Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Abiotic Oil back from the dead?

I've always been intrigued by the possibility of oil having been formed by non biological processes. Especially since there are trillions of tons of methane out there in space such as on Saturn's moon titan. It stands to reason that there could be non-biological processes which are capable of converting methane into longer chain hydrocarbons.

Now some scientists at UC Davis, Livermore National Labs and Shell Oil Corporation have created a theory and functional computer based model which shows that long chain hydrocarbons could be formed at extreme pressures and temperatures under the Earth's crust at a depth of about 70 kilometers.

That said, as interesting as the science of this is, it in no way changes the fact that we have a flow problem: even if abiotic oil were real, then if we extracted it far faster than it was created, we'd still hit peak oil. So it's not a solution to declining production, just an interesting tidbit of science.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Shale Gas to the Rescue?

As you know I've been writing a reasonable amount about shale gas and its potential to impact any putative decline in conventional oil production. Here's an interesting graph:

You will note two things.
1. The global resource of recoverable shale gas is some 5,500 trillion cubic feet (as compared with the nearly 900 trillion cubic feet to be found in the US.
2. With the exception of China (who though they are a competitor, they are not as outright hostile as some of our other competitors) most of the shale gas reserves are to be found in "friendly" nations.

Also: given that the US has been able to bring online the shale gas equivalent of about a million barrels a day of oil in the last two years by itself, it's reasonable to argue that globally, shale gas could bring online about to five million barrels per day equivalent each year.

That should about cover us for a 5% decline rate in the best possible scenario whereby we can do a smooth transition for appropriate uses to natural gas.

I suspect, however, that between increasing demand for energy and friction costs of moving to oil alternatives for appropriate use cases (such as long distance trucking or shipping), we're still going to see a bumpy ride, though perhaps not quite so bumpy as a total collapse as predicted by our doomer friends.

Maybe it's time to short sell the guns n ammo manufacturers?