of the California temperature curve:

Relation of California temperatures to ONI temperature anomalies

My sense is that the correlation is a bit better, but still lacking. So let’s try the Arizona comparison:

Relation of Arizona temperatures to ONI temperature anomalies.

There does seem to be more of a correlation here, than with the earlier comparisons.

Moving on to New Mexico, and the same superimposition:

Relation of New Mexico temperatures to ONI

Well what correlation there was in the first states seems to be getting less here, lets try Texas.

Relation of Texas temperatures to ONI

Well, using that well known calibrated eyeball, it would appear that the correlation seems to get worse as one moves away from the Pacific.

Well this wasn’t totally what I was expecting, though I mentioned at the top that I suspected that the effect might not reach as far as New Mexico. so I think I will cogitate a little more on this before venturing an opinion. However it might be worth looking at relative precipitation levels, since this seems to be more the effect that is most obvious. (Though that also gets into cloud formation . . . . . . )

Read more!

Still watching Katla

It has been a little while since I wrote about the possible eruption of the Katla volcano in Iceland. For a while it appeared that the increased frequency of earthquakes and their growing magnitude, was leading toward an eruption. Since then the mountain has become somewhat quieter; but the earthquakes remain focused around the caldera, and continue to occur at a higher than background rate. Looking at the pattern over the past 24-hours, there is still a strong linear component to the earthquake pattern, which would tie in the continue evolution of fissures along the edge of the caldera.

Earthquakes around Katla in 24-hours (Icelandic Met Office ).

Jón Frímann does not expect this activity to lead to an imminent eruption, nor do I. But the continued linear nature and focused activity around the caldera is indicative of an ongoing preparation for an eruption. However we are talking about geological events, where time has a somewhat different meaning. Imminence is more likely therefore to be months, rather than days. Yet, as Jon notes, normally winter is a period of quiescence and this year we have not seen that. So I continue to expect an eruption of some significant size, it is just not clear when.

Revisiting the site a day later, there is still a lot of ongoing focused activity, though not yet strong enough to show any immediate large scale activity.

Read more!

Friday, December 2, 2011

OGPSS - an initial look at Baku and Azerbaijan

“The Prize”, itself a prize-winning history of oil written by Daniel Yergin covers the growth of the oil industry around the world, and begins with the start of the industry in the United States. But right behind those early chapters comes the story of Russian oil. This is not surprising since between 1898 and 1901 Russia and America roughly split global production of around 500,000 bd between them, with Russia out-producing the United States on occasion (as it does again now). That Russian oil is Russian no longer, since the early oilfields were found on and off the Aspheron Peninsula in what is now Azerbaijan. (It was annexed by Russia initially in 1813 by Alexander 1). The first well was drilled in 1847, after decades of recovering the oil from hand-dug pits, and there has been ongoing activity there ever since. By 1904 the Baku region was producing 73 million barrels a year, although production began to decline after that. And with the loss of much of its male population with the revolution, it took a long time to recover. Yet it had rebounded to be strong enough that this oil from the Baku reservoirs was considered a critical factor in governing many battles of the Eastern Front in Second World War.

Azerbaijan sits in a region of states that run along the southern Russian border, and which hold the promise of holding some of the last large deposits of fossil fuel that have yet to be fully developed.

Location of Baku, and Azerbaijan (Google Earth)

The first fields to be developed were the onshore Balakhany, Sabunchi and Ramany in 1871 with the coastal field of Bibi-Eybat being developed in 1873. Such was the nature of prospecting at the time, and the multiplicity of oil-bearing layers in the ground that oil still remains to be found and recovered. It has been estimated that the fields initially held around 8 billion barrels of oil (John Grace) but that while a billion of this was within range of early technology, the rest waited for the more advanced western technologies to arrive, and sometimes it didn’t.

As a result, within the last year, new wells have been sunk in these old fields. One at Balakhany is aimed to be 3,200 ft deep, with a target production of 28 barrels a day, Most of the production was produced following the Russian Civil War and in the lead into World War 2. In 1913 production was at 206 kbd, but fell to 81 kbd by 1921, and then slowly built until the region was producing 622 kbd by the start of WW2.

Balakhany today (Alexander Zaitchik )

The older fields no longer have the reserves to justify the investment of the large capital equipment associated with modern technology, but their history describes the wealth that they produced before the first World War, first for the Nobel family, and then for the Rothschilds. Baku oil also underwrote the career of Mr “Five Percent” Calouste Gulbenkian. Daniel Yergin notes that it was the need to replace expensive British coal that led Russia to use oil first in ship bunkers on the Black Sea, and then to fuel the railway engines across Russia. However production continued to fall from the original wells at Baku, Royal Dutch/Shell had bought out the Rothschilds, yet in the period just before WW1 Russia’s export market share had dropped below 10% as the shallow fields ran out. Of course this was also the time that Stalin was learning his trade as an organizer/agitator in the Baku fields., though it was not until 1920 that the Bolsheviks took Baku and nationalized the oil industry.

Azerbaijan remains, however, with the fields off the peninsula, the source of a growing percentage of global production. Because of that it is where the Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan pipeline begins. The BTC pipeline carries up to 1.2 mbd of oil to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean where it can be loaded into tankers.

Path of the BTC pipeline (Central Asia-Caucasus Institute)

To meet this, and other demands the re-growth of the oil industry in Azerbaijan has, within the last decade, raised production from 283 kbd to more than 1 million bd.

The most productive of these fields lies 62 miles east of Baku, in the Caspian, where the complex of fields known as the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) field lies. The complex is believed to hold 9 billion barrels of oil, though these are only a few of the fields found in the region. Yet there is a world of difference between how these fields are being developed with modern equipment and investment and the fate of the older fields.

The oilfields of Azerbaijan (Offshore Technology )

It is here also that the Shah Deniz field, with 22 Tcm of natural gas and 750 mb of oil can be found.

The region has thus not only had, but continues to have significant fossil fuel reserves. Production this year averaged 989 kbd to date, with $19 billion in exports of 715 kbd. This is up from last year, but down from the 2009 figures.

As the volume of oil available has increased, so the market for Azeri oil has also grown. Azerbaijan began exporting oil to India this year, and already sends some to China. It plans on sending oil to Czech and Ukrainian refineries and to Slovakia, to the tune of around 15 million barrels a year. The diversion of more to countries of the Former Soviet Union is something that has caught OPEC attention, and they note, in their November MOMR that the booming Russian economy is increasing internal demand, with a consequent cost to exports, to the tune of around 100 kbd growth in demand in the FSU to 4.2 mbd.

FSU oil demand change (y-o-y) in kbd for selected countries (OPEC November MOMR )

In terms of natural gas production the IEA projects that this will grow from a current 17 billion cubic meters (bcm) a year to 50 bcm by 2035, much of this to come from the second phase of the development of Shah Deniz.

In this regard it should be remembered that there are three main oil pipelines that carry oil out of Azerbaijan and while the BTC carries the majority, the Baku-Novorossiysk pipeline (B-N) carries 7% of the exports to the Black Sea Russian port of Novorossiysk , and the Baku-Supsa pipeline carries 14% of the total feeding oil to the Georgian port of Supsa, with a capacity of 145 kbd. The flows from Azerbaijan to Russia, via the B-N pipeline have been fluctuating all year, but on average have fallen over 12% from last year.

Average monthly flow in the pipe from Azerbaijan to Russia (News.AZ )

It may be that, in the same way that Russia used to play with demand for gas from Turkmenistan, they are now playing the same game of cutting back demand in order to force lower prices. However as with the Chinese pipeline to Turkmenistan, the BTC pipeline from Baku provides other customers so that prices may now be maintained – and with them support for the local governments. (The Azerbaijan government now has a strategic reserve of $41 billion).

Read more!