Wednesday, December 24, 2008

1. Heading Out and what it's about

This is my third attempt at a blog, and the second is still going, under the title The Oil Drum, where I could have been found for the past three and a half years. But, for reasons that I will probably allude to in later posts, it became time to move on. That site remains an excellent one for information on many of the topics that I am going to cover, and is well worth a visit (or several).

I called myself Heading Out, back at TOD, and I will continue to  use that as a pen name. For those with more curiosity I am David (Dave) Summers, and there was a short NYT piece on what I was then doing some thirteen years ago. The sons have now grown up, and will be referred to here as "The Advocate", (who has his own site ) and "The Engineer".  Barb, for historic reasons will be "The Actress". More recently, I have spent some dealing with items that contain explosives

In the main I have spent the last four decades teaching and leading research teams at the Rock Mechanics and Explosives Research Center at Missouri University of Science and Technology.  It is a job from which I will soon likely retire, and Heading Out was initially meant to signify that taking place. For a variety of reasons I‘ve stayed on already a year longer than planned, and we’ll see how much longer that continues.

So what is this about – well I’m starting with the same premise that I had back over three years ago. I will try to give a little technical background to some of today’s events, and providing a chronology and a little bit of a living history as we move through the change from an energy rich economy to one that is more challenged. Generally the posts are going to be contemporary comment on energy issues, as they unroll, intermixed with technical bits that I used to call Tech Talks (and which can be found on TOD). Those will be re-started here, and there will be some repetition as I build up a resource that I can then refer back to in later posts.

I expect to talk a little bit about climate change issues as the post goes forward. With the change in Administration, and the emphasis by the President-elect on a blanket acceptance of the global warming premise, signified in part by his choice for the energy portfolios in the Cabinet, it is going to be hard to be able to distinguish between the two. This is going to be particularly true as the debate on the role of coal intensifies. Since that was part of what “got me into trouble”, I suppose it would be as good a place to start as any. So the first Tech Talk posts will likely start discussing coal from where it came from, through how we get it out of the ground, to how we burn it, to the problems that are created, and how some are being or intend to be solved. But since the aim is to provide some commentary on events as they unfold, these technical posts are likely to be spread out over the next few weeks, and may end up being the Sunday Post.

The site should get a little more organized, with time, but since this was started with the North-East buried in a snowstorm, while we waited in Detroit for a plane to move us up there (see the comment following this post ), the site is a little more primitive than it may end up.

And we’ll see where we go from here! Thanks for coming along for the ride.


  1. Hello,

    This is Armine Hareyan writing from I visited your blog and liked your content.

    Would you be interested to send us a guest post on any of the issues related to the topics that you cover in your blog. We will publish it in our site

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    If you want to consult the topic with me first that's perfectly fine as well.

    Many thanks

    Best regards
    Armine Hareyan

  2. I want to invite you to join us at
    i would have liked to have contacted you by email nut could not find contact information. Would love to see you share your thoughts from a personal page there hat you could also use to promote your blog here! Thank you & hope that you will join us!
    Best regards...Curtis

  3. A key concept is that coal is not mined from cost curves or from Hubbard Linearization projections--it is mined from coal mines.

    A careful look at the remaining life span of existing coal mines and the very real geologic, economic, legal and transportation constraints facing future coal mine expansions is sobering indeed.

    An extensive report on these issues is discussed below. Mentioned attachments are available from the author with contact information at the bottom.

    Interestingly US coal supplies are much more constrained than Americans understand. This is, in large part, because the EIA publishes data on coal supply that indicate that they have assessed the coal "reserves" for economic accessibility--when they haven't. Indeed, USGS (US Geological Survey) data indicates that typically less than 20% of the coal in this country is likely to be economically recoverable.

    These issues are all discussed in a new detailed report on coal supply constraints which is available along with background information at (I've also attached a copy of the report and the 1-page abstract.)

    The report is entitled "Coal: Cheap and Abundant–Or Is It? Why Americans Should Stop Assuming they Have a 200 Year Supply of Coal." It discusses the life span of existing mines and the USGS reports that have presented detailed assessments of the amount of coal that is likely to be economically recoverable. The conclusion is that most of the coal in this country (including Powder River Basin coal in Wyoming) won't be economically recoverable because it is buried too deeply to be accessible in any significant quantity at any reasonable price.

    Hopefully our country will soon wake up to the very real geologic, economic, legal and transportation constraints on future coal supplies.

    Unfortunately, just assuming coal will continue to show up on mile long trains every week at all of our coal plants for the next century doesn't appear to be a great assumption if we want to keep our country powered in the coming decades.

    There is supporting material and the report can be downloaded from

    Please be in touch if you have any questions.

    Best Wishes. Leslie

    Leslie Glustrom with Clean Energy Action
    Boulder, Colorado

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  5. I am involved in the coal industry in Alabama and actually found your blog running a Google search on drill auger heads, where I found your "Coal 5" post. You have a wonderful blog and your work in waterjet applications for the mining industry intrigues me. I think we may have a mutual friend in Alabama as well. If you wouldn't mind, would you email me at I would like to ask you a few questions about your tests on the waterjet application for the coal auger. Thanks so much.

  6. Hello Heading Out,

    I recognized your name from TOD on The Blackboard in the discussion about Wattergate. ;-)

    Anyway, the guy who has done the analysis on which Watts bases his claims of fraud, E.M. Smith or ChiefIO, has his own blog. I don't know if you are interested in what he has done for Watts, but I read a piece of his on energy and Peak Oil a while back which made me suspicious of his judging capabilities.

    I just thought it might interest you, as you are, like me, interested in energy and AGW issues.

    Best regards,


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  8. Hey there. I'm a UMR graduate (B.S. Geology & Geophysics 1999) and stumbled upon your site while looking for GOM pipeline graphics.

    I love the writing! Keep it up! :)

    Missy (McLean) Leone

  9. Hi Heading Out,
    I'm just an average Joe with only a High School degree and I just want to thank you for all of the work you have done on this site to help me and others learn about these subjects. I have bookmarked your site and look forward to coming back to learn more.
    Sincerely, John

  10. Following the crisis in Japan as well as the Middle East oil and gas prices have moved a fair bit to reflect fundamental changes in demand and supply, as well as hypotheticals (sentiment related factors). Could you please produce a basic tech talk post on to what extent oil and gas (LNG, LPG, natural gas) are interchangeable, and thus perhaps why oil prices have been relatively stable in response to Japan but absolutely wild in response to Egypt for example. I understand the financial stuff, but a more technical analysis on the uses and adaptation costs etc wuold be helpful in putting it in context.

  11. Great blog! - since your a rock mechanics expert, I thought I'd share some results from waterfloods using an improved injection method called Powerwave.

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  19. Hi Dave, I found your blog looking for info on coal miners in Eglingham, thanks for that bit of history.
    My ggg grandmother Elizabeth Knox, married William Blair and they lived in Eglingham, coal mining, in the early 19th century. There were quite a few Baird folk in the area, some mining at Bannamoor, Eglingham. Are they connected to your family?

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  26. Hello,
    I recently discovered your blog and I think your articles are really interesting and extremely and clearly well written.
    I was wondering if you would be interested in sharing some of your posts on Glipho? It's a new social blogging network which aims to promote the writing of its users and to build their audiences. I bet that our users would love to read your stuff!

    Glipho is a new social publishing engine which allows users to quickly upload their content. In additional, you are able to import the posts from your blog in a super-easy way without affecting it at all.

    We are always delighted to get any feedback about the things which do or don’t work for you—and any features which would delight you if we added them-so don’t be shy to tell us what you think.
    I'd suggest having a look at the site at to see what it looks like. :)

    Let me know if you have any questions and if you want an invite to set up an account!

    All the best,

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  28. Hi Heading Out,

    Did you ever discuss on this blog or over at Oil Drum anything on special issues with reversed oil pipelines? Looking for info. Much appreciated!

    All the best,

    Pipeline Curious

  29. you have a post about coal miners and there old tools 1 inparticular you mention is a drill stand and hand drilling for shot !....just wondered if you ever saw one in real life.....if not do you want one of my pictures of 1 in a fireclay coal mine from 1800-1837...kind regards nick...p.s. you can get a hold of me via

  30. Can't thank you enough for the high level and consistency of detail and information you have provided, both here and for years at TOD.

    Thanks and keep up the good work.


  31. Hello, Prof Summers. I am Professor at Sogang University, Dept of Media Technology and Arts, Graduate School of Media. I came to know this blog while I was studying how to user waterjet technology for the creation of media art which uses water as medium. I am going to buy an old book "Waterjet Technology" written by you. Wow. The book is quite expensive,about 500 dollars!. Anyway, could I consult you about the best equipments and parts to construct my own waterjet propulsion system designed to create waterjets in the air? I would like to create waterjet parabolic beams in the air as I paint on the canvas of air by means of waterjet. It will be such a huge scale painting made out of waterjets.

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