Monday, October 23, 2006

grasping at

Shell and other oil companies say, “Don’t worry, there’s plenty of oil left.” Of course that is a bit like asking the fox how the hen house is doing. Any time someone wants to sell you something you have to be wary of lying, or propaganda or advertising or whatever it’s being called these days. Proof of where we stand is more obvious when you read about projects like Shell’s attempt to squeeze oil out of rocks.

“Shell is spending $30 million to create and test a massive "freeze wall" that would extend from the surface to 1,700 feet below the ground. The walls would be 30 feet thick in a shape 300 feet wide by 350 feet long.”

Of course they’ve already built another test wall, “A crew of 200 construction workers will complete the larger freeze wall in the spring by drilling a series of 150 well bores that will be pumped full of ammonia-based coolant. It will take about 18 months for the adjacent water and rock to freeze to minus-60 degrees Fahrenheit, creating the massive ice wall.” -Denver Post

My question is this, if oil availability is not a problem why is Shell spending $30 million dollars to create an ice wall 30 feet thick that extends 1700 feet into the ground? Projects like this are viewed by the general public as proof that the oil industry will always be able to provide us with more oil. For me however, projects like this are proof that cheap, conventional oil is about to become increasingly scarce. Grasping at straws isn't a good sign.


Rob said...

Many things:

1. There may be plenty of oil, if you consider the total amount of oil in the world. There's oil that can be extracted via "conventional" methods - read "cheap" - and brought to market for under $20 per barrel. Much of that is expended. There's a vast amount of oil remaining that can extracted and brought to market for $40 per barrel. This used to be considered unusable, but these days it's a different story. Beyond that I'm sure there are smaller pockets and even less accessible places in which oil can be extracted and brought to market for $60 per barrel or more. You can't justify such an expense today, but in a few years, when the prices hit $80 per barrel regularly, that's different.

2. Consider that Shell - and other oil companies - are in the business of finding oil and bringing it to market. They don't care as much about the world's use of that oil so long as they can turn a profit. Sooner or later the oil supply will dwindle. As long as they continue to have the best technology to cheaply bring to market whatever oil is left, they are in a good financial situation.

3. This doesn't really change things for the conscious consumer who wishes to reduce their energy or carbon or oil footprint (use your favorite term here). Most are aware of their use of a finite commodity and the need to replace its use with other fuels or other means.

4. how does a frozen wall of ice and rock support oil recovery? Does oil flow from frozen areas into non-frozen areas?

nulinegvgv said...

Thanks for the comment Rob.

1. (see my latest post - wanna bet about oil prices for next year? :)

2. "cheaply bring to market" is what I'm talking about. These guys are spending $30 million on underground ice walls. Shell knows the cheap oil is gone. The question is how will the world economy handle $60, $80, +$100 barrels of oil. My average annual salary increase does not resemble the rising price of crude.

3. A comment- replacing one finite resource with another will not solve our problems regardless of how many congressmen say so. We must reorganize our communities and our own lives in such a way that they use less energy; or wait until that fact is forced upon us. Supply side solutions are temporary.

4. Check out the article. It describes how the underground frozen wall is used to keep groundwater from flowing into oil shale and to keep the oil shale from flowing out of the area as it is heated. Or we could just use less oil. Which sounds easier?