Saturday, November 1, 2008

Solar By Numbers

A group at the University of New South Wales has announced that they have achieved a record 25% efficiency with a silicon solar cell, improving on their previous 24.7% performance...

...except that it is the SAME CELL as before. It's just that the standards body changed the reference spectrum upon which the PV cell is tested, and their cell happens to take better advantage of the new spectrum.

“Improvements in understanding atmospheric effects upon the colour content of sunlight led to a revision of the standard spectrum in April. The new spectrum has a higher energy content both down the blue end of the spectrum and at the opposite red end with, dare I say it, relatively less green.”

This is (exactly) like having the EPA change their mileage test and then having an automaker trumpet the "improved" performance of their products.

Mish, who is usually rather astute, fell for this nonsense.

NSW does good work, but please...



Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Horse in the Sun

Horsepower (hp) is a unit of (naturally) power, or energy delivered per unit time. It is most commonly used to rate the power delivered by internal combustion engines (automobiles, lawn mowers). For a precise definition and history of this unit, this entry in Wikipedia is a good read. There is some variability in the precise conversion between horsepower and other units, but it is approximately equal to 745 watts.

I find this value rather interesting, as this is roughly the incident power delivered, per square meter, of radiation from the sun -- and also roughly the area available on a horse for collecting said power. And of course, harvesting that power is a rather inefficient process -- about 10-20% for solar cells.

Something to think about when you see an automobile rated at 200 hp: it would take 2000 square meters of (cheap) solar panels to deliver the equivalent power. That is nearly half of a football field. Try towing that behind your car.

Sobering thought.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Khurais Media Tours

The Saudis are staging a massive PR effort for their Khurais redevelopment project. A sampling:

UPI: Saudis show journalists huge oil project
NY Times: Saudi Oil Project Brings Skepticism to the Surface
AP: Giant Saudi field is key to boosting oil output
FT: Saudis rely on Khurais to speak volumes
The National (UAE): Khurais joins Saudi giants

Journalists were brought in en masse. Of course, I am miffed that they did not invite me. But I doubt that Matt Simmons was invited either.

Some tidbits:

Now the Saudis are deploying an extraordinary engineering effort to bring Khurais’s mile-deep oil to the surface. Seawater will be carried through new pipelines from the Persian Gulf and injected into oil-bearing rock to pressure the oil upward. Usually Aramco pumps seawater into a field only after several years of production, and some skeptics point to this as a reason to doubt that Khurais will live up to its billing. But Mr. Nasser said the huge seawater injection system at Khurais was about cost and logistics, not a sign of a weak field.

Previous reports have it that the capacity of the Qurayyah seawater injection system was increased by 4.5 million bpd to supply Khurais and "South Ghawar". Just thinking about those numbers, full production at Khurais with no water cut would require 1.2Mbpd, leaving 3.3 available for Ghawar. Or, a 50% watercut would require 2.4 and leave 2.1. Either way, a lot of water is going somewhere. It does seem that they are rather defensive about this issue. Best to plan ahead, I suppose, but building that amount of overcapacity doesn't seem to be a salve for "cost and logistics".

From the UPI story:

The project joins oil fields at Khurais, Abu Jifan and Mazalij with one system that will inject more than 2 million barrels of seawater underground every day in order to push an estimated 27 billion barrels of oil to the surface, the Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday.

Aha! 2 million bpd water to get (hopefully) 1.2 Mbpd oil gets things started with a 40% water cut. But apparently:

Amin Nasser, Aramco senior vice president for production and exploration, said the saltwater pumping was used to trim costs.

Ghawar didn't have serious water injection until the early 1970s. But even then, it was still several years before water made its way to the wells in significant amounts. Khurais might not be a "weak field", but it is definitely weaker than Ghawar.

Once extracted, the oil will be stored in three 600,000-gallon tanks — each looks as big as the Colosseum — before being transported in pipelines that carry five million barrels a day and run across Saudi Arabia, from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf.

So that would store 1.5 days of production. Why is this even of interest?

A variety of new technologies, including multiple lateral wells and microscopic robots swimming through rock pores deep underground, will allow the company to start recovering much more of the oil in its fields, said Mohammed Saggaf, who runs Aramco’s advanced exploration research wing.

MRC wells in Khurais after all? Or, perhaps this is just a more general comment about all of their fields. Microscopic robots?

The company expects to increase the amount of oil it can recover from its fields to 70 percent from 50 percent over the next 20 years, Mr. Saggaf said, adding another 80 billion barrels to reserves.

Optimism reigns supreme. Amin Nasser, Aramco senior vice president for production and exploration, says they should be judged by their actions. Well, this is quite an act.

See: Khurais Me A River

Various stories on Ghawar: Satellite o'er the Desert

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The US Lower 48 OCS: The Undiscovered Pipedream

There is a growing amount of hand-wringing and political pandering about the fact that a big chunk of potential US offshore oil and gas resources is off limits for exploration and extraction due to limitations imposed decades ago. If you would believe the hype, the US could take a bite out of imports simply by removing restrictions on drilling the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), including areas offshore California, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Seaboard.

More like "No Clue Zone". The reality is quite different, as revealed in a report prepared by the EIA in 2007. Shown in the table below are estimates of how much oil and gas is out there just waiting to be discovered in inaccessible areas in comparison to whatis available currently:

Shown below is the impact on US offshore production if restrictions are lifted, according to the EIA:

The bottom line, in the words of the EIA:

The projections in the OCS access case indicate that access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030. Leasing would begin no sooner than 2012, and production would not be expected to start before 2017. Total domestic production of crude oil from 2012 through 2030 in the OCS access case is projected to be 1.6 percent higher than in the reference case, and 3 percent higher in 2030 alone, at 5.6 million barrels per day. For the lower 48 OCS, annual crude oil production in 2030 is projected to be 7 percent higher—2.4 million barrels per day in the OCS access case compared with 2.2 million barrels per day in the reference case (Figure above). Because oil prices are determined on the international market, however, any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Golden Decades of Discovery

Nate Hagens and Euan Mearns discussed the graph below in this post at The Oil Drum:

The world uses over 300 billion barrels per decade at current rates. This much oil was discovered in the following decades: 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

Not good.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Illusion of Vast Undeveloped U.S. Oil Resources

The claim of vast US reserves just waiting to be exploited offshore is really just an illusion. Sort of like financing your retirement on coins that have fallen between the cushions of your couch. From ASPO:

The Illusion of Vast Undeveloped U.S. Oil Resources

Khursaniyah Still Cursed

The Khursaniyah project in Saudi Arabia is still not producing oil, and it is about six months behind schedule. This after they claimed just a few weeks ago to have already started. The finger is being pointed at the gas plant:
"The gas plant is a major delay. It's really a disappointment," Falih said. "All of it will be ready in a few months." Aramco could bring on most of Khursaniyah's capacity if needed, Falih said. But gas would have to be burnt off, which Aramco wanted to avoid, he added.The field produces light crude, and Falih said Aramco had seen little increased demand for that type of oil from its customers. Most recent demand growth was for medium and heavy grades, he added.Saudi Arabia boosted crude output of 300,000 bpd earlier this month and is targeting total output of 9.45 million bpd in June. That increment came from several fields including Ghawar and Safaniyah, Falih said.
Nobody wants the light crude? But doesn't Ghawar product light crude? And if the demand is for heavier crudes, why do they want to build a refinery for it? And what is their current spare capacity? If it was 2 million barrels per day when they did/did not start a few weeks ago, what is it now? What they really should do is stop using round numbers. They should use the strategy recommended for selling other products and claim a spare capacity of 1,999,999 bpd. There, I believe it already.

Anyway, the poor beleagered co-contractors for the gas plant, Bechtel and Technip, are not in a good position to defend themselves. But if they want to get their side of the story out, I'll give them a voice.