Articles in Peak Oil
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A group of serious, respectable organisations, had just published a serious and respectable report, in a serious and respectable venue stating:
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As I traveled through India on a recent business trip, the topic of energy was constantly on my mind (as it is every time I travel). I found out some interesting things about jatropha, toured a sugarcane ethanol plant, found a wind farm in the middle of nowhere, and encountered a native ethanol skeptic. Here are my impressions. [break]
Ethanol in India: Another Brazil
The highlight of my trip was definitely the tour of the Sanjivani sugar cane plant near Shirdi. This could be a model to the rest of the world (with some exceptions) regarding how sustainable ethanol should be produced, as they have the entire life cycle covered.
Sugarcane Headed to the Ethanol Plant
They take in the sugarcane from local farmers, and they produce sugar. Molasses is a by-product of sugar production, and they ferment that to make ethanol. Bagasse is also a by-product, and this is used to fire the boilers to provide power for the plant. The sludge waste that they produce is composted and mixed with the bagasse ash and given back to the farmers to put on their fields. As far as I can determine, this is an entirely sustainable process. But the bagasse is the key to the entire operation.
I quizzed them quite a lot about the bagasse boilers, and what I was told is that because the sugar extraction process produces very finely ground bagasse (I walked out of the plant covered with bagasse dust), and because the ash content in bagasse is very low – it is an ideal feed for the boilers. Very few sources of biomass fall into the category that 1). It is necessarily removed from the field as a by-product of the cultivation; 2). The resulting process pulverizes the biomass (not only does this make it easy to burn, but it dries easily as it passes through flue gas on the way into the boiler); and 3). The ash content is very low, minimizing maintenance of the boilers. This makes sugarcane ethanol a truly unique production method, and not something that is easily transferred to corn or cellulosic ethanol.
Not only were they making ethanol (95%; not fuel grade) but they had an entire chain of ethanol derivatives that originated from the sugarcane ethanol. These derivatives included important industrial chemicals such as acetic acid, acetic anhydride (very important in my current job), acetaldehyde, and ethyl acetate.
As mentioned above, the grade of ethanol that they primarily produce is industrial grade. This differs from fuel grade for blending in that the ethanol-water azeotrope isn’t broken; the final product is 95% ethanol and 5% water. This greatly reduces the energy usage, as it takes a lot of effort to get out that last 5% water. This is in fact the concentration that Brazil primarily uses for fuel, and makes the energy balance much more favorable than using anhydrous ethanol. For blending with gasoline, it is not a good option as the water will phase out. But for dedicated ethanol vehicles, the 95% grade seems to be a reasonable option for partially supplying the energy demands of many tropical countries.
In Search of the Elusive Jatropha Plant
If you are like me, when someone mentions jatropha, India immediately comes to mind. Most jatropha stories that I have seen mention India as leading the way on jatropha development. For a while, I had no reason to question these reports, but recently I started developing some doubts.
The doubts started when I was contacted by a biodiesel company in Turkey. They had shut down operations because feedstock costs had gotten too high, and they asked if I could help them find an alternative source. I asked them if they have looked into jatropha. They said they had, but weren’t able to locate anyone in India who could supply them. I thought this was odd given what I had heard about jatropha in India, so I agreed to look into it for them. I initially contacted a number of people with various Indian and biofuels connections, but nobody could point me to a concrete lead.
So one of the things I intended to do on my trip was track down that elusive jackalope, er jatropha. During my trip I asked practically everyone I met, which included a number of people involved in biofuels, and while almost everyone knew what it was, nobody could point to anyone who was actually producing it. I thought this increasingly odd, given the hype I had heard regarding jatropha and India.
Those who did know a little about jatropha in general, said that the problem is that the fertile land is being utilized to grow food (a billion people need a lot of land for food) and the marginal land typically has no roads or other infrastructure that could support a jatropha industry. While I did see a lot of seemingly marginal land as I drove around, it was pretty remote. Furthermore, I was told that jatropha requires about 3 years to produce, and not many farmers are likely to be willing to tie up their land for an extended period on an unproven crop.
So, while this doesn’t mean that there is no potential for jatropha, I left the country feeling that the jatropha situation in India has been highly overstated.
Transport: Mostly by Foot
Based on my observations, the vast majority of transport in India is by foot. I traveled pretty deeply into rural India, and almost everywhere I went there were always vast numbers of people walking along the roads. Motorcycles are abundant, and almost always had multiple passengers. At one point, I saw seven people (five of them young children) all piled onto a single motorcycle.
In cities like Bombay, auto-rickshaws were everywhere. I rode in one, and would describe it as essentially like a motorcycle with a light-weight body built around it. Interestingly, the one I rode in (maybe all of them are like this) ran off of compressed natural gas. Speaking of which, there were a lot of alternative fuel vehicles in Bombay. I saw many CNG vehicles, and a taxi I rode in once was fueled by a propane tank in the trunk.
A Wind Farm and an Ethanol Skeptic
At one point we were driving through a very remote area, and suddenly a wind farm appeared. I took some photos. The farm appeared to be very distant from any cities, so I am not sure about how cost effective it was in that location.
Wind Farm in Rural India
One thing I didn’t expect to encounter was an ethanol skeptic, but at one of the meetings we had, (following my questions about jatropha), our host told me that “ethanol for biofuel is India’s greatest threat.” I asked why, and he said he feared that 1). The demand in the West for biofuel will result in a food versus fuel competition that would devastate India’s poor; and 2). That increased ethanol demand would exacerbate India’s already serious water problem.
During the week in India, I had meat twice. The total I had was about 3 ounces of chicken on a pizza. I would have guessed that I would be constantly starving, but the food is very filling, and very good. I haven’t had vegetarian like that in the West. At a typical meal, I would have a carbohydrate (usually a flat bread), a vegetable, and a protein. Rice was always part of the meal. But the meals were very nutritious and healthy, so I plan to incorporate some of these meals into my normal diet.
My host (and Bombay native) Kapil Girotra informed me that India is self-sufficient in food. He also told me that 70% or so of the population is vegetarian, which means it requires less land to feed them. On the other hand, I saw a very large portion of the population that certainly is not getting enough to eat. So you might say that they are barely self-sufficient. They do produce enough food to feed their population, but I saw a lot of undernourished people.
The poverty in India is just stunning. We don’t have anything to compare it to in the West. The people that would be considered very poor in the West have it far better than the poor in India. They are literally starving to death. I once asked what happens if someone has a medical emergency in the slums. “If they have money, they live. If not, they die.” I just imagined a child getting hit with something incredibly painful like renal colic (and believe me, it is excruciating) and not being able to get help. I can’t imagine the strain on a parent going through that. I would rather have a finger chopped off than stand by helplessly while my child screamed in pain for hours. Seriously.
I think in the West we just tune it out when we see it on TV. But you can’t tune it out when you drive by mile after mile after mile of people living essentially in garbage dumps. I think we treat our unwanted pets in the West with more concern than we have for a starving 2-year-old half way around the world. I was frequently asked what I was thinking about, and once I replied “What it would be like to have everyone in India experience a little of America, and everyone in America come see this.”
It really isn’t accurate to call it traffic. It is chaos. It’s just a free-for-all out there. I would highly caution a Westerner against renting a car and attempting to drive. You will spend all of your time in a state of confusion, and you will hold up traffic while you try to figure out what to do. The constant honking (in lieu of signaling) was unnerving, and I felt at all times as if I should be flipping someone off. For me, Hell would be having to be a cab driver in Bombay for all eternity.
The roads are shared by people, bikes, motorbikes, auto-rickshaws, and cars. I frequently observed traffic going the wrong direction, and it was quite normal to have someone turn directly across your path. We had drivers who took us from place to place, and they would pass people on blind curves and hills, and sometimes they even passed someone in the act of passing someone else. I don’t think we have a proper frame of reference in the West for the “traffic” in India; especially in the big cities. And of course this means a constant haze hung over Bombay while I was there, which presumably gets scrubbed during the monsoon season.
Hazy Bombay Behind Me
The population density is something else. I once wondered aloud just how many people I had seen on this trip. Kapil, the guy I was traveling with, said “Probably a good fraction of all the people you have ever seen in your life.” That is not an exaggeration. We traveled around the country, and with very few exceptions there were people lining the streets everywhere. Several times I would observe a crowd and wonder what was going on, but there was nothing going on. It was just a crowd. But it looked like a constant stream coming out of a major sporting event.
Despite the crowded conditions, I only saw violence once â€“ when a man tried to drag another out of a car after a wreck. The people seem to cope quite well. Crime doesn’t seem to be nearly the problem you might expect in a city of that size and population density.
But with that many people comes a great deal of garbage. There was trash everywhere, and most of the time you could smell rotting garbage. One night we stayed well north of the city, but every once in a while my room would fill up with a garbage smell. I presumed the wind had shifted from Bombay.
It took forever to get anywhere. You look at a place, and think “It’s only 100 miles.” 3 hours later, you still aren’t there. We spent 20 hours on the road over the course of 4 days. They don’t have many rest stops and such with facilities that I could see. But the people I was traveling with never needed them. We would spend 7 hours in the car and never stop for a bathroom break. Needless to say, I limited my water intake on the trip, as I found that bathrooms were treated as a precious commodity. On a couple of occasions when I was in a meeting, I asked for the restroom and found someone standing outside of it, and a sign that said “VIPs and guests only.”
I traveled by train as well, after Kapil asked if I was up for an adventure. I thought “What could be so adventurous about riding the train?” It isn’t for everyone. If you like hot, sweaty bodies packed in like sardines (and that’s in 1st Class), then go for it. It took us an hour to get to our destination, and during that ride there were constantly people hanging out of the open doors, and it was standing room only. I wondered whether the people in 2nd Class were stacked like cord wood.
India was an eye-opening experience for me. I managed not to get sick while I was there, and I credit my host Kapil for his constant advice on what I should and shouldn’t eat and drink. (I don’t recommend the buffalo milk, by the way). The contrasts were amazing. Outside a cluster of $400/night hotels was the worst poverty I have ever seen. I once saw a guy pulling a hand cart and talking on a cell phone. Houses in the slums had satellite dishes on top of them. A number of times we walked down hallways of buildings that looked to be 100 years old and decrepit, and then stepped into one of the most modern offices you have ever seen.
One of the things this trip has done for me is to highlight the importance of efforts to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle and avoid the kind of collapse that is often discussed in relation to Peak Oil. I think if more people understood just how far society could fall – and I saw that in the slums of India – we could get serious about our energy situation in a big hurry.
This essay is a summary of some key points. However, for most of my trips I keep a detailed journal for future reference. But I publish them, and the full boring blow-by-blow can be found in two entries:
Click on the image to the right to download the .pdf of a full page “advert” which appeared in both Time and Fortune magazines over Easter. It was written by Jeremy Leggett, the prominent peak oil and climate change commentator and proponent of renewable energy (also Chairman of Solarcentury).
On peak oil Jeremy doesn’t pull any punches:
The interesting point here is that that Shell sponsored the thing.
So, what’s in it for Shell?
Click to enlarge.
Ohio State University Department of Public Health is sponsoring a web-based teach-in, which they would like TOD readers to help publicize. The basic information is as follows:
Thursday, April 10, 2008
11:00am to 4:00pm EDT
Select “Converging Environmental Crises” in the Pull-Down Menu
The teach-in is free, and has a fairly strong peak oil component. The organizers are Dan Bednarz and Mac Crawford. A few high-lights:
11:30am Congressman Roscoe Bartlett provides a 15 minute introduction.
11:45am Terry Tamminen, former director of the California EPA, talks about whether it is really possible to address climate change in time, and what steps might be needed.
12:15pm Gail Tverberg, AKA “Gail the Actuary,” talks about the economic impact of an energy downturn.
12:45pm William Catton PhD, author of Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, talks about living on a finite planet, and reaching a carrying capacity bottleneck.
1:30pm Dick Jackson MD, PhD, environmental health expert, talks about pollution related issues.
Between 2:00 and 3:00, there are simultaneous break out talks. The choices are
Kristin Bradford, MD, from Willits, California, talks about hospital care in the context of peak oil and climate issues.
Joel Kreisberg, DC, MA talks about pharmaceutical pollution of drinking water.
Walt Lierman, PhD, talks about the economics of climate change mitigation.
Don Spady, MD, talks about differences between the Canadian and US medical systems in needed responses to peak oil.
Jason Bradford, PhD of Willits, California, talks about reducing fossil fuel inputs to the food system.
Ken Smail, PhD, talks about global population reduction, and other inconvenient truths.
Between 3:00 and 4:00 is a time for summing up.
3:00 Jessica Pierce, PhD, bioethicist, looks at the moral challenges facing health care.
3:30 Mac Crawford, PhD, one of the conference organizers, talks about the public health response to the converging crises of peak oil, climate change, water shortages, and population growth.
3:45 Dan Bednarz, PhD, the lead conference organizer, talks about abandoning silos between disciplines.
The schedule I have provided is my interpretation of what the talks are about. Full abstracts of each of the talks and a complete schedule are given in the Converging Environmental Crises flier. The flier also provides biographical information on each of the speakers.
The talks start at 11:00 am with some introductory material. There will be some provision for dial in questions. It would be good to listen at 11:00 to find out more about that. Most presenters will not be physically present in Ohio. It is my understanding that the people presenting from Ohio will answer the questions.
I am fairly certain that the talks will be available after the fact, as well, at the same web site, so if you are not available at the appointed time, you can view the same web site later.
I put a draft of my talk up on TOD a few days ago. After I did this, the organizers asked me to add a little more to the talk. It now has a section on why a drop in oil production makes a difference, near the beginning, and a few more concrete examples though-out. The discussion of the transition to a lower-energy economy at the end has been expanded, and mentions the possibility of an implosion. This is a link to the earlier post, with the additions. I plan to put a version of my talk up on You Tube, after the event.
I think that there are parts of this teach-in that will be of interest to a broad range of viewers. Ohio State has invited many in the public health field, and at least some medical schools. If you know of public officials who might be interested, please let them know about it. Universities may also be interested. Pass the word around!
Matt Mushalik is a retired civil engineer and regional planner from Sydney, Australia. In this post, he provides an update of his incremental production graphs, which he first provided in the post Did Katrina Hide the Real Peak in World Oil Production? And Other Oil Supply Insights
Matt has an ingenious way of graphing oil production. In his graphs, he separates oil production between base production, which stays the same during the entire graphing period, and incremental production, which is the “top” of the graph, after base production is subtracted. He then groups together different countries with similar production patterns, for some interesting analyses.
Figure 1 – Incremental Oil Production Stacked with Declining Groups at Bottom
It has been about six months since our previous article. The additional time allows us to continue and deepen the analysis. As in the earlier post, incremental production profiles of various countries or groups of countries are stacked in such a way that it gives us information about production trends. Incremental production in a given country and period is defined as the production exceeding the minimum production in that period.
Individual Country and Small Group Profiles
Before trying to explain Figure 1, it is helpful to look at some less complicated graphs. Figure 2 shows incremental production profiles individually. The tick marks on the side correspond to 1 million barrels of oil a day, so one can tell approximately how much production has recently been increasing or decreasing, for the countries or groups shown. What is shown for each country or group is equivalent to the top “slice” of the graphs for that country or group.
Figure 2 – Incremental Crude Oil Production Profiles, December 2007
A few comments about the profiles on the above chart:
â€¢ Iraq – production drops during and after the Iraq war
â€¢ Venezuela – a steady decline and a big drop during the strike in 2003
â€¢ Angola, Brazil, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Algeria, Libya, Canada, China, and Russia – all countries with increasing production
â€¢ Saudi Arabia – boosts production during the Iraq war and in 2004, but then is not able to maintain production levels in 2006/07. Recent uptick in production still leaves it below 2004/2005.
â€¢ Nigeria – fairly flat production; high year 2005
â€¢ Peaks 2006/2007 – Ecuador, Vietnam, India, Qatar, EIA’s “Other”, Kuwait, UAE – These countries appear to be on a plateau or slightly declining.
â€¢ Peak 8/2005 – Iran, Mexico, Malaysia
â€¢ UK and Norway – shows North Sea decline
â€¢ Post Peak – Indonesia, Egypt, Syria, Gabon, Argentina, Colombia, Australia, Oman, Yemen, Denmark – all in terminal decline
â€¢ US – on a declining path since its peak in 1971, showing production drops during hurricane seasons
Four Major Groups of Countries
To get a better overview of the underlying trends further groups are formed:
Figure 3 – Incremental Crude Oil Production Profiles for Groupings of Countries 2007
â€¢ Top Group – Iraq and Venezuela shown separately with their big production drops in 2003
â€¢ Second Group – the growth wedge (+ 8 million b/d) showing clear signs that Russia plus some other hitherto growing countries are maxing out
â€¢ Third Group – “peaking group” – the various recent peak and the plateau groups – This group is dominated by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE. The rebound in 2007 is mainly from Saudi Arabia. Production for this group dropped between 2001 and 2002, then increased by a whopping 6 million barrels a day between 2002 and 2005. If one compares 2001 and 2007, production is just 2 million barrels a day higher now.
â€¢ Fourth Group – the decline wedge (US, North Sea, others post peak). This group’s incremental production went down from 6 million barrels a day in 2001 to 2 million barrels a day in 2007.
In these graphs, note that the base production (the amount that did not change) is not shown. Also note the colors of countries are the same between graphs, so that they can be better identified.
These groups can now be stacked in two different ways to give us different information:
(1) Starting with declining countries on the bottom
(2) Staring with the growing countries on the bottom
Graph with Declining Countries on the Bottom
From bottom to top: declining group, peaking group and growing group. Iraq and Venezuela are put on top as their one-off production drops in 2003 distort the picture if stacked somewhere in between. Because of the definition of incremental production, their layers are disproportionately thick because of the big temporary drops in production. To minimize the distortion this causes, they are put at the top of the graph. This is the graph shown at the top of the post, which we show again here.
Figure 1 – Incremental Oil Production Stacked with Declining Groups at Bottom
The bottom black line shows the underlying trend in the declining group of countries.
The second from the bottom black line outlines the sum of the bottom two groups – that is, the declining group, and the recent peak/plateau group. The trend line clearly shows an underlying peak when these two groups are combined.
The third from the bottom black line adds the “growing group” to the previous two groups. The growing group of countries was able to offset the declining trend after the peak and lift total crude production to an only slightly declining trend.
White and black crosses mark the points used for the declining trend lines. Increasing trend lines have been inserted by estimating the growth between a low in 2002 to a maximum in May 2005.
Graph with Growing Countries at the Bottom
Figure 4 – Incremental Oil Production Stacked with Growing Groups at Bottom
In a different view of the same data, production profiles from growing countries are stacked at the bottom and Saudi Arabia on top. The graph clearly shows that Russia, Kazachstan and Brazil have maxed out (unless megaprojects change this in the future) and that Saudi Arabia is no longer performing its function as swing producer.
This analysis helps us understand what the late Dr. Ali Bakhtiari called the transition phase T1 between growth and decline. During the Australian Senate hearings on oil supplies in July 2006 Ali said this transition phase would start in 2006 and last for three to five years. It seems the transition phase is marked by two crude oil peaking events, one in 2005 and another one happening right now. The big question is therefore how long will that peaking of the hitherto growing group take? These are the current trends:
Former Soviet Union
We have already mentioned that Russia seems to be at peak. In other Former Soviet Union countries, Kazachstan’s doubling of oil production starting in 2005 has stalled, leaving just Azerbaijan with an annual increase of 200 thousand barrels a day.
It is possible that the increase will be greater than this. Russia, Kazachstan, and Azerbaijan have megaprojects scheduled to begin production in 2008 which total 1,186,000 million barrels a day in maximum production. This total production is not expected to be reached in 2008, and a significant share of it will be needed to offset declines in older fields. Given these considerations, increased production for the Former Soviet Union may be somewhat more than 200,000 barrels a day, perhaps on the order of 400,000 barrels a day. This may very well be an overestimate. Numerous reports suggest, such as this one, indicate that Russian production will fall in 2008.
Figure 5 – Incremental Oil Production for Azerbaijan and Kazachstan
Angola and Brazil
Angola joined OPEC and will come under a quota system. A recent announcement indicates that Angola’s production for 2008 is expected to reach a plateau of 2 million barrels a day, and maintain that level until 2013. Production for December 2007 is reported to be 1,986,000 barrels per day, so Angola has apparently now reached its peak production, and only a plateau can be expected henceforth.
Brazil’s growth has apparently flattened. There are four megaprojects scheduled to start production in Brazil in 2008. The ultimate production for the 2008 projects is expected to be 475,000 barrels a day, although not all of this is expected to be realized in 2008. There are also a number of megaprojects (totalling 648,000 barrels a day in ultimate production) that were expected to begin near the end of 2007. If the various 2007 and 2008 projects come on board as planned, Brazil’s production may increase by 400,000 or 500,000 barrels a day in 2008. (All of these future production estimates are very rough.)
Other African Countries
In another group of African countries Algeria’s and Libya’s growth is modest, but steady while Sudan and Equatorial New Guinea grew at 300 Kb/d last year. There do not seem to be any significant megaprojects for these countries for 2007 and 2008. If decline rates are as in other countries, the increases for these countries may be smaller for 2008.
Figure 6 – Incremental Oil Production for Several African Countries
For Canada we know the potential is in syn crude from tar sands but this is limited by the supply of natural gas. CO2 emissions are a big problem and NASA climatologist James Hansen has not included this un-conventional oil in his carbon balance. There is just no room for it, according to this paper he wrote.
Irrespective of environmental and climate change concerns, there are a number megaprojects planned for the Canadian tar sands. The ultimate production from these total 266,000 barrels a day from projects with 2007 start dates and 605,000 barrels a day for projects that are planned to start in 2008, according to the megaprojects list. Some of these are very long term projects – not to be completed until 2018. Actual production increases are likely to be much more modest. Canada’s oil production grew less than 100,000 barrels a day in 2007. It would be surprising if Canada’s 2008 oil production grows more than 200,000 or 300,000 barrels a day.
This analysis is mostly a review of what has happened in the past with oil production. Another article, very closely related to this one, was written by Matt and is posted on the Sydney Peak Oil website.
We have included a few very rough estimates of production for some of the increasing countries for the future. It looks as though there still will be countries with increases in 2008. Our rough estimates of increases for the countries shown total only about 1.0 to 1.5 million barrels a day. This is fairly similar to what the increases for the growing group of countries has been over the past five years. This is not very much to offset the countries with declining production.
There are many countries that we have not considered to be growing, that theoretically may grow in the future. Saudi Arabia and Iran would be two in this category. We have not made any estimates, upward or downward, for these countries. If oil production is to stay on its current plateau, it would seem like we would need increases from some of these countries as well.
We remain on a bumpy crude plateau, where the exact timing of new projects and the coming hurricane season will determine which temporary wiggles we get on the production curve. 2008 should be an interesting year.