Julian Murdoch thinks oil supply and demand are out of whack.
OPEC has publicly stated that they believe inventories in developed OECD countries to be equal to roughly 61 days of demand—a number OPEC is none too happy about. They'd prefer the world to be constantly on the brink of running out (that is, 55 days or less). So with all of this supply, you'd expect to see OPEC talking production cuts—or at least a drop in the price of oil.He does not say we have an oil bubble. But if you consider that supply is high and yet prices keep rising it seems obvious that there is a bubble.
Instead, last week the group discussed the need to increase production, so as to keep oil under $80—it seems even OPEC thinks prices are still too high. As OPEC Secretary General Abdalla El-Badri told Bloomberg:"Anything above $80 will really hamper economic growth. Watch the floating storage, if that is eliminated, and watch the stocks, if they are at 52, 54 days, then OPEC will take action."Of course, if the floating stocks (that is, oil stored at sea) remain at current levels and inventories stay full, then apparently OPEC will just sit back and rake in the money.
And it may be more of a bubble than people think. There are a lot of new technologies becoming available sooner or later that will cut the cost of drilling wells. One of them is laser drilling of wells.
Laser drilling, Graves said, would have several advantages over conventional drilling:He goes on to say:
-- Costs could be at least 10 times lower and up to several hundred times less than wells drilled with rotary rigs. For example, a typical, 10,000-foot gas well in Wyoming's Wind River Basin costs about $ 350,000 to drill. Laser drilling would drop that cost to $ 35,000 or lower, Graves said.
-- A laser drill's "footprint" -- the amount of surface space it occupies -- could be as little as 100 square feet, or even less with some models.
-- The laser rigs could be transported to drilling sites in one semi-trailer load. Conventional rigs take up several thousand square feet of space and require numerous truck trips to haul equipment.
-- Lasers could drill a typical natural-gas well in about 10 days, compared with 100 days for some conventional wells.
"You're looking at three months of disruption versus a week or so of disruption with a laser drill," Graves said.
-- Lasers could be programmed for precise well diameters and depths. In addition, they could alternately drill coarsely to deliver mineral samples, finely to vaporize rock and leave no waste materials, or with intense heat to melt the walls of well bores, thus eliminating the need to place steel casing in wells.
Compare this with the peak oiler theory:Well OK! That article was from 2005 and so far the laser technology is not commercial despite advances in high power solid state lasers. Here a nice video about solid state lasers. However, the technology is advancing rapidly so it is only a matter of time.So, as we slide down the Hubbert's Curve, not only will the rate of production decrease, but the cost of that production will increase.Laser drilling may actually make production of the "hard to get" oil and gas easier than production of the stuff which was "easy to get". This would cause a lot of havoc with reserve numbers because commercially unfeasible small/deep deposits would suddenly become "proven" (i.e. exploitable with current technology).
But that is not all there is going on in the field. Exxon-Mobile announced in 2005 some very simple ways that it could reduce the cost of drilling substantially.
Exxon Mobil Corporation announced today that its drilling organization has developed an optimization process that consistently reduces the time required to drill oil and gas wells by up to 35 percent. ExxonMobil's Fast Drill Process (FDP) achieves this breakthrough performance by using real-time, computer analysis of the drilling system's energy consumption. This analysis, in turn, helps improve the management of the factors that determine drilling rate, such as weight on the drill bit, rotary speed and torque.So that technology is probably already being deployed. It may explain in part the recent reduction in costs for drilling natural gas wells.
The result is significantly faster drilling rates and reduced downtime.
The company has used FDP in many of its operating areas, and the process improves performance in a broad range of conditions: hard and soft rock, deep and shallow wells, high- and low-angle wells in a variety of mud weights. It has shown comparable success in exploration, delineation and production wells.
There are other techniques that are coming to fruition. Here is another one from 2005.
Expectations are that widespread adoption of microhole technology could spawn a wave of “infill development”—drilling wells spaced between existing wells—that could tap potentially billions of barrels of bypassed oil at shallow depths in mature producing areas.I knew it. That evil Bush was in cahoots with the oil companies to increase American oil supplies and reduce American dependence on the terrorist supporting nations of the Middle East. How evil can you get?
At the same time, microhole and related micro-instrumentation technologies offer the opportunity to dramatically cut producers’ exploration risk to a level comparable to that of drilling development wells.
Together, such efforts hold great promise for economically recovering a sizeable portion of the estimated remaining shallow (less than 5,000 feet subsurface) oil resource in the United States. The Energy Department estimates this targeted shallow resource at 218 billion barrels. Recovering just 10 percent of this targeted resource would mean a volume equivalent to 10 years of OPEC oil imports at current rates.
In addition, the smaller “footprint” of the lightweight rigs utilized for microhole drilling and the accompanying reduced drilling waste disposal volumes offer the bonus of added environmental benefits.
The microhole initiative is in line with the Bush Administration’s goal, set forth in the National Energy Policy, of promoting “dependable, affordable, and environmentally sound” energy production.
How about another Exxon project to lower the costs of drilling for natural gas?
"We're about 15 minutes away from a new frac being born," Randy Tolman, Exxon's project coordinator for the Piceance Basin, shouts over the noise. He invented this faster method of fracturing, or "fracing," the underground layers of rock and sand to unlock natural gas.Do you suppose the Greenhouse gas hysteria is a plot by the oil/natural gas companies to get government to shut down their competition? I wouldn't put it past them. Thomas Edison used similar methods to get his competition, the George Westinghouse Company's Tesla invented AC electricity system, shut down. Fortunately it didn't work. Will the CO2 hysteria work against the coal companies? So far the answer is no. It all depends on the ability of the interested parties (Al Gore will make tens of millions) to get the Senate to pass the Cap Coal and Tax the People Bill. They appear to be stymied. Good.
Exxon aims to export the new process to the unconventional natural gas reserves it is accumulating around the world. Drilling for more natural gas could make Exxon a lot of money as Americans demand cleaner fuel because natural gas doesn't emit as much pollution or greenhouse gases as oil and coal when burned.
Ah but we are not done yet. Jared Potter is working on a water/flame drill in order to tap deep geothermal energy sources. Obviously it might also be useful for oil and natural gas.
Conventional geothermal power plants draw upon underground aquifers of hot water relatively close to the surface to create steam that drives electricity-generating turbines. The problem is that underground water currently tapped for geothermal is found mainly in the western United States. But the technology Potter is developing could drill much deeper, meaning geothermal energy could be generated nationwide.You can watch a video of the drill in operation. Here is some of what the people who posted the video have to say:
According to a 2006 MIT study, so-called Enhanced Geothermal Systems could potentially supply 2,500 times the country’s current energy consumption. That grabbed Google’s attention, and last August the Internet giant’s philanthropic arm agreed to invest $4 million in Potter Drilling as part of its green energy initiative.
The tech twist: Potter drills not with hard-as-diamonds bits but with water—extremely hot water. (More on that in a bit.) The goal is to radically cut the cost of EGS to spread the technology to regions that rely too much on coal for generating electricity but are not suited for solar, wind and other renewable energy generation.
Inspired by designs created by his father decades ago, Jared Potter is building an arsenal of ultra-powerful flame-jet drills. As seen in the NatGeo video above, one prototype directs a jet of burning hydrogen at 3200°F against a slab of solid granite. The rock doesn't melt, as one might expect under such a blast of heat; instead, the high temperature causes the rock to fracture as it expands along existing micro-cracks in the material. After a short exposure to the flame-jet drill, a gaping, perfectly smooth borehole has been created in the granite.The drill could drill at up to 100 ft an hour. Not as fast as conventional drilling, however there would be no need to lift mile long strings of pipe out of the well to replace drill bits. Or at least it wouldn't have to be done as often. And when you are replacing a drill bit you aren't drilling.
For deeper drilling jobs, in wet, high-pressure conditions where traditional bits jam and break, Potter has another prototype. This one burns at a toasty 7200°F, but the flame is used indirectly, to superheat a jet of water, which in turn bores through the rock and simultaneously flushes the fragments out of the borehole.
And that is not the only place such work is being done. The Swiss are working on it too.
Heated oxygen, ethanol and water are pumped into the reactor burner through various pipelines and valves and mix under temperature and pressure conditions, which correspond to the supercritical state of water (see box). The auto-ignition of the mixture is being observed through small sapphire-glass windows by means of a camera. A newly developed sensor plate measures the heat flux from the flame to the plate and records the temperature distribution on the surface for different distances between the burner outlet and the plate.And that is just what we know publicly. Who knows what is going on in labs all around the world that is currently being kept secret for commercial advantage?
Based on these experimental results, conclusions are drawn concerning the heat transfer from the flame to the rock. “The heat flux is the crucial parameter for the characterization of this alternative drilling method”, explains Philipp Rudolf von Rohr, professor at the Institute of Process Engineering of the ETH Zurich and supervisor of the three PhD students.
During the experiment, the flame reaches a maximal temperature of about 2000°C. Rapid heating of the upper rock layer induces a steep temperature gradient in it. “The heat from the flame causes the rock to crack due to the induced temperature difference and the resulting linear thermal expansion”, explains Tobias Rothenfluh. The expansion of the upper rock layer causes natural flaws, already existing in the rock, act as origin points for cracks. Disc - like rock fragments in the millimeter scale are formed in the spallation zone. These particles are transported upwards with the ascending fluid stream of the surrounding medium. “One of the main challenges of the spallation process is to prevent the rock from melting, whilst it’s being rapidly heated”, says Tobias Rothenfluh. “The lager the temperature gradient in the rock, the faster you can drill.”
The method is particularly suitable for hard, dry rock, normally encountered at depths greater than three kilometers. In such depths conventional drilling bits wear out much faster, and their frequent replacement, renders the conventional drilling techniques uneconomic: a 10 km borehole costs around 60 million US dollars.
Bottom line? We may be running out of oil. Or not. But I do think fears of a near term peak oil limit on production are greatly exaggerated. Near term our limits are political not geological or technological. But isn't it always that way? And you know what they call a system where businessmen are in cahoots with the government to restrict the competition? National Socialism.
H/T pbelter at Talk Polywell
Cross Posted at Classical Values