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The Dark Future of Energy Exploration

Productive divisions are losing research and development funding to “renewables.”

by
Anna Franco

Bio

September 15, 2013 - 12:00 am
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Fifty percent of the corporate R&D budget is spent on “renewables,” “emerging” energy sources, and “sustainable” technologies. Emerging energy sources? Why are solar and wind still called emerging, you wonder? They’ve been around for decades and still don’t deliver. Your successes stop at the end of the hall. Your floor can sustain itself; it’s the sustainables division downstairs that can’t. Why are they such a large part of the budget?  It started out with a small experiment, conducted voluntarily by the CEO and approved by the board of directors. Then it grew because, even though the experiment was not succeeding, no one on the board was complaining. Other oil and gas companies followed.  Then, it became law: the R&D equalization bill.

You look at the reports on your desk one more time. The light flickers a little before going out, and the entire building goes dark, as the office was powered by a wind farm, and the wind has calmed down. Due to the Minimum Renewables Act of 2016, oil and gas companies are now required to use a minimum of 50% of their office electricity from renewable sources. Your work may soon be snuffed out by another cold hand: government regulations threaten to shut down your wells and prevent future wells from operating, but that is another story.

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Let’s try to keep the above just a story. While there are many possible avenues for innovation, the oil and gas industry should move forward with a single-minded focus on its own productive capacity. It should develop innovations that secure the future of the industry by improving exploration and production of fossil fuels, saving money, and reducing waste and pollution.

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Anna Franco performs research for the Center for Industrial Progress, and has worked in the oil industry for several years. She holds an undergraduate degree from MIT, an MBA from Rice University, and an MA in philosophy from Claremont Graduate School.

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All Comments   (32)
All Comments   (32)
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I buy Bill Gates argument that solar and wind will never be good enough for base load energy. Rather solar and wind will be relegated to off grid operations.

I buy Gates second argument that the future belongs to some kind of nuclear reactor. Big candidates are thorium lftr designs and even some interesting fusion designs. These are slated to bring down the cost of electricity to 1/4-1/10 current lowest cost coal.

Will this actually happen?

Hard to say. Unlike other industries that have been through 3-4 technological revolutions in the last half century--the nuclear power industry has basically been pretty static. In fact in the USA nuclear power plants that were built 50 years ago are still in operation.

That said. There is an immense amount of smoke --- excitement being generated in the nuclear power industry these days by new developments. Excitement that just hasn't been evident in the industry since the 50's and 60's.

One has to judge for themselves what excitement means.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nice corporate dystopianism, and from what I've seen, not entirely unplausible .

The problem with this scenario is that fossil fuels have the luxury of time. They've been down there for millions of years and will likely remain right where they are for what humans would consider the foreseeable future.
They are also inherently valuable.

So if some corporate dirt-merchants are too bamboozled by the Unicorn Fart Refinery proponents, that's really only a big deal for that firm's bottom line.

You can bet your Red Wing work boots that some OTHER outfit will be more than happy,(and be easily able to raise the financing necessary), to drill the wells that the other clowns couldn't or wouldn't.

Just because one crew of dummies chooses to starve to death in the aisles of a fully-stocked grocery store doesn't mean anyone else has to.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually, not so far fetched. One company I used to work for really has forgotten what the business is all about, and from what I hear from friends in other majors, they are the same.

Fortunately, what Ms. Franco misses, or forgets, or neglects to consider is that most oil, at least in the USA is produced by small and midsized independent oil and gas companies. Take a look at who produces the oil in the Bakken or the Eagleford. You will NOT see BP or Chevron Texaco, nor Exxon, nor Conoco Phillips.

So, ultimately these dinosaurs will fall, and us furry little mammals will inherit the world.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Guys, this is a what if story set in the future. The author is using some things in limited use now that she has supposed would be improved in this future. It's not supposed to be exactly factual. It is supposed to be a warning about what can happen. Forcing companies to use 50% or more of their R&D money on junk that doesn't work just to please the Greenies and Government regulators, going broke in the process.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The best way to lean is hands on, so those who vote Greenie can live of fhe grid for a month & see if it changes their minds? But doubt it will, CA is known for NOT OUR TREES, yet those same people import wood from S. America and justify it by it not being Their wood- same with greenies like the NYC idiot with sign against BP oil- I DONT NEED GAS I TAKE THE BUS- yes that dumb, or the Soccer mom in Mobile protesting BP and TV followers her to her Hummer at 6 miles per gallon- most are so dumb they make a liberal appear smart
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Lean = LEARN - sorry
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
This future will not happen. At some point, environmental restrictions on the oil and gas industries become an existential threat to Texas and Texas will secede from the United States. When that event occurs, progressives in the US will have no counterbalance and they will make life intolerable for the Red States, causing more to join with Texas. This process continues until the current United States splits into two separate countries.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
More likely three, given that Jesusland (the bit in the middle) will completely separate east and west coasts.

A couple of decades later, Nehemiah Scudder is elected without opposition as President of the CSA (Christian States of America) and any scientific or technological progress stops there for a couple of centuries.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
You might want to try to peddle that to follks like Isaac Newton, et al. If you try to assemble a history of modern science and leave out the Christians, you'll have a lot of gaps in your history.

Oh, I know it makes a nice talking point, but alas, the facts are otherwise.


https://duckduckgo.com/?q=famous+scientists+who+are+christians
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, I doubt that YEC fundamentalist nutters make very good biologists or geologists. And of course they would make incredibly poor palaeontologists or astrophysicists, too.

The problem is that fundies of any stripe tend to be very influential - way beyond what's justified by their numbers. Witness the Moral Minority's successful campaign to ban the sale of booze in the USA. That worked out well, didn't it? /sarc
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well Fletch I don't why you decided this would be a good place for Christian bashing, but if you want to look at a religion that is getting in the way of energy development you might want to look at The Worldwide Church of Fundamentalist Wind Power, Solar Energy and Global Warming Dufuses.

Now that's a narrow minded anti science bunch!
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Roughly half of natural scientists believe in God. If the word God doesn't compute --then simply translate God to mean "ultimate reality--" however you want to define that. So roughly half of natural scientists believe there is there is ultimate reality.

The second part of the argument goes to the nature of information. Is information like math, language and computer code just an invention. Something that exists only in man's head, created ex nihilo from nothing? Or is information like gravity or electro magnatism -- a part of nature--and something that is discovered--(rather than invented.)

On this question you also get a big split with roughly half going one way or the other.

For the most part, anyone familiar with the history of science -- knows that it is an outgrowth of Christianity.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
you're thinking of the Dark ages, Christians like the rest of the religious nuts - "we all have them" will not stop science & progress as they all like their little gadgets
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is a nightmare scenario that seems too realistic a possibility.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Alaska oil and gas provinces once were the exclusive domain of the majors, not so much any more. I don't know how much was/is a reaction to our taxation scheme instituted in '07 or '08 under Palin which became confiscatory at high prices and how much was competition from other provinces and other energy sources. Obviously something was making other places and other sources more attractive than Alaska for BP, Chevron, and Conoco-Phillips, all of which spend a lot of time and money on alternative energy initiatives. Exploration, new field development, and redevelopment of old fields with newer technology has become the province of newer and smaller players. The Cook Inlet fields, Alaska's first modern oil development, had been all but given up for dead and the Anchorage/Southcentral Alaska area was becoming desperate for a source of natural gas for heating and electricity generation. New companies have come on the scene and made several new gas discoveries and are beginning to develop those fields.

Palin's ACES tax scheme was repealed by the Legislature this year and replaced by a tax scheme hopefully more favorable to exploration and development of new fields; Alaska's production is now only about a third of its peak in the '80s. However, the greenies and other communists have put returning to the higher tax scheme on the '14 ballot through the initiative process. The Alaska electorate loves to play with other people's money, so they may, indeed, reinstitute a tax scheme that had it been instituted by Democrats would be called a "windfall profits" tax. We won't be able to objectively measure the effect of the new tax scheme until after the '14 election.

There's still a lot of oil in Alaska, but none under federal control or which requires a federal right of way is likely to be developed under the Soros Junta. There is oil under State lands and Alaska Native lands, but the only companies showing much interest are smaller and in some cases marginal players. There is a good argument that Shell's Arctic offshore exploration was an attempt to avoild Alaska taxation or maybe just to show Alaska that there were alternatives. The Junta gave a very conditioned permit and then harassed Shell endlessly on environmental issues, maritime safety issues, and anything else they could think of. Shell only got in a few days of exploratory drilling and pulled out to have a bunch of work done on their drilling rigs. Who knows if they'll come back anytime soon.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm a petroleum engineer so I'll make a few comments.

First, in response to Maximo:
a) Hone in is acceptable. Hone means to sharpen. So if we start with a 3D seismic survey (vertical resolution is about 50'), we can use other data such as production, well logs (vertical resolution of 0.5'-2'), or core (vertical resolution of less than an inch) from an offset well to take what started as a fuzzy (at best) seismic survey and sharpen (hone) our understanding to improve our confidence in the prospect.
b) It’s frac. It’s short for fracturing. Unless you spell it frackturing then it’s frac.

Ok, on to some of the technical aspects of the article.
a) Fiber optic monitoring is used to monitor production and see how much of the completed reservoir is contributing to the production of the well. The cables are attached to the outside of the production casing when it is run.
b) 4D seismic is not that common in onshore US operations. More than likely, geologists would rely on well logs and core to help define the “size of the prize,” while reservoir engineers use decline curve analysis (old school Arps curves for conventional plays) or techniques like Rate Transient Analysis (Fetkovitch, Blasingame, or Agarwal-Gardner) and Flowing Material Balance to understand the size, geometry, and productivity of the reservoir. These are far less expensive than a seismic shoot.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is no such thing as a honing pigeon.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry vinegar but "hone in" is a misuse.

You can certainly hone an edge or your skills. You can even home in on a sharp edge.

But you can't hone in.

"Hone" and "sharpen" are synonymous so if you can "hone in" you can also "sharpen in" which you can't. One's as much of a misuse of the word as is the other.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wind and solar power have been around a lot longer than a few decades. The reason it took months, and lots of people died, crossing from Europe to the New World? At that time ships depended upon wind power. The reason humans had to migrate based on the seasons? At that time they depended upon solar power.
To say that solar and wind power has come a long way in the last 10,000 or 1000 years respectively is to be extremely generous. Humankind improved when it gave up on using only wind and solar, and now the Greentards are pushing us to go back to that standard.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The advancement in man's ability to reliably collect, store, transmit and use wind or solar energy on a large scale in the last 10,000 years is very close to zero. You might say the Greenies are trying take us back to the stone age.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I disagree in the case of solar energy. The devices used for storing that have a rather long history and they need very little maintenance. And they are self-replicating, to boot.

They are called "plants".
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
What are you disagreeing with? Trees and fire have been around at least since the stone age so where's the technological advancement.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, I think you would agree that we are rather better at growing crops of any sort (yes, including trees) than we were in the Palaeolithic. Wood-burning equipment is rather more efficient, too.

There is a somewhat serious point here. Although incinerating garbage is never going to be a huge part of the energy cycle, there are ways of extracting energy from most sorts of non-metallic rubbish. In a similar vein, using such things as straw and wood processing waste is very much under-done, too. Ditto waste tyres.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Some of us old folks have first hand experience with wind being the only source of electricity. I only need only remember my grandfather's farm house in the 1940s with the Wincharger windmill. Watching the lights brighten and dim, brighten and dim and finally go off altogether when the wind stopped provided a good lesson in the limits of wind.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is "The Dark Present of Energy Exploration"... the USA is the one and only nation refusing to develop it's own resources. It is inevitable that the LibRule fraud will be undercut by future generations needs.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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