The Iranian oil sector may be lagging because of declining revenue needed to keep the domestic sector afloat. The country was hit with economic sanctions during the summer amid growing concerns over its nuclear ambitions and OPEC figures show a general decline in crude oil production from the Islamic republic. U.S. energy statistics, meanwhile, predict Iran's crude oil production should fall more than 20 percent compared to last year's figures. From the Iranian perspective, however, all is well for No. 3 among OPEC nations.
Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said neither crude oil sales nor production is impacted by sanctions imposed by Western governments. The U.S. and European governments during the summer targeted the country's energy sector as punishment for transparency issues with nuclear research. This week's annual meeting for the U.N. General Assembly brought Iran's behavior in the global community to the center stage given nuclear concerns and Tehran's allegiance to the Syrian government. Nevertheless, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had provided leeway to some key U.S. allies. Despite a damning assessment from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Clinton said some countries would be shielded from sanctions for making "significant" cuts in crude oil purchases from Iran.
"I am pleased to announce that Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom have again qualified for an exception to sanctions … based on reductions in the volume of their crude oil purchases from Iran," she said in a statement. ( Continue… )
Move over, Thomas Edison National Historical Park. A new destination for electricity enthusiasts is garnering a lot of buzz.
Thanks to the efforts of a Seattle-based cartoonist, an abandoned New York laboratory may find a second life as a museum dedicated to Nikola Tesla – an oft-overlooked contributor to modern electricity.
The Serbian-American scientist and inventor made important discoveries in the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries, making possible many of the the technologies we take for granted today. The alternating current electrical system, for example, is largely the result of Tesla’s work.
The inventor has found an unlikely advocate in Seattle cartoonist, Matthew Inman who first called attention to Tesla in a post on his website, theoatmeal.com, titled “Why Nikola Tesla was the greatest geek who ever lived.”
The quirky post posits that Tesla, not the more widely-known Thomas Edison, was the father of the electrical age.
When Inman discovered that the land surrounding the inventor’s Shoreham, N.Y., laboratory was up for sale, he threw his weight behind a non-profit organization’s attempt to buy the property and turn it into a museum.
Within a week of launching an online fundraising campaign through the website Indiegogo.com, Inman had reached his goal of $850,000. By the time his crowdfunded movement came to a close Saturday, he had collected more than $1.3 million from 33,000 donors in the U.S. and 108 countries, according to the Associated Press.
"I always refer to Tesla as an unsung hero, but with what's happened on the Internet over the past few months, I'm not sure that's appropriate anymore," Inman said in a statement to AP.
The state of New York has also chipped in with a $850,000 grant, and in the final days of the campaign a distant relative of Nikola Tesla named Dusan Stojanovic pledged to match any donations up to $33,333. The property is listed for sale at $1.6 million, but Inman says he hopes to negotiate the price down.
Museum or no museum, it’s hard to say if Americans will ever embrace Tesla as we have Edison—whose very name conjures images of light bulbs, phonographs and motion picture cameras.
But Inman’s crusade—and the digital manner in which he is pursuing it—is a fitting attempt to shine light on a man whose work paved the way for the device on which you’re reading this article.
One of the most hyped trends in high-tech is “big data”: the accumulation, integration, synthesis and interpretation of enormous amounts of data from disparate sources.
Big data is being touted not only as a driver of increased efficiencies for companies, but also increased revenues: as customers indicate or reveal their preferences through their behavior and choices, companies can then develop new products or services to offer in a very targeted and efficient manner to those most likely to purchase.
With technology enabling faster mass-computation at lower cost, and a growing set of data available from all sorts of places and easily collectable from a thoroughly-connected world, big data could be a boon — especially for those industries for which cost reduction and efficiency opportunities are limited, and for companies desperately searching for new revenue streams.
Energy is a sector potentially well-suited to be mined with big data. The industry is largely quantitative already, with scads of measured (and if not measured now, measurable) parameters across vast geographies with innumerable supply sources, processing facilities, transportation nodes, and consumption points. And, for the most part, energy companies are largely stuck in a mode of selling commodity products, and need new twists and differentiators for which a premium can be charged.
Proactively, I went searching the Internet for the best insight, wisdom and perspective on the incursion of big data into energy. Frankly, I didn’t find terribly much — which tells me that the space at the intersection of big data and energy is ripe for innovation.
One of the better pieces I found was this posting from early 2012 by Katie Fehrenbacher, “10 Ways Big Data is Remaking Energy”, which identifies the 10 types of data that will increasingly be mined in the energy sector:
- Cell phone usage
- Solar/wind sources
- Electric cars
- Power lines
- Real estate
- Variable energy prices
- Behavioral analytics
Although this is a good list of the innovative places from which data will be gathered, it still leaves open for entrepreneurs to identify specific customer needs to be met and value propositions that can be developed from big data.
It seems that a big challenge will be in making data from disparate sources mesh accurately. As this article from Intelligent Utility indicates, integrating “unstructured data” — especially from hand-written and other manually filled out forms — will be particularly difficult.
Big data in the energy sector will likely be a large opportunity for the major players in the IT sector — IBM, Intel, SAP, Oracle, Google, Microsoft, and so on. My advice to them is that they will need to be patient: the big players in big energy move glacially, and big data will take a long time to penetrate in a major way. But, the opportunity is vast, so it’s probably worth the effort and the waiting…and waiting…and waiting.
Helium may be the second most abundant element in the universe, but it's becoming increasingly scarce here in the United States, which is raising prices worldwide for everyone from physicists to computer chipmakers to mylar balloon vendors.
And because the US supplies 75 percent of the world market for the stuff, the helium shortage has become a global problem.
But the supply-demand imbalance isn't coming from market forces, it's a public-private vacuum. The federal government is getting out of the business after more than eight decades, and so far private industry hasn't stepped in to fill the void.
The result: a shortage of hot air that may last until sometime next year.
There are no reports that the helium shortage has caused any huge crises. Hospitals, which use liquid helium to freeze the magnets in MRI scanners, are still getting supplies. So are arc welders and particle physicists.
Balloon racers are switching to hydrogen. Helium balloon retailers are raising prices. And the University of Nebraska, which last month filled only half the usual 5,000 red helium balloons it normally releases at the beginning of football season, has put its seven-decade tradition on hiatus.
The US holds an even more dominant role in helium than Saudi Arabia does in oil because natural gas fields in Texas and Kansas have an unusually high concentration of helium. Natural gas production is currently the only way to profitably extract the lighter-than-air gas. Canada, Russia, Qatar, and Algeria are among the only other helium producers in the world.
Considered a critical resource, the US government has been extracting the element since 1929, when it built a helium extraction and purification plant in Texas, and later maintained a helium reserve. But in 1996, Congress passed the Helium Privatization Act, which aimed to get private industry to take over from the government in supplying helium to the marketplace.
The Federal Helium Reserve has been raising prices to pay off the debt it incurred decades ago to build its helium plant. But the reserve is dwindling and the federal government will be forced to cut back supplies after 2014. It hasn't helped that natural gas production is also down because of low prices.
Private firms were supposed to fill the helium vacuum. But new plants in Qatar and Russia aren't expected to come online until next year.
A Wyoming natural gas plant, which was due to open last year and supply 10 percent of the world's helium, has been delayed by a host of issues. It's owner, Denver-based Denbury Resources, recorded a pretax $4 million charge in the second quarter related to the delay and does not expect the plant to open until "near the end of 2012."
So the man-made helium shortage looks likely to continue for the months ahead, even in the Saudi Arabia of hot air.
As America’s clean energy industry takes up position in a no-man’s land between subsidies and sustainability, the idea of “Green Banks” is being touted as a life-line that will push the industry into maturity, but it’s an idea that will only work on a state level and by empowering states to make their own clean energy decisions.
Green Banks are essentially clean energy finance banks formed at the federal or state level that operate as public-private financing institutions with the power to raise capital to support clean energy projects through loans and loan guarantees. These banks can issue bonds and sell equity and they can often offer cheap loans. ( Continue… )
No doubt you've heard people speak of an energy transition from a fossil fuel-based society to one based on renewable energy--energy which by its very nature cannot run out. Here's the short answer to why we need do it fast: climate change and fossil fuel depletion. And, here's the short answer to why we're way behind: History suggests that it can take up to 50 years to replace an existing energy infrastructure, and we don't have that long.
Perhaps the most important thing that people don't realize about building a renewable energy infrastructure is that most of the energy for building it will have to come from fossil fuels. Currently, 84 percent of all the energy consumed worldwide is produced using fossil fuels--oil, natural gas and coal. Fossil fuels are therefore providing the lion's share of power to the factories that make solar cells, wind turbines, geothermal equipment, hydroelectric generators, wave energy converters, and underwater tidal energy turbines. Right now we are producing at or close to the maximum amount of energy we've ever produced from fossil fuels. But the emerging plateau in world oil production, concerns about the sustainability of coal production, and questionable claims about natural gas supplies are warnings that fossil fuels may not remain plentiful long enough to underwrite an uneven and loitering transition to a renewable energy society. ( Continue… )
But can America's vast shale oil and gas reserves – combined with fracking and drilling technlogies – drive the U.S. to complete energy independence?
According to a report from Credit Suisse, the answer is NO.
But it does suggest that North America in its entirety could one day become energy self-sufficient.
Credit Suisse (CS) bases their findings on these 4 factors:
1. Flow rates from oil wells about 25% higher than now, based on future technology advances
2. More wells that are on average 39% closer together than they are now (what is referred to as "downspacing" in the oil industry)
3. $95/barrel Brent pricing
4. Increased use of natural gas in the economy?
CS also determined the following constraints to becoming energy self-sufficient:?
1. Fast declining production in shale wells
2. Oil below $75/barrel
3. Enough money to build pipelines and refineries??
CS says US oil production will peak out at 10 million barrels of oil per day (bopd) by around 2022—a double from 2008’s 5 million. 2011 oil production in the US was 5.7 million bopd.
EIA stats show petroleum consumption has fallen steadily for seven years, and in 2011 was 18.8 million bopd—the same as 1997 and 2 million bopd below the peak in 2005.?
Once you include 3 million barrels of US liquids production (natural gas liquids like propane, butane, condensate and biofuels), overall production was still less than 9 million boepd—not even half of the country's total demand of 19.2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd).? (RELATED: Will a Melting Arctic Help Postpone Peak Oil?)
All these numbers show that overall, the U.S. is falling short by 10.7 million boepd itself, and North America as a whole comes up around 8.8 million boepd shy of total demand.
That means that in order for American to become energy independent, it would have to be producing and refining 10.7 million boepd more than it does now. That would be extremely difficult to achieve.
CS expects U.S. oil and liquids production to rise from the current 8.7 million boepd to around 15 million boepd by 2022, while demand will slump closer to 18 million boepd. A modest jump in Canadian output paired with continuing low demand will help bridge the shrinking supply gap, moving North America closer to energy independence. And that assumes a steady decline from Mexico.?
The crux of the report's predictions lies in the Americans' ability to tap their massive unconventional oil resources.
The first key to this prospective boom is the initial production (IP) rates for the country's major shale oil fields -- the amount produced at each well over the first 30 days. (The industry shows this number in print as the “IP30” rate.)
These numbers are often the most important, since the greatest output comes in the first few months before declining rapidly. CS estimates IP30 rates for each of the major shale plays using production numbers at the end of the fourth quarter of 2011.
Some of these assumptions are set far above what actual production numbers are today. For example, actual output in the Utica shale and Mississipian formation was close to nil—so almost no data on which to guesstimate the future. But CS expects wells to eventually reach around 600 and 400 boepd, respectively, as the plays mature.
Other young plays that lack any production data like the Brown Dense limestone and the Woodford shale are projected to top 300 boepd based on the limited data of those regions.??The biggest producers - the Granite Wash and Eagle Ford shale - are already close to their CS assumptions. (RELATED: What Does the Future Hold for Natural Gas Prices?)
On the whole, CS estimates average a 21%-25% bump over actual output numbers from last year. Only the Granite Wash and Cana Woodford oil plays are projected above the CS exploration and production team's numbers.
The report backs up its optimistic IP30 rates with strong early numbers in some of the developing unconventional plays. Over three years, IP30 rates in the well-developed Barnett formation more than doubled.
But in the Bakken and Marcellus shale plays, IP rates tripled in 13 months and nine months, respectively. The Eagle Ford is the only exception, and those numbers are skewed somewhat by an early focus on natural gas over liquids.
A large part of rising IP rates is the assumption that oil and gas companies will eventually learn the nuances of each region. But CS also notes the increased use of pad drilling—where four wells can be drilled from one, two-acre pad—should keep more oil rigs online for longer during the first 30 days, as they don’t need to be moved around as much from well to well.
Pad drilling will also play a role in lowering the spacing between unconventional oil wells.??CS projects the U.S. will need to increase its total oil wells by 27% in order to prevent a decline within the next four years. In order to meet the report's production numbers, the country would have to increase the number of new wells being drilled each year by 39% through 2022.
These estimates are all a bit voodoo—they depend on tight spacing and a lot higher flow rates than now. However, CS says recent experiments in downspacing in the Eagle Ford shale play should help boost production.
The big question when you downsize your wells is—are you just cannibalizing existing production from existing wells or are you able to recover more oil overall (the Recovery Factor) by draining parts of the reservoir that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
If it’s the former, the impacts on the US production outlook would be dramatic.
The biggest question mark for me, however, is what will the decline rates on shale oil be long term? Right now CS suggests average decline rates in the Bakken and Eagle Ford—the two largest shale oil plays right now—are 60% in Year 1, 30% in Year 2 and falling close to 15% in Year 5. CS puts its estimate for the average terminal decline rate - beyond 20 years - of unconventional US oil resources at 8%.??But the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale plays have only been drilled hard for the past 3-4 years. So long term decline rates—which CS thinks will average out at 4% for the Bakken and 6% for Eagle Ford over the life of the well—is an educated guess.
CS estimates expected ultimate recovery per well for the Bakken of nearly 900,000 boepd and 600,000 boepd for the Eagle Ford shale. Less developed projects like the Permian Horizontal, Woodford shale and Granite Wash are all expected to reach near 500,000 boepd, despite a small sample size.
If declines are steeper than they project, then these wells will get shut-in sooner and produce less than CS suggests. Though they didn’t talk about waterflooding, which will likely GREATLY increase overall reserves in US tight oil plays.
CS estimates that the oil industry will need Brent prices of at least $95 per barrel to justify investment through 2014. After that, investment costs will drop low enough that shale fields would eventually draw interest even at benchmark prices of almost $75 per barrel.
The CS analysis is most sensitive to a change in rig counts. A drop to $80 per barrel within the next year would result in 180 fewer rigs operating within the country and $60 billion less in total investments by 2014. Oil production in this scenario would reach only 8 million bopd.
The report says that massive infrastructure spending (pipelines, refineries, etc.) is a key to energy independence—and notes that oil companies have already proven unwilling to invest in new infrastructure at prices as high as $90 per barrel, despite most wells remaining profitable.
A lack of infrastructure spending—specifically pipelines to take crude oil out of the Cushing Oklahoma hub, and to get Bakken and Canadian oil to the east and west coasts—have caused a $15/barrel discount in North American crude prices to the rest of the world.
This is huge lost revenue for US and Canadian oil producers.
Pipelines such as the Seaway pipeline and the proposed Keystone XL should add between 950,000 and 1.25 million bopd of capacity away from Cushing OK, to the Gulf Coast. But Bakken oil will continue to rely on rail and barge transportation, and both the Keystone XL and the Flanagan South pipelines that would service the region are yet to be approved.
CS also gives some consideration to possible regulatory restrictions, primarily in terms of water restrictions. Several states have already considered limiting water use in the energy sector to prevent the decline of local agriculture industries, while concerns about water safety have spurred most of the objections to the use of fracking in the U.S.
US energy independence is a hot topic spurred by the rapid rise in shale oil production—The Shale Revolution.
While it’s hard for anybody to guesstimate what such a dynamic industry will be doing 10 years from now, Credit Suisse data suggests that will remain an elusive goal.
While the contract hasn’t been finalized, analysts are predicting that First Solar will win the rights to supply NextEra Energy Inc. with solar arrays for what will be the world’s largest solar farm. The two companies are currently working together on the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight solar farm in Riverwide County, California.
NextEra’s Blythe project, based in southern California, will soon surpass the capacity of Arizona’s Agua Caliente solar farm, a huge facility built exclusively by First Solar that is currently 85 percent complete with 250 megawatts of capacity. Despite the fact that there has been no official word as to who NextEra will choose to build and supply the new project, First Solar is reportedly the only manufacturer of thin-film panels large enough to handle the job, according to analysts interviewed by Bloomberg News; the Blythe project will have a final capacity of 1,000 megawatts, requiring an extensive amount and array of materials.
With the economy currently facing unprecedented turmoil, especially in the renewable energy sector, First Solar has seen its stock drop 68 percent in the past year. Today’s speculation, however, gave the company a much-needed boost, bumping its stock up 11 percent while reminding the industry just how deep its manufacturing capabilities are.
“It would definitely be a positive for First Solar if they were able to win a 1,000-megawatt project,” said Ben Schuman, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities.
Despite the rampant speculation, a spokesman for Florida-based NextEra reiterated that the company has yet to choose a panel provider for the project, suggesting that they may work with more than one supplier.
Last year the US Naval Military Sea Lift Command, the main fuel supplier to Naval vessels that are at sea, delivered around 600 million gallons to ships that were on the open water. (RELATED: Israel's Offshore Gas Reserves - Bonanza or Security Threat?)
Refuelling is a very difficult and dangerous procedure when two vessels are at sea, especially if the seas are rough, or there is a storm, or even in the middle of a fire fight. Yet it is also vital as running out of fuel would be devastating to a naval ship in action.
The NRL has designed a system which harvests carbon dioxide and hydrogen, the raw ingredients of jet fuel, from the seawater. NRL discovered that gathering carbon dioxide from the seawater was far more efficient than getting it from the air because the concentration in seawater is 140 times greater. The hydrogen and carbon dioxide go through several processes to create olefins (a hydrocarbon), and then two more steps to turn the olefins into suitable jet fuel. (RELATED: Coal Set for a Strong Comeback in Europe)
So far the lab tests have indicated that the process will produce jet fuel at a cost of around $3 - $6 per gallon. Now all that is needed is large scale tests on the open sea.
Oil production in the United States rose last week to levels not seen since January 1997, helping the country to reduce dependence on foreign sources of crude as it continues to implement the drilling and fracking technologies needed to increase daily oil output. (See also: Are President Obama’s Policies Causing U.S. Oil Production to Rise?)
Reports from the Energy Department released this week show that overall crude output in the U.S. rose 3.7 percent to 6.5 million barrels per day by the week of September 21, a trend that has continued since the country met 83 percent of its annual energy needs from the beginning of the year through June. Should domestic oil production continue at its current rate, the United States will enjoy 2012 as its most self-sufficient year since 1991.
The increased production is a direct result of the new technologies being implemented by oil companies in an effort to extract crude in locations other than wells, including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking); the same technology has taken American natural gas stock levels to new heights. (See also: How Much Oil Does the World Produce?)
“This has been driven by shale, and the two states leading the way are North Dakota and Texas,” said Andy Lipow, president of Texas energy consulting firm Lipow Oil Associates LLC. “It appears that over the next five years, U.S. oil production could climb to well over 8 million barrels a day.”
The rise in crude production in the U.S. has analysts predicting that oil prices will decline over the next six to nine months; already a growing natural gas stockpile pushed futures down to $1.907 per million BTU earlier in the year, its lowest point in the past 12 years. Increasing fuel production has many setting their sights on what is being dubbed the “reindustrialization” of the United States, an economic state that could see more than 3.5 million jobs created in the country by 2020 if domestic energy production continues at a high rate. (See also:The Effect of New Production Methods on U.S Oil Output)