Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Peak Oil Fails to Take A Lot Into Consideration

The Earth contains massive quantities of heavy oils and bitumens (among other unconventional fossil fuels). The videos below first describe Alberta's rapidly expanding bitumens industry, and then look at a promising method of converting heavy oils and bitumens into light oils for transport via pipeline. At today's consumption rates, Earth has well over a thousand years' worth of oil and oil-equivalents that are currently known and accessible. But realistically, humans will stop the large scale burning of fossil fuels within the next hundred years -- due to better alternatives.

HTL is based on the time-tested concept of thermal cracking and carbon rejection. The key innovation is speed - HTL incorporates ultra short processing times compared with significantly longer times for conventional technologies such as delayed coking. HTL has the added advantage over coking technologies in that it converts by-product coke to on-site energy, instead of incurring the costs of accumulating and managing large stockpiles of low value coke. HTL upgrading does not require catalysts, hydrogen or significant pressure. The net result is relatively small scale, low cost facilities that can be field located where energy and other heat integration benefits are maximized. _Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe Energy Company

Heavy oils and bitumens represent a huge worldwide resource of petroleum fuels. Ivanhoe Energy Company has developed a fast, high temperature, low energy demand cracking method for turning heavy oils and bitumen into light oils -- so that the oils can be easily piped to refineries. Its commercial demonstration plant in California proved the technology which is not being put in place in Canada, Ecuador, China, and Mongolia.

The video explains how hot sand is used to separate coke byproduct from the light oil, and how the coke byproduct is then used to fuel the ongoing heating of the recirculated sand. It is a low-water process which essentially fuels itself.

The HTL process represents the application of a commercially-proven technology to a new feedstock. The technology initially was developed in the 1980s by a predecessor company of a private, Ottawa-based company called Ensyn Corporation. Ensyn has been applying its RTP technology (the biomass equivalent of HTL) on a commercial basis since 1989. Seven commercial Ensyn biomass processing facilities are in operation in the United States and Canada.

...In late-2004, Ensyn commissioned the 1,000-barrel-per-day Commercial Demonstration Facility (CDF) in the Belridge heavy-oil field in Southern California. The purpose of the CDF was to confirm product quality and yields in a significantly scaled-up facility. Numerous successful runs were carried out in the period beginning in 2005 and through mid-2007, culminating in the successful processing of Athabasca bitumen in mid-2007.

In 2005, Ivanhoe completed a merger with Ensyn Group Inc. and now has full control of the patented, proprietary upgrading technology for the development of heavy oil. Ensyn Corporation retains the rights to biomass applications.

Ivanhoe now is working with AMEC, its tier one contractor, on the design and engineering of full-scale HTL facilities related to the commercial initiatives under way.

The world still has plenty of crude oil. But the quantity of extractable crude oil is eclipsed by the quantity of heavy oils, bitumens, kerogens, coal, and natural gas (including methane hydrates). Better means of extracting and converting these alternatives to light oils and liquid fuels are inevitable, as political peak oil continues to set in.

Political peak oil is primarily a consequence of most of the world's oil falling into the hands of oil dictators and corrupt national oil companies -- who enjoy consuming the profits from their oil fields, but do not wish to put the proper investment into personnel, maintenance and new technologies that optimal oil field management requires. Thus oil that should be extractable becomes non-extractable, and equipment that should last 50 years, rusts into disrepair in 10 to 20 years.

Political peak oil is secondarily a consequence of misguided climate and faux environmental policies of more advanced nations, which makes development of abundant oil, gas, coal, kerogen, bitumen, and heavy oil resources much more expensive and difficult than it should be.

Human innovation is necessary to bypass as many of the obstacles put in place by political peak oil as possible.

From a post at Al Fin Energy

No comments: