Nov 17, 2012

US set to become largest Oil Producer

In an article in the Globe and Mail, the oil in North Dakota drive unemployment to a record low in those areas, and the US is set to become the worlds largest oil producer.


The Story:
As the sun dips below a grain stubble horizon, the flares flicker into view, a dozen tongues of flame licking against a pink sky.

The flares are natural gas being burned off in the rush for a far more valuable resource – oil. Shining in the gathering dusk, they are industrial glimmers of a changed future for a nation whose long-faltering dreams of energy independence are being revived.

Oil is pouring out of North Dakota. In September, some 728,000 barrels a day flowed, up a startling 57 per cent from the year before. And it’s not just here: Similar fields in Texas and elsewhere are seeing similarly fast rises in oil output, prompting a near-euphoric re-examination of what’s ahead for a country that has long relied heavily on imported oil to fill its gas tanks and keep its economic engine running.

Now, as hundreds of drilling rigs employ technological advances to extract rich reserves of previously untapped energy, the oil renaissance is triggering some startling forecasts.

The International Energy Agency predicted this week that the U.S. is set to become the largest oil-producing nation on earth, more prolific even than Saudi Arabia. One day, the IEA said, the U.S. could drive away most foreign imports.

What, then, does the future hold for the country that today delivers the largest share of those imports? Some 27 per cent of all barrels that cross U.S. borders come from Canada, and a belief in unfettered access to an insatiably oil-hungry U.S. market has been a central underlying assumption of the great energy expansion under way in Alberta.

Canada already produces far more oil than it needs. Any flaws in that assumption about U.S. demand will have a profound effect on Canada’s oil sands, where companies are spending a billion dollars a week to build production destined for export – virtually all U.S. bound.

At stake is the growth of an industry that keeps Western Canada’s economy vibrant, producing boatloads of well-paying jobs, welcome spinoff effects and government revenue. Already, amid weaker oil prices, some oil companies have contemplated deferring or cancelling projects, and just this week the Alberta government backed away from a goal to balance its budget.

“Canada has a real problem,” said Al Monaco, chief executive officer of Enbridge Inc., the pipeline company that has long been the prime mover of Canada’s oil. Combine rising U.S. oil output with declining consumption and the lack of other markets for Canada, and “none of that bodes well for prices if you’re a producer – nor if you’re a government that has royalties at play. Nor if you’re the federal government for tax revenue.”

The greatest vulnerability, he said, lies in the northeastern corner of Alberta, the Fort McMurray area that not long ago looked a lot like North Dakota, a nascent boom town that stoked – and continues to stoke – great economic hopes for Canada. But, Mr. Monaco warned, “if you’re in the oil sands and you are the marginal production because you’re the highest cost, this is a big factor. These are big issues.” He is not, however, worried. Enbridge believes it can be the solution by building new pipelines to bring Canadian oil to new markets, both abroad and in U.S. states not served by current pipelines. But it’s hard to find a new pipeline proposal – to the West Coast, to the Gulf Coast, to the East Coast – that is not wrangling with severe political and social skepticism.

And if opponents succeed in stopping or slowing those projects, the outlook is grim: Prices for Canadian oil “will get pushed down to the point that production stops growing,” says Chris Micsak, an oil analyst with Bentek, an international energy forecasting and analysis firm.

So the North Dakota flares are a flickering glimpse of an uncertain future. It’s one that is already arriving. Alberta’s primary export pipeline system is already turning away oil, in part because North Dakota crude is shouldering its way in, prompting some Canadian companies to employ unusual alternatives, including trucking oil into the U.S.

Larger shifts are under way, too. The refining complex in the U.S. Gulf Coast, with its huge capacity to process heavy crude, has long been viewed as virtually the only market the oil sands will ever need. But refiners are already working to cater their operations to light barrels like those found in the giant Bakken field that is fuelling North Dakota’s growth.

And there are signs that corporate spending is shifting. Producers like Suncor Energy Inc. are scaling back growth expectations as they work to shake out excess costs. And as U.S. oil shoulders in on the pipeline network, Canadian oil is backing up and prices are soft. In the third quarter, Connacher Oil and Gas Ltd. sold its oil sands crude for just $38.12 a barrel. More Related to this Story

Oct 14, 2012

Nuclear Fusion is a Reality

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) -- a laser test facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. -- turned on its 192 laser beams for a brief instant on March 15, unleashing a record-setting 1.875-megajoule blast into a target chamber.
The lasers were combined, gathered and focused through a series of lens into a 2.03-megajoule shot, said Ed Moses, NIF director -- a record for the facility.
That pulse of energy lasted for just 23 billionths of a second, yet it generated 411 trillion watts of power, NIF said -- 1,000 times more than the entire United States consumes at any given instant.
“It’s a remarkable demonstration of the laser from the standpoint of its energy, its precision, its power, and its availability,” Moses told Nature magazine.
But it’s barely half the battle. NIF hopes to dramatically increase the power of the laser shots by the end of year, intending to ultimately use the facility to harness the energy reaction that occurs naturally within the sun: fusion.
“This event marks a key milestone in the National Ignition Campaign’s drive toward fusion ignition,” Moses said.
In fission, atoms are split and the massive energy released is captured. The NIF aims for fusion, the ongoing energy process in the sun and other stars where hydrogen and helium nuclei are continually fusing and releasing enormous amounts of energy. In the ignition facility, beams of light converge on pellets of hydrogen isotopes to create a similar, though controlled, micro-explosion

Feb 20, 2012

Why a book?

I have written this book because I think that people need to be informed to make good energy decisions in directing their Government.  It is difficult to stay informed on political issues.  It is even more difficult to stay informed on a technical topic like energy and how it interacts with something as double sided as political issues.  Yet it is imperative that people stay informed and well connected to direct their Government.
Several things that have changed over a long period of time make staying informed more difficult, make people more disconnected from their Government, and divide us from each other.  People used to sit on their front porches and talk to each other as they walked around their neighborhoods.  As time and transportation abilities progressed, people drifted apart and now we live and work sometimes great distances apart.  We are more distant from our families and more distant from our co-workers.  We go into work, then we come home, and those are two different worlds.  Seldom do we live close to others of our co-workers.  Seldom do we live in areas where we walk around and talk to our neighbors.  Those things would be fine in one sense, except that they have not been replaced by a quality communicaton substitute.  Men came together in parts of their daily work and discussed issues.  Old men sat in corner stores and discussed these things in light of the past.  Women came together as they worked out their daily life taking care of the home and children, or even more recently as a part of the workforce.  Today, politics is a shunned topic in those areas.  That makes it difficult to talk about life and politics with each other the way we used to.
Let's start now