Pipelines used to be things that were just built without blinking. It is said that there are enough pipelines now in the US to encircle the Earth 25 times with enough left over to also tie a bow around it. Today, getting a pipeline built is not so easy - there are too many environmental concerns and the industry has become highly polarized. But here’s one thing that could bring everyone together: pipeline safety technology. And it’s something we all want, especially for those who live along the thousands of miles of aging pipeline routes that carry hazardous liquids.
Spawned by research that started in space, remote-sensing technology designed to detect dangerous leaks in pipelines has the potential to provide the neutral ground for decisions to be made and consensus to be formed. The clincher: This technology is not only affordable -it saves money and could eventually save the industry.
In an exclusive interview with Oilprice.com, Adrian Banica, founder and CEO of Synodon - the forerunner in leak detection systems - discusses:
• How a technology that started in space has the potential to quell intensifying protests
• Why Keystone XL will eventually be a reality - sooner rather than later
• How remote sensing technology can fingerprint pipeline leaks
• How remote sensing technology can find the little leaks before they become big leaks—at no extra cost
• Why North America’s new pipelines aren’t the problem and why the focus should be on aging pipelines that are going to experience a lot more leaks
• How this technology could bring the industry and environmentalists together
• How external leak detection can save lives in high-risk areas
Western oil and gas companies operating in North and West Africa should be on high alert because their personnel just became much more valuable kidnapping victims whose ransoms will have gone up since the French intervention in Mali.
This is how it works with militant organized crime groups on land, across the Sahel, but on the high seas, things work differently. Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are no longer trading in people, they’re trading in oil.
RECOMMENDED: 8 steps to US energy security
Here’s what’s happened: A regional and Western security response has forced pirates to rethink their strategy, and they have repeatedly demonstrated that they are capable of moving with the times, so to speak. ( Continue… )
For most football fans watching the Super Bowl, the half-hour power outage that stopped the game amounted to little more than a weird inconvenience. But as America waited – or took to Twitter to pass the time – the issue of energy reliability was suddenly thrust into center stage. The question now is: Will it stay in the limelight?
The power outage that plunged America's most-watched television event into half light was caused by the failure of a relay. according to Entergy, the utility supplying power to the Superdome, which hosted Sunday's Super Bowl. The equipment was supposed to protect the stadium's electrical supply. It ended up causing an embarrassing delay.
With large outages happening more frequently and the impending retirement of more that 60 gigawatts of fossil-fueled electrical power by 2017, America's electrical grid will be under more stress. Areas of the United States will see their reserve margins of electrical power reduced. Texas, next door to Louisiana, will be hit particularly hard. The Super Bowl outage was not related to these shifts, but it could serve as a wake-up call.
Egypt is not only hungry for energy—it’s starving, and this starvation will play a role in the underlying revolutionary instability that has foreign investors asking whether the other boot is about to drop and should they quit the country.
Most immediately, Egypt is hoping to buy 968,000 tons of diesel fuel for April-June delivery to stave off a worse energy crisis amid country-wide protests that threaten the Muslim Brotherhood’s hold on power ahead of April parliamentary elections.
The past four weeks have been very rough—against the backdrop of political unrest, tensions simmer as a result of fuel shortages that have people lining up for hours outside gas stations.
Diesel is experiencing an acute shortage and public transportation is suffering for it, while the add-on effects are rises in food prices, particularly agricultural products. ( Continue… )
The jump isn't entirely unexpected. Prices tend to rise during the switch from winter-blend gas to the more expensive summer-blend gas. Refineries temporarily slow production to sell off the winter blend gas and undergo maintenance during the transition. That raises wholesale prices, and, in turn, the prices at the pump.
Anticipating those rising costs, investors pour money into oil and gas futures, betting on higher price outcomes.
"It’s almost a certainty that whatever the price is on Groundhog Day, the price on St. Patrick's Day is going to be significantly higher," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.
Signs of a stabilizing economy aren't helping gas prices either. Steady job growth and a healthy housing market have contributed to a 10 percent increase in oil prices over the past two months. OPEC production slipped to a 15-month low in late January, putting even more upward pressure on prices. [Editor's note: This sentence was modified to clarify the price impact of reduced supply.]
The hardest hit consumers are in the Midwest, where gas prices increased 22 cents to $3.51 per gallon since last week. Californians are also feeling the pain, with gas prices topping $4 in Los Angeles. ( Continue… )
The post office will no longer deliver letters on Saturdays. The move comes as the United States Postal Service struggles with shrinking mail volume and rising operating costs.
So how much money can it expect to save by scrapping Saturday delivery? Overall, the Postal Service expects to save $2 billion a year out of an annual operating budget of more than $70 billion. A big part of that saving presumably is labor costs. Another savings is fuel.
The Postal Service owns and operates the world's largest civilian vehicle fleet with more than 213,000 cars, trucks, and vans that travel 1.2 billion miles each year. In fiscal year 2010, USPS vehicles consumed about 146 million gasoline gallon equivalents (GGE), or about 700 GGE if you include contract vehicles. The cost of fueling and maintaining USPS vehicles runs about $1 billion a year.
And those costs have been rising, despite USPS efforts to curb them. ( Continue… )
Could smart grid technology have prevented the blackout that occurred at Super Bowl XLVII? Probably not, but it would have certainly reduced the duration of the power cut.
It is still unclear exactly what caused the power outage, which left much of the Superdome in darkness and led to a 34 minute delay to the game. Early suggestions that it may have been Beyoncé’s half time show have been denied as that ran on its own generator.
Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR), the energy utility that provides power to the stadium, along with SMG, the company who manages the stadium, have rather vaguely stated that a circuit breaker was switched when “a piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality.” (Related article: Chu's Departure Means End to Energy Era)
Electricians then had to manually search for the fault before rebooting the system.
Smart grid technology, in the form of paired sensors working a two way digital communication between a central operating system and circuits in operations around the Superdome, would have either prevented the blackout, or isolated the fault and reapplied the electricity in a much shorter time frame; spectators may only have seen a flicker of the lights.
Rob Pratt, from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, suggests that smart grid technology would have tested the system within the stadium and identified fault and its location within seconds, directing electricians to the correct area instantly, if needed. He estimates that adding such a system would cost anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million for a venue like the Superdrome.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be about to get tough on offshore oil developers and pipeline companies with legislation that could make them liable for billions of dollars in the event of an accident.
The rumor is that Harper’s cabinet is pouring over some major legislation that would go a long way to appease environmentalists who view the country’s laws governing the sector as far too lenient.
Speaking to Canadian media, Environment Minister Peter Kent went on record both to describe the potential new legislation as “significant” and that the current legislation essentially requires taxpayers to foot the bill for accidents that should be the responsibility of the oil and gas industry.
Here’s what the current legislation looks like: ( Continue… )
[Editor's note: This story was updated at 5:00 pm ET on Feb. 5 to include material from an interview with Donald Sadoway of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; At 12:30 pm ET on Feb. 6, the piece was edited again to more accurately state the 787's total number of operation hours.]
The source of Boeing 787 battery failures is proving elusive, weeks after two separate incidents involving overheated Boeing 787 batteries led to the grounding of the entire Dreamliner fleet.
Officials have confirmed that in both cases, the lithium-ion batteries showed signs of a "thermal runaway," a chain reaction in which rising cell temperatures accelerate chemical reactions in the battery. If heat is not allowed to escape, the situation can turn destructive.
Lithium-ion batteries are lightweight and charge quickly, making them an appealing choice for an airline company looking to reduce its energy usage. The energy-dense batteries are also prone to overheating.
Some have questioned the underlying architecture of the Boeing 787 battery systems, saying it lacks the ventilation and cooling systems necessary to keep the batteries stable.
"Large cells without enough space between them to isolate against the cell-to-cell thermal domino effect means it is simply a matter of time before there are more incidents of this nature," Elon Musk, CEO of electric car company Tesla Motors, wrote in an e-mail to Flight International last week.
The purpose of Energy Innovation 2013 – a half-day conference co-hosted by my organization, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and the Breakthrough Institute – was to discuss the possibility of developing and deploying all of the cheap, high-performing zero-carbon technologies necessary to meet 40 terawatts of projected global demand by mid-century. Most importantly, the conference spurred debate on how the need for clean energy innovation should influence the climate and energy policy debate.
Over the course of three stellar panel discussions as well as follow-on debate via twitter (check out #EI13), a number of themes emerged that merit further debate amongst advocates, thinkers, and policymakers:
It’s Global Warming, Not American Warming
ITIF President Rob Atkinson set the stage for why energy innovation needs to be a policy priority by presenting a straight-forward logic chain: climate change is real and man-made, it’s about developing clean energy technologies that are cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives to drive down carbon emissions, and it’s globally pervasive. Clean energy technologies need to be affordable to all nations, and particularly emerging economies with growing populations that will consume more energy in the coming decades than the United States.
From a global carbon emission perspective, our policy choices cannot be made in a vacuum. This is particularly important because many countries are simply trying to provide access to energy in the first place (vs. providing new access to clean energy), so cost and performance are even more acutely important. (Read More: Breaking Down the Federal Clean Energy Innovation Budget: Demonstration Projects)
Of course, this doesn’t mean America shouldn’t act. On the contrary, America should act aggressively even if other countries don’t. What the global perspective tells us though is that we have to be smart about what aggressive policies we choose to pursue. ( Continue… )