Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking back at 2009

This has been an interesting year to look back on. The change in the Administration and the difference in outlook that they bring to many of the concerns that I write about have altered the way in which the future will evolve. That evolution is still continuing, but there can be no doubt that the key committees in the Congress are now led by folk that do not look particularly kindly on the historic producers of fossil fuels. Yet the path forward for the alternatives, power from renewable energy, is not necessarily going to be that certain either. That was brought home just recently with the move by Senator Feinstein to protect portions of the Mohave Desert from future construction. This limits some of the areas in which solar farms had been planned, though clearing some of the legislative hurdles for others. But the legislation (which would apparently affect some 19 applications) is a sign of the debates to come, as the land needed for renewable energy is discovered to have other potential uses or benefits, that will make the search for available space that much more difficult.

And it is not just in California, there are debates in other states, including Wyoming.
As a result, 23 percent of Wyoming's winds that are class 4 or higher -- and about half or more of developable class 6 and 7 winds -- are in core areas. And in July, the state put those winds off-limits by essentially banning big wind farms in core areas. Many in the wind industry see it as devastating. The Interwest Energy Alliance -- a trade group -- said the ban could have "a deleterious effect on renewable energy development" across the West, and that it could kill the development of 10,000 megawatts of wind in Wyoming.
Though there are some sites that appear less controversial than others.
He takes me on a tour in a big white truck, making me wear a hardhat because turbine blades can throw chunks of ice. From the top of a hill, as a bunch of antelope amble nearby, Anderson points southward through the forest of windmills to a huge plume of steam that marks the Dave Johnston power plant. Then he motions to the earth all around where we stand. The wind farm sits on the reclaimed remnants of an old, giant coal mine; all this land was once torn up, gouged by draglines, its carboniferous bounty burned in the plant down below. "We wanted to take a coal mine," says Anderson. "And make it useful."
Yet as these debates continue, there seems to be little recognition of the needs that the future will bring, that are not being prepared for. Nor is there much recognition of the problems in getting power from where wind can generate electricity to the places where it is needed (particularly those states that have mandated high levels of renewable energy into their mix in the nearer future). For while wind turbines can generate money for the landowner, there is much less for the farmer who lets a transmission line across his land, who only gets a single payment.

The cap-and-trade legislation may not, in the end, make it through the Senate, and thus may die for this Congress, but it has made it difficult to justify investment in coal-fired power stations, when the rules that will govern their use are not clear. And while the EPA has adjudged carbon dioxide to be a pollutant , it has yet to write the rules under which plants that produce carbon dioxide will operate. (Remembering of course that each of us is also a generator). As a consequence some 100 or more power plants have been put on hold until the situation becomes clearer. But given the challenges that will likely come to the legislation (there is some question, for example as to whether they can limit the application of legislation to plants that produce more than 25,000 tons for example), the delays in planning for construction of future power plants are likely to continue, and perhaps grow worse.

The new Administration does not see much in the short-term that will cause energy supply, whether crude oil or electricity, to be a problem. The Secretary of Energy, through the research and funding that they have produced over the past year, is looking at more distant options for generating power than meeting any proximate needs. Unfortunately, coming from California, where it was easy to mandate a reduction in coal-burning in the state when the power could be generated alternately from coal-burning plants in Utah, does not work as well when the entire country becomes subject to the legislation, and such an alternative no longer exists.

Among other news of the past year that make my list of major stories I would count two more. They don’t seem to have caught as much attention of folks such as Robert Rapier who has a different list, but one of them is listed in the page that Platts had for their survey. The first (and that listed by Platts) is the continued collapse of the oil production in Mexico. While this has significant impact to the United States (which is now going to have to find alternate sources for the Mexican oil it was importing from fields that are now running dry, particularly Cantarell) the impact on Mexico’s deficit has been to drop the deficit off a cliff. For the USA it is going to be increasingly difficult to find that alternate supplier. China has increased their purchases from Saudi Arabia by more than 12% this year (to 800,000bd) and has signed agreements to take this over 1 mbd next year. With non-OPEC production having peaked, it is only the surplus production in the OPEC countries that keeps the world in balance, and the size of that “cushion” is something that we debate. (I am less optimistic than some others).

The other event was the opening of the gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China. Again it is feeding fuels that were, at one stage, available to the West, to a new customer, itself growing in demand, and with a considerable scope to increase market purchases in the years to come. The glut in natural gas that we currently see will not I suspect, last as long as it is currently projected, and that will open a different can of worms.

But all these stories from the past aside, I do wish you all a Successful and Prosperous Year, that brings you Happiness and Joy, and not too many snow storms.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Separating different components from a crude oil

I have been writing about the progress of crude oil as it passes from the reservoir up through the production casing, and out to the GOSP, where water, oil, natural gas, sand and sulfur products can be separated. The example video that I referred to last week dealt with treating Canadian Oil Sands, and the oil that is coming from them. So what I want to talk about is the differences that exist in what to some folk is just "crude oil," with the assumption that it is all the same, In writing about coal, it is fairly simple to show that the different stages of coal as it changes from peat to anthracite, mean that you get different amounts of energy from it, and it can be extracted with differing amounts of energy. The fact that there is a fair bit of difference in crude oils is not always as easily understood. This then will be a relatively simplistic look at the different potential hydrocarbons that might make up a crude oil, and how we can get them apart.

Crude oil is made up of a mixture of hydro-carbons, which are the different ways in which carbon and hydrogen can combine, starting with such simple compounds as methane (CH4) and progressing to more complex ones with greater numbers of carbon atoms.

Typical crude oil fractions

Oils from different places have different combinations of the major constituents, for example, this is from Kuwait.

Constituents of a typical Kuwaiti crude oil

Because they are fluids mixed together, it is not very easy to separate out the different valuable parts (known as fractions) by a mechanical means. However if you heat up the crude oil blend, then all the constituents will vaporize.

But the different fractions of the oil will boil at different temperatures (or boiling points ( b.p.), at which point they turn into gas. And so the first part of the treatment that the oil gets, when it reaches a refinery is that it is heated, so that it will all turn into such a gas, and then it is cooled in stages, so that the different fractions will condense back out. The total process is known as crude oil distillation and the UK Schools site has a simple sectional picture of what such a distillation column might look like.

Simplified representation of a distillation column.

As the combined vapors from the heated crude enter at the bottom of the tall tower (called a column) they pass up through different trays that are placed at set heights up the column. When the gas reaches a tray it passes up through it into a bubble cap, this is a cover over the hole that pushes the gas down so that it has to bubble up through the liquid that has already condensed onto that tray.

Schematic showing construction of the individual bubble caps

The liquids in each tray, as the vapor rises higher in the column, are kept at lower temperatures, so that the heavier oils, that condense at a higher temperature, will condense lower down the column. As the lighter vapor rises through successive trays, the temperature of the liquids drops, and lighter fractions of the oil also begin to condense out, until the very lightest are collected at the top, still as gas, and fed on to a cooler. The liquids then drain, either back down to a lower tray, or through a side-draw pipe that taps the fluid from the trays and takes it away for either further division or for storage and sale. A typical initial distillation might yield:

Typical range of distillation products.

Each year the EIA publishes its world distillation capacity which is the necessary part of getting from crude to useful product.

I will continue this further in a later post, talking about the further stages in refining, and cracking of compounds to break them into lighter fractions, so that the next product from a refinery might at the end, look something like this (courtesy of the EIA).

Typical products of a refinery

I hope that each of you has a Prosperous and Successful life in the year ahead.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Revisiting my Climate Change predictions from last year

This time last year I wrote a post on The Oil Drum of sufficient controversy that it ended with my being dropped as an Editor at that site, and the creation of this site. It was meant, when I wrote it, as a bit of a prediction. Given that it is now just over a year later, and we have had Climategate, and may soon have Thermometergate, so it seemed to be a good time to review the original post. A couple of the links aren’t available and I have changed (or commented) where that is the case. Here is the post:

One of my most enduring memories of Washington D.C. occurred while attending a meeting on Geothermal Energy Development, back in the days before the Iron Curtain fell. In the evening after dinner, I took a colleague from Eastern Europe, on his first American visit, for a walk down the Mall. We walked, almost alone, on a still, bitterly cold, dark evening with fresh snow on the ground, and stars peppering the sky above us to see the sights, including the Lincoln Memorial. We stood staring, like backwoods tourists, through the windows of the Air and Space Museum.

We came back to the hotel for alcoholic refueling, thinking that the energy problems of the time would guarantee unending research funding into new forms of energy, and that our future was assured. That was about thirty years ago, and we were, of course, wrong, at least in terms of the funding and sustained interest in unconventional energy sources. Now we are walking back over some of the same ground. Again, fluctuations in oil prices have removed the immediate perception of the need for alternate supply, and have also weakened the credibility of those of us who try to suggest how to deal with the problem.

Prophecy, particularly when it deals with the near term future runs the risk of being corrected by the actual turnout of events. The ups and downs of energy demand, and available supply–-particularly when tied to the economic fortunes of nations, can make logical projection under one condition, but become apparently hopelessly in error when that condition doesn’t happen. Thus, at the moment, with the declining price, and apparent glut of oil, the public no longer feels that there is a crisis; the credibility of those forecasting a crisis is damaged, and can only be reconstructed over a longer period of time and changing circumstance.

I thought of that this past week. While the driver of “energy independence” has become the discredited cry of the outgoing Administration, it has been replaced with the need to find alternate energy sources in order to prevent climate change because “the science is indisputable”. The over-riding driver is that we are seeing global warming caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide.

For those who forget, back in 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA should regulate the emissions of the greenhouse gases that include carbon dioxide. It noted in passing:
Given EPA’s failure to dispute the existence of a causal connection between man-made greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, its refusal to regulate such emissions, at a minimum, contributes to Massachusetts’ injuries.
This was germane since Massachusetts had to show that it had standing to bring the case, which it did since the rising sea levels would threaten the state’s well being. This has been reinforced by the recent decision by the EPA Appeals Board that EPA has no valid reason not to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Thus new plants will have to revisit their submissions to EPA for permitting, as the permits relate to their emissions.

Revisiting EPA submissions will be a time-consuming effort. EPA will first have to write some regulations, so that the permitting of new plants will be likely considerably delayed. Also, as I have noted in an earlier post, shortfalls in the power that the nation needs may develop as a result, particularly if it continues to get colder in winter.

An increasing level of acceptance and public support of global warming has been achieved, in part, by the repetition of stories that the world is warming, and that we can anticipate, as a result, that the ice fields of Greenland, the Arctic region as a whole, and Antarctica will melt, causing sea levels to rise dramatically. There is, however, as they say, a slight technical hitch to this concept. Nature is not co-operating, and the predicted events are not occurring with the inexorability that was initially projected (see for example here ).

Now some of these shortfalls are beginning to be noticed on an increasing scale, although to quote Upton Sinclair (from the trailer to “An Inconvenient Truth”), “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” And there are a lot of folks these days who have salaries that are tied in some way to the perception of global warming. To give but a few examples that suggest the need for more of a scientific debate, graphs of temperature rise do not show the continuous increase that had been projected ten years, ago, but rather seem to indicate a leveling and decline.)

Ed. Note Shortly after I posted the graph shown below it was removed from the GISS site – the number of sites that are sampled has now been reduced dramatically and the selection is such that those remaining are apparently not showing the temperature stability or decline that would apparently otherwise be evident. I expect this to be one of the news stories of 2010, and that in the process Dr. Hansen’s attempt to apportion the blame for this to his colleagues, and thus “throw them under the bus,” will become also a more debated topic. )

Greenland itself does not appear to be getting any warmer.

Glaciers in Alaska may be starting to grow again, under the changing snow patterns. And the Antarctic ice fields have been growing to record size.

(Ed. Note the original page on growing Alaskan glaciers from the Anchorage Daily News is no longer available, but the story was also covered on Daily Tech. There are stories of glaciers now growing around the world including Argentina and India.)

Now it may be that there are good scientific explanations for these events; they may be transient events that can change with time. But to the public, these are, like the short-term fall in gas, an indication that the pundits are wrong. It is comfortable if those forecasting global warming turn out to be incorrect, because then the uncomfortable changes to a different energy source or more conservation may not need to be made. In part, the problem is that this is not being addressed as a scientific issue, but rather an extension of the topic as politics, as it has been treated so often in the past.

I was thinking of this when I read a post in the Washington Monthly this past week. It excoriated a writer at Politico for writing a piece that began with the paragraph,
Climate change skeptics on Capitol Hill are quietly watching a growing accumulation of global cooling science and other findings that could signal that the science behind global warming may still be too shaky to warrant cap-and-trade legislation.
What I found sad about the critique was the comment,
How many scientists are quoted defending the global warming consensus of the scientific community? Zero. Lovley's article reads like something one might find on World Net Daily.
This is one of the subjects where, as I showed above, it is possible rather easily to find the basis for scientific question. If someone comes into a room and says, “It’s raining,” one can look out of the window and see whether it is, or not. Having a debate by the assembled multitudes in the room as to whether it is or not, and whether their credentials make their opinion worthwhile, is not as informative as if the visitor coming into the room is wearing a wet raincoat, regardless of their background. Ad hominem attacks only work in the short term, and become increasingly less effective as evidence continues to pile up that there may be another side to the story.

The recent record snows in the Himalayas, for example, suggest that there may not be the predicted Asian droughts as the recharged glaciers will continue feeding water into the rivers. And in regard to the rising levels of the sea, there are studies that show that while sea level has been slowly rising for a quite considerable time, that there has been no acceleration in the rate, which runs around 1.3 to 1.5 mm per year, over the past 50 years. (This would mean that the sea level increase over the next 100 years would only be some 140 mm or about 5.5 inches). Web sites that collect such information are growing in number and popularity. One such tracks peer-reviewed papers that have evaluated temperatures during the Medieval Warming Period, frequently finding them higher than today.

Gradually this actual set of events makes its way into the public perception. If there has been no debate, then the proponents appear more starkly wrong when it all begins to be presented, and the initial position becomes discredited. (See for example President Reagan after Iran:Contra). Unless, that is, global warming has gone from being a scientific event, where events can be openly debated, to becoming a religion, where fanatical opposition to those who are not true believers brings attempted silencing by humiliation, excoriation, exorcism, excommunication and, in the past, immolation of such “heretics”. In such case, I suppose, then we face a different type of doom.

Administrations start with a certain amount of good will from the public--they have a certain initial credibility and belief that will carry them through some tough decisions. If the issues are openly and honestly debated, then unexpected change can be accommodated. This honest debate is good, because it means that the momentum to find the alternate energy sources that we need can be continued, rather than having the need challenged and discounted.

Without continued momentum, it may be that when, in the future, I return to the hotel from an exhilarating walk around Washington, the room may be cold and dark, due to inadequate power supply. Neither wind nor solar work on still, dark nights, and we may still need additional research and development to provide sufficient alternative replacements at scale for coal and natural gas.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
After that original post I had intended to follow it with a second - the purpose of the two is explained, in part, by the second part (which follows), however there were additional consequences.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I thought I would add this second part to the post to explain what I thought I was doing, since it seems as though it was only evident to a few.

The whole debate on climate change and its relationship to energy is about to go through a paradigm shift, I believe, as the incoming Administration applies the policies that they come to power propounding. This is relevant to our continued discussion since those who are charged with preparing our Energy future are all very concerned with climate change. And, as the lead item in Drumbeat on Sept 15th notes
If you think Washington's debate over whether to bail out General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC is acrimonious, wait until the debates over energy and climate change policy start. The auto bailout debate has become a proxy for the coming clashes over energy strategy.
Now I have to tell you that the readership, and commenters here have both made me proud and caught me out. When I first posted on the climate change debate, back a couple of years or so ago, I got 150-odd comments some 55-odd of which were ad hominem attacks, and 5 were constructive debates about the science. I had thought that I might get the same sort of percentage here, and thus had planned this second part as a comment on this (since I don’t think it will hold up as a credible strategy as the debate becomes more public).

Instead of which – of the 461 comments on the site at the time that I write, only 25 folk actually engaged in ad hominem – though some did it considerably more than once. On the other hand there were some 53 folk that engaged in a more productive debate (and while there many who deserve credit for this, let me take my hat off to Barrett808 who patiently debated beyond the point that I suspect my patience would have worn out).

I still feel, as I tried to imply with the post, that the tone of the debate is going to change. And it is going to change in a way more hostile to those who propound AGW, because they will now be the “party in power” and thus more exposed to the scrutiny that brings. Thus the “snow in Tibet” type stories, that have often from the pro-CC point of view appeared in Drumbeat in the past, will now become more common but written now more in the anti-CC mode – since challenging authority is not an uncommon habit of journalists. This will also become more the case if it becomes less evident (the weather outside) that the world is continuing to warm.

Thus, if the policies are to be understandable and accepted the sort of discussion that has taken place here should become more common rather than less. Stating that the science is irrefutable, when there is data that may argue the opposite is not the way I think this should go. And the debate has to be at a level that folk can understand.

One of the reasons that I helped found this site is that I believe, quite strongly, that we are all better off if we are aware of all the facts, and can thus make an informed decision. But the facts should be presented and debated in a way that folk can understand, and with the explanations obvious to someone below the level of even a “science-challenged lawyer.”

I, thus, disagree strongly with the 11 folk, who seem to feel that this site should be censored to stay away from this topic, particularly since I sense that the topics will be more and more inter-twined in the future. And, while censorship and trying to deride the presenters might work at a level such as a blog, it is unlikely to get much respect in the popular press.
(Ed. Note Boy was I wrong about that!!)

Thus, the point of the post, that more of the debate on climate change should be carried out in the public venue, rather than hidden away. Censorship, as an example, might preclude me from posting this addenda as a fresh post, or disallow commenting on the latest EPA memo relative to the Bonanza situation.

I'm heading out, may I wish you the Compliments of the Season.
. . . . . . . . . . .
2009 Update
That was a year ago, and there was much criticism at the time, which led to the creation of this site, and my being dropped as an editor at TOD – a site which, in passing I will note was set up to write about Energy, but while it carries a link to RealClimate (where the Climategate folk give their side of what appears to be some relatively blatant scientific malpractice) does not link to this site, for example.

In the past year I would suggest that my predictions about the change in public attitudes in starting to come to pass. I expect, with the reports on Climategate and the review of Dr Mann, and the continued exploration of the GISS temperature data manipulation, that the stories will continue to grow in the next year.

Hopefully I’ll be back, this time next year to see how those predictions worked, and to see what changes have occurred (though I will continue to comment on them throughout the year on Saturdays).

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Season's Greetings

May I wish you all the Compliments of the Season, and that the New Year brings you joy, success and prosperity.

Posts will be a little light over the next week, thank you for dropping by and for making the past year so enjoyable for me.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Treating Oil, Gas and Water - more on GOSPs

My apologies that this is running a little late, unfortunately what looked as though they were minor weather problems on national television become a lot more personal when you're waiting for small planes to take you to smaller than normal airports.

At the end of the last tech talk I was commenting on the amount of water that usually comes out of the ground whenever we extract fossil fuels. Once it gets to the surface the questions become two-fold. The first is how do we get it out of the mix, so that we can separate what we would like to have (the fuel/fuels) and then we have the problem of what we do with what is left.

The simple answer (as in easy to write) to the separation of the different components of the fluid is the Gas Oil Separation Plant. However, as you can imagine, if you are tasked with separating, for the sake of example, the liquids and hydrogen sulphide from a gas flow of 1.5 billion cf/day, which is coming from some 87 wells that concurrently produce some 300,000 bd of Arabian Light crude, the actual design of such a plant is anything but trivial. Even the sulfur that is drawn off, at some 90 tons/day must needs be provided for in the design of the plant.

First, as the gas is produced from the wells, it must be collected into a common feed line, through a connector, called a manifold, that takes in the various smaller pipes from the individual wells, and feeds the result out in a larger pipe to the GOSP. Because the pressure that the fluid retains is useful as part of the separation process, we don’t want to lose any more of it than we have to in overcoming the friction in the pipes that it is passing through. (I have a couple of horror stories from my past about occasions when folk who should have known better used pipes that were too small, and ended up reducing both the flow rate and available pressure at the delivery end of the line). The pipes that carry the flow must, therefore, be large enough to carry the flows, though many miles of pipe to the GOSP. Thus we find, at Haradh, that the initial flows were collected into three different manifolds, and that they in turn carried the mix to the GOSP through five pipes which are, depending on flow, either 20 or 30-inches in diameter. (Different pipes are needed to continue to separate the sour (hydrogen sulphide containing) gases from the sweet before it gets to the GOSP.

To construct the plant required
The main plant is made up of 100,000m³ of concrete, 22,000t of structural steel, 410,000 welded joints, 4,000km of cabling, 540km of plant piping, 1,400 items of engineered equipment and 750km of line piping, ranging from 18in to 56in in diameter.
The construction was also expensive of manpower:
For the construction of the facilities, the companies used 32,000m² of office and workshop space, a residence camp for 1,000 men and supporting facilities and a Boeing 737-qualified airstrip, 8,000ft in length with day and night operations. Support systems included 2,500 telephone exchange lines and video conferencing, data networks for 470 users, ground-to-air radio, 306km of fibre-optics and five communications towers.
It cost $2 billion and at peak construction had some 10,600 men working. It took 3 years to build (coming on stream in January 2004).

To sweeten the gas (get rid of the sulfur) it is generally bubbled through columns containing an absorbent liquid (typically sulfur-attracting amines) which remove the sulfur (which can then be recovered by heat in a stripping column, while the amine is then recycled).

In the more recent construction required at the GOSPs put in to add 1.2 mbd of Arabian Light crude from the Khurais addition, which came onstream this year there was an additional consideration. In order to help get the oil out, Aramco is simultaneously injecting 4.5 million bd of treated seawater. The main treatment plant at Qurayyah can process more than 13 million bd. The treatment involves removing particulate solids, ensuring that the oxygen content is below detection (this is needed to prevent corrosion), that there be no scaling products in the water and that there is a minimum amount of microbial content that could lead to biofouling of both the distribution pipeline and the injection wells. (Note that many of these concerns also relate to cleaning up the produced water from the wells before it is re-injected. ) The volumes that are treated are expensive, and thus there has been a recent move to simplify this treatment. Getting the solids out is relatively straightforward. Horizontal sand filters (albeit some 11 ft in diameter, 40 ft long) can treat up to 125,000 barrels of water a day bringing the particulate matter down below 0.2 mg/L. (On a personal note, again, sand filters work very well as long as there is no clay in the water - it takes just a few minutes for clay to coat and plug the top of the filter and make life really, really interesting).

At the same time, to ensure that there is no corrosion in the pipelines that carry the water (perhaps over 150 miles to a well in a journey that might take 36 hours) the pipes themselves are given a special internal coating to try and retain water quality integrity and to ensure that the injection wells do not become plugged. The pumps and equipment are powered by gas turbines.

And speaking of gas the recovery of the oil at Khurais is also expected to generate some 0.3 bcf of a sour natural gas that will be sent to Shedgum to have the sulfur removed, and 70,000 bpd of NGL.

Getting the gas out of the oil (as both Darwinian and idontno commented after my last post appeared on TOD
Very basic, the oil, gas, water, and sometimes sand enter a hydrotreater. The flash gas compressor takes suction from the hydrotreater to remove the gas. The hydrotreater normally will have an electric grid that helps to corral the gas at the top of the hydrotreater. The gas is drawn off and flows to the flash gas compressor. The water and oil separate in the hydrotreater. There’s usually two hydrotreaters and sometimes three to separate the oil from the gas. The velocity of the fluid as it passes through the treaters is critical since if flow is too high there will not be enough time for the oil and water to separate. The water is drawn off for further processing. The sand is separated in the sand separators and bagged for deposit ashore. The oil is processed to get the salt down to specification. Nalco, one manufacturer who fabricates different kinds of production equipment, has a very good web site to visit. They include flow diagrams.
Depending on the gas and oil mix the process of getting the gas out can pass through more than one stage where the pressure in the vessel is dropped, and at the lower pressure the gas bubbles out of the oil. (As noted just as carbon dioxide bubbles out of soda when the can is opened).

In order to accelerate the separation of the water from the oil (remembering that oil floats on water) the vessel is often now heated, so as to speed the process up. Sand in the fluid is going to be an increasing problem as wells get deeper and more of them are horizontal, but it can be exemplified by the way in which the oil and sand are separated up at Fort McMurray, and for that there is a video.

This is part of a series and I am grateful for the help that is given both by those asking questions, and those with practical experience that help with replies.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Running late again

The snowy conditions on the North East coast managed to slow our travel again this year, but not as bad as last year (when we ran into a big problem in Detroit). However, it has sufficiently knocked us back that the schedule of tech posts will again be late this week.

Sorry, will post as soon as we get organized.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Can we take a clean page and start over?

I have worked in a branch of science/engineering where we talk almost all the time to each other about what we do, and share information with folk that ask for it. We also have argued about points, and have the luxury, if we doubt someone’s conclusions that we can try and repeat their experiment to see what else we can glean from the results. This is much harder to do in the disciplines that feed into the climate change debate, since there are many different facets to the overall situation, and there are very few folk that publish over more than small parts of the whole. Yet without some trust and honesty in the process of developing those small parts, the integrity of the whole is challenged. Increasingly it seems as though that trust has been misplaced.

The Big Meeting in Copenhagen is over, and with some final negotiation at the end, there is just enough “progress” from the various talks, that the issue of climate change will continue to dominate the policies of governments around the world over the next few years. Whether this meeting really did that much is still in question. However, while heat waves etc are just about always claimed as signs of climate change, the current cold spell in Europe is just localized bad weather, so we are told. Five trains broke down in the Channel Tunnel starting Friday and trapped 2,000 passengers for up to 16 hours in an “unprecedented” cold spell in Northern France.
"What was unprecedented was the weather conditions particularly in northern France with heavy snowfall and very, very cold temperatures outside of the tunnel."
The situation has not improved and trains have now been cancelled through Monday. The trains that shuttle cars through the tunnels were not apparently affected. And to think I always thought that trains were more reliable than planes or cars in that sort of bad weather! (Incidentally Washington D.C. just set a new record for snowfall in December. )

Those who have led the world’s opinion into the knowledge of Global Warming, are now increasingly on the defensive, as the questions arising from Climategate become more pointed. Newspapers who had not previously spent much time on it, now run headlines. Thus Michael Mann was given op-ed space in the Washington Post in which he sought to deflect questions about the seriousness of that case. Sadly he seemed to do this by misdirection and some mis-statements of fact. For example he says that there were no deletions of e-mails regarding the topic, yet in one of the e-mails that remains, Phil Jones comments about deleting “loads of e-mails.” One would hope that the two inquiries that are now proceeding in the UK and the US become thorough investigations and not whitewashes of those involved. (But I am not hopeful. There are too many who have too much invested in this and who control too many of the leverages of power and publication that will work against the truth ever coming out).

In that regard the story (via Climate Audit) of the control that some climate distorters have over the pages of Wikipedia, reported in the National Post should also start to cause legislators to worry. When the articles that cover a topic (and so far there are apparently some 5,428 of them relating to climate change) are manipulated by one individual, William Connolley in this case, to reflect his opinions, rather than scientific fact, and that this is not known by the general public, then there is something seriously wrong. Apparently the manipulation is most focused on the Medieval Warming Period, and the Little Ice Age. The site comments
Thus current evidence does not support globally synchronous periods of anomalous cold or warmth over this timeframe, and the conventional terms of "Little Ice Age" and "Medieval Warm Period" appear to have limited utility in describing trends in hemispheric or global mean temperature changes in past centuries... [Viewed] hemispherically, the "Little Ice Age" can only be considered as a modest cooling of the Northern Hemisphere during this period of less than 1°C relative to late 20th century levels.
Bear in mind that it was just this past week that the EPA did recognize the existence of the MWP, although still disinclined to read the evidence of the temperatures that then existed.

Evidence from the e-mails contained in the Climategate folders show that, in fact there was some agreement among them that the MWP existed, and was warmer than today, and I have commented a number of times on the hundreds of scientific papers that attest to the global extent of the Little Ice Age. But where there is one person with the power to deny that, as these articles do, and further to have the full support of the Wikipedia management in manipulating this information, then the integrity of the whole program is shown to be rotten, and the goals of the whole endeavor a masquerade hiding an attempt at manipulation.

It is tragic that this whole debate has long passed beyond seeking answers to the fundamental questions of what is truly going on with the climate. Politicians in under developed countries are now using the issue to demand recompense from the developed world and for payment to protect them from the fallouts of the global warming. Yet the results from the rising populations in those countries, and their need for rural electrification, is being hidden in the clamor to be given supportive dollars. Forget that the most effective power source in many of these countries comes from coal. There is a potential for Western money to be fed, perhaps via the UN, into the coffers of those countries – and sadly in many cases, I suspect, into the pockets of those clamoring loudest in the debate.

Droughts may threaten the water supply of places such as Las Vegas but as much of the problem is caused by creating a city in a desert, and having it steadily grow, as might be caused by a changes in the rainfall pattern. Although, if one goes back to the MWP these areas have a history of severe droughts, that should not have been unexpected. But there was no-one to blame (and pay) back in the MWP.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

The changing state of Turkmen gas exports

As the Financial Times has noted, while all the world watched Copenhagen, a rather more ultimately significant event took place in Turkmenistan.
as all eyes were set on Copenhagen, a 4,350-mile gas pipeline was opened by Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, in a tectonic shift that western eyes can ill-afford to ignore. The pipeline starts at the Samandepe gas field in Turkmenistan, crosses Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and ends in north-west China. With little publicity and at the turn of a wheel, Russia’s post-Soviet dominance of gas export routes from central Asia has been undermined. Likewise, the European Union’s chances of winning Turkmen supplies for its Nabucco pipeline project now seem severely diminished.
The new route solves a problem for both parties. China needed a reliable source of natural gas, with pipelines being better than tankers, and Turkmenistan needed a customer who would not be as predatory and fickle as Russia has been. Both are thus satisfied.

The Turkmenistan to China pipeline

Russia is trying to suggest that the change is of little moment, however the potential loss in revenue from the gas that it would transport from Turkmenistan to Western Europe (with a considerable increase in price) cannot but cause them a little worry, since that supply significantly supplemented what they were making available themselves. However the Uzbek’s are also in line to send any additional supplies they have through the same pipeline (since it crosses their territory). And the President of Kazakhstan was also at the opening of the pipeline. And they are just another link in the chain that China is building under the Russian border.

All four Presidents (China, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan) joined in turning the ceremonial wheel that inaugurated the pipeline. There are actually two parallel pipelines being put into place, the first is now working, while the second is expected to start delivering gas next year. The pipeline ties into natural gas pipelines that were installed to the Chinese border earlier, and tie into the existing Chinese network.

New gas pipeline being laid in China this year.

UPDATE. I have added a comment from the Moscow Times which tries to put a different "Russian" slant to the story.

Uzbekistan has more than 171 oil and gas fields , of which 52 are natural gas fields, with an estimated reserve of some 66 tcf. It has been producing around 2 tcf per year, with about 0.5 tcf being exported. It is considered to be the eighth largest producer in the world. Historically exports from the country (as with Turkmen gas) has been delivered to Russia. There has been little interest in joining the Nabucco pipeline, though with the advent of the Chinese pipeline they consider that they can increase exports by perhaps 25%, perhaps making up some of the shortfall to Russia from Turkmenistan with their own supply.

And apropos an earlier post where I mentioned dredging the Amu Darya river, which runs along the border, the two countries are seeking to collaborate more on hydro-technical matters.
Since becoming independent, Uzbekistan has increased its natural gas production by over 30%, from 1.51 Tcf in 1992 to 1.99 Tcf in 2000. According to preliminary 2001 data, Uzbek natural gas production increased to 2.03 Tcf for the year. However, Uzbekistan's natural gas fields were heavily exploited in the 1960's and 1970's by the Soviet Union, and as a result several older fields, such as Uchkyr and Yangikazgan, are beginning to decline in production. In order to offset those declines, Uzbekistan is speeding up development at existing fields, such as Garbi and Shurtan, as well as developing new fields and exploring for new reserves. The Shurtan field, which began producing in 1980 and is the second biggest in the country after Gazli, accounted for approximately 36% of Uzbekistan's total natural gas output in 2000.
Shurtan is located some 215 miles southwest of Tashkent, and is now the site of a major gas chemical complex.

Production and domestic consumption of natural gas in Uzbekistan

It is interesting to note that the Ukbeks have not been averse, in the past, to a little profit from their gas.
the Uzbeks charge Kyrgyzstan $240 per 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas, while only charging Kazakhstan $84 for the same amount.
Kazakstan has thus had some problems with its neighbor
The two branches of the Central Asia Centre (CAC) gas pipeline, the main gas export pipeline from Central Asia, meet in the south-western Kazakh city of Beyneu before crossing into Russia at Alexandrov Gay and feeding into the Russian pipeline system. Therefore, Kazakhstan is a major transit route for gas from Turkmenistan to Russia and on to other FSU markets.

Southern Kazakhstan receives its gas needs from Uzbekistan via the Tashkent-Bishkek-Almaty pipeline. In 2008 Uzbekistan will supply a small amount of gas to Kazakhstan's southern regions, including the area around Almaty, for $100/1,000 CM, a price unchanged from 2007. This pipeline snakes through Uzbekistan before reaching Shymkent, crosses Kyrgyzstan, and terminates in Almaty. Dependence on imported gas for its southern regions has at times been problematic since erratic pricing and supplies from Uzbekistan, combined with illegal tapping of the pipeline by Kyrgyzstan, have resulted in significant supply disruptions to Almaty in the middle of the heating season.
It is anticipated that the pipeline to China will deliver about a quarter of its 40 bcm volume to Kazakhstan, where it will be sent down south. This will offset the 8 bcm that the Kazakhs have sent to Russia. But it is also hoped that the pipeline will be connected to the Kazakh fields which are up near the Caspian.

Meanwhile the Russian deals to restart gas supplies from Turkmenistan, which have floundered since the “accidental” blowing up of a pipeline last April, have not yet reached the point where gas is anywhere close to starting to flow. And while President Medvedev is supposed to be visiting Ashgabat again before the end of the year, no final agreement is yet in place. The Turkmen are trying to reassure the Russians that there is no cause for alarm.

And in Turkmenistan they still have enough natural gas available that a well that collapsed at Darvaza, and caught fire, is still a burning pit in the desert some 30 to 40 years later.

Darvaza – The gate to hell (photo N Griener Google Earth at 40 deg 10’56” N, 58 deg 24’27” E)

UPDATE: The Moscow Times, in reporting the story,
In the current plan for the gas balance from 2010 to 2012, Gazprom aims at reducing the annual import from Turkmenistan to 10.5 billion cubic meters, while the target figure in the 2009-11 plan was to increase the intake from 42 billion to 50 billion cubic meters. China has come to the rescue in a desperate situation where Turkmenistan stood to lose about a quarter of its gross domestic product, despite the fact that it increased volumes to Iran at agreed-upon low prices. The main issue for Gazprom was actually to ensure that the redundant gas would not find a channel to the European market, so blocking the plans for a trans-Caspian pipeline has been a high-priority goal for Russia’s foreign policy.
The only problem with that story is the chronology of the actual events.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Guardian Accuracy and Secretary Chu at Copenhagen

Well I notice that George Monbiot did not like the remarks that the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Chu, made at the Copenhagen summit. For some odd reason the Department of Energy wanted me to get the document via Dr. Chu’s Facebook page - there is a laugh line there that I will carefully avoid.

From the initial analogy
I have just been watching the tragic sight of a fallen giant flailing around on its back like a beetle, desperately trying to turn itself over. . . . . his speech was, in the true sense of the word, pathetic: it moved me to pity.
it is not hard to gather that Mr Monbiot does not care for Dr. Chu’s thoughts on what is needed to move this country away from its dependence on foreign oil. While the emphasis is on technical answers, some of the levels of investment that are being made drew derisive comments when compared with the levels that Europe has already invested, and the scale of technological application, where again Europe is considerably in the lead.

As an illustration he noted
The Department of Energy is so thrilled by this discovery (that they can make home appliances more efficient) that it has launched a programme to retrofit homes in the US, on which it will spend $400m a year.

To put this in perspective, four years ago the German government announced it would spend the equivalent of $1.6bn a year on the same job: as a result every house in Germany should be airtight and well insulated by 2025. The US has about 110m households; Germany has roughly 37m, and German homes were more energy-efficient in the first place. This $400m is a drop in the ocean.
I will have a comment below the fold on the accuracy (or otherwise) of this reporting.

Much of the current Administration effort is directed at the immediate gains to be made by energy conservation particularly with homes and appliances. And while I disagree with a number of programs and the levels of investment that the DOE are making, I also think (although I wasn’t there to actually hear the Secretary) that there is a lot more going on than he referred to in the talk. Locally, for example, (and I have written on this in the past ) the utility companies have been assiduous in recent months in seeking to help folk with energy audits, and with consequent home improvements to improve their energy use. This has not been a federal program, but one carried out much more locally, that however, as I will show, is about to change.

At the same time not all the programs are going to be eagerly accepted. Just recently there has been a push by DOE to switch many households over from conventional meters to “smart meters” which provide both more information to household and utility company, but also, potentially down the road, may allow the company a greater control of energy use. The goal of the Federal Program is to cut energy consumption.
Some 18 million smart meters are set to make their way into American homes as part of the economic stimulus plan focusing on energy efficiency, Energy Department officials said Tuesday. . . . . The 18 million meters represent roughly 13% of all electricity meters nationwide. Ultimately, the administration hopes to distribute 40 million smart meters over the next few years.

The smart meters are part of a wider government effort to upgrade the nation's aging utility grid. The government announced $3.4 billion in funding Tuesday to help move the country toward a so-called smart grid. Utilities are putting in another $4.7 billion in matching funds.

According to the White House, these investments could reduce U.S. electricity use by 4% a year.
And while the publicity has been largely favorable, there are now some reactions coming in from California, where the program is most advanced. The reviews are not all favorable. Apart from some concerns that the meters might not be accurate, there are such details as to paying for the $220 instruments, and the fact that the utility companies are seeing a decline in demand, due to the recession, right at the time where they were in the process of trying to limit growth in demand with this program. The net result is that the nation currently has a surplus of generating power.

Nevertheless the companies are moving forward, Southern California Edison is working through the San Gabriel Valley installing the meters . In that program the home owner will be given the ability to see his electricity consumption the day after he used it. The goals for the program are significant.
Edison SmartConnect is a $1.6 billion program authorized by the California Public Utilities Commission. SCE anticipates customers’ use of the new meters will reduce demand on the electricity grid by about 1,000 megawatts, the amount of energy produced at an average power plant. Sustained energy conservation resulting from customer response to their energy use information is also expected to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollutants by a minimum of 365,000 metric tons per year — the equivalent of removing 79,000 cars from the road.
One of the leaders in the technology is Silver Spring Networks which has been caught up in the controversy since, as the new meters were being introduced, the price of power went up, and thus the meters are catching some of the blame.

To return to the Secretary’s presentation he commented on the anticipated future cost of solar panels.
Predicted Prices and Production of solar modules (Note 1 Wp is a peak Watt, the nominal power of the cell, and can be approximated to 20 kWh (Wikipedia)

He noted that the DOE is now providing loan guarantees for factories fabricating panels. He thinks that there is a gap between what is needed and current funding support of the required research of between $14 and 32 billion. (Unfortunately he thinks the vast majority of this should be directed through the National Labs to which he just gave $104 million for new facilities.) Interestingly along the lines of George Monbiot’s critique, one of the slides notes that rather than $400 million the DOE is spending some $11 billion on building retrofits and local energy efficiency efforts. (Which is more along the lines of the same scale as the Europeans). Odd that this was on one of the slides that Dr Chu purportedly showed, and that Mr. Monbiot presumably therefore saw.

He showed that the world was able to conquer food supply issues of the 1960’s through the work of Norman Borlaug and suggested that future concepts now being funded (perhaps this is the $400 million and Mr Monbiot missed where it was being spent) will go to a new all-liquid metal battery (based on magnesium and antimony salts) and new designs of wind turbines based on jet engine technology.

New DOE design for wind turbine development

And he announced a new program to develop a combination of solar power and LEDs to improve the efficiency of lighting. (Which at one time took me to Santa Barbara). The program is known as SLED, and is partly directed at providing light in poorer parts of the world where a reliance on wick and hurricane lamps can cause sufficient air pollution in the house to cause perhaps 1.6 million deaths a year (his number). He feels that the price break will come in the $10 - $20/system level, where the retail price, at the moment, is $30/system.

He had a couple of informative slides at the end, showing where the electricity around the world is being used, where the most people were, and how the combination currently looks. (Were I still lecturing I'd steal them).

Actually I got a lot more out of the talk than the Guardian reporter, but then we have some interest in LEDs, and he seems bent to his own agenda.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Produced Water, GOSP's and Saudi Arabia

To the uninitiated the thought of a gas or oil well is one where a pipe goes down into the ground, and out of it flows either a steady stream of oil or natural gas, that is fed straight into a pipeline and then delivered to them (often at what they consider to be an outrageous price) with no further treatment. Or the crude oil that comes out runs straight over to a refinery where (with minimum effort and maximum profit) it is transformed into the gasoline or diesel fuel that they must then again buy at great cost in order to drive in to the liquor store to buy some beer.* The reality of oil and gas production is considerably different, and fluid that comes out of the well is not the ideal that the uninitiated imagines. So today’s topic will deal with the initial separation of a couple of the parts. This is a part of the technical pieces that I write on Sundays about various aspects of fossil fuel production, and it is a relatively simplistic explanation which seems to fit most folks needs, though it also has considerable help from those with more technical knowledge who add comments.

There are three major fluids that come out of a well and these are gas, crude oil and water. If the well is a natural gas one, the oil component will not be the heavier fractions that we associate with an oil well, but rather the higher end liquids such as propane and these are referred to as the natural gas liquids (NGL). NGLs include ethane, propane, butane, iso-butane, and natural gasoline. But today I am going to talk about the water.

Back when I first started writing about this separation oilcanboyd was kind enough to point me to the Produced Water Society.
The Produced Water Society is a collection of engineers and industry professionals with the common purpose to study and improve the separation, treatment, and analysis of Offshore and Onshore Produced Water with the goal to meet the discharge and reinjection requirements of the industry and the environment.
And just to be clear about what Produced Water is:
Produced water is mainly salty water trapped in the reservoir rock and brought up along with oil or gas during production. It can contain very minor amounts of chemicals added downhole during production. These waters exist under high pressures and temperatures, and usually contain oil and metals. . . . . . . The treatment of produced water is a major component of the cost of producing oil and gas. Wells may start out producing little water but sooner or later all oil wells produce a much larger volume of water than oil. The ability to efficiently and economically dispose of this water is critical to the success in the oil production business.

Back in April 2007, oilcanboyd quoted volume flows for the lower 48 US States as being 4.8 mbd of oil, 128 mbd of brine (the typical term for produced water). His number was considerably higher for the water than that offered by the Argonne report given below, though they admit that their count could be significantly under true values.

The changes in pressure, temperature, and the possible access to oxygen when the water reaches the surface, means that the water can precipitate out dissolved minerals and hydrocarbons such as paraffin, which can plug wells that are being used for disposal,
65% of the produced water generated in the US is injected back into the producing formation, 30% into deep saline formations and 5% is discharged to surface waters.
Argonne National Labs recently reviewed the status of this brine, providing not only a review of the process, but also the summary of conditions for each state. They show the relative volumes of water produced, in 2007, by the five largest producing states:

Total produced water generated by wells in the United States in 2007 (with top 5 state producers identified) Source Argonne National Labs

To try and give some sense of the scale of these numbers they point out that Washington DC and its local communities collectively use some 300 million gallons a day, which is only 13% of the amount of produced water that must be dealt with. The water comes from the roughly 1 million oil and natural gas wells that are still producing in the United States. Texas, while the largest producer of natural gas (6.9 tcf in 2007) lagged offshore in the amount of crude that it produced. The national average amount of water produced per barrel of oil was 7.6 barrels of brine, which produced about 87% of all the produced water developed. The average gas well production was around 270 barrels of water per mcf of natural gas. Some 59% of this is reinjected into the producing formations in onshore facilities (only about 9% offshore) in order to enhance production. These relatively large volumes that must be processed and disposed of can control the economics and life of the operation. As the Argonne report notes:
early in the life of an oil well, oil production is high and water production is low. As the production age of the well increases, the oil production decreases and the water production increases. When the cost of managing produced water exceeds the profit from selling oil, production is terminated and the well is closed. This is contrary to the typical production cycle of a coal bed methane (CBM) well. Initially CBM wells produce large volumes of water, which decline over time. Methane production is initially low, increases over time to a peak, and then decreases.
Because the US fields are, in the main, much older from a production point of view, than the average well in the total world, the average water flow is higher, the report estimates that the global value is around 3 barrels of water per barrel of oil.

Because of the high salinity (generally greater than that of seawater) the amount of sodium and salt in the water make it difficult to use for agriculture (which has a very large demand for water in its own right). However in states where the water is reinjected to maintain reservoir pressure even the volumes available may not be enough, and thus one finds, for example in Alaska, that the 842 wells using this EOR used about 1 billion barrels of water in 2007. Given the recent controversy over the disposal of water from the development of the Marcellus shale in New York, it is perhaps interesting to quote the numbers for that state.
The most recent available report is for 2007. According to the 2007 data, 13,113 wells were reported to the division. Of the total, 7,387 were natural gas wells, 4,874 were oil wells, and the remaining wells were gas storage, dry holes, and solution salt wells. The database provided production volumes of 55,001 Mmcf for natural gas and 377,514 bbl for oil. The state-produced water volume was 649,333 bbl from active wells for 2007, which included 215,050 bbl that were associated with water injection wells.
Handling the water from these wells is thus not a small matter, especially in the larger production fields around the world such as Saudi Arabia. When Aramco decide to increase production from a field, or to add another field to their supply network, they cannot just drill another well, hook it into the line and see their exports increase. Because of the nature of the fluid that actually comes out of the hole, it has to be run, first through a Gas Oil Separation Plant or GOSP. Here the oil, formation water and gas that come out of the well together are separated, so that they can be piped to the different treatment plants. (And as a side point readers might want to look at some of the articles on oil production from Saudi Aramco World since they are written more for a family audience than a technical one.) These plants are generally rather large, the one in the article treats 450,000 bd of oil, and they take considerable time to build, install and connect up. Thus when new production is planned one has to wait for the plant to be in operation before the wells themselves can be productive. The new addition at Khurais, for example, required a new central processing plant, and when Haradh Stage 3 began, it had, first to have the new GOSP in place and running, which is was by the second quarter of 2006. Thus the production increments in the country are controlled by the rate at which these can be brought on line. In addition the older ones had to be upgraded, particularly in the controls for the system. (Side comment, though the KSA centralize their GOSPs, they don’t have to be that big. We have had an individual well unit hauled through our yard behind an SUV). But we’ll talk about them a little more another time.

Putting this all together the oil and gas industry have been handling, without significant public complaint, relatively large volumes of water for a considerable time. The processes are handled through the state agencies (which is where Argonne got much of their information) in a set of processes that seem to be under control.

* across the street, last week.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Small personal changes

For those looking for the weekly tech talk it is running a little late again this week, for a unique reason (for this site). Last Thursday I taught the last lecture in the last formal class that I will teach before retiring. (The Heading Out moniker was chosen as a recognition of what was then a coming change).

This blog will continue, and might now have a little more regular attention, since after meandering through the usual thickets of the end of a semester - with a couple of additions that I had not totally expected - I will return here after the break with only a couple of research projects that I will continue to work on, though passing the primary responsibility for them to colleagues. (The joy of not having to spend hours a month on budget matters !!!) And then sometime next semester I will actually retire from that form of work.

But in the short term there may be a little more irregularity than usual, and I ask your indulgence as I work through this. Back tomorrow.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Distortion and Defamation - not what Science should be about

I was planning on writing a little about the way in which carbon dioxide is absorbed into the ocean today, but a couple of things continue to niggle in my mind. To begin, of you go back and look at the comment that Stuart posted to my post last week on the Popular Mechanics article you might note that it begins with “You are spouting obvious nonsense.” It is, I suppose this immediate, derogatory and insulting approach that I have found so prevalent among those who advocate the case that the world is warming due to greenhouse gas effects. As has been clear these distorters of the true data and their supporters have a problem with defending the actual data that is out there, and the tales that it tells, and so resort to derogation, distraction and the consistent lack of discussion of the actual data.

Immediately after the Climate-gate literature hit the internet, George Mombiot wrote a piece in the Guardian recognizing the damage that the release had done to science. And yet, having done that, and rather than go on to investigate some of the implications from that release, he has gone back to attacking those who are skeptical of some of the data and conclusions by those who, for this article, I will continue to refer to as the “distorters.”

However rather than an investigation, he has turned to praise of the book “Climate Cover-up” by James Hoggan. Having read it just recently I had debated whether to review it and decided initially not to. (Oh, and if you are wondering why George Monbiot might have reviewed it – well it does say some very nice things about him on page 162 – 164. (And to digress a minute that is about Monbiot’s research to discredit a statement made by David Bellamy that 555 of the 625 glaciers monitored by the World Glacier Monitoring service were growing, which was wrong, but – as a side consequence I am not expecting there to be much reporting in the Guardian of the Indian Government report that glaciers in the Himalayas are growing, and why. It is in an area where the WGMS admits to having insufficient data).

The reason I decided initially not to write about the book is that it is some 235 pages of what are really ad hominem attacks against those who have spoken up against the Global Warming machine. Oh, and lest you think it is a disinterested report, it is written by a PR firm president, who is the chair of Al Gore’s The Climate Project in Canada. Much of the information in the book apparently comes from the blogsite Desmogblog. whose major reason for being is apparently to trash those who would dispute our distorters message. As innumerable folks have said over this whole discussion, “If you can’t attack the science, attack those who tell it.” There is virtually no fact in the book, and, naturally, the judgment of the British Court in allowing Al Gore’s movie to be shown in British classrooms is distorted.

Which gets me to my big disappointment of the week. There are two science journals, Science and Nature which are considered by most to be prestigious, and of sterling reputation. The original paper by Mann, Bradley and Hughes describing “The Hockey Stick” was published in Nature in 1998. One of the clear stories from the release of the Climate-gate e-mails was the way in which the cabal of scientists at its heart worked to restrict the publication of views other than their own. It is this corruption of science that George Monbiot found inexcusable.

But here is the sad thing. Given the opportunity to recognize that there might have been problems in the peer-review process for papers dealing with climate change, did the management of these two journals recognize the issue. Did they acknowledge a problem, open the problem to public purview and comment, and promise to ensure the journal integrity?

Well, no, actually neither of them did. Nature had an editorial supporting those caught up in the scandal, and the executive publisher of Science wrote a supportive opinion for the Washington Post. So if you have some data that argues against the continued warming of the Earth, or the disastrous consequences that might occur if that warming should accelerate, don’t bother sending it to a prestigious journal for publication. The distorters have them clearly under their control and you might as well quit and go grow cabbages.

The “sale” of the AGW argument has required a very significant public relations campaign. Part of the strategy has continuously been to downplay the credentials and credibility of those who would question (often with facts) the message that had to convince the public. The amount of money now being spent in grants on this topic around the world is staggering. The degree of orchestration that it has required to achieve this is similarly large, and has been dramatically helped by the Internet.

This became clear this week in the comments to the EPA ruling on GHG emissions. As was noted in my earlier review, the 380,000-dd comments that the EPA had received on the proposed ruling, were described.
A majority of the comments (approximately 370,000) were the result of mass mail campaigns, which are defined as groups of comments that are identical or very similar in form and content. Overall, about two-thirds of the mass mail comments received are supportive of the Findings and generally encouraged the Administrator both to make a positive endangerment determination and implement greenhouse gas emission regulations.

Of the mass mail campaigns in disagreement with the Proposed Findings most either oppose the proposal on economic grounds (e.g., due to concern for regulatory measures following an endangerment finding) or take issue with the proposed finding that atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations endanger public health and welfare.
So roughly 2/3 of the 380,000 comments were from supportive organizations with co-ordinated mass mail campaigns. When folk complain that those who are skeptical of the AGW arguments that are being used, are the only ones engaged in trying to manipulate public opinion, those numbers clearly show that the record is being distorted and that it is they, themselves, who are the most active. Tsk!

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pakistan load shedding, IPI, TAPI and what chance of change

While for many in the West the thought of fuel shortages is a “sometime” future thing, and there is enough energy supply around that there is little short term concern about, for example, having enough heat this winter. That, sadly, is not the case for many parts of the world, but in writing about them I have some caution in case I seem to be harping on the conditions in some countries, relative to the plight of others. The “Energy Shortage” website does not update information every day (looking at it on Dec 8th it was last updated on Nov 23rd) but the woes that it documents around the world consistently bear the same country names. And of these Pakistan is all too frequently at the top of the list. In the headline that day was the news that Karachi Electric Supply Company had confessed that it was load shedding customers for three hours every day. It had previously threatened to cut off power to local police stations if their power bill was not paid.

Yes this is that Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial center and also where
“Terrorists are fleeing to areas that are as far away as possible from the conflict and populated enough to hide,” Syed Mazhar Mashwani, Karachi’s senior superintendent of investigations, said in an interview. “In Karachi, they find places to shelter and it will take a couple of months to clean them out after the operation ends.”
It is apparently possibly soon to see fighting again. Yet they are having consistent problems with power supply!

Part of the problem has arisen with the need to maintain the power stations that supply the area. Two stations are currently down for “preventative maintenance” but as they return to power, they will be followed in succession by others.
the KESC has planned closure of two more units for overhauling in January for at least two months. The annual overhauling of Units 2 and 5 of the Bin Qasim plant will begin in January and continue into mid-February.

In March, the annual overhauling of Units 3 and 6 will be initiated and by the end of March all the six generation units of the plant will be available and be giving more than 900MW electricity for the next summer, said the sources.
The stations are largely powered by natural gas, which has not, locally, come down in price. For some years Pakistan has been seeking additional supplies, since they continue to come up short, and next year the anticipated shortfall is projected to be around 2 billion cu ft (BCF)/day . The hope has been for a pipeline coming from either Turkmenistan or Iran, with India being included as the customer at the end of the line in both cases. The Iranian project, which is likely to cost around $7.4 billion has had a fitful life. It has not been popular with the previous Administration because of the support that it would give Iran. It is now however, moving forward, with the Indian government sounding more positive.

Possible supply pipelines for India and Pakistan (Source EIA)

Perhaps this has been due to some pressure from Iran since they have already started the project with Pakistan with more than 60 miles of the 1,725 mile project already completed in Iran. The pipe will use 44-inch diameter tubes through Iran and Pakistan, dropping down to 36-inch in India, with a terminus in New Dehli. The target delivery is some 5.25 BCF/day, with initial supplies starting at around 1 BCF/day to both India and Pakistan scheduled initially for delivery in 2011.

In terms of Indian need this is anticipated to meet about 16% of demand, but with the possible current world glut, there are both positive and negative aspects to the deal (ppt presentation) and there is some concern that Iran does not have enough available gas to meet both this commitment and one of about 2/3 this size to the Nabucco pipeline.

The other likely source of gas (for both Pakistan and Nabucco) is Turkmenistan. That pipeline (shortened to TAPI) has had a long and varied history.
The 48-inch diameter pipeline will extend 790 miles (1,271 kilometers) from the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border, generally follow the Herat-to-Kandahar Road through Afghanistan, cross the Pakistan border in the vicinity of Quetta, and terminate at Multan, Pakistan where it will tie into an existing pipeline system. A potential 400-mile (644 kilometers) extension from Multan to New Delhi is also under consideration. . . . Dauletabad Field is one of the largest gas fields in the world. DeGolyer & MacNaughton, an internationally recognized petroleum engineering firm, has thoroughly evaluated the field’s reserves. These evaluations clearly show that the field’s resources are adequate for project needs, assuming production rates of roughly 1.5 BCF of gas per day (15 BCM of gas per year) for 30 years or more. The Government of Turkmenistan has guaranteed deliverability of 25 TCF (709 BCM) of natural gas exclusively for this project. . . The proposed pipeline will carry natural gas at a rate of up to 2 BCF per day (20 BCM per year/700 BCF per year).
This “alternative” has also found more favor with the American Administration, since it would cut out the Iranians.

But by itself it won’t supply all of Pakistan’s needs, and while news reports continue to tout progress it is proving hard to get that final commitment from Ashgabat (the Turkmen capital). And with the pipeline running through Afghanistan before it gets to Pakistan, and with the possible withdrawal of troops from the region now being discusses, long term security concerns may slow progress yet again. And reports out of Ashgabat suggest that the West is still viewed with suspicion.

Deliveries to Iran through a new internal pipeline within Turkmenistan are supposed to start soon (feeding from the South Yolaton field) but the concern over the conflict in Afghanistan is also seen as limiting investment interest.

As that story concludes “the game continues,” (A reference to the “Great Game, ” immortalized by Kipling, between Britain (then – the West in general now) and Russia for influence in the region – particularly historically Afghanistan.) Unfortunately as it continues to play the folk in Pakistan are going to continue to be short of natural gas, which means more load shedding in Karachi.

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